Update 3: See the bottom of the post for our conclusion on using these pens with Platinum's permanent Carbon Black ink.
Here at Cult Pens, we're a bunch of pen geeks, but you probably guessed that. We'd be in the wrong job if we weren't. When we first saw Pilot's new V5 and V7 Cartridge System pens, we had a few questions. What type of cartridges did they use? Was it something new, or an already-known standard? Was there any other way of inking them up? Any other way without getting ink all over our desks and fingers?
We're pretty sure we're not the only ones with such questions, but we are well-placed to find some answers.
First indications were quite good. The cartridge looks like a standard Pilot IC-50 cartridge, as used by most of Pilot's fountain pens. The pack the V5/V7 cartridges are supplied in warns that they are onlysuitable for these pens, and should not be used in fountain pens. It could be that the ink contains particles that would clog fountain pens, or it could just be a more highly-concentrated ink than Pilot would like to trust in an expensive pen. Either way, it's probably best to avoid using these cartridges in a fountain pen.
We've tried a Pilot Petit cartridge in there, and it fit. They're smaller cartridges, but the 'ink end' is the same shape, so they fit perfectly well, and work. If you always wanted a V5 pen that writes in Baby Pink, here's the answer. It also means you can have a choice of cartridges, and share them all between fountain pen, needlepoint rollerball, sign pen and fude brush pen. Quite a choice of tips you have there. Any of Pilot's standard IC-50 fountain pen cartridges should work too, but that doesn't give you many more colour choices, and the ink may not be as densely-coloured. But the thought of using fountain pen ink brings us to the next question. Can you fit a converter in there to use bottled ink?
We had a V5 Cartridge System pen, and we had a Pilot CON-50 Piston Converter. The converter fits inside the pen. The barrel screws shut perfectly well. Looking good. We decided to try filling the converter outside the pen first, rather than trying to suck ink up through the V-System ink feed. It was somewhat successful. We had a V5 pen writing in Diamine Sapphire Blue. We also had inky fingers. The converter only fills at the open end, and the ink didn't want to move, so we pushed the converter into the pen with the ink sitting at the open end. When it made contact with the pen's feed, some of the ink escaped around the converter, making things a bit messy.
Experience so far suggests it can all be done, but only if you don't mind risking a bit of mess.
A subsequent attempt to fill through the feed did work, but as expected, left most of the ink sitting in the feed, not getting to the converter. As with a fountain pen, a change of ink colour takes a long time to make its way though the feed, showing the previous colour, then gradually mixing.
Our next thought was to wonder if the converter was just making things harder - could we manage without, and just fill the barrel up with ink? A bit of silicone grease on the threads to improve the seal, and it seems to work. We now have a Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5 filled with Pelikan Edelstein Topaz ink. Time will tell how good the seal is, and we won't be paying for your dry cleaning if it doesn't hold up - try this entirely at your own risk!
It probably goes without saying that neither we nor Pilot can be held responsible for any leaks or pen failures you have if you decide to experiment with any of this yourself. It's all worked quite well for us, though, and makes the humble classic V5 and V7 pens into very flexible things - and if you do manage to break a pen, it won't break the bank. Leaking ink all over your pale cream sofa, on the other hand, might.
After a couple of days, the eyedropper-filled pen wasn't holding up as well. The ink wasn't flowing much at all, and while it did still write, it was quite uneven, and not a good experience. We made a guess that the ink Pilot use may be lower viscosity than fountain pen ink, and tried adding a couple of drops of washing-up liquid to the ink in the barrel. After a bit of scribbling to get the ink to flow through, it's flowing well again now. It's possible the ink just needed a bit of work to get it flowing again, but it seems quite possible that 'normal' fountain pen ink doesn't suit the Cartridge System pens as well as it seemed to at first. We'll keep experimenting, and update again. Let us know in the comments if you try any of this with your V5 or V7 pens.
After a week or so, the Pelikan Edelstein was still flowing well - the drops of washing-up liquid seemed to work. So it was time for the next challenge, and this is one we suspect a few people will be very interested in.
Platinum's Carbon Ink is a very finely-ground pigment ink, that's at least reasonablysafe for use in fountain pens, as long as it's used with care. It's very permanent, and nicely waterproof, and is good for washing over with watercolour.
We cleaned out our poor abused V5 Cartridge System pen, and filled it up with the carbon ink, sealing with some extra silicone grease. After a bit of scribbling to get the ink to flow through the feed, it wrote a nice solid black. A day later, it's still writing well. So far, then, it seems to work reliably, but it's early days! It may yet clog up, especially if left unused for longer, but the great part about experimenting with the Cartridge System range is that not too much is lost, even if we completely ruin one or two pens.
Our test pen has now been filled with Platinum Carbon Ink for quite a while, and it still works. It does tend to run dry after a few lines, though, especially if it's been sitting unused for a while. The result of our experiments seems to be that you can use other inks in the Cartridge System pens, even Carbon Ink, but nothing else is as reliable as the original Pilot cartridges.
For some people, the trouble will be worthwhile for a nice easy-to-use pen filled with permanent carbon black ink, without too much lost if it clogs up and has to be thrown away. For most people, though, it's probably best to stick with the 'real' cartridges from Pilot.
30 January 2013