How good is a fountain pen

Piston filler - giving meaning to words in style

The most important things in a nutshell
  • A piston filler does not need any cartridges - instead it has a reservoir that is filled with ink via negative pressure.
  • Piston fillers seldom need to be refilled due to their large capacity. They do not cause plastic waste and are very environmentally friendly.
  • Due to their particularly high-quality materials, some piston fillers are considered status symbols and can cost several thousand euros.

Piston fountain pen with gold-plated stainless steel nib from Pelikan

  • Noble design
  • gold-plated stainless steel nib
  • Shaft made of precious resin
  • Edition green marbled
  • Spring in strength B
Description Customer opinions / assessment
This piston fountain pen has a hand-machined stainless steel nib in nib size B, which is 24 carat gold-plated. The marbled interplay of green shades on the shaft gives it a sleek and elegant look. Additional details such as the transparent, tinted ink window, the gold-plated decorative ring and the classic beak clip complete the harmonious overall picture.
According to customers, this is a very nice fountain pen that sits comfortably in the hand without tiring the wrist. It is very light, but looks high quality. The nib hardly scratches at all and special inks are no problem either. The color of the filler is a bit darker in nature than in the product photos - rather in the cold green area: It shimmers from petrol and dark fir green to black-green with mother-of-pearl.
  • Noble design
  • writes fluently
  • high-quality
  • 24 carat gold plating
  • Ink viewing window
  • Fits comfortably in your hand
  • very good value for money
  • The color is a little darker in nature

Piston fountain pen with shaft made of polycarbonate by LAMY

  • Polycarbonate shaft
  • brushed
  • Stainless steel trim
  • 14 carat gold nib, platinum refined
  • Spring in strength B
Description Customer opinions / assessment
The LAMY brand stands worldwide for high-quality designer writing implements of timelessly modern aesthetics, functionality and quality "Made in Germany". This fountain pen first catches the eye with its innovative, brushed polycarbonate barrel. Well-placed stainless steel trim gives it that certain something and the 14-carat gold nib in size B is high-quality and platinum-finished.
According to customers, the design of the fountain pen is noble and puristic, but at the same time very well made and functional. The writing flow is described as unique, absolutely soft and fluid. Thanks to its very good balance, it lies comfortably in the hand and enables fatigue-free writing. The packaging is more likely to be described as inferior. For this, the clip on the cap is particularly pleasantly sprung.
  • innovative surface
  • platinum-refined gold nib
  • Stainless steel trim
  • very smooth writing flow
  • ergonomic
  • well sprung clip
  • very good value for money

Pelikan piston fountain pen with gold-plated stainless steel nib

  • gold-plated stainless steel nib
  • High quality material
  • Cap with gold-plated beak clip
  • Ink viewing window
  • Nib width B
Description Customer opinions / assessment
These fountain pens from the Classic series represent traditional writing culture and are made exclusively in Germany. The classic piston fountain pen is available with its typical cap shape including a gold-plated beak clip and other decorative fittings. The gold-plated steel nib guarantees a comfortable writing experience and the ink window reliably shows the current cartridge level.
Customers particularly praise the nib - it writes very finely, but almost never scratches. No matter how fast the lines are, the flow of ink never stops and the line width remains constant at all times. The pen looks noble and relatively simple, and a casting seam is rarely reported. The fountain pen lies comfortably in the hand, especially due to the expansion of the diameter on the handle. This means that there are seldom stained fingers.
  • Noble design
  • gold-plated stainless steel nib
  • High quality material
  • Ink viewing window
  • great writing experience
  • good value for money
  • scratches occasionally
  • seldom cast seam

Faber-Castell fountain pen with barrel made of high-grade resin (black)

  • Black precious resin shaft
  • Parquet design
  • solid, high-gloss chrome-plated metal
  • spring-loaded metal clip
  • Stainless steel spring in size M
Description Customer opinions / assessment
The e-motion fountain pen has a barrel made of black precious resin in the "" "" parquet "" "" design. The structures are lasered or engraved into the shaft. The cap, the end piece and the front piece are made of solid, highly polished and chrome-plated metal with a spring-loaded metal clip. The gift case supplied turns every e-motion writing instrument into a very special present.
The customer opinions are very positive. Full, heavy, thick and solid - this is how this fountain pen lies in the hand. The top stainless steel nib with a rather slim length-to-width ratio nevertheless writes very softly and even a little elastic. The thread is made of metal and is therefore very stable. The metal cap is sometimes a little heavy just for writing when you put it on the back of the fountain pen.
  • unusual design
  • Black precious resin shaft
  • pleasantly difficult
  • soft typing feel
  • very stable
  • Gift case
  • good value for money

Guide: special features of piston fillers

Piston fillers now have a tradition of almost 100 years. Their predecessor models were still filled in the classic way with a pipette - here, however, blotches and colored fingers were the order of the day. The solution was provided by the Pelikan brand in 1929 with a device they called differential pistons. With the help of a screw mechanism with two threads, ink was drawn directly from the keg into the fountain pen with small rotary movements. This piston mechanism has hardly changed to this day and is still used by many manufacturers of stationery.

Nowadays, the piston mechanism shines above all because no ink cartridges are required. This is more environmentally friendly, you avoid compatibility problems due to different cartridge sizes and you have a much larger range of colored inks available.

Sure, admittedly, in the age of digitization, handwritten notes and documents have moved more and more into the background. In some Scandinavian countries, cursive script has even been removed from the curriculum. Nevertheless, a carefully handwritten document shows special appreciation, style, class and continues to enjoy constant popularity.

They are used particularly frequently in these areas of application:

  • Invitations
  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Wordart
  • Collections
  • And much more.

Piston fountain pens stand for a particularly high-quality, confident and careful writing experience. Let's take a closer look at what this is all about in the following information.

Material and components: How is a piston filler constructed?

Piston fountain pens hold the ink directly in their body, do not require cartridges and - similar to converter fountain pens - are filled directly from the inkwell. Pictures say louder than words - so that you can better imagine the mechanism, take a quick look at this video:

The structure and functions of all piston fountain pens are very similar - there are, however, major differences in quality. Some brands focus exclusively on functionality, rely on plastic and are available for as little as 5 euros.

But there are also very high-quality and high-priced piston fillers. The materials used for this leave little to be desired. From high-quality woods and gold, silver to diamond setting, there is not much left that does not exist and so piston fountain pens are now also considered works of art and status symbols. Since particularly high-quality nibs are used here, they stand for a particularly pleasant writing experience and beautiful typeface.

Regardless of the different materials and designs, the structure of the piston filler is usually very similar. It consists of these components:

The feather

The material of the nib has a great influence on the typeface and writing feel. Gold is best suited for this. However, since pure gold is too soft and would abrade when you write, 14 or 18 carat gold is used. The tip of the nib is also provided with a platinum pen.

But there are also cheaper variants - here the springs are usually made of stainless steel. They don't write as softly, but they are cheap, very robust and also more durable.

Some manufacturers also choose to join forces with both materials and offer gold-plated stainless steel springs. These are coated with a thin layer of gold, are stable and, above all, look good.

By the way, the wider the nib, the thicker the lines become. You can recognize the nib width by the following designations: B stands for wide, M for medium, F for fine and EF for extra fine.

The body

The body contains the piston device - the most important unique selling point of a piston filler. Two threads allow the piston to be moved in and out with only a slight turning movement and the ink is sucked out of the barrel. The ink reservoir of piston fillers is very large, which is why you rarely have to refill them. Incidentally, this general functionality hardly differs between the respective fountain pens - no matter which materials are used. As already mentioned, the spectrum ranges from plastic to high-quality woods, metals, resins, gold, silver and Co.

Frequent writers should use fountain pens that weigh no more than 25 grams - this prevents the hand from getting tired. Metal fillers in particular are often a little heavier.

Incidentally, piston fillers are usually designed symmetrically - they can be used equally by right and left-handers. Some fountain pens also have an ink window (mostly made of plastic) on the body. In this way you can see at an early stage when a filler should be topped up. However, high-priced manufacturers in particular often do without this viewing window for aesthetic reasons and rely more on a minimalist design than on this functionality.

The cap

A plug-on cap is generally not recommended and is only very rarely available for piston fillers - it just comes off too easily. Instead, a cap with a screw thread is recommended. You should only clean them regularly with water so that the thread does not stick.

It is not uncommon for caps to have a fastening clip - here you should make sure that it is tensioned correctly. If it is too tight, marks can appear, for example on clothing. If it is too loose, the pen can be lost quickly.

Advantages and disadvantages of the piston filler

It is often of very high quality, ensures a particularly beautiful typeface and is also very environmentally friendly. But a piston filler has even more advantages:

  • large capacity
  • rarely refilling
  • no cartridges
  • environmentally friendly
  • partly very high quality materials
  • Inkwells with a wide range of colors
  • Status symbol
  • possibly with viewing window
  • very different designs
  • in different price ranges
  • short effort when filling
  • possibly more expensive depending on the material

What does a piston filler cost?

There is a large selection: you can get piston fillers made of plastic (and used if necessary) for as little as 5 euros. The price range can vary greatly here. If you see the piston fountain pen more as a status symbol, value unusual designs, gold, silver and inserted crystals, you can expect several hundred euros per pen.

You can buy piston fillers online (e.g. on Amazon, ebay and Co.), from the manufacturer or in common stationery stores.

Important purchase criteria - the piston filler

When looking for a piston filler, the functionality, materials and design will probably convince you first. But there is more to look out for. We have put together a few criteria for you:

  • Material: plastic vs. precious wood, metal, gold, silver etc.
  • Gold nib vs. stainless steel nib, vs. gold-plated stainless steel nib
  • with bracket
  • suitable for other pens (e.g. ballpoint pen, cartridge fountain pen, rollerball pen, etc.)
  • Screw cap cap
  • matching in design
  • good value for money
  • approx. 12-20 cm in length
  • for prolific writers, if possible, less than 25 g, with occasional use even more
  • simple vs. unusual
  • simple vs. high quality
  • good workmanship
  • easy to clean
  • with ink viewing window
  • including accessories (e.g. with cleaner, inkwell, ...)

Clean & maintain piston filler

With regular use, it is sufficient to rinse the mouthpiece once a year under lukewarm water. If you rarely use the pen, we recommend cleaning it every six months. If you use colored ink outside of royal blue, it has more pigments - so you should clean the fountain pen here even more often. (This also applies if you change the ink color, by the way.)

In general, do not use detergents or dishwashing detergents for cleaning - water is sufficient here.

If you want to clean the plunger, you pull the plunger filler several times with lukewarm water. Then turn the water out until it is no longer discolored. Important: The rotating end of the fountain pen must not be submerged to prevent it from entering the mechanism.

So that your fountain pen will last a long time regardless of this, always close it with a cap and do not expose it to excessive temperatures. If you are not going to use your pen for a long time, it is best to store it empty and dry.

If the filler has actually dried out, some manufacturers also offer special cleaning fluids - but these are not always suitable for all materials. The best thing to do is to just follow the instructions and follow the steps outlined on them.

Popular manufacturers - Pelikan, Lamy, Montblanc

Piston fountain pens are the classic among fountain pens and are usually offered by stationery manufacturers, also for shipping. You can find some popular ones here:

  • 1929 founder of the piston filler
  • stands for paper, office and stationery items including stationery
  • Trademark: partially transparent ink window and clip in the shape of a beak
  • limited editions for collectors
  • very wide range of products
  • 50 years of company tradition
  • stands for high-quality designer writing implements, timelessly modern aesthetics and functionality
  • Fountain pen as an individual lifestyle accessory
  • rather simple design
  • high quality materials, often made of metal
  • has stood for writing culture and masterful craftsmanship for 100 years
  • white star as a unique selling point
  • Values: Tradition, the finest craftsmanship and appreciation of the essential things in life
  • timeless, simple design
  • high quality and high priced

You can get piston fillers online, directly from the manufacturer, in stationery stores and also in shopping centers.

Other popular brands are:

  • Faber Castell
  • Kaweco
  • Gullor
  • Lanxivi
  • ZenZoi
  • Rungao
  • Wing Sung
  • And much more.

FAQ - the most important questions about piston fillers

How do I fill a piston filler?It's relatively quick and easy. You turn the plunger filler fully counterclockwise. Then you dip the nib completely into the ink and suck it in by turning the plunger back completely clockwise. Then put a few drops of ink back into the glass by turning the plunger back a little counterclockwise. Last but not least, hold the pen up and turn the piston back completely - this will also allow the remaining air to escape and you can start writing.
How are piston fillers made?That is different. In the cheaper segment in particular, however, fillers are often made by machine. If you are more interested in high-priced brands, production is often done manually.

Related Links

History of piston mechanics:…

Clean piston filler:

Improve handwriting: