A blog reader recently spotted a Platinum Preppy fountain pen in one of my recent blog posts, and asked how I "filled the barrel completely." That practice is called an eyedropper conversion (when you completely fill the barrel of a pen with ink, and then just screw it shut, that's called an eyedropper pen, because you used to fill with an eyedropper), and Platinum Preppies are famous for this. I love 'em. You can see the difference in ink capacity in the photo above - the 7 pens on the left are all eyedroppers, with nearly the entire barrel full of ink, whereas the 2 pens on the right are using Platinum converters, which hold only a scant fraction ink in comparison.
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You can see above how when the pen cap is closed, the nib pushes it tight inside the end of the cap. That special inner airtight cap thingamajiggy is a handy thing for me, since - I confess - I do often neglect my pens. I can manage not to write with one of these pens for months (it's happened), and then when I pick up the pen again, the ink is not evaporated or dried up at all. Love it. But I digress - let's get back to the eyedropper info.
If you are at all a pen or ink geek like me, you may think it's pretty cool to see that ink sloshing around in the clear pen barrel like that. The ink in this pen is Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku, a lovely deep green with quite a lot of blue in it.
So, an eyedropper conversion is very easy to do properly, and there are tons of online resources to get you through it... even those of you that, like me, are loathe to undertake any fancy pen modifications.
My favorite two articles are from JetPens and Goulet Pens (which are, incidentally, two of my favorite online retailers for all of my pen and ink needs). The JetPens article, "How to do an Eyedropper Pen Conversion, shows a really nice tutorial using a series of photos. I prefer step-by-step photos, because my internet connection does not always allow me to stream videos very successfully. Goulet pens has a tutorial, "Converting a Platinum Preppy to an eyedropper pen," and theirs has both photos and a how-to video. Both Jetpens and Goulet Pens sell the supplies (o-rings, and maybe silicone grease) to do the eyedropper conversion, which is extremely easy and no-fuss. I do recommend using the silicone grease. JetPens calls it optional, but I consider it pretty much essential.
I have done countless Platinum Preppy eyedropper conversions, and only ever had one leak on me. The reason it leaked was because I screwed it closed too tightly and cracked the barrel. Platinum Preppies are very well-made pens, but they are inexpensive, and the plastic isn't perfect. When you have a rubbery o-ring in there, there's a lot of "give" when tightening the barrel. I thought, the tighter the better, but that is not the case. It's a little counterintuitive for me NOT to screw the eyedropper pen full of ink as tight as possible, but lesson learned; I close them gently now, and haven't had a cracked barrel since.
As the name implies, the first eyedropper fountain pens were filled with eyedroppers. There are some inks that come in bottles with eyedropper tops, and those are handy - but some people use a syringe to fill their pens. I use disposable plastic pipettes, which can be found all over the place (I get mine on eBay), and I know they are not terribly sustainable, but plastic pipettes keep your ink safer from contamination than a syringe would do. They are also faster, and require no cleaning because you just throw the darn things away. Granted, you have to be quite the intense fountain pen and ink geek in order to have a supply of plastic pipettes on hand, but... we all have our quirky hobbies.
My thorough blog reader also asked about air travel and these pens, which is a wise question indeed. The major advantage of an eyedropper pen, especially one with a large barrel like the Preppy, is that it holds tons of ink and lasts for ages. The disadvantage is that it is very susceptible to heat and air pressure. If the ink is very low in the barrel, the heat of your hand itself will make the ink "blort" (another technical term, folks) and flow out of the pen too quickly. On airplanes, they can also spit out some ink. This is very easily handled. When I fly with fountain pens (and I always take pens with me when I travel, so I should just say "when I fly"), I wrap them all in a paper towel or two inside a plastic ziplock baggie. Most of the time, there are no leaks. If there is a leak, the paper towel inside the baggie absorbs the excess ink, and the plastic baggie keeps it from making a mess on anything else in my bag. The one time I had a Preppy leak fantastically on a trip, it was a little messy when I opened the bag to clean off the pens, but since the bag was clear, I knew what I was in for. (It was also my own fault, sort of - I should have known better than to fly with the ink level so low, and therefore more susceptible to changes in pressure.)
If I've made you all excited to get some Platinum Preppies of your very own, you can get them at JetPens or at Goulet Pens, along with eyedropper conversion options from either site. In the top photo on this post, you can see the little baggies of o-rings I've purchased from both Goulet Pens and Jetpens. I always have extra supplies on hand, so I can throw together an eyedropper conversion whenever the whim strikes me. [UPDATE: It seems JetPens no longer sells o-rings. You can get o-rings from Goulet Pens.]