A converter is just a replacement for a cartridge which contains some kind of filling mechanism– they convert the pen from cartridge to bottle filling.
A note of caution here for the new pen user– before you try yanking the converter out of your pen, make sure that it is a converter. The large numbers of cartridge/converter fountain pens in production today (Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer and Cross make nothing but, currently) can mislead someone newly arrived amongst fountain pens into thinking that these are the only filling options. In my own dim past, the callow high school senior version of myself ruined a hard rubber pen by yanking on the lever I imagined to be a release which would allow me to get at the cartridge, and I have seen in a forum someone complaining that they couldn’t get the “funny black converter” out of a Parker 61. If you’re not positive that it’s a converter, read the other descriptions in this department and convince yourself.
As with cartridges, some converters are proprietary and will only fit one manufacturer’s pen, while others are not so specific. You may find that some manufacturer’s converters are also somewhat specific to era– I’ve discovered that most Sheaffer converters won’t fit the earlier pens, and likewise some older Parker converters won’t go in newer pens.
Converters tend towards two filling mechanisms– piston and press-bar. Sheaffer made one that is a button-filler (see below) but it is very much an oddity. Whatever sort of converter you have gets mounted into the back of the section, and you the proceed as if the pen were a self-filler, dipping the pen in the ink and working the mechanism to draw some into the reservoir chamber.
Apart from allowing a cartridge pen to drink from a bottle (which my own sad prejudice refers to as “filling like a real pen”), it is possible to fill a converter before mounting it. This is an advantage in as much as one can get dregs out of an ink bottle more readily, although the effort almost invariably sees contact between fingers and bottle-mouth during the process, leaving tell-tale signs.
The great disadvantage to converters is that they have a much smaller capacity than the cartridges they replace, because the mechanism takes up space that might otherwise be full of ink. For most of us, this is not a great issue, but those facing unusually large demands for writing might want to stick with cartridges, or consider a different pen with a more voluminous filler system.
In the following sections, I’m going to show some of the more popular converters. I include the volume of ink they hold, and you should be aware that this is tested without a pen attached to the converter. This means that the volumes will be a little short of that which is possible when filling with the converter attached to the section, since working the converter twice will flood the inner spaces of the feed on the first pass and add 0.1 ml or 0.2 ml to the pen’s total load. This sounds like very little, and in absolute terms it’s hardly a vast amount of fluid, but a surprising number of words can be written on that much ink.
- The earliest, piston style; notice that the Eversharp name appears on it: 0.8 ml.
- Early squeeze converter: 0.9 ml.
- Somewhat later squeeze converter, with a little less metal on the back end: 0.9 ml.
- 1970’s squeeze converter; the shape more closely mimics the cartridge, so it fits more pens: 0.5 ml.
- Slide converter, the current style: 0.6 ml.
- “Deluxe” piston converter, suspiciously like Waterman’s converter with a different mouth: 0.6 ml.
- Modern piston Converter: 0.7 ml.
- Standard squeeze converter: 0.8 ml.
- Vintage button converter: 0.8 ml.
- Legacy pneumatic converter: 0.8 ml.
- Slim squeeze converter: since it’s not mine I haven’t tested it– I’d guess 0.5 to 0.6 ml.
- Early slide converter: same problem as #5, and the guess this time is 0.8 to 1.0 ml.
- Rotring converter: 0.7 ml.
- Pelikan converter: 0.8 ml.
- Waterman converter: 0.7 ml. Newer versions have more plastic and less metal at the mouth, but the capacity is the same.
- Squeeze converter for long/short pen (I think it’s a CON-W): 0.6 ml.
- Generic squeeze converter, found in low end pens like the 78G or Birdie: 0.7 ml.
- CON-20, squeeze converter: 0.7 ml.
- CON-50, piston: 0.5 ml.
- CON-70, pump: 1.0 ml.
Lamy converters, the more generic Z26 on the left, while to the right is the Z24 specific to the Safari line; notice the little lugs on the sides that snap into holes in the back of the section: 0.8 ml either way. Some Parker pens will admit the Z26, but I haven’t got an exhaustive list– if you’re trying it, go gently, because it might bind in the section or the barrel.
Converter appropriate to Waterman pens predating the conversion to international pattern cartridges: 0.8 ml.