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Don’t Like the Color of that Pen? Change It. May 21, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, lifehack, Other.

O.K.  I know you are going to think this is a little strange, like “why would anyone want to do this?”  So I’m going to rationalize it a little bit for you . . . so you can be certain that I am strange. 

I started writing in a journal on a daily basis back in the summer of 2002.  My first one was a Moleskine, one of the small pocket-sized journals, and I stuck with these for a couple of years.  Then I used three of the larger kind, then some people gave me journals as presents a couple of times, and so I used these.  I’ve filled up sixteen during the last five years.  They are full of all kinds of stuff, which I use to remember ideas, to record for later reference what I was doing at a particular time, to try to find connections between things, you know, the things people use journals for. 

Recently I was at a Barnes and Noble store and found a refillable journal that I liked.  I needed one and it was inexpensive, and I decided I was going to attempt to make the refills myself, later, because they looked pretty easy to make, and I have a bunch of discarded letterhead that has the wrong logo on it and a high cotton content.  Chop off the logo and fold and bind the paper and it should work really well.  I’ll let you know how that goes. 

The paper that came with the journal was really rough, which I liked.  It has different color threads in it and it is not a bright white.  Lovely.  But the roughness of the paper is a problem for fountain pens, which I love to use in journals because you don’t have to press hard and wear out your hands.  The ink won’t flow, like writing on sandpaper.  I tried a couple of other pens, too, but the only thing that seemed to work well was porous-point pens, like sharpies and markers.  What worked particularly well is one of my favorite marking pens, the Bravo!, by Pilot.  Only problem was that the color looked wrong.  They make them with a lovely blue ink and a dark black, and a beautiful green and a bright red.  None of the colors seemed right on the page, because the paper has this natural look to it, warm muted tones, and all that. 

So naturally I wondered if I could put different ink in one of them.  Turns out it is not all that hard.  You just need a drill with an 1/8 inch bit, some plumber’s putty, and some good water-based ink (I can recommend either Waterman’s fountain pen ink or Higgins Sepia Calligraphy.  Probably others work just as well.  I like the Waterman’s Havana color, which is very close to sepia in tone, but it is not waterproof at all.  It is also very expensive.  The Higgins stuff is very warm and nice, less than half the price, and won’t smear so easily after it dries. 

Step 1: Start with one of these Pilot Bravo! pens.  Take the end cap off the back end, like shown in the picture below (click to enlarge.)  I suppose this might be difficult for some to do by hand.  If you use pliers, take care not to change the shape of the cap, because that will ruin the seal, and the pen will get ink all over everything. 


Step 2: Drill through the back end plug into the ink reservoir.  Obviously this would be best performed after the pen has already run dry.  Since these pens run through a lot of ink very quickly, this has not been an issue for me.  I go through one every couple of days.

Step 3: Fill the reservoir with the ink you want to use.  The tricky part here is that the ink must sometimes be coaxed into the reservoir.  I use a thin nail to ensure that the hole stays open and, thus, lets the ink into the reservoir.  It will take a lot more ink in it than the pen contained when you bought it.  More than twice as much.  Stop filling when you get about a third of an inch from the back end (you need room to reinsert the plug.)

Step4: Make a worm out of a small chunk of plumber’s putty, rolling it in your hand until it is pliable and warm. 



Step 5: Wrap the worm around the lip of the plug as tightly as you can.


Step 6: Put the plug, as slowly as you can, back into the pen.  The putty will squish out.  That’s O.K.  Keep pushing the plug back in until it is difficult to tell whether there is any putty left in the seam.


That’s it.  It will take a little writing for the new ink to show up.  Some of the ink will be forced into the buffer zone between the tip and the ink reservoir.  But that will gradually drain out.  I’ve never had one leak yet.  And I have refilled one of these things five times now.  The tip is starting to get a little too worn, partially because the paper I use it on is so rough. 

Here’s a picture of the journal, with some incomprehensible notes on normalizing databases (click to enlarge).


Nice and warm, iznit?


1. strugglingwriter - May 21, 2007

Normalizing databases? Noooo! Just kidding. I didn’t know you did database work. One of my many roles at work is DBA of our SQL Server.

Also, this post isn’t weird. It’s pretty cool actually.I never thought to change the ink color in a pen, but am happy it is possible.

2. caveblogem - May 22, 2007

Thanks, strugglingwriter. Sometimes I feel like someone will come along and tell me I have gone to far. The blog-o-sphere seems to accomodate stranger things than this, though.

I was hired here mainly as a grantwriter, but that was some time ago. I don’t have any formal training in this stuff. My degrees are in history and economics. But it is really interesting stuff, so I’ve gotten more an more involved over the last few years. Now it looks like I’ll be in charge of migrating our database to a different one in the coming year, too. So I’m trying not to make the same mistakes that were made during the last migration (when I just watched from the sidelines.)

Don’t you work for a University as well? Would you mind terribly if I asked you some complicated questions, not as an open forum thing, but through email someday?

3. Canterbury Soul - May 22, 2007

looks simple and yet complicated to do. since my vacations are coming, might try what you have shown here.

anyway, i think i’ve just tagged you…if you don’t mind. ;)

4. strugglingwriter - May 22, 2007

caveblogem – I do work for a University and I would have no problem trying to help you. I recently went through the migration process from sql server 2000 to sql server 2005 so I my experience may help.

5. silverneurotic - May 22, 2007

You’ve always got interesting ideas up you sleeve don’t you?

6. caveblogem - May 22, 2007

Thanks, silverneurotic. Nothing up my sleeve, though. I post these things as soon as I dream ’em up. Take to much time to think about it and I might reconsider.

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