One popular question we get with people who are interested in pen mechanics is: Do any rollerballs use fountain pen ink? The answer is yes, but fewer than you’d expect. Here are a list of some of the top rollerballs that can be filled with fountain pen ink.
Why Fountain Pen Ink?
You might be wondering, why is this a question? Why not just use a standard rollerball or gel refill? If you check out Unsharpen’s Ink Types Guide, you’ll see that while rollerball ink is great, fountain pen ink is quite special. Not only is fountain pen ink the most versatile ink type by a long shot, it also has the most variations in color and consistency of any ink type. Once you are no longer bound by the refill size and shape then the limits come off and companies go wild with the formulas.
Rollerballs Compatible With Fountain Pen Ink
Any Cartridge Rollerball
A “cartridge rollerball” is the generic name for a rollerball pen that uses ink cartridges — normally standard international short ones. Some of the most popular pens in this category are the:
- Monteverde Poquito Inkball Rollerball
- Pilot V5 or V7 Hi-Tecpoint Cartridge System Rollerball
- Schneider Cartridge Rollerball Pens, like the Voice, Ray, Easy, Zippi, Voyage, and Breeze
- Stabilo beFab! Series Rollerball
- Stabilo beCrazy! Rollerball
- Zebra R-301
- Kaweco Sport Ink Cartridge Rollerball (out of production)
- Maped FreeWriter Rollerball (out of production)
J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball Pen
One of the best rollerballs that take fountain pen ink is the J. Herbin refillable rollerball. With a sub-$15 price and a respectable brand name behind it, this pen checks most of the boxes. It’s a plastic pen with the feed of a fountain pen but the business end of a rollerball.
The J. Herbin pen uses a standard international cartridge so you have no shortage of options for ink. Because the pen is fully plastic is looks like this would be a good candidate for an eye-dropper conversion, but there actually tiny holds on the back so this isn’t going to work unless you plug them with some kind of glue. This is generally not a long-term viable fix so we’d skip the conversion.
This is a good looking pen with a solid but somewhat cheap construction. It’s quite under-sized so it has to be posted when used for extended periods of time.
Noodler’s Konrad Piston-Fill Rollerball
Noodler’s might be known for their ink, but they make a number of sub-$30 pens as well. One of those pens is the Konrad piston-filling rollerball, which is similar to the J. Herbin but slightly higher end and comes from a more pen enthusiast brand. This pen is usually sold as a clear demonstrator, just like the Herbin.
The Konrad is a full-sized rollerball with a 5.1 inch (13 cm) length when capped. Posted the pen is a bit over 14.2 cm, so a good size for day-to-day use.
Selling for about $25, the Konrad is a bit more expensive then the J. Herbin but it’s a slightly nicer pen, it’s larger, and the tip can be swapped for a brush, making it more versatile than most options in this category.
One with thing with this pen is that a number of people have reported that it has a bad smell when they get it. This is unfortunate but isn’t totally uncommon for imported plastic pens.
Noodler’s Nib Creaper Rollerball
Prior to the Konrad, Noodler’s sold the Nib Creaper rollerball. This pen is no longer in production and actually has more positive reviews than the Konrad, but there aren’t too many of them floating around any longer. Another clear demonstrator and also a piston-filler, the Nib Creaper appears to be quite similar to the Konrad.
Monteverde One Touch Engage
Now this is a true rarity: not only does the One Touch Engage use bottled ink, it is also retractable. That means fountain pen ink in a capless pen, not unlike the Pilot Vanishing Point! The One Touch Engage is part of Monteverde’s Ink-Ball series, which has a replaceable rollerball tip which alone sells for more then the J. Herbin pen, but the One Touch is a step up from the Herbin in terms of size and materials.
This is a large, heavy pen that is not cheap, with a retail price of around $80. The pen has received a fair bit of criticism for leaking when being transported and generally not has gotten the best reviews. The combination of a wet writer and bottled ink in a rollerball seems like a build up to ruined shirts stained pants, but some people do very much love this pen.
The pen is a cartridge converter that will take international short cartridges or us an includes converter.
Monteverde calls their refillable rollerballs “inkballs” so if you if see that term then you know what you are getting. One inkball is the Poquito (mentioned above) which is a cartridge rollerball similar to the J. Herbin in size and price.
Visconti Eco Roller
The Eco Roller and all Levenger “convertible” rollerball pens are able to use a writing tip that can accept and international short fountain pen refill. This is essentially a cartridge rollerball design, but the advantage is that these pens can use standard rollerball refills as well.
The Eco Roller comes with a rollerball tip, which also sells on its own for about $12 (Levenger sells their design as well). This tip isn’t designed with the expectation that you’ll break your pen, but rather than the tip will start to wear and then pen could start to degrade or it could leak. It’s unlikely the that ceramic ball would wear, but the fit between the metal and ball could wear or ink could start to dry inside and with no good flushing mechanism the tip could be needed to be put out of use early.
The manufacturer of this component, Schmidt, say that the tip — the PRS Ink Cartridge Rollerball tip — needs to be replaced after about 30 refills of the converter, or about 20,000 feet of writing (if you are counting). In addition to Visconti these tips are used with Stipula Speedball and Delta pens.
Hero Pens 360-Degree Nib
Some Chinese fountain pen makers are getting into the game as well. The most notable of these is Hero with their 360-degree nib. This is found on the Gullor 3266 pen and others. Reviews and feedback on these are limited so it’s not a product that seems like it’s worth taking a chance on.
Some rollerballs that use bottled ink are no longer made, these include the Super5 Ink Roller Arctic.
Refillable Rollerball Questions
Here are some popular questions and answers about refillable rollerball pens.
Do these pens require a special fountain pen ink?
No. Any fountain pen ink should work. Generally you’ll want to avoid sparkle, iron gall, and other specialized inks, but any standard fountain pen ink will do.
Can the rollerball tips be replaced?
Yes, almost all these refillable rollerball pens can have their writing tips replaced. Most manufacturers recommend that tip be replaced after every 20-30 fillings.
Why does the writing tip wear out and need to be replaced?
Rollerballs generally use a thicker ink than a fountain pen. So when using the watery fountain pen ink, the tolerance between the ball and its housing has to be extra precise: too loose and then pen will leak, too tight and it won’t write. Most of the pens skew to the tight side, so they can feel a bit scratchy. This will get better over time, but eventually the ball will wear and they will start to leak.
Do the pens come in different sizes?
No, usually not. The limitations of the writing ball and how it works with fountain pen ink plus the small size of the market for this type of pen means that writing tip sizes are limited. The best option here is to get a Pilot Hi-tecpoint V5 for a thin point or a V7 for a thicker point. The Hi-tecpoint sells in a V10 as well, but it’s not refillable like the other two.