Lever-Fillers

Some people don’t like sac-filler pens, that is lever-fillers and button-fillers. For someone who has only used cartridge/converter fillers I can kind of understand why that might be. It’s all about flushing and lever-fillers especially can be difficult in that regard. Button-fillers, if they are properly serviced, are the easiest to flush of all pens, so the problem really focuses on lever-fillers. I use them a lot but mostly I refill with the same ink, only flushing after the third fill. Then I accept that so long as I get enough water through the pen to ensure that there will be no residue settling in the sac and feed I’m confident to put it away. I only use blues and blacks in my lever-fillers.

Once you accept that routine or something similar there’s no real reason to dislike lever-fillers. There might be an aesthetic dislike of the lever breaking the pattern of the barrel but really? Isn’t that a little fussy? A continued prejudice against lever-fillers denies one some of the best fountain pens there are: 1920s Watermans, Wahl Eversharps, Swans, Conway Stewarts – there’s quite a list of glorious pens denied to lever-haters!

On the good side, they’re easier and quicker to refill than a converter and give an enormous range of inks less expensively than cartridges. Personally, I avoid the red end of the spectrum with my lever-fillers but there is no real reason why I should do so. I could assign a few pens to these colours.

Some people avoid sac-fillers because they don’t trust the sac. They’re quite right; the sac will fail. I find my sacs take an average of eight to ten years between services. That’s not a bad lifespan. It’s vanishingly rare for a sac to fail while the pen is in use. It’s usually when you go to fill a pen that has been out of rotation for a while that you feel some resistance when you lift the lever. The sac has gone leathery and it’s time to fit another, or if you don’t want to do it yourself, to send it to the pen mechanic of your choice. I don’t know what they charge for that nowadays – say £30 and a tenner for return postage. 40p a year for the joy of using your lovely flexy Swan? I don’t think that’s too expensive.

The lever-filler was the most common filling system throughout the glory years of the fountain pen for a reason – or several reasons. It was convenient for the user, taking seconds to fill without having to remove any parts. The cost of production wasn’t excessive, probably less than plunger and piston fillers. There were cheaper pens available: bulb and syringe fillers, but they were not so reliable, having a tendency to drop blots of ink just as you reached the bottom of the page.

I don’t expect this article to change the minds of those who are convinced sac-fillers are too much trouble. They will go on with their cartridge/converter fillers and piston-fillers. That’s okay. If they all changed their minds and decided to buy those lever-fillers after all it would just jack the price up. I’m happy to leave things as they are!

12 thoughts on “Lever-Fillers

  1. Shhh! Keep ’em busy with their piston-fillers, so we can concentrate on the good stuff. One of the best features of lever-fillers is that replacing the sac is so easy even I have mastered the job.
    BTW, just received a Conway Stewart 27 in cracked ice, with a rigid nib that produces a 2XF line of 0.3mm. Can’t believe my luck.
    Cheers from Decimus to Tuppence.

  2. I won’t use the pink -red range in a lever filler either. It’s a nightmare to clean. Personally I use inks that are easy to rinse in my other pens. But nowadays, I just use Essri. That’s what those pens mostly used, that’s what I’ll use 😉

  3. Deb…I’m in the ‘ lever fillers are easy’ camp 👍🏻 And I’ve always been a bit puzzled by the ..
    Latex vs silicon vs ..pliglass (?) thing ….
    Having had the …latex turns to goop disaster many times, are the alternatives a consideration, or are they specific to a pen ? ( sounds dubious !)

    And is it just me, or are latex sacs getting more and more expensive ?

  4. I love lever fillers and button fillers mainly because I can service them myself (inexpensively and speedily). I know that I’ve mentioned that I have a button-fill MB referred to as an Ersatz (cobbled together with whatever was available towards the end or just after the War) and it could possibly be a 44. It had a new sac 10 years ago and this morning it wasn’t drawing up. What could have been 10 minutes later it had been dismantled, flushed through and fitted with a new sac; there aren’t many Montblancs for which you could say the same (the time I’ve spent trying to replace a broken helix/spindle!) onto the cone . The same with De La Rues/Onotos … I can’t service plunger fillers (so we’re lucky that we have some great restorers), but the lever-fill Onotos and De La Rues are so simple to service (so long as it’s nothing major).
    On the subject of sacs, my MB was last serviced about 10 years ago, and still working fine 3-4 weeks ago, when I tried to remove the old sac this morning it was like scraping goo from the barrel (that’s why I said what ‘could have been 10 minutes later’, I probably spent 20 minutes scraping all the bits out and giving it a thorough cleaning. Are sacs expensive, as you say Deb, spread the cost over 10 years and we’re talking about pennies per year if you do it yourself and a couple of £ per year if you get it serviced professionally, and who could begrudge that?

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