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!