Ink Wells

Now that I am thoroughly hooked on fountain pens, I'm considering purchasing an ink well to store my ink. I'm having trouble seeing the ink in my bottle, and usually end up either under-dipping or dipping too deeply (making an inky mess). Some ink wells I've seen on-line actually appear to hold the pen in place snuggly. That would be very cool.

Does anyone have a recommendation?


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Other ink bottles

First, I'd recommend looking at other brands of bottled ink that have more useful bottles.

Old Sheaffer Skrip bottles used to have a "well" in the top to make filling pens easy, for example. I haven't bought Mont Blanc ink in years, but their bottle used to have a design that let you tip ink into the end toward the cap. And Waterman ink bottles have a handy hexagonal design that helps with filling.

What brand of ink are you using now that has the less useful (or colored) bottle?

Do you procrastinate?


I'm using Waterman ink. It's not the shape of the bottle that has me looking for other options. The bottle is black (presumably from the ink itself), so I can't see the pen from the side when dipping. It's like I'm gazing into a black hole from the top. I can't see the pen once I insert it into the bottle.....and have little idea of its positioning.

I'm looking for an ink well, not a different bottle. But thanks anyway.


I've used various fountain

I've used various fountain pen inks for years, have over 100 bottles. I've had a few inkwells but to me they're useless to me because I use different types of inks most of the time, and can't afford the additional desk space for an inkwell. (However I'd gladly receive a Visconti traveling inkwell anytime, I hope the Christmas elves are reading DIYplanner). This being said, although sympathetic to your quest, I can't really see a reason why an inkwell would solve your "see through" problem. If it's glass, ink (and Waterman ink especially, I've found) will stick to the side walls of the bottle and obscure it.

Probably the only thing that would partly solve your problem is a bottle with a bigger opening, which would let more light in. And/or a shallower bottle. I've never seen an inkwell fitting this description, but there are lots out there (in antique stores, on Ebay, on Pendemonium's web site, etc.).

I don't like Montblanc ink, but their bottles are really cool and also good looking, which could make a nice inkwell. Buy the bottle, send the ink down the drain, soak and scrape off the label if any. Then refill with your Waterman ink.

Good luck.

Visiting a fountain pen

Visiting a fountain pen forum and asking around may also net empty ink bottles, without having to waste ink.

Waterman ink

Lucky break here - the first bottle of fountain pen ink I bought was Waterman. When I got my first refillable fountain pen, I went to Paradise Pen Company store to get ink. I decided that I wanted a light blue ink. They were out of Noodlers, so I opted for Waterman's. It was also the least expensive ink they carried in that color.

The bottle is a neat shape, I'm not really sure how it would make refilling a pen easier. I haven't had it long enough to use much - it looks like you'll be able to see the level of the ink very clearly once it gets down lower. So, it seems Waterman is one of the best inks out there and also one of the least expensive AND available at a store that is local to me. YAY!

I also was given a bottle of Swisher Pen ink in maroon. The bottle is not a fancy shape, but it's really easy to see how much ink is left.


Swisher ink is just

Swisher ink is just Noodler's with a Swisher label...

Noodler's ink bottles are

Noodler's ink bottles are awful: tall and skinny and in my experience very prone to tipping. Waterman bottles don't tip. Plus, Waterman ink is good ink, and I trust it 100% over Noodler's (except Noodler's black, which I like quite a bit). Private Reserve makes me shudder and my pens recoil in horror.

Filling a fountain pen isn't an automatic procedure, it's like changing the oil in you car. You'll get messy sometimes, and that's just the nature of the task. I grab a couple of paper towels, stick in my nib and fill away and, when I'm done filling, wipe off the nib and the end of the grip or whatever got inky in the process. That's it. Don't strive for hermetic perfection with a technology that's beautiful for it's idiosyncrasies.

what's wrong with Private Reserve ink?

What's wrong with Private Reserve ink? They have a color I like & was thinking of buying. DC Electric Blue, if you're curious.


I like Private Reserve...

During my initial phase of fountain pen use (back in college) I used Sheaffer or Parker ink almost exclusively. Back then there weren't many choices. When I got back into fountain pens about five years ago, the late Earl Shigemoto at Honolulu Pen Shop recommended Private Reserve when I went looking for a dark, black ink. I trusted Earl and figured that he wouldn't steer me wrong. I've also used Blue Suede (good for editing), Copper Burst, Avacado, Plum, etc. American Blue is one of my favorites. Their inks are quite intense, so they require a fair amount of flushing to clear out, but they have wonderful colors. Some of the colors take a while to dry, and the reds and purples may stain some pens, but that's true of any brand of ink.

If you're careful, the tall bottles that Noodler/Swisher and Aurora use have one advantage. They're good for pens with long nibs like Namiki Vanishing Points, and it's easier to fill a pen as the ink run low. Shallower bottles make it harder to fill as the ink level drops. Waterman bottles have the angled bottom so you can tip the bottle (carefully) to get the last bit of ink out. The old Sheaffer ink bottles (made in USA) also had a well in the side of the bottle (wish I hadn't thrown the empties out years ago). See if you can get some of them. I bought a bottle of Lamy ink because it has a T-shaped profile with a deep center well. Haven't used it yet, but it's an interesting design.


"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

I purchased one bottle at

I purchased one bottle at the recommendation of my fountain pen repair guy. In retrospect, I think he pushed the ink because he had a stock to sell. It is lousy -- even harmful -- ink: turn your back and the pen will crud up with particulates. Nasty, nasty stuff. FWIW, the color is Dakota Red. Maybe it's just a bad color or a bad batch, but I've sworn off PR.

I know I'm not alone, either. I spoke with a guy from Susan Wirth & Assoc. at the Ohio Pen Show, who also shuddered at the idea of Private Reserve ink. They're not picky about what brand of black they use -- he said they use Waterman mostly, but will also use Quink or ... I can't remember what else -- and they don't worry about contamination between the brands (so long as it's black). Not that they're mixing, but they don't clean out the pen before refilling when it's moving from, say, Waterman Black to Quink black. I figured if a full-time, in-the-business pen guy is sufficiently ink-agnostic to interchange blacks, but won't touch a whole brand, I'll consider my opinion validated.

I've never had any problems with any color of Waterman ink, nor with a number of other, older (well, older than Private Reserve)-brand inks (Quink, Scrip, etc.). Heck, I've had better ink from Hero, which I got for free when I picked up one of those swell Chinese pens.

Bob, Not quite what you


Not quite what you asked but have you thought of a travelling ink bottle - Visconti do them -.
They come with an eye dropper (pippette) to fill them and have a glass section so tha you can see how much ink remains. I bleieve that they do 2/3 styles and/or sizes



PS the old Skrip bottles mentioned were great the well was a brilliant and very useful idea.

There are ink bottles and then there are ink bottles...

Be careful when considering vintage ink wells/bottles. Many of them were designed for ink that saw daily use on someone's desk. Left unused, they can let the ink evaporate quickly. One source for interesting vintage ink bottles (both ink wells and bottles that ink came in) is Pendemonium. Click on the link below, then scroll down the left side and click on "Inkwells and Desktop."


There are some modern ones that are crystal and beautiful, but I'm not sure how practical they are in use. J Herbin's scented Ink for Man (that's what it's called) comes with a squat crystal-esque bottle (pressed glass) with a metalized plastic top. Not all that practical, imo.

If you're just looking for modern inks that come in a good bottles, I'd have to say nothing beats the Mont Blanc 'shoe' bottle. I like the ink, but ymmv. Their British Racing green is great green, imo.

I noticed someone complained about the Noodler's bottle, but I have to say that I've never had any trouble with it. I have well over a dozen Noodler's inks and the only issue I've ever run across is that they are filled so full - right to the top - that it sometimes takes some doing to dip a converter or eye-dropper in them. One big plus (for me, at least) is that they are deep so that a large nibbed-pen can fit easily into it. They are, however, very plain looking.

The new Caran d'Ache inks are gorgeous and the bottles look classy, BUT the ink well inside is quite shallow, so in actuality are difficult to use once you've used it a few times.

Visconti bottles are aesthetically beautiful, imo, but only the old ones came with a bakelite base to stablize them. If you're careful about not tipping it, the bottle and the ink are very nice.

The only completely non-useable ink bottle I've seen is a Cartier one that's meant to be used as a refill only. It has a very small opening - only a few pens or converters will fit - so be cautious of that if you're tempted by the beautiful colors.

The others mentioned, Pelikan, Waterman, etc., are all useful. I have several, though to be honest, their inks get pushed out of rotation only because I adore the colors of others more. Waterman Violet is an exception to that, though. I use it quite a lot and love the pure violet / purple color.

I have a lot of inks, but there is no one ink that I use over the others (with the exception of Noodler's Bulletproof Black), so this advice might not work for you. Good luck finding what you want. :)

An Easy, Effective, Cheap, Beautiful Inkwell

First of all, as many of you have stated, there are many ink bottles that can be used as inkwells, after the initial ink has run out.

The best bottles for this that I have found, are the ink bottles that come with a little plastic upside down cone (kind of like a funnel with no hole) built into them...this is how a lot of vintage ink bottles and inkwells were, back in the good old days. To use this, you close the bottle up, tip it upside down, and the cone fills with ink; it helps you get as much of the ink out of the bottle as possible...we all have had bottles with quite a bit of ink in them that we couldnt use.

I don't know of all ink brands, as I have not tried them all, but I know of two bottles that come with these little cones. The first, and the most aesthetically pleasing is Levenger Ink, from; it is not a high quantity, but it is enough, more than one would think to be in the bottle. These bottles have no stickers, but the writing is imprinted on the glass itself, but can be scraped off if desired, even though it looks pretty cool. These are the coolest bottles, as they kind of look like a potion bottle, and have a tall cap the is bigger at the top than bottom, like some of the vintage inkwells and bottles. This company also offers many different colors (the closest to blue-black is Empyrean, just so you know).

The second one is by Pilot, believe it or not, but they are not easy to find...because it is the 75mL bottle from Japan. The only reason I got one was because it came with a pen that has one of the highest ink capacities available today.

There is a third bottle that would make a good inkwell and looks very cool, but it does not have the "funnel" like cone in it. Instead, there is a triangle shape in the bottom of the bottle, making a little ink compartment in the front, so you can tip the bottle torwards you to get all the ink out. This is, of course, the Montblanc ink bottle. They have the traditional colors. They all look this way, however there is a new version of it, which has the same shape, but looks slightly different; it is squared off and looks cool and modern. The older ones are still available in many places if you hurry. They are relatively cheap for such a great ink bottle.

Then, there is my own, which wasn't designed for ink at all. What I did, was go to Bed, Bath & Beyond, and went to the section where they have all the candles and that oil stuff that smells good. It is one of those bottles that holds the smell-good oil in it, which you place those sticks in the top, and fan them out, and they absorb the oil to smell good. Some of them, for some reason, have little caps to them, which you put in the top hole and click down to seal it off...who knows why some have these stoppers when you end up leaving the bottle open, but whatever. Well, I found a really cheap one, which had an opening that was small, but big enough to fit one pen in. These are made to look good, so you can find one that fits your taste, just make sure it has the stopper (it may not look air tight, as it isnt rubber or anything, but if its one that clicks down, it is, because it has to prevent the oil from evaporating.). Then I washed it out really good, with hot and cold water, over and over, because you have to make sure you get all the smelly oil stuff out, so it wont destroy your pens. Then let the water dry out, and your ready. Wash the stopper really good, too. The oil will be out, but the smell will cling for a while, so your inkwell will also faintly smell good.

There ya go....sometimes you have to improvise, because old inkwells are often hard to find and quite expensive.

My Solution

I forgot that I had put this thread out there until someone recently posted a reply.

My solution was actually quite simple. I always fill my pens closer to a good light source now. That, and I have just become more experienced at refilling my pens.

I use Waterman ink and Private Reserve. Waterman flushes out of my pens much easier than the PR. My latest purchase was Waterman's Havana brown. It took a little getting used to, but now I love the color.


I second Pendemonium

I bought 2 beautiful inkwells from them, they have wide bases so they are much less likely to tip than tall bottles and can make for a beautiful and useful pen holder when I am doing heavy writing sessions.

If using inkwells, add a little bit of water if you haven't written for a while, the water tend to evaporate.

I think that house stores such as the Container Store or Bed, Bath and Beyond have tiny cork stoppers for various kind of small bottles. Using one on top of an inkwell might help with evaporation.

I don't know how effective a cork top would be in very dry and very hot climates but it is worth a try.