Refilling Inexpensive Calligraphy Pens Is Too Much Trouble


There are a few inexpensive calligraphy pens that might have decent nibs. Tonight I thought I’d do a comparison of the Manuscript Italic and the Sheaffer Calligraphy, but the pens have cartridges that are far too troublesome to refill. Both have narrow necks that won’t release the ink. So much for using the same ink in both pens. Let that be a suggestion, or perhaps it should be a warning, to purchase a converter even if you go cheap with the pen. You’ll be so glad you did.

Cheap Calligraphy Kits


  1. Are converters even available for these? I have found you have to use an ink syringe to fill the carts.


    • Yep, both work with converters. There is one that comes in some of the Sheaffer kits, but can be purchased separately as well. I don’t recall where I picked up the push-type that fits the Manuscript. No name on the all plastic barrel, so I’m at a loss on that one.


  2. Lamy Joy, Safari,Vista and Al Star with the excellent lamy calligraphy/italic nibs in association with the appropriate converter are an excellent choice, as are Pilot parallel pens with the con-20 pilot converter for larger work and not too pricey. Lamy in particular respond well to being used and the opportunity to strip down parallel pens means it is possible, with care, to use acrylic ink


    • All true. I’ve used all of the Lamy models and just so happened to have inked an AL-Star last night. It has a custom cursive italic nib and writes well enough. The 1.1 nib is inconsistent in my experience. Of the six I own, only two flow well. The others not so much. A free-flowing ink works best. They do take converters and the nibs can be easily swapped. Those are good points to be sure.

      In the same price range, there is the Kaweco Classic with a calligraphy nib, but I have no experience with it. The newer models accept a converter similar to the con-20.

      Add an extra nib and converter to the price and the Sheaffer and Manuscript cost less than half as much as the Lamy and Kaweco. Those two have smoother nibs so there is that to consider. For a straighter, more italic look, the cheaper pens will do.

      No experience with Parallel Pens, but they are well-liked. Might have to try one some day.


  3. I’ll be interested to see the results of the comparison when you so get around to making it. These two brands are the usual choices in art stores like Dick Blick, and you often see people who want to use “that fancy writing” on invitations to their next party puzzling over them. I’ve always steered folks to Manuscript because I’ve heard more good comments about them from calligraphers than I have about Sheaffer.

    That said, I often use a Nixon-era Sheaffer No-Nonsense pen in 1950’s rec-room green, sharpened by Ward Dunham. Now that’s a fine pen, and nobody will ever mistake you for an executive.


  4. Have you had good success with Sheaffer calligraphy sets? I remember using cheap Sheaffer fountain pens (with the green barrel) with great success, but I purchased a set some years back and had to stop using the pens because they leaked badly.


    • That’s not good. I used them too long ago to remember how well they performed. However, I will give them a whirl soon and report back.🙂


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