A look at the Pilot V disposable fountain pen and how to refill one.

I realise that there is a risk here in marking myself out as a cheapskate. I make no secret of my fondness for inexpensive pens. This is not from any inverted snobbery: I like expensive pens too, but they sometimes lose points in my eyes from being too expensive. When a fountain pen costs more than, say, a decent bicycle, something seems wrong.

I happened to be out on my bicycle at the weekend and visited a stationery shop in St John’s Wood in North West London. I went to buy some supplies of file paper. I was tempted by a colourful display of Pilot pens – gel pens, fineliners and the Pilot V pen, a single use fountain pen. I stocked up on a selection of stuff, including a red ink V Pen, which I fancied as being a useful tool to use at work for amending drafts. I tried it out on a test pad and was impressed at the colour and how smoothly it wrote.

Pilot V Pen, a disposable or single-use fountain pen.

I have had a few of these V Pens in the past. Well, I say past, but I still have them in blue, black and purple. They seem to go on almost forever and do not mind being ignored for months or years on end. The ink seems to be specially formulated to resist drying out in the pen. The downside of this is that the ink seems prone to bleedthrough. On a recent test of thirty different inked pens on an A4 notebook, I found that the Pilot V pen was the only one to bleed through the paper.

Available in a wide range of colours.

When I looked recently at my old V pens, which had languished in a pen cup for longer than I can remember, the black and the purple ones still wrote at once, but the blue one seemed to have finally run dry. I also noticed that the blue ink model was of an older design than the others, with a narrow slit for the ink window along the barrel on two sides and with a rather basic butterfly nib. This is a nib where there is no tipping material but the tines are crimped, and folded downwards at the end and polished to form a writing tip. I have encountered this design before on a Bic Easy-Click fountain pen.

I then remembered a friend mentioning that it was possible to refill and reuse these Pilot V pens. I did not know how and had never looked into this. I did a quick search on Google and found a very useful blog post How to Refill a Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen on Fountain Pen Love, by John Bosley in a post from September 20, 2017. I read this with interest. I was keen to have a go at refilling my blue V Pen and felt that I had little to lose.

The technique simply requires that you pull out the nib and feed, which are friction fit. You can then flush out the pen and refill the barrel with some ink of your choice and refit the nib and fit with a firm push, until it clicks into place.

I got some grippy material. I pulled and pulled at the nib and feed but they would not budge. Instead, the nib came away, leaving the feed in place.

Determined to get it out, I resorted to using hand tools, (a big no-no in fountain pen work) and used the pliers of my Leatherman. This was rather reckless as you have a good chance of crushing the feed and breaking it, or at least cracking it. Squeeze too hard on those pliers and it will break like a walnut.

I tried gripping it firmly with the pliers but not so hard as to crush the feed. I pulled. After the pliers had slipped off a few times, eventually I was successful and the feed came away with a pop, like a Champagne cork. That the feed came out and was not broken, was very pleasing.

An older style Pilot V pen disassembled for refilling, with butterfly nib and narrow slit ink windows.

I washed the nib, feed and barrel then had a closer look at the nib and feed under the loupe. There were some marks from my pliers, but nothing terrible. I noticed that the feed has a wick running along the channel, to keep the nib moist.

Nib and feed disassembled

It just remained to choose some ink and refill the barrel, with a pipette. I decided on Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue. I was careful not to put too much in. You need to leave space for the feed, which can be seen through the clear plastic grip section.

The pen now writes again! The Cobalt blue looks good. It should not bleed through paper like the original ink, but then again the pen will probably not be so resilient as before in coping with long periods of neglect.

A sample of Cobalt Blue from my newly re-filled Pilot V Pen, on a Moleskin notebook.

The butterfly nib is not the best writing experience, but it is reasonably smooth. The newer version with the rounded tipping material is a big improvement.

In conclusion, I doubt that I would want to get out the pliers every time to refill this pen and risk shattering the feed. Perhaps it might come out a bit easier next time. But even refilling the pen just once means it has doubled its working life, roughly halving the pen’s “cost” and helps to reduce plastic waste. It is nice to know it can be done.

That red though!

Update 27 March 2021: I would just like to add, that in using the pliers I did also have the grippy material wrapped around the feed to protect it from the sharp metal jaws of the pliers.

9 thoughts on “A look at the Pilot V disposable fountain pen and how to refill one.

  1. What a fun review! I have had one of these Pilot pens for several years and it still has not run dry. I did not buy another as I thought the concept anti-environmental (disposable pens are just as bad as cartridges) but I really like the idea of refilling them with fresh ink to lengthen their life…
    Looking at the nib, though, I can’t see any difference to the Platinum Preppy pens, which are excellent and at £5 a piece an absolute bargain. I recommend adding a Platinum converter which gives them added weight and makes them able to use any bottled ink. IMHO, the Japanese cheap pens are first rate, which is not something I would say about the cheap Chinese pens on the market.
    But you are right to advocate these cheaper pens, compared to the much more expensive offerings on the market. And the cost of experimenting with these pens is never going to break the bank!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. This was a bit of fun and an interesting exercise. I would not recommend this pen to anyone buying a pen with the intention to refill it regularly; you would be better off with say a Platinum Preppy or a Platinum Prefounte. But when a disposable pen is empty, you have little to lose by having a go at refilling it and it is worth a go, at least once!

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  2. You just reminded me I have one I refilled a while back – was given it by a colleague who proved even network guys can and do use fountain pens (sorry Andy) – he had a Montblanc 146 at home and would buy boxes of Vs for work. The one he gave me was eventually finished (it was not new when he gave it to me) and I filled it with another ink – no clue that though. All know is I just now tried it, had next to no ink flow, but when I pulled the nib and feed out, the pen was full – looks like a brown ink. Lol

    Got lots of samples so one of those will fill it tomorrow 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems I am slow off the mark here as others have been refilling their Pilot V pens for years. With your brown inked pen, I can imagine it is not very convenient having a sealed body and so you cannot very easily prime the feed, as you might with a piston filler or converter pen.
      I sense there is an in joke in IT circles about network guys, which is over my head!

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      1. Turns out it was probably the last dregs of the black ink with me adding too much water. No smell but after ditching the contents and soaking there was a brown staining to the barrel and the feed so I’ve played safe and called it a day on this one.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I filled one a few months ago with Diamine’s “Bloody Brexit”, and it works like a dream. The North American variant is slightly different and the barrel is just printed silver on a clear plastic. A little judicious wiping with some rubbing alcohol and voila – a very cheap “demonstrator”. Watching that ink slosh is always so mesmerising…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well it’s good to hear that something with Brexit in it, works like a dream. I am with you on the ink sloshing. I would hesitate to put red ink in a demonstrator pen unless it was a particularly cheap one as it could be more likely to stain, than say a Waterman blue, but it was nice to watch the red ink in this new Pilot V pen.

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  4. How interesting that they place emphasis on the fact the pen’s filled with erasable ink. Their website says this means you can use an ink eradicator with it. This led me to Pelikan’s teachers’ notes about their ink eradicator which I was fascinated to learn was originally called Radierwasser (erasing water) or, my personal favourite, Tintentod (Ink Death). I would like to thank you for expanding my vocabulary and giving me the potential to waltz into a pen shop and declare “I would like a bottle of your finest Ink Death, if you please!”
    The downside to ink eradication is that you can only re-write over the area with ballpoint pen. To my mind it’s neater (and by that I mean better) to just cross out the mistake and carry on in your fountain pen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Radierwasser and Tintentod are new to me too!
      I have not made use of the erasable ink option yet. I bought a Pilot frixion fine liner at the same time as this red V pen, which has a built in eraser for the brown ink. It actually works very well and doesn’t leave any mess on the paper. I shall have to try the wet ink version and see how it goes!

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