Although Pilot intended for this to be a throwaway pen, some crafty folks have come up with various ways in which to refill it with their own ink. There are many methods out there but my favorite, and the one I use exclusively, is to remove the nib and feed.
But first, why would someone refill such a cheap fountain pen? For starters, $3 might not seem a lot but if you keep throwing these pens away, it adds up. Then, there's the fact that the nib writes quite well for the price. Finally, this is a great pen to abuse (say, at work) because if something happens to it, you haven't just lost or destroyed your expensive Montblanc.
There's only one tool that I use for this operation: a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Well, there's also a rag or a piece of cloth (not shown in the photo) that I use between the pliers and the nib/feed so that I don't scratch it. Even better would be a strip of rubber but I don't have any handy.
Here are the quick and easy steps needed to refill the Pilot Varsity:
- Grip the nib from the side with the pliers but don't forget to cushion with the rag. (You can also remove the nib from the beginning by sliding it off the plastic feed). If the nib has been removed, grip the feed directly.
- Hold the pliers in your other hand.
- Brace the tip of the pliers with the thumb of the hand holding the pen.
- Apply just enough pressure to prevent the jaws of the pliers from slipping but not too much to crack the plastic feed.
- With the thumb, push upwards until the feed is suddenly freed from the section.
Once you got the feed out, you can clean the pen thoroughly. You should rinse the feed really well because ink gets embedded in the wick that goes through it and, if you don't clean it well, it will mix with the new ink you put in. Let it dry for a day or two, or you can even use it right away if you don't mind a little dilution in your ink.
The Pilot Varsity has a very decent capacity of at least 2ml (my estimate). Notice that I've also removed all the paint from my pen, to make it completely transparent.
After filling with ink, just plug the feed back in the section. When it's settled all the way in you will hear (and feel) a distinct click. I like to grip the feed with a cloth for more friction when I plug it in.
That's it then: you have just refilled your Pilot Varsity! I have refilled my first Varsity no less than 4 times already, with: Noodler's Navajo Turquoise, Noodler's Polar Blue, a secret ink mixture soon to be revealed and J Herbin Vert Olive. It looks to me that this pen has a lot of life left in it (the nib feels brand new) so I've got many inks lined up for it. I use the Varsity exclusively at work where it lasts for about 2 weeks of note-taking and scribbling.
So, go forth, refill your Pilot Varsities and enjoy your hacked pen to the max!