(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
The Visconti Traveling Inkwell is a conveniently-sized container for ink. The inkwell offers an alternative to traveling with heavy glass ink bottles. But at a retail price of $70.00 (at Goulet Pens), is it worth it?
I took my Visconti Inkwell with me on a recent trip to France. I slipped it in one of the slots of my Nock Hightower and carried it in my backpack the entire trip. It never leaked, and it went through every security check without anyone asking to examine it.
The Traveling Inkwell comes packaged in a Visconti faux-leather, clamshell box. Instructions for using the inkwell are included as is a glass eyedropper.
The inkwell is made of hard plastic and measures 5 inches (127mm) in length, a little over 1/2 inch (12.7mm) in width. It weighs only a few ounces without ink. With a capacity of 5.5 ml of ink, it will refill medium-sized pens about five times and large pens about three times. This blog post and video on Goulet is exceptionally helpful, explaining how to use the inkwell and listing pens that will and will not work.
The inkwell consists of a cap, a stopper, and the ink chamber.
Removing the cap exposes a wick that can be removed for cleaning off your nib after filling.
The stopper provides a secure seal so that no ink escapes.
To fill the inkwell, you simply put the eyedropper in your chosen ink and squeeze to fill it.
Then you insert the eyedropper deep into the inkwell and squeeze out the ink.
You have to do this several times to fill the inkwell to the maximum capacity line. The glass eyedropper is a little cumbersome to use. You might want to use a pipette or a syringe instead.
When you want to fill your pen, remove the stopper, prepare your pen to receive ink, push the nib and section firmly into the inkwell to create a seal, and turn the inkwell upside down to fill your pen.
You can use the inkwell with any filling system, though each type requires a slightly different methodology to fill the pen. I recommend watching Brian Goulet's video on the inkwell to get a good overview on how to use it with different pen types.
I used the inkwell with my Pilot Custom 823, which is a vacuum filler. I pulled the pump all the way out, inserted the pen into the inkwell, pushed the pump . . . and made a huge mess–ink everywhere.
It was my own fault. I (a) didn't create a good enough seal and (b) pushed the pump in too quickly. As a result, ink spilled everywhere. My second attempt, after following the instructions more closely, resulted in a good fill.
The Visconti Traveling Inkwell can be used with most pens as long as they measure a minimum of 9.2 mm at the grip and a maximum of 13.2 mm according to Goulet. Brands like Pelikan, Montblanc, Visconti, Pilot (but not the Pilot VP), Platinum, etc., should all work fine. Pens with small diameters will not work with the inkwell. For example, the Faber-Castell Ambition, the Pilot Vanishing Point, and other small pens cannot create the necessary seal. Oversized pens also will not work because they don't fit into the inkwell.
The inkwell requires a little practice, so it's a good idea to try it out with water first (add a little ink so you can see the liquid). Once you know what you're doing, the inkwell makes it easy to fill your pens with the bonus that you can get a complete fill by manipulating the converter/piston/or pump slowly. Brian's video shows you how to get the best fill using each system.
So, is the Visconti Traveling Inkwell worth $70.00? I'm a bit torn on this question, to be honest. I didn't actually use the inkwell in France because my Pilot 823 holds so much ink, I never needed a refill. On previous trips, such as to Ireland, I took plastic ink bottles that I sealed in a plastic bag and packed in my luggage so I wouldn't have to put them through security. I filled my pens from those ink bottles just like I normally would. None of them leaked, but that may have been good luck. Since I don't travel often, I probably wouldn't purchase the Visconti Inkwell for myself, especially since, when I do travel, I like taking several ink colors and can do this with inexpensive plastic ink bottles.
What sets the Visconti Inkwell apart, however, is its pen-like shape (so it fits in most pen cases), its leak-free construction, and its ability to fill pens without a big mess (as long as you know what you're doing). If you're a frequent traveler, and you don't mind taking along just one color of ink, the Visconti is an excellent choice. It is much simpler to use than ink bottles, and you can take it in your carry-on without any problems.
Even though I won't be galavanting through France again anytime soon (le sigh), I may take my Visconti Inkwell to work. I can keep it there to refill pens without a big mess when the need arises.
- The Visconti Traveling Inkwell is well-constructed and leak-proof (at least I had no issues with it in my trip to France and back).
- It is shaped like a fountain pen and is about the same size, so it fits in carrying cases made for fountain pens.
- When used correctly, it makes filling a pen virtually mess-free, but practice first!
- The inkwell works with the vast majority of fountain pens regardless of their filling system, making it quite versatile.
- The Visconti Traveling Inkwell is expensive at $70.00.
- If you want to take a variety of ink colors with you when you travel, you'll need to buy several inkwells.
- The eyedropper that comes with the inkwell is a bit awkward to use and requires repeated fills in order to get the inkwell to capacity.
- Small pens and oversized pens will not work with the inkwell.
(Goulet Pens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)