Safety filler

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Filling systems

The filling system called safety filler was born as an evolution of the eyedropper filler system. To simplify the filling operations without having to disassemble and store the section with the nib unit, and to avoid ink leakage as a result of differences in pressure and temperature, in this case the nib is mounted on a mechanism that allows you to retract it inside the body of the pen. From this feature comes also the name of retractable with which we often identify the pens that use this filling system.

Diagram of a Safety pen

The system involves that, after inserting the nib into the body of the pen, the latter becomes accessible for filling, to be done with the usual eyedropper, and with the same problems (except that of storing the nib group in a safe place) as previously seen. In this case there is less volume available for the ink, as the inside of the barrel is also occupied by the mechanism, but always more than enough. To use the pen, simply reuse the mechanism in reverse to return the nib to the working position, making it come out of the body of the pen.

Once the nib has returned to the inside of the barrel, the pen can be hermetically sealed using a flat-bottomed cap equipped with suitable gaskets that allow it to be totally guaranteed against the leakage of ink, a characteristic to which the name safety is due, with which the pens equipped with this filling system are called. In this case, in fact, there is no possibility that the ink, due to pressure imbalances, can escape from the nib and deposit in the cap, since the latter simply serves as a cap for the barrel; all pressure imbalances are then immediately eliminated when the cap is opened.

This safety feature was a big step forward at a time when ink leaks were very common, and the holding of the caps, often simply locked by pressure on the pen barrel, was very problematic. From this point of view, pens safety remain superior to any modern pen. Moreover, the hermetic closure of the cap, which also includes the nib assembly, allows to reduce to practically zero the possibility of evaporation of the ink, which is very difficult to dry inside the pen, thus allowing the use of inks much thicker than the ordinary ones. For these peculiar characteristics Waterman has continued to produce a line of these pens, aimed at artists and musicians and aviators, until the early '40s.

The charm of this filling system lies in the mechanical complexity of its realization, which often shows the pinnacle of the technologies of the time: in fact, the nib group is generally moved thanks to a helical screw driven by the rotation of the bottom of the pen. In working position it will hermetically close the barrel by means of a gasket, while in rest position it will leave complete access to the inside of the pen.

With these pens it is essential to remember to open the cap always in a vertical position, and never to close it without having first retracted the nib inside the barrel, to avoid damaging the tip. Since this was a common drawback, some models (the first introduction of this innovation is attributed to Montblanc) require the presence of a special safety mechanism (usually a pin mounted in the center of the cap that beats on the nib assembly), which thus prevents it from closing if it has not been completely withdrawn inside the body of the pen.

The safety filler was born in the United States in the last decade of 1800, although it is not possible to define precisely an inventor, its massive introduction on the market is attributed to Waterman, which was the main manufacturer to adopt it on a large scale.[1] However, it has had a much greater success in Europe, where at the beginning of the century practically all the producers (and in particular the German ones, among which the Kaweco stands out, who also made some developments) made use of this system, and where it has remained in production much longer.

Although it is classified, perhaps unjustly, among the primitive loading systems, in reality the safety filler has resisted on the market much longer than other filling systems created in later periods. In particular, in Europe there are mass-produced models that use it until after the war. Because of its historical value, which sees it as substantially the first mechanical system dedicated to filling the pen, it continues to receive an undeniable interest from collectors, many of whom have a particular preference for safety pens.


  1. but the company has done so using many patents of Francis C. Brown of Caw's, which was the first brand to use it, albeit in a more primitive version.

Related Patents

  • Patent n° US-523234, of 1894-07-17, requested on 1894-04-06, of Edward G. Peck, Frederick O'Meara, A. A. Waterman. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-551895, of 1895-12-24, requested on 1895-04-01, of Henry Horton, Edward G. Peck, A. A. Waterman. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-612013, of 1898-10-11, requested on 1897-11-23, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's, Waterman. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-697975, of 1902-04-22, requested on 1901-04-23, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-750430, of 1904-01-26, requested on 1903-08-19, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-750583, of 1904-01-26, requested on 1903-08-25, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-773371, of 1904-10-25, requested on 1904-01-11, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-901948, of 1908-10-27, requested on 1907-01-03, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-949752, of 1910-02-22, requested on 1908-06-29, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-953316, of 1910-03-29, requested on 1909-04-14, of Francis C. Brown, Caw's. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° US-954415, of 1910-04-12, requested on 1909-09-09, of Claes W. Boman, Eagle. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° FR-431385, of 1911-11-09, requested on 1911-06-21, Matador. Porte-plume à réservoir de sureté, avec dispositif pour dévisser la plume.
  • Patent n° US-1031282, of 1912-07-02, requested on 1910-02-07, of Morris W. Moore, SaWaCo. Fountain-pen.
  • Patent n° FR-453717, of 1913-06-14, requested on 1913-01-28, of Etienne Forbin, Bayard. Porte-plume à réservoir.
  • Patent n° DE-269883, of 1914-02-03, requested on 1913-04-18, Soennecken. Füllfederhalter mit vor- und zurückschraubbarem Schreibfederträger.
  • Patent n° FR-18258E, of 1914-03-09, requested on 1911-06-21, Matador. Porte-plume à réservoir de sureté avec dispositif pour dévisser la plume.
  • Patent n° GB-191322823, of 1914-05-14, requested on 1913-04-18, of Alfred Soennecken, Soennecken. Fountain-pens.
  • Patent n° CH-66146, of 1914-08-01, requested on 1913-10-11, of Alfred Soennecken, Soennecken. Füllfederhalter mit Sicherung gegen den Bruch von Innenteilen.
  • Patent n° AT-69881, of 1915-09-10, requested on 1913-04-18, Soennecken. Füllfederhalter mit herausschraubbarer Feder.
  • Patent n° FR-520595, of 1921-06-28, requested on 1920-04-09, Stilus. Perfectionnements dans les plumes à réservoir.
  • Patent n° CH-91351, of 1921-10-17, requested on 1920-04-09, Stilus. Plume à réservoir.
  • Patent n° FR-531284, of 1922-01-10, requested on 1920-02-24, of Charlesworth Livsey, Lang - Curzon - Summit. Perfectionnements apportés aux porte-plumes à réservoir.
  • Patent n° DE-368196, of 1923-02-01, requested on 1920-04-09, Stilus. Füllfederhalter.
  • Patent n° DE-396084, of 1924-05-23, requested on 1919-11-01, of Giuseppe Tibaldi, Tibaldi. Füllfederhalter.