Recently when I reviewed the Uniball Gel RT Micro .38 mm Gel Ink Pens, I was really impressed with everything about them from the ink to the bodies to the grips, but still with good enough not really being good enough I had an idea. Why not see if I could take one of my favorite pen bodies (my Waterman Expert City Line Rollerball) and take the amazing refills from the Gel RT Micro and combine the two?
Other than the fact that I was looking for a superb writing experience, I think I also just wanted a good excuse to use my rotary tool to hack something apart, because that is always fun. So obviously since you can see I had to break out the power tools, you can probably infer that the Uniball Gel RT refill isn’t a perfect fit in place of the original Waterman Rollerball refill. They are pretty close in size, but it clearly required a slight modification.
There are a few things about the standard Waterman Expert refill that I don’t totally love. They write pretty nicely, but with the occasional skip, and the fact that they are a little wider than I prefer, I wanted to see what I could do to modify this. The picture above shows the grip section with the standard refill loaded, and you can see how nicely the tip peeks out.
Hoping for the best, I stuffed the Uniball Gel RT refill inside the Waterman Expert and closed it up to see how it fit. As you can tell from the photo above, the unmodified Uniball Gel RT micro refill fit inside the pen, but leaving it as is causes it to stick out a bit too far from the section, making it almost like a needle tip, but not quite.
The next photo shows the results of cutting the Uniball Gel RT refill a bit too short. It kind of looks like a turtle head pulling back into the shell. Clearly my initial cut was too much, you could still write with the pen this way, but it was a slight bit awkward. Time to re-cut the refill to see if I could make the perfect refill for my pen.
Using the refill that I cut too short as I guide, I lined it up with an uncut refill and used a Sharpie to mark off a better place to cut leaving the refill just a bit longer this time. Getting the perfect fit takes a little it of trial and error, and this time it worked perfectly. The pen point stuck out the perfect amount and you wouldn’t even be able to tell that this wasnt a refill made specifically for this pen.
The close up above shows the length of the refills compared to the original, so you can see the incredibly small variances between them all which can make a big difference in how they fit into the body of the pen. I didn’t get it in the photo, but something that impacts how much you need to trim the refill is where the collar of the original tip of the refill aligns with the others that you are trying to use.
A few words of caution are in order though about hacking up refills to customize your pens. I think first and most obvious is that if you are using power tools, or even sharp cutting tools, you need to be VERY careful. Second, and not as obvious, I have done this a few times, and sometimes if you cut too short, the clear gel that you see behind the ink can leak, causing the ink itself to leak, and create a huge mess…so now that you are officially warned, why not try out a few customizations for yourself. You never know, you might be able to come up with your own perfect pen refill combination like I did here with the Waterman and the Uniball refill. Good luck and be careful.