This week: Tiny little metal ball

So most of you probably recognize this:

A Pentel Pocket brush, the finest brush pen on the market. Real bristles made of some sort of high grade polymer that maintains a razor-tip after years of use. Cartridge-loads with that special super-fine pigment Japanese ink that can sit in bristles for weeks without clogging them, and it's waterproof (when allowed to cure for a day) to boot.

If you're like me and you go long periods without using a tool though, you may have trouble with even the Pentel's finely ground ink settling a little bit. Unless your cartridge has a tiny metal ball in it.

About a year after first purchasing my pocket brush nearly 5 years ago, I needed new cartridges, so I went and got some, and found that the new cartridges I bought all had tiny metal balls trapped inside, to stir the pigment when moved or shaken, like a spray paint can. Needless to say having another little bit of cool gadgetry added to my favorite drawing tool delighted me. The cartridges I'd bought before had no metal balls, so I assumed that the metal balls were a new upgrade, one I was very happy with.

Next time I needed new cartridges, I bought them, opened them,

Thank god I had the thought to rifle my garbage for my last cartridge. I cut the little ball out and jammed it into the new ball-less cartridge, and it worked great. There was no design difference except one was missing a ball, and the flexible plastic allowed me to push the ball in without damaging or expanding the cartridge and ruining the airtight seal.

I have never since found cartridges with balls, and I check every time I'm in a store that has them. They must have been discontinued for some reason, perhaps expense.

So, if any of you should ever be lucky enough to buy a pack with the metal ball inside, here's how you keep hold of it:

Go to a sink, because you'll need to be someplace you can get dirty and easily clean up, and you'll also need to do some rinsing.

First, unscrew the back off and pull off the cartridge lust like usual.

Now tip the cartridge open-end down so the ball is on the open side, and cut the butt end off with a sharp exacto. This is the part where being near a sink is really useful.

Now you can tip out the tiny metal ball. Cute, isn't it? Now quickly, rinse it off.

Now fetch a new ink cartridge. I keep mine in an old cigarette case that belonged to one of my great-grandparents.

Put the tiny metal ball on the end just like this:

If you somehow had access to a stainless steel ball-bearing of the same size, then you could use that.

Now, with the ball in the end of the cartridge, push it back in place. It will be forced through the seal and into the cartridge with no harm to any of the parts, I assure you.

Now close the pen like usual!

Next week: hoop, cone, and vase