The number one thing that attracts me to fountain pens and their history is all the many unique filling systems. One of the last great attempts at making a unique new filling system was the Pelikan Level system for its Level 65 and Level 5 pens.
Made between 1995 and 2001, the Pelikan Level pens held up to 4 milliliters of ink–more ink than just about any pen on the market.
The key to the whole operation was a valve system within the pen and a specialized ink bottle that engaged the valve assembly in the tail of the pen. There are two reservoirs within the pen. One chamber near the nib holds the ink used for writing, and the larger chamber holds the reserve ink.
Filling the pen should be easy, but it gets complex in a hurry. You turn the silvery tail piece on the pen until one engraved dot lines up over a dot on the barrel, while the pen is nib down. You engage the egg (which holds the ink bottle) by pushing down on the tail of the pen. In theory this is supposed to squirt ink into the reserve chamber of the pen. In practice with our own pen, we had to take the ink bottle out of the egg and try squirting ink into the pen, which only seemed to do one or two drops at a time. Once the chamber is full, you turn the silvery tail piece until a triangle appears over the barrel dot. This opens the chamber to the writing ink chamber, allowing ink to drop in from the reserve. This sometimes needed a couple shakes. Then you could realign the dots and top off the reserve chamber, if you wanted.
On paper, it is a brilliant system and design. In practice, it is a little more challenging than necessary. One could easily forgive the challenge, if the pen wrote well. On the pen I bought, the steel nib was delightfully smooth. Unfortunately, I found I could only write about 3/4ths of a page before the flow of ink through the feed got disrupted. At that point, it became a battle to write with until the pen was given time to rest on its side or nib down so that the air exchange could complete and restore ink to the nib.
The Pelikan Level 65 started life as a student pen with the Level 5 for nonstudents following a couple years later. Since the pens were discontinued in 2001, Pelikan no longer makes the specialty ink bottles required for filling the pens. If you have an ultra fine syringe, you can fill the pens with that, but otherwise you are out of luck.
If you love constantly changing ink colors, as so many of us do, it is nearly impossible to clean these pens out without completely disassembling the pen, which it was never really designed for. I have yet to verify this, but rumor has it that Pelikan only made blue and black inks for this pen, anyway.
In the final breakdown, I love this pen and filling system for my curio cabinet of horrors. However, the one I own certainly doesn’t live up the to practical writing capacity and flawless functionality I have come to trust and love in the overall Pelikan brand.