A Tale of Three Blue Pens, or How A Hack Gone Wrong Went Right

For those of you who are fans of Retro51 rollerball pens, you’re likely aware of the hacks available to use an off-brand refill in these pens. Ana over at Well-Appointed Desk has a guide to these refills, along with links to other resources. I’m here to tell you that sometimes hacks can go wrong…but if you’re lucky, they may end up going right. Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you a story about three blue pens. No, you won’t need a tissue. This has a happy ending.

For my birthday this year, I bought myself the Retro51 Blue Lagoon rollerball from Goldspot Pens. I’d been lusting after the Blue Lagoon for a while, as I’m partial to blue and the blue ombre of this pen is absolutely stunning. My plan was to go a bit matchy-matchy and use one of the rollerball hacks so that I could use a turquoise gel refill in the pen, instead of the standard black Schmidt refill that comes with the pen.

Retro51 Blue Lagoon, Retro51, rollerball pen, rollerball, pen, Retro51 pen, blue pen
The Retro51 Blue Lagoon rollerball pen.


I’d read the Well-Appointed Desk list, but didn’t make special note of the specific hacks, so when someone told me that an Inkjoy gel refill would work, I bought a turquoise Inkjoy gel pen and then set out to prep the refill to fit in my Retro51. I lined up the refill with the Schmidt, trimmed off the excess…and then tried to put the Inkjoy refill in the Retro51 barrel. You’ll note I said “tried.”

It didn’t fit.


Hacked Inkjoy gel refill doesn’t want to go into the Retro51 Blue Lagoon.
Trying to get the hacked Inkjoy gel refill into the Retro51 Blue Lagoon. Nope. Not happening.


There is a tiny raised part near the tip of the Inkjoy refill that meant it would not seat properly in the Retro51. Perhaps there’s been a small design change, either with Inkjoy or Retro51. In any case, I was sad, because I couldn’t have the pretty turquoise ink in the pretty blue Retro51. Instead I got a blue Schmidt rollerball refill from Bertram’s Inkwell, so it was still matchy-matchy, though not in the same way. As for the Inkjoy hacked refill, no matter, I’ll tape the trimmed-off parts back on the refill and put it back in the Inkjoy.

Nope. Not happening.

After surgery, the Inkjoy would not work properly. The thrust device no longer seated correctly on the top of the pen and either it wouldn’t retract or extend at all, or once extended, it was either too loose to stay extended with use, or it was jammed to the point that only disassembling the pen would make the refill retract.


I was not happy.

Now I also have in my pen collection four Dr. Grip pens: two are gel pens and two are ballpoint pens. Three of these belonged to my mom and I still use them fairly regularly, since the refills are easy to find.

Dr. Grip pens, Dr. Grip ballpoint pen, Dr. Grip gel pen, ballpoint pens, gel pens, retractable pens, Dr. Grip, Pilot pens
My collection of Pilot Dr. Grip pens. From top to bottom: a purple barrel gel pen, a turquoise barrel gel pen, a green barrel ballpoint pen, and a blue barrel ballpoint pen.


The turquoise Dr. Grip had a blue refill in it, and I don’t remember if it was running out or what was going on, but I had this idea that maybe the Inkjoy refill would fit in the pen. I took the Inkjoy refill out of its original barrel, tried putting it in the Dr. Grip, realized I needed to remove the spring from the Inkjoy since the Dr. Grip pen already had a spring inside, and tried again.

Putting the Inkjoy gel refill into the turquoise Dr. Grip pen. Will it work?


It will work if you take the spring off the end of the new refill, Corinne. Try again.


It fits! I have discovered a new hack!



I now have a matchy-matchy Dr. Grip gel pen in turquoise with a hacked Inkjoy gel refill in turquoise, and a Retro51 Blue Lagoon with a vibrant blue rollerball refill. I don’t understand why Schmidt doesn’t make different colors of rollerball refills beyond the standard blue and black, since I think they would do fairly well on the market.

Three blue pens, all in a row. The bottom Pilot G2 refill is now in my box of refills and other random pen/pencil junk, along with a now-empty Inkjoy pen body.