Okay, cheating a little: Fude, the Japanese word for brush, isn’t pronounced like “food” at all. It’s pronounced more like “foo-deh.” (Listen.) Fude, or brushes, are used by calligraphers, and artists in a variety of styles. Often these instruments are used for writing kanji.
The Sailor brush pens I use for highlighting are one type of “fude.” There’s another type of fude pen that comes fountain pen style. The nib’s bent at an angle. The writing experience is meant to be somewhat like using a brush.
A sweet someone gave me a Sailor 55° Fude pen. These angled nib pens are also called calligraphy pens. The nib is bent upwards, at a 55° angle.
Sailor also makes one bent at 40°.
The nibs are not flexible. The idea is, you get a variable line width depending on the angle you hold the pen:
The Sailor 55° comes with two Sailor black cartridges. You can use a Sailor converter with the pen, and ink with any color you like. You might even be able to use the pen eyedropper mode. I don’t know if ED’ing the pen might flood the feed. I haven’t yet tried ED’ing the pen myself.
The steel nib is super smooth, as are so many of the Japanese steel nibbed pens. The pen itself is very long:
Length capped: 6 1/2″ (just under 17cm).
Uncapped: 5 3/4″ nib to barrel end (just under 15cm).
Weight, inked with a cartridge; and carrying 2nd spare cart in barrel): 15grams
Weight uncapped (with 2 ink carts): 11grams
The pen is a lot of fun… I’m almost, kinda, sorta, inspired to draw.
Nearly five years ago, I resolved to strip down my ink stash to a few essential bottles. Such resolve led to a slight obsession over the number of bottles kept on hand, as you can see here:
Once the plethora of ink bottles were under control, counting bottles became less useful. Especially when bottles vary in size, from 50ML to 350ML. Assessing how many milliliters were needed to have on hand was far more useful, especially concerning the “one” daily ink.
The current amount of daily ink on hand will last me about a year and a half. Maybe two. While averaging 10ml of daily ink a week when drafting stories by hand, there are times I don’t write by hand at all. There are times, too, when even more ink may be used. And yes, sometimes an ink classified as “occasional” gets used in place of the daily Pilot Blue-Black.
In the occasional use category, the bottle of Sailor Doyou was bought in August 2014. With only about 25ml left, Doyou clearly gets consumed a lot. There’s still about 40ml of Sailor Chu-Shu. That bottle has been around since 2010. I like the Chu-Shu’s purple-gray nature, but clearly not as much as the dark brown nature of Doyou.
Anyhoo… the above chart gives you the picture of what ink is on hand, and how it’s classified in my mind. Of interest to moi, is that nearly half my inks are not in production. That’s one way of cutting future ink purchases, ay? Or at least freeing me to move on to other colors.
Decisions, Decisions – How These Bottles Came to Be
Two basic criteria are applied in purchasing ink. Both criteria must be met:
The ink must flow without issue in all my pens.
I really like the color. (Duh, huh? Why hold on to a color one doesn’t really enjoy?)
My daily writing ink must include the above, along with two more:
The ink must procured at or under $.16 per ml.
The ink must have decent water resistance, so that my pages survive an inevitable coffee ring or spill.
Very few fountain pen inks come in at under $.16 per ml. Brands meeting this requirement can include Diamine, Monteverde, Noodler’s, Parker, Sheaffer, and Wahl-Eversharp. Sadly, none of those brands met all the criteria for a daily ink: low cost, water resistance, a likable color, and good flow in all my pens.
☮ → Of note: A tiny number of ink manufacturers make large bottles of ink available, and the cost per ml is driven way down. For example, Pelikan makes 1 litre bottles of black and royal blue, and Pilot makes 350ml of blue-black, red, and black inks.
The non-daily inkdoesn’t have to be water resistant, although I’m slightly spoiled in that regard. Also, a higher allowance is allowed: $.20 per ml. That said, however, $.20/ml has been extremely difficult, my friends, and I’ve rarely succeeded achieving my non-daily inks under that cost. I know, I know, you’re thinking I should raise that allowance, ay?
If Diamine flowed as well as Sailor, Diamine would win hands down for likable colors and cost per ml. But some of my fountain pens find Diamine rather dry, and hard-starting.
There are four brands I’ve found that do flow well in all the pens of my tiny hoard: Pilot/Namiki (including a lot of the Iroshizuku line), Sailor, Platinum, and Waterman.
Remember, my tiny hoard currently consists of modern fountain pens. (Except for the Sheaffer Tuckaway.) The point is, I’ve few pens in number, and an ink that won’t perform in all of them becomes rather intolerable.
My fountain pen idiosyncrasies probably seem eccentric, or maybe even boring, to the average pen collector or user. Doesn’t matter. I’m very pleased with my squirrelly system.
Namiki or Pilot Blue has been replaced by Pilot Blue-Black as my standard, daily ink. The ink can be purchased in 350ml bottles, well below my acceptable price, often at less than $.10 per ml. That includes shipping direct from Japan. Yes! What’s not to love about that? And it’s got great coffee spill/ring resistance.
Pilot Blue-Black will remain my daily ink until it ceases to become available to me, or the price rises above what I can afford. A single 350ml bottle lasts me around eight months.
The big 350ml bottle is used to refill the tiny 30ml ink bottle. Also kept on hand for traveling: a pack of Pilot Blue-Black ink cartridges. These hold .9ml of ink. I keep the empty carts for refilling from the bottle. Although, all in all, I much prefer converters or eyedropper barrels for dispensing ink from pen to page.
Pilot Blue was my daily ink for a time. But by cost per ml, Pilot Blue-Black won over, hands down.
Pilot Blue comes in 30ml or 70ml bottles; Namiki Blue comes in 60ml bottles.
Pilot Blue has great coffee spill resistance.
I rarely notice things like feathering, but both Pilot and Namiki Blue (and also the Black) will feather on HP 32# paper, and some cheaper papers. From what I’ve experienced Pilot Blue-Black does not feather.
Click on scans to view more closely:
For color I’ve opted for Sailor inks. These are well-lubricated, saturated inks. The cost of Sailor inks, however, are well above my ink spending allowance of $0.20/ml. The current Sailor inks cost approximately $.36 per ml, up from $0.25 per ml. That’s a huge price jump over the last year.
Platinum inks average $.34 per ml. Pilot Iroshizuku inks average $.56 per ml. Although if you get into some of Sailor inks made exclusively for various department stores in Japan, you can spend a great deal more than the average Sailor cost of $.36/ml. Some of those Sailor department store inks include, and are not limited to, Nagasawa, Maruzen Athena, Kingdom of Note, and Bung Box.
While I spent above my allowance for a small number of Sailor inks, I was also able to obtain a number of them through other collectors far below my price point per ml. Uh, so the spending evened out a little, ay? Okay, okay, maybe not.
Current Favorite Sailor Inks
Doyou, a deep, dark brown. Costs approximately $.36 per ml. Mixed results for coffee ring resistance.
Click on scans to view more closely:
Nagasawa #8 Arima Amber, a brownish, redish gold – not part of Sailor’s regular line-up, but made for the Nagasawa store in Kobe, Japan. Costs approximately $.38 per ml. No coffee ring resistance.
Click on scans to view more closely:
Sky High, a discontinued bright blue ink. The current production Souten resembles Sky High somewhat. Souten costs approx. $.36 per ml. No coffee ring resistance for Sky High.
Click on scans to view more closely:
Sailor Gray, a discontinued ink. I like a good gray ink that doesn’t look like a washed out black. Mixed coffee ring results.
Click on scans to view more closely:
Sailor Chu-Shu, an LE ink no longer in production. A light purply-gray. Some coffee ring resistance.
Click on scans to view more closely:
Sei-Boku, a permanent ink, more teal-blue in color than blue-black, and with shading qualities. Costs approximately $.48 per ml. Perfect coffee ring resistance. It’s a pigmented, rather than dye-based, ink which means this ink will clog your pen if you don’t take care. Don’t ever let a pigmented ink dry in your pen. Flush it out when you’re not going to use your pen for more than a few days.
Click on scans to view more closely:
Sei-Boku holds a special place in my ink stash. For one, it costs well above my preferred spending limit. For another, the ink is designed to be permanent. I used Sei-Boku once in my Newton Slug eyedropper pen, and the ink window got tinted from clear to a kind of gray. It remains tinted like that. Now I only use Sei-Boku in an ink converter, usually restricting the ink to the Platinum Kanazawa-Haku. I use Sei-Boku for my Chronodex, and for notes. A single bottle has lasted me a long time.
You can see in the photographs that follow that Sei-Boku has stained the converter near the base. But the piston is really clean, ay? That’s after a year without cleaning. I only flush the Platinum clean when I’m not going to use it for a few weeks. Then, too, I use a little Rapido-Eze to aid in cleaning.
☮ → Of note: Someone did an experiment with Sei-Boku, and posted about it here. If you use pigment inks, you’ll want to read it!
Other excuses purposes for Sailor inks in the stash:
Yellow-Orange, a discontinued Sailor color that makes a great highlighting ink. The current production Apricot is also very nice, if more orangey in color.
Green, another discontinued Sailor color that’s being used as a highlighting ink.
Some Sailor inks, such as Sailor Sky High, Yama-dori, Miruai, among others, may cling to the walls of your pen. The inks may even appear to stain the inside of your pen. You will especially notice this ink’s behavior in an ink converter, or if you have an ink window or any barrel transparency in your pen. In fact, in my transparent pens, I often think to me-self, “that Sailor ink is gonna leave a stain,” and yet it always cleans out. [Exception: Sailor Sei-Boku. See note above under “Current Favorite Sailor Inks.”]
Converters, however, sometimes retain a tint, and do get stained. That happened with converters inked with Pilot Blue, too, (Perhaps the plastics used for converters are not as good as the plastics used for pens.)
In my experience, however, water alone will not thoroughly clean the pen of Sailor ink. Not to worry, though, because the standard recommended ammonia dilution solution will clean the Sailor inks out very well.
Even if you don’t see any clingy-ness of your Sailor ink inside your pen… well, personally I’d not assume the pen is clean unless a pen cleaning solution was used as a pen flush. But, hey, that’s me.
☮ → Of note: While I’ve not had Sailor ink leave a stain on/in one of my pens, other pen people have reported they’ve endured a Sailor ink stain left on their own pens. Poke around the forums, read, listen, ask. So. Hmmmm. Take extra care with your ivory, white, or light colored pens, ay?
And as I think of it, while Pilot Blue-Black doesn’t cling, Namiki/Pilot Blue certainly does.
In an attempt to dispel some myths about various inks being unsafe for fountain pens, Greg Clark bought himself a PH meter to test a large variety of fountain inks on the market. He (self-) published his results. (The past pamphlet appeared in 2007.) His results confirmed some inks as highly acidic, slightly acidic, neutral, or alkaline on the PH scale. (He tested other things too, like water resistance, and light fastness.)
Do we care? Well, yeah we kinda, maybe sorta, do. Although, if we’ve got a good fountain pen cleaning regimen going, we shouldn’t have to worry too much about this stuff. (If you’re mixing inks, that’s another story. Read here, only as a starting point.)
Inks that are not in a neutral PH range, have the potential to be corrosive to pen materials over time. For example, highly acidic inks, such Platinum Blue-Black, can be corrosive to steel nibs. Highly alkaline inks can also be corrosive to steel nibs. Additionally, according to Richard Binder highly alkaline inks are also damaging to celluloid and some organic resins.
What scale are we talkin’ about? It looks somethin’ like this:
pH 1.0 – 3.0
pH 3.0 – 6.0
pH 6.0 – 8.0
pH 8.0 – 11.0
Strongly Basic (Alkaline)
Japanese inks tend to be more alkaline (basic) than the average fountain pen ink. For example, Greg Clark’s Fountain Pen Ink – A Sampler, rates Pilot Blue-Black’s pH at 8.5. Some information received via email correspondence with someone at Sailor suggests Sailor Blue-Black has a pH of 9.36. (Similar pH ratings can be found in some threads at FPN.)
BTW, Platinum Blue-Black, however, as a pH of around 1.77, making it strongly acidic. It’s also an iron gall ink. Other Platinum inks are alkaline. (Platinum tells us so.)
So consider the cautions about using Sailor, Pilot, Platinum, or other Japanese inks in your vintage or modern celluloid pens, especially in eyedropper or piston-filling pens.
Me, I have no celluloid pens anymore. Mostly acrylic, and a few metal pens. What’s happened to me, ay? Only that I have few worries about my pens, perhaps.
Hey, these inks are made for fountain pens, and so I use ’em. Ammonia, which I use as a cleaning agent for my pens, is far more strongly alkaline than my Japanese inks. Of course, I ain’t a chemist or an expert. Just a pen dweeb.
There’s only one ink I’m using that’s not a “basic” alkaline: Waterman Mysterious Blue.
Waterman Blue-Black aka Mysterious Blue
This is another special status ink in my stash. Waterman Blue-Black was the first ink I discovered that was well-behaved in all my pens. They clean up pretty easily with this ink, too. Waterman Blue-Black is my baseline for how an ink should behave.
I keep the ink around for troubleshooting recalcitrant pens, for letter writing, and for a 73 year old Sheaffer Tuckaway.
The ink has no coffee spill/ring resistance. The pH of Waterman Blue-Black is 3, according to Greg Clark.
Waterman averages $0.22 per ml which makes it unsuitable for daily ink gorging.
Still, I love this ink. It’s got a beautiful vintage quality to it.
Click on scans to view more closely:
And So It Goes
Many inks have come and gone. Some written out, like Sailor Yama-dori, and Miruai. Several partial bottles were given way, like Sailor Apricot, and Nagasawa Museum Blue-Gray. Writing a post like this, taking stock of where the ink journey is at, helps to clarify inks in the stash that just don’t get used, like the Nagasawa Museum Blue-Gray.
A teacher I once met told me he only used one ink: Parker Quink Blue-Black. Or was it Blue? The point is, he’s been using that one ink for many, many years, quite happily.
I’ve got one main ink, of course. But I still like a wee bit of color on hand. Currently, I’ve got 10 colors in my stash; a total of 12 bottles. I’m going to do my best to hold off any purchases until at least half of these bottles have been written away.
☮ → Update 2015-Apr-17: Three new bottles of ink procured on this date. Certainly lost “my best,” didn’t I?! More on these new inks, perhaps, for a later post.
Once 6 of those bottles have been written away, they can’t be replaced as those colors are no longer in production. Among the “occasional” inks on-hand, the only colors I know for sure I’d like to repurchase are the Sailor Doyou, and the Nagasawa Arima Amber.
I think about that teacher from time to time, and wonder if I’ll ever be a one ink person. Maybe a three or four ink person? I love the idea of that.
Click on the following three scans to view them more closely:
Once upon a time, my quest for a refillable highlighting pen led me to the Platinum Preppy. I bought a bottle of highlighting fluid, Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig, which came with a Preppy highlighter pen modified for eyedropper filling. That single pen and ink worked well for a time.
One had to take care, of course, not to leave the highlighter unused for a long period of time. Otherwise, the ink turned to rubbery goo.
The Trouble with Preppys
The Platinum Preppy highlighter pen is an inexpensive, and deceptively elegant solution. A Preppy highlighter costs less than $3 (USA). You can buy them, along with Platinum’s own highlighter ink cartridges. You can refill those carts with an alternative highlighting ink.
You can also modify your Preppy to forgo the cartridge, and ink the pen eyedropper style—filling the barrel directly with ink. The eyedropper method fulfills my own desire to put less waste into the landfill or recycling bin. Yes, even those little disposable ink carts.
Since that initial Preppy, I’ve gone through many more. The problem I have with Preppys is that barrels, caps, and sections crack. Even when I’m not looking.
I may be casual with my pens, but I’m not careless with them.
Sure duct tape can hold the barrel together, but then the pen ceases to be safe for ink poured directly into the barrel.
Eventually, I gave up eyedroppering my cracking highlighters, and opted for the Platinum ink cartridges.
Certainly, the Platinum Preppy highlighter has its fan base. For me, the pens proved to be unreliable, and I lost my confidence in carrying Preppys in my pen roll.
Instead of keeping more stuff out of the garbage or recycling bin, I was putting more stuff in with empty ink carts, disposable tips, broken barrels and caps.
Zebra, Tombow, Staedtler, Pilot among others, make highlighters that you can refill, usually with their own proprietary ink systems. On the high end of the economic scale, Montblanc makes a highlighting pen that uses disposable ink cartridges.
Fountain Pen Possibilities
A few years ago, Pelikan brought a highlighting pen to market. Called the M205 Duo, the fountain pen comes in transparent yellow or green. Along with Pelikan’s famous piston filling mechanism, the pen has with a double broad steel nib to use for both highlighting and note taking.
In Japan there’s a Sailor Sapporo available, if you can find it, that comes with fluorescent yellow ink for highlighting.
Any fountain pen, however, can be employed to highlight text. Many people use fountain pens to highlight text by underlining it.
Common pens frequently used for this purpose: Sheaffer, Pilot Parallel or Plumix, Lamy Vista or Safari, Kaweco Sport. Italic nibs are also common. You’re limited by only your imagination and your wallet.
There is a highlighting style that works for each of us. Many are happy to underline text. Others, like me, prefer to ink over the words. Because of my highlighting style, I find fountain pens rather clumsy to use as highlighters.
There are also dry highlighters in the form of pencils. Kinda cool, ay? I was about to take a look at these when I came across something else I thought had been discontinued long ago.
Enter Stage Left: Sailor Profit Brush Pen
Many years ago a Sailor Profit Brush pen was recommended to me as a highlighting pen. At that time, however, the pen was near impossible to find in the USA. When I did find the pen, it cost upwards of $35 or more; a little costly for my intended purpose. In retrospect, however, I’ve spent nearly that amount in keeping a useable stable of Platinum Preppys alive, ay? Live and learn yet again.
The Sailor Profit Brush pen can be obtained from Japan retailers. Maybe it’s available in your own country. It’s not in the USA as of this writing, although you might find it in store at Kinokuniya or Maido stationery stores. Online places such as JetPens, the ‘Bay, and A-ma-zon will likely have it at various prices.
The cost today is far less than $35. The current Sailor catalog lists the pen for about $13.50. Well, the amount is listed in Japanese yen, but that’s about what the conversion to US dollars brings you as of this post.
Also of interest: the brush section alone can be purchased if replacements are needed. Having only used the Sailor Profit Brush pen for a few months, I don’t know yet how long a single brush tip will hold up. So far, so good.
It Can Be Eyedroppered
The Sailor Profit Brush pen has no internal metal parts. Perfect for an eyedropper filler, ay? It’ll hold about 2.5 ml of ink in the barrel.
The pen can be also inked using a standard Sailor converter, or—if you must—Sailor (non-highlighting) ink cartridges.
After applying a little silicon grease to the section threads, I filled the barrel with my ink of choice. It’s not a highlighting ink, but one made for fountain pens: Sailor Yellow-Orange. The ink pops on the page, and leaves the underlying print cleanly readable.
For the second brush–oh yeah, I ended up with two–I emptied the remaining cartridges of Platinum’s green highlighting ink into it. The Platinum ink works great.
To identify which pen contains which highlighting ink, I stuck self-sticking paper to the caps, and then painted the paper with the corresponding ink.
Using the Sailor Profit Brush pen as a highlighter is quite different from using your basic chiseled highlighting pen. The Brush requires a light touch. Too much pressure will leave too much ink, and may saturate through the page.
I found using the brush much easier than using the old, familiar chisel tip. I can lightly paint a line, a square, or a section very quickly, and with control. Fantastic!
The brush method isn’t going to be for everybody. My own needs for highlighting are simple. Most commonly, I use highlighters on printouts from my laser printer, and on my Chronodex time tracker.
Like any highlighter, you have to use some cautions if highlighting your printouts and handwritten scrawl. Will it smear or not smear? That is the question, ay?
Using the Sailor Yellow-Orange and Platinum Highlighting inks on my printouts resulted in no smearing or bleed-through. This is true from printouts from both my HP laser printer, and an Epson Artisan inkjet. It’s important for your inkjet print to be dry, ay? Papers I use: HP 32# Premium laser, Staples sugar cane 20# copy, and Domtar Earth Choice 20#.
There is significant “show through” on the Staples sugar cane. That is, for those unfamiliar with the “show through” term, the ink colors can clearly be seen when you turn the page over. Not the same as bleed-through wherein the ink literally soaks through the page to the other side. A heavier hand than mine might create some bleed-through.
☮ → BTW, the sugar cane Staples 20# paper continues to impress me. It may be “blah” looking (see Chronodex above) but it’s very ink friendly!
A plain Staples 20# multipurpose paper (not sugar cane) did bleed through quite badly to the other side, for both Sailor Yellow-Orange and Platinum Highlighting Green.
I cannot emphasize enough that the lightest touch to paper is necessary with the brush pen. Even so, your own experience with bleed-through on papers may be radically different from mine.
Highlighting over handwritten inky scrawl is, generally speaking, not smear-free. That’s to be expected, I think. The Sailor Yellow-Orange will cause such fairly water resistant inks such as Sailor Blue and Pilot Blue-Black to smear a little (Pilot BB) or a lot (Sailor Blue).
Only a permanent ink in my stash, Sailor Sei-Boku, survives being washed over with the Sailor Yellow-Orange. The Platinum Highlighting Green ink smears my scrawl hardly at all.
Platinum Highlighting Yellow does smear quite a bit. See above Chronodex page photo for Platinum Yellow smear over “Lex.”
Know, too, that my pens largely have fine nibs. A scrawl from fountain pen with a broad, wet nib might smear a lot. Dunno. Don’t have any of those myself.
In my “real world” use, I don’t have much call to highlight my handwriting scrawl.
The Sailor Profit Brush pen is quite lightweight. Approximate weights and lengths are:
Ink capacity ED style: 2.5ml
Weight posted or capped, inked ED style: 14g
Weight uncapped, inked ED style: 8g
Length capped/closed: 130.5mm
Length uncapped: 110.5mm
Length posted: 140.5mm
Bottled highlighting inks are produced by a very small number of manufacturers.
Noodler’s has the largest variety of colors, and is widely available, particularly in the USA. These highlighting inks average $0.14 per ml.
Pelikan has two colors, yellow and green. The green can be hard to find. Pelikan highlighting inks are the most expensive at approximately $0.60 per ml.
Private Reserve also has a single highlighting ink, called Private Reserve Chartreuse. This ink averages approximately $0.16 per ml.
Not available in bottles are the Platinum highlighting inks that come in cartridge form. They are great performers, and can only be used in Platinum pens. The cost is over $0.80 per ml for these inks.
For Lamy pens, there are Lamy neon inks, and Monteverde has a line of highlighting inks, “Monteverde for Lamy.” You’re on your own figuring out the cost of these disposable carts. No Lamys in my tiny pen hoard.
Plain ol’ fountain pen inks may also be used. You’re limited only by your ink arsenal and imagination. I’m currently using Sailor Jentle ink, in the discontinued Yellow-Orange color. For my second brush pen, when my Platinum cartridges run out, I’ll use another Sailor color that’s in my ink stash. Any bright ink with transparency can be used. Among the popular choices for fountain pen inks are J.Herbin, Caran d’Arch, Pelikan Edelstein, and Diamine.
Experiment, if you haven’t done so already. Find your own way.
Just remember, if you dare to highlight your inky scrawl you just might wash it away.
More Be Revealed As I Highlight Along
Brush pens, a staple of calligraphers and artists, exhibit a range in quality, from synthetic to natural fibered nibs. But my purpose is small, just some highlighting of pages now and then. I’m hopeful the decent synthetic Sailor Profit Brush pen will fare better for my highlighting needs than the Platinum Preppy did.
I’m keeping it simple with two brush pens. Although for me, one is surely enough. The second brush pen merely provides a little vanitymore color for my Chronodex. For the moment, I’ve got a good, refillable highlighting system.
When I discovered Brian Gray of Edison Pen had some old Sheaffer rod stock squirreled away, I stuck my name on my favorite piece: a brown marbled material known as “Amber Glow.” Sheaffer used this material, among other colors such as Jade, Crimson Glow, and Cobalt Glow, in the Balance II pen series, circa 1998.
It took me much, much longer to figure out which Edison pen to have made out of the Amber Glow, than it took for Brian to actually make the resulting fountain pen. Lots of overthinking on my part. At one point, the pen was going to have a Huron body with a Glenmont cap. I really, really like the section and barrel of the Huron in my hand. I avoided the Glenmont for a long time. I thought it might be slightly too fat in the barrel, and the section too short to be comfortable for me.
Further down the road, I had a chance to try a friend’s Glenmont, and was struck by how comfortable the pen was to write with. So much for assumptions, ay? Yes, an Edison Glenmont was finally chosen. After all, a classic brown marbled pen material needed a classic flat-top pen look.
Via email, I asked Brian if it were true about the Parker Duofold being the Glenmont’s inspiration:
…the Glenmont indeed started as being inspired by a Duofold, but really only in the sense that it was a flat-top, and I frequently made them with black finials, blind caps, and sections.
Beautiful, isn’t it? A very satisfying brown fountain pen. In my eyes, it invokes many of the vintage brown marbled pens I’ve loved, such as those by Chilton, Moore, Conklin, and Leboeuf.
If you think the material looks familiar, and not just because of the Sheaffer Balance II, you might be thinking of the brown marbled Danitrio Cumlaude.
Well, look at that, ay? These pens are made from the same brown marbled material! Both all black, brown, pearly caramel, with hints of dark cherry.
What’s This? Another Glenmont?
My long time love and I got married last year, or at least partially married in some U.S. states as of this writing. A sweet friend sent us a wedding gift in the form of an Edison Glenmont in Aztec Flake. The pen is engraved to us, and so it must be shared with my beloved wife. But, hey, I get to store it in my pen box along side its Edison siblings! And a friend is endeared to us even more with this lovely offering which commemorates an important occasion in our lives.
Coincidentally, I’d taken notice of the Aztec Flake material when Brian introduced it in the retail version of the Edison Pearlette. It’s wonderful when a material you’re curious about shows up on your doorstep, ay? There’s a lot of depth to the acrylic. The Aztec Flake is an impressive, complex material that photos here don’t quite capture. It’s all brown, yellow, orange, red, crazy handsome.
Some Nerdy and Not So Nerdy Info
The Sheaffer Amber Glow Glenmont is slightly shorter than the Aztec Flake Glenmont. The differences aren’t significant, but because the latter pen is more representative of a signature Glenmont, I’ll use the weights and measurements I took of my Glenmont in Aztec Flake:
Length capped: 146.76mm
Uncapped (nib to barrel end): 129.56mm
Weight inked as ED – capped: 24g
Weight inked as ED – uncapped: 14g
Ink ED Capacity: 3.5ml
Ink Converter Capacity: .7ml
Ink Cartridge (long – Waterman or Pelikan style): 1.5ml
The weight of an ED versus a cartridge or converter is kind of a wash. An Edison international converter weighs about 2 grams empty, and 3g inked up. A long international cartridge filled with ink weighs about 3 grams. A pen with higher ED capacity than the average 3 to 3.5ml pen will weigh more than a pen inked by cartridge or converter.
The numbers I share are only as accurate as my digital postal scale, and digital calipers. Your measurements may vary slightly, ay? Also, you can check the Edison Pen website which also has measurements for each pen. I encourage you to do your own weights and measurements because, hey, it’s fun! It’s been a great part of the process in getting to know my individual pens, and using that information, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, in evaluating what other pens may work out for me.
The nibs are #6 nibs with the Edison logo, in both 18K and steel. I like gold nibs, but more and more opt for steel nibs. They are economical, and get the job done. Um… is at least one of you besides me wondering about weight of gold and steel nibs? In regards to the #6 nibs used by Edison there’s no weight difference, in any of my own Edisons, to the pen using steel or gold nibs. Um… so, the weight of a #6 Edison 18K or Steel nib is approximately 2 grams.
Some folks say there’s no difference between gold or steel nibs. In my experience, there are differences writing with one or the other. They are nice differences, but not “this is good,” or “that’s bad” differences. The steel is very firm and steady, and the gold in the 18K Edison nib has a softness to it, and is often wetter than the steel version. Some materials, like the Sheaffer Amber Glow, simply call out for a gold nib. Order what you want, and what you can afford, for any given fountain pen.
The nib point sizes of my Edisons are mostly in Fine or Extra Fine. Yet I ordered a Medium nib for the Glenmont in Sheaffer Amber Glow. That M nib went to Deb Kinney for a stub grind. That’s a topic for a future post.
I’m grateful to the friend who lent me his Glenmont. My assumptions about it proved wrong, as the Glenmont is a great fit, and I love writing with it. Um, them. Both of them! In this case, two is not too many of the “same” pen at all. What a fortunate writer am I.
As always, thank you for reading.
Assumptions allow the best in life to pass you by.—John Sales
The Newton Shinobi fountain pen was the brainchild of FPN’er Inguz. He details his design thoughts and working with pen maker Shawn Newton in this June 2013 post. The first Newton Shinobi was made in black matte ebonite, with a red acrylic section. When capped, the red section leaves behind a thin, red ring, providing a very sophisticated look for the pen. Inguz wrote,
I called it the Shinobi, which is the [J]apanese word for Ninja because it’s stealthy but it ends in a bloody surprise.
Kind of gruesome? He’s referring, of course, to the red section of his Shinobi. I appreciate such inspirations, because, well, I’ve my own Banana Slug inspired Newton. Thank you, Inguz, for your marvelous pen design!
The pen has a cylinder shape, with a single flat side. That’s kinda nice, isn’t it? The pen’s got a built-in pen rest or roll stop. The cap and barrel are flush with each other; no lip.
Flash forward a year later to a visit from @trhall, aka my friend Thomas, with his own Shinobi.
The Shinobi is a pen which changes character depending on the material selected for it. That’s true of most pens, isn’t it? A pen can look staid and business-like in one color or material, and all happy, jolly in another.
With the Shinobi up close, you see how exquisitely it’s crafted. Photos don’t do the pen justice. You gotta hold it! But then, I always say that about fountain pens, don’t I?
Thomas’s Shinobi sports a special nib and feed that he gave to Shawn to figure out how to install. Since he’ll blog about his Shinobi himself, I won’t go on about his pen except to say Thomas almost didn’t get to leave my house with it.
But then, hey, I remembered my own “orphan nib.” An 14K Japanese F nib complete with feed and section, but no pen body to use it with. Would Shawn be willing to make my orphan nib and feed a new Shinobi home? Of course.
This particular nib, by the way, was a gift from a friend who had no use for it. I’ve tried using it in a number of pens, but frankly the nib lost some of its oomph with JoWo or Bock feeds. After spending a lot of time swapping Japanese nibs into one pen or another trying to use them with JoWo or Bock feeds—as in the PiloTWSBI pictured below—I’ve concluded nibs are at their best with their original feeds. You know this saying: “Leave the dance with the one who brought you.” Yeah, somethin’ like that.
The Shinobi solution seemed ideal: my Japanese nib with its original feed in a section designed to hold them.
Okay, so what material to use for the pen body? The hardest part of a customized pen is in deciding which particular brownish material will be best for the pen body. You know that, right?
Shawn and I settled on a transparent acrylic labeled “copper.” I was hoping for something on the amber side of things. There was some concern on my part that the copper might be a little too much on the orange side of things. Shawn told me he’d turn a piece of the material, and if I hated it we would find something else.
I sent Shawn orphaned nib and feed, and commenced to wait for the pen to come up in his work queue. That took a couple of months.
Shawn sent me a couple of photos. The color was indeed orangey, but not an ugly orange… so… why change it out? Sometimes it’s good to step outside your comfort zone.
After the initial photos he sent, I kindly asked him not to send me any more photos. I wanted to be surprised when I took the pen out of the box. Crazy, ay? Sometimes pens look far better in their photos than they do in person. Or the opposite often happens: the pen looks far better in the hand than in the photos. I wanted to meet the Shinobi on its own “in person.”
The Shinobi came enclosed in a handmade pen sleeve, packed in a handmade multifaceted wooden box. Quite a dramatic presentation!
The Shinobi in copper acrylic is a shade of orange with hints of rose. Yes, just like copper! The color shifts from orange to orange-rose to red-brown depending on the light hitting the pen, or the ink inside it. All in all, very much an autumn tone pen.
The nib and feed are friction fit into the section. There’s nothing for a converter or cartridge to hang onto. The only way to ink the pen is by filling up the barrel with ink “eyedropper” style.
What’s really neat about the pen is that even inked up, you can see the nib glistening through the transparent section.
My ink of choice for the Shinobi has been Sailor Doyou, a deep, dark brown-black ink. The ink brings out more of the brown-red in the acrylic. Handsome, ay?
While there’s a “step” where the section ends into the barrel, at least in my small hand, the step isn’t felt when holding the pen. Nor is the edging of the step sharp to the touch. The section is nice and long, I think. Mine is 32.40mm (top of section to below barrel threads). The pen is not unlike the Danitrio Sho-Hakkaku. Thomas suggested this comparison to me. I thought perhaps he was hyperbolizing until I held his Shinobi. Here’s mine next to my Danitrio Sho-Hakkaku:
Lining up the cap’s flat end with the barrel’s flat end isn’t hard once you learn where to start turning the cap. Some people will obsess over this capping. Probably the same sort of folk who shouldn’t own pens made out of clear material that allows them to see all the nooks and crannies ink seeps into.
Because the nib and feed are friction fit, Shawn made a little knockout tool that can be used for removing the nib. The tool is a piece of metal that Shawn shaped to fit the end of the feed so that the feed won’t be damaged when tapping it out of the section. ‘Twas a lovely courtesy of Shawn to include the tiny tool in case removal becomes necessary.
A Bit about Flat Sides, Nibs, and the ED Thing
From an email exchange with Shawn, he explains how he made the flat side of the Shinobi:
For the flat I use a dremel rigged up to my lathe, and then I finish it out by hand.
A lot of us like faceted pens. I asked Shawn why he wasn’t interested in making pens with more than one flat side:
…I think it would be quite a pain to get the sides the same size and to get them to match up right. I think I’d end up cutting through the cap into the threads, which I’ve done before with the Shinobi when I first started making that. I think I would need some sort of cnc mill to get that right.
With one flat side it only has to lay with the nib up, so it’s pretty easy. There is a lot of hand finishing for sure, and it takes a little while, but I’ve gotten better at it so each pen doesn’t take as long as the last.
Note: a “cnc mill” is a mill with computer numerical control.
For the record and for Newton pens, Shawn uses JoWo nibs from the US distributer, Meisternibs. JoWo nibs are excellent quality, and made in Germany. These nibs are what we see on pens by many of the major fountain pen companies; Edison, Bexley, Danitrio, and TWSBI, for example.
One of the features I like about my Shinobi is the section threading. The treading reminded me of a MacNiven and Cameron eyedropper pen I once owned. In theory, didn’t require any silicon grease.
I grease the threads of all my eyedropper pens because I’m cautious that way.
I’ve flown with the Shinobi without problems, except for the one time I forgot to store the pen “nib up.” After a long flight, having stored the pen on its side in a pocket, there was a bit of ink seepage all over the threads. Something similar happened when I had Thomas’s Shinobi: carrying the pen on its side, going from warm to cold to warm environmental climates (aka home to the outside to the library), there was quite a bit of ink seepage around the threads. Let me emphasize, that I leave my Shinobi on its side a lot. That position in and of itself doesn’t create any ink seepage.
That’s why we say travel/carry your fountain pen “nib up,” my friends.
Minute drops of ink in the cap are a common occurence with most any fountain pen. When you have a pen made out of transparent material, you can see the droplets:
In the above photo, it’s a trick of the photo that makes the Shinobi on the left seem longer than the copper Shinobi. They are essentially the same size.
Shinobi Acrylic Stats
Please understand that your Shinobi measurements may vary slightly. Such is the nature of bespoke offerings made one at a time. Plus, pen maker techniques evolve over time.
Length capped and uncapped:
103.12mm uncapped section to barrel end
nib extrudes from the section 24.60mm, for an uncapped total of 127.72mm, nib tip to barrel end
Weight fully inked:
4ml of ink
barrel depth 79.60mm
The pen was in solid use for four months before it left rotation. The acrylic cleaned up very well.
Shawn told me this was the first Shinobi to be made in all one color! It’s a terrific pen, and one of my favorites. How can it not be? It sports one of my all time favorite nibs, and Shawn tuned it beautifully. Honestly, I can’t say enough for how the nib has been restored to its true-nib-selfness. And the nib in question was previously tuned by someone else of great caliber.
The Shinobi’s a wonderful writing pen, but it’s also just plain fun to look at, and to hold in your hand. Ut oh. Distracting! Aren’t we supposed to be busy writing?
The Newton Shinobi was an unplanned fountain pen purchase for 2014. Unplanned yet welcome, and without regret. Yup, one of my most favorite fountain pens ever.
While my main fountain pens hold a lot of ink as eyedroppers (3ml or more), cartridge/converter pens with tinier ink tanks get a lot of use this time of year.
Once upon a time, taking a converter-filled Pilot pen out and about for some letter writing, the pen ran out of ink very quickly. Alas, there was no ink on hand to refill it. Spoiled by my eyedropper pens, I’d forgotten to check the Pilot’s tiny ink supply. This minor life incident led me to consider options for carrying more ink for my converter pens.
My first thought was to reuse some very handy ink bottles. While most empty ink bottles go into my recycling bin, there are a very small number I’ve kept because they have good “after life” uses.
The Waterman and Montblanc empties are excellent inkwells. Because the Waterman bottles can be turned onto one of the sides, there’s no hassle filling nibs from them. Same can be said for the Montblanc bottle, with it’s slanted shape at the mouth.
The Sheaffer bottle I use for soaking nib units, when they need a more deeper cleaning. The division in the glass provides a nice shallow well for nibs to sit and soak. They’re easily removed, too.
The Pilot bottle has been used to carry small batches of Pilot Blue-Black, pouring from a large 350ML bottle into the smaller one.
Ultimately, glass bottles are great around the house-office, but a little clumsy to carry in the laptop bag. At the coffee house-office, the glass bottles can be a little conspicuous, and can cause perplexing fainting fits among barista managers.
Tiny Plastic Bottles
The next experiment concerned carrying extra ink in little vials, and even slightly larger nalgene bottles. These work fine, especially to carry in a laptop or tote bag. They’re kinda unbreakable, but the little plastic bottles prove more difficult to use when the ink runs low.
Refilling Ink Cartridges
The next experiment involved ink cartridges. Carts were a more successful vehicle, and provided larger quantities of ink for a pen.
Carts are very convenient, but seem a wasteful use of plastic. Yet ink carts, too, can have an after life when they are emptied of ink. That is, you can re-ink them.
A lot of fountain pen users employ the practice of refilling ink cartridges with their favorite inks. I’ve ventured into cartridge re-filling for my Pilot pens (an MYU 701, Namiki Sterling, Pilot Decimo), my small Danitrio Cumlaude, and occasionally an Edison pen.
The Pilots require a proprietary Pilot/Namiki ink cartridge. Using a cartridge, the MYU holds more ink than the Con-50 converter I normally use.
Pilot/Namiki Ink Cartridge .9ml (pretty good!)
Pilot Con-50 .6ml
Pilot Con-20 .8ml (a squeeze converter)
Pilot Con-70 1ml (none of my Pilots can use the Con-70)
When brand new, the Pilot/Namiki ink cartridge comes sealed with a plastic disc. When you install the cartridge in your pen, the disc gets shoved into the cartridge. Some people remove this. I leave it alone. Call me lazy busy.
My small Danitrio Cumlaude came with a tiny slide converter which holds very little ink. Predominately, I’ve used the Cumlaude in eyedropper mode (ED). Sometimes I like to use the pen with a little less ink than 3ml that it provides as an ED, and a little more than the slide converter provides. A standard converter, such as the Schmidt K5, will not fit. The Cumlaude’s barrel is too short. However, a standard long Waterman cartridge fits—just barely—in the Cumlaude.
Interestingly, a long standard Pelikan cartridge did not fit the Cumlaude. The cartridge is just a tad too long for my pen:
Here’s a Waterman cartridge next to a Schmidt K5 converter:
The Waterman long converter is about 72mm long (about 2 3/4″). The short Waterman cartridges are about 38mm in length, and a lot of pens will hold two of those in the barrel (one in use; the other as backup). Short carts are far more common among ink brands than the long ones, and are just as refillable.
Since I’ve got a cache of Pelikan long cartridges, obtained as part of my experiment, they’re dedicated to the Edison pens. Both the Pelikan and the Waterman long cartridges hold 1.5ml of ink (any brand or color!). According to this article at Edison Pen, a Schmidt K5 standard international converter holds .7ml.
The practice of re-filling cartridges is a new one for me. I don’t know how long a cart lasts, but I’ve heard they can last a very long time. Longevity is aided if you dedicate a cart to one pen, and don’t use it in multiple pens. Yeah, like I know what I’m talking about (insert maniacal laughter here). As I opened herein, the practice “is a new one for me.” I know nothing! Yet common sense tells me that sharing between pens may wear out the cartridge hole faster—because the nipples at the end of the section (to pierce the cartridge) can be different sizes among pens. Er… yeah, ya got that?
There’ve been claims on the pen forums of these Pilot, Waterman, and Pelikan cartridges lasting for several years. That’s pretty good, ay?
Of course, use only the cartridge that’s meant for your pen. Pilot, Platinum, Sailor, among others, use proprietary ink cartridges, and others like the Danitrio Cumlaude, Edison, or Bexley use international cartridges (short), and may also be able to use the standard long cartridges. (Not all “standard” c/c pens will take the standard long cartridge. For example, a long cart will not fit into my Bexley BX802.)
The friend of the ink cartridge is a blunt syringe. The syringe is used not only to fill the cart with your ink of choice, it’s also used to flush the cartridge with water when you want to clean it. The syringe makes cleaning the cartridge very easy. (Under “Need More Information?” below, I’ve linked to a video illustrating how to refill and clean an ink cartridge.)
Some folks use a glue gun to reseal a re-inked cartridge. They have cartridges at the ready whenever they need, wherever they are. I don’t do this because, well, I don’t carry spare carts around. Different practices for different pen peeps.
When the MYU writes to empty, I simply refill the cartridge in use. Or, when the Danitrio runs dry, I clean the cartridge, and put the Cumlaude away for awhile. These non-eyedropper pens are among my “auxiliary” pens, not my main go-to pens that remain inked up for days on end.
I’ve one Platinum fountain pen, opting to use a converter over the Platinum cartridge. The converter gives me plenty of ink with the Kanazawa-Haku, and I’ve not had great luck with Platinum cartridges. The carts always seem to dry out before I get to them. YMMV, of course. The Platinum converter holds .6ml of ink. The cartridge holds approximately 1.2ml.
The Waterman and Pelikan long cartridges have a little plastic ball inside the cartridge. These balls were used to seal the cart. When you insert the cart onto your pen, the ball gets shoved inside. The balls can help to keep the ink from clinging to the plastic cartridge wall.
You can re-use whatever ink cartridges you desire, fill ’em with whatever ink you love. Be aware not all plastic cartridges are created equally. Some may last a long time, and some might not fare well at all. The three cartridges I’ve selected for re-inking are pretty sturdy.
Refilling an ink cartridge delays sending the little plastic cart to the recycling bin. Hopefully for a long, long time.
The Visconti Travelling Ink Pot
Lastly, most happily, a really nice solution I’ve found for carrying ink for converter pens is the Visconti Travelling Ink Pot. It holds 5ml of ink. In fact, the Visconti Ink Pot is the reason I still use a converter in my Platinum Kanazawa-Haku.
Deb Kinney’s 2004 article about the Ink Pot still stands as a wonderful source of detailed information. So read it, ay?
If you’re patient, you can find the Ink Pots for sale well below the high retail price tag. I’ve snagged two of these Viscontis. One is always filled with Pilot Blue-Black. The other is filled with whatever Sailor ink has taken my fancy—currently Sailor Doyou.
The Ink Pot works with a large range of pen brands and filling systems. Among my own fountain pens, the Visconti Ink Pot works with Edison, Bexley, Danitrio, Levenger True Writer, Namiki Sterling, Platinum Kanazawa-Haku, and even my Sheaffer Tuckaway.
The Pilot MYU and Decimo are too thin for the Ink Pot. The rubber gasket inside the Ink Pot can’t grab onto those pens.
My converter pens get an excellent ink fill via the Ink Pot; even using the puny Pilot Con-50.
The ink pot I’ve got is the “universal” model which has a rubber gasket the nib section fits into. The Visconti model is #533.
There are other older, discontinued models that are threaded, and fit certain pens. Here’s a list of some of those:
525 – Visconti Voyager, Ufizi and Alhambra
526 – Visconti Manhattan and Florentia
527 – Montblanc 146 and limited editions
528 – Montblanc 149 and Hemingway
529 – Pelikan M800 and limited editions
530 – Aurora 88, Optima and certain limited editions
531 – Omas Gentleman and full-size limited editions
These models still show up in the wild, so be sure, if you want the “universal” version, that you know which model you are buying.
I carry the Ink Pot in my pen roll. It fits just, uh, like a pen does. In fact, it’s about 5 1/4″ (13.34cm) in length:
It’s important to follow the instructions for filling. Uh, for example, if you overfill the ink, and, uh, forget how to make an ink draw, an inky mess ensues. Honest. *ahem* So do take the time to read the instructions as often as needed.
That accident aside… the Visconti Ink Pot is a very clean, efficient method of inking a pen.
The Ink Pot comes with instructions for converter pens, piston, and power-filler or vacuum pens.
A confused friend once asked how I used the Visconti to fill an ED pen. Uh, it’s not for eyedropper pens. ED pens are their own ink pot, ay? The Visconti’s for converter, piston, and vacuum-filling pens.
Using the Visconti Travelling Ink Pot is simple. Observe (1min 40secs long):
There’s no excuse for running out of ink with two Visconti vials at my disposal.
Between the Visconti Travelling Ink Pot, and a couple of long, refillable ink cartridges, my converter pens are good to go for longer writing sessions than they have in the past.
Remember the Sheaffer Cartridge pen? It came with a couple of ink carts wherein the ink had evaporated, leaving a few chunks of ink concentrate behind. Or so I’d assumed about said chunks.
I’d never reconstituted vintage ink before. Prevailing wisdom said to add some distilled water to the ink cart, shake it up and write. Doing so produced a decent looking Sheaffer Deluxe Blue:
The Sheaffer Cartridge pen went through two separate inkings. The first with an apparent clean cart filled with Waterman Blue-Black. The pen was flushed cleaned with water, and put away for a couple of days.
Later on, the pen was inked with the rehydrated Sheaffer Deluxe Blue. When that particular ink fill was used up, the pen was cleaned again, this time with a 10% ammonia solution, and put away for long term storage.
Recently I showed the pen to a friend. When he uncapped the Sheaffer, lo and behold, there was mold on the feed. Regretfully, I didn’t take a photo.
While I’m pretty sure the mold originated from the rehydrated ink cartridge, I can’t say so absolute certainty. Nor am I sure what’s been contaminated by what. And so, I’ve tossed the two carts used in this Sheaffer, and won’t be refilling them. Also I’ve tossed the blunt syringe unit used to fill both carts. And, the saddest act of all, tossed the remaining Waterman Blue-Black ink used during the first round of inking.
Okay, so this is my very first ever experience with mold in a fountain pen, and I don’t wish to repeat it. Intellectually I understand that many people use vintage ink, or revive old dehydrated ink without any mold at all appearing in their pens. Yet, I’ll be reluctant to use ink in this fashion again. I’ll stick to trusty Pilot Blue-Black, and Sailor inks for now.
I’ll grant too that normally when drying an acrylic pen section, I leave it on the window sill. It’s been very cold here, and everything’s been slow to dry. I’m sure those conditions helped the mold to party-hearty.
There are many recommendations on how to clean a pen that’s had mold in it; some recommendations within the pen forums even contradict each other. At least one pen repair pro suggests cleaning with a pen-safe germicide (specifically Basic-G). Vinegar may be an option. Bleach is not a pen-safe chemical, especially for non-acrylic pens. Clearly the 10% ammonia flush used to clean the Sheaffer didn’t kill any mold.
[Please remember, too, that what you think you can do to a pen today without issue, may have ill effects way down the road. So let’s think hard before telling each other, “That never happens to me when I put my-favorite-poison in my pen.”]
I can imagine that more complicated pens might even need professional attention for mold eradication.
The little plastic Cartridge pen is a relatively simple disassemble: pulling the nib and feed from the collar. The key is to reach those hidden places in the feed, and ferret out any mold that may be hiding. The cap’ll need cleaning, too.
These parts are about to get a vinegar soak, and cleaning. We’ll see if the vinegar kills off the mold. The final word on the little Sheaffer Cartridge pen’s condition will be noted at a later time.
Mold in a pen feed, or in your ink, is serious business, ay? At least for fountain pen peeps. You don’t want it spreading to inks you dip the pen into, or spreading to other pens.