Writing Down the Ink #9

A little over a year ago, I committed to reducing the size of my ink collection. Er…okay, the actual commitment was to not buy ink until I’d finished with what I had on hand. See how time can mute the best of intentions?  I’ve despaired the impossibility of my task. Sure, it’s easy to write a single bottle out. Not so easy to resist the inexplicable temptation to acquire more bottles, often in colors that prove unsatisfactory for this boring, plain, ol’ writer. Yet I continue to read the conversations about the latest colors of this and that and yearn to try them myself.

I’ve sloooooowly re-trained myself to re-appreciate the bottles at hand. This helps me get through existing bottles and also is a form of asking myself, “Why do you want magenta-bluish-orgeena-teal-glub when you would never write with such a color?” Consumption is a form of insanity, eh?

However, there is hope to be found: having written some away and given some unused bottles away, I’m currently down to an even dozen bottles of ink! Feels good, I must say.

Since the ink reduction experiment began, my ink brand loyalties have disappeared—a result, I think, of consuming more thoughtfully, more mindfully. When I began my experiment, I was focused on getting down to a single brand or two of inks. Today, the brand is not so important to me as characteristics and color of a particular ink.

Another consequence of my experiment has been a reduction in ink colors. While I have thought of myself as a black or blue ink user, it turns out I am very fond of certain brown inks. Blue is my go-to ink. Believe it or not, I didn’t know that a year ago. I thought black was my go-to ink. One green remains in inventory despite its rarity in use. It’s for holidays. Yeah. True.

Since May of this year, I’ve purchased a handful of inks as gifts for friends, but only one new bottle of ink for myself. That was a bottle of Platinum Blue-Black. I was introduced to that ink via Nakaya who includes a cartridge of Platinum ink with a pen. The ink is more blue than black and sometimes presents blue-grey.

A friend sent me a bottle Pilot Blue-Black which I really liked. It’s hard to find outside of Japan. (In the USA we have Namiki Blue-Black, quite possibly the same ink at more cost. Seems expensive to me.) There’s the wonderful Waterman Blue-Black, but it doesn’t have great coffee-splotching stamina. Noodler’s Legal Lapis has great permanence and color but creeps up the nib more than I like, and so it’s reserved for a specific pen. Thus, the Platinum Blue-Black purchase.

Sailor inks remain favorites in blues with a very dark blue-black and an impermanent yet peppy Sky High. I’m back and forth between Noodler’s Black and J. Herbin Perle Noire. Both are great blacks with different characteristics. The grey? Isn’t that just a kind of black? The browns are J. Herbin Cacao du Brésil, Lie de Thé, and Noodler’s #41 Brown. All with varying degrees of good permanency.

For anyone obsessive enough to care, the chart below reflects bottles moving through time. That there is, for example, one bottle of Waterman does not mean it is the same bottle I started with. (In fact it’s not even the same ink color!) After all, ink gets consumed and replaced. The bolded brand names represent those brands still represented in the ink hoard. The fact that some brands have zero bottles across all three time periods means that ink samples never transformed into bottle buying.

The greatest lesson of my ink consumption has been this:  Whenever possible get an ink sample to test an ink’s color and flow characteristics. If the sample is pleasing, then buy the bottle! Duh, huh? Took me awhile. I don’t think I’ll ever buy a bottle of ink based merely on recommendation again! (If you don’t know this:  ink can be sampled at pen shows, or through friends, or at pen club meetings or meet-ups. If you buy a sample from a retailer, I feel it is a matter of courtesy to buy the bottle from that retailer. Otherwise retailers won’t be able to afford to provide samples! By now, ink samplers know there’s only one online retailer left to buy samples from, Goulet Pens.)

Update 10/6/11: ISellPens.com sells ink samples of the Platinum Mix Free series. Goulet Pens sells samples from any ink they carry.

Update 10/16/2011: ISellPens.com is going to sell samples from all the ink they carry according to this post on FPN. Both GouletPens and ISellPens are reliable online retailers.

I met a grade-school teacher who uses only one color and one ink: Parker Quink Blue-Black. While a single ink is not my goal, the simplicity of that kind of usage appeals to me. As always, more to be revealed as I write along.

A Perhaps Ironic-from-Someone-Buying-Less-Stuff Still Sad Side-Note: Pear Tree Pens is closing it’s online doors on October 1, 2011. This online paradise was where I bought my first online purchases of inks and my first ink samplers. Wishing James and Ryan and their respective families all the best! So many of us appreciate their service to the fountain pen community.