Nearly three years ago, the journey to rely upon two or three inks began. The road has brought me my current travelers, the steady-freddy, daily writing inks Pilot/Namiki Blue, and Pilot Blue-Black. I’m still able to obtain these inks at or below my $.20 per ml price point, even sometimes buying direct from Japan. Recently I’ve even found some enjoyment in just a little variety in color.
[Note about bottle sizes: Pilot Red, Black and Blue-Black can be obtained in 350ml refill bottles from Japan, Pilot Blue in 70ml bottles from Japan and some online outlets, Namiki Blue and Namiki Black bottles are sized at a good 60ml. Size does matter when it comes to value/cost per ml!]
Pelikan: a great value. Pelikan Royal Blue and Brilliant Black inks can be hand in large quantities (up to 1 litre) for under $.10 per ml. A great savings for someone who consumes a lot of ink!
A friend and I spent some time mixing Pelikan Royal Blue and Pelikan Brilliant Black to come up with (a) a personally expectable blue-black color, and (b) find out if any mix had some kind of water resistance. (Note: Pelikan Blue-Black has been discontinued in the U.S.) Brilliant Black by itself has some water resistance. Mixed with Royal Blue, well, not as good. The black stays visible, at least writing with fine-ish nibs. But there’s no chance of coffee-ring readability with Pelikan on some papers, such as the Rhodia Webbie. The more black in the mix, the better the resistance! The experiments with Pelikan are quite encouraging. For the time being, though, I’m sticking with Pilot/Namiki for its supreme coffee-ring resistance.
Edited 2013 Jul 12 to add: Forgot to mention an important fact about the aforementioned Pelikan inks, and why I resist an immediate switch to them. The inks are on the dry side, and depending on the pen the dryness makes for an unpleasant writing experience. Few pens in my tiny hoard tolerate dry inks, mostly because the nibs have been tweaked to be oh-so-extra fine! (If you are having trouble understanding dry vs wet inks, try comparing the easy-flowing (on the wet side) Waterman Blue-Black to Pelikan Royal Blue or Brilliant Black.)
Iron Gall Ink. You know you wanna try it, don’t you? Two inks I used to write with were iron gall inks: Montblanc Blue-Black, and Platinum Blue-Black. The former is a nondescript ink I never replenished; the latter, a beautiful ink that comes in ridiculously small 30ml bottles. I never knew Platinum Blue-Black was an iron gall ink until long after my bottles were depleted.
A friend (guess who) goaded me into trying more iron gall inks by sending me several samples of it. Iron gall inks are highly acidic, and will corrode metal pen parts. Gold-plated trim may not fair well over time, and steel nibs, along with any other non-gold parts will corrode as well. Gold nibs will not corrode.
Why use iron gall? It is a permanent ink. In it’s most traditional form, the ink lays down a blue-ish color, and then oxidizes to black. How quickly it oxidizes varies from ink to ink. Some people even like to make their own iron gall ink. How cool would that be? Ah, to have three or four lives going at a time might allow for that as a new hobby.
When I found a really good price on a well-known iron gall ink, I bought some to experiment more in depth with. Chesterfield Archival Vault ink, sold by Xfountainpens an online company based in Philadelphia, is rebranded Diamine Registrar’s Ink. The sides of the CAV label state, “Made in the United Kingdom,” and “Meticulously crafted forumula since 1864.” On sale and with free shipping, the ink came in just under $.20 per ml. Registrar’s ink is a permanent ink used in England for signing Documents. Capital D to indicate legal and/or Archival importance of said documents. Me, I don’t really care that anything I’ve written on paper is around a century from now. It’s all about surviving a bit of rain, and the occasional coffee ring. The change in the ink color is rather fun, yet perhaps over-rated.
I bought three 50ml bottles of the Chesterfield, and have written through half of it. Two pens have been dedicated to the ink: an ED’d custom pen once fitted with a #3776 music nib, and a Pilot Heritage 92—a piston filling pen with an FM nib. (An FM nib is a fine/medium nib—somewhere in between the two point sizes!)
The ink’s shading properties invoke a nice vintage feel to the writing. After writing mostly with the non-shading Pilot Blue, the properties of the Registrar’s ink provided a nice escapade. The ink dries very quickly without smearing, and it works on all kinds of paper from the worst to the best. The ink is on the dry side, especially when you are used to writing with the Pilot/Namiki inks.
Pen Maintenance. Of course, pen hygiene (AKA cleaning) is much easier to perform on a cartridge-converter/eyedropper pen with no metal parts (except for the gold nib.) The nib and feed can be removed from the section, and those parts along with the barrel thoroughly cleaned. More challenging and requiring more care: the piston-filling Pilot. Taking that pen on a recent ten-day trip, I hardly uncapped it to write. On the return home, I flushed the pen, and it took over three days to get the pen as clean as desired. Some tiny particulates from CAV were flushed out, and ultimately I took the pen apart to ensure all the iron gall ink was cleaned out. That’s not something I really want to do, even occasionally, and so the Pilot will not likely see the Chesterfield Archival Vault ink again.
Will I buy more Chesterfield Archival Vault? Dunno. CAV is not an ink for all pens. The ink runs drier than I like. There’s the piston pen maintenance to consider, and I’ve a couple of pens with steel nibs. And so Diamine Registrar’s ink, AKA Chesterfield Archival Vault, remains a fine ink to dance with occasionally, in the right pen.
Yes, sometimes one needs to step out on the steady-freddy inks.
A Wee Bit of Color
The purchase of three new bottles of “occasional” colors for letter writing or some personal entertainment purpose, did go over the $.20 per ml line. All in the Sailor family, the new inks are:
- Nagasawa Kobe Nada Brown
- Nagasawa Kobe Sannomiya Panse
- Sailor Epinard
I enjoy the the properties of Sailor Jentle inks. They tend to be silky, nice flowing inks. The range of standard Sailor ink colors is small. It’s hard to find them at my price point which leaves out Sailor as an every day writing ink. Sailor Epinard, though, made its way in as an occasional variant to blue or blue-black. Montblanc Racing Green has long been discontinued, and Sailor Epinard fills that green/black void for moi.
While Sailor’s standard inks are few, the company makes inks for all kinds of stores in Japan. One such store is Nagasawa, based in Kobe, Japan. There are over 40 Sailor/Nagasawa inks available. These inks can be found online via eBay or through Ratuken’s global marketplace. Some of the inks are sold out.
In Japan at one of their clinics, Sailor will even mix you a color to your linking. Bruno of Crónicas Estilográficas describes one such experience. Let’s all go, shall we?
Deciding I needed a purple and a brown ink, I splurged on two of the Nagasawa inks. Because these are occasional inks, the splurge was allowed, ay? I like both of these silky smooth inks, and they will last me a long while. Coffee ring resistance? Not making any claims, just reporting that writing with finer nibs holds up fairly well under coffee landings. Broader nibs, not so much.
Coffee or water resistance is not equated with an ink being fit for the Archives, ay?
Status of the Ink Hoard
The tally of colors as of the end of June 2013: What d’ya mean not everyone keeps a tally?!
In my last status report, the bottle count was at seven. That number has remained pretty consistent over the current phase of my ink journey, with bottles being replaced as they are emptied and needed. I’ve hardly used my one bottle of Namiki Black. The Sailor Jentle Chu-Shu is not yet empty. With the Chesterfield Archival Vault ink still in play, I’ve not replenished any Pilot Blue ink which almost all gone. With the new Sailor colors, the bottle count is up by three. Don’t go thinking my resolve is weakening! ‘Tis not a new climbing trend towards acquisition. It’s ten bottles. Period. When I need more ink, I’ll get more.
A friend and I have an ongoing discussion about buying things when free shipping is suddenly an option, or a great sale is in progress. Sometimes you take advantage of such opportunities, and sometimes you don’t. Opportunities come and go. The important thing to remember is that opportunities will always appear. You/I just gotta wait. Otherwise you’re/I’m always giving in to the impulse to buy. I’d rather be a more deliberate consumer. IMHO and IMHQuest.
Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is always to go back to oneself.—Thich Nhat Hahn
We live in an era of consumerism and it’s all about desire-based consumerism and it has nothing to do with things we actually need.—Aloe Blacc
‘Tis a process, ay?
- Inks: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Richard Binder —this important article always bears repeating!
- Home Made, Bruno Taut, Crónicas Estilográficas
- Chesterfield Archival Vault Permanent Ink, Pocket Blonde
- diamine registrar’s ink: THE blue-black?, Lady Dandelion
- An Ink Review: Pelikan Brilliant Black, The Harmless Dilettante
- Pelikan Royal Blue Review, WithoutInk
- Pelikan M625 Sterline Silver/Red inked with Sailor Jentle Epinard, JustDaveyB (broad nib writing sample)
- My Fountain Pen (Ink) Education: Pharmacist’s Urkundentinte, The Pen Addict
- Kobe Ink Story: Number 11 “Ikuta Orange,” JapanStyle.info
- Sailor Kobe Ink Story, Leigh Reyes
- How to get to NAGASAWA, Japan, VirtuThe3rdTV (lots of great ink and fountain pen videos from Japan)
Updated to include:
- Ink review: rohrer and klingner scabiosa, seize the dave – a passionate argument for using modern iron gall ink