Tag Archives: fountain pens

Meet the Ink Test Guru

Several years ago I met Donn D. at the Chicago Pen Show. We got to talking outside of the main room afterhours, and he was the one who introduced me to Ink-Fast Tests. He had a binder of very organized ink swatches that showed what an ink looked like when protected from the light, what it looked like after it had been left in the sun for 3 months and after it had been left in the sun for 6 months.

As I was on a quest for the perfect replacement blue for my beloved Waterman Florida Blue, I began making ink tests for this site. I figured you would be as curious as I am about how ink holds up to UV light.

Donn and I got together at this year’s Washington DC Pen Show and resumed our inky discussions. I asked if he would be so kind as to share some of his tests on the blog, and he said, “Yes.”

Included in this post are 4 pages of his tests of Pilot ink, Diamine ink, Noodler’s ink, Waterman ink, Parker ink and Pelikan ink…among others.

Donn described his methodology as such: “I exposed fountain pen ink samples to ultraviolet light from the sun for 3 months and 6 months.  The exposure method involved simply taping them to the inside of a patio door, which does not block UV very well.  I exposed all samples in the same manner, but not at the same time, and have no record of the number of cloudy vs. sunny days for each test.  The paper was standard office copy bond.

The inks in this test happen to be colors I like, rather than a general test of a manufacturer’s entire product line.

What surprised me most was how well green inks held up, and a chemist friend speculates a copper compound may be involved.

Note: Test sheet #1 shows 6-month results only.”

Thank you, Donn, for sharing so many of these ink tests. Everybody else, I hope these help you in your quest for the perfect inks.

Click on any of the images to see a larger, clearer representation of the inks tested. Please also note that these are not performance tests of the ink inside a fountain pen. Some of these inks are not as well suited to vintage pens as others. This is strictly to showcase how an ink will hold up to time and light. (For example, Noodler’s Ink often clogs the hell out of vintage pens. Beautiful inks but a pain to deal with unless you love spending hours cleaning pens.)

2018 Dallas Pen Show Round-up

Sometimes the biggest part of an adventure is just arriving safely. My trusty car, Penelope Apocalypse, was debating existential issues with herself, as her starter was giving out. A quick trip to the dealership the day I was scheduled to drive south turned into a prolonged exploration of the starter system. After 5 hours of delay, the dealership determined that her starter was dying and it had no spares to replace it. Thus, I hit the road with no guarantee of getting to Dallas…but I really wanted to go!

In one of our few sober moments, Three-Finger Frank and I visit at my table during the Dallas Pen Show.

Stopping only for gas near St. Louis, I made it to Muskogee, Oklahoma, by 4 a.m. the following day. Penelope graced me with a fresh start in the morning, and we made it to Dallas on a wing and an exhausted prayer.

Thank goodness for great friends. The awesome pen dealer Joe Lowe was waiting for me in Dallas, and he found a dealership just a mile from the pen show hotel! I unloaded Penelope at the hotel, and we took her to the dealer for a new starter. One classic Luby’s dinner experience later, Joe and I were fortified for the show starting the next morning.

Pete Kirby and Mike Walker did a fantastic job advertising the daylights out of the Dallas Pen Show this year. It was packed nearly shoulder to shoulder all day Friday and Saturday! They sure run a good show.

I was on the back wall, where I was last year and stacked more than 4 boxes worth of goods on a single table. It is a great location, and I was visited by tons of friends all day Friday and Saturday. Charles S. and his buddy Murray came to visit from Ft. Worth. We had fun shootin’ the breeze. Then came Three-Finger Frank and his lovely wife Kelly. We’d eventually get a great dinner together, catching up on a year’s worth of conversation and puns.

The show was so busy, I barely got a chance to see any other tables other than the ones next to me. It looked like a vintage heavy show, and from what I could see there were some really amazing offerings. The oversized orange hard rubber Watermans with sterling silver filigree had me drooling the most.

Friday night ran late. After dinner, Frank and I continued on in the hotel bar, joking and swapping philosophical musings. We were soon joined by Nik Pang, and the laughs and bull session continued. It was like being in college all over again. I’m surprised our livers didn’t explode.

Saturday started way too early, but it was another fun day of friends and pens. My favorite new friend is Miss Targa Slim. Mysterious, beautiful and hilarious. We met the day before and had a delightful time swapping stories for a second day. She said she’d keep in touch, and I sure hope she does.

Saturday night the pressure was off, knowing I’d have a starter that worked. Another dinner at Luby’s with Joe and a few other friends, and then it was off to Muskogee. The long ride home was way more relaxing and uneventful. Although Penelope seems like a new car to me, she crossed the great 100,000-mile mark somewhere in Oklahoma! She’s the first car I ever drove 100,000 miles on, and she feels powerful enough to go another 100k…now that she has a new starter for the task.

Oh my, Omas!

Turning it around for the Chicago Pen Show, immediately after Atlanta, is tricky, but we do it in style. In addition to cranking through a ton of vintage pen restorations, I’ve picked up a collection of Omas fountain pens which will make their appearance at our tables for the very first time.

Visit us at the Chicago Pen Show this weekend for a chance to buy up 14 different Omas fountain pens not yet available on our website! We’ll have at least 100 different pens you can’t find online!

Yes. That’s a limited edition Omas made from the oak barrels of the Krup Champagne vintners in France. Good eye, you also spotted an oversized Omas 360 among the 360 demonstrators. Wait, wait. Yes. There are two Omas Milord Arco Verde fountain pens…and two Bronze Arcos…and a Grey Pearl Arco…a scarlet red and a few others!

Also on our table this year will be the newest Vibrant Pink Lamy AL-Star pens and ink! You can customize your’s with an extra-fine to 1.5mm stub nib! Show bargain only!

With a little bit of luck, I’ll even learn how to restore modern and vintage Mont Blanc and Pelikan fountain pens. We know that is an in-demand need for our customers.

Best of all, we get to hang out and talk with you in person! Please stop by and say hi. It is always great to see you and catch up a bit.

How Do I Write a Christmas Card?

Glitter spells death for fountain pens!

Writing good Christmas cards is easy once you accept the “glitter-death principle.” Glitter truly looks great on a lot of cards, but it also gets in your nib and destroys the perfection of your tipping material, suddenly rendering your favorite pen scratchy and irregular.

Break out the green ink and keep away from the glitter for a great Christmas card writing experience.

Tip #1 for writing good Christmas cards is finding great glitter-free cards. This is a surprisingly difficult challenge, especially when you must also account for those waxy and artistically bumpy card stocks, which make it notoriously tough to use a fountain pen.

Now that we have that out of the way, I love writing Christmas cards! What is the point of having a pen collection if you never use it? Plus, the season gives you an excuse to bust out the red and green ink in your collection, which you might not normally use.

Christmas cards are great because whether you’re a more religious or secular person, it gives you an opportunity to reach out to your family and friends who you might not normally be in contact with to say hi and let them know you are thinking about them and care. There’s no wrong way to tell people those things.

Tip #2: Make it personal.

There’s nothing wrong with getting a box of cards, signing them and stuffing them in the mail, but it is always a little nicer if you can add in a little message or update. It makes a huge difference. Just two or three sentences will do. “It’s been a crazy year. Janice got a raise, so we took the kids to Africa. Jesse got the mauled by a lion and Maria got ebola, but we are all fine now. I heard your little Bobby got scurvy. That sucks, but I hope everyone is well now. Merry Christmas! Love, ______”

You tell a little about your life; you ask after a little of their life. Perfect. But hopefully nobody in your family got a dread disease.

Tip #3: Christmas letters.

If a lot happened in your year, you might want to sit down to write a one-page letter about all that your family did so that you can copy it and put it in all of your cards. It might save you from having to explain ebola in 50 different cards. These are great and can be especially fun with a little humor thrown in. The trick is to still include a few handwritten personal lines to the card. A lot of times those letters give a good overview, but there might be particular events certain people will want a few more details about. The card is a good place to add these.

Tip #4: Acknowledge and accept other faiths.

A lot of religions have special events in December and January. If you celebrate Christmas but your friend celebrates Hanukkah, there’s nothing wrong with sending your friend a Hanukkah card. Conversely, if you celebrate one religion but get a card from another religion, don’t be offended. Often the sender might not know, or they mean no harm. They just want to send you a happy greeting without buying a bunch of different boxes of cards. Most people are trying to spread messages of love, family and friendship this time of year. Just roll with it…unless there is a genuinely mean message or ham-handed attempt at conversion…which is really inappropriate. Stick with love, family and friendship, and you can’t go wrong. Stick with that philosophy for all 365 days of the year, and you really can’t go wrong.

Happy Holidays!

How Do I Start Collecting Pens? Know Thy Obsession

Starting a pen collection isn’t always easy. There are soooooo many great pens out there in need of a good home. Where do you begin?

There is no right or wrong way to begin, but sometimes it helps to narrow your options.

Do you like dip pens, fountain pens, ballpoint pens or rollerball pens? Do you prefer vintage pens or modern? Do you want to write with them? If so, do you want to use them for everyday writing or do you want to perform calligraphy or Spencerian scripts? Do you just love their design and aesthetic? Are you collecting for an investment? Are you looking to make an impression during special signing ceremonies? Are you dedicated to a specific period in history and only want pens to go with what is perhaps a larger collection of that era? Do you love to tinker with things and want to learn the art of pen restoration? Do you simply love the fact that millions and millions of dollars were spent researching and designing many complicated ways to fill a fountain pen with ink?

It is not unusual at all to find yourself drawn to one or more of these questions. Over the course of this series we will begin breaking down each of these questions and discuss the pertinent issues with each of them, along with other elements of collecting pens.

TYPES OF PENS

Defining the four major types of pens is a good way to find common understanding and definitions of what you are interested in collecting. Most of this might be what many of you already know, but you would be surprised by how many people are still learning. I especially want to encourage people to learn as much as they can about this fun hobby…and obsession.

Some dip pens are made of glass, gold, silver, wood and even ivory.

This is a modern dip pen made of Murano glass. It is great for testing new inks.

Dip pens are the most basic type of pens that use water-based inks. You can still find many beautiful examples dating back as far as the 1700s when ornate metal pens began replacing feathered quills. A dip pen can be typically made of metals, glass, wood or ivory. The writing point is called a nib, which was usually made of gold, glass or steel. To write, you simply dipped the nib in ink and started scribbling. Depending on the pen, you could write about two to ten words per dip. You can find many base-level dip pens with steel nibs for around $1. Yet, some dip pens are ornately made with silver, gold, mother of pearl, ivory and other precious materials. Big flexible gold nibs from the late 1800s are prized for their ability to create works of art with the Spencerian handwriting method.

FUN FACT: The famous American Civil War historian Shelby Foote wrote the rough draft to his extensive two-volume history of the war using an authentic Civil War-era dip pen and period appropriate nibs! He said he did it to feel a closer connection with the people about whom he was writing and to slow himself down to really think about what he was writing.

Fountain pens, also known as ink pens, use gold or steel nibs like dip pens, but these pens were the first to carry an internal reservoir of water-based ink. Originally made of hard rubber, these pens first came on to the scene in the late 19th century. Fountain pens seemed to enter their glory days in the 1920s through the 1950s. Myriad mechanical systems were invented to fill a pen with ink. Pumps, levers, buttons, pneumatics, diaphragms, pistons, cartridges and converters have all been used to load a pen with ink. Another feature unique to fountain pens was the inkfeed. This is a special assembly under then nib that delivers ink to the nib while regulating its flow. Typically, fountain pens can hold 8 to 12 legal pad pages worth of ink. Some pens can hold a lot more ink and others much less.

American author Samuel Clemens, who wrote under the pen name Mark Twain, was the spokesman for the Conklin Pen Company in 1903.

FUN FACT: Mark Twain was the first celebrity to be paid to endorse a pen company. The Conklin company of Toledo, Ohio, paid him to speak well of their Conklin Crescent. Twain claimed he liked their early fountain pen best because it carried its own ink reserve, and its crescent-shaped filling system prevented the pen from rolling off his desk. He left out the fact that he was the first author to ever write a novel on the marvelous new invention called the typewriter…and had no intention of going back to pens to write novels. Faster and ultimately easier to use and easier to read than a fountain pen, both writing instruments remained vital for myriad needs.

Ballpoint pens were first invented during World War II. Fountain pens use water-based inks drawn, normally, from glass inkwells. They are also gravity fed. Thus, while running around under fire in combat, it is difficult to keep your pen from making a mess and your inkwell to keep from breaking. A ballpoint pen uses a (typically) tungsten ball bearing at the base of a cartridge full of oil-based ink. The ink is more viscous and less likely to slop around and make a mess. The ball lets the pen write on most any surface. The early generation ballpoints had a lot of issues, primarily due to the ink drying too quickly inside the cartridge. Yet, once ink cartridges were perfected, these pens became infinitely cheaper and easier to mass produce than traditional fountain pens. The ink lasted much longer, dried instantly on the page and took a much longer time to dry out inside the cartridge. Soon the pens were gussied up with great designs that employed twists, clicks and caps to protect their writing points. These days, ballpoint pens rarely have caps and are more readily identified by being either twist or click pens.

FUN FACT: Parker first introduced its Jotter model click ballpoint pen in the 1950s, and it is still one of the most popularly sold ballpoint pens today!

Rollerball pens were the last major evolution of pen designs. Many pen users found that they missed the smooth, fast-writing action of water-based ink but preferred the ballpoint style compared to fountain pens. As such, the rollerball was born. It combined the best of both worlds by having cartridges that hold water-based ink that is delivered with a very smooth, fast and efficient ballpoint.

What type of pen is your favorite?

Me? I love all pens, but my greatest passion is for fountain pens. After discovering my late grandfather’s Sheaffer Lifetime when I was 9, I was hooked. It wrote better than anything I had ever experienced. I was a particularly strange child. I clearly remember resenting my first grade teacher who made us write with pencils. Dirty, ever-shrinking and inconsistent pencils. The sloppy, ugly stains left by erased mistakes. “Only adults can use pens,” my first through third grade teachers insisted. I genuinely resented them for it, and I routinely asked special permission to use pens on homework that was especially important. Weirder still, I would try to rally my classmates in protest of pencils. Honest to God! And I resented them when they preferred pencils and being shackled with the label of irresponsible children not yet ready for something as clean, dignified and mature as pens. I actually rejoiced when Ms. Bartuce permitted those of us with especially neat handwriting to use ballpoint pens toward the end of fourth grade.

You can ask my parents. I am not making this up.

I never dared bring my precious fountain pens to school, but I was particularly devoted to my clickable Parker Jotter in junior high. When I was an exchange student in Germany during my junior year of high school, all of my classmates saved up their money to drink themselves blind in a country that served alcohol at 16. Me? I knew that most Germans still use fountain pens and that I could get real bargains on brand new fountain pens that would be way too expensive in the U.S. Instead of getting drunk every night, I insisted my host family take me to a quality stationary store where I fell in love with an elegant stub-nibbed Rotring. (I wasn’t totally square. I also fell madly in love with a beautiful blonde fraulein who liked me as much as I liked her. We just never drank to the point of vomiting in the gutter.)

DC Pen Show Was Din-O-Mite!

ThePenMarket.com just celebrated its 10th birthday in style at the Washington DC Pen Show! I can’t believe we have never gone in the past. Despite some organizational hiccups, it was phenomenal. So many pens! So many collectors! So many new and old friends!

This is a Neuport 28 fighter plane used by the Americans against the Germans in World War I

My four days at the show were my four hardest working days of the year. Surrounded by so many great folks, it was all pens from sun-up until well past midnight some nights. It was especially great meeting several long-time Mid-Atlantic customers for the first time in the flesh.

So many pens, supplies, ephemera…

Working my table, I don’t have time to shop much at the show, so my one real show purchase for myself was my long-desired Mont Blanc Boheme with the rarer emerald clip stone. I’ve always loved these modern recreations of the “safety” fillers. Who doesn’t love retractable nibs on fountain pens?

Three WWI planes rest side-by-side when 100 years ago they would have been in a desperate fight to the death. Please note the excessively frail design of the twin-engine observation plane on the top of the photo.

For me the trip to and from is also part of my vacation time. On the way down to DC, I stopped at the Civil War battlefield of Antietam. It is breath-taking to stand on the site where more than 23,000 Americans were killed or wounded in a single day of combat. Sept. 17, 1862. The battlefield has been beautifully preserved by the National Park Service, which tries its best to recreate exactly the way the battlefield looked on the morning of Sept. 17. Kudos to them for their efforts. I won’t bore you with all the bullets and history this time around, but I learned so much from the rangers that most books seem to leave out.

It was a far more political battle than normally gets described, and while the soldiers basically fought to a tactical draw, the North crushed the South’s political goals and ambitions with its incursion into Union territory.

On the way home, I visited my other historical obsession: aviation! I went to the new branch of the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum out by Dulles Airport! This was absolutely fantastic. From an only-one remaining and phenomenally frail looking twin-engine World War I trench observation plane to the Space Shuttle Discovery, it is truly impossible to grapple with all of the rare planes that broke myriad records and the gear from some of the most famous people in aviation. I loved seeing the uniform of America’s top WWI ace Eddie Rickenbacker. Seeing one of Amelia Earhart’s flight jumpsuits was great. There are even items from Charles Lindbergh.

Okay. It isn’t that disappointing. The P-40 is easily my favorite plane from World War II, although this is not a genuine original used by the famed Flying Tigers. It still looks pretty nice hanging from the ceiling!

World War II aviation is my favorite, and the museum did not disappoint. Okay, I was actually really disappointed that they mocked up a P-40J Kittyhawk to look like a real plane used by the Flying Tigers when it never saw that actual action. BUT, the collection of insanely rare and limited German and Japanese planes was especially mind numbing. Many were the only remaining examples.

It is difficult to imagine any such museum where an actual space shuttle is just not as impressive as the rest of the collection. Nevertheless, I was surprised at how huge the space shuttle is. Plus, looking into the restoration hanger means that even more great rarities will soon be on their way.

Win this Lamy Lx!

Helping us celebrate 100 blog posts, Mike D., our Lamy candyman, has given us a brand new Lamy Lx Au (Gold) to give away! This shiny, medium-nibbed wonder comes complete with its special case and papers. It also includes a free ink cartridge. It has a retail value of $70.

Win this brand new Lamy Lx Au (Gold) fountain pen. It is the brand new pen from Lamy. Each purchase of a writing instrument in the month of June enters you to win!

Our native Chicago is a pay-to-play city, and our contest works the same way. For every pen or pencil you purchase between June 1, 2017, and July 1, 2017, at 6 p.m. Central Daylight Time, we will enter your name on a slip of paper and put it in a hat. The winner’s name will be drawn at random from that hat and announced on Independence Day.

If you buy 10 or 100 or however many writing instruments you want this month, your name will be entered that many times. Ink, refills and other writing ephemera do not qualify for entry. Items purchased from our Trading Post do not qualify for entry, either.

The winner wins this pictured Lamy Lx Au Fountain Pen. No substitutions will be allowed. The retail value of this prize is $70, but we will not grant a cash equivalent to the winner. You are stuck with a supremely awesome pen that writes smoothly, takes a lickin’ and travels extremely well on most any summer vacation adventure!

Seriously, we don’t vacation without a Lamy! I’ve taken my Lamy to Germany, Paris, Hong Kong and all over the United States. Their reliability and durability is why Lamy was the first new line of pens I decided to carry. Remember we have great bargains on Lamy Al-Stars, Safaris and 2000s on our new pens pages. Plus, we have a complete line of Lamy ink and refills.

Delving into Diamine Inks

It seems strange, even to me, that in spite of a lifetime using fountain pens, I had never previously gotten all that into inks. I used whatever was available, eventually falling in love with Waterman’s Florida Blue and Aurora’s black inks. And then Waterman went and discontinued Florida Blue. Sure, I bought up a bunch of it before it disappeared, but I found myself in ink crisis wanting to find something that I liked as much.

Witness the way sunlight fades fresh Diamine ink. The left writing sample spent 4 months in direct sunlight. The right writing sample is fresh out of the bottle. I was particularly impressed by the color, clarity and resistance to harsh UV rays.

Witness the way sunlight fades fresh Diamine ink. The left writing sample spent 4 months in direct sunlight. The right writing sample is fresh out of the bottle. I was particularly impressed by the color, clarity and resistance to harsh UV rays in the Diamine Ancient Copper ink.

This coincided nicely with a new generation of people exploring the wonders of many ink colors and brands! Now I have the bug, too. While still questing for my perfect Florida Blue replacement, I’ve been branching out trying new colors.

A penpal in Germany turned me on to the many wonders of Diamine last autumn. I picked out 4 colors to order and try on my own. I also performed an ink-fast test on them to see how they held up after spending 4 months in my window, during winter’s weaker light. Here are the results:

SHERWOOD GREEN: I’ve always loved Robin Hood stories, since I watched the Errol Flynn flick as a kid. Fresh on the page, it is a little darker and more yellow than I would have preferred, but it made a great ink for my Christmas cards last year. Given how dark and rich it is, I was surprised when it faded this much.

KENSINGTON BLUE: This is a beautiful dark blue with aqua accents in the shadowing, which you can’t see as well in this sample. Unfortunately, it suffers the same fate as many blues by fading too much over time.

PRUSSIAN BLUE: Given some German ancestry and an appreciation of their cheek-scarring fencing tactics, I had to try this ink. It is a good blue-black with some very nice shadow effects. As I am finding with other blue-blacks, it holds up a little better under the sun’s harsh rays.

ANCIENT COPPER: Hands down my favorite new ink of the past year! It’s rich, dark orange looks incredible when spread thin with a stub and then brought to a thick, darker clot when laid down thicker at the top or bottom of a loop. Its only downside is that it does seem to clog a bit in the pen over time. If I give my trusty Pelikan 800 a thorough flushing between refills, I have no troubles whatsoever. Best of all, it hardly fades at all, unlike my beautiful but fickle blues.

A 3-Month Ink-Fast Test

A gentleman at this year’s Chicago Pen Show showed me his very elaborate ink-fast test to see which of his inks could best withstand direct sunlight for an extended period of time. He tested dozens, if not more than 100 inks, to see how they looked new, at 3 months, at 6 months and a year.

As he said most of the damage was done to the ink within the first three months, I decided to try a 3-month ink-fast test on my 8 favorite inks.

8 inks testing day 1

Here are the fresh fountain pen inks on Day 1 of the trial before being placed in my sunniest window.

Hopefully the photos show the results. However, to clarify any difficulties due to all of the variations of computer screens, I shall describe the results, as well.

Lamy Green went from a bright kelly green a faded, almost camouflage green-grey.

Lamy Turquoise turned to a blue-black.

Monte Verde’s new blue fountain pen ink faired second to worst, turning from a nice medium blue to a light shade of grey.

Parker Blue-Black fared best, maintaining a strong dark color more black than blue.

Waterman Florida Blue turned medium grey.

Pelikan Edelstein Adventurine, which is almost a forest green, but not quite, turned turquoise.

Aurora Black Ink turned a medium to darkish brown. This made me wonder if Aurora put a touch of iron in its ink.

Inks after 90 days of sun

After 90 days in direct sunlight, all 8 inks faded. However, it appears that Parker Blue-Black ink held fastest and Yard-O-Led Royal Blue faded the most.

Yard-O-Led Royal Blue, which is an especially brilliant blue when fresh, fared worst and turned to a barely legible sky blue.

Although I had no idea how Waterman Florida Blue would deteriorate over the years, it has been my go-to ink since I discovered it in the 1990s. Now that they no longer make it and changed the formula to Parker’s slightly inferior blue Quink, I am on a quest for a new blue to love. I thought Yard-O-Led would be it, but now I have my doubts. A German friend has turned me on to Diamine Kensington Blue. We’ll have to see how that holds up to the sun.

When I know, I’ll be sure to share.

Still Hunting Parker Vac Desk Set Trumpet

While searching for the perfect matching desk base trumpets for his special Parker Vacumatic and radio desk set, Jaime A. found this great ad from 1936. We love these classic Vac desk sets from Parker. The 1930s might have been a miserable time to live, with the economy in the tank, but, man, they had style.

Check out these great desk sets Parker was offering in 1936. Imagine stumbling on a pen shop back in the day with those looking minty fresh.

Check out these great desk sets Parker was offering in 1936. Imagine stumbling on a pen shop back in the day with those looking minty fresh.