Tag Archives: ink test

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.)

Frau Tinte’s Iron Gall Ink Test

One of my favorite parts about owning a pen business is meeting so many amazing pen and ink collectors from around the world.

One of my many great new friends is a brilliant “amateur” ink historian from Germany who doesn’t want to be identified, so I shall simply refer to her as Frau Tinte. (Ms. Ink, auf Deutsch) In addition to collecting great vintage and modern pens and having a phenomenal talent with calligraphy scripts, Frau Tinte loves researching medieval ink recipes!

Frau Tinte’s iron gall ink goes down very faintly. You can barely read what you are writing. The cool thing is that you can smell the pomegranate and iron in the ink.

She has combed some truly amazing libraries in search of rare and original documents from as long ago as the 1200s and 1300s. As ink making was a very inexact science back then without a lot of consistent, formal measurements like today, recreating these inks is an art form in and of itself. Some of the ingredients are rather vaguely named, as the medieval German word for an item might not be what that ingredient is called today. Plus, old German scripts are practically a different language from modern German lettering. Yet, she methodically tests recipes until she can get reasonably consistent and accurate recreations.

Frau Tinte very kindly and graciously shared with me an old iron gall recreation that is partially made from pomegranates. You can smell the fruit and iron in the ink! The ink is toxic and highly aggressive in its relation to mammals, nibs and inkfeeds. She made it clear that I could only use this ink with a glass dip nib or a 14k gold dip nib with no inkfeed. If I filled a vintage or modern pen with it, it would quickly begin to eat the insides of the pen and feed.

Here are three samples of Frau Tinte’s Iron Gall Ink after a little more than a year in different elements.

Thus, I have spent the past year plus writing with it using a glass-nib dip pen. It is pretty amazing stuff. The iron in the ink oxidizes over time to get darker. Basically, it is rusting on the paper. When you write with it, you can barely read it. Yet, within a few minutes it darkens, and it can continue to darken for years. Many surviving handwritten documents from hundreds of years ago using this or similar iron gall inks are black, and you can see it is getting pretty dark in the samples, but it isn’t a true black, yet.

Wondering how a year would treat the ink, I created 4 samples. One was only seconds old when I shot it, so you can see what it is like to write with. It is a very faint grey that you can barely read. Test #1 was left in a cool, dry place with no direct sunlight. Test #2 was left in a window with direct sunlight. Test #3 was left in a dark, humid place. Each writing sample was written on Montblanc MeisterbĂĽtten paper…similar to the parchments used in the 1800s.

I thought the humid sample would have been the darkest, as it might have allowed for more rusting action, but it is about as dark as the control sample #1. The neatest result for me was the sunlight sample. The paper is bleached at least three shades whiter than the other samples. (Photo lighting makes that a little harder to see, but the difference is immediately obvious once you hold the samples together.) Although the ink is maybe a shade lighter than the other year-old samples, it is still really dark on the paper, unlike about 90% of the inks we leave in a window for only 3 or so months.

If you are looking for a permanent ink with a unique chemical signature, find yourself a good iron gall ink.

As for the availability of Frau Tinte’s creations, we are pondering the legal aspects of it on the market in the U.S. What worries us are the facts that it is toxic and how it can ruin pens so quickly if used inappropriately. I know you loyal readers are bright enough not to shoot it with your whiskey or fill your pens with it, but if McDonald’s can get sued for their coffee being too hot…well, you know where this can end up. Eventually, somebody’s poor kitty will find an open, untended bottle and think it is a snack or someone who possibly received it as a gift will fill their beloved $2,000 Montblanc with it. We definitely don’t want to be responsible for those tragedies. Yet, it would be nice for people who want to try it to have a safe and fun writing experience that is centuries old.

If you happen to be a product safety lawyer and happen to know the answers to such questions, please feel free to share them with me.

Ink Fast Test #3

Attracted by the many colors and properties of Noodler’s Inks, I just had to start exploring.

Finding the right orange ink for me became an obsession last winter. Loving the color samples online for Apache Sunset and Habanero, they were the first in my cart.

The top portion of this photo showcases fresh writing with Noodler’s Apache Sunset, Habanero, Polar Blue and Anti-Feather Black inks. The bottom of this photo shows how much or little they faded after being exposed to 6 months of summer sunlight.

Noodler’s Apache Sunset looked much darker in the online sample. In real life it was more of a running Pumpkin-Gut yellow-orange. It doesn’t offer much by way of shadowing effects unless you use a really wet nib or more preferably a wet, wide stub nib. In the six months it was posted in my sunniest window, it faded the most heavily, which really wasn’t surprising.

Friends know me quite well for my obsession with fiery hot tacos (My buddy Adam and I invented the notorious Flaming Hot Orgasmic Tacos from Hell while in college.), and I could not pass up a Noodler’s Habanero ink. This one looks spectacular and is the darkness that I thought Apache Sunset would be. It became my favorite of my 4 new Noodler’s inks. Unfortunately, its blazing color doesn’t hold up well to the blazing fury of the summer sun. As much as I love the color, I have noticed it is rather viscous. Generally, I have to thoroughly flush my pen every time between fillings of the Habanero ink. If I don’t, the pen gets too clogged up to write by the time I am half way through the second fill.

Since beginning these ink fast tests, I’ve been desperately looking for inks that won’t fade heavily with time or light. Noodler’s Bullet Proof inks are perfect for archival writing. Six months in the summer sun did little to diminish the strength of Noodler’s “Polar Blue” and “Anti-Feather Black.” These inks are promised to be UV resistant, water resistant, chemical uneraseable and many other incredible features. Our tests proved that out. When we soaked one sample in water, the paper disintegrated more than the ink.

Noodler’s Anti-Feather Black ink only gets a smidge fuzzy after being soaked in water. It holds its properties incredibly well in sunlight and under water…once it has been let dry, that is.

Yet, there is a cost to these inks as well. They clogged the living daylights out of two juicy writing pens. It was a matter of time more than of use. If I were to fill a pen with Anti-Feather Black and write it to empty in one day, there’d have been little problem. If I wrote out half of the ink in one day and then waited a week to use it again, then problems developed. Ink would dry out on the ink feed and start gumming up the works fairly quickly.

As much as I love the deep, rich black of the Anti-Feather, along with its archival qualities, I only reserve it for special occasions, using only a glass dip nib. The Polar Blue was so frustrating, I gave it away to a friend who wanted to try it.