Tag Archives: ink

Caran D’Ache Chromatics Face the UV-pH Challenge

Swiss pen maker Caran D’Ache is most famous for its precision engineering on its line of ballpoint pens. They make nice fountain pens, too, but it is the company’s ballpoints that the world knows best. Yet, as so many pen makers now do, it also decided to enter the lucrative fountain pen ink market.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of Caran D’Ache Chromatic inks before and after undergoing 3 months of UV sunlight testing.

Caran D’Ache Chromatic Inks are a daring entry, indeed. From their hexagonal bottles that tip to fill to the last drop to their bright and cheery colors, Chromatics made an instant splash on the scene.

Naturally, we wanted to know how well these inks hold up to UV light from the sun and where they register on the scale of a pH test. We placed this sample in our sunniest window for 3 months. We also used our pH meter, which was calibrated to the heat and temperature of our testing station before testing the inks.

The results of our test were surprising. I falsely suspected that there might be some heavier pigmentation in the “Chromatic” inks that would make them shine and dazzle a bit on the page. However, virtually all of the ink colors lost seemingly 85 to 90% of their color, fading heavily from view. “Electric Orange” all but disappeared. Even a stalwart color such as “Cosmic Black” faded to a medium brown, and it had the most staying power.

The pH test results ranged all over the map. As a quick refresher on chemistry, a pH number of 7 is pH neutral like pure water. The closer to 0 something becomes the more acidic it is. The closer to 14 it goes, the more alkali or base something is. In theory, you want an ink that is pH neutral, BUT we have no idea how the chemicals in each ink will react to the chemicals of the ink sacs, converters, inkfeeds and the like. We have found some “neutral” inks to eat through ink sacs rapidly, while some seemingly alkali or acidic inks don’t bother a pen’s parts at all. The following is simply raw data for you to do with as you please.

COLOR:                              pH Score:
Cosmic Black                      6.9
Electric Orange                  8.9
Vibrant Green                     4.4
Idyllic Blue                          3.1
Infra Red                             8.2
Ultra Violet                         7.6
Magnetic Blue                    3.7
Organic Brown                   4.5
Hypnotic Turquoise         N/A

A few of the things that stand out to us are that Cosmic Black is almost perfectly neutral. Aligning with more of our past experiments, the blues were fairly acidic. Yet, playing against stereotype, the red and purple were closer to neutral. Green remains quite acidic, which is expected, but the brown also was acidic, which wasn’t expected.

As always, I hope you found this snippet of ink data helpful to your quest for the perfect ink for you.

J. Herbin Ink Goes Under the Sun

French inks haven’t previously undergone our rigorous testing, and we were excited to give them a UV light-fast test and pH test. We purchased a small collection of a dozen different colors of J. Herbin.

We started this test on March 7, 2021, by placing a sample of 13 inks in our sunniest window.

We test these J. Herbin inks to see how well they can withstand UV light and to see where they rank on the ol’ pH meter.

Believe it or not, this was our first time writing with J. Herbin ink. What really struck us was the vibrancy of the dry ink on the page. Of the colors I liked best, Rose Cyclamen really pops with a purple-pink splendor. Dawn’s favorite color is the electric turquoise blue of Bleu Pervenche. Eclat de Saphir is a solid daily blue. And my new permanent addition to my daily writing is the Amber de Birmanie. It is an incredible orangy brown.

Unfortunately, 3 months of direct sunlight does not treat these inks well. All of the colors except the gold metallic ink bleach substantially in UV light. You can see the damage in the photo. Some of the really drastic changes include Rose Cyclamen turning bright, light bubble-gum pink; the blue-black Bleu Nuit turns a pale, faded purple and Violette Pensee disappears almost completely! Larmes de Cassis turns from purple to pink.

The following show the pH results for each ink. We actually had three different bottles of the Bleue Nuit, Orange Indien and Bleu Pervenche. The labels on the outside of the bottle were different, so we list these two inks by their label results, too. As a quick refresher in chemistry, a pH number of 0 is as acidic as a chemical can be. 7 is neutral, like pure water. And 14 is the maximum extreme of alkali/base.

Perle Noir                          7.6
Cafe des Iles                     3.4
Rose Cyclamen                4.1
Bleue Nuit                         4.0 (Green Label)
Bleue Nuit                         6.9 (White & Blue Label)
Orange Indien                  4.9 (Green Label)
Orange Indien                  6.9 (White & Blue Label)
Bleue Myosotis                 2.2
Rouge Fuchsia                 4.6
Bleu Pervenche                7.0 (White & Blue Label)
Bleu Pervenche                6.2 (Green Label)
Eclat de Saphir                 6.4
Violette Pensee                 4.4
Amber de Birmanie         5.8
Larmes de Cassis              7.1

A Potpourri of Ink Tests

As we have been conducting our ink tests, we ran into a grouping of mostly orphaned bottles that wouldn’t make for a very big story individually. So we tested them together and got them all on one page.

The ink proof sheet is on the left and the UV tested inks are on the right. Click the image above to get a better look at the ink tests.

This batch of inks was given a UV light fast test in our sunniest window from March 7, 2021, to June 7, 2021. We also tested the pH levels of the inks to see just how neutral they are. The following is all raw data that we thought you might find interesting. As we do not know the chemical composition of each ink or ink sac/converter it might go into, a pH neutral ink does not guarantee it won’t have a bad chemical reaction inside your pen. We have a professional pH tester, which we calibrated just before testing these inks. As a quick chemistry refresher, a pH of 7 is neutral like distilled water. The closer you get to 0, the more acidic the ink is. The closer you get to 14, the more alkali/base the ink is.

Surprises are the most enjoyable parts of these tests. Blues remain entirely unpredictable. One of my all-time favorite blues is Parker Penman Sapphire. Instead of fading out like most blues, it turned purple! Visconti blue fades out when thinly applied, but the thicker lines create a majestic blue-black that is even prettier than the original blue. Colorverse Quasar turned from a rich blue to a light red-purple. Omas blue did what most blues do and faded heavily. Acidity didn’t seem to effect which brands faded and didn’t. Omas was the most acidic blue at 2.3, and Colorverse was the most neutral at 7.9. Both underwent dramatic changes.

There were subtle changes in some of the inks. Visconti’s black turned a dark brown in the sunlight.

Purples fared poorly. Visconti Purple turned a pale pink. Vintage 1960s’ Waterman’s Violet almost completely disappeared. Pelikan Violet held on kinda, turning a deep reddish pink.

Waterman’s Red and Omas’ Red/Burgundy held up best. Neither seemed very effected by the sun. Also interesting was that Omas’ ink was also almost pH neutral at 7.2. We are often warned red can be the most dangerous color to put in a fountain pen. If it is pH neutral, I wonder what chemical reactions happen when it is inside a pen.

We had never previously heard of Francesco Rubinato inks before, but we loved the “Verde” green ink that was somewhere between “Shamrock Shake” and “Kelly Green.” Unfortunately, it turns into a bile-like yellow green with UV exposure.

An OLD bottle of Rotring Red was a very curious color. It was more of a brick red with a hint of orange. Was that because it was already discolored and UV exposed or was Rotring red really like that? Either way, UV didn’t effect the dry ink on the page.

The only color not yet mentioned is the Francesco Rubinato Oro (gold). This is a goupy, heavily sedimented ink filled with gold-glitter. We DO NOT recommend it for fountain pens. It is ONLY GOOD for DIP PENS. Anyhow, UV light didn’t effect it at all, and because we didn’t want to ruin our pH tester, we didn’t check its pH level, either.

Here is the table of our pH results:

Visconti Black…………………………..4.2
Visconti Blue……………………………3.9
Visconti Purple…………………………3.2
Parker Penman Sapphire…………..5.3
Francesco Rubinato Verde…………4.1
Omas Red/Burg………………………..7.2
Omas Blue……………………………….2.3
Rotring Brick Red…………………….8.5
Waterman (1960s) Violet………….3.9
Waterman Red………………………..5.9
Colorverse Quasar…………………….7.9

Pelikan Edelstein Inks Go Under the Sun

I feel that the harsh news must be tempered.

I LOVE Pelikan pens. It is my favorite modern pen brand. I LOVE Pelikan’s Edelstein inks. They are so vibrant and beautiful. I had extremely high hopes for testing them and having far better results than standard Pelikan inks. (I wrote a travel journal at 17 when visiting Germany and bought my first bottle of Pelikan Konigsblau Tinte‚ÄĒKing’s Blue Ink, or Royal Blue by regular English naming conventions. I can barely read it, the ink is so faded after nearly 30 years.)

Look how vibrant and beautiful Pelikan Edelstein inks look when fresh on the page. Do you see what happens to them after 3 months in direct sunlight?

As fate would have it, I bought out an ink collection this past winter. There were more than 270 bottles of ink. Among the bottles were 12 different colors of Edelstein ink and 3 bottles of standard Pelikan inks, which I had not previously tested. Also included in this test are two non-Pelikan related inks.

Assisting me in this endeavor was my ever-more talented fianc√© Dawn. You can immediately tell which test sheet is her’s by it being so much easier to see and read.

Pelikan inks were first started by German chemist Carl Hornemann in 1838, making Pelikan one of the oldest and most successful continuously operating ink companies in history. Yet, the company wasn’t really known as Pelikan until chemist G√ľnther Wagner took over the company in 1871 and started using the Pelikan logo. The gemstone-inspired Edelstein inks were first launched with great success in 2011.

Our ink-fast test methodology remains simple. Put one sample in a sunny window for three months and one sample in a dark, cool place and check out the differences.

WOW!

Pelikan regular inks fare badly in three months of UV light. However, No. 5 Aonibi does very well.

None of the Pelikan inks withstood 3 months of UV light from the sun very well at all.  The beautiful Amethyst turned from purple to a faded brown. Blue-grey Tanzanite also turned colors to a faded brownish. My favorite Sapphire almost completely disappeared. So did Jade, Ruby and Topaz. When applied very thickly, Aquamarine, Olivine, Mandarin and Adventurine kinda held out. Only Garnet seemed to survive mostly intact.

Moving on to the standard Pelikan inks, Brilliant Red almost disappeared completely, turning a very faded yellow. Violet and Brilliant Green also lost about 70% to 80% of their color and visibility.

Our two non-Pelikan contestants were No. 5 Aonibi, which is a lovely blue-black when fresh and Organic Studio “N,” which is a stunningly beautiful sheening blue. Although I’ve never heard of No. 5 Aonibi, it held its own quite well in this test. Of the 17 inks sampled, it won the contest of looking the most like it did when it was first put to paper.

Organic Studio “N” could easily win the contest to be my new favorite blue ink, but it inexplicably turned black in the sun. That is way better than fading to near invisibility, but I really wish it held its true color when fresh on paper.

Bic Cristal Inks Get Testing

We tested these 8 Bic Cristal pens to see how ballpoint ink holds up to 6 months of sunlight. Blue, Pink, Green, Black, Grass-Stain Green, Purple, Turquoise and Red.

During my last visit with Ink-Fast Donn at the D.C. Pen Show in 2019, he said he was starting to test ballpoint inks to see how well they hold up to UV light.

Last summer, I discovered a collection of the famous and commonly used Bic Cristal ballpoints in my fencing gear. I taught a wonderful group of teens and tweens advanced competition maneuvers and strategy, and to help them remember their lessons and opponents, I insisted they keep “Diaries of Doom” and “Tomes of Terror.” To help personalize it more, I handed out colorful notebooks and pens.

Armed with 8 colors (blue, pink, green, grass-stain green, black, turquoise, purple and red), I created a sample on Rhodia paper and taped it to a sunny window of my home at the end of August. I took it down at the end of February and was surprised by the results.

This photo doesn’t really do full justice to the sample set and proof set. The blue doesn’t look as blue as it does in real life.

Surprise #1 to me was that the black ink faded. With fountain pen inks, you can generally count on black to be the most stable and fade-proof. While it didn’t fade away entirely, it had issues.

Side by side comparisons showcase the effect of 6 months of sunlight on Bic Cristal inks.

Surprise #2: Blue! Blue fountain pen inks fade something fierce under the withering sun. Bic Cristal blue got stronger! It lost some of its blueness and turned blacker, but it held on defiantly under the sun’s gaze.

Surprise #3: Grass-Stain Green didn’t fade as much as I thought it would. It faded a little.

Red and purple faded the most. Green, turquoise and pink faded a little, but survived okay.

Reflecting on this experiment, for some reason, I always assumed oil-based ballpoint inks would be far more permanent than water-based fountain pen inks. Yet, their chemical compositions all have their frailties. Some ballpoint colors react differently than fountain pen inks, but that shouldn’t surprise me as much as it did.

Lamy Crystal Inks Undergo Light-Fast Testing

With four moves in 2 years and a ton of other life changes, we were slow to test the new Lamy Crystal fountain pen inks to see how they would handle ultraviolet light and aging on paper. Luckily, we were able to start our three-month test this July. We actually let the test run about 3 and a half months.

To run our test, we used two sheets of Rhodia paper. Each of the 10 inks was first written on to the margin with a wet-writing glass dip nib. Then a swatch was drawn with a Q-tip with the intention of having a thick patch of ink and a thinned out portion so we could see the effects of UV light. One of the sheets was saved in a cool, dark, dry place. The other sheet  was posted in the sunniest window of our office. The inks tested were called: Obsidian, Azurite, Ruby, Topaz, Amazonite, Beryl, Benitoite, Agate, Peridot and Rhodonite.

For nearly 3 and a half months, we tested the left sheet of paper with 10 Lamy Crystal inks in the direct sunlight to see how much they would or wouldn’t fade.

Here are the results. If you click the photo, you will see a larger version of the photo. It is surprising how much some of the inks change and others do not change.

To the relief of many, the Lamy Crystal Obsidian black ink holds fast. It only fades a little, unlike a suprising number of black inks. Yet, the purplish blue “Azurite” fades heavily to a reddish color that looks like if you dipped your finger in merlot and wiped it on a piece of paper.

Ruby and Topaz both held their red and sepia-brown colors very well during their time in the sun.

Peridot landed right in the middle. If the green was laid down thickly, it held. If it was thin, it faded.

Benitoite might also have a middle grade for its time in the sun. It was the only color that got darker! Benitoite is a blue-black. It lost most of its blue in the transition, but its black got stronger.

Amazonite is an odd color change. To me, it is one of the two most beautiful colors when laid down fresh. It is a very vibrant green-blue. And when set thickly on the page, it remains dark after time in the sun. Yet, the odd part is that the green gets lost in the sun and a faded blue remains. Normally, blue is the color we’ve seen disappear.

Beryl is my other favorite color when fresh. It is a lovely purply pink. Yet, after 3 months of sunlight, it completely changed to a very faded red. Even the thick/dark parts of the ink faded to a red, which itself is a faded color though remained darker.

The two colors that faded the most were Agate and Rhodonite. Rhodonite starts a beautiful reddish-pink and faded to a barely visible pink. The Agate was a light grey that actually turned light brown also fading to nearly invisible.

Hopefully, this information helps you with your ink obsession. Happy writing!

Pen Show Revolution in Chicago

There was something new in the air this year at the 2018 Chicago Pen Show, and I liked it: new blood, innovation, advancements on the writing experience.

This year’s Bootlegger’s Sacrament and last year’s Chicago Blue are great examples of city-themed ink from Papier Plume and KWZ, respectively.

Long-time readers of this blog know there has been a rift between the generations of pen collectors for some time. The past few years in Chicago have attempted to address those issues and bridge that divide. This year seemed to succeed in many ways.

Alcohol helps. Really tasty expensive alcohol helps even more. Building on the success of last year’s scotch and bourbon tasting, this year saw about three times as many pen collectors (and some curious car collectors from a nearby auction) trying out top tier scotches and bourbons. The bottles ran from $50 to $120 or more a piece, but all were welcome to try. Many dealers brought in a bottle, but it was Mario Campa and a friend of his who curated a considerable tasting collection. They even brought in mini GlenCairn Glass snifters for us to use and keep! (Thanks to everybody who shared a bottle!)

With liquor to keep everyone together, the lobby of the hotel was filled with vintage collectors and new pen users rubbing elbows and having a great time sharing stories and pen passions.

If you are a pen show circuit regular, you will have been pleased to see and chat with most of the regular vendors who specialize in vintage pens and preowned luxury pens. However, what impressed me about this show were all the new vendors who seemingly came out of the woodwork. A young man named Ralph Reyes came selling custom-made nibs, the likes of which none of us had ever seen before. His triple-decker music nibs were the hit of the show. Yes, three music nibs stacked one on top of the other! They were easily the smoothest, wettest things I’ve ever written with. He sold out long before I got to him, and nobody on the vintage or modern side of the show had ever heard of him before.

This is the handmade Musubi journal I purchased. The cover is woven and the Tomoe River pages are hand stitched in the binding! That’s also a Pelikan 620 Stockholm pen before it.

Also coming out of seemingly nowhere…although Singapore is hardly nowhere…was a man named Darrell representing a company called Musubi. Musubi makes hand-stitched journals with hand-woven covers. Foregoing the modern use of book-making technology, Musubi uses centuries old¬†bookbinding traditions for what amount to custom-made journals using Tomoe River paper! I had to have one.

Renso, of Papier Plume fame, made two new inks exclusively for this year’s Chicago Pen Show. Those were “Da Blue” (think the deep blue-black of the Bear’s helmets) and “Bootlegger’s Sacrement.” To my great surprise, Renso told me I was the “inspiration” for Bootlegger’s Sacrament. In September, at the Dallas Pen Show, I told him what a kick I got out of 2017’s Chicago-themed inks “Ivy Green” and “Lake Michigan Blue.” I told him there were countless themes and colors for the city, and that I really hoped he’d try for a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Red. Sure enough, he decided to give it a try. Although he didn’t quite get the blood red that he wanted in time for this year’s show, he did create this beautiful red-wine-colored ink, which became Bootlegger’s Sacrament.

These were just a tiny sampling of the new vendors or more traditional vendors bringing entirely new products to market. It was exciting to walk the show and find all of this great stuff.

Of course the regulars to the show had great hidden gems, too. One friend discovered a Sheaffer Snorkel with an exceedingly rare music nib that most of us snorkel fans would have killed for.

My absolute favorite event of the show was Lisa Vanness’ Cinco de Ink-o party on Saturday night! It was like speed dating for pen geeks. There were 7 or 8 tables set up with an expert at each. The partygoers sat at one table for about 15 minutes learning from the expert. When time ran out, they’d get up and move on to the next expert. Anna of the Well Appointed Desk taught the joy of developing ink color rings, Nick Pang taught the basics of copperplate history, Paul Erano introduced people to vintage pens, Ralph Reyes and the folks from Franklin Christoph each showed off their nibs, Darrell from Musubi taught how to identify and grade paper quality, a Philippino woman whose name escapes me had a beautiful class teaching how to make your journal a work of art instead of just a written record of your life and there were several others who I didn’t get to visit, as I was asked to replace one exhausted teacher with an impromptu class about vintage pen filling systems. The entire event was a great opportunity for all to slow down and get to know each other and learn new aspects of the hobby they never knew before. It was wonderful!

If this is the future of pen shows, I can’t wait for more.

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.

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.