Tag Archives: #inkph

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.

Iroshizuku Ink Gets UV & pH Tested

No one should be surprised by the meteoric rise of Iroshizuku inks on the fountain pen scene. Japan’s finest ink makers have created dozens of colors and hues that offer vibrancy and shadowing while never clogging a vintage or modern fountain pen.

We picked up 24 bottles of this amazing ink and have submitted them to our rigorous UV and pH testing. Each of the following inks was placed in one my sunniest windows between July 16, 2021 and October 16, 2021. We calibrated our pH meter and tested these inks at 75.6ºF at 50% humidity. As a quick reminder, on a pH test, 0 is the extreme limit for acidic, 7 is neutral and 14 is the extreme end of alkali or base. Click the individual photos for a closer look.

In many of our tests, blue inks tend to be very susceptible to UV light. Not Iroshizuku! Unfortunately, many of its other colors fade badly. The images certainly explain more than I can. Nevertheless, I love the peachy salmon of a late summer sunset that is Fuyu Gaki ink, and like a sunset it fades almost entirely. The nearly emerald green of Shin Ryoku turns turquoise. The blue-black Fuyu Syogun turned a light-fog grey. And the black Take Sumi stayed dark but turned dark brown.

When it comes to pH, these are simply raw data points. We do not know specifically how they interact with the chemistry of the ink sacs and piston parts of your pen. Most of these Japanese inks are on the shallow end of the base depth chart.

Color                        pH
Murasaki-Shikibu  8.1
Chiku Rin                 8.8
Shin Ryoku              8.4
Juro Jin                    9.0
Shin-Kai                   8.4
Asa Gao                    8.4
Fuku Gaki                8.6
Yu Yake                    8.5
Kosa Mosu               9.1
Momiji                      8.9
Tsutsuji                    8.7
Yamabudo               9.1
Syo-Ro
Ku-Jaku                    8.5
Tsuki-Yo                   8.5
Ama-Iro                    8.8
Fuyu Syogun           8.5
Kiri-Same                9.0
Kon-Peki                  8.7
Tsuyu-Kusa             8.7
Aji-Sai                      9.2
Tsu Kushi                9.0
Ina-ho                      9.0
Take Sumi               8.3

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

Whoa! Montblanc Inks…Beware!

Happy New Year, everybody!

Sorry for the long absence. December and early 2022 have been quite the rollercoaster. Happily, all is well now, and we hope to be back to rockin’ and rollin’ the ink-o-sphere.

Wow! Three months in the sun fades the pigment right out of modern Montblanc inks. Mont Blanc ink burns worse than I do in sunlight.

The biggest shock to me in Dawn’s and my ink tests comes from Montblanc! At $26 retail for a 60ml bottle of ink, you’d think you’d get something close to perfection…especially with the company’s luxury marketing! It is worth it to do a little math here. A 60ml bottle of ink at $26 per bottle means the price of a single milliliter of ink is 43¢. A U.S. gallon is a shade over 3,785 milliliters. Ergo, a gallon of Montblanc ink costs $1,627.55! A gallon of gasoline here in Norwich is $3.39, and a gallon of milk can be found for $4.29. It will seem as though gas and milk are a better bargain, especially after these results.

Now before you start thinking I’m being completely unfair to Montblanc, I’ve always liked its ink. At pen shows I use it as my test ink for anyone wanting to dip a nib to try out a pen. When people asked me what was one of the safest brands of ink…based on no research but word of mouth around pen shows…I’d usually tell them they could trust Montblanc best.

I hereby rescind that proclamation of safety. I got my first wind that trouble was in the air when a customer returned a pen to me after only 3 or 4 months of use with Montblanc Mystery Black ink. Its rubber ink sac had melted. At the time, I thought that was weird and worried the customer had used something far more toxic and then tried to cover it up with Montblanc Mystery Black. Nope. I doubt that now.

Back in July, 2021, I stuck a sample of 8 new bottles of modern Montblanc ink swatches in my sunniest window. These inks included: Oyster Grey, Midnight Blue, Irish Green, Toffee Brown, Royal Blue, Lavender Purple, Burgundy Red and Mystery Black.

After only 3 months in the sun, nearly all faded out! Royal blue turned a faded green. Irish Green and  Lavender Purple almost went invisible.

When Dawn and I tested the fresh ink’s pH, we were equally surprised. For a quick chemistry refresher. Everything is measured in pH on a scale from 0 (extremely acidic) to 14 (a base that is extremely alkali). 7 (distilled water) is perfectly neutral. We calibrated our pH tester at 24.6ºC.

Here are our results from the Montblanc ink pH Test:

Mystery Black          4.3
Royal Blue                3.8
Burgundy Red         4.8
Midnight Blue         4.2
Irish Green               3.9
Oyster Grey              3.9
Toffee Brown           5.6
Lavender Purple     3.8

All of these inks are quite acidic. Blue and black inks are supposed to be the safest inks. They are very acidic in Montblanc! Now, we aren’t chemists. We do not know how the chemistry between the ink sacs, pistons and converters interacts with the ink. Yet, this raw data casts doubt on the safety of Montblanc ink. Perhaps it is the special “cleaner” Montblanc uses to keep inkfeeds clear that is to blame for the acidity. The company recommends only using MB ink in MB pens. Perhaps there is more to that than just their greed of simply wanting to sell more ink.

As we still have a few of the old bottles of Montblanc ink from the 1990s, we didn’t do a UV test on them, but we did a pH test and it was even worse.

Black          2.2
Turquoise 2.8
Red            6.5
Green        3.0

Maybe you’ve had great results. I certainly don’t want to ruin your faith in Montblanc ink, if it has always worked for you. However, it might not be the gold standard I once thought it was. The information here is simply raw data, but it seems striking.

Levenger’s Ink Kicks Ass!

Mathematical and computer genius Alan Turing famously said, “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” In addition to being one of my all-time favorite quotes about people, it seems to apply to the world of fountain pen inks, too.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of Levenger’s ink left in the sun for 3 months and the proof sample saved in the dark.

Ink collectors today understandably go ga-ga for Iroshizuku, Diamine, ColorVerse, J. Herbin, Noodlers and many other brands. Yet, often overlooked, is Levenger’s Ink. In many respects, Levenger’s kicked off the ink-color craze a decade or two before our current manufacturers and spectrum were readily available. Levenger’s has had scores of inks of every hue available since some time in the 1990s. Better yet, they are far more affordable than the competition.

Nevertheless, I kinda blew them off…until I stumbled into a large collection for sale. When Dawn and I started testing them for UV light fastness and pH balance, we were blown away.

We started testing 17 colors in March. From March 7, 2021, through June 7, 2021, we hung these samples in the sunniest window of our house. Afterward, we tested the ink still in the bottles with a pH meter calibrated to 21ºC.

Here is a side-by-side image of Levenger’s inks left in the sun for 3 months and the sample proof left in the dark.

Without a doubt, these are the most consistently light-fast inks we have tested to date. Even the worst-hit inks were still very close to their original colors. Blue Bahama likely lost the most vibrancy, but it is still easily read and distinguished. Cardinal Red faded to a rich pink, but it is still quite legible. Raven Black, Gemstone Green and Greystoke got DARKER in the sun!

Given the great results from the light-fast testing, we feared the worst with the pH tests. BUT! We were only further dazzled. Many of the inks were very close to neutral, and none of the inks veered off the spectrum of acidic or alkali.

As a basic chemistry refresher, 7 in a pH test is neutral. Distilled water is 7. The closer to 0 you go, the more acidic something is. In the opposite direction going up to 14 is more base or alkali. In theory, you don’t want an acid or a base sitting in your ink sac for too long. Yet, one thing we always like to remind people is that regardless of what the pH result is, we do not know the chemistry of the ink nor how it interacts with your rubber ink sacs, celluloids or converters and the like. Depending on the chemical reaction between the ink and what it is resting in, a neutral ink can do damage and an acidic ink might be safe. The pH measurement is simply a data point we find fascinating, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate which inks are safest for your pens. With that in mind, here are our Levenger pH results:

Ink Color              pH Measurement
True Teal                        7.1
Empyrean                      6.8
Blue Bahama                 6.6
Skies of Blue                 7.3
Cobalt Blue                   8.0
Regal                             7.2
Amethyst                      8.4
Raven Black                 8.3
Claret                            8.7
Pomegranate               8.3
Shiraz                           8.7
Cardinal Red               6.8
Blazing Sunset            6.7
Cocoa                           7.3
Forest                           7.1
Gemstone Green        7.2
Greystoke                    7.4

As always, I hope you find this information to be interesting and enjoyable.

Strong Enough for a Man; pH Balanced for a Fountain Pen?

One of the many great aspects of marrying a scientist is the gadgetry. Intrigued by my ink-fast tests  with UV light, Dawn decided to get a professional pH meter to test our ink for corrosiveness. If you remember basic chemistry from high school…which I barely do…you will remember that we have acid on one side of a scale and base/alkali on the other. The scale ranges from 0 to 14. 7 is neutral like distilled water. The further you move away from 7 in either direction is more corrosive. The 0 side is acid and the 14 side is base/alkali.

You would think that all inks are hovering around a 7 to be safe in your pen and on paper. We certainly did.

Holy cats! We were wrong.

First you saw these Pelikan Edelstein inks in our UV ink fast test. Now we’re going back and checking their pH balance!

For years I told people…as I was told by many pen collectors and dealers before me…that you can always trust simple blue and black inks from the major pen manufacturers. However, just our initial testing indicates that might not be the best advice any longer.

Before I go on, let me preface the following by saying that we are not chemists. We feel confident in our results from our testing. However, we do not know the chemistry of the ink interacting with ink sacs, celluloid, gaskets, seals and other assemblies inside your pens. Our pH testing is simply raw data we gather from bottles of ink we have collected. Yet, it might help shed some light if you are experiencing trouble with certain inks interacting poorly with your vintage or modern pens over time.

Having recently written about Pelikan Edelstein inks in an ink-fast test, I thought I would revisit these inks for our pH testing. For those keeping score at home our meter and inks were tested and calibrated at 24ºC.

Pelikan Edelstein Amethyst               5.6
Pelikan Edelstein Aquamarine          3.3
Pelikan Edelstein Aventurine             6.4
Pelikan Edelstein Garnet                   6.5
Pelikan Edelstein Jade                       5.3
Pelikan Edelstein Olivine                    6.0
Pelikan Edelstein Ruby                       7.9
Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire                 3.7
Pelikan Edelstein Smokey Quartz       6.5
Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite                7.3
Pelikan Edelstein Topaz                      6.4
Pelikan Old Version Violet                   2.7
Pelikan Modern Violet                         3.4
Pelikan Brilliant Red                           6.9

Again, I’m not a chemist, and I have not studied how these inks interact chemically with ink sacs and other pen parts.

That said, what really strikes me as fascinating is that the “traditionally safe” blues such as Sapphire and Aquamarine are really acidic. I love Edelstein Sapphire and use it more than any of these other colors, and I would never have guessed it was as acidic at it is.

Also fascinating, I’ve been told for years never to put red ink in an ink sac, but Garnet, Ruby and Brilliant Red are among the closest inks to test near pH neutral.

Again, the chemicals in the ink might interact differently with the chemical compositions of our pens, but we find this to be a really fun look into our favorite inks. Many more UV and pH tests to come!