Tag Archives: #inkphtest

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 was 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!