Tag Archives: #inkreview

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.

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¬Ę. 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 24.6¬ļC.

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.