Friday, October 22, 2010

Ink? We don't need no stinking ink!

Ink? What qualifies me to be a reviewer of ink? My normal attention to this topic is isolated to cursing the lack of ink in the pen I grab to jot down a phone message. Basically, it is a binary process for me: Is there ink, or is there not ink?

While serving in the Army, I did develop a phobia of using any color but black, since for some reason blue ink (or heaven forbid any shade of red!) was likely to inspire the wrath of some anal retentive lieutenant. However, in the years since then I have gently convinced myself that it is OK to use other colors. Still, it was never a question of quality; just whether I could find one when I needed it.

Then, I met a guy named Chas Wallace. (CW for short.) He is a fellow Filthy Piker, and a connoisseur of fine pens and ink. He has penned a series of articles for the Piker Press reviewing different brands and shades of ink. When he reviewed an ink called Noodler's Heart of Darkness, he remarked that the bottle of ink came with a free fountain pen. (Apparently no longer available...) I decided that a free pen was a good enough reason to try the arcane writing instrument out.

Being a child of the '80s I had never owned a fountain pen, though I remember finding one in a pile of junk in the back of a truck my dad bought once. While trying to figure it out, I squirted ink all over the floor and the pen was quickly disposed of. When I got my new pen, I was fascinated with how it worked. This particular pen must have been specially designed for inexperienced users like me. The filling process was as easy as unscrewing the nib from the barrel and pouring the ink in. No siphoning or bladders or anything like that. And I loved the way it wrote. The sound and the feel of the nib scratching across the paper fascinated me and inspired me to actually try and write neatly, instead of my normal impatient scribble. I even printed off a handwriting practice sheet and practiced the alphabet a couple of times.

Fast forward a few months. The managing editor of the Piker Press mentions to me that she has recieved some free samples of fountain pen ink from an ink company and wonders if I would be interested in some. Never one to pass up something free, of course I wanted some. Then she set the hook: If I took the free ink, I owed the ink company a review of it on my blog.

So, here is my review. Not that I am any kind of an authority on fountain pens or ink, but I will give it my best shot.

The ink showed up about a week later. It had been repackaged by Madame Editor, but despite her very careful bubble-wrapped packing job, the ink had leaked all over the box. I checked the bottle carefully to see if it had in fact cracked, but it seemed to be intact. The ink turned out to be Naples Blue from Private Reserve Ink.

Next, I felt I needed a fresh pen to try out the new ink. Honestly, I am not sure exactly how to change ink types in a fountain pen yet. I will have to consult with RW on that for future reference. For now, it was a good excuse to go out and buy a new fountain pen. RW is fond of discussing his pens, including one he paid over $300 for. I don't have the disposable income for that, so I went with the X450 Kurve Vanilla Fountain Pen for around $12. When it arrived I was a bit shocked at how very beautiful and solid it felt. I was very excited to get the ink in it and get writing. However, my inexperience with fountain pens became very evident here.

The instructions that came with the ink told me to dip the entire nib of the pen in the ink and then turn the knob to suck the ink up into the pen. This turned out to be a huge mess. I had prepared myself with plenty of paper towels, but my hands still got completely green. Oh well, on to the writing. (Sorry for the tiny image of the actual writing - blame Blogger. But if you click on it, you get a full-size image that is a bit more helpful.)

The ink itself is a nice bluish-green color. My daughter calls it Turquoise. But it seems to soak into the paper, leaving little strings of color leaching out from the letters like spider webs. Is that the ink or the pen? Since this is the only ink I have ever used in this pen, I can't really say. The ink dries moderately fast, it smears if wiped immediately after writing, but after a few seconds seems to become set.

So is this good ink? Hmm... I don't know. I used it for quite a while, wrote several pages in my journal with it and it performs as good as any other ink I have used, except for the spider-web thing it does...

Well, does that count as an ink review? I hope so, though I seriously doubt I will be getting any more free ink to try out. Oh well, I now have three or four bottles of the stuff and am doubtful that I will ever use it all. Unless the Apocalypse shows up and all ball-point pen manufacturing grinds to a halt...

Happy Writing!

© 2010 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

1 comment:

  1. It could also be the paper. I've seen markedly different results from different papers, and "expensive" is not always "better".