Eyedropper update, and a little about my journalling habits

I posted last year about the Airmail 69L eyedropper – a simple, well made, large capacity pen – and I thought I would write a little follow-up.

Since then my journalling and writing practices have become a bit more regular. There are three pens that I need at any one time to be fully efficient:

  1. A writing pen – this can be almost anything depending on my tastes at the time, as long as it is loaded with some reasonable ink that isn’t red, and I have it with me.

  2. A red editing pen. When I am “processing” my journal I read over previous entries and add tasks based on them, or copy them up. When I do this I write what I have done next to the entry with the date that I did it (e.g. “16/2/2012 tasked”) and, when everything on a page is dealt with, I cross the page number out. I do all this in red. Sometimes I write little comments on the page as well. These are often sarcastic.

  3. A highlighter, optionally, to emphasise things while I am writing them, as immediate editing.

For #3 I use the Pelikan Duo highlighter. That one is a easy choice. There isn’t a lot else that the Duo is actually for.

For #2, I played with a few solutions, but ended up buying another Airmail with a red cap that I fill with Noodler’s Empire Red, slightly diluted. An editing pen needs to have a fine nib, since you may have to fit notes into limited space, and it needs to reliably work regardless of how long it was since you last picked it up, since I edit quite unpredictably. The Airmail works very well for both of these. It doesn’t dry up easily and if it does, it’s very easy to re-prime – just unscrew it a bit, point it downwards, screw it up until a drop of ink appears on the nib, then turn it to point upwards and finish tightening it.

For #1 I use whatever pen I have at hand, but generally I carry a spare in my bag, and that has ended up being the original Airmail most of the time, for similar reasons – it writes reliably whenever I need it, and it’s better to have a spare with a fine nib to cover more possible uses (a pen can be too broad for a purpose, say drawing diagrams, but it’s much rarer that it is too fine).

Increasingly frequently, I think “you know what, I can’t be bothered with another pen, I’m just going to use the Airmail”. I still load it exclusively with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, which I rarely put in anything else. I have a large bottle of HoD which has an eyedropper built into the cap – this makes it ideal for filling eyedropper pens, but awkward to fill other pens from. (The eyedropper arrangement comes out of the bottle covered with ink, so has to be wiped down or put somewhere impermeable if one is going to fill a pen straight from the bottle, and this always means getting ink all over my fingers.) HoD is an excellent black that suits almost all occasions, being fast drying, dense and permanent. The pen itself has proved to have just as good a nib as I thought initially – fine but smooth, really quite amazing for a sub £10 pen – and the shape and balance make it very easy to write with. It’s really only when I have a fancy to use a new ink in a broad nib as part of some pretentious writerly mood that I use something else.

Perhaps this means I am getting boring, but the Airmail has certainly ended up high on my favourite pen list. I gave it a positive review when I first got it, and a year later I’m glad to see I was right. So, buy one. Or more. I may get some in different colours.

Two very dark Diamine inks – Eclipse and Denim

Two months between posts is really not acceptable. It is not as if I have a shortage of un-remarked-on pieces of stationery. On the other hand it is a huge cliché of infrequent bloggers that they pop up to say how awful they are for not having made an entry, and then don’t make any entries for the next year, so I’d best not do that. Whoops!

…anyway, I got some ink recently. (“What ink did you get?”) I got four inks from Diamine, out of their new range. Diamine is a terrific company, by the way. They don’t make inks with extreme chemical qualities that allow them to stop bullets and raise the dead; they do, however, make nice inks in a huge range of delightful colours that behave well in any pen at reasonable prices, and they release new ones as well rather than sitting around with a traditional range. (They also make Diamine Registrars’ Ink, which is one of the best iron gall inks one can buy.)

Here are two of the inks. The other two were Graphite – a greyish green – and Wild Strawberry – yet another red. I have no idea why I keep buying red inks, but I think that I have more of them than I have blues, which is another colour that I pretty much never use.

I have made these scans at 300 DPI, but note that, on the page, in anything less than intense direct sunlight, the inks seem much darker than they do here. One of the frustrations of writing about ink, rather than with ink, is that photographs and scans just never properly demonstrate what the ink looks like. Photographs are mostly too dark, except in the best of light, and it is quite late here at the moment. Scans are always too bright. It’s a tragic injustice if you ask me.

Eclipse

DiamineEclipse

This is an extremely dark and muted violet. Regular readers may be aware that I am fond of purple inks, and am keen on the J Herbin “Poussiere De Lune”. If you liked that but thought “you know, it isn’t all that dark really, and perhaps it could be a little wetter because it feels very dry to the page” then you should immediately buy some Eclipse. It is a very nice writer, with excellent flow yet not being too wet, and works well on even fairly rubbish paper. This would, I think, be a good ink if one were in a professional situation but wished to show a little bit of individuality, though really, just using a fountain pen at all marks you out as “fascinatingly artistic and eccentric” and/or “bit bloody odd, quite frankly, do they ever talk to customers? have you run a CRB check?”

Denim

DiamineDenim

This is another dark ink, though not quite as dark as the Eclipse, and also blue instead of purple. It is not amazingly muted but is not a bright blue, and perhaps leans towards the indigo end. Again, like the Eclipse it is very well-behaved and a lovely practical writing ink. I used both of these inks in this years aborted NaNoWriMo and produced thousands of words with both without having any smearing or flow issues.

With blue inks I either like them to be quite dark and low colour saturation (J Herbin Bleu Nuit, R&K Salix) or absurdly bright (Bay State Blue, Waterman South Seas Blue). Denim falls into the former category. I think that it behaves better than the Bleu Nuit and is also a better colour, slightly darker – I would do you a colour comparison but unfortunately my bottle of Bleu Nuit fell to the dread plague of SITB1, and I am unwilling to load up a pen with Quorn.

A return to form

As a note, I have been a bit annoyed with some of Diamine’s “New Century” highly-saturated2 inks which take forever to dry and don’t even have the justification of some of the Noodler’s inks that they can survive in volcanoes. If you, too, have been annoyed by this, you will be happy with both the Eclipse and the Denim, which are both proper shading inks with distinctive colour that actually dry in less than a minute.

They are not waterproof, but then, you could always not spill water on your writing. I have increased respect for water-soluble inks after knocking over a bottle of Herbin Eclat De Saphir on Sunday which splashed all over the carpet of my rented flat. Not that it has disappeared, but it is gradually disappearing, with the application of water, paper towels and swear-words.

Where can I buy these wonderful inks?

Well, I am glad you asked me that. You can order them directly from Diamine in either little 30ml plastic bottles (which I prefer to test things) or big Art Deco 80ml glass ones by going to the Diamine inks site. It is not the nicest-looking site in the world, but it works. For foreign types, I believe that some other sites do distribute Diamine inks and may charge you less in postage.


  1. Stuff In The Bottle – a mysterious fungal infection that means that clumps of rubbery crud grow around and within ink. Not something that one really wants to get within a pen. Since the Nanny State banned certain biocidal chemicals from use in ink for pathetic reasons like “they give factory workers cancer”, the risk of this has increased from “effectively none” to “basically none”. However, it can happen to small manufacturers. 

  2. Saturated in writing terms, relating to colour shading and variation, rather than HSB-type colour saturation, though the two often go together. 

Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter Fountain Pen

This speciality fountain pen was released by Pelikan last year, but I hadn’t ordered one until now, when I just gave up trying not to. The concept is that it is (a) a demonstrator – i.e. has a transparent outer casing (b) has a BB (double broad) nib and (c) is to be loaded with highlighter ink. Yes, it is a highlighter fountain pen.

It comes in an absolutely lovely display box. This is the nicest packaging that I have seen for a fountain pen – even the fancier ones I have tend to come in little “jewelry boxes” which could contain anything, well, anything long and thin. In contrast, the M205 Duo’s packaging is very specific to the particular pen and suits it perfectly.

Pelikan M205 Duo box - 1 Pelikan M205 Duo box - 3 Pelikan and ink in display box

The pen itself is a standard M205, except that it is a yellow demonstrator. (If you have an M200, which I do, it’s basically the same pen but with silver trim instead of gold.) It’s smaller than it looks in the pictures, but not too small even for those of us with fat fingers, and extremely lightweight. It seems quite orange in the picture below, but it isn’t, really, that orange – that is the light.

The Duo comes with a 30ml bottle of Pelikan radioactive1 fluorescent highlighter ink, and again, we come up against the limits of photography: it is not as green as it looks in the photograph below. Though it does still have a bit of a green tinge.

Pelikan M205 highlighter fountain pen with ink

Here is a scan of some writing with it, which is heavily adjusted to try to make it a bit more obvious the difference in line widths. It’s basically impossible to scan fluorescent ink and have it look like real life. Let me emphasise that it this is just for nib size comparisons. What does the ink look like in practice? Imagine a particularly bright yellow highlighter that has not had a chance to dry out at all, and has been freshly uncapped. When considering the benefits of this sort of pen for use in practice, imagine that it will continue to be like that indefinitely, rather than drying out a bit and being disappointing (which has always happened with ink highlighters that I’ve used) and if it ever starts to run low you can just top it up. This is the benefit of a fountain pen highlighter, the regular flow.

The pen writes very smoothly, and if you are after a BB nib for other purposes apart from highlighting, an M205 BB nib unit will likely please you. The line is certainly thinner than you would normally get from a normal highlighter, which means that it is best for underlining and circling, but you can colour in larger sections if you really want to, and the size gives the advantage that you can also write short notes with it.

I was asked when showing this off whether you could use another ink and the answer is of course yes – it’s a piston filler and you can load it with any ink you fancy. You can also change the nib for a narrower one; I bought mine from Pelikan Pens, and they offer nib replacements pre-order, or you could buy another nib later on (Pelikans are very easy to change nibs with, the units just screw out and in again).

Why would you buy this?

The question is a fair one. I bought mine because… all right, I can’t really explain it, I just loved the idea. I don’t even do much highlighting, though I will be making an effort to do more.

You might buy it if

  1. you just love the idea;
  2. you do a lot of highlighting, have some disposable income, and want something high-quality to highlight with. This isn’t just a novelty item, it really is a good highlighting pen. The ink flow is regular and the nib, while broad, is still a lot more precise than a squishy felt tip. I couldn’t honestly tell you that it would save any money, but it would be a more effective tool.
  3. you want to buy a present for somebody who does a lot of highlighting, and likes pens. The box really is lovely. Do you have any academics, lawyers, students or other people who review a lot of paper papers in your life? Is it their birthday soon? Are you sure they wouldn’t rather have a case of wine? Bear in mind that you can buy this as well as a case of wine. Go on, they deserve it. It’s only money. You can’t take it with you.

  1. Ink may not actually be radioactive. 

Rohrer & Klingner Salix

R&K ink bottles - 1 Since I first discovered that there were inks apart from black Quink, blue Quink and red biro, I have been fond of blue black inks, despite the problem of them rarely actually being blue or black. For instance, Waterman Blue Black, which is one of the most used, dries to be a distinct turquoise, which is sort of vaguely blueish I suppose but has no connection to the name at all. (Quink Blue Black is apparently identical to it nowadays, incidentally, due to companies being consolidated – I certainly can’t see any difference.)

I first tried Rohrer & Klingner inks when I saw that they had an purple iron-gall ink called Scabiosa, which is rather an unpleasant name for a nice ink that behaves much like J Herbin Poussière de Lune but with more shading and permanence. I don’t hear an awful lot about R&K inks on the net, but the three that I’ve tried so far seem to be good performers – all fairly dry so you do need a fairly wet pen.

R&K Salix vs some other inks - 1 Anyway, Salix. As you can see from the pictures in this post I tested it first with a Lamy 2000 with a broad nib, which was loaded with Lamy Blue Black when the Salix arrived. It behaves very much like Lamy BB – I’ve read that it is “drier” but I can’t see that myself. It flows well and consistently.

As an iron gall ink, just like Lamy BB, it doesn’t feather or bleed even on this relatively cheap paper, and shades significantly. Drying time is good and fast, there is no smearing and it is extremely waterproof. (Soaking the paper in water and swooshing it around a bit just resulted in the paper tearing rather than the ink.)

R&K Salix vs some other inks - 2 The major difference between it and the Lamy BB is that it’s noticeably more blue, though not really blue in comparison to blue inks. (Lamy BB simply is not blue when it dries, I’m sorry. At least it’s not turquoise.) I prefer either dark or muted blues, myself, so that’s fine for me, but if you’re looking for an iron gall Waterman Blue this is not it. It’s quite similar to Pelikan Blue Black in colour; it reminded me a bit of J Herbin Bleu Nuit, a little greyer.

I then tried it with a glass dip pen, and the results were much less distinct. The dip pen tends to produce a quite thick line of ink, and when thick layers of iron gall ink dry, they go a dark black regardless of what other colours are present, so the comparison is not that useful, but I made it anyway. I also threw in some Pelikan BB and some Diamine Registrar’s Ink too.

So far I’m fond of this ink – respectable colour but with enough shading to stop it being boring, more vibrant on the page than the Lamy BB (which does get a bit dull to look at after a while) and with all the handy qualities of other iron gall inks, waterproofness, no feathering etc. I think I’ll keep it in the 2000 B for a while, or at least until I get some my next bottle of ink.

Diamine Majestic Blue ink

majestic blue nano pagemajestic blue ciak journal I have had some believable recommendations for Diamine Majestic Blue, so I decided to try a bottle. You can see the results to the right, there; the full page is with a Lamy 2000 B nib, as part of my NaNoWriMo effort, and the other is part the same pen and also another Lamy 2000 with an M nib.

The colour of this ink is extremely pleasant – and this is speaking as somebody who doesn’t generally like blue inks. It’s distinguished, vibrant and noticeable without being garish. The ink has a lovely metallic reddish sheen as it dries, too, which shows when the light is at certain angles. It flows extremely well, generously and reliably.

It would be pretty much a perfect ink if it wasn’t for the fact that it smears not only just after it has been written with, but for literally days afterwards, even with a dry finger. For my NaNoWriMo I was writing on 90gsm Oxford paper, which is relatively “shiny” though not amazingly so; no other ink I used had that problem to anywhere near that degree. I did try it on several other papers, for example my Habana journal, with the same result. The ink seems to sit on top of the paper forever instead of properly drying and settling in.

I’m afraid I can’t use an ink that smears to that degree. You can see the smearing on the NaNoWriMo page – that wasn’t due to any sort of effort on my part, just opening and closing the book, moving my hand across it occasionally while counting words perhaps. It’s a shame, since apart from this smeariness it’s pretty much perfect, with a gorgeous colour and a lovely feel when writing. I may experiment in the future with diluting it, which might possibly help the smearing issue.

A comparison of Sundry Reds

Having recently received (a) a number of nice new red inks and (b) a nice new scanner, I thought I would combine the two and compare a few different reds to each other.

Red ink comparisons

A selection of different red inks, next to each other.

Continue reading

Diamine Amazing Amethyst vs some other purples

“Amazing Amethyst” does sound a bit like a type of chewing gum, but Diamine’s Amazing Amethyst ink is really quite a pleasant one, if not truly amazing. For reference I compared it to a couple of other purplish inks – J Herbin Poussière de Lune, and Diamine Imperial Purple. Unfortunately the pictures don’t really show very much difference, but you might as well see them, considering I took them.

P. de Lune shades well and dries to a greyish mauve, which while pleasant and easy to read might be a little too muted for some people. On the other hand, Diamine Imperial Purple is a very vibrant ink with a strong purple colour. I found that the Amethyst was between the two in a very usable way – not so bright that it looks like paint or a gel pen, but slightly more colourful than P. de Lune. If you’ve tried the latter and thought “hmm, this is just slightly too grey for me, I’d like a little more colour” then you should get hold of some of this. I could certainly write quite a bit with this ink without it annoying me.

Cillit Bang vs ink

Inspired by a post on FountainPenNetwork where somebody had exposed a number of different inks to not only water, but bleach, I decided to do something similar with a selection of the black inks that I possess (and also Noodler’s El Lawrence, which is “dirty pond algae” coloured rather than black) some of which claimed to be “archival”, “bulletproof” and similarly impressive things. Would they turn out to flee at the hint of strong alkalis? To test, I wrote the same things on two sides of a piece of paper, cut the paper in half, put one half in the sink and sprayed it repeatedly with Cillit Bang over a period of fifteen or twenty minutes.

Bang! And the ink… well, in general, was not gone, really. Waterman Black and Viva black, neither of which claim to be unusually permanent, were affected. The Waterman Black faded quite a lot and turned blue; it does this when exposed to water as well, though less than that. It has not vanished but has definitely moved from “readable” to “possibly decipherable”.

The Viva ink I bought in a pack of fifty short international cartridges from a branch of Rymans, for just over a pound. It is made in Slovenia by a company called Vivapen, and is actually really good ink – nice dense colour to it, as you can see quite permanent, and for just over 2p a cartridge one can’t go wrong. (I have a suspicion that they make ink for other companies as well which is rebranded.) It just turned green and faded a bit – more durable than the Waterman certainly.

The others really didn’t care in the slightest about being bleached. The two Noodler’s inks at the bottom were ever so slightly paler at the end; the Sharpie marker had spread slightly on the paper; the Sailor Kiwa-Guro “nanocarbon” ink was entirely unaffected. Also note that whatever ink they use to mark the grid on Rhodia pads also didn’t care.

In fact, really, this was one of the more boring experiments that I have done. Sorry. The only thing that’s been learnt here is that Waterman Black is not bulletproof but doesn’t claim to be, and that a Slovenian ink that you’ve likely never heard of is quite durable. Next time I will try concentrated sulphuric acid or a laser or exposure to Martian polar winds.

Ink vs water

Going through my loose papers just now I noticed a little comparison of the water-related durability of some assorted inks that I performed a while ago. With a few different pens, I write on a piece of Rhodia notepaper, waited a while for the inks to dry (a couple of hours I think) then cut that page into three columns. The left hand column was not exposed to water at all. The middle was dipped into water, but then removed quickly; the right column was dipped in and enthusiastically slooshed about. Here are the results:

In order, we have:

  • Diamine Grey. Slightly water-resistant, in that it is visible afterwards and almost readable, but not pretty.

  • Sailor Sei-Boku – the greenish blue “nanocarbon” Sailor ink. As befits an ink by a company called “Sailor” this ink remains identical no matter how much it is dunked into water. Sei-Boku is termed “archival quality” so really should be able to cope with being dunked in a sink.

  • Waterman South Seas Blue, which is really a turquoise. Here we see the difference between a sailor and the sea. South Seas Blue, when exposed to water, is overjoyed and leaps off the page in ecstasy, to join its brother and sister molecules.

  • A black Sharpie marker which I happened to have lying around. No nonsense here. Water? Why should it care about water? Try bleach or napalm to erase this sort of thing.

  • Diamine Monaco Red which surprised me a little (though Diamine inks are not noted for water resistance generally). Monaco Red just vanishes with barely a trace. I’ll grant that that example of Monaco Red was likely contaminated with a lot of J Herbin Rouge Caroubier, since it normally dries to a brownish “there’s been a murder sir” colour, but even so… evidence has been eradicated.

  • And then I had run out of inked pens so decided to try a pencil, specifically a 3B lead in a Caran d’Ache clutch pencil. Pencils have something of a reputation (in my mind anyway) for being impermanent, given that they can be erased with a piece of rubber, but graphite particles embedded into the surface layer of paper are apparently entirely non-bothered by the presence of water.

Minimal Ink Experiment

I am really quite bad when it comes to Ink Philandering. I just am not made to stay with just one ink; I refill pens at least once a day with some other colour which I feel will suit whatever paper it is I am writing on more, or suit the pen more, or because I feel more in a Diamine Dark Brown mood than a Noodler’s El Lawrence… it is striking me as a little pathological.

So. I have picked one ink – Waterman Black, a reliable and fast-drying ink, good for all sorts of paper – and I am planning to use that for the next… well, I had originally thought “month” but that might be a bit too long. Fortnight, let’s say. I have loaded all of my normal pens with it, apart from the Kaweco Sport that I have loaded with red and use to make corrections and annotations after the fact (this does not count; this piece of asceticism is only for writing pens). The idea is that I will concentrate more on the actual writing. Let’s see how effective this actually is, in practice.