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In Fountain Pens

A poor quality ink could sound the death knell for your much loved fountain pen

September 30, 2017
A poor quality ink could sound the death knell for your much loved fountain pen

In over 15 years of being in the pen business has given us ample opportunities to meet with customers who have had problems with the ink flow of their fountain pen.  Upon questioning and further analysis, we have found the lack of awareness about the inked, the unimportance given to the quality, to be the culprit.  When we invest in a fountain pen, it goes on to become a family heirloom of sorts as its passed down generation to generation.   That is why it is important to invest in good quality ink and follow maintenance instructions diligently.The ink you use can impact the actual performance of the fountain pen and the life of the pen itself. Fountain pen ink is a rather complex medium. They have different flows, properties and performance characteristics and are a blend of solvents, pigments, dyes and water.  Without going into the chemistry of ink making, here is a quick guide to what constitutes a good ink:

      • Flow. Inks that flow well — but not too well — score high because they don’t make the pen fight back when you’re trying to write with it. Inks with good flow will start readily and will flow evenly, without exhibiting a tendency to skip or to produce dry patches. Inks that flow too well often tend to feather or bleed, especially on cheap paper, and this sort of excessive flow lowers an ink’s score.
      • Staining. Inks that stain little or not at all score high because they don’t make you disassemble and scrub out your transparent or partially transparent pens so you can see through them or polish the plating off your two-tone nibs trying to keep them bright. The colour of a given ink affects its staining tendency; reds and other colours containing red dyes have a high tendency to stain (and therefore somewhat lower scores), while pure blues — especially washable ones — stain little or not at all.
      • Lubrication. Inks that lubricate well score high because they give you a smooth glide instead of making your nib feel dry and gritty so that you have to push harder. Some users refer to inks that lubricate well as being “greasy,” but there is no actual grease in fountain pen ink.
      • Clogging. Inks that don’t clog score high because they don’t make you disassemble your pen to floss the nib and feed. Typically, the more intensely saturated the colour is, the greater are the dye load and the concomitant risk of clogging.
      • “ Ink Creep.” This refers to an ink’s tendency to display nib creep where droplets of ink show up on the nib, usually from between the tines or from the breather hole.  Inks that tend not to creep score higher because they don’t make you take out a tissue and wipe the nib to no avail every few minutes

And yes, if you have faced any of these issues with your pen, the problem could be the ink you use, the colour of ink, the brand of ink even.  We will discuss all these and more in the next few blogs.

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