A Beginner’s Guide to Fountain Pen Inks: What Inks to Buy? What Inks to Avoid? To Clean or Not to Clean? The Ten Rules.


Waterman Serenity Blue ink

Are you a fountain pen beginner interested in knowing some basics about fountain pen inks? This post is for you.

A very knowledgable pen professional told me fountain pen beginners have trouble finding solid information on the internet. He’s right. Forums are random. Yes, there are pearls; but you only recognize those with knowledge and experience. Forum posts too often feature someone who took up pens two weeks ago confidently instructing someone who began two days ago. The loudest, most authoritative-sounding voices often belong to absolute blowhards. What about reviews and star ratings on online retailer websites? Context-free at best, suspect at worst, thus useless. Videos are plentiful, and those can be helpful, but many of the most popular are from retailers. Now, I love retailers — just ask my credit card company. But retailer videos are marketing tools. Retailers are always diplomatic.

So here is something a little less random, and a lot less diplomatic, for beginners to fountain pens and inks.

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Fountain Pens Defend Themselves

Yes, there are things we all hate about fountain pens. But those pesky problems from yesterday aren’t the whole story. There is an answer to every objection.

1. Cleaning them out. Well, there are some people who love cleaning. I suggest finding one. If they can also cook, never let them go.

2. Ink stains. After a while, you stop caring so much about inky fingers. They don’t last long. And if someone notices, chances are they will ask, “Oh, are you an artist?!” Then you can modestly suggest, without saying so, that yes just a little. This is a great ice-breaker if you actually sketch. And, if you don’t, even better. A half-nod, a slight lift of the eyebrow and a mysterious smile, followed by a “Do you?” question, will lead your interlocutor away from the topic of your messy hands, while simultaneously giving rise to the flattering suggestion that you just might be Banksy.

3. Not the best carry-around option. People deal with this in different ways. The super-committed buy a swanky Franklin-Christoph pen case (or two) and carry all their inked fountain pens every day, pretending, “Problem, what problem?” The more practical carry one or two fountain pens, selecting models known for durability and not too pricey. The final group just keeps their fountain pens at home or in the office, which also helps mitigate the final issue (appearing uncool).

4. There’s always another one to buy. Now, see, it’s always how you look at things. This is not a problem.

5. Not the coolest hobby. Unless … we look at it as “going analog,” and then, we are ahead of the curve. Plus, we basically are carrying concealed weapons with sharp points that, oops, accidentally might squirt ink at those who cross us. Pretty formidable, actually.

What Everyone Hates About Fountain Pens

Yeah, I like fountain pens and ink, but let’s be honest. not everything about them is good. There are plenty of things we all secretly dislike about fountain pens.

1. Cleaning them out. Tedious and time-consuming. You don’t have to do this with pencils, ballpoints, rollerballs or any other writing instrument. Even the quill just needed the occasional trim before you plucked a new one.

2. Ink stains. I don’t care how careful you are: if you are a regular fountain pen user, you’ll end up with ink on your fingers. Usually right before a party, date or job interview. That’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you’ll end up with ink stains on your favorite shirt, or your kitchen floor. The newer you are to pens, the more it happens, but it happens to everyone.

3. Not the best carry-around option. I’m not even talking about going on an airplane, with changes in air pressure to contend with. I’m talking about regular commuting. Sure, if you can control your environment enough to always keep your fountain pen nib-up and protected from jostling, that helps. But most of us will eventually pull off a cap to start writing, only to find ink has leaked. Or we’ll lose a pen, and it won’t be a 50 cent Bic but a Lamy Safari in discontinued color. Or we’ll drop a Montblanc, nib down.

4. There’s always another one to buy. Only determined minimalists keep it to a handful. For the vast majority of us, it’s easier to add than subtract, and there are always tempting new pen releases to make us wish for more.

5. Not the coolest hobby. Let’s face it. If your hobby is “playing guitar,” and you “play in a bar band on the weekends,” you are way cooler than me, whose hobby is “fountain pens and inks” and who “loves to get together with pen fans on the weekends.” Unless your band plays Renaissance music in period costume, in which case I’m totally bullying you. Kidding. I’d know you get me.

Lamy Safari Your Team: It’s NHL Hockey Time Again

Lamy Safari Your Team 2019 Hockey Teams

Finally! The Most Wonderful Time of the Year! After an endless summer of no hockey, tonight we finally drop the puck and welcome the new season of NHL Hockey. Which means another chance to play a game I like to call “Lamy Safari Your Team.”

The 2019 year’s hockey season dawns wet and drear in Chicago, and the Chicago Blackhawks aren’t even on this continent, since the NHL sent them to start the season in Prague. That combination of factors has me low-keying the Hockey Lamy Safaris this year, and keeping it simple.

First and foremost is the Chicago Blackhawks Lamy Safari, this time a simple red Safari with black cap. That’s the only one I’ll ink, with a black ink and a fine nib.

Lamy Safari Your Team 2019 Hockey Teams

Blue and white for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, two favorites to win the Cup. Blue and red for the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers, two Original Six Teams I like, but also not likely to seriously threaten. Yellow and black for the Pittsburgh Penguins and also the team that’s my pick to win it all this year, the Boston Bruins. Orange and blue for the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders, longshots this year, like the Blackhawks, but teams I’ve rooted for since I was a kid. I would have put an orange and black Safari out there, in honor of the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty, but we’re playing the Flyers in Game 1. I’ll do that for Halloween, in Lamy Safari Your Holiday.

Lots of the newer teams have fancier colors (because the good colors were taken). So, it does seem that Lamy might look at making some future Safaris in burgundy, dark green, middle green and, above all, gold. I wouldn’t have guessed, but gold and burgundy seem to be the two most popular team colors without a matching Safari. And it’s just not as satisfying to “Lamy Al-Star Your Team.” Safari all the way.

Lamy Safari Your Team 2019 Hockey Teams

Fountain Pen Favorites for September 2019

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I  used to do this every month, when the blog was new, and I enjoyed it. I have a strong nostalgic streak. And as you get older, well, the memory goes. I’m now firmly in the “What did I walk into this room to get?” stage. So looking back is kind of relaxing.

What were my favorite pen- and ink-related things last month?

1. The Pelikan Hub. I always enjoy these, and this year’s was no exception. Any chance to get together with pen and ink people is to be cherished. Thanks, Pelikan, for doing this.

2. Trying Every Edelstein Ink Again. I ink up every Pelikan Edelstein ink for the Hub, for people to try, and I’m both busy and disinclined to clean out 15 pens immediately. So I’ve been writing with a number of inks that I haven’t used in a while. Here are my nominees for the Peaches and Herb “Reunited and It Feels So Good” award: the steady Edelstein Tanzanite (a businesslike blue black), the perfect Edelstein Topaz (simply the finest ink I know in that cyan-cerulean range) and the underrated Edelstein Ruby (a lovely soft red).

3. Going Old School Blue Black. The pen I’ve used most this month has been my Pelikan Stockholm with Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite and a medium nib. I don’t usually write with something as paint-brushy as a Pelikan medium nib, so I’m mostly jotting notes with it. LARGE notes. I’ve liked using the old-school, non-fussy, blue-black Tanzanite ink. But the pen is starting to feel kind of fancy, and I’m starting to yearn for something more minimal. Maybe I’ll take the Blauhaus with its extra-fine nib out for a spin after all.

The Beautiful Lamy 2000 Blue Bauhaus Limited Edition, And Why You Are Lucky Not to Have One

Lamy 2000 Blue Bauhaus Set

I felt funny posting about the new Lamy 2000 Blue Bauhaus Limited Edition set, because people in the US seemed kind of ticked off by it. So I decided, “Not wading into that firestorm, thank you.”

Sensible. Except here we are. But it’s not new any more. Also, being sensible is not my thing. Mostly, I just longed to say, “Blue Bauhaus? More like Blauhaus, am I right?”

But do not worry if you don’t have one. This is service journalism. With a nod to Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, I post about the Lamy 2000 Blue Bauhaus not to praise it, but only to tell everyone who is still mad why they don’t need this pen.

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My First Look at the Pelikan M205 Star Ruby

Pelikan M205 Star Ruby

I just got the chance to open my new Pelikan M205 Star Ruby, the pink sparkly Pelikan I’ve been waiting for. So, in real life, it’s not exactly the pink sparkly Pelikan I’ve been waiting for. But it’s a handsome, translucent dark ruby red pen that I think will find a lot of fans among those who would never want a more obviously sparkly, or a pinker, pen.

It is different than I expected from online photos. Darker. The sparkles are, I’m told, very visible in sunlight. But I didn’t get to open mine until late afternoon, in the cool light of early fall.

I’ll put up some comparison photos.

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My Favorite Pelikans

Pelikan M620 Stockholm, Pelikan M600 Pink, Pelikan M710 Toledo

In the happy afterglow of a Pelikan Hub, I wondered what were my favorite Pelikans. On purpose, I didn’t look at my pens, didn’t sift through what I have, analyzing and attempting to rank them in any scientific way. Instead, I just thought about it, to see what came to mind. I ended up with a Top Four.

None are vintage. Oddly, of my Top Four, there’s only one I use very much. One I haven’t even seen.

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2019 Pelikan Hub Report

Pelikan Hub 2019 Evanston

Ah, it was fabulous, as always.

But we have to call this one the “Knocking on Death’s Door” Hub, because our Hub (in Evanston, Illinois) got hit hard with a nasty respiratory virus this year. If you include me, ugh, who feels at least half dead, but had to go, as the Hub Host, fully a fifth of us were struck down. Is it the Pelikan Plague?

Well, it did not kill the mighty Evanston Hub. We had 31 registrants for Evanston this year, and I think 35 for our sister Hub in Chicago. A few registrants always end up having to cancel because of schedule conflicts, and then we lost five participants at the last minute because of this virus. But we dragooned some folks who switched in, or had forgotten to register, or were dragged there by relatives and friends — ending up with 30 lovely people, and a very good time.

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Sailor Manyo Inks

Sailor Manyo Ink

Yo, Manyo. Looks like Sailor is giving us even more new inks. This Manyo collection is coming later in the fall, to pen and ink dealers outside Japan (per my own ink dealer, Dan Smith, the Nibsmith).

The Manyo inks come in Sailor’s new square bottle, the 50 ml size, at the MSRP of $24. Now the Nibsmith is listing them for sale at $19, which in the new world of premium ink prices, isn’t bad. It’s 50 ml. The price is better than my new Penlux inks ($26 for 50 ml, albeit limited) and much better than Sailor Ink Studio inks and Bungubox inks in 20 ml bottles.

And, I hate to say this, but, I kind of … like them all?

Well, of course I would. But they are a nice range, like the Pilot 100th Anniversary inks. They look nice individually and together.

Now, I’m not clinically insane. I’m not going to buy the Yamabuki (Saffron), because I just don’t use yellow-gold inks to write. But it does look nice; I could see artists wanting it. Personally, I can resist the three inks in lavender, magenta and interesting purple/burgundy shades, because as lovely as they look, these aren’t colors I use. But they look good. In fact, the lavender one (Nekoyanagi) is so captivating I almost want it. And the burgundy one (Kuzu) could prove to be a lower-priced alternative to Bungbox Sweet Potato Purple.

But my sweet spot is blue and blue-ish inks, so I’ve preordered the four on the left. I predict the one I like the best will be Haha (Glacier Blue), be still my heart; and the one that will be most popular will be Yomogi (Cerulean Blue), because it’s in the teal range that everyone loves.  Sumire is like Sailor Sky High and Sailor Souten, so it’s bound to be pleasing. Lastly, Kikyou (Mariner Blue) looks perfect to me as a work ink that I’ll use often. I love a blue-black with a greenish tint.

Here is  a closeup of the swatches, just flagrantly stolen from the Nibsmith site.

Sailor Manyo Inks

Sigh. Sailor is just unstoppable. I want them to stop, intellectually. But maybe not deep inside.