Ink Review: KWZ Iron Gall Green #4

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 writing sample

I used KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 for more than a month, in two pens, a Pelikan M600 with extra-fine nib, and a Lamy Al-Star with broad and fine nibs. The ink has nice lubrication and flow, but it runs on the dry side — it’s not a gusher.

That means, first, that you can experiment and get different looks with different pens. In the wet-writing Pelikan, even with an extra-fine nib, Iron Gall Green #4 was a strong, legible, spiky dark green. In the dry-writing Lamy Al-Star, Iron Gall Green#4 was noticeably lighter in color, almost a spring-like green, and shading came to the fore.

Here is a writing sample on Rhodia.

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 writing sample

And here on Tomoe River paper in cream.

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 writing sample

Lubrication was good — there was a nice, cushiony writing experience in both the Pelikan and the Lamy with broad nib. Yes, if you left the pen unused for a week, you had to dip the nib in water, or prime the feed, to get ink flow started again. But that’s true with many pen and ink combinations.

A nice thing about a dry ink is that your line doesn’t spread and widen. That’s true of Iron Gall #4, too. It wrote a nice tight line with both pens, which I always like.

But … there is a but. A dry ink isn’t usually a great match for a dry-writing pen with a finer nib. And that is true of Iron Gall Green #4. I tested it with the Al-Star with a fine nib, and that’s not a combination I recommend. I found the ink too dry-feeling, the line patchy and the lighter Al-Star color too thin with a very narrow nib. Here’s a writing sample, first with the Al-Star broad nib, then the fine nib, on Staple Sustainable Earth paper.

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 writing sample

So, in my opinion, Iron Gall Green #4 is not an ink for a Safari-type pen with a fine nib. Use Iron Gall Green with a wet pen, or use it with a dry pen with a broad nib, to bring out its best qualities.

Among its best qualities is excellent performance on paper that’s not fountain-pen friendly. Iron gall inks usually perform well on poor paper, and Iron Gall Green #4 is no exception. It resists feathering  like a champ. The line doesn’t spread; there is no bleedthrough; and there is acceptable showthrough, or none, depending on the pen.

Here is a closeup on Staples Sustainable Earth, from the Lamy Al-Star with broad nib. (A few words from the Lamy fine are below.)

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 writing sample

Iron Gall Green #4 has good water resistance on absorbent regular paper, like most inks, but on smooth fountain-pen friendly paper, like the Rhodia on the right, water resistance is less than I’d expect from an iron gall ink.

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 water resistance

On the other hand, cleanup of Iron Gall Green #4 could not have been easier. A few cycles flushing with water, and both pens were completely clear of ink.

Checking my notebook, I inked up both pens on January 6, and cleaned them out February 10. On purpose, when I’m testing an ink, I leave the pens unused for days at a time, to see what happens. In the case of the Pelikan, I let it sit for more than a week. Yet Iron Gall Green #4 flushed out of both pens, using only water, in about a minute. “Iron Gall” does not mean “high maintenance.”

I have ink swab comparisons, with the warning that they may be a little misleading. Here are the closest inks in my collection.

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 swab comparisons

Iron Gall Green #4 at first glance looks close to both these inks, especially to Diamine Green/Black. In the Pelikan, Iron Gall Green #4 approached the hue and darkness of Diamine Green/Black, one of my favorite dark greens. However, that overlooks the dryness factor, because in a dry-writing Al-Star, Iron Gall Green #4 lightens significantly, in a way that Diamine Green/Black does not.

Nor is Iron Gall Green #4 really that close to De Atramentis Jane Austen. The Jane Austen ink happens also to be a dry ink, probably even drier than Iron Gall Green #4, but Jane Austen is grayer and much closer to Diamine Umber in hue.

Here is also a swab comparison of Iron Gall Green #4 against all the other KWZ Iron Gall green inks I’ve used and reviewed so far.

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 swab comparisons

Iron Gall Green #4 has little resemblance to any of those. Reviews can be found here of Iron Gall Green #1, Iron Gall Green #2 and Iron Gall Green Gold.

Here is paper towel chromatography of Iron Gall Green #4.

KWZ Iron Gall Green #4 paper towel chromatography

It’s interesting to me to see that extra blue dye in Iron Gall Green #4, when it doesn’t seem a particularly blue green on the page. More typical blue greens are Iron Gall Green #1 and #2. I like how KWZ uses the blue dye to balance the yellow of the olive green dye. It’s another creative mix from Konrad.

Iron Gall Green #4 is an interesting ink that I enjoyed using. It’s dry but it’s lubricated feeling. It cleans up easily. It is outstanding on poor paper. Its color is malleable, but for me, in its strongest guise, as in the Pelikan, it’s both business-like and attractive.

4 thoughts on “Ink Review: KWZ Iron Gall Green #4

  1. Have you had any issues with cleaning out your Pelikan fountain pens with KWZ IG inks? I have a White Tortoise m400 and the KWZ IG Light Aztec Gold and wondering if it’s safe enough to load the ink in the pen?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really complicated, and I’ve been working on a post about this, but I’ll try to answer generally. Sorry for the wall of text.

      First, there is only one KWZ iron gall ink that is archival, with higher amounts of iron gall components, and so more water-resistant, and also higher maintenance — that is KWZ Iron Gall Blue Black. I’m excluding that from what I’m saying below — archival iron gall inks are high maintenance, and I personally don’t use them.

      The other KWZ iron gall inks are what I call “modern” or “lighter” iron gall inks, and in my experience the ones from KWZ have generally been incredibly easy to clean (with a few being only average or moderate). These I adore and use all the time, and, yes, in my Pelikans. Even more risky, in my beloved Lamy Safaris. 🙂 KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold is a lower maintenance iron gall ink. I have IG Aztec Gold in a pen right now, but I’ve been so tied up I haven’t been able to review it, or even evaluate it properly.

      There are two main issues with iron gall fountain pen inks, generally. One is that they are acidic, which means that it’s actually safer to use them in pens with gold nibs, as long as there is no metal trim on the section. Gold will withstand the acid. Your M400 White Tortoise has a gold nib (good) but also gold-colored metal on the section. It would be safer if the gold band is 14k gold, not plated, and I don’t know that. However, I use KWZ light iron gall inks with my Pelikan M600s all the time, which also have a band, and haven’t had any ill effects. And I would use them in my M400 White Tortoise — in fact, I’m sure I have. Note that Pelikan itself makes an iron gall ink, which is Pelikan Blue Black.

      The other general issue with iron gall fountain inks is that they can be harder to clean out of a pen than some dye-based inks. But that is a gross generality, and not true of every iron gall ink, or every dye-based ink, for that matter. Pelikans with nib units that unscrew are actually good candidates for harder to clean inks, because you can unscrew the nib and thoroughly clean both nib unit and inside the pen barrel. And you can easily regrease the piston if needed.

      Most important: the key to safety is good pen hygiene. That goes for every single ink, iron gall or not. In my experience, there should be absolutely no difference between a KWZ light iron gall ink and any acidic dye-based ink, like Waterman, so long as you clean your pens thoroughly when changing inks, don’t let inks dry out in the pen, don’t let your pen sit unused for weeks at a time, don’t let ink get in the cap and stay there, and remember to empty and clean out the pen every few months. Again, this is true for every single ink.

      Please note that KWZ uses the term “light” to refer only to Iron Gall Mandarin and Iron Gall Aztec Gold, because those have the least amount of iron gall components. However, I’m using it to include every KWZ Iron Gall except Iron Gall Blue Black (the one archival or document iron gall ink KWZ makes).


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