Update: Testing Platinum Classic Line Iron Gall Inks with a Stainless Steel Nib Fountain Pen

I wanted a torture test. I picked the Plumix because it’s an inexpensive pen but it still comes with a good stainless steel nib. Not a fancy nib, but a good, low-price stainless steel nib. The Plumix feed is stingy, which helps make this test harder, because Cassis Black is a moderately dry ink. To make things worse, I decided to leave the pen mostly unused.

I filled an empty ink cartridge with Cassis Black on June 9th. I’ve picked up the Plumix only four times since then, to check it by looking it over and writing a few words. Yesterday was the fourth time, more than a month in. I took a few photos,Β for an in-progress report.

Here’s the nib — a few drops of Cassis Black have been sitting on the surface of the nib.

stainless steel nib with iron gall ink

But no damage. I brushed away the ink just to be sure.

stainless steel nib with iron gall ink

This nib looks perfect, visually.

stainless steel nib with iron gall ink

Beyond the visual, the pen wrote perfectly as well. Startup was instant. The ink flowed a little lightly at first — see the top line — but flow picked up and was absolutely normal after those first four words.

Platinum Classic Cassis Black writing sample

So, my interim report is perfectly positive. After more than a month in the pen, having been generally neglected, even with nib creep which keeps the ink in extended contact with the surface of the nib, I see no effect on the Pilot stainless steel nib.

You never have to worry about using iron gall inks in gold nib pens, because gold will not react to iron gall. Stainless steel is the question. Stainless steel is generally safe with most acids, but you like to make sure, and I know this concern keeps many people from trying modern iron gall inks.

Actually, here’s a link to a review I did of another, KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold, Near the bottom of that page you’ll see a photo of my Lamy Safari stainless steel nib, absolutely unaffected after seven weeks of use with KWZ Iron Gall Aztec Gold.

So it is with Platinum Classic Cassis Black: so far, so good.

13 thoughts on “Update: Testing Platinum Classic Line Iron Gall Inks with a Stainless Steel Nib Fountain Pen

  1. I love the iron-gall inks you’ve covered here, and this is a great source of info’. To be honest, everything you’ve mentioned with regard to keeping your pens clean with these inks is just good pen hygiene, regardless of what ink you’re using.

    I’ve never had a problem with iron-gall inks, but usually flush through my pens between every refill – unless I’m away from the office for some reason. But I recently slipped up with a Platinum 3776 and some J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Rouge Hematite… I left the ink in the pen, and the pen kicking about for a couple of weeks untouched. And somehow, I think maybe inquisitive pre-teen fingers may have had something to do with it, the pen had got put back in its jar upside down. Those beautiful little specks in the ink can be a major pain to clean out – even with the “slip and seal technology” Platinum talks a lot about.

    Accidents happen, and circumstance – I have come to believe – love a conspiracy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah that Rouge Hematite is very high maintenance ink. And you are so right that the same good pen maintenance practices apply to all inks, not just iron gall. 😊 I once left a pen nib down on purpose to see what would happen. What happened was a mess inside the cap. 😁

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  2. I have Diamine-Kelly Green in a small bottle. I like it with a wetter pen though, and it looks excellent with a semi-flex nib. I don’t use that Kelly Green very much though, these days. I read a bad review on the Citrus Black color. Color is personal though. I like a wide variety of colors. I usually like most of the colors that you like, so maybe I should try it. I seem to be more fond of slightly above mid range greens, or murky greens. I also like some green-browns, which is my main reason for wanting to try the Sepia Black. I do love Moss Green, Irish Green, Lierre Sauvage, Noodler’s-Marine….those are the more mid and slightly up from there. Then I love darker greens too, some almost black. I tend not to like yellowish browns though, I prefer reddish brown, or mid-darker browns. KWZ-Honey is pretty good, but not a buy for me. Lie de The did nothing for me, but I was using narrow nibs back then. I do love PP-Pecan and J. Herbin-Cacao du Bresil. I don’t have the Cacao du Bresil though, but recently tried it. I adore Rikyu-cha and Burma Road Brown, they both are outstanding colors to me.

    How close would you say Cassis Black is to Papier Plume-Red Beans and Rice after a week or two of writing?
    I am trying to figure out what pen I would want to try the Platinum Classic samples with. I don’t have many that would be suitable, without a possible issue. The Prera would be great, but it has that metal rim next to the feed, and that just wouldn’t do, sadly.

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    1. I would think the metal ring on a pen section most likely would be fine, since my modern Pelikans have the same feature, and I use iron gall inks in them. However, caution is understandable, and Pilot doesn’t necessarily use the same materials as Pelikan. Also, in my experience the Prera tend to get ink in the cap if you carry them around — and that would put more ink in contact with that metal ring.

      Anyway, I think wetter pens are generally better for the Platinum Classic inks. Do you have a Kaweco Sport? A Franklin-Christoph or Edison? A Pelikan M200 or vintage Pelikan? (KWZ iron galls are the only iron gall inks I can think of that run fairly wet.)

      Good question about Red Beans and Rice versus Platinum Cassis Black. To me, they are similar enough in color, especially with Red Beans and Rice in a wet pen. Though RB&R has that quality of looking different in different pens.

      You have read a bad review on Citrus Black?! First, wrong. Second, so much wrong!

      (Of course I’m kidding. Everyone has different tastes. Not to mention different pens and paper.)

      As far as Rikyu-Cha, well, that is very popular. Everyone likes it. I should like it. And yet, if I can quote an obscure New Wave song: “All the people tell me so. But what do all the people know?”

      We’re all different. Which is good. πŸ™‚

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      1. The reason I said Prera is because I have a stub nib Prera, it is close to a 1.5 mm but not quite. You can take the nib and feed out easily. The converter is the CON-50 though, and that is probably a problem too. I don’t know if those balls in the converter as stainless steel or not. I could use a cartridge and fill it with a syringe, but that would be a pain.
        I do have a Kaweco-Sport and I’m still considering it. It isn’t a wet writer though. I would have to fill it with a syringe though if I used it. I do have a Franklin-Christoph, and two Edisons. I am thinking of using one of them too. The Edison nibs are a pain to remove from the nib housing though. You can screw the whole unit in and out with no issues. Taking the nib out of the housing is not easy whatsoever. I do have a spare Jowo nib in silver color, that I could use for the Edison pen. Right now it is in a Ranga pen, made of ebonite. I do not have any Pelikan pens at all. (old or new) The standard international converters would be okay you think with the Platinum Classic inks? I have spares, so it isn’t terribly important I guess. As long as they lasted a while anyway.
        Rikyu-cha, I thought you liked that one. Well we mostly agree on colors, but not in every case. It looks better in some pens that others.

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        1. Are you worried about having to pull the nib and feed to clean them out after use? I don’t recommend that, for any ink, and in fact, would recommend against it, with every ink. Repeated pulling of the nib and feed tends to loosen the fit over time. That’s dangerous for pen longevity.

          It’s also unnecessary. For routine cleaning of any fountain pen ink, just clean the nib/feed unit by flushing with water, sometimes soaking and flushing in succession. Just do it until the water runs clear and you don’t find inky residue when you wrap the nib unit in a piece of paper towel. Then dry the nib unit in the paper towel. (Obviously the barrel or converter should be cleaned out also with water; then also be dried.) That should do it. No need to disassemble anything.

          I’ve got an ultrasonic cleaner that I bought in new-pen-user paranoia brought on by reading pen forums. Very useful for restoring neglected vintage finds. But not necessary for cleaning between ink fills, I’ve found after experimenting.

          If you are worried about any iron gall remaining, you can do an interim flush with water in which some white vinegar has been added, then flush again with plain water, as normally. (If you’re going to use an ammonia-based pen flush, do the diluted vinegar first, then water, then pen flush.) I’ve done the interim vinegar flush in the past, but I don’t usually do even that now with modern iron gall inks.

          Also, these Platinum inks are very low-maintenance. (That’s also true with almost all the KWZ iron gall inks I’ve reviewed.) So cleaning out the ink should be easy. Iron gall does not mean high maintenance. πŸ™‚ I don’t use any high maintenance inks. πŸ™‚

          I don’t think there are any special risks with a converter. After all, Platinum pens are converter pens.

          However, if cleanup is a very big worry, such that you wouldn’t feel comfortable using any modern iron gall ink, even the low-maintenance ones, without pulling the nib and feed to clean the pen, I honestly think it’s not worth that risk then. There are other nice inks, too. Hello, Papier Plume. Hello, KWZ dye-based inks. Hello, J. Herbin. Hello, Montblanc. Etc. πŸ™‚

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          1. I wasn’t planning on taking the nib and feed apart every time I flushed the pen. My concern was if I needed to, in case of any clogging issues. Maybe I should just use my Platinum pen. I am interested in heavy water resistance, and preferably almost complete waterproof qualities would be better. I saw your tests, and that looked good enough to me.

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  3. Laura, thanks for taking the time to respond to what I said. I guess I am going to have to take the plunge then with some samples when I can make an order then. I mainly use Tomoe River and Clairefontaine/Rhodia for journaling. I do have some Apica Premium that is vellum, but I don’t consider that my favorite journal these days. Once I tried Tomoe River, I fell in love with it. Sometimes it isn’t the best paper for the job though. If the modern IG inks won’t hurt those papers, I will be ready to try the IG. See what you did? I am interested in more ink that holds up over time, and archival. Of course most of my ink is just for looks, and fun.

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  4. I am glad you did this follow up. This is actually a relief to hear. I have been afraid to try these types of inks. I don’t know about low long the iron gall would take to degrade paper though. If it is just a letter, or notes it wouldn’t bother me. I am concerned about what it may do to a journal over time. I wouldn’t expect anything quickly of course. You have tempted me, but I’m still leery… πŸ™‚

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    1. I’ve been working forever on a piece about iron gall inks, it’s just so complicated and convoluted, so please forgive me in advance for writing a chapter here in response to this simple point. πŸ™‚

      TLDR: I don’t think we need to worry that good quality iron gall inks for fountain pens will corrode or destroy paper.

      The thing about iron gall inks is that they’ve been used for centuries. Since the 4th or 5th century, actually. They are easy to make, from natural, easily-available sources. So the vast majority — the vastest majority — of knowledge and experience, and rumors, on iron gall inks relates to homemade iron gall ink from many centuries ago. Not to iron gall fountain pen inks, much less modern iron gall fountain pen inks. (The fountain pen as we know it came into wide use only in the early 20th century. )

      And the damage that they’ve found with traditional iron gall inks might have taken hundreds of years to appear, when it did. Not to mention that the works on paper also were subject to unknown environmental factors, which independently can damage works on paper (mold, mildew, heat, damp, improper handling, etc.). Not to mention that, even so, many iron gall works on paper still survive centuries later. A Renaissance drawing, for example, was likely made with iron gall ink, and, more than 500 years later, we can still view those in our local art museum.

      So the widespread worry about iron gall inks for fountain pens seems conflated, to me. It relates to an entirely different product. And to different methods and different time periods. A way to think about to analogize it to milk. For much of history, cow’s milk was not particularly safe to drink, and in fact could spread dangerous diseases. But early in the 20th century, US jurisdictions passed laws mandating pasteurization of milk. People my age grew up being told to “drink your milk,” because milk had become associated with health. It’s the same basic product, milk, but it’s now manufactured and treated in a way that emphasizes consumer safety.

      We can think of iron gall fountain pen inks in a similar way. The current product uses iron gall, as did the traditional iron gall inks that weren’t made for fountain pens. But the current iron gall fountain pen inks are also made, if you buy from a good manufacturer, expressly for fountain pens, and are designed and tested to be safe in fountain pens. So it’s hard to say that the current — different — product will have the same results, even if your time frame is hundreds of years. Not to mention most of us aren’t writing with archival papers or vellum, etc., anyway. There are just so many things we can’t know for sure, so we have to go with our best guess.

      A serious caveat, though: I’m only talking about iron gall fountain pens from a solid manufacturer. That is key, because anyone can make an iron gall ink using the traditional recipe, and the traditional recipe is not safe for fountain pens (because they didn’t exist at that time), no matter the paper. You need to know that your manufacturer is selling an iron gall ink safe for fountain pens. You need to know your manufacturer has tested it for longterm use in fountain pens.

      Among the reputable companies that used to sell iron gall ink for fountain pens are Lamy, Montblanc and Pelikan — only Pelikan still does, with Pelikan Blue Black. If Lamy, Montblanc and Pelikan thought iron gall inks were dangerous, for pens or ordinary writing paper, they would not have kept selling them for years. Off the top of my head, the iron gall ink makers that I have used and can recommend that are available today are Platinum, Pelikan Blue Black, the registrar’s inks made by Diamine (which I don’t use because they are archival and so higher maintenance), KWZ Ink, Rohrer & Klingner, and Pharmacist from FPN (who I don’t believe still sells inks, but just in case).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay Laura, I’ve decided I’m going to try iron gall ink. The one most interesting to me is the Sepia Black. Then I wonder about the Forest Black, Cassis Black, and Khaki Black. I don’t know when I will manage to get samples, but I must try these out.

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        1. That’s great. I really liked Citrus Black, too. It’s an unusual color, so possibly not as useful for work-ish things. But it’s really cool, too. You can find a review on the blog for photos, and I think I may have linked it up there, too.

          Full disclosure: I adore chartreuse, and odd yellow-greens. Not everyone has to. πŸ™‚

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