Ink Dips: Callifolio Violet

Callifolio Violet writing samples

Ink Dips is a more casual, laid-back ink evaluation than is normal here at Fountain Pen Follies. Instead of evaluating an ink I’m actually interested in, the point of Ink Dips is to blindly pick an ink sample from a box of the pooh-poohed and, more than likely, the purple. Then I dip a toe in the water, by trying that sample in only one pen. It’s an ink experiment that’s a bit dippy.

Callifolio Violet. This is nice standard purple ink, at a nice price. It writes a nice narrow line. It is also the second purple ink in a row to become an Ink Dip. I’ll be honest, I think they won. I’m a shadow of my former self, which should scare us all.

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Ink Snippet: Montblanc Racing Green

Montblanc Racing Green writing samples

Montblanc Racing Green. Montblanc Racing Green is nearly unobtainium, unless you’re really spendy or obsessed. Montblanc discontinued Racing Green years ago, and it’s since become quite the thing. Everyone talks about it, everyone seeks it, or at least seeks an ink that looks like it. Every time a new olive-green ink is released, an ink fan somewhere wonders, “Is this like Racing Green?”

I’d never used Montblanc Racing Green before last week. When it was available, it didn’t interest me, and when it stopped being available, the price shot sky high. But I’ve been using it lately, thanks to a sample from a kind friend.

I have good news, and bad news.

The good news (at least for me) is that I don’t really get it, the mania. Yes, the ink is attractive. It’s very nice. But it’s not going to change anyone’s life. It’s not the greatest ink ever made, in my opinion. It’s not even the greatest green I’ve ever seen.

The bad news is that I don’t know another ink that’s a good doppelgänger. Normally I can point out nice inks that are pretty close. Here, however, the closest alternative is, in my opinion, not nearly so appealing.

But it’s okay. Yes, Montblanc Racing Green was a nice ink, and it’s now gone, for all intents and purposes. But don’t think twice, it’s alright.

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Ink Dips: Caran d’Ache Ultra Violet

Caran d'Ache Ultra Violet writing samples

Ink Dips is a more casual, laid-back ink evaluation than is normal here at Fountain Pen Follies. Instead of choosing an ink I’m interested in, the point of Ink Dips is to blindly pick an ink sample from a box of the slighted or set-aside. Then I dip a toe in the water by trying that sample in only one pen. It’s an ink experiment that’s a bit dippy.

Caran d’Ache Ultra Violet. This is a very nice purple ink, in an interesting hue, with good behavior in the pen, and good performance on poor paper. It is, however, very expensive, at least in the United States.

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Why We Can’t Always Judge an Ink by Its Name, or Even Its Picture: A Tale of KWZ Confederation Brown

KWZ Confederation Brown Montblanc Racing Green swabs comparison

Someone asked me to compare KWZ Confederation Brown with Montblanc Racing Green, thinking the two inks might be similar.

As you can see, that’s a firm “no.”

KWZ Confederation Brown is the limited edition ink made for the 2017 Scriptus Pen Show in Toronto. Montblanc Racing Green was a regular Montblanc ink, but it was discontinued years ago and now trades at very high prices because it’s got a certain mystique.

I snapped a comparison shot of the two swabs and texted it to the friend who had asked about it. His reaction? Puzzlement. He said something like, “That’s weird: my Confederation Brown looks more green, and yours looks more brown.”

Was my ink faded or from a different batch than his? Was something wrong with my ink, or his? Because his looks greener than mine, supposedly.

No, not at all.

That’s a very common reaction. Let’s talk about why.

Our perception of a color is influenced by many factors, one of which is how the color we are looking at interacts with other colors. We perceive a color differently based on the colors nearby.

So in the top photo, Confederation Brown looks browner and less green.

But now look at this photo of Confederation Brown.

KWZ Confederation Brown Sheaffer Skrip Red swabs comparison

And this photo.

KWZ Confederation Brown Montblanc Seasons Greetings swabs comparison

In those two photos, Confederation Brown looks not brown, but green, albeit a yellow-brown-green sort of green.

Confederation Brown has not changed. The only change is the surrounding colors. That makes all the difference in one’s perception of the color of Confederation Brown. (Let me add that when you see Confederation Brown in isolation, it looks fairly green.)

It is highly unlikely — nearly impossible, I’d wager — that anyone’s bottle of KWZ Confederation Brown strays significantly from the standard. That’s because KWZ would have made this special edition ink in one batch. Also because KWZ takes pains to ensure KWZ inks are consistent, even from batch to batch. And it’s very recently made, not likely to have changed color in the bottle.

There’s another issue here: ink names.

So much goes into an ink name. Marketing appeal, the sound of the words, how the name translates into different languages and, of course, the need to describe the color. This ink would have been named by the organizers of Scriptus, the Toronto pen show. The Confederation part of the name refers to the creation of the Dominion of Canada. And the Brown part is for the color.

I think with this ink, reasonable people can differ whether it’s more brown, or more green. As I said, when I see Confederation Brown, it looks green to me — although a yellow-brown type of green. But I think either brown or green is perfectly fair. Also, I’m quite certain that if they had named it “Confederation Green,” some buyers would have felt it was too brown to be named green.

The truth is, there are infinite varieties of any color, be it blue, red, green or brown. That’s part of what makes fountain pen inks so interesting.

Here are the inks I have that I find closest to Confederation Brown in feel. One is more of a brown, one is more of a green.

KWZ Confederation Brown swabs comparison

Stipula Verde Muschiato happens to be one of my all-time favorite inks, and I love how golden it looks here. To me, the slightly browner one is is Verde Muschiato (named green) and the greener one is Confederation Brown (named brown). But they are both green-browns or brown-greens.

Here is Confederation Brown with one of my favorite KWZ greens.

KWZ Confederation Brown KWZ Iron Gall Green Gold swabs comparison

Despite me thinking Confederation Brown is pretty green, KWZ Iron Gall Green Gold is greener. Put another way, next to Iron Gall Green Gold, Confederation Brown surely looks brown. (As it does next to Montblanc Racing Green, in the first photo.) Another reason the Brown name makes sense.

In any case, whatever the name, these are all interesting colors, with many dimensions, and a lot to enjoy. Even a mere glimpse of the swabs shows how different these inks look on white versus cream paper. They also will vary depending on the pen used.

That malleability is a feature of many green-brown, or brown-green, inks. It’s one reason those colors are so interesting. And also why these inks tend to fool our eyes the most.

Inks Chris Bought in 2017

Inks I bought 2017_0002

My friend Chrissy, the indomitable ink goddess, is always kind enough to give us a list of the inks she bought each year. Her 2017 roster is awesome, as ever. She and I bought almost entirely different inks this year, too — our only common purchase was Lamy Petrol. Note, however, that Chrissy is the sort of person who not only lives through a terrible hurricane far from home, but actually emerges triumphant, with free Montblanc ink in hand. A Robinson Crusoe for our time. Here, in her own words, are Chrissy’s ink purchases from 2017:

For 2017 I’m pleased to report that I kept my New Year resolution and wrote records of my pen and ink purchases. I decided to start two separate pages in my Seven Seas Writer Journal, titled “Inks I Bought,” and “Pens I Bought.” I kept them accurately and feel almost saintly. 🙂

Yes, I admit the inks page has more entries, but I spent more on pens because I made one expensive purchase.

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My Favorite 2017 Inks

favorite 2017 inks

Here are my five favorite inks from 2017:

KWZ Baltic Memories, Walk Over Vistula and Warsaw Dreaming

KWZ Chicago Blue

Papier Plume Bayou Nightfall

This was a very easy list to compile. I looked through everything I’d tried this year, and these were the obvious standouts. These five inks made the biggest impression on me. On a scale of one-to-ten, these go to 11. One became one of the inks I use most.

KWZ Warsaw Dreaming and Papier Plume Bayou Nightfall are in some ways at opposite ends of a continuum, with one being the darkest (the black Warsaw Dreaming) and one being the lightest (the green-blue-gray Bayou Nightfall). But they are similar in other ways. Both are quiet, but have depth. These inks don’t shout for attention, but they repay your attention.

Baltic Memories, in contrast … this ink does grab your attention. It walks onstage and starts singing. It is super sheeny. It is dynamic. You will notice it.

Walk Over Vistula sort of snuck onto this list, because it seemed inseparable from the other two KWZ inks released at the same time. I think of the KWZ trio together. But Walk Over Vistula deserves its spot. It’s a bridge between the quieter inks on this list, and the bravura Baltic Memories.

Chicago Blue is a super-solid everyday blue ink. Which isn’t to suggest that it’s dull, just that it’s so good you may not notice how good. It’s the Tom Hanks of ink. Oh, it’s got sheen, if you like that, and saturation. But it’s also easy-to-clean and behaves in all my pens. It was my most-used ink this year, along with old standby Pelikan Brilliant Black.

All of the inks on my favorites list came out in 2017. But there were other 2017 inks I loved, as well as older inks I didn’t try until 2017. Here are ten that were also particularly good, in my view — my 2017 Honorable Mentions:

Graf von Faber-Castell Midnight Blue

KWZ Honey

Papier Plume Mardi Gras Indians

Papier Plume Moss Green

Papier Plume Pecan

Papier Plume Red Beans and Rice

Papier Plume Streetcar Green

Platinum Classic iron gall inks

Robert Oster Bondi Blue

Robert Oster Rubine

Yes, the Platinum Classic line comprises six different inks. That’s not cheating; it’s creative accounting.

I’d love to hear other people’s favorites. Maybe I can try them in 2018.

What I Bought in 2017: Inks

2017 inks purchased

I bought 10 different bottles of ink in 2017 — one is not pictured, because I forgot it.

Buying only 10 bottles is pretty good for me. If I can be immodest, I slayed. Okay, sure, if I cast a critical eye, I could have done without four of them. Unsurprisingly, all four of those were inks I bought without sampling first. But you can’t be too strict, or you’ll never have any fun. Leave room for serendipity and surprise. Also, cut yourself some slack, because no one else will.

I did much better than in 2016, when I bought 20 bottles, and 2015, when I bought 30 bottles. If this trend continues, I will buy zero bottles in 2018. Now, that may be because I’ve been hit by a bus, but nothing lasts forever.

Here are the inks I purchased in 2017, by brand.

KWZ: (2) I bought both Chicago Blue, the 2017 Chicago Pen Show ink, and Confederation Brown, the 2017 Toronto Pen Show (Scriptus) ink. I have very limited interests, obviously.

I really love Chicago Blue, and I use it constantly.

Now, Confederation Brown in an ink I haven’t used myself, but I have seen a lot of photos online. It’s a green-brown sort of color. Everyone I know likes it. I trust it will behave, because it’s a KWZ Ink.

You know, though, ink color is a personal thing. Many people apparently can’t get enough green-brown. But I’ve realized, as I stare at my bottle of Confederation Brown, that I feel pretty “set” when it comes to green-brown inks. And I think I would have been just as happy with a sample of this.

I’m quite sure, however, that I’ll eventually sell or trade this bottle to someone who loves it, so I don’t totally regret the expenditure. Also, supporting KWZ Ink and Scriptus is good. As is supporting the Chicago Pen Show, by the way.

Lamy: (1) I actually forgot that I had this one — Lamy Petrol. I bought it months ago, and I guess the ink wan’t very memorable. It’s not even in the photo.

I do like it. Lamy Petrol is a very dark teal, a perfectly good ink. But I like it for a reason that will not resonate with many people: I like because it’s not spectacular. It is business-like and easy-to-read. It’s a nice blue- or black-ink substitute.

Lamy Petrol was very hard to get in the US. I bought my bottle from a European dealer, just to make sure I had it for our Chicago Pen Show Ink Testing Station. That was wise, since Petrol didn’t arrive at US retailers until after our show, and then only in small quantities. US buyers didn’t really get a fair crack at Lamy Petrol. Artificial scarcity like that irks me.

I bought four inks this year without sampling first — Lamy Petrol is the only one where I’d still have bought the bottle if I’d sampled it.

However, I didn’t like it enough to pop for a second bottle at regular retail, when I could have. Therefore, I did a double-take, a few hours ago, when I read that this ink is selling for multiples of the original price on the US secondary market. Guffaw.

Seriously, don’t.

Papier Plume: (5) The ones I bought were Pecan, Oyster Grey and Moss Green. Plus the limited edition Chicago Pen Show inks Lake Michigan Summer and Ivy 108, because, you’ll remember, I have very limited interests.

These are excellent inks, well-behaved, easy-to-clean, in beautiful, sophisticated colors, from a small boutique with wonderful customer service, run by great people. They are reasonably priced. I use these inks frequently. I will buy more when they run out.

Pelikan: (1) Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz. I use, like and recommend Pelikan inks. If you like this one, go for it.

Now, for me, this one is …. Well, it’s brown. I enjoy brown inks as much as the next person, but I don’t use brown inks as much as blue or black inks. And this one costs $28 a bottle, and I, well, I…. Um.

I guess the best thing to say in this situation is, Wow, that’s something.

Smoky Quartz is an ink I bought without sampling first. In retrospect, that was a mistake. Especially because, as luck would have it, Pelikan very generously gave Pelikan Hubs attendees a free bottle of Smoky Quartz. So I now have two bottles.

Wow, that’s something.

Robert Oster: (1). Robert Oster Tranquility is an ink I bought at the Chicago Pen Show. I just took a stab, and bought a bottle I’d never tried.

In retrospect, this was a mistake on one level, because Robert Oster makes so many other colors that I had tried, and already knew I liked. However, everyone loves Robert Oster inks, so I’ve nearly emptied the bottle giving samples to others. Whereas, if I’d bought an Oster I loved, that bottle would still be 95% full, nearly wasted on my shelf. So, this has turned out to be a very successful purchase. It hopefully brought pleasure to many.

All’s well that ends well.

More on the New KWZ Inks: Baltic Memories, Walk Over Vistula and Warsaw Dreaming

KWZ Warsaw Dreaming, Baltic Memories, Walk Over Vistula writing samples

These past few weeks have been cray-cray, but I came home the other day to a lovely gift: bottles of the three new KWZ inks. This was the perfect excuse to top off the pens, and shoot a new set of photos, this time with the correct names for the two blue inks. When shopping for inks, I find it helpful to know their names; perhaps you will, too.

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New KWZ Inks: Warsaw Dreaming, Walk Over Vistula and Baltic Memories

KWZ Warsaw Dreaming, Baltic Memories, Walk Over Vistula writing samples

Just in time for holiday shopping, there are three new inks from KWZ Ink: Warsaw Dreaming, Walk Over Vistula and Baltic Memories. A black, a blue and a teal. I had a chance to sample these, and I love the colors.

One slight (okay, huge) problem, though: I reviewed pre-production samples, and I managed to mix up the names of the blue and the teal. The colors in the photos are accurate; however, the names written for the blue and teal inks, in the photos, are not. Confused? Me, too! But this problem has a simple solution: buy both. No, buy all three. You will thank me later.

All three inks are sheeny, in different ways. The teal and blue boast dramatic red sheen, while the black has a blue tint and the sort of sheen that doesn’t show up in a different color, but rather, in an almost slick quality.

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Pelikan M605 White Transparent: It’s No Candy Cane

Pelikan M605 White Transparent with Pelikan Edelstein Ruby

Here’s the thing about the Pelikan M605 White Transparent: it’s elegant and glamorous. It just is. It’s Lara in Doctor Zhivago; it’s Daenerys Targaryen in her coatdress north of the Wall. It’s Fred Astaire, and Cary Grant. Whatever the circumstances, this pen will remain stylish.

Not even red ink can tart up the White Transparent. Oh, I tried. Up there is the pen filled with Pelikan Edelstein Ruby. It’s no candy cane.

Okay, if you hold the pen up to the light, you can make out the red, but even then, it’s not prominent.

Pelikan M605 White Transparent with Pelikan Edelstein Ruby

That’s the barrel placed against a sunny window and blown up much larger than life. As one does in real life …. Right, never.

Well, I kept trying. Next came a green ink. This is Pelikan Dark Green in the White Transparent.

Pelikan M605 White Transparent with Pelikan 4001 Dark Green

The barrel doesn’t really look much different than with the red ink.

If you really want this pen to look wild and crazy, I’m thinking it will take orange, or maybe turquoise. And even then, maybe not.

I am not going there, in any case. This pen has its own style. Why fight it?

Nonetheless, for posterity, here’s a seasonal ink display. Jingle Bells and Ho Ho Ho and happy holidays to all. Otherwise, doesn’t this seem wrong?

Pelikan M605 White Transparent with Pelikan 4001 Dark Green & Pelikan Edelstein Ruby

I’m running back to the gray and blue inks now.