What I Bought in 2018: Inks

Platinum Blue-Black ink bottle

I like to do an annual accounting every year of the inks I bought. In 2018, it was 18 bottles.

Now, that seems like an awful lot. But, if you take the long view, I improved. Because in 2015 I bought 30 bottles of ink; and in 2016 I bought 20 bottles of ink and three boxes of cartridges.

Now, a strict accounting also would uncover that in 2017 I bought only 10 bottles of ink. But then strict accounting seems to be for unhappy people. Let’s forget that and take the long view. I improved!

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Five Months: an Extended Test of Platinum Carbon Black Pigment Ink

I kept Platinum Carbon Black inked up for more than five months, to see how it would clean out of a pen, and the answer is, nice and easy. This is a pigment ink that is a fairly low-maintenance ink. I’m chuffed.

I had it in a Platinum Plaisir. Here’s the pen’s feed after flushing out Carbon Black with water only. Perfectly clean.

Platinum Plaisir section after cleaning

This was one of my extended “torture tests” of an ink. I occasionally do these for the blog to check the limits of certain inks, because I like inks that I’m not afraid to keep in a pen for a while.

I have done extended tests on modern iron gall inks here, here and here — just to prove that modern iron galls from reputable makers are safe for extended time periods in pens with stainless steel nibs. Which they are.

But sometimes, you find yourself inadvertently giving a torture test to an ink that can’t handle it. Whoops.

In this case, I purposely chose to torture-test Platinum Carbon Black. It’s my favorite pigment ink and waterproof ink, and I’d noticed that it seemed to clean out pretty easily. I’m always happy to find low-maintenance inks that are waterproof — like the newer Sailor Souboku. I wanted to be sure about Carbon Black, too.

I decided to keep a cartridge of Carbon Black in a Platinum Plaisir I’d bought in mid-April. I used the Plaisir like normal — writing with it every once in a while, and then putting it back in the pen cup, where it might sit unused for days until the next time. The pen always started up and wrote perfectly: that may owe something to Platinum’s “slip and seal” cap design, but Carbon Black is nicely lubricated, too.

I finished Carbon Black on October 7. After more than five months in the pen, Carbon Black cleaned out perfectly, just flushing with water. It didn’t take much longer than cleaning out Waterman Serenity Blue would have — my standard for a low-maintenance ink.

Another photo, this time of the other side of the feed. The feed is clear of ink and unstained.

Platinum Plaisir section after cleaning

I ran the section through a cycle in my ultrasonic cleaner to verify: all the Carbon Black was gone.

Now, I can’t pull this particular nib to check if any ink may be trapped under the nib, but I did the next best thing I could think of. I attached a converter, and filled it with Montblanc Golden Yellow ink, which is the lightest ink I have. And then I wrote with that for a few days. The ink flowed normally, the nib wrote normally and the ink writes in its normal light yellow color, with no smears of leftover black ink.

Platinum Plaisir section filled with ink

My conclusion is a happy one. Platinum Carbon Black is a waterproof pigment ink that is low-maintenance. I won’t worry about using it in any cartridge-converter pen.

Ink Review: Platinum Blue-Black

Platinum Blue-Black

Platinum Blue-Black. This is a blue-black ink, but with the emphasis on “blue.” It’s not a traditional gray- or green-leaning blue black; instead it’s more of a dark blue. Platinum Blue-Black performs well on regular paper; it’s attractive; and it’s water-resistant. Best of all, it’s very easy to clean from a pen.

Why doesn’t everyone use this ink?

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The Platinum 3776 Century Kumpoo

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo

Anyone who knows me knows I am a serious person. “Maturity” is my watchword and motto, perhaps even my raison d’être. You’ll note that I just slipped effortlessly into French there. Like me, the French are not-frivolous.

Thus, when Platinum named its latest fountain pen the Kumpoo, I did not go around whispering “Kumpooooooo” and then giggling. I did not immediately begin craving Kung Pao Tofu. I did not text my friend Dan the word “Kumpoo” followed by three or four 🤣 emoji in a row.

No, I did not. I said something mature and serious like, “I looked that up, and it means ‘balmy breeze,’ which is an apt name, because the color makes me think of a balmy breeze by the glinting turquoise sea. In my spiritual home, France.”

Because I am an adult. The rest of you disappoint me.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo

And now it turns out, I really like the Kumpoo. Not (only) because of its name. It turns out to be a nifty, and surprisingly nice-looking pen. How do I know this? My friend Dan, of “Dan Smith, the Nibsmith,” sent me his last Kumpoo to play with. I have to send it back, though, because he’s keeping it for himself. And he’s all sold out. Pooh.

Platinum has limited the Kumpoo to 2,500 pens, available with three nibs only: UEF (ultra-extra-fine), F (fine) and SM (soft medium). Apparently the UEF were only available in very small numbers, especially in the US, and are already sold out. This particular Kumpoo has a soft medium nib on it, which actually is great with me, because I’ve never used one. Platinum lists the SM nib as an “overseas exclusive,” so presumably it’s not available in Japan.

I inked the Kumpoo with Papier Plume Lake Michigan Summer, which is the perfect color.

I like the soft medium nib. It’s a Japanese medium, so not super wide. It’s soft and springy. It is not a flex nib — with light pressure you can spread the tines wider, but you won’t get the controlled line variation of a flex nib. It’s just kind of bouncy, in a pleasant way.

I should say this isn’t a stock soft medium nib: Dan modified it by creating a very slight gap between the tines so it would immediately start writing with a light touch. At my pen club meeting we compared this modified SM with a Kumpoo with a stock SM, and Dan’s modification really makes a difference for someone like me who writes with light pressure.

I found the SM nib fun to use. For everyday writing, it’s going to be better for someone else. I’m a person who likes to write very quickly, and messily, so I prefer a normal, or “hard,” nib which flies across the paper. People who like a springy nib, or who tend to write more slowly, or with a lot of pressure, or who want a wetter ink flow, would love the SM nib. I actually think the Platinum soft fine (SF nib) is very good, since there’s less of it, and that’s a stock nib for Platinum.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo

In some ways the SM nib is similar to the Pelikan M200 nib, which is a sort of bouncy steel nib. The Platinum Century SM nib is miles ahead of that nib, however. Now, the Platinum Century SM nib is a 14k gold nib, and the Kumpoo pen costs about $260. So you might say, woah there, apples to oranges. And that is fair. Still, I’d much rather have the Kumpoo than the M200, and not just for the nib. I like the pen a lot better, too.

The Kumpoo is a great size pen, the sort of size that would work for most people. A bit longer than the full-size Sailor Professional Gear, a bit shorter than the Lamy Safari, and wider and longer than the Pelikan M200. The Kumpoo’s balance and weight are good, too. The Kumpoo weighs 25.6 grams capped and filled (comparable to the Pro Gear), and 14.4 grams body only. The body only is a touch light: the full-size Pro Gear weighs about 2 grams more, which for me makes the Pro Gear more comfortable when writing unposted. But I could write with either for long periods of time.

Here’s a photo of the Kumpoo, comparing the size to the Platinum Plaisir and the Lamy Vista.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo size comparison

One nice thing about the Kumpoo is the wavy ridges in the pen body and cap. From marketing photos, I wasn’t sure if I’d like that, but in person, it totally works. It elevates the look over the standard #3776 Century. The color is nice, too.

Now Dan waxed poetically (for Dan) about the light reflecting off those ridges like the facets of a diamond or something. Unfortunately, it’s been rainy or overcast every day here, and marijuana is not legal in Illinois, so I can’t attest to the sort of bedazzling effect that it may have for others. I guess there is a nice glint occasionally but for me it seems to come from the silvery bits inside — the converter and the rhodium nib. With or without mystical gleams of light, however, it’s a very attractive pen.

I’m not even a big fan of teal or turquoise or aquamarine, but I like this one. And it’s the color of the summer, I’ll wager, after also having the privilege to use the Sailor Professional Gear Ocean.

Comparing the Kumpoo and the Ocean is apples to apples, but different apples. The colors are in the same general teal-turquoise family, but the look is very different. The Ocean is darker, greener and more subdued; the Kumpoo is lighter, bluer and shinier. Also the Kumpoo is clear. The Ocean is the one you’d bring to the office; the Kumpoo is the one your teenage daughter wants to steal.

I’ve asked myself, if I could buy one, and only one, which? And it’s not easy, since I like them both. I really think Kumpoo looks great. Plus, since it’s almost sold out everywhere, you don’t get much more time to decide.

And then, I mean, it’s the Kumpoooooooo.

(To others, of course.)

But … I still think … I’d pick the Sailor. First, for the nibs. I just prefer Sailor nibs. And the Ocean can be purchased with any of Sailor’s standard nibs (which technically Platinum doesn’t let dealers do for the Kumpoo). Also, I just think the Ocean is more classic and will wear better in the long run for me. (Unless this is your color. In which case, buy both.)

I have to confess something: since my borrowed Ocean set sail back to Dan, I’ve missed it a bit. And that’s unusual for me, since I don’t really care that much about fountain pens.

Well, maybe one or two. For instance, here’s my Kanilea Hanauma Bay next to the Kumpoo. Because they looked so nice together. And because even if I can’t get every single pen I like, I’m happy to remember I already have some really great ones.

Platinum #3776 Century Kumpoo with Kanilea Hanauma Bay

Pen Review: Platinum Plaisir

Platinum Plaisir Bali Citrus

Last month I bought a Platinum Plaisir in Bali Citrus, because I love the color, and the pen cost less than $15.

I’ve shied away from the Plaisir because it’s based upon the Platinum Preppy, the Yugo of fountain pens. But sometimes you just say, “what the heck.”

Actually, I say a different thing. But it’s close.

I’ve been using my Plaisir for over a month now. Did it squirm its chartreuse self into my heart? Not exactly. But into my pen cup. I think it’s a good starter fountain pen.

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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.

Three Months and Counting: An Extended Test of Platinum Classic Line Iron Gall Inks with a Stainless Steel Nib Fountain Pen

Pilot Plumix

Holy hell: it’s been more than three months.

Back on June 9, I filled a clean, empty cartridge with an iron gall ink and fitted that into a clean Pilot Plumix fountain pen. The ink was Platinum Classic Cassis Black, one of Platinum’s new line of colorful iron gall inks for fountain pens. I put it nib upward in the pen cup at Fountain Pen Follies World Headquarters and Laboratory of Fancy Science. The experiment had begun.

I wanted to see how the iron gall ink would react over an extended period in contact with the Pilot’s stainless steel nib. Would the iron gall ink stain, corrode, gunk up or otherwise cause problems? Remember that we don’t worry about using iron gall fountain pen ink in pens with gold nibs, because gold does not react to the iron gall’s acidic element. But is there a problem with the more common, and cheaper, stainless steel nibs?

After a month, on July 11 or so, I thought it was time for an interim look at the Plumix. Click here for the full report, if you like, but the short answer was, all was well. The ink flowed, and the nib and pen were still perfect. I only used the pen once more, on July 22, briefly. Then I put the pen back in the pen cup and ignored it until earlier this week. Now it’s time for a three-month report.

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

Pilot Plumix

Platinum’s 2017 release of six colorful iron gall inks, called the Classic Line, has made me very happy. I love iron gall inks for fountain pens, and appreciate the gentler ones, which I call “modern iron gall inks,” after KWZ Ink’s low-maintenance iron galls.

The new Platinum lineup seems very nice, and very low-maintenance. There’s an overview of all six here. I’ve used three of these on an extended basis, and reviewed those three here: Citrus, Sepia and Cassis. I got my samples from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith, who sells ink as well as pens, luckily for me.

I’ve recently been testing one of the Platinum Classic inks — Cassis Black — for an extended time in a Pilot Plumix fountain pen with a stainless steel nib. I wanted to really see just how safe these inks are with any pen. To see if the ink would react with the pen’s stainless steel nib, or clog or stain, and if so, how long would it take.

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