Eight more inks

My ink-testing procedure is to write, blot and swab the noxious substance on a Clairefontaine index card and also write the name of each ink in a notebook, always using the same dip pen. Then I rinse and dry the nib. This process has worked well until today when I opened a bottle of Diamine Calligraphy Passion. The flow was bad but I got the job done. The other three inks had normal flow:

I wrote “no flow” – really the Calligraphy Passion just flowed badly.

Papier Plume Heart of Gold is an orangey/coral colour ink created for the Pay-it-Forward Project on Kickstarter. Heart of Gold also would not flow! I could only write a few letters before the tip dried, despite a blob of ink on the nib’s cutout. Normally, any ink here will flow down the slit to the tip of the nib. (And yes, all the inks are tested with the same old dip pen.) Mm-hmm. This is what we call a dry ink. I had to complete the entry with a glass nib, which wrote well enough, but then cleaning the nib was a problem. The ink stuck to it, (!) taking a few rinses to wash off. This may be because the ink is partly water-resistant. (Of course other permanent inks are mostly well-lubricated.)


Given the shading on the swabs and ink blots, Heart of Gold would be interesting in a folded nib. If I try that then I’ll put a picture here.

bbbg 1.jpeg

Anyway, the other six inks were fine! Robert (Cult Pens Iridescink) bled through a Field Notes (Pitch Black) notebook page and has a shiny green sheen.


Krishna Anokhi also has a green sheen but it is matt, not shiny. Oster’s Fire on Fire, Cult Pens’ Deep Dark Green and Orange were all excellent but I was most taken with Diamine’s Smoke on the Water — a smooth deep turquoise with a red outline/sheen:


PS: Other reviewers had no problems with Heart of Gold but a couple remarked on the dryness:

Mountain of Ink: Ink Review #217: Papier Plume Heart of Gold

Bijou3owl: Papier Plume: Heart of Gold – Bijou3owl Blogs

Jake’s Take on YouTube:

Message from London: Please send ink

IMG_4095I’m still here! Must drink… more ink… We can’t get it! Of all the new brands and ranges, Robert Oster is the main marque to have penetrated our online shops widely. We suffer in the UK when we buy things from beyond our shores: there are customs charges and the even more pricey Royal Mail “handling fee”, so it’s better for us to be able to “buy local”.

IMG_4093London is a wasteland for fine stationery, only W. H. Smith giving scant succour to the pen and ink fiend. Or so I thought, until perusing the Instagram of Leigh Reyes who visited the city recently and shopped at L. Cornelissen & Son (est. 1855) and the London Graphic Centre. A commenter recommended Green & Stone. Jackson’s Art Supplies also have two shops in London. These companies stock art supplies, (very few fountain pens,) brush pens, dip pens and calligraphy ink.

So what have I been up to? I’ve started journalling in a Hobonichi Techo and kept up my photography: I have uploaded some of the best snaps on Instagram and Facebook, but I have a huge backlog to go up on Flickr. Home, family and looking after a certain dog has occupied my time a lot and kept me away from developing creative pursuits for fun and profit. I shall have to be more single-minded, I think.

Old dip pen nibs

I paid $13.98 for a little packet of dip nibs on eBay. Most of that amount was the $9.99 postage from Beer-Sheva, Israel. This lot attracted my attention because of the range of nib types and sizes; far more interesting than the usual tin of fifty identical needlepoint nibs. I’m hoping to use them for graphics and calligraphy.

I’m testing them here on Rhodia dotPad paper with Sailor Red Brown ink. My nib holder is a glass Bortoletti pen from Venice.

dip nibs from eBay

The first two nibs wrote a fine line (I’ve written reservoir there — I meant overfeed, which is the metal clip on top of most of the nibs, designed to hold more ink from each dip.) The Speedball is very fine, with some flex, whereas the next Speedball (A4) writes like a fat felt tip. The oblique Esterbrook Textwriter is a disaster: too wet. The next two Speedballs are nice with smoothness and flex respectively. The last is another wet one with some old dry ink caked on it.

dip nibs from eBay

The Brause is wet but consistently so. The next two pens are designed for ruling: effectively two nibs in one. They worked well, first time.

The rest of the nibs are wide italics made by William Mitchell. The Decro writes well. The others are Poster Pens marked L13, L16, L17 and L20. The L20 is 1 cm wide! It reminds me of a coal shovel.

Mitchell L20 and L17 nibs

These nibs have an “underfeed” with four holes to store ink under the nib. They look like bed warmers. I shall have fun with these.

Update: The “double line”/”ruling” nibs are in fact called scroll pens and are still on sale from suppliers such as Green & Stone, as is the L20 for £1.85.

Drawing pen roundup

I’ve always loved using drawing pens, although I would often use them for my tiny writing, rather than technical design or drafting which is what they are designed for.

drawing pens (and a Hi-Tec-C)

In an earlier post (Some ink is not permanent), I compared the Staedtler pigment liner 0.05 with the Sakura Pigma Micron. The Staedtler is the one I’ve used for years; larger newsagents/stationers shops in the UK have these.

pigma micron

The Micron 005 is typical: the tip is made of fibre encased in a metal tube. It’s easily bent by applying too much pressure. How I perceive the firmness of the tip affects my writing. If I feel it “give” then I’ll lessen the pressure on the pen a bit.

Actually in the first photo there are two metal-tipped pens: the brown 0.4 is a Pilot Hi-Tec and the orange 0.38 is a Muji. Obviously one can write more confidently with a metal tip, but the line is thicker and the ink is not usually archival. It’s this permanence which has drawn me to drawing pens. Since I’m taking notebooks out and about they run the risk of getting soaked, and — without wishing to repeat too much of my earlier post — I have to tell you that gel ink completely leaches away when water percolates through the paper.

Pilot Drawing Pen 005 and Uni Pin Fine Line 0.05

There are many 0.05 drawing pens from lots of manufacturers. The actual width of the tip is about 0.4 mm just below the rounded end, and the line they leave is usually around 0.2 mm in width. I may be splitting hairs (average human hair=0.001 mm) but I think most of the manufacturers label their smallest width as 0.05, or “005” to indicate it is smaller than the 01.

drawing pens and handwriting - inchquote

I got about a dozen to test and thought the best way to compare them would be to see how many words I could fit into a square inch. Look, this is just the way my mind works! First of all, my choice of paper was bad. Whitelines paper is great in many ways, but wet inks will spread a bit. I also thought my #inchquote hashtag would rule the interwebs.

Still, this did show a shortcoming of the purple Pilot 005: only 36 words per square inch as the Uni Pin takes an early lead with 68. (I had five of the Pilot pens: they all performed the same. Clearly I needed to try them on a better, smoother, less porous paper.)

tiny writing - Copic Multiliner Sepia 0.05

We have a new leader: the tiny writing of the Copic Multiliner sepia 0.05. The 10p coin shown for scale is about the same size as a US quarter, because I couldn’t find an inchworm.

words per inch - #inchquote

The sepia Copic pen retained the crown. This is getting far too exciting so here is the rundown. All these pens contain waterproof and lightfast/fade-proof pigment ink, with a plastic barrel unless stated, and they are all pretty cheap when you consider that your journals made with these could last for ever.

drawing pens

Artline Drawing System 0.05. £2.85. Water-based ink. Acid and Xylene-free. Comfortable pen with a firm polyacetal tip. The only drawback is that the cap posts on a nubbin 2 mm long. 9/10

Copic Multiliner Sepia 0.05. £2.86. Marker-proof ink. The grip is a great shape with no ridges, and I found the sepia ink actually wrote the smallest of all the pens on test. There is a glitter effect on the barrel and cap. Also available in black, if you find this sepia too light. 10/10

Copic Multiliner SP 0.05. £5.00. Marker-proof ink. Aluminium-barrelled pen, but only 12 g. Nice fine line. Refills and replacement nibs available. The black is a bit grey. (There is also a 0.03 width but this is out of stock everywhere.) 9/10

Edding 1880 drawliner 0.05. £1.60. The fibre tip puts down a consistent, very black line, but it’s scratchy. It will probably wear down quickly. Nice price. 7/10

Faber-Castell Ecco Pigment 0.1. £2.50. This oddly shaped pen writes as fine a line with its fibre tip as some of the nominally finer pens here, but there is a big ridge in the “ergonomic grip zone” unless you have a really low grip. The ink pad inside rattles around. 6/10

Nikko Technical Finepoint System 0.05. £9.99 for 12. Water-soluble and presumably not archival ink. Undistinguished-looking black and white pen with a nice plastic tip. (NB there is also a permanent version of this pen for writing on film, plastic etc. that has a grey barrel and blue cap and writes a much thicker line.) 5/10

drawing pens

Ohto Graphic Liner 0.05. £1.75. Needlepoint (tiny rollerball) metal-tipped pen which writes a slightly thicker line than the other pens here, but still has the pigmented ink. The answer to a Field Notes notebook users dreams? Maybe not because the ink is quite wet and may bleed. Black with orange lines on the barrel. 8/10

Pilot Drawing Pen 005. £2.99. Writes a thick line of wet ink that bleeds more than the Ohto. Nice purple pen with funky grey squares that writes more like a 0.1. I imported mine from Japan: there is now a UK version with white blobs instead of grey squares which I shall have to try, but this Japanese one is not as good as the old Pilot DR pen. 5/10

Sakura Pigma Micron 005. £2.21. Archival ink. Acid-free. The original pen of this type. Lightweight and controllable pen that lays a dark black line. The tip does wear down to nothing before the ink runs out, though. 14 colours – imagine the Zentangles. 9/10

Staedtler (308) pigment liner 005. £2.40. Another classic pen. Good to write with. Firm tip. I find the ink runs out before the plastic tip wears down! Indelible (in accordance with ISO 14145-2) – resists highlighting. 9/10

Uni Pin Fine Line 0.05. £1.74. As good as the Staedtler and writes an even finer line. there’s a funky window in the cap so you can see the polyacetal tip. 10/10

Zig Millennium 005. £1.80. Acid-free ink. 8 colours. The grip section is relatively thick which I find uncomfortable. Nearly as heavy as the metal Copic SP at 11 g. (The rest of the pens are around 8 g.) 7/10

The pens, tested on Rhodia paper:Drawing pens on Rhodia paper

Other pens to consider: Kuretake Zig Mangaka Drawing Pen 01Edding 1800 Profipen,  Derwent Graphik Line Maker Drawing Pen BlackAristo GeoCollege Pigment Liner Drawing PenMarvy Le Pen Technical Drawing Pen – 0.03 mm – Black etc…

In the UK you can find these pens at Tiger Pens, Cult Pens: Drawing Pens and Copic who sell other brands, not just Copic.

Cult Pens have a Guide to Technical Drawing Pens; while JetPens in the US have a Guide to Drawing Pens and a Guide to Technical Pens.

These have seen the light

The Field Notes Snowblind edition really deserves to be unwrapped and used outdoors. The white cover changes to blue when the book is bathed in the UV light of direct sunlight. I have never seen this effect. Placed on my windowsill behind double glazing and still wrapped in cellophane, even in the British midsummer the photochemistry has no chance of happening.

Update: We had some sunny weather so I removed the cellophane. The white covers that had been sealed inside turned blue immediately. It looks like the top cover had been deactivated (and slightly yellowed) by continual exposure.

These have seen the light

The notebook on the right is a Silvine Memo Book (99p). Its front cover is the same colour as the ladybird on the left, but the back is “sunned” as they say in the book trade, with the faint pink shadow of a 50p coin.

The last element here is the Retro 51 Dr. Gray Tornado Rollerball pen which is luminous. It does write very smoothly and actually leaves the same line as a vintage Sheaffer fountain pen I bought recently. There are still some Dr. Grays available at the PenShed at the time of writing. The skeleton image is beautifully printed with a lacquer finish. Henry Gray wrote the book on human anatomy: ‘Anatomy’, published in 1858. Well, yes, there are other books on the subject.

Meanwhile, back at the maisonette

While I’m working on a couple of blog posts, I thought you might like to see what I have bought recently.

As a purple fan, the limited edition Dark Lilac Lamy Safari is a must-buy for me. The other fountain pen in the photo is a Dex by Kingsley from their new “smooth soft” range. The odd name aside, this looks like it could be a classic design that might join the Lamy Safari and Pilot MR (Metropolitan) as a low-cost (£12.00) recommendable fountain pen. The Dex comes in a range of colours, including acid green (ACEEEEED!).

We can’t get the Lamy Dark Lilac ink in bottles in the UK. Such a shame. I got some Lavender Purple MontBlanc ink from The Pen Shop (60 ml, £10.50) and they have sent me the plastic Platinum Card you see here, promising future discounts.

new stuff

The brown notebook is the Taroko Design Regular Notebook 110mm x 210mm – dot grid paper. I got two notebooks from Bureau Direct for a total of £11.90 incl. p&p. Yes, Tomoe River paper in the UK! These notebooks can be used as they come but are intended as inserts for leather folders: the Midori Travelers Notebook. There is also a smaller passport size.

The Taroko notebooks can also be obtained from the Taroko Shop on Etsy, who also stock Coleto refills and Pan-Am stickers…

These items rest upon the new Hawkwind single, remastered and cut at Abbey Road. The first 7 inch vinyl record I’ve bought for a few years! (The B-side ‘Tunnels of Darkness’ is not on their fine new album ‘The Machine Stops‘.)

The book is a collection of writings by Ballard, Sladek, Angela Carter, Beryl Bainbridge etc. from a magazine edited by Emma Tennant. Another fine purchase from Fantastic Literature whose ‘Latest Booklist’ is always worth a look.

Now I have to walk Max again! Max at Oak Hill Park, East Barnet


A brace of Parker 45s

The Prologue

I put an absolute block on myself in September: John, do not buy any more fountain pens. I have bought seven since then, mostly by reflex or to take advantage of a good price. This is about one per month which is a big reduction in my habit anyway.

It is so much easier to buy than to sell. Even the simplest eBay listing with a few photos seems to take ages to construct, but this is what I need to be doing: selling duplicates and those other pens that I might quite like, but are not my favourites. So from now on I shall do comparative reviews of more than one pen where possible to weed out the collection.

Oh, Parker! (Yus, milady?)

Parker pens are well-known in the UK. The many hundreds of W. H. Smith shops around the country stock Parker’s low and mid-range models, hanging in blister packs from uninspiring displays.

The teenage me got one as a birthday present: a heavy black Parker rollerball with gold trim, which was nice, but the clip was delicate and always getting bent out. I got it repaired a couple of times since it came with a lifetime guarantee, but the new clip was never any better so I took to wrapping the clip with thick rubber bands and then the pen got stored in a box with all my other pens and pencils.

My mum lives on the south coast and told me a few years ago that the British Parker factory at Newhaven is being demolished. Now Parkers are only made in the U. S. A. and France. You see what happens when I stop buying them. Parker’s latest innovation is their 5th Technology which looks like a fountain pen but has a fibre tip. At £110 for the cheapest model it’s a gamble for buyers.

The Parker 45 was introduced in 1960. Designed for the economy school market, it has a tiny nib and an innovation: ink cartridges. The story of Parker and this model, including why it was called the 45, is at the comprehensive parkerpens.net (— site found using Pennaquod). Initially all 45s had 14k gold nibs. Later, Octanium steel nibs were used on cheaper models. Production continued until 2007.

Parker 45 x 2

Dirty, dirty

I bought two Parker 45 fountain pens, both made in the U.S.A. One has a medium nib, the other a fine nib. The dark blue pen cost me £18.24, and the stainless steel pen was £14.01, including p&p, from eBay. With patience you could get a better price. Both have a friction-fit cap, a squeeze convertor and the same type of replaceable nib and feed that unscrews from the grip section.

Parker 45 - fine and medium nibs

Problem no. 1 was the steel pen’s nib which did not write. I had to adjust it for flow and alignment, then polish it in accordance with the excellent Pen Habit‘s videos.

Problem no. 2 was the amount of old blue ink left inside the blue pen. Whereas the steel pen flushed out with clean water in a few minutes, the blue pen needed a lot of work and an overnight soak before the water ran clear.

Fuyu-Gaki ink

Since random.org chose an orange red ink for me, I’m expecting this to turn purple during this review! Ink can sometimes be better than water at dissolving old accretions of dye. I filled both pens with Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki ink so I could compare them more easily. This is a really good flowing ink, performing poorly on porous paper (as found in Field Notes or Whitelines notebooks) because of feathering and bleed-through, but on denser paper like Rhodia or Tomoe River it behaves well. The colour really pops in my photos but in actuality it looks a bit darker. I would say it is similar to Diamine Coral.

Parker 45 with Fuyu Gaki ink

 Thumbs Up

I like these pens. Both write smoothly and the ink flow is fine. The steel pen weighs 22g and the plastic 16g. I think I prefer the medium nib which will show off ink shading better, even though I will have to form my script larger to compensate, and I shall unscrew the medium nib and stick it in the steel body. The blue pen will go back on eBay with a fine nib. One down!

Parker 45s by a six inch notebook flanked by a Senator 47, a Pilot Custom and a big old purple Lamy AL-Star.
Parker 45s by a six inch notebook flanked by a Senator 47, a Pilot Custom black stripe and a big old purple Lamy AL-Star.

I haven’t gone into the usual detail because these are “vintage” pens that you cannot buy new—unless as new old stock (NOS)—and eBay buys and their descriptions vary in quality. Cartridge pens are usually a safer bet than piston or lever-fill pens which can need skilled maintenance, and replacement nibs can be found since this pen was common until a few years ago. If you can find a Parker 45 from a well-rated dealer then you can probably go for it. They are nice, reliable pens.

Parker 45s on a Clairefontaine Crok'Book

Music for this review: ‘Ms. 45’ by L7 and ‘My .45’ by Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs.


W H Smith calligraphy pen

Another random pairing: a 20th century pen made by the British company Platignum for the stationers W. H. Smith, paired with modern Pilot Kon-Peki ink. plastic tube WHS.JPGAn unprepossessing plastic tube you might suppose, but inside is not only a converter but a broad italic nib that looks like a new Lamy nib, and it writes just as well. W. H. Smith Calligraphy Pen with broad italic nib

The pen probably only cost me a few quid about thirty-five years ago. WHS were certainly using the cube logo around 1980.superficial lyrics WHS Calligraphy Pen(Remember these lyrics?) The Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki ink looks good here on Rhodia dotPad 80 gsm paper with some shading and red sheen.

W. H. Smith Calligraphy Pen with broad nib

Like the Lamy italic nibs, there is no tipping material but it writes smoothly. The Lamy leaves a crisper, more square, edge.

W. H. Smith Calligraphy Pen with broad nib

These photos show a lot of defects from the plastic moulding process. This is not a high quality pen but it writes perfectly well. Weight with converter: 14 g.

writing about WHSmithI wrote this to show that I can write quite small characters with the italic nib.

W. H. Smith pen made by Platignum, England

The nib is marked “Platignum England — Italic — Broad”

Kon-Peki Writing sample on Tomoe River cream paperKon-Peki writing sample on Tomoe River cream paper. Red sheen!

W. H. Smith sell calligraphy pens to this day, now stocking the makes Berol, Manuscript, Lamy and Sheaffer. The old model I have is no longer made, however. Platignum is still around.

As I have mentioned, a modern Lamy 1.5 nib fits on most of their cheaper models and will give the same results, or you could spend about £18 and get a Rotring ArtPen. Clearly I’ve kept this old pen because it’s good. The italic nib suits my style of large lettering and makes writing fun!


Some ink is not permanent

I’ve been writing up old episodes of The Pen Addict in my Field Notes, using a brown Pilot G-TEC C4, but since a scrap of Whitelines paper got mixed up with the shopping I realize this is not waterproof.Not all ink is permanent.jpeg(These are iOS apps I’m rating for another Twitter account.) So I have switched to using a pigment ink in a drawing pen, the popular Staedtler pigment liner 0.05. This writes a finer line, but needs a lighter touch than the metal needlepoint of the Pilot G-TEC 0.4. At least I’ll be able to read it after any water damage. Swings and roundabouts!

IMG_6100 1.JPGThe Staedtler soon ran dry. Well, I’ve had it for decades. I didn’t have any pigment ink handy so I switched to using a similarly indelible/archival Sakura Pigma Micron, also with a 0.05 tip. The Micron leaves a broader line on the paper and feels slightly softer, so I’m using an even lighter touch than with the Staedtler. This is not conducive to long writing sessions, although writing-up old Pen Addict episodes in Field Notes notebooks is a bit of spare time fun for me.005.jpegSo how to refill the Staedtler? My solution was to use a waterproof fountain pen ink. I could not manage to open the pen at either end. As with most of these pens, the fibre tip is within a metal collar that is mounted on a plastic cylinder that protrudes from inside the barrel. Around the cylinder there is a gap, presumably so air can replace the ink in the (fibrous?) reservoir. Using a syringe, I decanted drops of Noodler’s Green Gator ink down the side of the cylinder. About 1 ml of ink disappeared inside and shows no inclination to come out again, except through the tip which is what I want! So now it writes in green ink!

I think now I should have a look to see if anyone has compared all the 0.05 pens out there. If not, there’s a blog post in the making.

Water damage is not the only problem with notebooks. They can go walkies. A tip from Stephen Hackett via The Pen Addict podcast #11: backup your notebooks. I lost one which had my eBay price notes inside: luckily I had captured  an image of one page while photographing a pen so all was not lost. Scan (or just photograph) each page. If your writing is neat, you could even use Evernote OCR to convert the text to digital form and make it searchable.

Of course, your computer is backed up online and in more than one place so you can never lose that data, right!?

A chart of UK shops online

This is a chart of UK pen shops, designed to help find elusive brands of pens and ink to compare prices or complete your collection. I’ve concentrated on fountain pens (highlighted green) and ink for fountain pens (highlighted blue unless it’s already green).

UK pens and pencils - a guide to online shops.
preview of the chart

Legend: f=fountain pens;  r=rollerballs;  b=ball pens;  d=drawing pens;  p=pencils;  i=ink.

Download as PDF;  CSV.

This is a companion post to my earlier, larger list of UK pen, ink and paper shops! on which you can find links to the web sites. The list also contains brands only available at one outlet—many marques have been moved out of the chart into this list for size reasons.

I’ve probably made a few mistakes, so please let me know of any errors or omissions. I’ll be adding some more sites soon, but I think I’ve covered the larger ones. Good quill hunting!