Fountain Pens · Planning · Stationery

What a pen and ink

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It truly is the height of summer here in the east of England, temperatures soaring into the 30s (Celsius), and not knitting weather in the least, so it’s lucky that I got my projects wrapped up last week and that my knitting activity for now is limited to browsing patterns.

I spent an inordinate amount of time yesterday trying to work out which type of notebook to use for my creative writing (you can read about it on my writing blog here). I surprised myself by concluding that a standard A5 bound notebook was my favourite and now I am wondering about where I am headed for next year’s planner. It feels like there is a lot of time to decide about this, but we are already heading into the season when they start to be released and there’s something to be said for being able to strike whilst the iron’s hot to make sure you get the exact item you want. Settling for second-best is an option to be avoided in my experience; you always know you’ve settled for second-best, even if you never let on.

Right now, though, I want to concentrate on some inky talk because I’ve been a little frustrated the past couple of weeks and I need to, not vent exactly, but note my lack of enthusiasm.

If I go back to the middle of July, I had my Lamy Studio inked up with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt which is a very lovely combination, and I was testing out the Electric Pink from the same company in my Rose Cuivre Waterman Hémisphère. My triumvirate of fountain pens was rounded out with Graf’s Hazelnut Brown in my blue Waterman Hémisphère. I was happy back then, if only with my ink choices. Then, as they are inclined to do, the pens began to run out of ink at about the same time, and my ability to choose the right inks packed its bags, walked out and slammed the door behind it.

First, I put a Lamy Blue ink cartridge into my Lamy LX Rose Gold pen. It was a cartridge I’d had lying around for a long while and I try to keep that in mind when I think about how disappointed I was by it. Now, this pen has just about the finest nib in my small collection, and even I find it doesn’t always behave nicely with every ink I put into it. To be fair, I should also say I haven’t been a huge fan of the couple of Lamy standard range inks I’ve tried. After using the Cobalt Blue, I found Lamy’s offering uninspiring, and I noticed flow issues which I haven’t had before with this pen and nib. I spent a couple of days being unimpressed and then ditched the cartridge, filling a converter with Benitoite from Lamy’s more pretigious Crysal Ink range. This was better to begin with, but I’ve noticed over the weeks that I am getting some hard starts and I’m just not quite liking this combination of pen and ink. I am asking myself now how long I wish to persevere with this.

Next up, the good news: Graf von Faber-Castell Electric Pink in my Waterman is a happy, happy mix. The ink is lovely and bright on the page, and happily fills the slot I usually allocate to a red ink. I’m enjoying this one a lot.

Now, down to earth with a bump as we move on to Graf von Faber-Castell’s Gulf Blue which replaced the Hazelnut Brown in my blue Hémisphère. This is the second attempt I’ve made with this ink and both times I have found it so wishy-washy that I have not been able to put up with it. I expected this to be a bold, bright blue, more like my adored Waterman Inspired Blue; instead it is a watercolour type of ink, an ink that seems to gently wash away your words as you lay them down on the page. As I got a reasonable saturation of colour by going over my swab test three times, it may well be that this ink suits a broad-nibbed pen which would lay it on thicker and potentially give some decent shading (variations between pale on upstrokes and dark on downstrokes), but that is not my preference. I want all the saturated colour leaping out of my pen right now, colour that grabs me by the throat and shouts “Hey! Look at me!” as I write. If inks were drinks, it would be like the difference between a white wine spritzer and a shot of Southern Comfort: I’ll take the Southern Comfort every time – minimum outlay, maximum impact. In fact, a theme is developing because I could also compare this with the perfumes I’m attracted to: strong, spicy, heavy florals with that same hit-you-round-the-head-and-steal-your-handbag impact. (How awful to discover, this late in life, my irredeemable unsubtlety.) All of this is not to say that I dislike the colour itself and that is, perhaps, the saddest thing, for I think it is very pretty but I just don’t like writing with it.

Now this Gulf Blue is not the only Graf von Faber-Castell ink that I have issues with. At the same time as I purchased the Gulf Blue, I also bought their India Red and have been disappointed with this one, too. At least here you get a decent amount of saturation, but something about this red says ho-hum to me. It is probably too much towards the brown end of the red range which is a thing I also found with the other red I tried from this manufacturer – Garnet Red. Neither of them leaps fire-engine, danger-red, clanging from the nib. India Red is okay, but there are reds I prefer.

It seems, therefore, that Graf von Faber-Castell provides some of my favourite and also my least favourite inks! I love the Cobalt Blue (and Violet Blue when I’m feeling more dreamy); Hazelnut Brown, Burnt Orange and Electric Pink; their Moss Green is just about my favourite green ever. Set against that, Stone Grey is a bit meh (but I doubt I will ever love grey ink), Deep Sea Green is from a sea that just isn’t deep enough, Gulf Blue is more water than colour, and India Red doesn’t have the right energy at all. The Gulf Blue and India Red are newer offerings, along with Viper Green which I want to think I’d love just based on the name, but on the performance of the first two I am pretty sure I’d be disappointed by.

So what is my current Pens In Use status? Well, I’ve got the Lamy LX filled with the Lamy Crystal Benitoite and I’m pushing on with this despite my misgivings. I’ve got the last fumes of the cartridge of Graf von Faber-Castell lingering in my Rose Cuivre Waterman Hémisphère and I feel inclined just to pop in the next cartridge of this same ink and keep going. I’ll probably keep the India Red in my Waterman Allure, although this has been sitting in a handbag and not being used at all. Finally, I’ve inked up my Parker 51 fine nibbed pen with Diamine Majestic Purple which never fails to flow well and put down a lovely, punchy, royal-looking line.

For those of you who love a fountain pen and ink, I hope these thoughts have been of interest. To my knitting friends, I’ll soon be back on the woolly tracks, although my grandmotherly duties might mean that it’s Thursday before I get my knitting update to you this week.

That’s all, folks!


Note about the post title: “pen and ink” is Cockney Rhyming Slang for “stink”, although I don’t want to convery that this post stinks, or that there are any stinks lingering around my life. Just a nice play on words, that’s all!

7 thoughts on “What a pen and ink

  1. I could relate a lot to this…the angst that accompanies pairing pens and inks…the dilemma of whether to waste ink by flushing before a fill is used or to persevere with unhappy combinations. Thankfully we are not struggling with more serious problems!
    Ps. I was in Norfolk at the weekend and also found myself buying a Waterman Allure in a WHSmiths…after reading a sign saying only touch items that you intend to buy. The pastel lilac is pretty and the nib is ok but I am not so keen on the type of plastic that the section is made of. Feels slippery and cheap.

  2. Hi, hope you enjoyed your visit to my neck of the woods! I think the Allure is good for what it is; the nib on mine seems pleasant enough and it’s not a pen I would worry about which is why it’s living in my handbag – when I get a job again I’ll probably use it as the pen I leave in my desk.

  3. Thanks. Yes I should not be too critical of the Allure at £19.99. It is good value for a metal pen with a decent nib.
    The North Norfolk coast is amazing. You have some gems there with charming towns and villages. And a weekend of great weather too!

  4. Thinking about it, the £20 price point is difficult. It’s high enough for personal preference to start kicking in and what we would simply accept at a tenner begins to irritate at £20. The plastic section does make the pen feel “cheap”, although for me that’s outweighed by the metal body and cap which I really appreciate.
    Yes, the North Norfolk coast is fantastic. We generally don’t suffer too much with bad weather, this being a semi-arid region, the rain tends to come over from the west and fall on other places long before it gets to us!

  5. Hi, lovely to hear from you and I am always glad to be an ink enabler. I keep dithering over the TWSBI pens but have never quite hit the button. They are so reasonably priced that I can’t quite understand my hesitation.

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