Experiments With Fountain Pen Ink

Back in 2009 we were like mad scientists with our fountain pen ink – instead of buying a bottle of ink in each color we were mixing ink colors to create our own custom color shades. It was creative and a lot of fun, with some so-so results and some fantastic inky discoveries! Have you ever given ink mixing a try?

The four very basic ink colors you need to create a rainbow of other colors are cyan, magenta, yellow and black (or CMYK) which are also the basic ink colors used in printing. To get the equivalent of CMYK in fountain pen ink you need:

J. Herbin Ink
Cyan = J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche
Magenta = J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen
Yellow = J. Herbin Bouton D’or
Black = J. Herbin Perle Noire

Noodler’s Ink
Cyan = Noodler’s Navajo Turquoise
Magenta = Noodler’s Shah’s Rose
Yellow = Noodler’s Yellow
Black = Noodler’s Black

Platinum Mixable Ink
Cyan = Platinum Aqua Blue
Magenta = Platinum Cyclamen Pink
Yellow = Platinum Sunny Yellow
Black = Platinum Smoke Black

This was the inspiration behind creating our own Noodler’s Ink Starter Kit in 2009, which is still available at Writer’s Bloc. This kit contains about 1/2 oz each of the 4 basic Noodler’s Ink mixing colors in glass eyedropper bottles that are useful for measuring ink drops in your experiments. If you need somewhere to store your ink color creations, we’ve got several solutions for you: capped test tubes, eyedropper bottles, small plastic bottles and a blunt tip needle bottle (for filling empty ink cartridges).

Ink Mixing Color Chart

Ink Mixing Color Chart

Read more about ink mixing and check out some of our favorite custom ink colors:

Ocean Jade Ink

Ocean Jade Ink

Other reasons we were experimenting with fountain pen ink back in 2009 were to see if this would improve ink flow in some dry-writing pens and also to find the most saturated, blackest black fountain pen inks.

Green LAMY Safari with a Calligraphy Nib

Green LAMY Safari with a Calligraphy Nib

Another experiment that proved to be popular in 2009 was swapping the regular nibs on LAMY Safari fountain pens with LAMY calligraphy nibs. It’s a great way to try out some calligraphy without having to buy a whole new fountain pen. Have you tried this yourself? We used to swap the nibs for you in our shop. Now, you can buy an extra LAMY calligraphy nib at a discounted price at the same time as you purchase a LAMY Safari fountain pen. Or, if you’ve already got a LAMY Safari, you can buy the nibs separately. We’ve got easy instructions so that you can change the nib yourself.

Changing the Nib on a LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

Changing the Nib on a LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

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Reflections of a Left Handed Writer

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens

The 10 year anniversary of Writer’s Bloc has got me reminiscing about my first fountain pen purchase way back in 2008. It was an inexpensive blue-black Platinum Preppy with a fine nib. At that time, as a left-handed writer who was constantly having issues with messy smeared ink, I was a little hesitant to try a fountain pen. Several years later my collection of fountain pens has grown to include a quirky variety and I’m still using that same Preppy fountain pen! Needless to say, my experiments with fountain pens were a resounding success and now I rarely ever pick up a ball point pen. I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of the classic fountain pen as a writing tool.

If you’re a lefty that’s considering whether or not to try a fountain pen, possibly you can relate to my past experiences recorded on this blog:

Lime Green LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

Lime Green LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

In 2008, the same year I purchased my first LAMY Safari fountain pen, we were helping writers learn how to swap the steel nibs on their own LAMY fountain pens. This is such a great thing to know if you like to experiment or end up damaging a nib or have a nib that you just don’t care for. It’s a lot cheaper to just replace the nib on a LAMY pen that you already own than to buy a whole new pen (although buying new pens is fun too). Here are the instructions from our first lesson:

Other experiments we were busy with in 2008 included converting cartridge fill fountain pens into eye dropper fill fountain pens. If you’re not familiar with eye dropper fill pens, their advantage is that the entire barrel of the pen becomes an ink reservoir! Kaweco Sport Classic or Ice fountain pens are ideal for this purpose. Check out our Pen Mods eye dropper fill edition and a tip from Noodler’s Ink:

Were you writing with fountain pens a decade ago? If so, what were you writing with? Over the years a good fountain pen often becomes like a good friend to those of us who love to write.

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pens

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pens

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How to Change the Nib on a LAMY Fountain Pen – Part 2

Quite some time ago we gave you a simple tutorial on how to change the nib on your LAMY fountain pen using plastic tape: http://reviews.shopwritersbloc.com/fountain-pens/how-to-replace-the-nib-on-a-lamy-fountain-pen.html

Why would you ever want to change the nib on your LAMY fountain pen? Perhaps you want to change the nib size of your pen. Or, if you’re clumsy like me, maybe you damaged your nib. Steel LAMY fountain pen nibs happen to come in a variety of sizes and are reasonably priced.

Using the tape method to change your nib works quite well if the nib is pretty dry, but what if the pen is inked and the nib is very wet? If this is the case, tape will not adhere to the nib very well making this method a bit difficult. There is another simple method we’d like to tell you about using a small piece of rubbery drawer/shelf liner, or super wide rubber band or something similar.

LAMY Safari Fountain Pen and a piece of rubbery drawer liner

LAMY Safari Fountain Pen and a piece of rubbery drawer liner

Use the rubber drawer liner to grip the very end of the nib and gently pull it straight off the feed of your LAMY fountain pen. You might need the fold the rubber drawer liner in half to get a better grip. Sometimes the nib is quite tight so you’ll need a firm grip to remove it.

Grab the end of the nib firmly with the rubber drawer liner.

Grab the end of the nib firmly with the rubber drawer liner.

If you accidentally pull the feed out of the pen along with the nib no need to worry. Use your rubber drawer liner to grab the tip of the nib and another piece of the rubber drawer liner (or maybe even a paper towel or cloth) to grab the feed and then pull them apart. If you look carefully you’ll see that the LAMY Safari fountain pen has a small groove inside the barrel to help direct you to put the feed back in the pen in the correct direction. The flattest side of the feed where the nib fits faces “up” should point toward the top of the triangular ergonomic grip of the pen.

Gently pull the nib straight off of the feed.

Gently pull the nib straight off of the feed.

Once you get the nib off of the feed it is even easier to get a new nib back on. Be sure to line up the side edges of the steel nib with the grooves on the back of the feed that are designed to hold the nib in place. Push the new nib on gently to prevent any damage to the feed or the nib.

Voila! The nib has been removed from the pen

Voila! The nib has been removed from the pen

I took these pictures of a friend trying this for the very first time. She had a little trouble using the rubber liner to get a good grip on the tiny end of the nib, but other than that the whole procedure was quick and simple. How do you like to change the nibs on your LAMY fountain pens? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?

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Writer’s Bloc Top 10 Fountain Pens

What are the top ten fountain pens? Anyone that writes with a fountain pen could likely come up with a unique list of their own ten favorite pens. Our list of the top ten fountain pens was created by considering several different factors including our own employee favorites. These fountain pens, as well as others that we choose to make available in our shop, are all carefully selected based on their individual strengths. We decided to number the pens in our top 10 list based on their current price – from the most expensive to the least expensive. See if any of your favorites are listed here:

1) Aurora Optima Demonstrator Fountain Pen – Alan says that writing with this pen is like driving a high performance European sports car. The quality and materials are beautiful and it is a joy write with. He especially loves the character of the nib which he describes as solid and somewhat toothy allowing him feel the “road conditions” as he writes.  Alan also loves fountain pens with a clear body so that you can see all of the parts and inner workings of the pen. The hidden ink reservoir feature has bailed him out near the end of meetings when he is running out of ink.

2) Pilot Custom 74 Fountain Pen – This is another favorite of Alan’s. He is a fan of extra fine nibs and loves the performance of this Japanese fine nib. He likes pens that are not too heavy and for him it has the right balance in his hand and is the perfect writing weight. His favorite Custom 74 colors include Clear and Orange and he says Smoke is a good choice if you like a less clear and more solid looking pen.

3) LAMY 2000 Fountain Pen – Alex says one reason to love the LAMY 2000 is its sleek modern Bauhaus design with its hooded nib and interesting Makrolon body and cap. Superficial reasons aside, this is a great pen to write with!

4) Namiki Falcon Fountain Pen – The Namiki Falcon is outstanding for the reason that it comes equipped with a modern 14K semi-flex nib that gives a soft, flexible feel to your writing experience. It allows for variation of stroke width while you write or draw and really shines when it is paired with ink that has good shading. Alan says that with his Falcon the ink flow is absolutely superb!

5) Pelikan M200/M205 Classic Fountain Pen – This Pelikan fountain pen has a legendary piston filling system and at its price point it is a great first step into the world of piston fill fountain pens. It is consistently a best seller and Pelikan has been in the business of creating high quality fountain pens for many years. This particular pen has a steel nib, but you can upgrade to the Pelikan M400/M405 if you prefer a gold nib. Pelikan offers special limited edition colors of the M200/M205 such as this sophisticated taupe color!

6) Stipula Bon Voyage Fountain Pen – The Bon Voyage fountain pen was specifically created to be eyedropper fill and even comes with an eyedropper for easy filling. When capped it is a compact pocket size and if you happen to be nervous about carrying an eyedropper pen in your pocket you also have the option of using short standard universal ink cartridges. It can easily be converted to a rollerball pen by removing the fountain pen feed (just unscrew it from the barrel) and replacing it with a rollerball feed. This Stipula has some pretty cool features that you can’t find on just any fountain pen!

7) LAMY Safari Fountain Pen – If fountain pens were to have a popularity contest it is pretty likely that this guy would win. I would venture to say that a plethora of writers that regularly use fountain pens have at least one LAMY Safari in their pen case. It’s a favorite everyday writer and its price makes it accessible to students and professionals alike.

8) Platinum Plaisir Fountain Pen – This is Cher’s favorite everyday “purse” fountain pen. She loves the special cap that prevents ink from drying out in the nib. The durable anodized aluminum body has a pearlized finish that comes in several fun colors such as sports car red and pale violet. As a left-handed writer she also appreciates that the grip is suitable for lefties and that the fine nib is the ideal size for her – the fine line of ink dries quickly and i
t is not too “pokey or scratchy” for her strange lefty writing position.

9) Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen – Great pen, great price. Need we say more? Makes a thoughtful inexpensive gift: it’s less than $20.00, the nib size is easy to write with even for beginners, it’s made from durable materials and it comes with a stylish Pilot gift box.

10) Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen – The lovable Preppy fountain pen is so inexpensive it is an easy introduction into the world of fountain pens. For a disposable fountain pen it offers amazing quality! It comes in seven colors and Platinum designed it so that it can be refilled or even converted to eyedropper fill.

That’s our top 10 list! What’s yours? What fountain pens would you put on your top 10 list? We’d love to hear about your favorites!

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Choosing Your Fountain Pen Ink Color Online

(J. Herbin Fountain Pen Ink Vert Pre)

As you’re shopping online for a new bottle of fountain pen ink, likely the ink color samples you see on your computer, tablet or smartphone have a big influence on what you decide to purchase. Can you trust what you see on your computer monitor? Do you ever wonder how the ink samples are made?

When we first started producing samples of fountain pen ink colors for our online store, we used a special color calibrated computer monitor and made careful adjustments with graphics software to make sure the color sample looked as close to real life as possible from our viewpoint. The flaw in this method is that most shoppers do not use color calibrated computer monitors. As a result, the ink color samples look different to each shopper because each shopper uses a different monitor or smartphone to view the samples. Since then, we have intentionally purchased computer monitors that are a variety of different brands so that we can compare and see what our shoppers might be seeing. Even so, it is not possible with current technology to make sure that each one of you sees a completely accurate sample of each ink color when you are shopping online.

Other retailers have made ink samples that don’t even display real ink swatches or handwriting at all. Graphics software is used to pick the color and then a computer font that looks like handwriting is used to create a “handwritten” color sample. This also has disadvantages. When you look at the color variations in the ink samples below, can you see how it would be difficult to decide what part of the sample it would be best to pick the color from? A computer generated color sample does not give you any idea of the shading or opacity of the ink. Plus, it still does not change the fact that each of you are using different computers and smartphones that each display colors slightly differently.

If you are a regular shopper at Writer’s Bloc, you may have noticed that many of our ink color samples look like this:

(Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts bottled fountain pen ink sample)

We decided to come up with a standardized way of creating our online fountain pen ink samples so that you might be able to discern some of the ink’s characteristics before you decide to buy. Each sample is handwritten with the actual ink, in the same calligraphy style, using a Brause dipping pen with a Steno nib. The “swish” above the handwriting is made with an inked cotton swab and goes from left to right so that the heaviest ink application is on the left and the lightest on the right. The paper used is always bright white 90g Clairefontaine French-ruled paper. (Note: the ink photos on our website that include the ink bottle or cartridges in the photo are meant to give you a general idea of the ink color and are NOT meant to be the primary color sample for the ink.)

What are some of the advantages of this method? Clairefontaine is known as one of the best papers in the world for writing, and it performs exceptionally well with fountain pens.  This paper is very good at eliminating or reducing writing problems that are common on low-grade paper such as ink feathering and ink bleeding through the paper. By the way, if ink happens to bleed or feather while we are making our samples, we do not retouch the samples or re-write them to try and get rid of the feathering – we just use them the way they are to help you discern the character of the ink. The Clairefontaine paper is a bright white color so it does not detract from the color of the fountain pen ink.

Why use French-ruled paper and not blank paper? The lines on the French-ruled paper help you to see how opaque or how transparent the ink is. Can you see the lines on the paper through the ink sample? For example, Noodler’s Eel Polar Black ink is very opaque:

And J. Herbin’s Vert Pre ink is more transparent:

The Brause Steno nib allows you to see what your writing might look like using a fountain pen with a fine to medium size nib. The Steno nib is a flex nib, so the line width in the samples varies. The cotton swab generated “swish” above the writing helps you to see what kind of shading the ink might have. Noodler’s Ink Habannero has some nice shading to it:

To prepare the color samples for our online store, the ink samples written on Clairefontaine paper are simply scanned, cropped and re-sized. That’s it. They are not retouched or enhanced by graphics software in any other way.

Even though we have a standardized system for creating our ink color samples, each of you will see the color a little bit differently depending on your own personal monitor or screen. Each of you will be writing on different kinds and colors of paper, using different nib sizes and you all have different handwriting. This too can affect the way an ink looks as you write with it. Our wish is to give you the most realistic online ink samples possible to help you choose your fountain pen ink!

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Fountain Pen Basics: What size of nib should I get on my first fountain pen?

(LAMY fountain pen nibs)

When choosing your first fountain pen you may notice that they are outfitted with a variety of nibs. The most common nib choices are extra-fine, fine, medium and broad. Other types of nibs include soft fine, BB, stub, italic, calligraphy, music, left-handed and more.

When you pick up a ballpoint or rollerball pen to write, not much thought is given to the way you hold the pen. Pretty much no matter which way the pen is oriented in your hand, the pen will write – assuming you are not out of ink of course! Fountain pens are different. Most of them need to be held correctly, with the nib oriented in the right direction, in order for the pen to write well. Depending on how coordinated you are this can take a little practice.

Nibs that are in the middle of the nib size spectrum are often the easiest to write with because they will usually write even if the fountain pen is not held exactly right. We would recommend a medium nib as a good choice for a beginner, or if your writing is small, a fine nib. Left-handed nibs are often medium-fine in size, so they are also a good choice for a beginner that is left-handed. However, a left-handed nib is not essential for a left-handed writer.

Something to keep in mind is that nib sizes are not standardized. For example, generally German-made nibs are broader in size than the equivalent size of Japanese-made nibs. This does not apply 100% of the time though, sometimes there are exceptions. A couple of popular brands with German-made nibs are LAMY and Pelikan. Pens with Japanese nibs include brands such as Platinum, Sailor, Nakaya, Pilot and others. Japanese extra-fine and fine nibs may seem very very small compared to the tips on the ballpoint and rollerball pens that Westerners are used to writing with.

These recommendations are based on our own personal writing experiences. If your first fountain pen does not have a medium or fine nib don’t let that hold you back from enjoying the satisfying experience of writing with a fountain pen. With a little bit of practice and experimentation you may find there is a place in your pen case for nibs of many different sizes! If you are an experienced fountain pen user, what nib size recommendations would you like to pass along to a beginner?

(Platinum President Fountain Pen nib)

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Do I need a left-handed nib on my fountain pen if I’m a left-handed writer?

I am a left-handed writer and the first time I used a fountain pen I had no idea left-handed fountain pen nibs even existed. It didn’t occur to me that there would be any problem using just a regular nib and I didn’t notice any problems. Years later, I’m back to using fountain pens regularly and have discovered that there are a few nibs out there specially designed for lefties. Many ask the question: Is it really necessary to have one of these special nibs if you are left-handed?

Left-handed fountain pen nibs are generally more rounded on the tip with the idea of producing a smoother writing experience. This particularly applies to languages such as English that are written from left to right. When left-handed people such as myself write, the pen is often angled in such a way that the pointiest part of the pen, the nib, is being pushed along paper made of fibers that are not impervious to tearing and which offer some resistance. It’s like taking a sharp nail or a pin and pushing it along a piece of paper at a 45 degree angle with the pointy end facing the direction it is being pushed. Likely you’re going to end up piercing that piece of paper with your pin! In contrast, try taking that same pin and pulling it along that same piece of paper with the pointy end facing away from the direction it is being pulled. It feels smoother as you pull it and it is much less likely that you will pierce the paper. That would be more like the experience of a right-handed writer. So as you can see, pen nibs of all kinds have a huge influence on whether or not a lefty has a good or a bad writing experience.

I personally find that a good writing experience for a lefty does not stop at the kind of nib on the pen. It is extremely important to me that whatever ink I’m using dries quickly or else I’ll smear it all over the place. The type of paper I use is also important since this affects the drying time of the ink. In addition, if paper is of very poor quality or tears easily, I may find myself poking holes in the paper with my pen or pencil. Each writer needs to experiment with different combinations of pen, ink and paper before discovering what works best for them.

I own many fountain pens with a variety of nibs, and three of them happen to have left-handed nibs. I personally find that the left-handed fountain pen nibs aren’t necessarily any better or any worse than using a regular fountain pen nib. I’m not sure if you will have the same experience. I must say though, that I can’t go wrong with my left-handed Pelikano Junior fountain pen. I don’t always want to write with such a broad nib, but I appreciate its smoothness when I use it.

(Pelikan Pelikano fountain pen with a left-handed nib compared to a Pelikano with a regular nib. Note the modified grip and the rounded nib on the left-handed pen.)

For the left-handed writer that is new to fountain pens, I would suggest starting out with a nib that is middle-of-the-road, perhaps something like a LAMY Safari with a left-handed, fine or medium nib. You might find extra-fine nibs to be too sharp and “pokey” at first, and broad nibs may lay down so much ink that you are smearing your writing too much. Another pen that I felt was easy to write with from the first time I picked it up is the Platinum Preppy with a fine nib, or for a nicer version of this pen with the same nib, the Platinum Plaisir fountain pen. If you get a chance to purchase a fountain pen with a left-handed nib, it is worth giving it a try. The Pelikan Pelikano and Pelikano Junior are both readily available with left-handed nibs. The Pelikan Pelikanos also have a grip that is modified to fit a left-handed writer. I’ve also heard of some lefties sending in their expensive nibs to be customized by a nibmeister, but I’ve never felt the need to do this myself.

Are you a left-handed writer? What kind of pen or fountain pen do you like to write with? Do you own any fountain pens with left-handed nibs?


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Steel vs Gold Fountain Pen Nibs

Platinum President Demonstrator Pen 18K Gold Nib

Some people feel that to obtain the ultimate experience in writing one needs to invest in a fountain pen with a gold nib. But is this really true? Is a gold nib really superior?

There are a couple of reasons that a gold nib could indeed be superior. For one, acidic or alkaline ink will not discolor or corrode a gold nib, whereas a stainless steel nib can eventually discolor and corrode. This was more of an issue in years past when inks generally tended to be more acidic than they are today.

As well, the workmanship is usually superior on high quality pens with gold nibs, with these pens and nibs getting much more care, attention and hand-work in the factory. Plus the appearance of some gold nibs is truly stunning! High quality fountain pens are considered by some to be family heirlooms and are valued by collectors around the world.

Since gold is a softer metal than steel some think that the writing experience with gold nibs is "softer" or more flexible. But this is not truly the case because once gold is bent or flexed it does not tend to return to its original shape.

During writing, the gold portion of a fountain pen nib is not actually the part of the nib that comes in contact with the paper. All gold and stainless steel fountain pen nibs (except some of the cheapest with a low quality) have a ball under the nib made of hard metal, such as iridium, that comes in contact with the paper. The quality and workmanship of this ball, or tip, will definitely have an effect on whether or not the pen has a superior performance.

We have found that some stainless steel nibs can rival the performance of some gold fountain pen nibs. Even an inexpensive LAMY Safari fountain pen can write "like butter" and provide a very satisfying writing experience.

So should you purchase a fountain pen with a gold nib? That’s entirely up to you! Once you get started with your fountain pen collection you will likely come to appreciate the beauty and workmanship that goes into high quality fountain pens with gold nibs. Happy shopping!

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How to Install a LAMY Converter

The LAMY converter has been carefully designed to help it stay securely attached to your LAMY fountain pen. When used correctly, this can help prevent accidents from leaking ink.

LAMY converter – notice the 2 small plastic nubs in this picture – one pointing up and the other pointing down.

The converter can fit in the pen with the nubs facing this way, but this does not help to secure the converter.

The nubs are designed to fit into these slots on the main part of the pen. This helps to keep the converter securely in place.

LAMY pen with converter securely in place.

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How to Replace the Nib on a LAMY Fountain Pen

If your LAMY fountain pen nib gets damaged, or if you just want to use a different kind of nib for writing such as a fine nib instead of a medium nib, it is nice to know that LAMY fountain pen nibs are easily replaced.

First, wipe off any ink from your fountain pen nib.  Next, starting at the edge of the ink feed and working your way down to the end of the nib, firmly adhere a few inches of clear, plastic tape to the front of the nib. Be sure to make the piece of tape long enough so that you will be able to pull on the end of the tape. Do not use magic tape, as this will tear too easily. Transparent tape for general office use or packing tape should work. Then, pull the tape slightly down and away from the pen and the nib should slide off of your fountain pen.

To put on the new nib. just line it up with the ink feed and push it on firmly. This method is commonly used by LAMY fountain pen users and will not scratch or damage the nib. Easy!

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