What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Archive for October 24th, 2012

Going Grey

Posted by Dirck on 24 October, 2012

I had thought of a “Shades of Grey” variation as a title, but that’s a bandwagon I don’t even really want to be on the same street at.

I stuck my head in yesterday at a forum discussion of  long-term ink usage.  The initiator of the discussion, finding his ink use limited in terms of colour and brand, pondered whether it were possible to get a life-time supply of ink.  My immediate thought was…

It outlasted the original purchaser, at least.

…it used to be. Others mentioned that Pelikan has liter bottles of it, and Noodler’s can be had by special arrangement in up to 32 ounce flasks (that’s just 946 ml, or 66.6 UK Tablespoons), and given that the 62.5 ml Regular Job bottle of ink, put into service at the start of this year, has only just passed the half-way point, either of those modern gargantuas will last a very long time.

There is, however, a potential problem with that.  Ink is a liquid.  Organisms of all sorts think liquid is a great place to set up housekeeping.  There are chemicals in ink to deter them, but those are not always successful, and they you’ve got something that’s rather too chunky to pass through a pen.

Even if that unhappy development never eventuate, there is still grim Entropy to consider, and her local attendant, Oxygen.  When using ink, the bottle has to open.  Unless one has a sealed glove-box and a tank of nitrogen to devote to the effort, the opening of the bottle and the removal of ink sees common air and its freight of oxygen enter.  Have a look at this nice, fresh, Lamy blue-black:

Fresh Lamy blue-black

And then compare it to a bottle opened a couple of years earlier.  I think you’ll find the alteration pretty obvious:

Wilted Lamy blue-black

One of the modern notions of a blue-black ink seems to be an attempt to make something new that looks like what the old readily reactive versions, which in their day would have been rather more like the first Lamy sample, have become over decades of slow oxidation.

Waterman, 1940s



Pelikan modern; “heavy” being an indication of the change a damp pen makes



Reeves, 1950s, as decanted from the preceding bottle



Skrip modern


…so you see that the idea of clinging to ink indefinitely is a foolish one.  This sort of degradation is not inevitable, and this specific form of it is less likely to affect non-ferrotanic inks, but I look at the relatively pale blue both my vintage blues are, and I think that they’ve probably lose something to the march of time. 

I’m saying this as a bow to both Entropy and my old dance partner, Irony, since as I’ve been mulling over this entry, I’ve also been enthusiastically, nay with wild avaricious abandon accepting a kind offer to send me a baker’s dozen of ink samples.  Take heed, self of a couple of weeks from now, who is opening a parcel full of variously coloured delight; you need to use those.  Don’t hold onto them for something special, you silly man; fling ’em about with abandon.  You’ve got plenty of others, and none of them are getting any younger, either!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Organics Studio Manganate V

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »