Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts Ink Review

There are some inks that just aren’t that great, let’s be honest. Most inks are pretty good, and there are a few that are really exciting. Then there are some that just stand out and have no equals. I would argue that Noodler’s 54th Massachusetts is one of those inks. It’s a bold statement, and I’m a retailer who sells the ink so take what I say with that in mind, but I really think this ink is that good. And I know I’m not alone in that thinking.

There are a lot of blue black inks out there, and for good reason. They’re popular mainly because they’re usually acceptable on work documents, but they are more exciting than just plain black. Most blue blacks aren’t permanent though, or at least water resistant. Some of the most popular ones that are include Noodler’s Bad Belted Kingfisher, Bad Blue Heron, Sailor Sei-Boku (Nano) Blue Black, and Rohrer and Klingner Salix. These inks all have their tradeoffs, though. BBK and BBH tend to feather, the Sailor ink is pigmented and can have trouble in some pens, and the Rohrer and Klingner is iron gall so it takes a little more consideration than your typical ink (especially with certain vintage pens). It’s been hard to find a ‘hassle free’ waterproof blue black, until 54th.

Nathan Tardif (the ink’s creator and the man behind Noodler’s inks and pens) made a video of 54th, explaining the background and history behind the label and his own family ties to its meaning. The ink is named after the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and was portrayed on the big screen in 1989 in the movie “Glory” by notable actors like Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes, and Matthew Broderick. The 54th was the first all African-American regiment in the Civil War, and they were upset because they were promised equal pay with white soldiers and short-changed (by the time the war was ending, they did get their equal pay). It’s significant for Nathan because he has deep ties in Massachusetts history, specifically the abolitionist Quakers that helped to recruit these soldiers during the Civil War.

I did a full review of the ink here, and I explain it in more detail in the video. The most outstanding feature of this ink is the water resistance, you can hardly tell I even did my drip test!

There are some comparable colors, but nothing really dead-on. 54th is a pretty dark, saturated blue black that leans very gray.

It darkens in a wetter pen. Its strengths are water resistance and cost effectiveness, and it’s not too bad to clean out of the pen considering the ink’s permanence. Dry time is a bit long on ink resistant paper like Rhodia, but on more absorbent paper it dries incredibly fast. The type of paper you use will make a huge difference in the dry time. This ink, like all other Noodler’s bulletproof inks, attains its permanence through cellulose reaction, when the ink chemicals bond to the cellulose fibers of the paper. It’s an incredibly permanent bond, but one that requires the ink to soak into the paper to achieve it. For that reason, most Noodler’s inks (this one included) don’t bond so well to heavily sized paper like watercolor paper.

I don’t think I’m going out on too much of a limb here by saying that this is one of the best blue black inks currently made. If you’ve used it, I’d love for your feedback in the comments below. If you have any questions about anything I didn’t cover here, then you can also post in the comments and I’m happy to reply ๐Ÿ™‚

Write On,
Brian Goulet

2017-10-11T14:38:05+00:00 December 12th, 2012|Ink Reviews|87 Comments
  • I love this ink, too. I’ve got it two pens right now, and it works really well in both of them. No feathering even in my wetter Sheaffer. Really good stuff.

  • I love this ink, too. I've got it two pens right now, and it works really well in both of them. No feathering even in my wetter Sheaffer. Really good stuff.

  • Robert

    Great review Brian, Thanks! My current go to “bulletproof” ink is Noddler’s Black, but this looks like a very appealing alternative.

    • If you like bulletproof black, then you will definitely like 54th.

  • Robert

    Great review Brian, Thanks! My current go to "bulletproof" ink is Noddler's Black, but this looks like a very appealing alternative.

  • Glen Patashnick

    Got a bottle, and the behavior’s good so far, but the smell is second only to KTC in terms of pungency. It’s not just there when filling – I can smell it when I’m writing, too. I’d wager there’s a relationship in terms of dyes. On the bright side, this KTC relationship means that 54th also writes flawlessly on magazine paper, which many inks can’t do.

    • It is pretty potent, but I have actually acquired a taste for the smell of Noodler’s inks ๐Ÿ™‚ No doubt there is some relationship of dyes, but KTC is a pretty unique ink (and also more expensive because of the components it uses).

  • Glen Patashnick

    Got a bottle, and the behavior's good so far, but the smell is second only to KTC in terms of pungency. It's not just there when filling – I can smell it when I'm writing, too.

  • FiveCatPenagerie

    Great review! But I do have to disagree with what you said about Bad Blue Heron feathering. It’s probably the most consistently well behaved inks in my collection.

    • I think it depends on the paper, but still I might have been a little harsh on BBH. What I meant to imply was that BBH, like a lot of the other more permanent Noodler’s inks (especially the Warden’s Series) tend to spread a bit more, and have a flatter/chalky look to them. Polar Blue and Green, Luxury Blue, they’re known for this too. 54th holds a tighter line than all these inks.

  • Mike H

    Great review! But I do have to disagree with what you said about Bad Blue Heron feathering. It's probably the most consistently well behaved inks in my collection.

  • The Good Captain

    I’ve got it in a Pelikan M215 with F nib at the moment but I might put a M nib back in to see how it goes with that. Fabulous ink and worth the purchase.

    • Indeed! This one is now a staple in my collection.

  • Carla Lee Skipper

    This was my first bottle of ink ever. I bought it for my journal (Leuchtturm1917) writing as well as everyday work journal (spiral cheapie). I wanted a permanent low maintenance ink and that’s what 54th Massachusetts offers. I have it in my new Pilot Metropolitan and am one happy camper! Thank you everyone at the Goulet Pen Co.!

    • You’re welcome! Pilot Metro, Noodler’s 54th, you definitely got off to a great start! I’ve been using my Metro a lot, too, awesome pen.

  • The Good Captain

    I've got it in a Pelikan M215 with F nib at the moment but I might put a M nib back in to see how it goes with that. Fabulous ink and worth the purchase.

  • This was my first bottle of ink ever. I bought it for my journal (Leuchtturm1917) writing as well as everyday work journal (spiral cheapie). I wanted a permanent low maintenance ink and that's what 54th Massachusetts offers. I have it in my new Pilot Metropolitan and am one happy camper! Thank you everyone at the Goulet Pen Co.!

  • Good stuff! Yeah, I love this in my Pilot.

  • If you like bulletproof black, then you will definitely like 54th.

  • It is pretty potent, but I have actually acquired a taste for the smell of Noodler's inks ๐Ÿ™‚ No doubt there is some relationship of dyes, but KTC is a pretty unique ink (and also more expensive because of the components it uses).

  • I think it depends on the paper, but still I might have been a little harsh on BBH. What I meant to imply was that BBH, like a lot of the other more permanent Noodler's inks (especially the Warden's Series) tend to spread a bit more, and have a flatter/chalky look to them. Polar Blue and Green, Luxury Blue, they're known for this too. 54th holds a tighter line than all these inks.

  • Indeed! This one is now a staple in my collection.

  • You're welcome! Pilot Metro, Noodler's 54th, you definitely got off to a great start! I've been using my Metro a lot, too, awesome pen.

  • Scott K.

    Brian, I’m curious as to what you consider a “more absorbent (sic) paper.” My experience with the 54th was about 25-30 seconds drying time on the Rhodia, but also on Moleskine. Maybe it’s a paper thing…

    • Moleskine has different types of paper, it can even vary within a notebook. When I mean more absorbent paper I mean something like inkjet printer paper, as opposed to laser copy paper.

      • Robert Guthrie

        I was keeping an ink journal in a Moleskine notebook, but gave up on it because on one page, the dry time for a particular ink was well over 60 seconds. On the next page, the same ink dried in 3. Not 30, but three seconds. Moleskine paper is terribly inconsistent in it’s quality, so you can’t trust it to be absorbent all the time, though it does tend to suck in the ink pretty fast, letting it bleed through with most inks.

        • Oh gosh, yeah, keeping an ink journal in a Moleskine is not a good idea. Consistency is key for an ink journal, and it’s pretty tough to beat Rhodia/Clairefontaine there. I’ve heard about wild variances in paper quality in Moleskines, which normally would matter except with fountain pen ink.

    • ben borgmeyer

      “more absorbent (sic) [sic] paper.”

      • Michael Minnolera

        Perhaps we have some adsorption taking place too? ๐Ÿ™‚

        I also fell in love with the 54th. It is very well behaved on the full range of paper that I use at work. Thanks to Nathan for another “home run” ink!

  • Scott K.

    Brian, I'm curious as to what you consider a "more absorbent (sic) paper." My experience with the 54th was about 25-30 seconds drying time on the Rhodia, but also on Moleskine. Maybe it's a paper thing…

  • Moleskine has different types of paper, it can even vary within a notebook. When I mean more absorbent paper I mean something like inkjet printer paper, as opposed to laser copy paper.

  • ben borgmeyer

    "more absorbent (sic) [sic] paper."

  • Is that pilot a Custom or something else? I've been looking for the right ink to pair with my VP, and I haven't really found it yet.

  • James

    Brian, I strongly recommend readers to view the second videoclip wherein Nathan explains why the 54TH Massachusetts regiment is significant to him personally. No doubt his ink of that name has excellent properties, but the real treasure is Mr. Tardif himself. His simple eloquence is refreshing, and more than most, he LIVES American history. The man is fascinating.

    • He is a fascinating man, no question about that! The depth of thought that he puts into all the products he creates is like nothing I’ve ever seen…I see multiple-thousand dollar limited edition pens that have far less meaning behind their themes than what Nathan puts into a $12.50 bottle of ink…

  • James

    Brian, I strongly recommend readers to view the second videoclip wherein Nathan explains why the 54TH Massachusetts regiment is significant to him personally. No doubt his ink of that name has excellent properties, but the real treasure is Mr. Tardif himself. His simple eloquence is refreshing, and more than most, he LIVES American history. The man is fascinating.

  • He is a fascinating man, no question about that! The depth of thought that he puts into all the products he creates is like nothing I've ever seen…I see multiple-thousand dollar limited edition pens that have far less meaning behind their themes than what Nathan puts into a $12.50 bottle of ink…

  • Yes, it's my Pilot Custom 74, blue with 14k medium nib: http://www.gouletpens.com/Pilot_Custom_74_Blue_Medium_Fountain_Pen_p/pn60696.htm

    54th works well in my Custom 74, I haven't used it in a VP yet but it should work well.

  • I was keeping an ink journal in a Moleskine notebook, but gave up on it because on one page, the dry time for a particular ink was well over 60 seconds. On the next page, the same ink dried in 3. Not 30, but three seconds. Moleskine paper is terribly inconsistent in it's quality, so you can't trust it to be absorbent all the time, though it does tend to suck in the ink pretty fast, letting it bleed through with most inks.

  • jakuchu

    I exclusively draw with my more flexible pens and am always on the look out for a more permanent blue black. Great colour, very close like the dark dark blues I mix on my palette for washes. I will do some uv tests myself. In the mean time, I just ordered another bottle.

    • I hope this works well for you! I’m not sure how this will wash if the paper is heavily sized…that’s the one downside to Noodler’s Bulletproof inks. They need to soak into the paper to be permanent. But Rhodia is pretty ink resistant and it still was pretty darn waterproof on there in a relatively short time.

  • jakuchu

    I exclusively draw with my more flexible pens and am always on the look out for a more permanent blue black. Great colour, very close like the dark dark blues I mix on my palette for washes. I will do some uv tests myself. In the mean time, I just ordered another bottle.

  • Oh gosh, yeah, keeping an ink journal in a Moleskine is not a good idea. Consistency is key for an ink journal, and it's pretty tough to beat Rhodia/Clairefontaine there. I've heard about wild variances in paper quality in Moleskines, which normally would matter except with fountain pen ink.

  • I hope this works well for you! I'm not sure how this will wash if the paper is heavily sized…that's the one downside to Noodler's Bulletproof inks. They need to soak into the paper to be permanent. But Rhodia is pretty ink resistant and it still was pretty darn waterproof on there in a relatively short time.

  • Michael Minnolera

    Perhaps we have some adsorption taking place too? ๐Ÿ™‚

    I also fell in love with the 54th. It is very well behaved on the full range of paper that I use at work. Thanks to Nathan for another "home run" ink!

  • Victor

    I’m new to fountain pen and I want to purchase some ink. How does it compare to Noodler’s black in terms of flow, drying time etc. ?

    • This ink is very similar to Noodler’s Black, in just about all ways except the color.

  • Victor

    I'm new to fountain pen and I want to purchase some ink. How does it compare to Noodler's black in terms of flow, drying time etc. ?

  • This ink is very similar to Noodler's Black, in just about all ways except the color.

  • Heath

    I LOVE this ink. I got it just a couple weeks ago and have already run through two pistons full in an Ahab. I think it’s just beautiful! I might have to hoard it in case it’s ever discontinued (don’t discontinue it, Nathan!)

    • Oh, I don’t think it’ll be discontinued, this seems like the kind of ink that Nathan would do everything in his power to continue offering. It has a lot of personal sentiment.

  • Heath

    I LOVE this ink. I got it just a couple weeks ago and have already run through two pistons full in an Ahab. I think it's just beautiful! I might have to hoard it in case it's ever discontinued (don't discontinue it, Nathan!)

  • Oh, I don't think it'll be discontinued, this seems like the kind of ink that Nathan would do everything in his power to continue offering. It has a lot of personal sentiment.

  • Runnin_Ute

    I haven’t picked up a bottle – yet. I have tried a sample and really liked it though. My other favorite blue blacks are Diamine and Pelikan 4001 (no particular order). I want to pick up something a bit lighter, breezier first. I noticed on the Southworth Granite specialty paper I have (gray in color) a 25% Cotton, 90 gsm paper that it turns almost black – especially with a fine nib.

    Guess I didn’t really realize it was a bulletproof/waterproof ink.

    • The permanence is the best part about this ink. If you wanted a lighter version while still keeping some permanence, Rohrer and Klingner Salix might be better.

      • Runnin_Ute

        Brian, I agree the permanence isn’t a downside for me. (and it may have been late when I made my post) I didn’t necessarily mean a lighter in color blue black. I think there are three basic colors EVERYONE should have. A blue-black, a blue, and a black. Everything else is to have fun with. Those three colors work in a business setting ,(unless it is the wrong blue) every time. Maybe a Waterman Florida Blue, the above blue-blacks and a good black. I have a little Levenger Raven Black left, but not much, so a black is something I am on the hunt for. Want to try something a bit different. (spilled some in a composition book (Brazilian paper) and when it dried it was red on the back side……
        I was actually considering using 54th Mass in lieu of a regular black – at least in the short term. Especially with a fine nib.

        • You actually brought up an interesting point about ink in the workplace…I’ve heard from a number of lawyers and doctors that they’re actually specifically told NOT to use blacks or dark blues, because they’re too easy to forge and photocopy. Inks like Noodler’s Cactus Fruit Eel are becoming more popular in ‘professional’ work environments where the integrity of the original writing is important!

          • Dave

            hey Brian i’m a doctor and i used to mix my own bulletproof blue-black (using HOD and luxury blue) so it’s black enough to comply with hospital requirements to write ‘only’ in black but still blue enough to be readily identified in the patient notes as my entries AND water resistant but now i think i’ll grab some 54th Mass – no mixing, fast dry, nice and dark but subtly different to boring black ๐Ÿ™‚ happy days

  • Runnin_Ute

    I haven't picked up a bottle – yet. I have tried a sample and really liked it though. My other favorite blue blacks are Diamine and Pelikan 4001 (no particular order). I want to pick up something a bit lighter, breezier first. I noticed on the Southworth Granite specialty paper I have (gray in color) a 25% Cotton, 90 gsm paper that it turns almost black – especially with a fine nib.

  • The permanence is the best part about this ink. If you wanted a lighter version while still keeping some permanence, Rohrer and Klingner Salix might be better.

  • Runnin_Ute

    Brian, I agree the permanence isn't a downside for me. (and it may have been late when I made my post) I didn't necessarily mean a lighter in color blue black. I think there are three basic colors EVERYONE should have. A blue-black, a blue, and a black. Everything else is to have fun with. Those three colors work in a business setting ,(unless it is the wrong blue) every time. Maybe a Waterman Florida Blue, the above blue-blacks and a good black. I have a little Levenger Raven Black left, but not much, so a black is something I am on the hunt for. Want to try something a bit different. (spilled some in a composition book (Brazilian paper) and when it dried it was red on the back side……
    I was actually considering using 54th Mass in lieu of a regular black – at least in the short term. Especially with a fine nib.

  • You actually brought up an interesting point about ink in the workplace…I've heard from a number of lawyers and doctors that they're actually specifically told NOT to use blacks or dark blues, because they're too easy to forge and photocopy. Inks like Noodler's Cactus Fruit Eel are becoming more popular in 'professional' work environments where the integrity of the original writing is important!

  • Ququr

    Yes, the permanence is a key feature. I was deciding between R&K Verdigris & 54M for my first bottle of ink. I prefer Verdigris’ color & smoothness. 54M is great when it’s going but starts slowly in my Lamy Safari-fine. The permanence (tested via the very hi-tech spit-on-finger method) was the decider for me.
    As far as paper, it’s funny now to think of Moleskine as inferior paper. It started high on my list before I had ever heard of Clairfontaine or Rhodia. Leuchtturm has really worked well replacing my Moleskines. What started as a search for cheaper found that but just a superior journal/planner. Its a great pleasure to write 54M from my FP onto Leuchtturm paper.
    This was the first ink I sampled, so the smell has become the smell of ink to me. I’m actually disappointed that l’m used to it & don’t notice it much anymore.
    Thanks again for making these available. Local pen company can’t touch your selection & speed. They don’t stock these wonderful non-mainline inks & can’t get a bottle on short notice from Noodlers.
    My Yankee friend loves that I’m using it because he can poke fun at a Southern boy using an ink named for a Union unit. Of course the independent in me finds the story much more about an anti-union (so much more) sentiment.
    Great ink. ยฐ

  • Matt L.

    Yes, the permanence is a key feature. I was deciding between R&K Verdigris & 54M for my first bottle of ink. I prefer Verdigris' color & smoothness. 54M is great when it's going but starts slowly in my Lamy Safari-fine. The permanence (tested via the very hi-tech spit-on-finger method) was the decider for me.
    As far as paper, it's funny now to think of Moleskine as inferior paper. It started high on my list before I had ever heard of Clairfontaine or Rhodia. Leuchtturm has really worked well replacing my Moleskines. What started as a search for cheaper found that but just a superior journal/planner. Its a great pleasure to write 54M from my FP onto Leuchtturm paper.
    This was the first ink I sampled, so the smell has become the smell of ink to me. I'm actually disappointed that l'm used to it & don't notice it much anymore.
    Thanks again for making these available. Local pen company can't touch your selection & speed. They don't stock these wonderful non-mainline inks & can't get a bottle on short notice from Noodlers.
    My Yankee friend loves that I'm using it because he can poke fun at a Southern boy using an ink named for a Union unit. Of course the independent in me finds the story much more about an anti-union (so much more) sentiment.
    Great ink. ยฐ

  • Robert Guthrie

    I hope you see this, having made the entry so long ago, but I don’t understand what “sized” means in the context of “heavily sized paper like water color paper.” I know you don’t mean the dimensions, but a google search didn’t yield any useful results.

    • Kiran

      Sizing in paper is like starching in clothes (if you remember that!). It stiffens the paper and makes it a little more resilient against water media.

  • Robert Guthrie

    I hope you see this, having made the entry so long ago, but I don't understand what "sized" means in the context of "heavily sized paper like water color paper." I know you don't mean the dimensions, but a google search didn't yield any useful results.

  • Kiran

    Sizing in paper is like starching in clothes (if you remember that!). It stiffens the paper and makes it a little more resilient against water media.

  • Guest

    Yeah Massachusetts!! Haha when I get a blue-black, I’ll probably get this one just for the name. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Caitlin Sheehan

    Yeah Massachusetts!! Haha when I get a blue-black, I'll probably get this one just for the name. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Eric Lounsberry

    I recently just got a bottle of this fantastic ink. I inked up my Safari and after one day I can tell it’s already a definite love of mine.

    Also, has anybody else noticed the great smell it has? It reminds me of my childhood for some reason. I occasionally get a whiff of it while writing. Love it.

    • Kris Barger

      Yes. I love the smell.

  • Eric Lounsberry

    I recently just got a bottle of this fantastic ink. I inked up my Safari and after one day I can tell it's already a definite love of mine.

    Also, has anybody else noticed the great smell it has? It reminds me of my childhood for some reason. I occasionally get a whiff of it while writing. Love it.

  • Anna

    Excellent review and I really like its properties, however it is far too dark and grey to be a blue-black for me. Now if you could please ask Nathan to make a waterproof version of bad belted kingfisher! I love the colour but I just keep smearing my writing even months after writing. All other colours are either not waterproof or not such a true blue-black.
    Or not?

  • Anna

    Excellent review and I really like its properties, however it is far too dark and grey to be a blue-black for me. Now if you could please ask Nathan to make a waterproof version of bad belted kingfisher! I love the colour but I just keep smearing my writing even months after writing. All other colours are either not waterproof or not such a true blue-black.
    Or not?

  • natsora

    I am curious if this ink will be hard to clean out or stain my demonstrator pens since it is bullet proof. Any one care to enlighten me?

  • natsora

    I am curious if this ink will be hard to clean out or stain my demonstrator pens since it is bullet proof. Any one care to enlighten me?

  • Jack Haefner

    What is the ink property that effects the flow through the pen? I have been using Parker Quink for years in my Namiki Vanishing Point for years. Even if I set it down for a few days, the Parker Quink would flow instantly out of the pen. But with this ink in particular, it “skips” and or needs some encouraging. Now I’m concerned that, if I leave this too long in my pen, it will clog.

  • Jack Haefner

    What is the ink property that effects the flow through the pen? I have been using Parker Quink for years in my Namiki Vanishing Point for years. Even if I set it down for a few days, the Parker Quink would flow instantly out of the pen. But with this ink in particular, it "skips" and or needs some encouraging. Now I'm concerned that, if I leave this too long in my pen, it will clog.

  • Dave

    hey Brian i'm a doctor and i used to mix my own bulletproof blue-black (using HOD and luxury blue) so it's black enough to comply with hospital requirements to write 'only' in black but still blue enough to be readily identified in the patient notes as my entries AND water resistant but now i think i'll grab some 54th Mass – no mixing, fast dry, nice and dark but subtly different to boring black ๐Ÿ™‚ happy days

  • Kris Barger

    I love this color but it I put it in a pen (I forgot which) and it would have I think they are called hard starts… So, what pen does this ink work well in? Because, I really love it.

    • Jim B

      I have the same issue with most pens I fill with this ink. I have a Conklin Word Gauge that this ink has stained. I’m not the only person that has experienced this ink staining the pen itself, so be careful. Also, the ink tends to dry in the nib if I pause for more than just a few seconds and I have yet another hard start.

      So far the best pens I have found for this ink are the Pilot Metropolitan with a medium nib and a Rotring ArtPen calligraphy pen with a fine nib. Both of these pens seemed to be happy with this ink. The Rotring handles it very well and you would never know this is a difficult ink. The Metropolitan worked really good as well. I can remember a few harder starts but nothing frustrating.

      Don’t get me wrong! I love this ink, it just doesn’t love every pen.

      • Kris Barger

        I have loaded it in my Custom 74 fine nib and it is doing awesome!

  • James Beamesderfer

    My first Noodler’s was Legal Lapis blue, an exclusive at one of your competitors. It tends to run $2-3 more than non-exclusive Noodler’s colors, and is often out of stock. On Mr. Tardif’s recommendation, I bought 54th Mass (from Goulet). I don’t see any reason to buy any other blue-black, they are so close.