I get a lot of emails every day about all kinds of various topics on fountain pens. I was given the idea by Mike (thanks Mike!) to create blog posts called ‘mailbags’ (I’m opting to call it ‘mailbox’), where it’s basically a spitfire Q&A of the questions that I’m getting by email and my responses. Keep in mind, a lot of  my responses are opinion-based, though I always work to be as factually correct as possible. I thought the idea was perfect for Ink Nouveau, because I get a lot of questions about all kinds of pen topics that don’t necessarily warrant an entire blog post, but would be good info to share.

So I think I’ll give it a shot. Right now, Rachel is only about two weeks away from giving birth to our daughter, so the amount of time that I’m going to be able to dedicate to Ink Nouveau (and videos in particular) will be limited for the next few months. Doing mailbox posts will be something that will help everyone, should be interesting to read, and will be something that I can manage through the early months of parenthood (part 2!). I’ll try posting whenever there’s good content, perhaps weekly (but don’t hold me to that!) So let’s give it a shot!

I was wondering if you’re going to carry the Iroshizuku Chiku-rin. I “think” it’s one of the newer colors, but I’m not sure.

Yeah, it is new. And I’m not going to be able to get it until March, I’m sorry :( It’s exclusive to Japan until then. It’s frustrating for us that Pilot is keeping this ink exclusive to Japan for so long, while letting their Japanese retailers sell on eBay or wherever else on the internet in the US. C’est la vie! Sometimes we run into situations like this with new products coming from other countries, but there’s nothing we can really do about it until it becomes available to retailers in the US. We will be bringing the ink in as soon as we can possibly get it, as we always work to do.

What is going on with the Private Reserve Invincible Black? There is anew formulation? What is the difference?

PR Invincible Black used to come in a 75ml bottle and it was around $17.50 (on the expensive end, for PR inks). We were told there was a reformulation, but only because one of the dye components was found at a lower cost. The properties should be identical to the original formula, but it is now shipping in a 2 ounce bottle for only $9.50. The only difference should be the bottle size and price.

I was reading the reviews for the Diamine Registrar’s ink on your site today over my lunch break and a common theme here was ‘use a dip pen’ or do not use in an expensive pen. Also, does this ink come in cartridges?

Diamine Registrar’s ink is iron gall, you can learn more about that here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_gall_ink 

Though you can certainly use it in a fountain pen, I wouldn’t put it in an expensive pen. The ink is somewhat corrosive and can eat away at the metal parts of your pen over time with iron gall ink. Granted, the modern formulations of Diamine Registrar’s and other iron Gall inks like Mont Blanc and Rohrer and Klingner aren’t as corrosive as ‘true’ iron gall inks. But still, it’s better safe than sorry if you’re using a particularly valuable or irreplaceable pen. Just relegate the ink to a pen that’s inexpensive. And no, it doesn’t come in cartridges, only 30ml or 100ml bottles.

Does the PR Invincible Black come in cartridges?

Nope, bottles only. Same goes for the PR Fast-Dry inks. All of the other colors do, though.

Do you have sample of the Kaweco BB nib’s writing? On your site it shows only EF-B in the picture.

The reason I don’t have BB Kaweco nibs on our site is because we aren’t carrying that size anymore. We had to special order them from Germany, and they only come on whole pens, not by themselves. We’re well-stocked on pens as is, and just can’t afford to buy more pens just to get the BB nibs. If our distributor decides to import them to the US and offer them regularly, then we will carry them again. I doubt that will happen soon though, since currently they only import mediums! All of the other size Kaweco pens are ones we have to special order. It’s maddening for us, but something we do to give you as many options as we can with Kaweco pens.

What do you use in your VP? I’m trying to think of a good ink to put in my black matte VP that’s on the way. I’m thinking a Noodler’s obviously. My friend loves her Sailor ultramarine in her pink VP so a sailor ink is an option.

Gosh, you could do anything! Noodler’s Black is an obvious contender, but black ink is boring and I almost never use it ;) You have a broad nib coming, so you may want to go with something that shades really well. Apache Sunset, Purple Heart, Blue or Blue Eel, Ottoman Azure, gosh it’s hard to go wrong. I have been using Noodler’s Blue in my medium Custom 74 for freaking ever, and I just don’t get sick of it! It’s rare that I keep using the same color in any pen, but that is one that stays dedicated.

I have a couple questions about the Herbin Glass Dip Pens. Is there a difference in the amount of ink held between the large and small pen? What size in circumference does each of them compare to? A Bic disposable pen, Uni-Ball pen, Brause caligraphy holder, Lamy Safari, Nouveau Premiere? I have read that you can write anywhere between a couple words up to several sentences, what is the most realistic?

I have a review of the glass dip pens here: http://www.inknouveau.com/2010/03/episode-17-j-herbin-glass-pens.html 

There isn’t a particular difference in the amount of writing you can do with the different size pens. These pens are hand-made and the amount of ink held in them will vary slightly from pen-to-pen, without much predictability. It also depends a lot on the ink, as different inks will flow better on a glass nib than others. I would say one full line tends to be the average, some are more, some are less. They also vary in line width too, due to the handmade nature of the pens. 

The pens are relatively thin, especially the small ones. The larger ones are similar in diameter to the calligraphy nib holders, and the small ones are more like a Uniball pen.

I was looking over the site today at paper and was thinking it would be cool if you all sold paper samples sort of like you do the ink samples. Maybe like a sheet or two of paper to try it out before you commit to buying multiple notebooks or what not.

We actually used to sell paper samples, but it was almost more trouble than it was worth. Just a few sheets of paper are really tough to ship without them getting all bent and crinkled, and it became cost prohibitive to ship them. We had to charge so much for all of the extra time materials to pack the paper safely, that it was the same cost as just buying a pad of paper! We stopped doing the samples about 9 months ago, and there has been almost no one that’s missed them. Because of all of the logistical challenges, I doubt we’ll bring them back. I do appreciate you asking though! If I can magically think of a good way to do them again, I would. It is a good concept.

I am interested in the Crown Mill papers but I know nothing about them. I would love to know the difference between the cotton and the classic laid. Perhaps you could do a blog post on that next year?

I do plan to do a blog post on the Crown Mill papers, I simply haven’t had the time yet. The cotton is uniformly textured paper, but is what’s called ‘toothy’, meaning that it writes with a bit of resistance. It is more absorbent than Rhodia/Clairefontaine papers, and as such is flattens out ink shading and spreads the ink a little bit so your lines appear a bit wider than more ink repellent papers. It’s more like writing on inkjet paper, and Rhodia/CF is more like laser paper. 

The laid paper is smoother, but not uniformly textured. It’s actually nearly identical to G. Lalo VergĂ© de France, if you’re familiar with that at all. It has horizontal raised ‘bumps’ that are spaced about 2-3mm apart down the whole page. It feels and looks very classy, but it’s as easy to write on (in my opinion). They’re available in more colors than just white like the cotton. 

The two papers are quite different, and warrant a blog post with video for sure. It couldn’t be worse timing for me though, being right in the middle of the holiday rush and just two weeks before the birth of my second child. I will be blog backlogged for at least the next 3-20 years ;) It is on my to-do list, though!

Does the stealth (black matte) VP I just ordered come with a converter?

Yup! The Con-50, so you’ll be all set :) All of the Pilot VP pens come with Con-50 converters as well as an ink cartridge with a metal in cartridge cap.

Do you know if it is possible to obtain a new breather tube for the Noodler’s Ahab flex pen? I was switching out inks the other day and decided to do a thorough cleaning of the pen buy completely disassembling it, and long story short, the breather tube ended up going down the sink drain. I even took apart the water trap on the chance it might have been in there but no such luck.

This is such a neat pen and I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks. I would hate to order another one just for the sake of the breather tube but I don’t want to convert it to an eyedropper pen or go through the hassle of trying to fill it without the tube. Do you have any recommendations for me?

I tested the Ahab without a breather tube, and didn’t notice any significant difference using it with or without it. The only real difference is that when you’re filling it, you will only be able to get about 1.7ml of ink in the piston instead of 1.9ml like you can with the breather tube. That’s a pretty minimal difference though. The filling process is exactly the same as when you have the breather tube. I didn’t notice any difference in the writing.

I was wondering if you could get me the “core” of a Dialog 3, the insert body that contains the nib.

Unfortunately not! Lamy only offers the pen as a whole, or the nibs themselves. Lamy USA (the US distributor for Lamy) does offer replacement parts for a lot of their pens, but I don’t see the Dialog 3 with any parts listed: http://www.lamyusa.com/lamy_fountain_L74BK_dialog3.php# 

You may be able to email them and see if you could get it, though I highly doubt it. If you have a Dialog 3 and the ‘core’ needs repair, you’ll need to contact Lamy USA and have them repair it: lamy@filofaxinc.com

I can’t tolerate the smell of the Noodler pen plastic. Had I researched the products I would have seen the scores of attempts to describe the offensive smell and to try to convince eachother the smell will go away. That smell won’t go away. I have a bad screwdriver I got over 20 years ago and it stinks every time I open the toolbox. And when I handled Ahab I smelled that smell. People nearby said “Who puked?” It’s simply a deal-killer for me.

The pens do have a strong smell to start, especially because these pens have very little ‘shelf time’, meaning there’s very little time from the time they’re manufactured to the time you receive it, when the pens would normally lose a lot of their smell.

The arrangement that Nathan has is quite unique, actually. He’s a one-man operation, and he has parts made for his pens all over the world (he lists a lot of the places on the insert for his pens). He has them all assembled overseas, and they’re sealed up and shipped over here. He inspects them, and ships them to the distributor, who divvies them up amongst all the US retailers, and there you go. Since Nathan is literally a one-man operation organizing all of these pens, not to mention hand-mixing every batch of ink, he just doesn’t have the time to let these pens sit out to alleviate the smell. If he did, he’d have to charge a lot more for the pens for the time and effort it takes, and to him, that’s wasted money. His number one concern is low price. The reason he’s pushing these pens out so fast isn’t because of money, but because of demand. I know this because when we are out of pens, I’m bombarded daily with emails asking when there will be more! A lot of the smell though is just because it’s the nature of the material. The vegetal resin that he uses is a natural plastic, which will actually biodegrade if buried underground! 

Nathan suggests letting the pen air out (with the cap off) for a few days to allow the material to off-gas. You can also clean the outside of the pen with water and dish soap, which will helpa bit. There will always be a little bit of the smell, but it should decrease drastically over time.

I have a Lamy Studio and I’m just not crazy about it. The thing about the Studio is that it basically offers the same writing experience as Safaris and AL-Stars because it has the same nib and feed. And I have…well, 7 counting my two Joys. I was mostly ordering it for its looks and slightly heavier weight. The chrome section worried me, too. I haven’t done extended writing with it, but it doesn’t seem too bad. Anyway, the 2000 is more interesting to me since it is truly different.

I’d consider ordering the 2000, but it’s more than twice as expensive. I just don’t know if I can justify the double price tag. All the used ones I can find are nearly as expensive as a new one, and it’s always a risk buying used, too.

The Lamy 2000 is twice the price as the Studio, but honestly, it’s twice the pen. You’re talking about a 14k gold nib on the L2k, plus a piston-filler that has a much higher ink capacity than the Studio. It’s a whole different class of pen. The reason L2k’s keep their value is because they’re solid pens with a 45-yar reputation backing them up. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Studio at all, it’s just that the L2k warrants the higher price tag.

Wow, so this was just a few select emails of questions I’ve answered in the last week! It didn’t take me too long to put together, so I’m thinking I just may be able to keep this going if you all like this format of blog post. Let me know what you think about it in the comments, I want to know if this is something worth continuing to do! ~Brian Goulet