email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I
spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person
who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that
I feel are worth sharing with you! I’ll be posting highlights of some
of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are
some emails of mine from the past week or so:

Just by shopping on your website, I can see that ink comes in several properties: bulletproof, eternal, fluorescent, freeze resistant, iron gall, lubricated, and water resistant. Not to mention dye-based and pigmented inks? Help!!! I thought bulletproof meant water resistant, and freeze resistant sounds pretty eternal to me. What do?

There are a LOT of different options for you when choosing an ink. The best way to start to narrow down the search is to decide if there are any particular properties that you want such as water resistance or UV resistance, as these are the narrowest selections. Noodler’s by far has the lock-down on these types of inks, because Nathan Tardif (the man who makes all of the Noodler’s inks) has really pushed the limits of what inks are designed to do. There’s a link to a spreadsheet we put together at the top of the Noodler’s page that’ll help out a lot with the different terms. You can see all of your options here:

If you don’t need any special consideration for your ink’s properties, the next step is to decide what color you’re looking for, that’ll at least cut down the prospective ink list quite a bit.

What I recommend is that you first take a look at our Swab Shop:

The Swab Shop include color-adjusted swabs of every single ink we carry that I personally scanned and edited for the closest accuracy possible on a computer screen. It’s not perfect, but it shows you very closely how the color will appear in real life. It can at least help you to gauge what colors are most appealing to you, and which ones are close to others that you have experience with.

From there, I recommend taking the inks that look appealing to you and getting samples of them:

We offer samples of every ink we sell. They are 2ml samples that will give you about 10 pages of writing (give or take) to give you a really good idea if you like the ink or not. It’s a great way to try an ink to see if you like it, or more importantly don’t like it, before you invest in a full bottle.

Diamine has a lot of great colors, Noodler’s has the widest range of colors and properties and is very cost effective, De Atramentis has the biggest selection of scented inks, Rohrer and Klingner inks are very easy to clean out of the pen. Private Reserve is cost effective and has a great range of blues, J. Herbin’s inks are fairly well lubricated and easy to clean, and most of the other brands are sort of middle-of-the road, with some special colors here and there.

That’s a very, very broad generalization of some of the brands we have.

Can you give me any advice as to what to do to make my ink syringe suck up ink. It seems to have lost it’s ability to take up the ink. I’ve taken it apart and soaked it in window cleaner and hot water, and it just doesn’t glide like it did before and suck up the ink.

I’m sorry to hear that! The syringe is really a pretty simple device, there’s not much to go wrong with it. There are only two reasons it wouldn’t suck up ink. 1) if it’s clogged, and 2) if it is not sealing properly in order to create a vacuum. The first one is an easy fix, just check the needle to ensure there’s nothing blocking it. The second is a little more complicated, you have to make sure the syringe tube isn’t bent or warped for some reason, and also make sure the rubber seal on the end of the plunger is looking good. You mentioned that you soaked it in hot water, is it after that incident that is stopped working? If it was soaked in very hot water, that could explain how it was warped, as the plastic would weaken in the heat and then be susceptible to bending. If it’s just a matter of getting a good seal with the plunger, than if you have any silicone grease, put some on the seal and that will almost surely fix it.

I’m looking at various Noodler’s blacks.
X-Feather, Dark Matter, Bad Black Moccasin, Heart of Darkness. Not limited to these inks what would you suggest would be a really black-black ink? I’d like waterproof; more than less, long lasting qualities, perhaps bullet-proof. A kind of “rich” black that looks good and behaves in the pen and dries dark.

You’ve got a pretty good list there, those are some pretty black blacks. I’d add Noodler’s Black to that list, that’s all around probably the best black around. Aurora Black is pretty black too, but it’s not water resistant. Noodler’s is pretty much the best ink for black around!

OK, really dumb question… I just got my order in with a bottle of Stipula Deep Blue. There seems to be an insert in the top of the bottle. Is this a special feature of the bottle, is there a trick to it, or what?

There is a plastic insert in the top, but it’s just a seal, really. It’s not meant to fill the pen or anything like that. It just pulls out :)

You know those small maybe…2-3in cartridges that are usually filled with blue ink? Something like this, What converter has the same tip? I have a red Online pen that won’t fit my z24 cartridge. Any ideas?

That’s a standard international size cartridge. Your Z24 is a Lamy proprietary size. Standard international is a much more common and universal size. We have a cartridge/converter guide here that should help:

There are a few situations where I only want to put a small amount of ink in a pen (trying an ink sample, going to be traveling soon and won’t be taking all my pens with me, etc.). Is there any reason why I should not partially fill a pen (cartridge converter or piston fill)? I’ve heard eyedropper pens can have issues when they go low on ink, but do any of the other major filling mechanisms have issues? If I partially fill a cartridge converter or piston, should I raise the piston all the way to the “full” position, or should I just stop at my desired ink level? Does it make a difference?

It doesn’t make any difference, really, except if you’re going to be traveling on a plane with your pen. Then you’ll want it full (or completely empty). But other than that, it really doesn’t matter one way or another how full it is for a piston or converter pen.

I am planning to buy an EF Lamy Nib for my Al-Star since I find the F to be a little thick for my liking for math and notes. Is there any difference between the black and steel nibs?

The only difference is the color!

for taking the time to read my emails! I’d love to hear what you think
in the comments. I’ll be compiling this coming week’s emails into next
week’s Mailbox Monday post!