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:

Hi Brian: I have a couple of boxes of pilot cartridges and have noticed that some have the tiny metal ball in them and some don’t (for whatever reason). I can see the point of having the ball in there, but is it absolutely necessary? Just curious.

Honestly, I have no explanation why some have the metal ball and some don’t. The ball acts as an agitator, to keep the ink mixed well just like the paint in an aerosol can. But most other brands of ink cartridges don’t have this ball inside and they do just fine. It definitely isn’t ‘necessary’ to have this ball.

Has Nathan Tardif ever hinted at making the new “Noodler’s”-style eyedropper pens (like you showcased with the newer bottles of Nikita ink) available for separate sale? Any chance that some might happen to “come available”, so to speak?

He’s asked me about it before and I told him there would be a demand for it, but he’s told me his supply of them is uncertain. I don’t know that he will ever make them available apart from Borealis Black, Dragon’s Napalm, and Nikita. I highly doubt they’ll be sold separately.

My email is to ask if you foresee any more Rohrer & Klingner – limited edition Blau Schwarz ink coming your way? If not I was going to ask if you had a half used bottle you would like to sell or know where I could get some of this limited ed ink.

Unfortunately, we’re fresh out at the moment! We don’t have any, we didn’t even make any available for samples because it was so limited. We only had it in for a few days, I was expecting it to be around longer than that. After talking to Rohrer and Klingner about how quickly we sold out, they had some ‘reserve’ stock they were holding that they’re going to send our way (along with spare boxes to replace any damaged in shipping), so we should have those again here in the next week or two. After that though, it really will be gone for good.

For reasons I don’t recall, when I ordered my wonderful Ahab Flex Nib Piston Fill Fountain pen, I also acquired Private Reserve Invincible Black ink, which I used in the pen. I find now that the ink seems to have clogged the pen, and I noticed that maybe I should be using Noodler’s ink instead (I know, sounds kind of obvious, sorry). Browsing your site, I see that Noodler’s black looks like a candidate.

So, several questions:
what does the “bulletproof” term connote, it looks like that ink will perform alright with respect to watercolor, if I leave enough drying time — is that right?,
was I wrong to use the Private Reserve in the Ahab, and
what is the best use for Private Reserve…I liked its quality when I used it.

I’m sorry to hear this ink isn’t flowing so well in your Ahab! The first thing I’m going to ask is how long has it been in your pen, and when’s the last time you’ve cleaned it? I think if you cleaned it out and filled it again (with the PR ink) you’d find a significant improvement in its flow. I have a video on pen maintenance here.

Bulletproof is a Noodler’s term for fraud resistant, which means it’s impenetrable to known forms of removal by check washers. It means waterproof, UV resistant, and bleach resistant. Here’s a list of all the Noodler’s inks and their properties. The way that Noodler’s waterproof inks achieve their permanence is by cellulose reaction. This means that the ink needs to actually penetrate to the cellulosic fibers of the paper (either cotton or wood pulp) to permanently bond. Once this happens, you can wash over it, but before then the ink is still sitting on the surface of the paper and can be washed away. The only time there is really a problem with washing over Noodler’s inks is when you’re using it on heavily sized paper (like watercolor paper).

If you do need to use heavily sized watercolor paper, then you may prefer to go with a pigmented fountain pen ink instead of a cellulose reactive ink to be able to wash over it. These inks have small pigments in the ink, so that when it dries, those pigments bond on top of the paper, so the issue of absorbency is no longer a factor. Pigmented inks are a little harder to clean out of your pens and are generally more expensive, but they do the trick. They were originally designed for brush pens, but can be used successfully in fountain pens as long as you make sure not to let the ink dry in your pen (it’s hard to clean when that happens!). The Pigmented inks we carry include: Platinum Carbon Black, Platinum Pigmented Blue, Platinum Pigmented Sepia, Platinum Pigmented Rose Red, Sailor Kiwa-Guro (Nano) Black, and Sailor Sei-Boku (Nano) Blue-Black.

You didn’t make the wrong decision to put the PR ink in your Ahab, and I’m willing to bet that cleaning it out will make it flow well again. It may just be that using this ink in this pen requires a regular cleaning regimen, and once you figure out how often that is you’ll be in good shape.

I have been looking at both the TWSBI Vac700 and also the Monteverde Invincia Deluxe. I know that you have received a shipment of some Monteverde pens a couple of weeks ago and I was just wondering which pen you prefer, the TWSBI or the Monteverde. Both are cool to me because the TWSBI filling mechanism is really cool and I have always loved the look of carbon fiber that is in the Monteverde so I was just wondering your opinion on the pens and also their nibs.

Also, I like the line width that the Lamy fine nib makes so if I were to get one of these pens, which nib size would you recommend for each pen so that it would be a close match to the Lamy fine nib.

Hmmmm….this is a bit of a toughie. Both pens have some serious cool factor going on, with both design and functionality. The thing the VAC-700 has going for it is ink capacity, it’s much greater than the Monteverde. But, it’s a new model of pen and TWSBI is still tweaking the ink flow, so I don’t know how the new VAC-700’s coming in will write. The Monteverdes do write a little better and wetter than the first batch of VAC-700’s, that I know. Both pens are a little on the heavier and larger side, and their both a little more comfortable writing unposted because of their size and heft.

As far as the nib size, they’re both going to have a line width pretty close to Lamy, so I’d recommend a fine for either. The VAC-700 doesn’t write quite as dark, but again this may be fixed with the newer pens: 


My apply green Lamy Safari is malfunctioning. The broad nib slips off…it is like it is not attached to anything. Is there anything I can do to correct this?

One of two things is happening, either your nib is just a little too wide to fit tightly onto the feed, or there’s something wrong with the feed where it was manufactured too narrow on the wings where it holds the nib. Do you have any other Lamy nibs to try to put on it? If you have one,  try putting it on the pen. If that one is also loose, then it’s the feed’s problem and we can swap out the pen for you. I greatly suspect though that it’s that your broad nib is just a little too wide. The good thing is, that’s pretty easy to fix. Basically, you just need to take the nib off the pen and squeeze it on both sides (at the wings, the wide end of the nib), like in the picture:

You can probably just do it squeezing firmly with your fingers, but if you need to you can use a pair of pliers (carefully) with something like a rubber band or something like that to protect the pliers from scratching the nib. Just be careful if you use pliers, it would be easy to go too far. Let me know if this is something you’re comfortable trying, I’m about 95% certain that this will fix your problem. (it did!)

im from germany and i really like your videos but i got one question: i bought a kaweco sport pen and really love it (i had a lot of lamy safaris before) but the kaweco is more for my notes and stuff so want a bigger pen witch i can fill up with bottled ink. when i looked in the web i found the lamy studio. I like it a lot but i have a problem with the crome thing on the front. i found that the silver one has the finger thing in black. So can i buy the pen from your shop in black but with the black finger thing (sorry i don’t know the real word but i mean the part were the fingers go) or do you know good alternatives to the studio in the same price range???

Unfortunately, the Stainless Steel Lamy Studio is the only one that has that black rubber grip section (that’s what the front thing is technically called), all of the other ones have chrome ones. I personally LOVE the black rubber, and really wish Lamy would put it on their other pens, as it’s much more comfortable and makes the pen far easier to hold for long periods of time. As it is for right now though, we can’t buy the black rubber grip sections separately and swap them out on the pens, so they only come as they are. However, Lamy USA (which is the Lamy US distributor) does sell the piece separately here. I doubt it’s very practical or economical for you to buy it through them, but perhaps since Lamy is in Germany, there might be a way to buy Lamy parts where you are? I just figure if we have them here in the US, it would only make sense if you could find them in Germany!

An alternative to the black Lamy Studio could be the Sheaffer 300, the Monteverde Invincia, the Lamy Al-Star, or the TWSBI 540. I have and love all of these pens : )

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!