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:

As you already may know, ink smudges when highlighted, a notorious case is when I used Noodlers X-Feather. I currently have Heart of Darkness loaded in it, which doesn’t smudge as much…. Anyways, I was wondering if you knew of any black inks, that don’t smudge or barely smudge, when coming in contact with highlighter ink.

Noodler’s permanent inks are cellulose-reactive, which means that they gain their permanence after bonding to the fibers of the paper. Sometimes this takes a little while, days even, to happen fully. X-Feather in particular is an ink that’s a little thicker and less absorbent for the exact purpose of not absorbing into the paper (and therefore risking feathering). This is good, except that when the ink is staying on the surface of the page, it’s easier to smudge, especially when another ink is smeared across it like when you’re highlighting. There are likely other inks that will work better by either absorbing faster into the paper, or by drying quicker on top of the page. Noodler’s Black and Noodler’s Heart of Darkness are two that come to mind as ones that may work better by absorbing into the page, they’re also pretty good about resisting feathering. Platinum Carbon Black and Sailor (Nano) Kiwa-Guro are pigmented inks, and though they require more regular cleaning (every week) than other inks, they are famous among ink wash artists for keeping their line on the page when being washed overtop. I’d recommend trying samples of these inks first to see which works best for your particular paper, since these inks are a little more expensive.

I’m just getting into fountain pens, and I’m interested in your Ink Drop club, it seems like a great way to try out inks without a huge amount of hassle, or ending up with a ton of ink I end up not being too fond of. My question is this: How well would these inks work with dip pens? A dip pen would be a really simple way to try these inks without the hassle of putting them into a pen. So basically, would this be a good method to try out new inks, or would they be too thin to use with a dip pen?

To just get a broad idea, a q-tip swab is the fastest way. But that doesn’t always show you how it looks in the pen. You can use a glass pen or a dip pen set to do quick tests of inks, they aren’t as hard to clean as fountain pens so you can quickly go from one ink to the next. You can also just dip a fountain pen into the ink to test it, without filling the pen. That’ll get you a good idea of it, if you just want to write a few lines. Then, you only have to clean out the nib of the pen instead of the whole inside.

Of course, the absolute most accurate way to tell how an ink is going to flow/etc in a pen is to ink it up just like you would a bottle of ink, but these other methods will work for getting a feel for the color. And funny enough, I was actually planning to make this my topic for Fountain Pen 101 tomorrow, so I’ll have a video for you! (and yes, I did a video on it last week)

I know you said with eye dropper style pens to keep them half full to avoid burping, but what are you to do when using sample vials?

Well, 2ml of ink (the minimum in a Goulet sample) will fill a good portion of the Preppy. But if that’s all the ink you have, then that’s all you can put in it! Burping isn’t a foregone conclusion, it’s just that if you have the option to fill the pen, it’ll reduce the chance of a burp.

I had my eye on Empire Red. I’ll try a sample first, but I don’t want to get hooked on something I can’t get. Do you intend to get Empire Red back in stock? Would you sooner recommend Fox? Those seem to be the only two options for a bulletproof, eternal red. I wonder… is it more difficult than other colors to make a good red ink?

I know that red dyes are far less stable than other colors like black and blue, so making permanent red dyes is amazingly difficult. Fox and Empire Red are the only permanent red inks I know, except for Platinum Pigmented Rose Red, which is a pigmented ink (as opposed to a cellulose-reactive dye-based ink like the Noodler’s ones), and is really as much of a pink as it is a red.

We do intend to get more Empire Red, but we’re completely dependent on Nathan for our supply. This is an ink that’s made especially for us, and it’s very challenging and time consuming for him to make. Not only that, but the price of the raw components for this color has gone up, which makes it harder for him to get. We ordered more soon after we ran out in February, and we’ve been waiting since then. He’s only one man making ALL the Noodler’s ink, so we’re at his mercy! We ask him about it periodically, but since he has such limited time, he often has to trade off making one ink for another.

I’m looking for a permanent blue or blue-black – If Liberty’s Elysium won’t cut it for record keeping, then I’ll need a recommendation for a blue or blue-black. I was mainly considering Upper Ganges and Polar Blue as substitutes. I couldn’t find a bunch of info on Upper Ganges, and some on FPN say the Polar Blue bleeds terribly and some people say it doesn’t bleed at all. Any recommendation or additional info you have on any of these three inks (or something else) would be helpful.

Liberty’s Elysium will do just fine with record keeping. The only thing about this ink is that it’ll lose about half of it’s color with water or bleach washing, but pretty much no matter what you do to it, you’ll be able to read it on the page. Upper Ganges is basically a more permanent (but less vibrant) Liberty’s Elysium. So it would certainly do the trick and give you more resistance to UV, bleach, and water, but it will sacrifice a bit of bleeding and feathering in the process. It’s a tradeoff with all inks, pretty much. Polar Blue is kind of the same way, and the reason there are such mixed things about it is that the nib size and paper type will make a huge difference in how it performs, moreso than most inks.

The spreadsheet has a list of all the permanent inks, you can also see all of the permanent Noodler’s inks here. Other ones you may want to consider besides what was mentioned already are Bad Belted Kingfisher, Bad Blue Heron, and Luxury Blue. Since bleed through and feathering are concerns, you may want to try samples of all these inks and see what works best for your specific nib/paper situation. In terms of longevity, all of these inks will do well, they’re basically the most permanent fountain pen inks in the world. What distinguishes them is the degree of fraud resistance they have, which doesn’t really seem to matter too much to you in this case. Really, we’re comparing best with bester inks :) Any of these will last far longer than you need.

I was wondering if there are there any more of the Black Edison Nouveau Premiere’s left, and why did Brian Gray discontinue them?

Unfortunately, they are now gone. We do plan to replace it with a new Premiere color in the next month or two, but there are no more satin blacks left. Brian wanted to discontinue them mainly because the satin finish on this pen is pretty time consuming, and in a production setting, time is everything. When we first came out with this pen over a year and a half ago, it was the only Edison production pen and we were his only retailer. Now, he has 6 different models of production pens with many different retailers, so his time is more limited now than it was then. I’m really sorry!

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!