My 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:

Does the Noodler’s Black bulletproof 4.5oz come with a pen? If i am not mistaken dollar per oz, the 3 oz bottle works out to be cheaper without the pen. I am in malaysia work in singapore. Do you have issues with sending inks here? Were you ever limited to a quantity? This side of world, noodler’s is strangely unpopular. In over 20 years of using the fountain pen I for one swear by noodler’s stuff.

The 4.5 ounce Noodler’s Black does not come with a pen. It is ever-so-slightly cheaper than the 3 ounce ($4 per ounce, instead of $4.17 per ounce), but that’s it. We’re currently out of the 4.5 ounce ones anyway, though, so if you need to order soon, you may just want to get the 3 ounce. I haven’t had any particular problems shipping to Singapore or Malaysia, other than it can take several weeks. Customs always holds things up.

I’ve used fountain pens since 1973 (3rd grade) and have tried dozens of inks over the years. I’m a blue fan and most of my pens get filled with one type of blue or another. After much experimentation and miles of writing, I find that I really like Lamy Blue. Simple, understated but quite functional. My question is this; “What other ink would you recommend that would have the color of Lamy Blue but would include qualities that Lamy Blue doesn’t have. Specifically the qualities of drying fast and and hopefully not smearing (even when dry)” If it helps to know, I’m a left handed, overhook writer.

The best way to find an ink similar to Lamy Blue would be to first check out our Swab Shop, then try some ink samples of the closest matching colors. Looking at it myself, I would say that you may want to try Pelikan Royal Blue, Waterman Serenity Blue, Parker Quink Washable Blue, Delta Blue, or Stipula Deep Blue. They are all somewhat close in color and may dry a little faster, though I’m not sure. The one that I know will dry faster is Noodler’s Bernanke Blue, as it’s formulated as a fast-drying ink. It will spread a little more on the paper, but that’s how it achieves its fast-drying feature, it absorbs quickly into the paper and dries off the surface to keep from smearing. I’ve also had really good like with the Pilot Iroshizuku inks, so you may want to try Tsuyu-Kusa or Ajisai

Which rollerball is better the J.Herbin or the Noodlers one and which lays down a finer line?

For the rollerballs, they’re both pretty similar in the way they write:

The Herbin one only uses standard international short cartridges though, the Noodler’s one is piston-fill and can use bottled ink. I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions. 

I’m primarily looking for black inks. I was debating between Noodler’s Black, Noodler’s X-Feather, Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, and Aurora Black (but unfortunately you guys are out of Aurora Blacks at the moment). My primary concern with these inks are dry speed, since my hand does tend to go over previous words I’ve written. Would you be able to give me a quick run-down of them? I do know that X-Feather tends to take a substantially longer amount of time to dry as compared to Heart of Darkness or Bulletproof Black.

Hmm….those are all good blacks, honestly. But if dry time is your biggest consideration, Black or Heart of Darkness will do you best. Which one specifically may vary based on the pen/paper used, but you could try a sample of each and see what works best for you. X-feather and Aurora Black are great, but wetter. Borealis Black is worth a look if you like Aurora, very same inks (Noodler’s did a reverse formulation on Aurora to get Borealis, hence the name!). 

I am bouncing back and forth between ordering a Lamy 2000 or a Pilot Custom 74. I’d really like a Dialog 3 but don’t want to spend that much. I do like the look of the Lamy 2000. I’m more interested in how they write though. I’m not the type to pull out a pen and wait for someone to ask about it so I can tell them how expensive it is. I just want a well made pen that writes really well with an archival grade ink like Noodler’s Black for the best price/performance ratio I can get. I’m not really set on any one brand.

My honest opinion? Don’t get a Dialog 3. They’re good, but not as good a value as the other two. The Lamy 2000 and Custom 74 are both great pens, I have and use both on a regular basis. If I had to chose one or the other that would be really tough, but it would be the Custom 74. I just happen to like the way it writes just a bit better. But I do love the utility and piston-filling of the Lamy 2000. Dang! I actually have a really hard time recommending one over the other! I don’t really care about the ‘bling’ factor of my pens either, I’d almost rather have something more discreet so that people don’t ask me to see it ;)

I personally think the Lamy 2000 is a little more ‘understated’, there’s a simplicity in its design that I really like. As far as which will perform better, I find them both to work really well, but there are some slight differences. The Custom 74 is a screw-off cap, whereas the Lamy is a snap cap. Both are secure, but the Lamy is more convenient if you’re going to cap/uncap it a lot. The Lamy 2000 has a little finer sweet spot, and can be less forgiving for those who tend to rotate their pens in their hand as they write. The Custom 74 is better in that respect. If you hold your pen close to the nib, then the Lamy 2000 would be better, because the hooded nib allows you to hold it really close to the tip without getting your hands inky. These are just some additional considerations. I’ve used Noodler’s Black extensively in both, and they both flow really well. The Lamy 2000 is a little easier to fill/clean though, so that might be a consideration for you. The button-filling Con-70 converter on the Custom 74 can be a little tricky.

I am having a hard time deciding b/w the Monteverde Prima and the TWSBI 580 (whenever it gets released), and I am hoping you can help me tease out which one would be best for me. I would probably purchase either with the 1.1 nib I like the prettiness of the Prima but folks seem to love the 540 (and hopefully the 580). I am very open to other suggestions. I would like to keep the price under $50.

Other pens I have considered are: Lamy Nexx (for the wider grip, but still triangular. and it just looks goofy) and Noodler’s Konrad Flex (seems a bit high maintenance for me). I am newish to fountain pens. Most important is function; defined as comfortable, practical, durable, and easy to use. I love a smooth flow, but not a bleeder. I am left handed (with hands – long and skinny), but have not had a problem with standard nibs. So far my favorite nibs are 1.1. I’d love to find a slightly smaller stub nib. Also, I am a serial ink changer. Ease of filling/cleaning may need to be factored in. I hate skipping, scratchy, and high maintenance. I am looking for an all around pen for daily use and journaling.

Yeah, definitely not the Konrad. It’s good for a flex pen, but the nature of it is that you have to tinker with it quite a bit, and it’s not really ideal for newbies unless you really want to dive in deep. Really, the Prima, 580, and Nexx would all fit the bill. Okay, so taking all this into account, I have some recommendations:

Lamy Nexx: Cool pen, kinda weird looking, but is comfortable and reliable to write with, like a nicer Safari. It can also use the same nib as your Safari, so you have versatility. It’s much cheaper than the other two, which is a plus. Fun colors, too.

MV Prima: Classy looking pen, like an Edison. Good nib options, and the 1.1 is pretty awesome. I can easily recommend this one.

TWSBI 580: It’s hard to really say with this pen because it’s not out yet, but assuming it is going to be an improved 540 as advertised, this could also be a good choice. It’s much longer than the other pens, which may or may not matter. The nicest thing about the TWSBI is the bigger ink capacity, and the clear body if that matters to you. These are really three pretty different pens, so it really just depends which of the different features matter to you. 

I am wondering if you could get me one of these…a blank Exacompta sketch journal…100grm is black with silver lining on the edges of the paper. All you are selling is lined.

The Exacompta sketchbook is discontinued and no longer being made. We found out about this a few months back. There may be some retailers who still have them, and if so, you should snatch them up right away before they’re gone forever. 

Thanks 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!