Goulet Q&A Episode 15: Work Appropriate Inks and Fountain Pens for Kids

It’s time for another Goulet Q&A, and Episode 15 is an Open Forum where I have a variety of questions about fountain pens, ink, and paper. Be sure to check out any past Q&A videos here if you like the format. Next week’s topic will be “Correspondence”, so please ask me whatever stationery, ink, and pen questions you have geared around writing letters to other people.

Here are this week’s questions:

1) Jay P.- email (1:04):
How do I open a stuck ink bottle? I have a large bottle of PR Tanzanite that I can’t unscrew. I imagine that ink around the rim has looked into the threads. How can I get this open without creating a disaster?

2) Theodore L.- email (3:07):
I work a pretty conservative desk job so I can’t get too wild with my daily ink choices.  I’ve got a full compliment of blues, blacks, and blue-black and was hoping you could recommend some Professional Purples, Business Browns, Respectable Reds or another color/ink to mix things up while still being office-appropriate.

3) Sharon K.- email (7:16):When I’m at work, my boss says that I have to write in black ink. I’d prefer to write with a bit more color, can you recommend an ink that is black enough that my boss won’t notice, but still has enough of a hint of another color (ideally green or red) to it that I can be a bit more individual and creative?

4) Kevin L.- Facebook (7:54):
Does the price of a bottle of ink no matter from which manufacturer reflect on its quality? What brand delivers the most bang for your buck? Is the common theory from pen companies that only their ink should be used in their pens? Thanks for considering my questions for your outstanding Q&A! Keep Writing On!!

5) @fmfisdead- Twitter (13:02):
Will handling matte finish fountain pens with lotion on your hands ruin the finish over time? Hand oils?

6) Bro Ken S.- Facebook (14:42):
I am in the Navy, so there are times when my nice white uniform and my fountain pens do not see eye to eye. I happened to be carrying a face wipe today when this conflict occurred and while it did not totally erase the memory of Noodler’s black, it did a decent job getting some of the stain out. For those unfortunate square offs between pen and pants, is there anything that you would recommend to take the ink out? Specifically, what can I do when I cannot just pull the uniform off and go into damage control mode? What is my best weapon in a time sensitive situation? Thanks for everything you do at Goulet Pens. You guys are an awesome team and I recommend you to pretty much anyone I see with a pen in their hand. Keep up the great work! Go Navy!!!

7) Jason S.- Facebook (17:18):
With the holidays coming, what’s the best way to travel with pads of paper without the corners getting bent and banged up? We’ve heard about traveling with pens, but how do I protect my precious paper?? I know it’s a simple idea, but I’m curious what other ideas people have…

8) John N.- email (19:24):
I’m having difficulty seeing the difference between an eyedropper pen and a piston filled pen in terms of potential leakage. Can you describe the chances of a piston filled pen leaking the same way an eyedropper filled pen might. Assuming that there should be some concern for leakage in a piston filled pen, can you share your thoughts on why such concerns aren’t commonly mentioned? Should one use a bit of grease on a piston filled pen? Example: Isn’t a Lamy 2000 essentially an open cavity like an eyedropper pen, just smaller in volume?

9) Leslie H.- Facebook (23:16):
I’m curious about feeds. You mentioned that some are plastic and others are ebonite. Are all the Noodlers’ feeds ebonite? What about other brands such as Pilot, Edison, Kaweco. And maybe you can you explain a little about how the different materials react with ink flow, and cleaning, etc.. thanks

Nathan Tardif’s ebonite vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLhA6jKGjjA

10) John S.- Facebook (26:10):
My kids (12,7,6,3) are interested in my use of Fountain Pens. What are some good pens, paper, and inks for drawing and such for their ages?

11) whollyme- Reddit (29:01):
I recently bought some Pelikan blue black ink. I expected a really dark, almost black, blue colour. Instead it’s more of a washed out grey. Were my expectations wrong or is there something wrong with the ink?

12) Tina M.- Facebook (32:56):
I have a lot of different inks but only three pens. What’s the best way of playing with different samples without having to empty and refill my current set of pens? Two of them are filled with the same inks because I use them daily, but the third one is a Noodler’s Konrad which serves more as a “play” pen (sorry for the pun!); however, I get tired of having to clean out the pen each time I want to use a different ink. Would dip pens be a viable option here? I just like writing for fun and hope to spice up my hobby with various colors. Thanks for your help!

13) Tony S.- Facebook (36:48):
You guys ever plan on stocking any different sheaffer models like the preludes?

14) itscalledalance- Reddit (39:00):
I just purchased my first LAMY (an AL-star), and I love it. How long should I expect the ink it comes with to last, as an approximation? I’m a bit lost on the process of ordering more ink, deciding on what kind of ink I want, etc; I’m hoping to get a ballpark of how long I have to figure things out.

A special thanks to all of you who continue to ask intriguing questions for me to answer every week. I need more, so be sure to ask me your correspondence questions for next week in the comments below!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

2017-10-25T19:00:58+00:00 December 13th, 2013|Goulet Q&A|26 Comments
  • roberto a

    A very basic question I cannot find an answer anywhere. In a piston filled pen, do you have to push the piston down so the ink gets to the nib several times in a single charge?. It looks I have to do that with my Twsbi mini to keep writing after several minutes when my nib always dries. I don't recall to have to do the same with converters in other pens (the nib doesn't dry during the whole charge)

  • Gustavo

    I would recommend Noodler's Air Corp Blue as an "almost black" ink. Despite its name, it looks like a black with a slight greenish hue, much darker than the swab on Goulet Pens' site, in my experience (with an EF TWSBI 540). It worked great on cheap paper, too, little feathering, no ghosting. You also get some degree of water resistance, although it is not completely bulletproof.

  • Suzy Lyons

    For the stuck ink bottle caps, try a small towel dampened with hot water. Just wrap it over the cap for a minute, then turn. The steam loosens the ink and makes it easier to open. Works for me!

  • Gordon

    I've had a couple of TWSBI pens (a Diamond 580 and a Diamond Mini) for about 6 months now, both with EF nibs. The 580 has always had decent flow, and no need to 'recharge' – but for the first couple of months I found the Mini tended to write finer and drier, and was prone to try out after a few minutes – is that what you're describing? Under those circumstances I found that using the piston to push more ink into the feed solved the problem – but the nib would eventually dry out again.

    That's a flow problem, not specifically a piston mechanism problem, sometimes a problem with TWSBI pens but probably made worse by the fine calibre of the nib – and as I say, for me it occurred with one of my TWSBI's but not the other. There are ways you can increase the ink flow by adjusting the nib (check out Steve Brown, 'Sbrebrown' on Youtube), but I've been reluctant to do so because bending the tins like that will void your warranty! I found, though, that after a couple of cleans with soapy water, and after a couple of months' regular use (and a change of inks – that may make a difference too!), the Mini has a much more regular flow. It only rarely dries out these days – and even then it's usually because I've left the pen uncapped while pausing from writing to ponder the meaning of the universe – when I put pen back to paper it won't always start…

  • My favorite conservative brown is Diamine Macassar.

  • Gordon has some excellent points here. Your issue isn't a foregone conclusion for all piston-fill pens, but it does happen from time to time, with TWSBI's and others. That's more of a flow issue than an issue with the filling mechanism, per say. Unscrewing the piston to force ink into the feed is a workaround, but ideally, you shouldn't need to do that if all is working properly. TWSBI I know is particularly responsive with this kind of stuff as a warranty issue, so it may be worth shooting the an email at twsbiinc@gmail.com to see if they can help out.

  • Great recommendation, I hear this same feedback from a lot of folks who are a fan of this as a work ink.

  • Great tip, Suzy! I hand't heard of this one before, I tend to muscle my way through these kinds of problems 😉 The one thing I'd add as a caution is that most ink bottle labels aren't waterproof, so be aware of that whenever doing anything with water and the bottle.

  • How did I not remember that one? Yes, that's a great brown.

  • David

    @Theodore L., Try Diamine Bilberry – a very nice purple/blue ink with some nice inclusions. With the right nib/paper combination Bilberry produces an interesting sheen when dry. It is hard to say whether Bilberry is a blue of purple ink, results vary by nib/paper combination. A fun ink that will stand up in an office correspondence environment.

  • roberto a

    Thank you so much for your reply Gordon and Brian. This is exactly the information I was looking for!!!

  • Robert Matthews

    Sharon K: Private Reserve Ebony Green is an excellent ink that's just a hair's breadth away from being black, but is still actually green. It should work in even very conservative situations.

    Theodore L: Diamine Damson is an extremely dark purple that should pass muster in an office.

  • TJ

    Brain, another great Q&A! Wonderful information here. Note, the thermal expansion of plastics is many many times greater than glass, so heating the cap on a stuck ink bottle should help a lot, along with softening the dried ink with the water/steam. I love your shirt here. I've worn shirts like that for the past 7 or 8 years at work and home, partly to keep several fountain and gel pens handy. Now I keep a Midori Traveler's notebook in one pocket with a TWSBI, and iPod Touch in the other with another FP and a TWSBI pencil. If the pocket is wide enough another FP may be added to either side so I can have up to 3 different nibs right at hand at all times. I found that I want my Midori on me all the time, so that's how it found a pocket.

  • Soo Lee

    John S: Your kids may enjoy playing with Noodler's Blue Ghost, an invisible ink that becomes invisible under black light. (Goulet Pens sells both.) I could definitely imagine, for example, that writing "secret" messages to daddy would stimulate their interest. Good luck!

  • David

    Brian, great Q&A. I tried to capture all of the inks you suggested for the business environment, but had a hard time capturing then during the video. Could you repeat them in the comments section? Thanks!

  • ★ keri ★

    I just discovered the newish Pilot Kakuno pen for new writers – the nib has a smiley face etched on it! It's a hexagonal body and cap like the classic yellow no. 2 pencils, and the grip is triangular with blunted corners (so more hexagonal). If you go to Rakutan, you can buy it for about $9.50 before shipping (which can be astronomical, coming from Japan as it is). I don't know what the plans are for bringing this pen to other markets, but it looks like it might be another good option for kids, especially since the caps come in red, pink, lime, orange, blue, and black, and the grip is translucent which means it's fun to see the ink filling the fins of the feed.

    Also, for work-appropriate black ink, I'm pretty fond of Diamine Eclipse. It's definitely black, but subtly purple with a bit of a sheen if you're using a wider nib. I generally use it in an EF or F for letters and so on that I can't really use brighter colors with, and since our letterhead paper tends to be porous, the narrow nib controls bleeding. It's my go-to for writing addresses on envelopes, though I wish it were waterproof so I needn't worry about it getting splattered with rain on the way to the mailbox!

    I use Diamine Bilberry, too, though I disagree about it looking blue. It never looks anything but a deep purple to me, albeit owing more to the blue element than red. It's one of my favorite inks! If you dab it on a very soft paper towel then add a dot of water, the spectromograph thing that happens makes it look completely different. It's one of my favorites to do that with when showing people how dyes and color work. Private Reserve Avacado is another one that is fun to do. (I work in an art museum and like to talk to skeptical kids about the science behind art, and this is an impressive trick. Of course, Noodler's Rome Burning is also fab, but I don't keep a pen inked up with it.)

    Anyway, in a fine or extra-fine nib, Bilberry can appear to be nearly black, which makes it a good choice for more formal/business writing if I don't happen to have Eclipse available. I also swap in Twilight, though it tends to be more distinctly teal. It's less saturated than 54th Massachusetts and more black than Noodler's Navy.

  • Pascal D

    For envellops, I put transparent tape over the addresses I write on there. Makes it waterproof, and ~Melting snow – proof ~. 😉

  • ★ keri ★

    Ooh, that's a good idea! I'll try it next time and see how it looks. Goodness knows I have a huge stash of perfectly clear tape that's not actually very good for the other things we use tape around here.

  • Pascal D

    Windex (the blue liquids to clean up windows) works well to clean up inks from hands.. haven't needed it yet for clothes, so haven't tried it yet. If someone has FP ink-stained clothes, maybe try that. And poor in some water.. not sure what long term exposure to windex does to clothes. If someone tried / tries it, let us know.

    — Windex is an ammonia based glass cleaner.. careful what you try.. chlorine based cleaners or randomly chosen cleaner is NOT the way to go.

  • Henry

    How do I easily tell the difference between a pen with a push-pull cap versus one that unscrews? I don't want to break a pen by pulling off the cap on a screw type cap.

  • natsora

    Does ink clot? Is it bad for my fountain pen if I keep using it? I live in Singapore where the weather is hot and humid most of the year. My Kaweco ink cartridge seems to be clotting.

  • Great recommendations Robert, thanks!

  • Thanks, TJ. After this Q&A and all the recommendations to soak the cap in warm water, that's honestly the first time I've heard this advice! Don't know how I missed it, just goes to show there's always more to learn 😉 Yeah, I like this shirt except I'm SWIMMING in it now, I bought it before losing 50ish lbs. Too bad, but I'm happy to go out and buy new shirts now 🙂

  • Definitely! Kids love Blue Ghost! Best part, if they spill it, you wouldn't know (except when you fire up the blacklight for your dance party, that is).

  • Sure! Man, I did roll through them quickly.
    Reds: Noodler's Red Black, Diamine Oxblood, Noodler's Tiananmen.
    Purples: PR Ebony Purple, De Atramentis Elderberries, Noodler's Nightshade, Diamine Eclipse.
    Browns: Noodler's Walnut, Diamine Chocolate Brown, De Atramentis Black Edition Black Brown, PR Ebony Brown.
    Greens: Noodler's Zhivago, PR Avacado

  • Tom Johnson

    I heard this years ago. When in any doubt, unscrew the cap. If it only turns and does not unscrew it is a push-pull cap. If you pull on a screw cap there's a chance you can damage the pen or cap. Play it safe, unscrew it before you pull.