Object Permanence

Ask any fountain pen nerd what the first thing they look for in an ink is and most will probably respond with some variation of "the pretty colors". It makes sense; one of the primary draws of using a fountain pen is the vast number of ink colors available.

Ask me what the first thing I look for in an ink is and I'll probably respond with "permanence". It's something I may be a little obsessive about. Possibly because I'm just egotistical enough to think people a hundred years from now will care about the things that I've written, but more likely because my Italian heritage has gifted me with somewhat oily skin and anything that isn't at least somewhat permanent smears like a mofo on me. But I do like the pretty colors too.

In my quest to find colorful, non-boring inks that also offer some kind of longevity, I have developed a rigorous scientific test to sift the wheat from the chaff. I don't do this test with every ink I try, just the ones I think may be worth keeping around. And because I'm here to help, I now share it with you:

  1. Get a Q-tip or other non-branded cotton swab.
  2. Dip one end of said swab into the ink bottle/sample vial/pouch.
  3. Make some kind of mark on a piece of paper with the inked-saturated swab.
  4. Label said mark with a known permanent ink (I use a Sakura Pigma Micron).
  5. Fill a basin of some kind with room temperature water.
  6. Submerge your piece of paper completely in the basin of water.
  7. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  8. Have a drink.
  9. When the timer has elapsed, remove the piece of paper from the basin of water.
  10. Observe which inks survived and to what extent.

Below are the results of two of my recent tests with some comments. Both were done using white Tomoe River paper, if that kind of thing matters to you.

These are the inks I currently (as of this writing) have in my pens.

  • My beloved Noodler's 54th Mass. came through like a champ.
  • Both of the KWZ Iron Gall inks lost their original color, but retained their iron gall-ness.
  • I was pleasantly surprised at how much of the Pelikan, Sailor, and J. Herbin stuck around.
  • I wasn't sure what to expect from Blue Steel, but it, too, looks almost iron gall-ish.
  • I was both surprised and disappointed that Oriental Red completely poof disappeared.

For this test, I deliberately chose inks that were supposed to have some kind of water-resistant qualities.

  • The KWZ Iron Gall once again did its iron gall thing.
  • Both of the Sailor inks are pigmented, so it's no shock that they stayed put.
  • Noodler's Fox may be worth looking into as a solution for my Red Problem.
  • When I selected the inks for this test, I thought Black Swan in Australian Roses was more water-resistant than it actually is. A quick look at the Goulet Noodler's Ink Properties Chart shows that I was mistaken.
  • I expected Bad Belted Kingfisher to come through a little better than it did, given that it's part of Noodler's "Warden" series. On the other hand, Liberty's Elysium exceeded my expectations for a "partially" water-resistant ink.

And there it is. Don't you feel all scienced up now?