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The Burden of Ink

I’ve accumulated a fair bit of ink over the years. Some of it I like, and of course there’s ink I don’t like very much. Purple that is called blue, or gray that is called black both turn me off. Any ink that looks pale and washed out is not so good. I should just throw these out, but instead I keep them thinking that someday I’ll just use them up when all the good stuff runs out.

This is flawed thinking because I buy ink at a rate much faster than I use it. Even two bottles per year, about my average, is about four times faster than I use ink. In my life I’ve emptied only one bottle of Namiki blue, and one bottle of Sheaffer Skrip Blue, at least that I can remember. Because I tend to change my mind about what I like no one bottle gets hit too hard for too long.

The Skrip got used back in the days when I first used a fountain pen to keep notes at work when I was an engineer. I kept the bottle in my desk and because I used the pen everyday I eventually used up the ink. I don’t know how it could be, but I went for a year or two before I even thought of getting a different ink or really even thought about what else was out there. Nice, simple days. I even hate the color, and the way the ink writes, but I still have a few bottles. I use it for pens that dry out quickly, like Parkers.

Now ink is going through a revival, and boutique makers like Noodler’s and Private Reserve are making new colors almost faster than one can buy them. They’re also making custom colors for specific outlets, and limited colors. Of course, if I like one of these colors (like Noodler’s Van Gogh Starry Night Blue) they stop making it. Either that or its rarity is what makes it attractive. So these inks become special, and what is special tends not to be used so much. I don’t want to be one of these losers paying $50 for a bottle of ink on Ebay, like some pathetic addict.

Then there’s the search for the Perfect Ink. The elusive ink that writes well in every pen, is friendly enough to leave in pens, has a distinctive color that is not too unusual, and will be made forever so that I don’t feel like I’ve got to buy a case before I commit to it. I’ve thought I’ve found this more than once, but then I become convinced something else is better. Waterman Blue Black and Private Reserve Midnight Blues are both close. The Van Gogh Starry Night Blue is also very close, and I bought two bottles so it gets used as well.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m collecting the pens and the ink is there just to make them work, or if I’m collecting the ink and then pens are there only to justify it. But that’s the stuff of hobbies – the endless evaluation and analysis and pondering.

1 comment… add one
  • Russell Davison August 9, 2011, 2:23 am

    You just reminded me to go down into our basement and retrieve the bottles of blue and black Parker Quink ink that my wife and I bought in 2001. We both thought, back then, that we’d write lots of beautiful text. However, emails and video conferencing seems to have put a stop to that idea. Did you know that Parker Quink ink was first sold in 1931? Its name is an amalgam of “quick and ink” and reflects the fact Quink dries quickly on the paper – but not on the nib.

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