Thursday, 5 November 2015

Shimmering Inks

There have been a number of shimmering inks appearing recently. These are inks that have particles of metal dust or other fine particles that will catch the light.
There was the much announced Emerald de Chivor by J Herbin (green with gold) which joined the other inks in their 1670 range - stormy grey (grey with gold), ocean blue (blue with gold) and rouge hematite (red with gold).

Then a few weeks ago, Diamine announced their new Shimmertastic range which has ten different colours - Magical Forest (green with silver), Night Sky (black with silver), Blue Pearl (dark blue with silver), Brandy Dazzle (cognac colour with gold), Purple Pazzazz (purple with gold), Golden sands (deep yellow with gold), Sparkling Shadows (dark grey with gold), Blue Lightning (turquoise with silver), Shimmering Seas (purple-blue with gold) and Red Lustre (red with gold). The picture below is taken from their press release at Goulet Pens (apologies for my watermarking obscuring their logo!).

Anyway, despite already possessing more ink than I can possibly get through in a lifetime, I decided to treat myself to some of these shimmering inks. I've got six in total - three by J Herbin and three by Diamine. I reviewed the three J Herbin inks (see here) but I thought it was high time to do a compare and contrast.

The three J Herbin versions I have are: Emerald de Chivor, Ocean Blue and Stormy Grey. The Diamine inks are: Blue Lightning, Blue Pearl and Night Sky.

The J Herbin sparkling inks are on sale at Cult Pens at the moment at £14.59 for a 30ml bottle (no affiliation, just a happy customer). The Diamine Shimmertastic inks are £8.95 for a 30ml bottle (also at Cult Pens) - about 60% of the price of the J Herbin inks.

I have three pens inked up with shimmering inks but I wanted to compare all six that I have. I have a glass dip pen and so I did the same thing with each ink - shook the bottle for 20 seconds to ensure the sparkly bits were well distributed, dipped the glass pen in to the same depth, then wrote the name of the ink and the ubiquitous The Quick Brown Fox... sentence. All the samples were written on Original Crown Mill white vellum paper. I tried to photograph each sample from above and from the side.
Man, these were hard to photograph!! Not helped by it being a grey day in Scotland, but even so...
Each ink sample is shown photographed from above and then from the side. Click on pictures to enlarge.

I also tried the three pens that are inked up and wrote (pretty much) the same thing:

So, what do I think? Let's take them brand by brand and then ink by ink.

J Herbin v Diamine:
The J Herbin are more expensive than the Diamine and the quality does show through to some degree. I don't know what it is about the J Herbin inks though, but they creep everywhere! I think that they must have a different surface tension to other inks, allowing them to climb surfaces and just generally get everywhere! I'm not the only one who found this - I sent a sample of the Emerald de Chivor to a good friend and he said it got everywhere too! That's not just a disadvantage because you get inky hands when the pens are refilled, but also the inks penetrate through (some) paper quite significantly - even paper that has been pretty resistant with other inks and never shown a problem before. They also have a tendency to feather more - you can see it to some degree in the samples written with pens - and lay down a thicker line.
Diamine ink doesn't seem to have the same property but the disadvantage seems to be that after not using a pen for a while, it is resistant to start writing. The Night Sky in the Sheaffer calligraphy has been fairly problematic with variable feed and drying out, whereas the Ocean Blue (also in a Sheaffer calligraphy) has started first time, each time. There's no getting around it - the J Herbin inks are wet to the point of sopping whereas the Diamines are on the dry side (at least in my pens).

Ink by ink:
1. Ocean Blue
I like the density of the colour but to me, the sparkliness of the ink seems quite limited on the Crown vellum. I would be hard pushed to spot it, even when using a calligraphy nib and a litre of ink is being laid down with each stroke (okay - I exaggerate, but it seems a bit that way!). However, when I reviewed my J Herbin inks a while back, this looked incredibly sparkly! I think all of the inks are paper-dependent for showing off their true values. (The previous reviews used Tomoe River paper)

2. Blue Pearl
Again, a lovely depth to the colour and more sparkle to it than the Ocean Blue on this paper. I also slightly prefer the silver and blue combination as opposed to the gold and blue combo, but that's personal taste.

3. Stormy Grey
In contrast to the Ocean Blue, there's almost too much gold coming through in this one and it makes the grey look yellow. Others may love that, but I'm less of a fan. Unless the light really catches the gold and makes it sparkle (which, I note, it did in my earlier review), the grey can look a little jaundiced.

4. Night Sky
The black and silver combination (with a hint of purple in the right light) is just gorgeous. The downside (but it might be pen-specific) was that when I filled a Sheaffer calligraphy with this, it took an age to get started, then had pretty poor feed, before finally getting into its stride. I then left the pen alone for a day or two and it's dry and reluctant to start. The level of shimmer on it is good and there aren't the feathering and bleed-through issues of the J Herbin.

5. Blue Lightning
I used this to write to a friend and neither of us were overwhelmed by the sparkliness, although both thought that the turquoise was a very pretty colour. However, it might have been the paper that I was using (airmail) as when I wrote on different paper, the silver shimmer was much more evident. It's still subtle, but with the right paper this is a very pretty combination.

6. Emerald de Chivor
I do love this ink! It's a wet to sopping ink but that allows the depth of colour and shading to show through as well as the sparkles. There seems to be more colours in the ink, beyond merely green - blues, reds, yellows - depending on the line thickness and amount of ink laid down. It's probably my favourite of the six sparkling inks, even if it has a tendency to bleed right through normally ink-resistant paper.

In summary:
Both sets of ink are great. The J Herbin are perhaps a slightly better quality - I would like to compare and contrast them with chromatography tests; I think there will be a bigger range of pigments in the J Herbin inks - but for the price, the Diamine are fabulous value. To get the full effect seems to be somewhat paper-dependent, with a glossier paper (such as Clairefontaine, Tomoe River etc.) giving a better result than more matt paper. Emerald de Chivor looks good on any paper but the others do seem to need to be on a paper where the ink sits for a moment, allowing the ink to dry and the gold/silver to end up on the top.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Review of the Conklin Durograph in Forest Green

As a combination of a treat for my birthday and to commemorate me leaving work, I bought myself a Conklin Durograph in Forest Green.

Conklin Durograph in Forest Green

It arrived packaged in a card slip cover containing a navy box.

Box in slip cover

Inside the box was the pen and some instructions and two standard (short) cartridges and the converter. I prefer bottled ink (and have LOTS of bottles of ink) so I screwed the converter in. Yep, you read that right - the converter screws in, rather than pushes in. A couple of reviewers have said that they have found that screw-thread to be tricky and that it doesn't thread properly without being really careful, but I can't say that that was the case for me. It's threaded in okay every time I've used it, so far.

Box open

The exterior of the pen is gorgeous. The body is made of resin with a good depth of colour and pearlescent flecks. At the base of the barrel is a solid black end piece, separated from the rest of the barrel with a chrome trim. The cap has a similar end piece, with Conklin Est. 1898 on it. I suspect that this writing will wear off in time as it is just painted on. Again, the black end piece is separated from the rest of the cap with a chrome trim which is part of a VERY sturdy clip. There is another chrome trim further down the cap which has Conklin Durograph etched on it. The cap screws on.

Cap removed, the body of the pen is black with a fairly substantial looking nib. The stub nib has entirely polished chrome finish; other nibs have a two-tone nib.

Dismembered and still beautiful!

I'd thought, when I'd been using it, that it was a heavy pen, but when I compared how much each of my pens weigh, I was surprised to find that the Conklin wasn't much heavier than most of my pens at all! Both the TWSBI 540 and the Conklin (unposted) come in at 14g; a Sheaffer calligraphy pen is 12g and the Platinum PTL-5000 is 13g. It is chunkier in its girth though at 12mm for the barrel.

So, never mind what it looks like, how does it write?

Beautifully. There isn't much (if any) spring in the nib, but then, it's chromed steel so why would there be? It lays down a lot of ink (depending on the ink/paper combination, sometimes too much), giving great shading with inks. The nib is smooth and glides easily across paper, without skipping. It 'starts first time' - i.e. if it's not been written with for a few days, it writes immediately. The only disadvantage is that if I'm writing on some papers (like the Leuchtturm A4+ notebook, which seems to encourage LOTS of ink to flow), it can fairly rattle through the reservoir of ink! On other paper (such as Original Crown Mill vellum) it lays down much less ink.

I love the pen. It's special because it marks a major change in my life (not just my birthday), it's drop-dead gorgeous (to me, anyway!) and it's also a great pen to write with. Which, after all, is what matters!