Currently inked, 16 August 2020.

This morning I made a list of the currently inked pens that I have at home, knowing that the result would be embarrassingly uniform. I arranged them in order of colour, making it even more apparent that of the 20 pens shown, 15 are inked with either blue or blue black.

The currently inked as at 16 August 2020

For some months now, I have been juggling 20 inked pens on the go. This does not include a further two (both Cross Bailey Lights) which I keep at my office, since returning to work after lockdown, in July.

Twenty pens is a lot to use at any one time. I have tried to keep the number from growing any higher and have imposed a “one out one in” rule. But even so, assuming that the average cartridge or converter might manage around 20 pages of writing, (more if a piston filler), that is 400 pages of writing, sitting on the table. Pens are not running dry fast enough to keep the cups from becoming stale.

On one hand, I do enjoy having a lot of pens available simultaneously and I enjoy the variety that they offer. But on the other hand, part of me craves a simpler existence of running just one fountain pen (flashback to me aged 12…) and just filling it up, with the same ink usually, whenever it needed ink. It is possible to re-create this simplicity, temporarily, by getting away from the desk and going to write in a coffee shop taking just a single pen and notebook. Of course you cannot then enjoy the option of selecting any one or more of 20 pens from the pen cups as the fancy takes you, but you cannot have your cake and eat it.

But the bigger problem I see from my list is that 75% of the pens are inked with blue or blue black. No greens. No bright reds. No turquoise, or orange. This highlights the fact that the pens and their inks have each been selected individually without regard to the bigger picture of the pallette that is being created. Who of us, given an empty paint box, would set out to equip himself with 75% of the space given to blue and blue black?

When a pen runs dry, unless it is one of those to keep in circulation, I enjoy picking another pen to replace it. I generally pick the pen first and then decide which ink to use. Very rarely do I start with the ink and then decide which pen to put it in, except perhaps with iron gall ink.

There is always the option, to remove a bunch of pens and give them an early bath, to keep the pen cups fresh and varied but at the expense of jettisoning some good ink.

It is, after all just a hobby. The pen cups do not stand up to a lot of scrutiny. Why for example am I using a Waterman Allure when I have two empty Carenes at my disposal? Why not use only my best pens, all the time?

Perhaps by mixing in some entry level pens we appreciate the difference more when picking up the Montblanc.

There are no right and wrong answers. I am sure each one of us has his own principles and systems for managing the currently inked. But one simple lesson to take away, (for me at least) is not to loose sight of the bigger picture when filling the pen cups, to ensure you have more than just blue and blue black at hand.

13 thoughts on “Currently inked, 16 August 2020.

  1. As usual, an entertaining and witty review, Rupert! But I don’t really share your occasional yearning for the days when you only had a single pen filled by the same ink. Personally, I enjoy writing with lots of different pens and inks, with a large variety of nibs.
    I am currently on holiday and have taken a modest series of pens with me. A selecting factor would be their replaceability if (oh dread the thought!) they were lost, damaged or stolen. So, for a three week trip, I have taken:
    -a Pelikan M800 Green Black stripes (inked with Sailor #51 Kano-cho dark blue),
    -a Pelikan M400 White Tortoise (inked with Kyoto Bengara-iro ink),
    -a Sailor pro gear silver demonstrator (inked with Iroshizuku Asa-Gao),
    -a Sailor 1911 Large Champagne green (inked with Robert Oster Blue sea),
    -a Pilot 823 (inked with Edelstein Smoky Quartz) and
    -a Twsbi Blue Eco inked with Asa-Gao ink.
    On standby as inks in sample plastic ink containers are supplies of Edelstein Smoky Quartz, Rober Oster Blue Sea and Iroshizuky Asa-Gao. And then there are also two notebooks (a Leuchturm 1917 and a Filofax)…
    I think that should be sufficient to last out a few weeks…

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  2. Wonderful! Despite the plethora of blues and blue-blacks, each sample is different enough to give a valuable indication of how much variation there can be between seemingly similar inks. I wouldn’t want to go back to one pen only, but I do start to feel uncomfortable when I have more than three pens inked at once. Three seems to be my comfortable number (lucky since I have a three-pen pouch that I keep them in). The pens and inks vary, but there is always one with a bright contrast colour – red, orange or pink. I like to use blue inks, but don’t necessarily always have something on the go with blue ink. How do you find the Cross ink cartridges and do you have any of the Cross ink in bottles? I always found the ink very good in my Cross pens, but I don’t think I’ve ever bought a bottle of it.

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    1. Thankyou Pamela! Keeping to just three pens inked sounds very sensible. Having one with a red, orange or pink also good!
      I have not used Cross inks very much. I have bought Cross black cartridges in the past (which I am trying to use up in one of my six Cross Bailey Lights) and find it a very good black. I believe that Cross ink may share a common origin with Pelikan ink. I do have bottles of both black and blue Cross inks but tended to reach for Waterman or Montblanc inks first. I have just recently started using Pelikan 4001 royal blue in my Lamy 2000 and I expect the Cross blue to be very similar. It is true that there are differences between the many blues that I use.
      Have a good week!

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  3. I’ve been using fountain pens since I was a small child. I bought my own with chore money when I was eight. In the decades since, I suppose I’ve known a couple of hundred fountain pen users, and now the immense numbers on YouTube. I can honestly say I’ve never know a single user who had a bunch of pens inked up with essentially the same color of ink. The reason to have a bunch of pens inked up has always been to have a way of using, or at least testing, a bunch of different inks.

    I week or so ago, the number of pens inked up arose on a YouTube channel I was watching, and when I counted mine I discovered I had forty-four pens inked up. This is not normal, even for me. My standard number is eighteen pens. I have three pen racks on my desk, each of which holds six pens, and all are inked up. But even the forty-four pens had forty-four different inks. I had one black, Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, and one in the blue family, which was Noodler’s Navajo Turquoise. I had several shades of purple, red, green, orange burgundy, pink, and you name it. No two were exactly alike.

    Now, I write a good deal more than the average fountain pen user. A light week is five hours per day, five days per week. Some weeks I double the hours and add Saturday to the workload. But even at this pace, I can’t possibly use forty-four pens. Worse, the forty-four count only included my good fountain pens. I didn’t even try to count the Platinum Preppy, pens, or the Jinhao 992 pens, that I buy so I can test questionable inks such as iron gall or India ink formulated for fountain pens, before putting that ink in an expensive pen. But again, each of those holds a different ink, as well.

    I don’t have a world record number of inks. I keep finding bottles tucked here and there, and more arrive in the mail with alarming regularity, but with last night’s count, I have one hundred and thirty-two full size bottles of ink, thirty-five smaller bottles, and eighty-eight samples. This despite giving away what amounted to half a gallon of ink earlier this year, and more last year. I still have more ink coming in the mail, and a standing order for several bottles each month. But even by giving away a LOT of ink, I keep falling farther and farther behind.

    Even as much as I write, just the eight bottles of Iroshizuku, the eleven bottles of Noodler’s, and the four bottles of Waterman ink I have will probably outlast me. But I keep buying ink.

    Anyway, I love fountain pens. I love the way a good fountain pen looks, feels, and especially writes. But apparently, I’m also an ink guy. Maybe it’s the grail pen syndrome, only for ink. I keep looking for the absolute perfect shade of each ink, and haven’t quite found it.

    You, on the other hand, seem to be more in the pure fountain pen category than anyone I’ve known.

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    1. Hi James, Thank you for your interesting comments. It is fascinating to hear how others cope with the tendency of inked pens to multiply and our irrational temptation to buy ever more ink. Selling or giving away some bottles of little used inks, is one way.
      I have not actually counted my inks but can tell you that I have a drawer full of bottles along with a stash of standard and proprietary cartridges. There is no danger of me running out of ink.
      My “currently inked” list is quite genuine and was not intended as a spoof post. I omitted to mention that the two office pens – Cross Bailey Lights – are inked, one with blue black and the other with blue, which makes 17 out of 22. To be fair, I have a dozen or so different blue inks and the colours can vary a lot. My favourite shade is probably GvFC Cobalt Blue and then Serenity Blue or Montblanc Royal Blue. For blue black, my go-to is Diamine Conway Stewart Tavy, but lately I have quite enjoyed Pilot Shin-kai.
      If I am testing out pens which are new to me, it makes sense to use inks that I am familiar with. Testing three pens, all with the same ink, on the same paper, reduces the number of variables.
      If I used only one ink, it would still take me a year to finish one bottle and so I have ample for my lifetime.
      As I said, there are no right and wrong answers. The main thing is to enjoy your pens and inks – as you clearly do!

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  4. Amusing read as always. I tend to keep myself to three pens inked not including my work pen, which is a Karas Kustoms Fountain K with an FPnibs XXF nib. When I get a new pen in the mail I’ll ink it up which often puts me to four pens then I feel it takes ages to empty them.

    I have an issue just now that one of my inked pens is a piston filler and another is an eyedropper so they are going to be in rotation for a while… I’m generally good at varying colours, currently have Herbin Cafe des Iles, Diamine Oxblood, Iroshizuku Kon-Peki and Sailor Studio 123 on the go.

    Been meaning to ask, where do you get Diamine Tavy from? Whenever I google it I get a few reviews or mentions but no shops.

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    1. Hi Martin, Thank you. That sounds a good range of colours. Yes it is important with eye droppers and piston fillers to choose an ink that you won’t get bored of! Having just three pens plus a work pen sounds very modest and sensible.
      Regarding the Tavy ink, I have bought two bottles of this over the years, on both occasions at the London Pen Show. I think it may well be discontinued now. It is issued as Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine. It was one of a series of Conway Stewart inks, named after rivers in Devon. If you can’t get hold of a bottle, then I have heard that Diamine Denim is the same, or very close, although I have not tried it.

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  5. Yeah, 3 pens (+1) works for me, and my collection is only about 16 pens and a few of those don’t really get used over the other choices. The eyedropper has Oxblood in it, I don’t tend to get fed up of that one it seems, like Cadwaladr if I want a brighter red.

    As I was typing I suspected that Tavy may have been discontinued, it was more of a curiosity since you spoke about it and I couldn’t find it. Thanks for the heads up on denim, it’s a good colour.

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  6. Thanks for a good read! I think forcing myself to a ‘monthly rotation’ of sorts, minus the constant inked bulletproof black has helped me with too many pens inked at once. It’s always a constant struggle to balance and then I find myself making up excuses to ‘use up’ a pen so I can shift it out of rotation.
    Anyway, I actually love that a majority of your currently inked are within the same hue 😀

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