The Great Bottled Ink Count.

Well, that wasn’t too terrible. Being confronted with my own greed and folly was never going to be comfortable. But it was not as bad as I feared.

During the week I took part in Anthony’s online survey of the pen community, on UK Fountain pens. One of the multiple choice questions was how many bottles of ink you have. I honestly did not know and had not counted but suspected it might be nudging past the hundred mark. I resolved to find out.

I used to own only a few bottles of ink, Parker Quink generally. Getting through a whole bottle of ink takes time, particularly if you often use cartridges instead. Assuming, very roughly, that a 50ml bottle might give you fifty fills and that each fill would last you for, say 20 pages of A4 writing, that is 1,000 pages. Fortunately most bottled ink keeps well. The exception, ironically, is iron gall ink which needs to be used up within around 18 months of opening the bottle, or else it loses its colour and darkening properties.

I have a couple of old bottles of Monbtblanc ink, still in their boxes with a price sticker saying £4.95. Now they cost about £18.00 I think.

It was perhaps around 2014 that things escalated with my fountain pen hobby getting hooked on pen reviews on the internet. That was the first year in which I attended the London Pen Show, coming away with a TSWBI Vac 700 and a bottle of Omas blue ink. Should I have stopped there? In November 2016 this blog was launched to share the journey.

Since then I have been adding steadily to the fountain pen stash and accumulating a fair amount of ink along the way. I was curious to see quite how bad it had become.

A couple of years back I bought a plastic storage unit, with four nice deep drawers for my stationery stash. The top drawer has some accessories, like pen wraps and pouches, micromesh kit, some dip pens and a few boxed pens. The second drawer is my stock of unused journals, mostly A5 size but with a few smaller ones. And then the third and fourth drawer down are for ink. That is not to say that all of my ink is in these drawers: some frequently used bottles are on my desk (AKA the dining table) and others on the book shelves behind me.

The bottom drawer

It was not difficult to do a stock take. They are all in one room, (except for an emergency bottle of Cross black which lives in my desk drawer at work).

I created a spreadsheet, with columns for the Brand, the Colour or name, and finally, a simple name for the group which that colour falls into (for example Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue, Waterman Serenity Blue and KWZ Azure number 4 all come under “Blue”).

It was interesting (to me at least) to see them sorted by brands too and which were the most represented brands in my stash. It turns out to be Montblanc with nine bottles, closely followed by Waterman with eight and then Pelikan Edelstein with five (mostly gleaned from the annual Pelikan Hub events).

These should cover most eventualities for a normal person.

My final tally came to 65 bottles. As I was expecting it to be around one hundred I was pleasantly surprised. So I have enough ink for 65 years and not 100! Phew!

By colour group, it came as no surprise to me that I had 16 bottles of blue ink plus another 11 of blue black, almost enough to form a Democrat government. Next were 8 browns, 7 blacks and 7 greens, 6 reds, 3 pinks (What?!) 2 Burgundies, 2 green-blacks, and finally 1 each of Magenta, Purple and Orange.

What lessons can I learn from this?

  • I need no more ink for a while;
  • It is good to know what you have;
  • I have been buying ink faster than I have been using it.

I have not included a stash of ink cartridges in this count. Nor have I included a half dozen or so ink samples which are not in original bottles.

It is satisfying to finish a bottle ink. Last week I came to the end of a very enjoyable bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-kai blue black which I had been given by a friend. Once it got down to the last 5ml or so, I decanted it to my Pineider Travelling Inkwell, so that I could go on filling my Diplomat Excellence easily, without wasting a drop.

For anyone in a similar boat who has put off counting, I recommend it. It might not be as bad as you think.

18 thoughts on “The Great Bottled Ink Count.

      1. I try, and it helps to have a daughter who likes her fountain pens too. If I pick up an ink that I find doesn’t really hit the mark for me, then I pass it on to her almost immediately, and she tries it out on glass pens, she sketches, takes school notes and journals, and has never really met an ink she doesn’t love.

        And in all honesty, whilst I might only have 30ish bottles on my shelf… she’s now got quite a few too.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. What a fun article! Your collection seems slightly more modest than mine- I think (but have not counted) that I have something near to 100 bottles.

    Part of the problem is that when I really like an ink which is a special edition and I know won’t be available later, I then buy a stock. I therefore have a long-term supply of Edelstein Amethyst and Edelstein Smoky Quartz, as well as 3 bottles each of Iroshizuku Hoteison and Edo-Murasaki… I also stocked up on rare Sailor inks when I was last in Japan.
    But I don’t regret having them- it is maddening to find a bottle getting empty with no possibility of replacement.
    Happily, as you say, good in kept properly should last ages. But thank you for the tip about Iron Gall inks- I have a couple of Rohrer & Klinger inks that I now know I should concentrate on using up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! It makes good sense to have a spare bottle of inks that you particularly like, especially if it will not be available for long. I found a few duplicates in my accumulation, including the Conway Stewart Tavy that was made by Diamine, although I read somewhere that it is basically the same as Diamine Denim, and so not extinct.

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  2. That sounds an excellent arrangement.
    In my defence, I get a lot of enjoyment picking inks from my “menu” to try in new pen/ink combinations. Even just thinking about that, takes me to my happy place.

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  3. I had to have a count too while filling out Anthony’s survey. I hit about 36 bottles, a lot of which are 30ml Diamine or Herbin inks a handful of Sailor 20ml bottles and I have 7 of the 15ml Iroshizuku bottles. I do have about the same again in samples though… 30+ samples would likely last me a couple of years without touching my bottled ink, which makes me think I should write more. 🙂

    Thanks for the interesting bit of introspection Rupert.

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    1. Thanks Martin. There’s a lot to be said for the 30ml bottle size. I remember having a bottle of Cult Pens’ Deep Dark Blue, which I loved and used a lot and which still seemed to last a couple of years. Few of us need such large amounts of ink: it’s more about having the choices to suit the pen.

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      1. Certainly, I’m guilty of preferring to match ink to pen, it’s partly why I went for a few black pens recently as now I can put whatever colour I want in them and my inner pendant doesn’t react.

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      2. Yes, neutral grey pens are good for that too! I don’t generally match pen colours with inks…it made me queasy when the colours were not quite identical. But I do try to avoid colour clashes.

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  4. I wouldn’t want that much ink, but somehow I envy you the collection anyway. I have a couple of inks I’m trying to use up so I’m writing (almost) exclusively with those, but it’s getting boring and there’s still such a lot left. When I finish my current converter, I’m going to take a brief break and since the pen that I’m going to use is inked up with black, I reckon it won’t be long before I’m glad to get back to the green.

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    1. Having a small select few inks that you like, is good too. I never tire of royal blue. I am not one for sheen or shimmer but do enjoy inks which shade. Discovering new colours is exciting (currently I am enjoying Diamine Cherry Sunburst very much) but I still mostly use blues.

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    1. That would be colourful! I did make a sort of ‘ink menu’ in one of my notebooks, with samples to help me when choosing what ink to put in a pen. I admire Anthony’s efforts at doing this, on his blog UK Fountain Pens.

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