My current top 5 inks.

It is not very often that I take stock of what bottled inks I have. Until now, the most recent count up was in 2020, which I posted about in The Great Bottled Ink Count on 21 November 2020. At that time I had 65 bottles. It has since grown to around 82 bottles.

Whilst it is nice to have such a variety to choose from when inking a pen, there is also a nagging feeling that I have got more than I need and will never use it all. If we chop and change inks every time we fill a pen, and have multiple pens inked at once, we very rarely manage to finish a bottle. It takes sustained use and many repeat fills, to drain a typical 50ml bottle.

When I got all my inks out recently, it was hard to make them all fit back in their drawers again. Having them stacked on top of each other in drawers means that you forget what is underneath. It leads me to fantasise about having just one ink, or say one of each main colour. How much simpler that would be. The same goes for fountain pens and notebooks. Imagine having only one pen, one ink and one notebook. No difficult decisions about which to take! You can temporarily create a such a position by going on a retreat or even just going to a coffee shop, bringing only one pen, one ink and one notebook with you.

This was me last weekend, sorting the ink stash by colour.

I am unlikely to reduce my ink stash unless I have to. I am set up for life! But meanwhile it can be a fun exercise to reflect on which inks I would select, if I could keep only five of them. Currently, if it came to this, I would nominate the following.

Waterman Serenity Blue

An attractive royal blue ink, that is readily available, inexpensive, and behaves well. An excellent general purpose ink. It flows well in a pen, dries quickly, doesn’t stain and is easy to wash out of a pen. It can also help to clean a pen that has had something less well-behaved in it before. If I could keep only one ink, this would probably be it. But I would miss not having Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue.

Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine

This is blue black ink and named after the River Tavy in the county of Devon where Conway Stewart at one time was based. I first discovered the ink at a London Pen Show and it became an instant favourite. I recall later buying a spare bottle.

But the memory plays tricks on us. When laying out all my inks on view recently, I discovered that I actually had three bottles of Tavy. I had written their dates of purchase inside the lids: October 2017, March 2019 and October 2021. All were at pen shows. But when I opened the bottles recently to check how much was left, I could not understand why they were all full, or nearly full. And then I spotted an empty Tavy ink bottle on the book shelf behind my desk, and remembered that I had been through a whole bottle. It turns out that after that first bottle of Tavy, I had bought three spare bottles, not one.

It turns out that every two years I buy another bottle of Tavy.

Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red

This is a gorgeous orangey red, like a Venetian red and is a premium ink from Montblanc in a 35ml bottle. I was fortunate to find a bottle for £10.00 at a pen show. For a long time I used it exclusively in my Montblanc 145 Classique, although now I am a little more relaxed about letting other pens share it.

Graf von Faber-Castell, Moss Green

As green inks go, this is a dark, rich green which shades well, rather than the viridian shades of some others.

Pelikan Edelstein, Smoky Quartz

This ink was a free gift at the London Pelikan Hub gathering one year. It is a distinctive earthy light brown, very different from say the Montblanc Toffee Brown. It is described on the box as a softer ink and has a tendency to bleed through certain papers and so needs to be used with care but is a gorgeous colour and shades beautifully too.

As well as being very pleasing inks used on their own, these five also have the advantage of looking good on a page together, as if they all came from the same set.

But trying to decide which Inks I would keep and which I would part with, is surprisingly painful. I am clearly not yet ready to let go.

8 thoughts on “My current top 5 inks.

  1. Why is it that the vast majority of us have xtra pens, inks, paper etc..
    This hobby and or way of life grabs you like no other. So glad I found you guys/gals.
    Should we think about a clearing house/ or storage thingamabob to donate to others? Would dearly hate for our inks, quills, etc to be thrown out by someone after we’re gone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We can’t guarantee what will happen to our pens and inks when we’re dead, so my solution is to make sure I use them and enjoy them whilst I have breath in my body. I know my daughter will put them in the bin so it’s no use thinking of them in terms of a legacy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This is sadly true. We have an elderly uncle in China, who passed on his ten or so Chinese fountain pens to me, as he didn’t want them being thrown out by his family.
        My wife worries about how she is going to match up all my pens with their boxes when I’m gone, as she is not a fountain pen person. I hope I will have streamlined my accumulation by then and will not leave her with unnecessary worries!

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  2. Well, first of all: Isn’t it a gift to have such a nice variety of colours at your disposal!? 😉
    One very nice way to reduce your ink stash is giving out or swapping samples. I do that with pen pals I have or pen people I know. Whenever someone comes up with a question of “naa, I like ink xy, but I would love to have sth. more …” then you can suggest giving giving that person a sample of your stash that might.
    Or sometimes we have pen meet-ups here in Berlin. I might then ask around my fav friends whether I may treat them with a sample of whatever interests them of my stash. They then might ask back and with that everybody benefits. My stash does not rot in the drawer, others have fun and might discover their new favourite ink (or may be spared to buy an ink that would have disappointed them), oftentimes I get to try sth. new and also learn whether I might have missed an amazing ink or be spared of a bad purchase.
    The best way for me to do that is an Excel sheet that I can share with a cloud platform like GoogleDrive or DropBox, so others can have (read-only) access in their browsers or as a file to it and and will always be up-to-date when accessed via a browser. Other platforms would be on your own blog or via Fountain Pen Companion.
    And while the above-said might sound like basically giving away your ink for free, I’d say that in the long run everybody benefits from that and that all in all I got back as much as I gave away. It is like with everything in life: If you’re generous and genuinely interested in sharing without only thinking about your own gain first, you’ll hardly ever be ripped off, but create a nice atmosphere around you that helps all. Without wanting to sound … weird or esotheric, I do believe that everything comes around full circle, one way or another.
    tl;dr: Share your inks, it’s nice fun! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for these comments Julie.
      I realise it can sound very spoilt to “complain” about having too much of something. I do appreciate that I am very fortunate to have all these inks and to have so much pleasure from this hobby.
      Sharing your inks with others, at a pen club meet up, is an excellent idea. I would only accept inks from people I know and trust but I have certainly benefited from receiving samples from friends and discovering inks that I would not necessarily have bought.
      I agree too that there can be as much pleasure from giving as receiving.

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  3. I think it would be more fun to have one ink and several pens than several inks and one pen. If I played the 5 to keep game it would come out as Waterman Inspired Blue, a blue-black (possibly Cross), Diamine Wild Strawberry, a purple yet to be determined, and Herbin Lierre Sauvage. Possibly. I had Conway Stuart Tavy a long while back and I agree about it being a really good blue-black.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I grinned as I read this post. I totally identify with you, and I discovered a good way to get use out of my excessive ink supply. I am a watercolorist and now use my inks to supplement my watercolors for fun projects. When they are used for painting you get a real understanding of what the ink is all about, especially those with more complex formulas. The ink is no longer running down a skinny metal nib, but getting to spread out like crazy. I did an entire wash with Colorverse Under the Shade that is amazing. When used for writing, it’s pretty mundane, but as watercolor, it has a whole new personality! Plus you use up the ink much faster. Win all the way around.

    Liked by 1 person

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