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.

23 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!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m at that age where I think what’s the point of buying that now. But unfortunately with fountain pens and inks I don’t think that way, instead I think that my grandkids will hopefully use them !
      Well that’s what I tell myself when I find another fountain pen or ink I like !

      Liked by 2 people

  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 3 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.


  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

    1. Thank you – that is good to hear. It sounds wonderful to be able to use your fountain pen inks for wider uses than just writing and being a watercolorist will sure help to get through the ink stash.


  5. It’s hard to imagine having only one ink, although for years I only had a black (parker quink), a blue black (parker quink) and brown (Sheaffer skrip). These days I have a plethora of toffee coloured inks and plenty of almost every colour possible. If winnowing down to 5… Oh the agony! Perhaps J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune, Noodler’s Pecan, Kaweco Smoky Grey, Monteverde Rose Noir and Lamy Turquoise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Elaine. There is an eternal conflict between the desire of having a simple life with few inks (or other possessions, for that matter) or a wide choice to use and enjoy. I find that it is easy to accumulate more ink than I need, through the temptation to add new colours and brands – which often turn out to be not that different from other inks that I have already.


  6. Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz is such a wonderful ink – the colour, the relatively high water resistance, the sharpness also on poor paper – that I bought four bottles of it. My favourite among all my browns, followed by Waterman. I couldn’t bear the thought that this ‘special edition’ in future would no longer be available. Will I ever use all of those 200 ml, considering that I also have a lot of other fine inks that I enjoy? I don’t think about this question all that much, and just enjoy what I have (as Pamela suggests).


    1. I don’t know the specific pen you are referring to, but if it takes cartridges, then you may try Sheaffer Skrip cartridges. If it has a converter inside, then you can use any fountain pen ink.


  7. When I first got into fountain pens I did you usual of trying out the big names of pens and inks. I only ever had around 10 bottles of ink but 5 years ago I decided to not buy any more ink until I used them up. I’ve used 1 bottle a year and I only have one pen I use. It’s a nice feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s interesting to me that you find the Edelstein Smoky Quartz a softer brown that shades well. That hasn’t been my experience at all, and I was thinking about passing my bottle on to someone else, as I have other browns that I like much better. (#teamshade)

    As to the number of inks you have, I had to chuckle. I get the concern about having so much more ink than you’re likely to use in a lifetime. My wife, who, I should mention, collects nothing and has no hobbies (while I find myself trying to narrow down my hobbies lest they take over the basement), says she doesn’t understand why anyone needs more than one pen and one bottle of ink. One thing I find helpful is an Ink Log. I go overboard, naturally, and have not only an Ink Log (listing inks separated by color) with a horizontal swab and manufacturer/color name listed for each ink I own, but an Ink Journal (where, once an ink is loaded in a pen for the first time, I write a small paragraph about the ink,) to display what the ink looks like in writing, and a set of Col-o-ring cards with inks organized alphabetically by manufacturer, and Col-o-ring little dippers organized by color. Really, it’s fun to go through all of them. (I make a new pair of ink cards when the inks are loaded into a pen for the first time, and use the pen to label the cards.)

    My ink collection must be near 200 bottles by now. They take over a couple of shelves in a book case and the top half of another storage unit. I use expandable spice rack tiered shelving to allow me to see all bottles front to back. And though they don’t get direct sunlight, I’m considering hanging some kind of curtains over the shelves to protect them for general daylight.

    Anyway, thanks for your article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kit, Thank you for your comments. It is always a relief to find someone who has fallen deeper down the rabbit hole than one’s self! Your ink systems sound very methodical. I have not used the Col-o-ring swatches but they look useful for comparing similar colours. I have friends who use them, and do swabs with one, two or three passes, to see the different shades that the ink offers.
      I am sure that Smoky Quartz shades nicely. As for being a softer ink, it is stated on the box to be “extra soft ink” and I take it to mean that it is wetter, or more runny than others and a bit more prone to bleedthrough – but all these factors depend on your pen and paper too.
      Enjoy your inks and pens!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.