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  • A Fleeting Ripple

sunday shorts #2: iron gall

Platinum Lavender Black in action!

I have 3 full bottles of iron gall inks and a sample vial of Platinum Lavender Black. I have been using them regularly for a little over a year and I wanted to share my thoughts on them. Even though it seems to be decreasing, I still sometimes see a little hesitation in using IG inks, so I thought it would be nice to share my own experience.

IG inks are fun to use due to a couple of reasons, but they’re best known for their water resistance and alleged corrosive effect. I only have two pens that I carry literally in my pocket/bag and don’t care much about cracks or scratches. One of those pens is a Kaweco Sport and the other one is a Lamy Vista. My Lamy Vista serves as the iron gall ink pen, I dedicated one nib (I don’t change the nib on that pen with other pens) and one converter as a precaution to not mix inks. Safari type pens are a good choice for me, as the nibs are easily accessible in case I’ll need a new one and the pen is not precious. I think I’ll have to change the nib in a couple of months, as the current nib is corroding a little, even though it has no effect on the writing experience. It started corroding about two months ago, and the colour has been getting darker since. The pen doesn’t have any other metal parts as far as I know except for the nib, so I will continue to use this pen until the nib stops writing. I have kept this pen inked with IG inks continuously, and only cleaned it out about every 2-3 weeks, when the ink was finished or the ink level was adequately low. Since I use this pen everyday, ink has never dried inside it. So, perhaps the inks I use are a little corrosive, but not enough to warrant any extra care.

Another interesting property of iron gall inks is their colour. They are generally muted and the colour shifts to a darker one when it dries completely. This makes for interesting inks, as I generally like muted, murky colours. I’ll try to show the shift in photographs below. Interestingly, these inks also seem to feather less on paper that is not very fountain pen friendly, but I don’t know if it’s because these specific inks are like that or it is a general property of iron gall inks. So far I’ve tried four of them from three different manufacturers.

Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa was my first iron gall ink. I loved the colour when I first saw it, but I was a little afraid to give it a go due to the horror stories I’ve heard about IG inks eating through nibs. It’s a lovely dusty purple so I caved in and bought my own bottle and a Lamy Vista to go with it. It works great as a note taking ink in school, and is pretty much rain proof. When my bag got wet last year in a storm, I was very glad that I was using this ink to take notes.

My second IG ink was also from Rohrer and Klingner, Salix. I didn’t like this one’s colour as much as I did Scabiosa’s, but I still use it every now and then. Sadly, I like the brighter blue colour of the ink when it’s wet a little more than the dusty blue it dries to. Since it’s also blue, I’m assuming that it’d be more suitable to a more serious working environment than a purple.

When I was looking for another IG ink, I decided to branch out to KWZ, as I like their regular lineup. The ink I went for was the IG Turquoise, a much brighter colour than the other two. It’s also my least used one, because it smells the strongest. KWZ inks have a strong vanilla scent to them, and this one is no exception. The metallic smell of IG inks suppresses the vanilla scent a little, but it is a cacophony of scents. A little much to handle for me on a daily basis, so it gets inked up less.

The last IG ink I have is the one I was the most excited to get: Platinum Lavender Black. I seem to fall for pretty names on inks a lot, and since my favourite flowers are lavenders, it was unavoidable. I got a sample vial of it during a sample exchange instead of trying to get a whole bottle of it from the beginning to try it out. I haven’t got this ink inked up for a very long time yet, so I’ve yet to decide whether I’ll get a whole bottle of it. This is also the lightest IG ink I own, so I am not very sure about how much I’ll use it, even though it really is a wonderful colour.

In the two photographs above, I tried to catch the colours a little more accurately. The one on the left is after 15 mins of drying time, and photographed in sunlight. The one on the right is after about an hour of drying time, and photographed in shade, in natural light. I usually edit my photographs a little, but I did not even edit the light levels of these photographs to keep it as honest as possible. In person, the colours look a little more muted, and when they're inked up the writing is even more muted than these photographs, so hopefully the writing sample of the Lavender Black above will be helpful as a gauge.

So, my two cents on iron gall inks is that as long as you keep using them regularly and keep you pen clean, you’ll have no problems. I heard gold nibs fare better than steel ones but I haven’t been brave enough to try that out yet. My Vista is going strong so far, and I’m not expecting the nib to fail anytime soon. I’ll put a couple of interesting links below for further information and a list of IG inks if you want to give it a go.

KWZ’s IG ink page was my first stop, because what’s better to learn about them from the people who manufacture them:

An interesting experiment, one I was surprised to see the results of as the corrosion seems quite severe:

This one is Dutch Government’s website on iron gall inks and their corrosive properties. It’s not about fountain pen inks, but I enjoyed reading about it anyway:

Thank you for reading! I know it's named as "sunday shorts" but it's on the longer side... At least I hope that I supported it with enough photos.



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