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15 Iron Gall Inks, With Friends


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#1 WhosYerBob

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 01:05

I've recently gotten into iron gall inks in a big way and now have a small comparison to share. I've read a lot of comments on other threads in the past weeks about just how black the blue-black iron gall inks tend to run, how they compare to one another, how they compare to other well regarded non-iron gall inks, etc. Well, here ya go…

In the photo below, the 15 iron gall inks are between the two horizontal red lines (Noodler's Antietam), along with two walnut inks directly below the bottom red line and a variety of others well known here on the forums. All of the inks on the page were lettered with a Brause No.180 1.5mm dip nib that was throughly cleaned before each new ink was used. The paper is a sheet cut from a Rhodia 80g 14.8 x 21 cm notebook. Each ink was gently agitated before use (not shaken or stirred), so as to offer the best performance possible.

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The list of iron gall inks are as follows:

  • Lamy Blue-black (fountain pen) -- This is a blue-black that goes down as rather soft and somewhat chalky looking on the Rhodia, but I'm not certain that it actually has any iron gall content in it, as it fades significantly in the water test.
  • Blot's Iron Gall (dip pen) -- According to the label, this ink is "made to a medieval recipe" and is for dip pens only. In use it has a significant solid content that settles to the bottom of the bottle which can easily be recombined by gentle agitation. Blot's goes down as a darkish gray water and quickly dries to utter blackness.
  • Blot's Iron Gall (dip pen -- old) -- This is the same recipe as the one above; the "old" designation is because I bought it back in 2007 and after trying it, the bottle was stored in a brightly lit window sill until a few weeks ago. I can detect no breakdown of the ink from such lengthy direct exposure to sunlight; if anything, it's even darker than the newer batch and exhibits no line shading at all.
  • Diamine Registrar's Ink (fountain pen -- old) -- This was purchased back in 2007 as well, and experienced the same torture of being stored in direct sunlight on a window sill until a few weeks ago. The ink was compromised as a result. Even before the sun torture, this ink was an under performer and never lived up to expectations. Dunno if it was a bad batch or what, but it always looked very pale compared to other iron gall inks.
  • Diamine Registrar's Ink (fountain pen -- new) -- This is a sample just purchased from the Goulet's, so it also is the new formula for this ink. Much better than the old formula, and goes down as a very nice blue-black.
  • Montblanc Blue-black (fountain pen) -- Not very dense, but a well mannered dark cool gray/blue-black.
  • J. Herbin Encre Authentique (dip pen) -- Pretty decent and goes down as a warm grey before changing to a light-ish black.
  • McCaffery's Penman's Ink (dip pen) -- This was a big surprise, in how light it went down and dried. Dunno if it's a bad or old batch, but this just doesn't seem right.
  • Walker's Copperplate (dip pen) -- Goes down a bit darker than the J. Herbin, but displays a lot more shading.
  • Old World Ink (dip pen -- John Neal Books) -- I didn't realize until these two inks arrived that they were both the same ink; just slightly different labels. This went down as a warm grey water and dried to the second blackest example of the group.
  • Old World Ink (dip pen -- Paper & Ink Arts) -- The same ink as above, but this one was soured. It smelled just like wine that had been left out of the fridge for a few weeks -- pungently sour. Didn't seem to significantly impact performance, though, and it still dried to a nice black.
  • Ecclesiastical Stationery Supplies Registrar's Ink (ESSRI -- fountain pen) -- This is considered by many here on FPN to be the gold standard by which all other iron gall inks are judged. In use, it goes down as a bright blue that changes to a rich blue-black within 10-15 seconds or less. Truly an excellent iron gall ink.
  • Akkerman IJzer-Galnoten (fountain pen) -- Similar to ESSRI, though it's a bit blacker in use and displays less line shading. Another excellent blue-black iron gall example.
  • Pharmacist's Urkundentinte (fountain pen) -- Of the true blue-black iron gall inks, this results in the blackest blue-black in this batch with an italic nib. With a conventional nib, the line is very black and can contain just the slightest hint of blue when compared to Blot's or Old World.
  • Rohrer & Klingner Salix (fountain pen) -- Of the entire list, this is my favorite blue-black iron gall as the end result has more blue to it than the other examples listed above. It also is less dry than the inks in this list and behaves the best in my piston pens with crisp italic nibs. Pharmacist's Urkundentinte is a close second to this one in performance, with Akkerman and ESSRI ranking 3rd and 4th respectively.

The other non-iron gall inks are as follows:

  • Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache Ultramarine (dip pen) -- This is the blue color I'd like to find in a fountain pen ink and I've included it here because it's a pigment rather than a dye, and it must be mixed with water prior to use.
  • Noodler's 54th Massachusetts (fountain pen) -- The brand new bullet-proof ink from Noodler's, it is a very good replica -- color wise -- of the traditional blue-black iron gall inks, resulting in a close match to ESSRI or Akkerman at their very darkest. Not as much line shading as the others, it is truly bullet-proof.
  • Tom Norton Designs Walnut Drawing Ink (fountain pen) -- This is such a mild mannered walnut ink that I've taken to using it in my Sheaffer No-Nonsense fountain pens without any problems, though I can't speak for models or brands. As walnut inks go it's not very dark, but it does fairly well in the water test.
  • Homemade black walnut ink (dip pen) -- This particular batch was heat-treated, which I've since learned is a big no-no for walnut ink. It goes down nice and dark and has beautiful line shading, but doesn't survive the water test.
  • Noodler's Golden Brown (fountain pen) -- A yellow brown with beautiful line shading, I included it to compare against the walnut inks.
  • Noodler's Kiowa Pecan (fountain pen) -- A neutral brown with very good line shading, I included it to compare against the walnut inks.
  • Noodler's FPN Galileo Manuscript Brown (fountain pen) -- A red brown, I included it to compare against the walnut inks. This ink can bleed through Rhodia like there's no tomorrow if it's laid down wet enough.
  • Noodler's FPN Van Gogh Starry Night Blue (fountain pen) -- A very dark blue-black, I included it to compare against the other brown inks. Yes, you read that correctly, the other brown inks. Get this ink wet and the blue disappears; what remains is a very red brown.
  • Sailor Nano Blue-Black (fountain pen) -- This is an ink made with nano-sized pigment particles, too small to impact the performance of a fountain pen or to clog the delicate innards of nibs. It goes down with fantastic line shading, though the color isn't really a blue-black -- it's more of a phthalo blue-black.
  • Noodler's Blue American Eel (fountain pen) -- I included this because I consider it one of the best behaved and best lubricated inks I've ever tested. Truly an outstanding blue-phtalo blue ink with excellent line shading when used with an italic nib.
  • Noodler's Liberty's Elysium (fountain pen) -- This is the new semi-bullet-proof ink created by Noodler's for the Goulet's. It, too, is an excellent blue-pthalo blue ink, though just a smidgen less in control and line shading compared to the Blue Eel.
So with that out of the way, here is the test page.

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And here it is after soaking for 30 minutes in hot tap water; note that the Lamy is pretty much gone, as is the homemade walnut ink and the Blue Eel. And what happened to the FPN Van Gogh Starry Night?

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And here it is after soaking for several minutes in a 50 percent bleach solution; note that all the iron gall inks have vanished with the introduction of the bleach. Interestingly, the Ultramarine pigment at the top is still visible. Once dried for several hours, the iron gall lines are partially visible as a light yellow, but nothing more. Additionally, the 54th Mass. has bled through the paper and was still loaded with pigment when I was drying it with a paper towel -- truly an outstanding performance that illustrates just how tenacious it is at sticking to the paper.

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Edit: Fixed the photos.

Edited by WhosYerBob, 25 December 2012 - 16:54.

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#2 inkstainedruth

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 01:28

Wow. Quite a substantial comparison. Thanks for doing all this work, and you've got a couple of my favorite inks up there (Salix and Urkundentinte), as well as some other ones I've been considering. I almost wish I had seen this in the morning before going ink shopping (even when I was specifically *not* looking for any IG inks, just regular old blue-blacks).
Is there any way to get the pix a bit larger? I'm working on a laptop with a 12" screen, and the images take up nearly the full top to bottom dimensions.
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#3 Lloyd

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 03:33

I think Lamy stopped using an iron-gall formulation in their BlueBlack ink a year or so ago.
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#4 WhosYerBob

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 14:42

1356398928[/url]' post='2543792']
Is there any way to get the pix a bit larger?

My old laptop died and was replaced with an iPad (trying to save money), so I'm discovering this morning just what the exact limitations are with using it as a photo editing platform. So far it looks pretty bleak, compared to what I can do with a full-fledged laptop or desktop machine. Even though I shot the images in RAW at full size (16 megapixel), I'm not yet finding a route to export them at any size of my choosing like I can with Lightroom. So far, no matter what app I use, the export size is equal to what I've already posted here.
I'll keep looking and will see what I can do to provide better images.
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#5 RudyR

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 18:42

I think Lamy stopped using an iron-gall formulation in their BlueBlack ink a year or so ago.




I have to say that my Lamy B/BK shows different results. I have the a batch that was made before the switch to non IG ink. The new bottled version of Lamy B/BLK is the same as the cartridge formula.


My version is very water proof with very little lose of dye.
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#6 Jared

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 18:00

Excellent comparison. Thank you for sharing with us!



#7 Frank C

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 18:52

I like Iron-Gall inks. This was a great comparison. I thought that Diamine Registrars ink and ESS Registrars Ink were the same. Do your tests confirm this?

Thank you in advance.
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#8 mboschm

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 18:58

Great job!
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#9 Daisy

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Posted 27 December 2012 - 19:24

Wow. Wow. That just rocks. :notworthy1:

I too am hoping you can find a way to upload some higher def images. Really, that is magnificent work. I especially love the bleach test!

Thank you Bob!!! :thumbup:

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#10 jandrese

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Posted 28 December 2012 - 03:51

Freaking great, I love it. Some of my favorite inks are in there. Great stuff, thanks for sharing!

#11 WhosYerBob

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 20:57

Okay, finally figured out the problem. I can't use Picasa to host large files because the links to imbed them only use a standrad default size that's much smaller. Instead, here are freakishly huge image files (over 5000 pixels on the short edge of each) that are being hosted on Flickr. If the downloading seems slow, be patient -- the images total 20MB.

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#12 drgoretex

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 21:40

Fantastic review, and an excellent collection there!

I have been meaning to do a comparison of all of my Iron Galls (my fave inks) but you have (quite excellently) beat me to it.

I have many of those, and love them all. Haven't used the Akkerman's yet.

A couple of Questions:
- How is the Akkerman for showthrough on cheaper paper?
- All those inks you used in dip pens - are they intended for dip pens, or are they OK for use in FPs?

Ken

#13 WhosYerBob

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 00:38

A couple of Questions:
- How is the Akkerman for showthrough on cheaper paper?
- All those inks you used in dip pens - are they intended for dip pens, or are they OK for use in FPs?

I've used the Akkerman on cheaper paper such as Moleskine and cheap office pads, and it's much the same as other iron gall inks -- well behaved, no feathering and no bleed through.

The inks I labeled in parentheses as dip pens -- like the Blot's Iron Gall -- are truly just for dip pens. Most of them have particulate in them that settles out in a few hours and would clog a fountain pen in no time. If you decide to try them in a fountain pen, proceed with caution and make sure to use one that can be sacrificed and/or thrown away if things don't work out.
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#14 Belles-lettres

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 17:23

Goodness gracious! What a major job, thank you so much for all your work. Well done and informative.

I haven't used it in a decade but when more active in medieval calligraphy, McCafferey's ink responded the same way to my trials. Bought three bottles over several months thinking each one had somehow gone bad but the third bottle was the last attempt.

Registrar's ink has been my staple for addressing envelopes for several years. Well behaved, nice color, usable on any paper in my drawer of papers.

But then you take me into uncharted territory, which will be to the benefit of my favourite ink slingers, Brian & Rachel. It looks like an order of 54th Mass and Salix are in the immediate future. And to finally open the jar of nano blue-black in the back of the desk...

Thanks again.
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#15 jgrasty

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 22:28

  • Diamine Registrar's Ink (fountain pen -- old) -- This was purchased back in 2007 as well, and experienced the same torture of being stored in direct sunlight on a window sill until a few weeks ago. The ink was compromised as a result. Even before the sun torture, this ink was an under performer and never lived up to expectations. Dunno if it was a bad batch or what, but it always looked very pale compared to other iron gall inks.
  • Diamine Registrar's Ink (fountain pen -- new) -- This is a sample just purchased from the Goulet's, so it also is the new formula for this ink. Much better than the old formula, and goes down as a very nice blue-black.


I have a bottle of Diamine Registrar's Ink, purchased in October 2010 that changed color over about a 2 year period, quite similar to what you show as the "old" Registrar's Ink. My bottle was never exposed to light other than when actually filling a pen with which to use it.

One of these days I'll get another bottle and see if the old one was just a bad batch or if the ink just has a short shelf life.
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#16 inkstainedruth

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Posted 23 January 2013 - 02:29

I know Diamine has changed the formula for their regular blue-black ink. When did they change the formula for the Registrars' ink? Or is this just a matter of a really old bottle vs. a new bottle?
I didn't like the sample I tried last summer of DRBBI -- the color oxidized to a weird greyish blue color, and I found that I liked both Salix and Urkundentinte much better when they color shift. But your "new" version seems to have turned (and stayed) really dark.
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#17 danieldevine

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 22:02

ESSRI registrars ink, I spoke to the company here in the UK who supplies it if you look at the bottle, it's a plastic black 100ml bottle? Diamine? I telephoned ESSRI and they confirmed its registrars ink made by diamine in Liverpool and it's £5 cheaper than Diamine themselves. I used diamine blue/black recently and it didn't look that great, very washed out but the registrars ink looks absolutely fantastic it darkens down with the two tone look.

Edited by danieldevine, 20 February 2013 - 22:17.


#18 amberleadavis

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 03:08

This was a terrific comparison. Thank you.
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