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Make your own ink?


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#1 ElaineB

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 05:31

Gerry mentioned in another post that he is interested in making his own fountain pen inks, and asked about my textile dyes.

I am also quite interested in making my own, or at least playing around with the underlying chemistry. Unfortunately, I've not been able to dig up much information on formulations or ingredients. I'm sure it's more than simple colored water, but what else is in there?

Because of my business, I have access to a lot of chemicals and detergents that are commonly used in cosmetics and body care products. If I knew what we needed, I could either supply stuff from my own chemical closet or get development samples from a manufacturer without much hassle.

And I certainly have a lot of textile dyes. So Gerry, if you're interested in playing around, I'd be happy to send you samples of anything I've got.

(Maybe I'm jumping way ahead of myself here, but it would be very cool to cook up an FPN limited edition ink, wouldn't it? And we could use it on our FPN note pads, too!)

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#2 Gerry

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 06:41

You might want to try looking at The Open Source Ink Project where a few interested people led by Jacob Hunt started out to try and find out a little about FP ink making. The project stalled as Jacob went back to graduate school I believe, but at least initial results were obtained that were interesting.

Briefly put, a basic formula starts with a mix of analine dye, with usually a surfactant (wetting agent) and a preservative. Some trials of Gum Arabic as an additive were also undertaken.

Maybe we could continue here - or there. I have since obtained another surfactant, as well as having picked up some Photo Flow, a photographic surfactant. Some more info is available re anti mold agents, as I was in contact with a chemical supplier.

Lets see what interest there is - perhaps with Elaine's interest we can breathe some life into the project...

An interesting start was made with Cellulose Reactive Dyes (Procion MX Reactive Dyes) - which I think are the basis for the new permanent inks being offered, but lets keep this simple to start - develop a basic formula that produces a non-feathering freely flowing FP ink. Mold resistance / biocides, permanence etc. can all be later developments, what should be first is a non-damaging general purpose ink that is relatively easy and inexpensive to make.

Who would like to investigate / contribute?

Gerry

#3 ElaineB

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 14:46

Gerry, I had no idea there was a whole collaborative project about it!! Man, I spent hours with Google trying to find information about fountain pen ink making. I haven't had a chance to read the posts at the open source project yet but in response to your post above:

I've got tons of preservatives -- very gentle ones used in cosmetic products, but very effective against mold, bacteria, yeast, etc. I already use them in my dyestock solutions which I store at room temperature for up to a year. I'd be happy to send out samples of all my water-based preservatives to those who are interested.

In particular, I have a very effective powdered material, Germall Plus, that shouldn't affect the flow of the ink, because it is used at very low concentrations and doesn't leave any residue behind. You should also consider use of a chelating agent like EDTA, which significantly raises the effectiveness of any water-based preservative system you use. These two ingredients combined should prevent the formation of sludge/slime in the inks.

I also have many industrial surfactants. At least 10-15 development samples lying around and then the 3-4 surfactants I buy in bulk for my company's products. If you have tracked down trade names of anything used in industry, I am sure I could get samples of the real stuff for you, no problem. I do it all the time as part of my own development work. If not, if someone has already identified the physical properties that make a particular surfactant suitable for use in an ink, I could check the databases of the dozen or so manufacturers I've dealt with and see if I can make a good match for you.

I don't have a lot of procion MX dyes -- I use a different family of reactive dyes from Ciba for my own work. But I can get MX dyes readily from my dye supplier. I also have a lot of color information about these dyes from years of lurking on textile dyeing email lists, and I think some will be quite applicable to their use as inks.

So, anything I can do to help, let me know. This is VERY exciting!

ElaineB

#4 Keith with a capital K

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 15:59

A little off topic...

I recall talking to my grandmother about writing and fountain pens and she told me that when they didn't have ink (it was the depression) they used hair blueing as a writing fluid.

I thought this was pretty funny as that meant that my grandmother's writing would have matched her hair.
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#5 Gerry

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 18:40

C'mon Keith, Blue hair was not in vogue in those days... <_<

Your GM used it as they did in most washing - to counteract the light yellowing caused by age. Made whites whiter...

Naturally, used in a concentrated form, it was indeed blue though, and would work as an ink.

Gerry

#6 Gerry

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 18:41

Here's another link to ink related info:

Penspotters

Gerry

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 20:17

Glad to see there are others thinking of home brewing as well.

I majored in Chemical Engineering for a while at the University of Chicago, and I have been getting interested into the possibilities of formulating ink. To the additives and dyes a ph balancer has to be adheared by using a base. To decrease the chances of mold and growth microbes, I do believe that the entire batch should be distilled. After which a ratio of water and the distilled dye base need to be mixed at a given temperature to avoid any "clumping" of like chems and to maintain an even saturation of the dye and water. Sounds a bit complicated, but give me a couple of weeks and I'll set up a little lab in the attic. I'll probe friends' brains for ideas as well. I agree a FPN ink line would be a nice thing to have!

Regards,

#8 Gerry

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 21:27

Well, we seem to have stumbled upon a beehive of interest :)

Thanks for the offers Elaine, I'm sure we'll need much of your information at one time or another. The experience you have with reactive dyes sounds invaluable.

The sample surfactant I have is Carbowet 100

The biocides discussion with the rep from Dow was:

"Thank you for your time to discuss Dow Biocides this afternoon.  For your application on a water based fountain ink application, an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial preservative from Dow could be considered as UCARCIDE 225 or UCARCIDE 250 preservative, DOWICIL 75, or DOWICIDE A .  All these products are registered for use in Canada by the Canadian government for your application.

DOWICIL 96 and BIBAN CS-1135 are not registered for us in Canada by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

I have attached some literature on the approved products and a link to our biocides website at www.dowbiocides.com <www.dowbiocides.com> "



AngeloB - hey a chemist - whaddaya know... ;)
If you do have a look over on the OpenSource Ink Project, you will see a Kattw or close to that contributing. I believe he is a chemist too.

The basic formulas we were considering used distilled (actually the guys were looking at deionized water) which I thought was perhaps going a little too far in the purity line, but it would ensure that there were no unknown water properties able to interact with the other chemicals. Anyway, it would mean that you don't start out with anything capable of growing in your ink, but I think you need a long lasting anti-mold agent as well, since the act of dipping and filling a pen repeatedly makes the liklihood of the ink remaining as pure as distilled unlikely over a period of time. The simplest and most common old time disinfectant used was Phenol, I think - but perhaps newer products are a little friendlier.

Any of you guys mind me advising Jacob about our interest? Even though that activity has died down, he went to a fair amount of effort to get the site spun up and operating. Perhaps we could contribute over there too.

Just a thought.

Gerry

#9 Gerry

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 21:36

Elaine,

My supply of dyes was very limited - I used one that was intended for staining woodworking projects, which I obtained from Lee Valley. Perhaps you could have a look there, and see if your dyes are significantly less expensive or better.

http://www.leevalley...,190,42996&ap=1

At first try though, only a few dyes need to be tried, since I think one has to first learn what a basic recipe is - with the proper proportions of thickeners (if used), serfactants etc so that the flow, feathering and other physical properties are understood. Then, changing dyes should be simpler, since the basic formulation should be very close.

Somewhere I think I read one manyfacturer used to make the basic mix up in bulk, and then in smaller batches add the dye to create the colour that was ordered.

Gerry

#10 ElaineB

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 23:03

Gerry,

My dye supplier is one of the major distributors for studio artists and small-time manufacturers on the U.S. East Coast:

Here's their listing for Procion MX dyes
http://www.prochemic.../catalog/mx.htm

Dyes are available anywhere from 1/2 oz. up to kilos or more at a time. They also sell small sampler kits of basic mixing colors for very reasonable prices.

In Canada, here are a couple dye suppliers that I know of:
http://www.gsdye.com.../ProcionMX.html
http://www.maiwa.com...yes_pro_mx.html

In picking colors there are some subtleties to consider with regard to the chemical/color make-up of the specific dye, but we can get into that later.

ElaineB

#11 ElaineB

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Posted 23 April 2005 - 23:50

I'm not sure if I should post this here, in this discussion, or make a post over at the other forum, but I wanted to comment on some of the components you've been discussing for this project.

I wanted to mention that my current profession is cosmetic formulator. I formulate and manufacture hand and body care products, and have a lot of contact with chemical manufacturers, distributors, cosmetic chemists, and manufacturing protocols. There are many parallels between the composition of these inks and the water-based ingredients that are used in body care products. So I have a lot of practical experience with sourcing and using the materials you are trying to locate for this project.

I noticed that a lot of people in the other forum referred to "glycol" in ink formulations, as if it were a single substance. Actually, glycol is a whole family of chemicals commonly used in cosmetic formulations. I have about half a dozen glycols in my own supply closet: glycerin, sorbitol, propylene glycol, di-propylene glycol, butylene glycol, and MP diol glycol. They all have related chemical structures, but their textures are different. It would be very interesting to run tests to see if one works better than the others as an ink additive. They're all very easy to source, cheap, and the ones I use are non-toxic. I'm curious why people referred to them as thickeners when they are in fact humectants (i.e. moisture retention agents) but we can get into that later, too. There are other thickeners that might work better, if there's need to thicken the ink fluid slightly.

As preservatives go, I'd steer away from the old generation of fungicidal materials. The world of preservatives has progressed in leaps and bounds during the past 15-20 years, combining high effectiveness with low toxicity. I'd honestly recommend using cosmetic preservatives for these inks. They're easy to buy and affordable in small quantities (both in the U.S. and Canada), highly effective, safe to store around your house, and easy to handle. In industrial situations, i.e. when some manufacturer is buying a traincar's worth of a particular chemical, the industrial fungicides are no doubt far cheaper than cosmetic preservatives. But at our miniscule usage levels, the cost differential is so small (tiny fractions of a cent) that it really makes sense to go with the safer material.

As for surfactants... jeesh, there are literally tens of thousands of them out there. Yet I have no idea if it makes a difference which you use! If all you need is something to adjust the surface tension of the ink a tiny bit -- well, that's one of the most basic properties of any surfactant out there. Cosmetic formulators have far more issues to deal with: things like critical micelle concentrations (i.e. how much do you need to make foam) and foam characteristics (consumers are insanely picky about foam...) not to mention clarity, odor, color, skin and eye irritancy, electrical charge, etc. I've got dozens of surfactants for us to play with. But I suspect there might be no difference between PhotoFlow, Carbowet 100, or C12-14 Sodium Olefin Sulfonate in this context. The only issue would be making sure we all end up using the same concentration of surfactant. (Some products contain more active solids than others. It'd be a matter of checking the technical data sheets that come with the stuff.)

I defer to the chemists here in regard to the actual manufacturing procedure (i.e. distillation, etc.) but I can contribute to discussions about microbial contamination issues. Cosmetic formulators spend their entire working lives worrying about microbial contamination. (Otherwise, all our hair, face, and body care products would be completely unsafe for use!) I'd be happy to share whatever I've learned over the past few years. I'll be honest and say that the problem I've seen with slimy stuff in Noodlers and PR inks isn't surprising. (Any formulation with a high percentage of water is a challenge to preserve.) But it -is- avoidable. If I were making these inks for sale, NOTHING would leave my door without appropriate microbial testing to guarantee the shelf life of my products. So speaking as a small-time business operator, I've been somewhat unimpressed with the quality control I've seen.

And speaking as a studio dyer, I am unimpressed with the reported color variation between batches of these inks, too. The level of variation I've seen would be unacceptable to people in my field. There are easy tricks to measuring out even tiny fractions of a gram of dye components (I regularly work with quantities weighing .01 grams or less). If these guys don't have the ability to match a new dye batch accurately against the master color... well, I won't say anything more except that this isn't rocket science here. It is possible to do better.

I hope it's the start of new work on this project. I am just THRILLED to find a group of people who are interested in this, too.

ElaineB

P.S. If this post is too detailed for here and you want to move it over to the Open Source Ink forum, feel free to copy over there and delete here. As I said, I wasn't sure where it should go.

#12 Titivillus

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 00:29

The basic formulas we were considering used distilled (actually the guys were looking at deionized water) which I thought was perhaps going a little too far in the purity line, but it would ensure that there were no unknown water properties able to interact with the other chemicals.


I think you'd be better off with distilled water. Deionizing water removes all mineral and metals just like distilling but through an ion exchange column you also remove stuff that is preventing the formation of carbonic acid which would not be at all good for any metal parts in contact with the ink. DI water should be an adequate base material.

And I do have an two degrees in chemical engineering if anyone was asking!



Kurt H

#13 Gerry

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 04:59

Welcome aboard Kurt. We'll form the Inky Cabal shortly. :)

Am I to interpret your first line and last line as: Distilled water is better, but DI water is adequate too? (We were using DI to indicate De Ionized water, not Distilled water).

I think I would like us to collaborate on a basic formula that we would share with the community (the goal in the Open Source Project as well).

Elaine, your experience is very helpful, and of course your comments are much appreciated. I think that in any endeavour like this product safety should be parmount, so your knowledge of preservatives that are acceptable in cosmetics / body products would meet the highest standards around I would suspect. Glad to hear that they are only marginally more expensive than common chemicals.

Well, I'm not sure where to start, except that I need to go through your post Elaine, and take each section by itself and decide how to address that particular issue. There's a lot of info there, and obviously much more to do before diving into experiments.

Not sure where to post - but since we've started here, we might as well stay here for now. We might consider copying the posts over there to see what interest might be stirred up there too. The advantage of that forum is the division of this one topic into so many posting areas, where here we are currently in just one thread...

Thanks again all for showing so much interest. Perhaps the ultimate goal will be as Elaine has said - a FPN only ink - although I'll leave it to others to determine the colour. After seeing the posts over there in the ink colour area, I think deciding on one colour might rival building the pyramids in difficulty ;)

Gerry

#14 Gerry

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 05:54

Gerry,

My dye supplier is one of the major distributors for studio artists and small-time manufacturers on the U.S. East Coast:

Here's their listing for Procion MX dyes
http://www.prochemic.../catalog/mx.htm

Dyes are available anywhere from 1/2 oz. up to kilos or more at a time. They also sell small sampler kits of basic mixing colors for very reasonable prices.

In Canada, here are a couple dye suppliers that I know of:
http://www.gsdye.com.../ProcionMX.html
http://www.maiwa.com...yes_pro_mx.html

In picking colors there are some subtleties to consider with regard to the chemical/color make-up of the specific dye, but we can get into that later.

ElaineB

One of the aspects of using reactive dyes that is worrying me is the requirement to treat with other chemicals to fix the dye. If the chemical cannot be combined with the dye in the ink, it will not be practical to use these dyes in inks.

Do all fabric dyes you use need treatment by fxing in a salt solution or calcium carbonate or other solution? Or is this only necessary for colour fastness in fabric, and could be eliminated in an ink to be used on paper?

Gerry

#15 ElaineB

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 06:07

A quick reply because I'm off to bed.

The fiber-reactive dyes would need to be fixed only if absolute waterproof-ness is a necessity. If you can live with a regular ink that runs to some extent when exposed to water, then you don't need to worry about using the alkali to fix the dye molecules to the cellulose fibers.

Still, I'm willing to bet that Noodlers used a chemical system like this to make the waterproof inks. (Nathan's insistence that the ink only "fixes" when it touches cellulose fibers, and not plastic or skin or whatever was a clear giveaway to me.)

I have dye textbooks that go into the chemistry of fiber reactives in a great deal of detail. I'd be happy to loan them out to the esteemed chemists of this cabal and see what they think about the possible corrosiveness vs. permanence issue.

*yawn* off to bed. Isn't this exciting?!

E.

#16 ElaineB

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 06:14

Oh, and FWIW, I was always told by my cosmetic chemist mentors that distilled was actually preferable to deionized, but deionized was easier and cheaper to obtain in industrial settings. Still, in most situations, they're both adequately purified to give consistent results.

ElaineB

#17 Gerry

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 06:16

I noticed that a lot of people in the other forum referred to "glycol" in ink formulations, as if it were a single substance. Actually, glycol is a whole family of chemicals commonly used in cosmetic formulations. I have about half a dozen glycols in my own supply closet: glycerin, sorbitol, propylene glycol, di-propylene glycol, butylene glycol, and MP diol glycol. They all have related chemical structures, but their textures are different. It would be very interesting to run tests to see if one works better than the others as an ink additive. They're all very easy to source, cheap, and the ones I use are non-toxic. I'm curious why people referred to them as thickeners when they are in fact humectants (i.e. moisture retention agents) but we can get into that later, too. There are other thickeners that might work better, if there's need to thicken the ink fluid slightly.

If you look at the Ink Additive area, Sources Topic, you will note that several glycols are discussed - propylene glycol and the longer chain polyethylene glycols. I suspect that the reference to a single glycol was just a shorthand form of writing it out.

As preservatives go, I'd steer away from the old generation of fungicidal materials. The world of preservatives has progressed in leaps and bounds during the past 15-20 years, combining high effectiveness with low toxicity. I'd honestly recommend using cosmetic preservatives for these inks. They're easy to buy and affordable in small quantities (both in the U.S. and Canada), highly effective, safe to store around your house, and easy to handle. In industrial situations, i.e. when some manufacturer is buying a traincar's worth of a particular chemical, the industrial fungicides are no doubt far cheaper than cosmetic preservatives. But at our miniscule usage levels, the cost differential is so small (tiny fractions of a cent) that it really makes sense to go with the safer material.

No argument here. We just have to select an appropriate material.

As for surfactants... jeesh, there are literally tens of thousands of them out there. Yet I have no idea if it makes a difference which you use! If all you need is something to adjust the surface tension of the ink a tiny bit -- well, that's one of the most basic properties of any surfactant out there. Cosmetic formulators have far more issues to deal with: things like critical micelle concentrations (i.e. how much do you need to make foam) and foam characteristics (consumers are insanely picky about foam...) not to mention clarity, odor, color, skin and eye irritancy, electrical charge, etc. I've got dozens of surfactants for us to play with. But I suspect there might be no difference between PhotoFlow, Carbowet 100, or C12-14 Sodium Olefin Sulfonate in this context. The only issue would be making sure we all end up using the same concentration of surfactant. (Some products contain more active solids than others. It'd be a matter of checking the technical data sheets that come with the stuff.)

As far as foam goes, while most consumers are picky about their foam, I think most FPN'ers are even more picky, preferring not to see any foam associated with their FP's. Here we diverge from the cosmetic industry and go for a non-foaming product I fear.

I defer to the chemists here in regard to the actual manufacturing procedure (i.e. distillation, etc.) but I  can contribute to discussions about microbial contamination issues. Cosmetic formulators spend their entire working lives worrying about microbial contamination. (Otherwise, all our hair, face, and body care products would be completely unsafe for use!) I'd be happy to share whatever I've learned over the past few years. I'll be honest and say that the problem I've seen with slimy stuff in Noodlers and PR inks isn't surprising. (Any formulation with a high percentage of water is a challenge to preserve.) But it -is- avoidable. If I were making these inks for sale, NOTHING would leave my door without appropriate microbial testing to guarantee the shelf life of my products. So speaking as a small-time business operator, I've been somewhat unimpressed with the quality control I've seen.

And if you know how to do it better, you're the one we want to talk to. Remember though that one aspect is making an ink professionally and responsibly as a vendor, the other is to establish a formulation that an individual can duplicate at home, and that might not have the same level of shelf life. Well, there are some of the choices we will have to face.

And speaking as a studio dyer, I am unimpressed with the reported color variation between batches of these inks, too. The level of variation I've seen would be unacceptable to people in my field. There are easy tricks to measuring out even tiny fractions of a gram of dye components (I regularly work with quantities weighing .01 grams or less). If these guys don't have the ability to match a new dye batch accurately against the master color... well, I won't say anything more except that this isn't rocket science here. It is possible to do better.

I hope it's the start of new work on this project. I am just THRILLED to find a group of people who are interested in this, too.

ElaineB

P.S. If this post is too detailed for here and you want to move it over to the Open Source Ink forum, feel free to copy over there and delete here. As I said, I wasn't sure where it should go.


Consistency would be the aim of any ink we chose to produce to sell - eg the FPN ink... I agree with you completely (here comes *more* tools - yea...)

I to am thrilled that we have connected. Antonios has headed up to his lab, and Kurt is studying the chemical reaction equations as we speak... :P

Warmest Regards

#18 ElaineB

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 12:30

Here we diverge from the cosmetic industry and go for a non-foaming product I fear.

Completely understood. I was too verbose in my previous message. From what I saw at the other forum, you're talking about minute concentrations of surfactants. Far below the level that would cause foaming. At such low usage, I don't think there will be a significant difference in the performance of Surfactant A over Surfactant B. My gut tells me that most anything would work. The formulation issue will probably be "how much" rather than "which."

As for quality control & manufacturing standards -- hobbyists dabbling around at home for pleasure don't need to worry about such issues. I was just grumbling a little about what I was seeing out there on the retail market, speaking as a small business owner who has to deal with these same concerns every day. My rant was of off topic, I know, but the Noodlers/PR problems have been quietly irritating me for a long time. :)

I'm going to go back and read the thread about glycols again. I somehow missed it the first time. People are considering the PEGs for this, too? Hmmmm, have to go check it out.

ElaineB

Edited by ElaineB, 24 April 2005 - 12:31.


#19 Gerry

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 15:18

Elaine, I'm afraid I was taken with the humorous image of pens foaming, as well as their owners. :P Of course, as you point out, minute concentrations behave differently, and I should have remembered that. I've even added a drop of diluted detergent solution to ordinary ink that seemed to need flow improvement without experiencing any suds myself.

I think your caution regarding QC issues is both well placed and a good guide for everyone from the professional to home based amateur work. Just wanted to point out that we'd probably have to recognize the different goals these various groups had, and to try and ultimately develop recommendations for each. And, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the home based 'amateur' work ultimately rivals that of the pros. We've seen lots of examples of that on this forum already. ;)

Don't expect too much depth on the glycols there Elaine. Just was pointing out that they had recognized more than just one. Your list is much more exhaustive, and I'd like to know which ones you like that are non-toxic. Those should be at the head of the list to investigate for use in the ink I would think.

Cheers

Gerry

#20 Claes

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Posted 24 April 2005 - 15:20

Ah, a very interesting thread :D

My so called knowledge stems from umpteen years of
experiments with *pigmented* inks, Chinese and Japanese
Ink Sticks, mediaeval recipes, ferro-gallic inks and so on,
i.e. inks that would make a fountain pen feel :sick:

However - in the interesting discussion above, isn't
there one area which you have overlooked, viz.
rheology? An ink with short rheology is much, much
better and "manageable" [for instance in italic nibs
where extremely thin "thins" are only possible when
the ink is "short"].






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