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Surfactants In Ink For Improved Flow...


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#1 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 02:03

While this discussion might verge on the Inky Recipes sub-forum area, it's more a musing on recent topics like Solvents for Diluting Ink that have been posted here in Inky Thoughts. I don't propose recipes, per se, here in any event, more a general discussion of the topic. In weeks and months past, we've seen some fair discussions on solvents, diluents, pen washes, and surfactants, so eventually, these had sparked my thoughts, curiosity, and then some experiments. :eureka:

One might indeed call this discussion, "Inky Thoughts" ! :hmm1:

Photoflo is an exceptionally good surfactant to use with inks, better than glycerine, and leagues better than dishwashing soap (dish cleaning fluid in some parts of the world). FPN's own Lady of Deeply Thoughtful Ink Reviews, Sandy1, gave an insightful assessment of how to use Photoflo in Post No. 8 of this thread, essentially providing a "prescription" for the use of Photoflo.

Why not use dishwashing fluids ? Simply put, the surfactant effects of these fluids are not predictable between brands, can result in bubble/foam formations where the ink is agitated/shaken, and there are additional additives for the cleaning effects that may not be good for the ink. Glycerine is better than dishwashing soap, but still not ideal.

Photoflo is intended to reduce, even eliminate residual materials on film, and just that. It's a very well formulated fluid with a specific concentration, allowing for repeatable results. It's not especially inexpensive, but even a small bottle will supply the ink experimenter with more than they can use in decades of testing. Anyone who has spent some time in the darkroom knows very well just how much of a difference Photoflo makes for their developing/processing.

Now, not to take away from Sandy's very scientific delivery on the use of Photoflo, but I've done some experiments where I've found that using a pinhead sized droplet of Photoflo in a 4 dram bottle with ink results in significantly improved ink flow of even the most recalcitrant inks. What's a pinhead sized droplet ? Well, roughly 1/10 the size of a small droplet from a medicine dropper, assuming that one is using a small dropper, not a turkey baster sized device... :rolleyes: But more on the droplets later.

How have the results worked ?

On the whole, well, even very well, I'd say.

I was able to (mostly) tame Noodler's Manjiro Nakahama Whaleman's Sepia, an ink with the reputation of being hard-to-start and dead-stopping in some pens. My first attempt was with unadulterated MNWS, and it made a substantial improvement in the "hard-to-start" arena, but didn't quite solve the problem. MNWS is, however, an extraordinarily saturated, one might almost say, thick ink. A dilution of the ink in a ratio of 2:1 ink with distilled water (that's a ~66% solution for those who prefer that sort of description), along with an application of Photoflo in a 4 dram bottle worked quite nicely. I've kept the mixture in a test bed 'fifties Pelikan 400NN with a CI nib for almost two months. After this amount of time, it's not immediately starting with nib touched to paper, but with no more than a couple of strokes it starts right up. I'd think of that as a successful alteration, all things considered.

One of the conundrums of using highly saturated inks is that one can sometimes want them "just a little less saturated", but dilution can make them a trifle hard-to-start or result in other flow issues. At the same time, the dilution can make the ink provide some luscious shading or pull the saturation down in other ways to make the ink far more desirable, leading one to adding yet more water to reach those goals, but creating those pesky flow problems. The use of Photoflo along with a dilution can allow for best of both worlds, excellent flow and sensuous silky shading, changing some inks into "go-to" choices for a fountain pen.

I applied this logic to Noodler's Zhivago ink, as I'd thought I'd enjoy the ink as a 2:1 ratio mixture diluted with distilled water (66% again), but I wanted to keep smooth flow and easy starts with the ink. The results were nothing less than almost magical in my M600 pen with a CI nib ! The pen's nib glides over the surface of even marginal papers easily and smoothly like a sharpened skate over crisp fresh ice, the ink has more shading and definition, and I don't see the same feathering that I would on the marginal paper with the "normal" concentration of the ink. This is now a daily use ink for me, so much do I enjoy using it. As our Australian members might say, "Bonzer !"

Just as one can find in cooking that the use of two spices transforms a dish into an entirely different direction than the use of either one alone, the changes of Photoflo for surfactant effect, and dilution for shading and reduced feathering are together quite transformative. Inks that might have been dicey choices become more acceptable, and some other inks become nothing less than stellar in performance.

A few cautions, as one might expect, are very much in order.

The use of a surfactant material on an already "wet" ink could change it into a gushing mess from out of the nib on paper, or even in a pocket when clipped next to body heat. I hesitate to think what would happen with added surfactant in PR Tanzanite - things would be banjaxed as a certainty !

Those people who aren't accustomed to chemistry lab types of operations, especially pipette titration sorts of work with deft and steady hands in forming small droplets, should very certainly work with Sandy's excellent prescription, using that diluted Photoflo for the dilutions of an ink. Quite seriously, those people who've made their way through Chemistry or Chemical Engineering degrees will know exactly whereof I speak - the process of dilutions and managing these precisely drop-by-drop is very much an acquired skill. As Mies van der Rohe is supposed to have said, "Less is more", and that's a watchphrase for the addition of a surfactant to ink.

Next, take notes, and carefully label each small bottle with the specifics of the dilution and surfactant mixture. File folder labels cut to about 3 cm length work well for this, using a very fine nibbed pen with a waterproof ink, of course ! One should also apply a layer of cello or Scotch tape over the label to protect it from the inevitable overruns from the bottle when a pen is inserted to fill. Trust me on this - you simply won't be able to distinguish between a handful of small 2 dram bottles after even an hour.

Do it again. And then again. I've tried "successful" results out three or five times before moving beyond 2 dram or 4 dram bottles. I'm after reproducible results as I am, after all, an engineer and a scientist. Even though the net costs of ruining a bottle of ink aren't excessive, my Scots ancestors would rise up from the grave to smite me heartily about the head and shoulders with a stout oaken cudgel were I to be so careless as to just plunge forward without thorough testing.

Lastly, always use distilled water for the dilutions. Given the number of variables that are being (somewhat) controlled for repeatable new ink uses, finding that sediment from the water line, excessive chlorination/bromination/ozonination (which happens whenever an area has a break to re-condition the systems for safety), or some other problem with piping results in strange or unexpected conditions.

All of that said, recent times have given me some "brand new inks" without a single trip to the local B&M pen store or a delivery from a package service. Magic.



John P.


P.S. I had thought to also engage in a discussion here on fungicides to keep the new ink mixtures from the dreaded SITB, but I think Sam Capote has addressed this topic in several topics rather handily, even elegantly, and so I suggest reading those threads. :thumbup:

P.P.S. Given the lengthy, even discursive nature of this post, I'll address some homemade ink wash mixtures separately in another post.

Edited by PJohnP, 08 September 2012 - 02:13.


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#2 MadAmos

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 03:35

I have been using Jet Dry which is primarily a surfactant and the results have been quite predictable. It was a lot easier to get for a non photographer as in the US at least it is available in most stores.

What are your thoughts on this?

Paul
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#3 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 03:58

I have been using Jet Dry...What are your thoughts on this?


Paul :


Hmmm...

I looked at the "ingredients list" for FINISH® JET-DRY® Rinse Agent and for FINISH® JET-DRY® Dishwasher Cleaner. I'm assuming that you're using the former and not the latter, but the lists show both.

The reason that I looked at both is that The Rinse Agent doesn't show a surfactant per se, but the Dishwasher Cleaner does. A bit puzzling, but I'd imagine that the C12-15 Alcohols Ethoxylated Propoxylated could be working in that role.

Hurm. Well, I'd also note that the products have colourants and fragrances as ingredients, not to mention preservatives. For more saturated inks, and given the very small quantities that we "ink mixers" would use, those probably won't create major problems.

Personally, I'm still more in the Photoflo camp, as it's not intended to fit the consumer product niche with scent, colour, etc. I prefer a small number of additives to consider, but if the Jet Dry product is working well, you would have a consistent material as an additive to work with in your experiments. The Rinse Agent should not have the foaming/bubbling issues one could encounter with the soap products. I'd still counsel working in small batches (2 dram up to 4 dram volumes) just to be safe.

Good point about availability, BTW, and perhaps a tipping point for many people. It is still possible to get Photoflo in most places with a little thought, as there are photodeveloping locations scattered around, but it's indeed far less accessible than even ten years gone.

Which inks have you been testing this with, and have the results been to your liking ?




John P.

#4 MadAmos

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 14:34

I have been using the rinse agent and although I have not duplicated the accuracy you use I have been using a syringe and adding .5% by volume 20 ml ink to .1ml Jet Dry this has cured several pens that used to write dry to the point of skipping with several Noodlers inks. It is worth noting that the same pens were fine with every other ink I had tried. I am not thrilled with the "other" ingredients like dyes and fragrances and I will see if I can locate the Photoflow to try next time I get to town, it may be a while as the local shops seem to have all gone digital.


Paul
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#5 Sandy1

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 14:55

Hi,

I am glad to read that adding surfactants not only enhances the ink flow, but enhances shading potential. :bunny01:

I hope there is some synergy with the Open Source Ink Project, LINK, that will reveal other means to adjust over-the-counter ink to suit given pen+paper combos.

Bye,
S1

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#6 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 15:20

I am glad to read that adding surfactants not only enhances the ink flow, but enhances shading potential...

I hope there is some synergy with the Open Source Ink Project...


Sandy :


I think my comments are more in the line of "adjustments" to existing inks for user preferences than developing an ink from the ground up. It's possible that there could be some advantages derived from the discussion if the putative Open Source Ink has some flow problems or needs slight adjustments in shading.

On that latter topic, the shading benefits have solely come through when I've diluted inks in my experiments - the surfactant itself only aids in successful dilutions. Still, that's meant that a couple of inks have become much more enjoyable for me, a net positive result.




John P.

#7 inkstainedruth

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 15:58

Are the surfactants being used as wetting agents?
I took a weekend workshop a number of years ago in tradtionial fresco (we were doing small pieces in wooden frames backed with, IIRC, metal lath). Before we did the final layer of plaster, we had to mix up the pigment pastes. I was tasked with alizarin crimson: this doesn't mix well with water unless you add a wetting agent (in that case, rubbing alcohol). The wetting agent helped the ground mineral powder to dissolve in water.
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#8 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 18:34

Are the surfactants being used as wetting agents? The wetting agent helped the ground mineral powder to dissolve in water.


Ruth :


This topic gets complicated pretty quickly, so please excuse me if I'm tending to lecture in this response. I'll try to keep things as simple and straightforward as reasonably possible... :blink: :hmm1:

The items that you mention are related concepts, not quite applicable in the same manner, as we're not dissolving a solid in a liquid to form a solution, but having two miscible fluids forming a common solution.

Surfactants change surface tension effects, and as a result change some of what we call the flow characteristics of a fluid (Fluid Dynamics is the area of engineering/physics that this falls in, and it's an enormously complex subject as a whole). This is not the same as changing the viscosity of the fluid, although some nominal surfactants can change both the net surface tension and the viscosity of the fluid (we're not discussing those materials here).

Here's a handy example of how a surfactant works, one that's well related to surfactants in cleaning agents, and easy to test at home.

Take a bowl of tap water and drop/spread ground pepper on the surface. It will form a (relatively) even distribution over the surface. The water's surface tension is "supporting" the pepper particles on the upper "skin" of the water with air above this.

Take a cake of hand soap, and touch just a corner of the soap at the centre of the bowl's liquid surface.

The pepper particles will all "flee" to the outer edges of the bowl.

This is because the surface tension that is supporting the pepper all over the water surface has differentially changed at the centre of the bowl, and the effect then propagates over the surface to the edges (very loosely speaking - this is a more complex system than that, but this suffices for a simplification of the surface tension property).

When cleaning agents with surfactants are mixed with dirty clothing, the dirt particles similarly "flee" the clothing, acting to clean it (again, this is a simplification, and the movement of the clothing in a body of water also loosens the dirt particles).

Surface tension effects also strongly influence the movement of a fluid from one surface to another surface, something almost anyone who pours hot tea from a small teapot observes when the tea runs back down the outer spout to spill on a table ! Again, that effect is much more complicated than this post captures (c.f., "Coandă effect"), but it serves for a casual discussion.

Since our fountain pens work with a movement of liquid from the nib to be distributed on paper, surface tension effects have a dramatic effect on what we call "flow" characteristics. Most inks used for fountain pens have roughly similar viscosities (with a few exceptions), but the surface tension effects are sometimes widely different, giving different flow characteristics. While it's possible to change viscosity on inks with mixing either other miscible fluids with the ink or dissolving other materials in the ink, the net quantities of material to change viscosity would typically be larger than the addition of a surfactant.

All of this is why developing inks with specific colour, shading, waterproofness/bulletproofness, flow, non-feathering characteristics, etc. is a very complicated task. Just getting the surface tension effects nailed down neatly for an ink is what scientists refer to as a "non-trivial task", and why I've been so careful to in the first post in this thread to discuss just using a dedicated surfactant like Photoflo and only distilled water for a diluent. Adding more ingredients to modify an ink creates a large multiple to the number of tests to successfully make desired changes.




There. Aren't you glad that I kept this simple ? Inky Thoughts, indeed... :headsmack:




John P.

Edited by PJohnP, 08 September 2012 - 21:37.


#9 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 18:47

I have been using the rinse agent and although I have not duplicated the accuracy you use I have been using a syringe and adding .5% by volume 20 ml ink to .1ml Jet Dry this has cured several pens that used to write dry to the point of skipping with several Noodlers inks. It is worth noting that the same pens were fine with every other ink I had tried. I am not thrilled with the "other" ingredients like dyes and fragrances and I will see if I can locate the Photoflow to try next time I get to town, it may be a while as the local shops seem to have all gone digital.



Paul :


It certainly would seem that you're approaching this in a very controlled manner !

I've found that the combination of the surfactant and dilution has been more effective with the inks I've been testing. Inks like MNWS really benefit from a bit of dilution, IMO. Sometimes, dilution without surfactant has sufficed, as, for example, with Noodler's Kung Te Cheng (KTC), where I found about a 3:1 ink to distilled water (75% solution) made all of the difference in the world for the ink (but with these discussions, I now ponder the use of some Photoflo there...).

If you were located in the same state as me, I'd offer a small vial of Photoflo, but I'm several states over from you. It's the kind of thing that the Pen Posse meetings of such renown would be a good solution to address - one bottle would serve an entire Posse quite neatly !

Of course, in today's world, Photoflo is also available to order online here and here. As mentioned earlier, those quantities would likely serve for decades of ink experimentation !



John P.

#10 inkstainedruth

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 21:08

Wow -- very informative. I actually did understand your descriptions for the most part. Thanks for explaining it in laymen's terms without dumbing it down.
Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth
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#11 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 21:20

Wow -- very informative. I actually did understand your descriptions for the most part. Thanks for explaining it in laymen's terms without dumbing it down.


Ruth :


Well, since you're certainly not stupid, there's no need to "dumb it down" ! <warm smile>

There are precious few topics that cannot be understood by people with enquiring minds. Given the nature of the FPN community, the term "enquiring minds" would include the vast majority of people who post here. I can say with truth that I learn new things here, some of which were previously mysteries to me. I only hope that I can make a small contribution in turn.



John P.

#12 MadAmos

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 22:21

I have also found for most Noodlers Inks that 15 -12 percent by volume of distilled H2O will normally help but there have been a couple instances where the Jet Dry has been still required to get consistent flow. One that comes to mind is Noodlers Red/Black I had a bottle a few years ago that addition of water uo to 50% did not prevent dryness when I added the Jet dry at .5% it would work reliably in all my pens.

I purchased a second bottle of the same ink earlier this year and it worked perfectly right from the bottle leading me to believe that batch variations may make it difficult to find a one size fits all answer. I am still in the bled as/when needed mode for the most part.

Thanks for the links I will have to consider getting the Photoflo in the future if for nothing else just to see if there is any discernible difference in performance.

Paul


I have been using the rinse agent and although I have not duplicated the accuracy you use I have been using a syringe and adding .5% by volume 20 ml ink to .1ml Jet Dry this has cured several pens that used to write dry to the point of skipping with several Noodlers inks. It is worth noting that the same pens were fine with every other ink I had tried. I am not thrilled with the "other" ingredients like dyes and fragrances and I will see if I can locate the Photoflow to try next time I get to town, it may be a while as the local shops seem to have all gone digital.



Paul :


It certainly would seem that you're approaching this in a very controlled manner !

I've found that the combination of the surfactant and dilution has been more effective with the inks I've been testing. Inks like MNWS really benefit from a bit of dilution, IMO. Sometimes, dilution without surfactant has sufficed, as, for example, with Noodler's Kung Te Cheng (KTC), where I found about a 3:1 ink to distilled water (75% solution) made all of the difference in the world for the ink (but with these discussions, I now ponder the use of some Photoflo there...).

If you were located in the same state as me, I'd offer a small vial of Photoflo, but I'm several states over from you. It's the kind of thing that the Pen Posse meetings of such renown would be a good solution to address - one bottle would serve an entire Posse quite neatly !

Of course, in today's world, Photoflo is also available to order online here and here. As mentioned earlier, those quantities would likely serve for decades of ink experimentation !



John P.


Amos

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Albert Einstein


#13 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 22:41

I purchased a second bottle of the same ink earlier this year and it worked perfectly right from the bottle leading me to believe that batch variations may make it difficult to find a one size fits all answer.


Paul :


Yes, batch consistency is most certainly another issue in the equation !

Where the really large scale ink makers do have an edge is within the area of consistency, although I've seen several notes here on FPN where even the large players have had problems. This is why I would counsel care in "adjusting" inks with a test batch for each bottle - the time to ensure that a fill or two of a pen works well can save a substantial wastage of ink.

Essentially, what we're discussing is customising commercially available inks for our personal needs, with a careful emphasis on the root word of "custom". Like you, I doubt that one size fits all answers are the answer, and will work no better for inks than they do for trousers, shoes, or hats.



John P.

Edited by PJohnP, 08 September 2012 - 22:44.


#14 andru

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 22:43

All of this is why developing inks with specific colour, shading, waterproofness/bulletproofness, flow, non-feathering characteristics, etc. is a very complicated task. Just getting the surface tension effects nailed down neatly for an ink is what scientists refer to as a "non-trivial task", and why I've been so careful to in the first post in this thread to discuss just using a dedicated surfactant like Photoflo and only distilled water for a diluent. Adding more ingredients to modify an ink creates a large multiple to the number of tests to successfully make desired changes.

Wow John, you seem to know quite a lot about this. Maybe you'll find some time to contribute to the Open-Ink initiative, and eventually it may become less "putative". B) A surfactant is one of the standard ingredients in a FP ink so, yeah, they'll be involved. For example, LucasT discusses it in his Basic Red open ink recipe.

Something else to consider about added surfactant is, it will make the ink more penetrating, so you can load more dye into the paper without it sitting on the surface. This definitely gives you more shading, but past a point the feathering becomes overwhelming.

#15 PJohnP

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 23:09

Wow John, you seem to know quite a lot about this. Maybe you'll find some time to contribute to the Open-Ink initiative, and eventually it may become less "putative"...


Heh. The term "putative" was not a pejorative, more a comment on the developing nature of the O-I. In terms of the discussion you pointed to, it's a solid development beyond the scope of the thread I started here. My emphasis is more on "adjusting" existing inks, which is, for most people, a reasonably reachable goal. Developing a new ink is not going to be as easy for many people, if only in terms of assembling the ingredients.

That said, I'm watching the O-I thread with great interest, and if I can offer a substantive contribution, I'll most certainly do so.

Something else to consider about added surfactant is, it will make the ink more penetrating, so you can load more dye into the paper without it sitting on the surface. This definitely gives you more shading, but past a point the feathering becomes overwhelming.


This gets into another complicated area of fibre and paper technologies, quite a bit past the level of discussion that I'd like to venture into very deeply. I can offer some comments, but they're limited in nature.

For my part, I'm trying to make adjustments on surface tension effects that will allow the ink to "flow" better (I point to my comments in another post that this usage of "flow" is a gross simplification), and making another adjustment in ink saturation to a lower net saturation. You are, of course, correct that enhancing both ink saturation (more properly, we should say, "net solute concentration", but the commonly understood term is "saturation") and changing surface tension effects can result in increased fibre penetration, as well as allowing for greater penetration of the fibre matrix of the paper, but I've been working rather in the opposite direction with my experiments !

In the context of the O-I, these two items are two variables in perhaps six or eight variables that can be addressed in the formulation steps. Some items, such as viscosity, won't be dramatically different between various inks, or the net change in properties won't make them fountain pen friendly (think "sludge" or "gusher" inks), but the choice of solute, concentration of solute, pH, and stabilisers for other properties like waterproofness will be dominant variables. Entirely without more research, I'd venture a hypothesis that adjustments for surface tension should be one of the last variables to tweak in the O-I formulation process, well after the issues noted above. After all, relatively small quantities of surfactant have substantial effects, allowing the makers to consider the more "important" variables first. But that's simply a hypothesis proposed whilst typing a post here !

Feathering effects and their control are going way past the level of discussion that I can offer useful comment on, excepting, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart noted in an entirely different context, "I know it when I see it." :blush:

For the moment, I'm going to stick to making my adjustments to existing inks to suit my personal desires with the inks that I write with daily...



John P.

#16 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 11:59

Thanks for the info on Photoflo.

Being lazy and not having a chemical laboratory, I got
from the pharmacy,some glycerin. A few drops should lube up a dry ink.

I have to admit, I was not scientific at all when I put a few drops in 4001 royal blue. I was just looking to see if it worked. It seemed to.

I also use glycerin mixed 50-50 with water to lube up piston pens that do not have screw out nibs. Once in a while I use it straight, when I have re-hydrated a zombie cork in a '30's pen. Anything other than take apart and re-cork.... :unsure:

Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 09 September 2012 - 12:05.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 


#17 PJohnP

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 22:08

...glycerin. A few drops should lube up a dry ink...

I also use glycerin mixed 50-50 with water to lube up piston pens ... re-hydrated a zombie cork in a '30's pen.


Glycerine certainly works more reliably than dish cleaning fluid, but I found it still didn't quite provide the specific change in surface tension that I was seeking - rather more of a lubricant as you noted than a straightforward surfactant. Following those experiments, I shifted over to Photoflo, and after about three months of experiments, posted this thread.

So far, so good for me. The experiments continue today with another ink... :hmm1:



John P.

#18 Pat1

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 22:33

Caution - PhotoFlo is for black and white films, so asking for some 'wetting agent' at the local film lab will probably be the stuff for color film. that has preservatives so I wouldn't put that in my pen.
If in the US try the Photographers Formulary, they have another wetting agent called 'Form-a-Flow' about $4 + 6 for priority mail. http://stores.photof.../Categories.bok

Edited by Pat1, 10 September 2012 - 22:38.

I'm new here.


#19 PJohnP

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 01:13

Caution - PhotoFlo is for black and white films, so asking for some 'wetting agent' at the local film lab will probably be the stuff for color film. that has preservatives so I wouldn't put that in my pen.


Excellent point !

For the vast majority of any time in the darkroom, it was B&W for me (I tried Cibachrome with at best middling results), so I automatically think of Photoflo.

Thanks for the tip for others... :thumbup:



John P.

#20 EP Tech

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 16:02

B&H Photo out New York...$7.99 for 16 oz. Just checked...yup, they carry it. Enjoy!

http://www.bhphotovi..._Solution.html.

Edited by EP Tech, 11 September 2012 - 16:07.







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