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Birmingham Pen Co. Ink Swatches


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#1 crahptacular

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 07:10

Birmingham Pen Co. Ink Swatches

 

I ordered the Birmingham Pen Company’s ink sampler set, which includes their entire ink lineup (30 colors at time of writing), and I’ve just finished making color swatches  for them. There doesn’t seem to be much information about the inks floating around at the moment, so I thought I’d share these swatches right away , even though I haven’t had a chance to use them each individually yet.

 

I’m not sure who makes these inks; according to the bottles and the website, they are made in Germany, but besides that, I couldn’t find any other information about them. I’ve found that the pictures on their website do not very accurately represent the colors of the inks that I received. As it’s always possible for batches to be inconsistent or samples to be mislabeled, I’d be interested to know if anyone else has experience with these inks, and whether or not they found the official swatches accurate or not.

 

Overall, I found the range of colors relatively unique. As the store is based in Pittsburgh, each ink is named after a locally significant place or person, which I really enjoy (like with e.g. Kobe and Kyoto TAG inks, I find that these types of names add an element of interest). The downside is that if you’re not familiar with the references, the colors might completely defy expectations. Also, the names are quite a mouthful. Overall, I’d describe the collection as kind of gloomy. There are a few brighter, more vibrant colors, but most are on the darker, greyer side. I like these moody colors, but I found a few of the colors to be a little redundant, looking similar to others from the same collection.   

 

The ink samples come in small glass bottles with metal lids, and an additional plastic stopper within the lid to improve the seal. I like the small glass bottles compared to regular plastic sample vials, as they feel more “premium” and the fact that for long-term storage, I would generally trust glass sooner than plastic. However, in practice, these bottles aren’t flawless. The stoppers do not consistently fit the bottles; out of 30 bottles, three did not seal properly and leaked during shipment*. Also, they need to be separately removed from the bottlenecks, which all but guarantees that you’ll get ink all over your fingers. For those who have dedicated storage solutions for their sample vials, these bottles are shorter and squatter than the standard sample vial so they probably won’t fit.

 

*Although there was leakage during shipment, which was unfortunate, Nick, who runs the Birmingham Pen Co., was very responsive and generous when I e-mailed him about the issue. He not only offered to replace the samples that leaked, at no cost, but said that he would send full-size bottle replacements. I think he might save himself some headaches if he just used the standard sample vials, but I’m glad that he stands behind his products and service.

 

Swatches are done on Col-O-Ring cards. The manufacturer name (“Birmingham”) is written with a flex dip nib, and the ink name (in all caps) is written with a glass dip pen. The swab in the middle is applied lightly on the right, and pooled on the left. The bar on the bottom should be the middle of the ink’s color range.  Note that nothing on these cards is done with an actual fountain pen.

 

None of these are color-corrected, so I will give short descriptions of all the failings of my scanner.

 

Set 1: Allegheny Arsenal Gunpowder Black, Emerald View Park Oxidized Brass, Edgar T. Steel Works Coking Coal Black, Jeff Goldblum Independence Gray, Steel Building Smoked Iron

fpn_1509087126__birmingham6.jpg

These all came out well in the scans except Independence Gray, which should be less blue.

 

Set 2: Billy Eckstine Blues for Sale, Frank Gorshin Riddle Green, Southside Park Fern Moss, Schenley Park Thicket Green, Frick Park Fern Hollow Creek

fpn_1509087194__birmingham5.jpg

Billy Eckstine is okay. Frank Gorshin should be less blue, more grey.. Fern Moss should be much more grey and brown. Thicket Green and Fern Hollow Creek should both be browner as well.

 

 

Set 3: Forbes Field Green, Point Park Fountain Turquoise, Pennsylvania Railroad Boiler Steam Blue-Black, Andrew Carnegie Steel Blue, Smithfield Street Bridge Truss Blue

fpn_1509087334__birmingham4.jpg

This set is too bright across the board. The first four from the left are all a touch too blue. Truss Blue on the right should be substantially darker.  

 

Set 4: USS Requin Navy Blue, Grandview Avenue Midnight Horizon, David O. Selznick Lilac Wind, Waterfront Dusk, Andy Warhol Pop Art Purple

fpn_1509087251__birmingham3.jpg

Navy Blue should be substantially darker, with more purple and more black. Midnight Horizon is okay. Lilac Wind and Waterfront Dusk should both be more red-purple, and a lot less blue. Andy Warhol should be a little more red.  

 

 

Set 5: Phipps Conservatory Verbena, Allegheny River Twilight, Gene Kelly Raspberry Rain, Fred Rogers Cardigan Red, Bloomfield Red

fpn_1509087301__birmingham2.jpg

The left two inks in this set are slightly off. Verbena should be a bit more purple and less blue, and Twilight should be more mauve and less grey.

 

Set 6: Duquesne Incline Station Red, Shadyside Walnut Street Brown, Fort Pitt Blockhouse Sepia, Honus Wagner Infield Brown, George Westinghouse Alternator Crimson

fpn_1509087505__birmingham1.jpg

These scans are all quite accurate. The leftmost ink should read “Duquesne,” but I don’t know how to spell.

 

 

I plan to eventually review all of these, but it will probably take me quite a while to get through them all. If anyone is interested in a particular color, leave a reply and I can try to prioritize, or at least do a more accurately color-corrected scan/sample.


Edited by crahptacular, 27 October 2017 - 07:47.


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#2 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 10:27

Hello crahptacular,

Thank you very much for this... it's great! I've had a fascination with these colors for a while... it's nice to see some coverage on them with fresh swab samples. :thumbup:

You mustn't chide yourself on your inability to spell "Duquesne" correctly... I've met Pittsburghers who couldn't spell it correctly. :D Two constant banes for Pittsburghers are spelling Duquesne and the correct pronunciation of the Mononoghila River... which is often referred to as "The Mon" just to prevent riots in the streets. :lticaptd:

The colors do seem to have a "gloomy" and "moody" look to them... I think that's in keeping with the city's heavy industrial lineage... there was a time in Pittsburgh's not all that distant past when the streetlights burned 24 hrs. a day because of the pollution from all the steel mills that had once operated there.

Btw, I know these things because my brother Pietro lived there for a while and married a native. :)

I must say, several of those colors have my name on them... the turquoise, the Penney RR b/b, Carnegie Steel, the Sepia, the Verbena and a couple others. :puddle:

I'm guessing that DeAtramentis had a hand in these... are they "wet" and well lubed? That's the way I like my inks.

Thanks again. Be well and enjoy life. :)


- Anthony
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Please pray the Rosary daily. Thank You, St. Jude, for favors granted. :)

Grab life with both arms and give it a bear hug every day! :D

#3 white_lotus

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 12:32

Very interesting colors. Thanks for sharing. Murky is my middle name (well not really) so I may have to give some of the samples a try.



#4 lapis

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 12:42

Very nice collection! I especially like all of those "almost blacks" and/or as put by somebody else lately, "blacks with a special effect" or something like that....


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#5 Lgsoltek

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 13:03

Fern Moss looks nice.



#6 inkstainedruth

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 18:30

OOH!  I see there are more colors from the last time I was there....  I have a few -- samples of Truss Blue (because I never make it to the store when they actually have it in stock in bottles  :angry:), and bottles of Schenley Park Thicket Green, Honus Wagner, Requin Navy Blue, Waterfront Dusk, and the original formula of Walnut Street Brown (which is more sepia toned and way less red).  But I haven't had time to crack most of those open -- just picked them from doing dip testing with a glass pen in the store and went "Ohhhh, me LIKE!"

Given that Birmingham Pens is my local pen shop I can give a bit more info.  Nick, the guy who runs the shop, is doing the mixing (from German component dyes -- my guess is De Atramentis, because Birmingham carries at least some of the D'A inks, and because their former online presence as Xfountainpens sold inks that I'm pretty sure were just relabeled D'A inks (the way the old Chesterfield line were relabeled Diamine inks, except that the "Architekt" inks didn't even change the D'A names).  

Nick runs the store and does the house line of inks.  His brother (who I've met but whose name I don't remember) is, I believe, the guy behind designing the Nemosine brand of pens (which, IIRC, are made for them in Taiwan).

Oh, and Anthony -- the spelling is Monongahela....  ;)  (I think the pronunciation comes up in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon -- one of the times when Bugs made a wrong turn someplace...; but yeah, around here most people call it "the Mon".  (There's one of the Pittsburgh History series documentaries that are produced by the local PBS affiliate called The Mon, the Al, and the O, for the three main rivers here (the Monongahela, which flows up from the south and east; the Allegheny, which comes down from western NYS, and the Ohio, which starts where the other two rivers meet at Point State Park; anyplace else would consider the Ohio just a continuation of one of the other two, but noooo -- we had to be different... B)).  I think there's a joke about "the confluence" on an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, but I couldn't find the quote on IMDB.

There's also the "fourth" river -- actually the aquifer, which is where the drinking water for the city comes from, and may also be where the water in the fountain in Point State Park is from.  (Is it scary that I know more about the history of the region than I do about the place where I grew up?  :huh:)  

But at least we're not like Cleveland, where the river once caught FIRE....  :rolleyes:

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

ETA: Thanks for posting the swatches, crahptacular!


Edited by inkstainedruth, 27 October 2017 - 18:31.

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#7 crahptacular

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 19:47

Anthony and Ruth, thank you both for giving some local context to the inks' inspirations. It's good to hear that there are others who share my inability to spell (or pronounce) some of these names.

 

I haven't used these in actual pens yet, so I'll have to report back in the future to comment about the writing behavior. I'm going to guess that they are relatively wet writers, as they seemed to flow off the glass dip pen more generously than usual. If you look closely, the first few letters of each name are very thick lines, some coming close to feathering, because so much ink was laid down. Of course this happens to some extent with any ink when using a glass pen, but not always to this degree.

 

Here are some of the swatches mentioned so far that needed color correction, as I wouldn't want to mislead anybody. I've skipped the ones where the original scans seemed okay to me.

 

fpn_1509133249__turquoise.jpgfpn_1509133274__bblack.jpgfpn_1509133288__steelblue.jpgfpn_1509133300__verbena.jpgfpn_1509133527__moss.jpg



#8 jmccarty3

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Posted 27 October 2017 - 22:16

The Pennsylvania Railroad Boiler Steam Blue-Black looks like a traditional old-fashioned blue-black. Thanks for posting these.


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#9 inkstainedruth

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Posted 28 October 2017 - 01:41

I seem to remember looking at Verbena the last time I was in the store, but I think I decided I already had a lot of inks that were a similar hue.  Frank Gorshin, Emerald View Park, Jeff Goldblum, Steel Building Smoked Iron, Billy Eckstine, PA Railroad, Southside Park, David O Selznick, and I think maybe Duquesne Incline are all new since my last visit.  Possibly also Allegheny River Twilight, Forbes Field, Frick Park, and Bloomfield Red.

My goodness -- Nick HAS been busy....

And me with getting over a pretty severe virus so I really shouldn't do much gallivanting tomorrow (Saturday).  And next weekend being OPS....  Dang.  By the time I get back into the store, they'll probably be out of Truss Blue... again....   :wallbash: 

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


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#10 ENewton

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Posted 28 October 2017 - 16:07

I like the aesthetic of these inks.  Being especially fond of dusky purples, I look forward to reviews of Waterfront Dusk and Allegheny River Twilight.



#11 crahptacular

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 02:38

@ENewton

 

I like the overall mood as well. Here are some more accurate scans of the colors you mentioned. I'm pretty slow at this whole reviewing thing, so hopefully these can tide you over for a while. Try to ignore the fact that the white balance got totally messed up:

 

fpn_1509244524__twilight.jpgfpn_1509244536__waterfront.jpg



#12 ENewton

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 16:14

Thank you for the new scans!  Twilight is redder than I like, but Waterfront Dusk looks very nice indeed.



#13 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 21:29

Oh, and Anthony -- the spelling is Monongahela....  ;)  (I think the pronunciation comes up in an old Bugs Bunny cartoon -- one of the times when Bugs made a wrong turn someplace...; but yeah, around here most people call it "the Mon".  (There's one of the Pittsburgh History series documentaries that are produced by the local PBS affiliate called The Mon, the Al, and the O, for the three main rivers here (the Monongahela, which flows up from the south and east; the Allegheny, which comes down from western NYS, and the Ohio, which starts where the other two rivers meet at Point State Park; anyplace else would consider the Ohio just a continuation of one of the other two, but noooo -- we had to be different... B)).  I think there's a joke about "the confluence" on an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, but I couldn't find the quote on IMDB.
There's also the "fourth" river -- actually the aquifer, which is where the drinking water for the city comes from, and may also be where the water in the fountain in Point State Park is from.  (Is it scary that I know more about the history of the region than I do about the place where I grew up?  :huh:)  
But at least we're not like Cleveland, where the river once caught FIRE....  :rolleyes:
Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


Hi Ruth,

I thought I might had screwed-up the spelling, but was too lazy to Google it.

There were probably riots in the state senate... or someplace... as to which of the two river's should be honored with its name continued; until some smart soul probably jumped up and said, lets just call it something else... and the Ohio River was born! :D

Isn't it great how we get much of our higher education from classic cartoons? I think that was a joke on Seinfeld. :rolleyes:

Yeah, poor Cleveland... IIRC, the Cuyahoga River fire in '69, (it was not an isolated event; there had been several more prior); was the LAST STRAW and was the catalyst for Nixon's establishment of the EPA the following year.




The terrible thing was, riverfront fires are typically fought using water cannons mounted on pumper boats... which they tried... but in this case, it was the water itself that was causing the fire; so, they really had no effective means of putting it out. The fire basically had to burn itself out. :(


But Cleveland has made a remarkable comeback according to this:




I guess its China's problem now... that's the price of being a super-power.


- Anthony
With thanks to my Mom & Dad; who taught me to run free, but not run wild.

Please pray the Rosary daily. Thank You, St. Jude, for favors granted. :)

Grab life with both arms and give it a bear hug every day! :D

#14 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 21:35

Anthony and Ruth, thank you both for giving some local context to the inks' inspirations. It's good to hear that there are others who share my inability to spell (or pronounce) some of these names.
 
fpn_1509133249__turquoise.jpgfpn_1509133274__bblack.jpgfpn_1509133288__steelblue.jpgfpn_1509133300__verbena.jpgfpn_1509133527__moss.jpg


Hi crahptacular,

You're welcome and thank you for the updated scans. :thumbup:

Now, I think I'll let the steel blue go, but I'm definitely getting that Pennsy Boiler b/b, the turquoise and maybe still the verbena. :puddle:


- Anthony
With thanks to my Mom & Dad; who taught me to run free, but not run wild.

Please pray the Rosary daily. Thank You, St. Jude, for favors granted. :)

Grab life with both arms and give it a bear hug every day! :D

#15 ParkerDuofold

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Posted 29 October 2017 - 21:37

The Pennsylvania Railroad Boiler Steam Blue-Black looks like a traditional old-fashioned blue-black. Thanks for posting these.


+ 1. Definitely.

In fact, I think that's my pick of the litter. :)


- Anthony
With thanks to my Mom & Dad; who taught me to run free, but not run wild.

Please pray the Rosary daily. Thank You, St. Jude, for favors granted. :)

Grab life with both arms and give it a bear hug every day! :D

#16 Intensity

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Posted 10 November 2017 - 18:18

I've found some more reviews of these inks with writing samples:

https://theserialdoo...birmingham inks

https://ukfountainpe...ully-different/


Edited by Intensity, 10 November 2017 - 18:19.


#17 Tas

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Posted 12 November 2017 - 22:30

Ooo, some of these look wonderful and your swatches are gorgeous.

 

Will keep my eyes open for more reviews. Thank you.  :)



#18 Pensei

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Posted 14 November 2017 - 00:12

Quite simply, beyond dispute, the best ink names ever. Hard to pick favorites, but I'll put Smoked Iron and Honus Wagner Infield Brown at the top of my list. Phipps Conservatory Verbena, too, but I've never been there. 



#19 Pensei

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 00:11

After making the "no more inks" pledge and keeping it for about a year, the sample package for these inks proved impossible to resist. I ordered late Monday night and the box arrived this morning (Thursday), with a personalized note from the vendor, Nick. A nice touch. With such an embarrassment of riches with all those colors, I loaded Pennsylvania Railroad Boiler Steam Blue-Black because it was the first one that caught my attention. Then I added Grandview Avenue Midnight Horizon (those great names!). Both are great, but the second immediately became one of my favorite dark greys or blue-blacks, whichever you prefer. And the key question that can't be answered from the swatches--yes, they are good performers. I'm no expert, but I'd say moderately wet, smooth, and with some decent shading. I love this stuff; I'm going to have to start a book so I can use more of the colors.  



#20 crahptacular

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 07:19

Hope you enjoy your samples! Their sample pack really is good value (as I recall, it ended up being $1/mL sample when I bought it). I originally intended to only try a couple of colors, as I had no previous experience with the brand, but I couldn't resist the good deal. There's not much info about these inks online yet, and I'm pretty slow at working through them, so I'd love to exchange thoughts on the colors as you try the rest of them. I think I'll bump Midnight Horizon up the queue!








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