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The ‘Right’ Way To Do Ink Reviews To Serve One's Curiosity And Interests?

ink characteristics review methodology

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#1 A Smug Dill

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 07:22

LizEF's recent question/thread in this forum section – and the fact that I frivolously ordered and picked up 26 new bottles of different inks yesterday – have me pondering, how does one go about systematically reviewing inks, from planning to execution, so that the ‘work products’ out of the expended effort (and resources, including the inks themselves) are meaningful and useful?
 
Yes, I've read the pinned topics at the top in the Ink Reviews section, including specifically ‘Suggestions For What To Include In An Ink Review’, and read many great and helpful reviews of different inks by esteemed fellow forum members, from which each I glean bits and pieces of what I want to know about an ink. visvamitra and crahptacular, as (notable, but of course not the only) exemplars of seasoned and thorough reviewers, obviously have well-practised procedures and systems for doing ink reviews. But do most of the rest of us just fill a (spare?) pen up with a new ink, start scribbling, and let our thoughts and impressions come to us?
 
Right now I'm pondering buying extra pens – and other equipment and incidental consumables – for testing, but part of me thinks it's going over the top, while another part of me thinks it actually goes against the spirit of a user review, not the least in consideration of: Would my review have been the one-stop-shop that would have covered at least 90% of what I want to know about an ink, the next time I consider when, on what and in which pen to use a particular ink, or whether I want to buy more of it if (say) a special retail offer for it comes onto my radar? (Getting ink samples in retail or commercially is, for all intents and purposes, not an option readily available to Australian fountain pen users, so I'm always thinking of a financial commitment of A$15–A$45 a bottle of ink delivered.)

 

In particular, it's almost as if the only ‘fair’ and meaningful way to test for ‘wetness’ is to use something like a cheap (Platinum/Pilot/Sailor) desk pen with EF nib – that I suspect none of us use seriously and frequently, not for any shortcoming in product quality – as a de facto standard (from the perspective of a particular individual reviewer) to see whether the ink flows decently down the feed and the slit, and to compare the line width laid down on a particular type (or even batch) of paper, since there is no practical, objective metric the average reviewer can use for measuring ‘wetness’ or viscosity, with or without a specific use case in mind. I'm not going to keep a duplicate or second unit of my ‘favourite’/‘EDC’ pen for ink testing and review purposes only, and I dislike flushing and cleaning a ‘fine’ fountain pen after 30 minutes of intermittent use during testing, and wasting time, effort and ink through inevitable unproductive loss in the process. In any case, I know from experience that, say, my two new Platinum #3776 Balance pens with F nibs (in the same model, just of different barrel colours) seem to behave noticeably differently, so it's just so difficult to isolate what is the characteristic of the ink itself (as opposed to variation in the nibs, pens, paper, ambient temperature, etc.) as opposed to making a forecast for a specific future use case.

 

Then there are things that I'd like to know about, but not by engineering a situation where it could happen, just to see whether it does or not. For example, whether an ink would stain the white surface of my writing desk. I do have eight or so demonstrator pens, but I don't want to use them specifically to test whether an ink would stain a clear demonstrator, 1. because (I believe) nobody in his/her right mind wants to stain a clear demonstrator pen he/she owns and most likely paid for; and 2. choosing to use a demonstrator has inherent risk, and so I only buy cheap demonstrators (the most expensive being a clear Sailor Lecoule). I have no interest in whether an ink would stain a $200 Platinum #3776 Century Nice Pure, and I don't really want anyone else to have to find out through first-hand (but unwanted) experience either for the purpose of a review, either.

 

How to strike the right balance of effort (and risk) against value (and meaning) in doing ink reviews still evades me.



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#2 Uncial

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 09:06

I tend to buy an ink primarily on the basis of its colour rather than properties. Sometimes this has meant getting an ink that is a little drier than I'd hoped or one that doesn't play particularly well in all pens. It's always good to know if there is an issue with an ink that would cause someone pause for thought. 

 

I don't do reviews here because I don't have a scanner and photos on the phone (that have to be greatly reduced to match the upload limits here) can alter the colour dramatically. For my own records I usually note if there is shading, sheen, bleed through, show through, feathering or dryness/heavy flow. If I find a pen that the ink doesn't suit, I usually add a note as a reminder. I also add a smear test but I don;t do water tests as I'm not really that interested in water proofness. If an ink stains a pen I usually put a little sticker warning on the bottle to ensure I don;t put it in a demo.

 

When there are threads here on an ink I use I add whatever notes I have on it that aren't already there. 



#3 Karmachanic

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 09:24

This from a consumer of ink reviews.

 

In that no two reviews are the same in the description of a particular ink, they are a subjective reflection of a subjective experience. Which is why I look at several reviews of a particular ink, to develop a rough generic image of said ink.

 

I don't find reviews using $1000 pens with exotic grinds or nibs particularly helpful. These instruments are not what the vast majority of the pen world population use. Most of use don't own OBBB or fine dip nibs. Those that do can generally extrapolate ink characteristics from F, M, B and 1.1 nibs shown. The obverse, not so much. Vintage nibs on vintage pen ink reviews are also not particularly useful.

 

My subjectively useful reviews use a variety of pens in the $5-200 range, showing at least three nib sizes, on a variety of papers. Dry times give me enough information to work with for wetness.

 

Having done my homework I'll purchase a sample, choose a pen and immerse the nib/feed for 60 seconds. No need to fill, and easier to clean. That gives me enough ink to determine if I am going to purchase that ink. If I am then I have enough remaing ink from the sample for one or two fills.

 

As for staining, there's plenty of information on that subject available for those who are willing to find it.

 

A user review using a particular pen, with a particular nib, is somewhat useful for those owning the same. A limited audience.

 

I suggest you determine your intended audience, then write reviews for them, using the appropriate pens and nibs. Niche or general population. Go from there and develop your style and technique as you go along.

 

Good Luck!!


Edited by Karmachanic, 06 September 2018 - 09:26.

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#4 crahptacular

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 10:38

I wondered about many of the same things when I decided to start doing reviews. For me, reviewing is something I do for fun and a way to better familiarize myself with my own inks and pens, but I do try to keep the reader in mind. At first, I was very concerned with providing practical, objective data for readers--it would be great if a review could convey exactly how an ink looks and behaves. Of course, this is impossible, and everyone understands that "YMMV" is the de facto standard for reviews, but that was the ideal I had in mind. The second goal was to write reviews that would be useful to all readers, not only those with similar use patterns as myself.

 

In pursuit of the latter goal, I tried to provide a healthy variety of applications in each review--I alternate writing with script, print, and capitals, I use four papers with different levels of absorbancy, and I always include one finer nib (F/EF), one broader nib (B or wide stubs/italics), a flexible dip nib, and some type of brushwork. However, I don't force myself to do things that I don't enjoy or things that would take an inconvenient amount of effort. For example, I generally don't use medium nibs so I don't include them, even though I know many people would like to see medium writing samples. I don't do chromatography tests because I found it to be too much of a hassle (though I can always note the number of component dyes as a byproduct of doodling with ink washes). I don't do dry time tests because I don't have the patience.There are also things that are almost purely selfish--I do my doodles just because it's fun for me, and I use big smears of ink for my comparisons because that's how I envision the colors in my mental catalogue. Plenty of people find those kinds of smears useless for practical applications, but I wouldn't have the patience to ink up every one of my comparison inks to do a written sample instead. I use whatever paper I'm curious to try, not necessarily the most commonly used papers (for example, I rarely use Rhodia, though it's quite popular). And so on...

 

As far as the former goal, I wasn't willing to make many concessions. I wouldn't enjoy using the same set of pens for review every time, even though it would provide better control and objectivity. I don't have a proper setup to calibrate colors with scans and/or photos (in fact, I gave up on photos because my lighting was so poor that I was afraid of misleading people with the pictures I took). Instead, I just try to describe my experience as well as possible so that when there are factors that would drastically effect the ink's appearance (wetness of nibs, inadequacy of scanner, etc.) at least readers are warned that what I show them is possibly inaccurate or misleading. There is definitely a lot I could do better in terms of providing objective data, but I choose not to because I don't want reviewing to feel more like a chore than a pleasure. As a compromise, rather than making my reviews more objective, I chose to better qualify the subjective aspects.

 

In short, I think the "right balance" is just as subjective as anything else when it comes to reviews. My personal rules are: if it's something you strongly dislike, don't do it; if it's something you enjoy, do it. Everything in the middle you can experiment with to see what suits you. If you're feeling unsure, I suggest you think about the reviews you have read that were particularly useful and then shamelessly copy them. I know that for my own case, Vis and Lg's reviews (among many others!) were inspirations for me--if you see my older reviews, I tried for a while to make ink splashes that looked as good as Lg's, but there was simply no comparison :lol:

 

Anyway, there's no right answer. Hopefully my experience is helpful to you, whether or not our opinions and priorities align. At the end of the day, I'm a firm believer that every review is a great review. I think if you simply write your own style of review with no thought given to others' desires, we readers would appreciate them nonetheless!



#5 minddance

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 10:44

For a start, since fountain pen inks are the subject here, fountain pens ought to be used.

Then it boils down to whether the reviewer has the agenda to make inks look good or want to serve/help viewers or both.

Diamine Autumn Oak, for example, can be very atrractive with super wet dip pens with big fonts. But it is barely legible with some Japanese EF nibs. We cannot say a Pelikan m1000 bb is not a fountain pen, nor a Platinum Preppy EF is not.

Dip pens and q tips are not fountain pens.

Fountain pens are subject to flow and wetness of ink. Ability to flow through a fountain pen are therefore important for proper writing and legibility.

Fountain pen inks must, at the very least, serve fountain pens and the purpose of writing with them, unless we are discussing about other forms of ink.

Ink properties and colour are important to me. And these two qualities are never quite independent, especially in more complex inks which show rather different colours when ink flow varies. In such a case, ink properties can determine what colour one gets.

Some inks simply do not work very well with certain nibs/types of nib. And I don't suppose we ought to tune the nib to any particular ink.

#6 Uncial

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 11:02

It's always useful to state what pen is used for the review and if it is a wet writer or not. Some inks can appear quite dramatically different in very wet nibs. Dip pens are certainly the most difficult to get any kind of handle on what an ink will actually look like in a pen. That's where I think smears can come in handy because they show the underlying base colour.



#7 LizEF

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 15:33

Lots of good info here.  As a review consumer, I come at it from two angles:

 

1) Some reviews are simply visual pleasures - crahptacular, Visvamitra, LG, and Tas's ramblings (sorry if I've missed some) come to mind.  I read them all, even if I'm not remotely interested in the ink.  If I am, they also tell me useful things.

 

2) Others are useful for telling me something about the ink, but may not particularly include that visual pleasure - they're just the facts.

 

When considering whether to try an ink, I include the following:

  • What color is it - for this, I do a google image search and look for a variety of images - I weight some more heavily than others because experience has taught me whether they're close to what I see in real life.  I know full well color is not going to come through exactly like what my naked eyes will see.  If I really like the color (better / differently than what I've already got), it goes on my mental wish list.
  • I then read and watch YouTube multiple reviews - again, giving weight to reviewers I feel like have historically given information that matches my experience (this, of course, takes a long time to figure out).

If I like the color, and none of those reviews have given me a reason not to get the ink - I order a sample.  And that's the thing - I'm looking at reviews mostly to decide whether to not get the ink - e.g. pictures of the nib with mountains of crud built up may look cool, but doesn't seem worth it to me (they're usually reds and oranges, and nice as those colors are, they're not my favorites - otherwise, it might be worth it); nasty staining or some other undesirable property might convince me not to bother.

 

As long as nothing tells me to not try an ink, it moves from my mental wish list to one of my store wish lists.



#8 torstar

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 15:40

Do whatever you want, especially if it is creative.



#9 ErrantSmudge

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 15:54

For me, I'm interested in the color, followed by how well the ink behaves.  Will it clog my pen, will it bleed and feather.  Is it a dry ink or a wet ink.  How long does it take to dry.   I've written a few ink reviews, and I used that as the basis for my review script.

 

Think about the things that are meaningful to you.  But don't over-think it.



#10 JakobS

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 16:20

I am pretty simple in my needs:

 

What does the color look like in something like a medium nib, in order get an idea of where it can go with a finer or broader nib?

 

Other than that, I generally don't care about how sheeny or shady it is, or how wet/dry, or how it behaves, unless it looks like latex paint coming out the nib, because after so long you come to realize these are all very subjective to the user, to the pen/s, and to the paper that is used even if a half dozen types are presented...if I like the color enough I will give it a try and let my own experience decide. 

 

I am not one to get too philosophical about inks, nor do I make check lists, or ink cards, fade tests, or water tests. Simply, does the ink color interest me enough to write with it?

 

Perhaps I am not a great representative for gleaning info from an ink review.... :)


Edited by JakobS, 06 September 2018 - 16:29.

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#11 amberleadavis

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 16:56

Don't forget to look at these:

 

Check for these threads under CRVs - our very own forum for CoRazyViews or Group Reviews. 
http://www.fountainp...-co-razy-views/

 

Reviews
 
In the Beginning:



 


First, which ink do you pick?
 
Now, which papers do you use?
 
So, which pen or pens do you use?

 
Next:
 

Digital Capture - Scan Or Photos

 

Capturing the true color of ink:
Presenting Realistic Color http://www.fountainp...er-and-monitor/

 

What information do you want to see in a review?  What is important?  What is just nice?

 
Uploading:
 
 

Uploading Your Images


 


Fountain pens are my preferred COLOR DELIVERY SYSTEM (in part because crayons melt in Las Vegas).

 

Want to get a special letter / gift from me, then create a Ghostly Avatar  

 

Participate in the newest Inky TODs: 

Why do I like those nibs? 

What do I like about my handwriting? 

Whose handwriting do I like?  

Which Script Will I learn? 

Which Inks for my Handwriting

 

Ink comparisons:  The Great PPS Comparison  366 Inks in 2016

 

Check out inks sorted by color:  Blue Purple Brown  Red Green Orange Black  Pinks  Yellows  Blue-Blacks Grey/Gray UVInks Turquoise/Teal


#12 A Smug Dill

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Posted 06 September 2018 - 18:14

Thank you all very much for your input, including some which managed to (again) elicit a strong negative reaction from me; all of that is helping me clarify my thinking.

Of course I agree that this is first and foremost, in name and in deed, a fountain pen centric discussion forum, and so the inks ought to be suitable (and advertised as safe) for use in fountain pens to be relevant, unless the reviewer is specifically investigating the potential for a particular unsuitable ink to permanently damage a fountain pen or temporarily degrade its performance.

However, I disagree that the use of dip pens, q-tips, kitchen-use paper towels or laboratory-grade filter paper is inappropriate in reviews, when they can serve to provide either a frame of reference (or some way for the reviewer and/or reader to calibrate) or a means to perform technical analysis (such as by chromatography).

I also don't agree with the characterisation that some reviewers try (too hard?) to make inks look good. I think it's a worthwhile thing for a reviewer to demonstrate the positive potential of the ink being reviewed, to the extent his/her capabiility, artistry and investment allows. There's nothing wrong with someone favouring expensive papers and using them to show what an ink can do; if the reader don't have an interest in making his/her own application to which the ink is put look as good, or he/she is not as prepared to invest in expensive papers to get good outcomes even though he/she would certainly enjoy getting visually pleasing results from using a fountain pen, that's a perfectly fine choice for the individual to consciously make. I personally think its great if a review can make the reader understand that if he/she is not getting equally ‘beautiful’ results, it's because of the limits or shortcomings in his/her own abilities and/or willingness to invest, but the ink (or its manufacturer) is not shortchanging the reader as a user or customer.

As for the reviewer's more ‘practical’ demonstrations of his/her everyday use cases, shouldn't the fundamental idea be that a reader who shares 100% of the reviewer's interests and concerns will find the content 100% useful, even though it may not comprehensively cover everything the reader might want to know, and therefore he/she will have to also look at alternative sources of supplementary information. If the reader only shares 60% of the reviewer's interests and concerns, then the content will be 60% useful, such that producing the review and reading the review are both activities that deliver positive value to the reader; and so on. I stress that it's a user review, and so the reviewer, not the reader, is the primary stakeholder; the reviewer is not producing a report for stakeholders who commissioned the work, in order for their interests to be catered to and their concerns sufficiently addressed. A review is not a service to which the reader has any entitlement, or something that promises the reader a worthwhile return for the time and effort spent reading, even though of course no reviewer comes from a motivation to waste readers' time.

#13 A Smug Dill

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Posted 11 September 2018 - 03:00

Think about the things that are meaningful to you.  But don't over-think it.

 

 

OK, I now have a bunch of Sailor and Platinum desk pens with EF (and F) nibs on order from Rakuten. I haven't actually seen or handled any of those locally, but from my experience Sailor pens with cartridge/converter filling systems can be easily and fully disassembled, down to the components of the converter itself, so I think they would make suitable – cheap, disposable or ‘consumable’, but still reliable – tester pens, especially for specific interest in how an ink would perform when used with a ‘Japanese EF or F’ nib. In my household as well as at the office, writing in journals, and on Clairefontaine/Rhodia/Maruman perforated notepads, with fine nibs is the primary use case in which the appearance of our handwriting, as well as dry time and smearing, would actually matter to ourselves and/or to intended readers of the content. Water resistance is also a ‘concern’, although I can't remember the last time we actually got a page of our journal wet from rain, coffee, or accidentally dropping the journal into a puddle or pool.

 

For ‘broad’, I have an entry-level Sailor fude nib pen on order. The Duke pen with a fude nib I had could also be fully disassembled, but it doesn't write upside down, so I gave that away; otherwise that would probably also work well as a cheap tester. I guess the only testing I need to do with that is for shading on (Leuchtturm, Clairefontaine or Rhodia) paper used in fountain pen users' typical choice of journal, so I'll write a few large Chinese characters containing the various types of strokes. Who cares about shading potential on photocopy paper used for office documents?

 

I don't particularly care about eliciting sheen in any ‘practical’ use case I have, but I suppose the best way to check for or demonstrate sheen is to write on non-absorbent paper – such as stone paper (which nobody in their right mind would use for writing with water-based inks, I suspect, since it takes forever to dry).

 

For paper that is particular prone to feathering, I have a stack of A5 ‘Booqpad’ refills for my old Booq iPad covers. I had higher hopes for those, but unfortunately they really aren't much good for other than use with pencils and ballpoint pens. There's still a chance I might end up writing on them with a fountain pen at the office, so I don't think that's too far-fetched as a use case justifying the choice of paper.

 

If I can find some 90gsm offset paper used in book printing, I may test those as well for feathering, drying time and smearing, which would be important considerations for pen/ink choice for the use case of (my fiancée's) book-signing.

 

Spreading ink on the page, at varying levels of ink saturation, using a q-tip is probably useful in comparing inks of similar colours, even if I can't analyse a single swatch by some fixed standard or objective framework. Dip pen testing at different nib widths could show what different line widths at presumably the same type of flow would do to the appearance, even though that flow may not match the behaviour of an ink in a particular fountain pen I have (or the reader has).

 

I think that's pretty much what I'd want to know about an ink, when deciding whether to fill one of my ‘regular’ fountain pens with it and/or put it to a particular use.

 

 

Hmmm, naturally I'd want to know if an ink is apt to stain any part of my fountain pen – or the surface of my desk, for that matter! – but I don't think I particularly want to test that, especially if the goal is to know whether there is any unremovable stain after the ink has been sitting in/on something for a week or longer. I also don't want to test for clogging of the feed or nib by leaving a pen filled with an ink for a week, when I have 40 new colours of ink on order and I'd want to get some at-first-glance information on them.


Edited by A Smug Dill, 11 September 2018 - 03:08.


#14 Misfit

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 04:49

My humble suggestion is about photos. Some are not always lit well because the paper looks not quite right. I’ve taken photos like that.

I was looking at reviews of Diamine Prussian Blue. It did not look the same in photos (I know nib and paper can do that) so I was left with hoping the ink would look like the photo I liked best.

The ink was a gift to my brother so I still don’t know what it looks like in person.

I agree about wanting to know if the ink is dry or wet
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#15 A Smug Dill

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 08:32

@Misfit, I bought a colour calibration reference sheet to allow viewers of images to make (manual or mental) adjustments accordingly, but at this point my primary intent is to use it when I scan writing samples.

Apart from trying to show/emphasise sheen, which is often best seen when glancing at the page at an angle, for everything else (including shading, ghosting and bleed-through, but especially feathering and the after-effects of soaking) I think scanning at 300dpi or 600dpi would do a better job than taking a photo.

#16 Karmachanic

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Posted 13 September 2018 - 09:57

You may also find it helpful to calibrate your scanner and monitor. In this way you can have confidence that what you post is accurate. Of course including a reference in the review, as you mentioned and as Sandy1 does for example, is very helpful.


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#17 Bookman

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 00:19

I don't do ink reviews, although I comment on inks in other FPNers'.  If I thought I could top Sandy1 or if I wanted to cover other issues or aspects, I would.  But I can't and I don't.  Between Sandy1's reviews and visvamitra's color contributions, I'm covered.  Good luck, however, to other reviewers.


Edited by Bookman, 16 September 2018 - 00:20.

I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.

 

 

 


#18 TSherbs

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 01:45

Do whatever you want, .......

 

This.



#19 A Smug Dill

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Posted 16 September 2018 - 05:55

Thanks everyone for your replies and your input.

The discussion in this thread (and some others) has re-confirmed for me that there are three types of testing I could performing when reviewing an ink:

  • my (and my fiancée's) personal ‘practical’ use cases – on the papers I usually use, with the pens and nibs with which I usually write, for a number a different applications;
  • calibration – so that, in the absence of an objective set of metrics or standard, a reader of the review (including myself) could get his bearings against 'known' quantities, and then project into the arena of the unknown; and
  • discovering the characteristics, potential and limits of an ink – which need not be tied to my personal preferences in nibs and papers, and certainly will not be with regard to any other individual's stated preferences.

I know what my use cases are, and with the help of swatches and a variety of dip pen nibs I have, I should able to put down something useful for calibration. I'll need to work on the context-free (use case independent) testing for an ink's potential, however. 



#20 torstar

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Posted 17 September 2018 - 15:45

Thanks everyone for your replies and your input.

The discussion in this thread (and some others) has re-confirmed for me that there are three types of testing I could performing when reviewing an ink:

  • my (and my fiancée's) personal ‘practical’ use cases – on the papers I usually use, with the pens and nibs with which I usually write, for a number a different applications;
  • calibration – so that, in the absence of an objective set of metrics or standard, a reader of the review (including myself) could get his bearings against 'known' quantities, and then project into the arena of the unknown; and
  • discovering the characteristics, potential and limits of an ink – which need not be tied to my personal preferences in nibs and papers, and certainly will not be with regard to any other individual's stated preferences.

I know what my use cases are, and with the help of swatches and a variety of dip pen nibs I have, I should able to put down something useful for calibration. I'll need to work on the context-free (use case independent) testing for an ink's potential, however. 

 

 

just bring it!

 

ink reviews and pen reviews and total FP obsessives geeking out on here is a big part of my enjoyment in life...







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: ink, characteristics, review, methodology



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