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.