Noodler's #41 Brown does what it was created to do, and it does it very well. Will it win an award for the best behaving, best shading, and best sheening brown ink ever created? No. It should, however, win an award for being a ridiculously awesome bulletproof brown ink. I love it for that reason and highly recommend it.
Quick stats if you don’t want to read all the details:
Flow/Lubrication: 2 of 5
Saturation: 4 of 5
Shading: 3 of 5 on Tomoe River; not much on standard papers
Water-Resistance: 5 of 5
Dry Time (FP friendly): <30 sec
Dry Time (non-FP friendly): <5 sec!
Smearing (dry): none
Cleaning & Maintenance: above-average (needed more frequently)
Staining: possible on converters and demonstrators - easily remedied with diluted bleach
Buy again: absolutely - will always have in my collection
*A quick side note...This is my first ink review. Also, my photo editing skills aren't the best. Hilarious combination.*
I love brown inks and #41 Brown was one of the first bottles of ink I bought years ago. It is a dark and deep sepia color, according to the founder of Noodler’s Ink. My first thoughts when seeing it on paper, ‘Yep, that’s brown.’ Anytime I want a bombproof brown ink, this is the first bottle I reach for in my collection.
Lamy 2000 fine - Tomoe River (yep, I mistakenly went from 'h' to'j' hahha)
TWSBI Vac 700 broad - Tomoe River
Lamy 2000 fine & TWSBI Vac700 broad - Leuchtturm1917
Noodler’s 3oz glass bottles are simple and functional, filled to the brim. Here’s a closer look at the label on the bottle (read Mr. Tardiff’s description of the ink for more backstory):
If you want the best behaving brown ink you’ve ever experienced in your fountain pen’s life, this isn’t for you. #41 Brown doesn’t behave badly, but it does require careful pen maintenance (as does every other highly water-resistant ink regardless of brand and color). I would not leave this ink unused in a pen for very long. It wants to work, not to sit idly waiting around for days or weeks at a time. As long as you use your pens often and clean them regularly, you’ll be fine. Even better if it’s a pen you can easily disassemble.
Compared to regular fountain pen inks, water-resistant and bulletproof inks tend to dry out on the nib a bit more quickly when left uncapped - #41 is no different. As long as you’re conscious of this and keep your pen capped when not writing, it should pose no issue. During extended sessions, I had no problems with the nib drying out as long as I kept writing. When I did leave the cap off too long, a quick wipe on a paper towel (or my finger) had the ink flowing again.
Dry times were weird on Rhodia and Tomoe River (anywhere from 8-30 seconds pending on how much ink pooled) and exceptional on lesser quality paper (under 5 seconds!). If you’re a lefty or anyone who needs a fast drying ink and you use standard paper more often than Rhodia or Tomoe River, #41 Brown is a great option.
Tomoe River (smears you see are my fault - my cat kept jumping on the desk...)
There was little to no feathering on every paper I tried, including a junk-mail envelop and a Walmart spiral notebook. Impressive! No bleedthrough and little to no show-through. It’s a drier ink which is awesome if you’ll be writing on lower quality papers. On FP friendly papers, a juicy nib will work best (that is, of course, just MY preference).
There is some shading with wetter lines on Tomoe River and Rhodia.
How about the bulletproof & waterproofness qualities?
On Rhodia and Tomoe River, a tiny bit of ink slightly smeared with a wet finger (and I do mean tiny). On all other paper where every bit of ink could bond with the fibers, nothing moved.
Here are a few quick comparisons to some of the other brown inks I have:
I must admit, I'm biased. I love Noodler’s Ink & Nathan Tardiff and have a keen appreciation for his water-resistant & bulletproof inks (as well as his mission). When I was first getting into fountain pens, I only wanted waterproof inks and Noodler’s was the first brand recommended to me. It wasn’t until I had a dozen or more bottles of Noodler’s bulletproof inks that I started exploring other non-bulletproof inks and other brands. Though I have a wide variety of inks now, from most brands and companies, I always have at least a couple of pens in my rotation filled with Noodler’s bulletproof inks.