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Deatramentis Ink - Contamination Warning



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I decided to post this as a separate public service thread, so people can take steps they think are appropriate. Problems can happen with any product. The measure of a great company is how it gets resolved and dealt with. I have absolutely no connections, relationships, or "axe to grind" with any ink/pen/paper manufacturer or retailer. I have never received any form of reimbursement or favors from any company related to the topic of pens, inks, paper, etc. I have a simple love of pens, inks, paper, and writing--like most of you in this forum. I still love the variety and creativity that DeAtramentis inks exhibit.

 

In Feb/March 2010, I ordered 56 bottles of (Dr. Jansen's) DeAtramentis inks through Art Browns store in New York City--in the older pie-shaped bottles that fit 8 into a circular pie. I guess these bottles were a phased out novelty, but a small quantity were remaining in Germany and Jansen was willing to sell them to me, rather than the typical round bottles.

 

Shortly after arrival in March, 2010, I was admiring the color held up to a light, and thought I noticed something moving around inside. With a bright LED light placed behind the narrow wedge part of the glass, (mainly in the more visible yellow/orange/red colors) I surprisingly confirmed that many bottles had floating pieces, thread-like strands, and some with a suggestion of slime. I had never seen an ink bottle with fungus, so I was not sure what I was seeing. In late March, I decided to notify Art Brown's who passed my concerns on to Dr. Jansen in Germany. At their request, I sent the 14 worst bottles to Art Brown's so they could see what I was talking about, and they confirmed the SITB. They briefly looked at their stock of round bottles, and didn't see anything similar. However, they did not use an extremely bright light or LED as I instructed.

 

This was some of what I tried to capture, but photographing a bright light shining through glass does not show up very well:

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Fuchsia-1.jpg

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Fuchsia-2.jpg

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Fuchsia-3.jpg

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Yellow-Orange-1.jpg

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Yellow-Orange-2.jpg

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Yellow-Orange-3.jpg

 

I received a replacement set of 14 from Germany, with a confident explanation from Jansen that the problem was related to uncleaned wedge-shaped bottles from an Italian supplier (which he reported being very upset with and would not be using them again). While waiting for these replacements, I looked more closely at some of the darker inks. With an even brighter LED, I could now see more SITB problems in many of the remaining 42 bottles, but darker inks were very hard to confirm. As a result of more phone calls and emails, a completely new set of 56 replacement bottles were sent to me in late April by Dr. Jansen, so now I had exactly two bottles of each ink, and thought the problem was resolved. I offered to send the remaining original 42 bottles back to Art Brown's, but Dr. Jansen just asked that they be destroyed instead.

 

While waiting for the 2nd complete set of 56 replacements, and as I was about to dump the original 42 bottles, I wisely took a first look at the 14 (lighter color inks) replacements. I was shocked to again see the same contaminants, all of which were large enough to see with the naked eye, and easilly clog a feed. I honestly could not believe what I was seeing in a set of replacement bottles.

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Inks/Deat-SITBs.jpg

 

 

I didn't say anything until receiving the 2nd complete set of 56 replacements. First thing I did was to look with LED light behind the newest of those 14 lighter color inks, as this was now a 3rd batch of these inks. Again the same problem was easily visible to the eye. I was really really shocked now, because this meant that Dr. Jansen was not even inspecting replacements being sent out to fix a problem that could harm his company's reputation. Before calling Art Brown's again, I decided to look at the fiber-like threads under various microscopic lenses, including a 100X oil-immersion lens. Again, these fibers were easily visible to the naked eye, and held together when I picked them out of the bottle with tweezers. They even resisted tearing while trying to tease them apart with the tweezers on the slide!

 

Because they had this much strength, I knew they were not yeast/mold, and I suspected either synthetic (fabric or carpet fibers), or perhaps plant (cellulose) strands. Some of them were approximately the size of a human hair, and some were tangled in clumps slighly less than a mm in diameter. I did not see any nuclei, so my attention being drawn to the strands, left me guessing that this was a physical contaminant dust with some artificial/plant fibers that Jansen was not filtering out at the source. I did not look initially for fungal or yeast cells, but they were not readily obvious among the strands.

 

I now began further conversations with the owners of Art Browns who were again as shocked as I was to hear about this--especially since they have been selling the brand for a while now, and mine was the first complaint received. Because of that, I asked one of their senior staff to humor me, and personally go pick up their round bottles of the lightest colors and look more closely against a really bright light for similar problems (red-orange, ruby-red, poppy-red, yellow-orange). This time, she did now see the same contaminants in their round bottles which is harder to see than the narrow wedge-shaped ones I had. I felt vindicated and had confirmation that these contaminants were coming from the German factory, and was not related to dirty wedge-shaped bottles, or the batches of ink used just to fill them. Time-wise, this notification happened around May 4th.

 

Since then, I got my microscope out again. I centrifuged samples from 4 inks. Pipetted the bottom concentrated portion of the test tube onto slides, and now also saw copious budding yeast/fungal cells that I knew how to recognize. To confirm, I added 10% KOH to hydrolyze other possible contaminants in one tube; Tryphon's Sterilink in two more tubes, and a drop of phenol into a 4th tube. The results of the KOH, & yeast cell engorgement and/or lysis with the biocides confirmed I had yeast/fungal infections, in addition to the fiberous/particulate contamination in all 4 bottles.

 

I had not heard anything back from either Dr. Jansen or Art Browns in over 2 weeks, so I called and told them about the new yeast/mold discovery on May 18th, and why I was not looking for it earlier. They were not at all happy about more bad news, and told me the last they heard since notification on May 7th, Dr. Jansen has been looking at his equipment and procedures, but no answers yet. In emails I received before May, Dr. Jansen seemed upset and angry about this issue being brought to him, and the commensurate expenses it is costing for him to address this. I have endeavored to remain friendly, easy going, neutral, and factual in all of my communications with both Art Browns and Dr. Jansen.

 

I was relieved to find the contamination independently confirmed by Art Brown's staff, as it moved beyond it being something only I was observing. There has yet to be any definative answer or proposed resolution, and for now, I have not pursued a course of asking for a full refund. Instead, I bought some bottles, transfer pipettes, filter paper, disposable funnels, and Tryphon's Sterilink. Although it is time consuming, I'm filtering the ink into clean, sterilzed (with clorox), rinsed bottles, treating with 8-10 drops of Tryphon Sterilink, sterilizing/cleaning original bottle, before transferring ink back. I plan on letting them sit, unused for 2-3 months before microscopic/gross reexamination & possible use in my pens. As you might imagine, the time to filter and sterilize 112 original and temporary holding bottles is quite time consuming, and only something a pen/ink fanatic could appreciate doing. It's also a chance to learn first hand about inks. I have a pH meter arriving this week which is something else I want to check on all my various inks.

 

In no way should this construe any negative impact on Art Browns, who have been totally supportive, understanding, friendly, and only looking for answers/resolution from Dr. Jansen. Apparently, I was the first person bringing any issue with Jansen's ink to their attention, and they are actively engaged in trying to get this resolved. I realize my posts have negative repercussions on DeAtramentis Inks, and I have made sure of many facts, taken many photots, and had many phone calls and emails before deciding to post this information.

Edited by SamCapote

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

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After filtering one 35ml bottle of Yellow-Orange, I examined the Advantec filter paper, and clearly identified multiple strands that I tried to capture with closeup shots on three different views. The fine strands are real, and you can see them on the larger high-resolution images linked by thumbs below. After transfer of ink back to original bottles, now they will sit for a few months to see how Tryphon works. I found that the Phenol I have is not fully water soluable. There is a oil-like property it has, with a small amount floating on top of water, and the rest condensing out on the bottom...so I'm just using Tryphon's Sterilink.

 

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Inks/Deat-SITB2s.jpg

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Inks/Deat-SITB3s.jpg

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Inks/Deat-SITB4s.jpg

 

 

I sort of have an assembly line setup for my filtering of all the bottles, sterilizing one set with Clorox while using another. SITB in the darker inks that is more visible as I empty, and how fast it filters through the paper.

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Inks/Deat-SITB5s.jpg

 

So far, twenty bottles are all leaving "stuff" on the filter paper....and by "Stuff," I don't mean pigment dye particulates. I've stopped doing microscopic analysis after seeing the same in bottle after bottle.

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

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scribbler77

Thank you very much for posting this, Sam.

 

I have 20 bottles of De Atramentis purchased last year from Rolf Thiel, who has always given me excellent service. All my bottles are the standard round ones. I have not used them all and have tested only a few, but I have three in my regular rotation at present.

 

I just took out of my drawer several of those with lighter colors and can see nothing extraneous with my naked eye. I've checked five or six and see no sign of fungus. Therefore, it would seem that the problem must be a recent one, and one that affects the production across the line.

 

I should note that I do not have any of the inks based on consumables such as wine and beer; I have been dubious that those colors would last and wondered whether they were properly buffered for fungus and other contamination that would come naturally with natural substances. I do have six of the "perfumed" inks, two mimicking flowers (Rose and Hyacinth) and four of different colors labled Schmetterlingsgarten (Butterfly Garden) I thru IV. I use the Rose and Hyacinth inks regularly because I like the color and flow and the scent is not unpleasant.

 

As for the pie-slice-shaped bottles, I don't know whether they come from the same supplier, but I have several (15 to be exact) from Callifolio in France. They look like the ones I have seen in pictures of earlier De Atramentis ink in bottles of that shape. There is no detectible contamination in the Callifolio ink, which I now have for about nine months. If the bottles come from the same supplier in Italy, then they are not likely to be the source of the problem.

 

I am only guessing, and have no material reason to defend or condemn de Atramentis (or any other ink brand), but I wonder if Dr. Jensen's use of wine and beer and perhaps other substances that involve fungal activity has not brought about a general contamination in his lab. If so, he is facing a very serious problem, and he should thank you for bringing it to his attention before more purchasers discover the problems you have identified.

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I am only guessing, and have no material reason to defend or condemn de Atramentis (or any other ink brand), but I wonder if Dr. Jensen's use of wine and beer and perhaps other substances that involve fungal activity has not brought about a general contamination in his lab. If so, he is facing a very serious problem, and he should thank you for bringing it to his attention before more purchasers discover the problems you have identified.

 

+1

 

I have always been dubious about the beer/wine inks. If he is actually using beer and wine how could be get rid of the yeast and/or prevent it from contaminating the rest of his lab? It's a neat concept nonetheless.

 

Thanks for all your hard work Sam. I'm glad you decided to make a general post about it. You might consider contacting Pear Tree Pens to see if they have the same findings. They are the only other company in the US that is carrying current production DeAtramentis (IIRC).

Equal Opportunity Ink and Fountain Pen User.

 

My blog: The Dizzy Pen

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If they see my post (Pear Tree), that's good enough for me. I don't want to seem like I'm on a crusade to notify all retailers. This is more of a concern for the end users. Scribbler, remember it is EXTREMELY hard to see the floating materials in any of the inks other than the yellow/orange/clear reds. All of the wine colored ones for example are way too dark to see. I have a big advantage with mostly examining the very narrow inner part of the wedge bottle. Plus I'm using a 200 lumen Fenix P3D LED light. Holding it up to a lightbulb or the sky won't penetrate the round bottles, except: yellow-orange, red-orange, poppy-red, carmine-red.

 

This is also a pretty good test of the Tryphon Sterilink, although I'm putting in twice as much as they recommend. I ordered a bulk $75 supply of it, when I saw my Phenol was not water soluable. LOL! I have talked to the gentleman running that Tryphon company several times to get his opinion on all this. His overall take home message was to return all the DeAt ink, and stick with Pelikan, Waterman, Montblanc, and Sheaffer Skrip...but I'm too adventuresome for such an easy solution.

Edited by SamCapote

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

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Thanks very much for the warning and your thorough investigations. De Atramentis and Art Brown should thank you, too.

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Wow! Scary stuff in the ink, but that made for fascinating reading, and thanks for doing such strenuous research.

<font size="1">Inked: Pelikan 400nn, Pilot VP, Pelikan M400, Pelikan M200, Pelikan 400, Pelikan M101n, Esterbrook SJ<br> | <a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/27410410@N05/>Flickr</a> <br></font>

 

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Sam, thanks for your rerport. More important than a simple review saying how much you admire the ink!

I have a few De Atramentis too, but all in the round bottles. I immediately checked everything and they all seem okay. Even/especially all scented stuff like strawberry, hyacinth, orange, blackberry.

I do hope that you have now completely resolved all difficulties in the batches you order.

Maybe I have overseen this in the above posts, but what are the chances that it all involves beer/wine ink derivatives?

 

Mike

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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Ooops ....I have just bought two (rather expensive) botts of deA Pinot Noir from Rolf, so I am hoping not to have any of these problems :(

 

First impressions are that it flows nicely but is not of a very distinctive colour compared with some other dark reds.

Still, with the price I paid, I'd be reluctant to dump it, on the off-chance of its being contaminated.

If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; But if you really make them think, they'll hate you.

 

Don Marquis

US humorist (1878 - 1937)

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This is probably a dumb question...

 

Could ink be (carefully) brought to a boil in a microwave to sterilize the bottle and the ink?

I put a few drops of Sterile Ink into all of my bottles and have never had a problem, but I wonder if bringing the ink and bottle to a temperature that would kill organisms would be effective.

 

I "can" fruits and process jams and chutneys with boiling water and haven't had any bacterial contamination.

 

The pie shaped bottle of ink is a unique idea.

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saintsimon

The explanation with "the Italian bottle supplier" is somewhat hard to believe, because many independent european ink manufakturers (Diamine, De Atramentis (round bottle, too), Callifolio and others ) use the bottles of Vetrerie Italiane Foresta and there is no universal SITB problem beyond DA production. Just look at the underside of the bottles to see the manufacturer.

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Could ink be (carefully) brought to a boil in a microwave to sterilize the bottle and the ink?

By no means a dumb question!

 

I'd say that that is not only okay but also a good idea. We've done that for years with fruits, sauces before freezing but also prior to storing in a cool/dark place like in the basement.... all with success.

I usually sterilize any suspected inks just by sterile filtering them e.g. over a 0.2 µm filter on a syringe. Make sure the filter is not just for cell culture etc but also for organic solvents.

I can't rule out that there are any "remains" or "excretions" from the mould/bacteria etc but the main thing is that any particulate matter has been removed (both for your tummy and your pen).

 

Mike

Life is too short to drink bad wine (Goethe)

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shiroboshi

Sam,

 

I have some very decent Leica Microscopes (standard optical and polarised) and a couple of reasonably good electron microscope systems at my disposal. If you still have the fibres and if they can be shipped in some for or another (folded in paper or such) I'd be happy to have a go at them. One of the SEMs does have an EDX attached to it as well, which could help with compositional analysis.

 

Material Analysis is what I do for a living :)

 

Marc

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picautomaton

Great postings, love the detail and info. I look forward to updates.

"One Ink-drop on a solitary thought hath moved the minds of millions" - P R Spencer

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Sam,

 

I have some very decent Leica Microscopes (standard optical and polarised) and a couple of reasonably good electron microscope systems at my disposal. If you still have the fibres and if they can be shipped in some for or another (folded in paper or such) I'd be happy to have a go at them. One of the SEMs does have an EDX attached to it as well, which could help with compositional analysis.

 

Material Analysis is what I do for a living :)

 

Marc

 

*THAT* would be just cool!!!!

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The explanation with "the Italian bottle supplier" is somewhat hard to believe, because many independent european ink manufakturers (Diamine, De Atramentis (round bottle, too), Callifolio and others ) use the bottles of Vetrerie Italiane Foresta and there is no universal SITB problem beyond DA production. Just look at the underside of the bottles to see the manufacturer.

 

Initially, it seemed like a plausible explanation if the bottles had been sitting in a warehouse, uncapped. Upon arrival of the replacement batch of 14, and then complete set of 56, that no longer made sense to me...assuming Jansen would have taken steps to clean before shipping again. Getting confirmation that Art Browns saw the same in their lighter colored round bottles was the clincher though. For reference, this page does look like the bottles from that company you mentioned. On the bottom it has the letters & 3 symbols:

 

MOD.DEP.

 

Triangle Rectangle 2 horizontal lines

 

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h75/pike444/Inks/Deat-SITB6s.jpg

 

Sam,

 

I have some very decent Leica Microscopes (standard optical and polarised) and a couple of reasonably good electron microscope systems at my disposal. If you still have the fibres and if they can be shipped in some for or another (folded in paper or such) I'd be happy to have a go at them. One of the SEMs does have an EDX attached to it as well, which could help with compositional analysis.

 

Material Analysis is what I do for a living :)

 

Marc

 

Darn! I did all the light colored inks, tossed the funnel with filters, and looking in the garbage bag, it has two days of coffee grounds, egg salad that went bad, banana peel, potato peels, so that is a lost cause. Very hard to see fibers on the dark ink filters, but let me see what is on the rest of the filter papers, as I'm only 1/3 done. I'll call Art Browns later this week, and ask if they kept the first batch of 14 bottles...but I think they tossed them and doubt they want to go to more lost shipping expenses dealing with this.

With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

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All I have to add, besides my interest, is that caution should be taken with microwaving or otherwise heating the inks- we don't know how it could affect the ink, so test a small bit first if you don't want to lose some expensive ink ;)

http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/606/letterji9.png
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Thanks for bringing this to the attention of the community. Unfortunately, I have run into schmutz in some DeA. 2 mm long bits in two of five recently purchased bottles is enough to put me off. The other three colors are too dark to see what, if anything, make lurk inside. Even if the pieces I saw are inert, at that size those things can still clog a feed. Such a waste as the colors are excellent.

Edited by Margana

A certified Inkophile

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