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Some Powdered Vintage Inks - A Comparative Review


dcwaites
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It seems that powdered inks may have been quite popular in Australia during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, given the number of different types that I have been able to obtain from local eBay vendors. And it seems the reason then is the same reason there appears to be a current upsurge of interest in powdered inks — cost of shipping.

I have been able to source powdered inks from several manufacturers — Thistle, Angus, Webster Diamine and Simpson. I have already posted a review of the Webster Diamine ink here. Here, I am putting up a comparative review of the Thistle and Angus inks, as well as the two Simpson inks, Turquoise and Black.

Since I started collecting these powdered inks, they have now almost all disappeared from the Australian eBay market. For this reason, this review will be for historical purposes only, a brief view into the inks that were available from the late 19th to the mid 20th centuries.


Thistle Chemical Company Blue-Black

This ink comes in a glassine packet inside a paper envelope. The instructions say to dissolve the contents into 1 quart of water, thus making enough ink for a whole office full of clerks or a schoolhouse full of students. As made up, the ink is only suitable for dip pens, as it is far too dilute for fountain pens.

However, if made three times stronger, the ink then becomes suitable for an inexpensive fountain pen like a Platinum Preppy.

This ink is reasonably resistant to feathering , except on the poorest of papers. However, when used with a dip pen, even one with a smooth bowl-pointed nib, you will get some bleeding on middle-of-the-road papers like Maruman. That’s because the pen tips disturb the fibres of the surface of the paper, allowing the ink to penetrate further into it.

The ink is supposed to be Blue-Black, but when used at original strength with a dip pen it dries to what is really a dark green-black. As well, the ink is a purely dye-based ink, there is no iron-gall at all.

This ink is mildly water resistant, a few seconds gentle rinse under a tap leaves enough to be readable, but I wouldn’t think much would be left after a good soak.


Angus & Co Blue-Black

This ink is virtually identical with the Thistle product. It comes in the same type of packaging, with the same amount of powder making up the same amount (1 quart) if ink. The only real difference is a very slight difference in the colour, with the Angus being a little lighter in colour.

Perhaps because the ink is a little lighter than the Thistle, it bleeds less and like the Thistle there is little to no feathering.

Interestingly, the Angus ink is noticeably more water resistant than the Thistle, using the Standardised DCWaites 10 Second Dribble Under the Tap Test.


Webster Diamine Blue-Black Writing Ink Powder

For a review of this iron-gall based ink, which is presumably an ancestor of the current Diamine Registrar’s Ink, see here.


Simpson Ink Powder
Turquoise

This one of two inks, the other being Black, that I bought from eBay vendor Dragontoots.

This ink powder is much less concentrated than the previous inks, needing more powder per millilitre of water. However, this means that it is much easier to make up small batches. Like the Thistle and Angus inks, it needs to be more concentrated if you want to use it in a fountain pen. However, it only needs to be 1.5 times more concentrated, not 3 times.

When used with a dip pen, it feathers a little and bleeds substantially on any but the best of papers, such as Kokuyo Campus. The ink is similar in colour and intensity to a blend of two Toucan inks - Royal and Bright Blue.

The instructions I had for making up this ink said to use 2 parts of Turquoise ink powder to one part water, but I felt that would be far too strong. I ended up using a small #4 pen nib mounted in a pen holder as a mini-scoop. I found that 1 mini-scoop in 2.5 mls of water gave me a good ink for dip pens. This gave me a good, solid, saturated ink for dip pens like a Brandauer Scribbler or a M. Myers and Son Post Office Pen. I settled on 4 mini-scoops of Turquoise in 10 mls of water for dip pens, and 6 mini-scoops per 10 mls for fountain pens.

I found that the Turquoise much better as a fountain pen ink. There was no feathering on Maruman paper, and only the slightest bleeding. As well, this is an ink that has a lovely colour that shades nicely on hard, smooth paper.

Black

This ink powder is even less concentrated than its Turquoise sibling, needing twice as much ink powder, 8 mini-scoops per 10 mls of water for use with dip pens and 16 per 10 mls of water for fountain pens.

This ink behaves superbly in wet dip pens like the Myers P.O. pen. Even on ordinary paper like Maruman, there is zero bleeding and feathering. There is also zero spreading, so the narrow lines put down by a dip pen stay narrow and intense.

The colour is Black, but how black depends on the pen. In a wet dip pen it is black, but in a fountain pen, even with a more concentrated mix, it can often look dark grey. But, you do then get shading.

As made up, the Black is a little troublesome in FPs, sometimes drying out in the nib tips in a minute or so.

On the other hand, I couldn’t be more impressed with it as a dip pen ink. The intensity of the black colour, along with its excellent behaviour on middle-of-the-road papers rivals that of Noodler’s Black as a dippin’ ink. This is one dip-pen ink I will be keeping on the desk.

 

Below is a full-size comparative scan of the inks mentioned. Unfortunately the colour is off, but I wanted to show you how sharp and clear the various inks in the various pens write on mid-quality Maruman paper.

 

fpn_1398325696__scan-140424-0001.jpg

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“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t.


And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”


Granny Aching

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I love this! Thanks for giving us a history of these inks. I wish we could still purchase them. I'll definitely keep an eye out on eBay. I love to tuck small things into my correspondence (garden seeds, tea bags, bookmarks)... think how much fun it would be to tuck in a little packet of powdered ink! The Simpson Turquoise is especially pretty.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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Thank you Thank you Thank you

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

Create a Ghostly Avatar and I'll send you a letter. Check out some Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 

Don't know where to start?  Look at the Inky Topics O'day.  Then, see inks sorted by color: Blue Purple Brown Red Green Dark Green Orange Black Pinks Yellows Blue-Blacks Grey/Gray UVInks Turquoise/Teal MURKY

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 6 months later...

Thank you!

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

Create a Ghostly Avatar and I'll send you a letter. Check out some Ink comparisons: The Great PPS Comparison 

Don't know where to start?  Look at the Inky Topics O'day.  Then, see inks sorted by color: Blue Purple Brown Red Green Dark Green Orange Black Pinks Yellows Blue-Blacks Grey/Gray UVInks Turquoise/Teal MURKY

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 years later...

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I never knew of powdered ink until now. It makes perfect sense that it would have existed but it's one of those things that aren't obvious ... until it is.

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