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Esterbrooks and iron gall ink?



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Aelfattrum

Is it better to stay away from iron gall inks with Esterbrook fountain pens (because of the nibs)? Or do they tolerate them?

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kestrel

Never had a problem with IG inks in an Estie.  Most of my IG inks are KWZI and they have never damaged any of my pens including several sub-third tier cheapies.  Even if the nib was slightly pitted from corrosion I didn't see any damage from the inks.  Enjoy.

Dave Campbell
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Every day is a chance to reduce my level of ignorance.

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ToddyB
Traditional iron gall inks were intended for dip pens typically are not suitable for more modern fountain pens which operate on the principle of capillary action. More to the point, Ferro-gallic deposit accumulation in the feed system of modern fountain pens can clog the small ink passages in fountain pen feeds. The very acidic traditional iron gall inks intended for dip pens can corrode metal pen parts (a phenomenon known as redox reaction or flash corrosion). These phenomena can destroy the functionality of fountain pens. Granted you may not see this happen for years but by the time you DO see it the damage is irreversible. 
 
While there are more modern iron gall inks I cannot imagine why you would use such an archaic formulation unless you have a aversion to chemicals in principle (which I understand) or perhaps you are an anachroniste (like steam punks, renaissance festival type, etc.). Why do you wish to use such a decidedly retro formulation? Please know that it will ultimately destroy the pens you love.
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Aelfattrum

@ToddyBSo this was not intended as a general question of "are iron gall inks safe for my pens", but a specific question about Esterbrook fountain pens with non-gold nibs.

 

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Traditional iron gall inks were intended for dip pens.

 

While people may have used traditional iron gall inks with dip pens, certainly probably one of the worse things you could use an iron gall ink with (with a nib perspective) is a non-stainless steel nib. No, I would think iron gall inks were, in a sense, really intended for quills, as they're really not great for old non-gold dip pens.
 

Quote

Traditional iron gall inks were intended for dip pens typically are not suitable for more modern fountain pens which operate on the principle of capillary action.

 

This seems (for some curious reason) to ignore over a century's worth (at least) of iron gall inks specifically designed for fountain pens.

 

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While there are more modern iron gall inks I cannot imagine why you would use such an archaic formulation unless you have a aversion to chemicals in principle (which I understand)

 

I really don't know what an "aversion to chemicals" would look like. You mean like toxic things, synthetic things? Well, if you look at pre-modern iron gall ink recipes, you'll see they were made with copperas (i.e. iron(ii) sulphate, i.e. FeSO4·xH2O) which sounds pretty chemically to me. (Of course I also use other H2O mixtures in my pens too. 😮)

 

But let's say that by "chemicals" you really mean something like synthetic, man-made chemicals.

 

Even here 'traditional' iron gall inks (and many other inks) of the later 19th century would have used the synthetic (indigo-replacement) dye aniline (which is in fact somewhat toxic).

 

No, if all I were interested in was something "all natural" and/or "safe", I'd stick with Herbin's inks (which are, at least supposedly, made with all natural components). And while many of Herbin's inks are indeed very nice, there are reasons to want to use an iron gall containing ink at times.

 

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 or perhaps you are an anachroniste (like steam punks, renaissance festival type, etc.). Why do you wish to use such a decidedly retro formulation?

 

This seems like an appeal to "hey, silly person, why would you want to use 'out-dated' thing X?", which I generally find rather irritating.

 

In part, because it turns out that things someone decides to call 'out-dated' in fact just have different properties (and there turns out to be a good reason why people did 'out-dated' thing X for some many years/decades/centuries/millennia).

 

I mean, we're in a fountain pen forum. Why aren't we all just using biros or the like? Surely fountain pens are well 'out-dated'?

 

In fact, it turns out that fountain pens are imminently practical for certain purposes which biros aren't (and, of course, vice-versa - but that's the point).

 

So, no, I'm more a pragmatiste. Because, just as for fountain pens vs biros, similarly, iron gall inks simply have different properties from many other inks. For but a single point, they're better behaved in some cases, on non-great paper in particular.

 

 

Again, what I was looking for here was concrete, non-hand-wavey information about iron gall ink in Esterbrook fountain pens.

 

Have people had good/bad experiences? (E.g. inputs like @kestrelabove - thank you, kestrel.) Have people come across old Esterbrook nibs which look to have been damaged by 1940s/1950s iron gall formulae? Etc. etc.

 

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inkstainedruth

I saw the original question and my initial response was "vintage Esties or the modern reboot pens?"  

Modern IG inks should be fine for any stainless steel nib (the issue is more with dip pen nibs, which are NOT stainless steel for the most part).  As for how IG inks do in pen with sacs, that's *possibly* an issue.  Someone a few years ago was using IG inks in a vintage J series pen to see how well the sacs held up over the long haul, but I don't know if that person ever posted final results or not.  I do know that I bought a bottle of vintage Sanford Pen-It Blue Black, and it ate the sac in a Pilot Metropolitan Con-B converter (but, then, it might have just been that the ink was toast by that point anyway -- I didn't pay very much for the bottle, and didn't think twice about pitching it in the trash (although in retrospect I probably should have dumped the contents and put the glass bottle into the recycling bin -- back before the trash people stopped accepting glass curbside).  And I have no experience with the modern/reboot Esterbrook pens (I like the look of some of the rod stock they use, then look at the price tags and go "Nope nope nope...").

I know I routinely use IG inks in modern c/c pens (mostly the steel-nibbed Parker Vectors, with no adverse effects.  But I tend to flush the pens out after a fill or two for IG inks on general principle (I would do the same for really saturated inks and for pigmented inks).

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Aelfattrum

Thanks, @inkstainedruth.

12 minutes ago, inkstainedruth said:

I saw the original question and my initial response was "vintage Esties or the modern reboot pens?"  

Sorry, I meant the vintage 1940s/1950s Esterbrook fountain pen. (For some reason the modern reboot ones don't really exist in my consciousness, despite even having listen to a podcast interview with one of the people involved with the new operation. I was trying to be clear about distinguishing from Esterbrook's dip pens, and hadn't thought about the reboot.)

 

14 minutes ago, inkstainedruth said:

Modern IG inks should be fine for any stainless steel nib

 

This was essentially my question. The issue is that I know that there are many, many, many different types of stainless steel, and I imagine the stainless steel used for fountain pen nibs has varied over the years.

 

18 minutes ago, inkstainedruth said:

As for how IG inks do in pen with sacs, that's *possibly* an issue.  Someone a few years ago was using IG inks in a vintage J series pen to see how well the sacs held up over the long haul, but I don't know if that person ever posted final results or not

 

I'm not *as* concerned about the sacs. It's not very expensive to buy new sacs and not *too* onerous to resac them. Obviously, not having to do it as often is ideal of course. (Here I also wonder about variation in formulation of latex sacs - are new sacs as resilient/more resilient? Are some better able to tolerate iron gall? High levels of dyes? Nano-pigments? And I don't even know the ultimate origin of any of the sacs in most of my pens, I don't think.)

 

I can imagine that letting a full bladder of iron gall ink fully dry in a sac might be worse for the sac than a non-iron gall ink, but who knows.

 

23 minutes ago, inkstainedruth said:

 I do know that I bought a bottle of vintage Sanford Pen-It Blue Black, and it ate the sac in a Pilot Metropolitan Con-B converter (but, then, it might have just been that the ink was toast by that point anyway --

 

At least at this point, I'm just thinking of new production inks. Akkerman no. 10, R&K Scabiosa, KWZI &c.

 

24 minutes ago, inkstainedruth said:

I didn't pay very much for the bottle, and didn't think twice about pitching it in the trash (although in retrospect I probably should have dumped the contents and put the glass bottle into the recycling bin -- back before the trash people stopped accepting glass curbside).

 

(or washed it out and saved it!)

 

 

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gyasko
2 hours ago, ToddyB said:
Traditional iron gall inks were intended for dip pens typically are not suitable for more modern fountain pens which operate on the principle of capillary action. More to the point, Ferro-gallic deposit accumulation in the feed system of modern fountain pens can clog the small ink passages in fountain pen feeds. The very acidic traditional iron gall inks intended for dip pens can corrode metal pen parts (a phenomenon known as redox reaction or flash corrosion). These phenomena can destroy the functionality of fountain pens. Granted you may not see this happen for years but by the time you DO see it the damage is irreversible. 
 
While there are more modern iron gall inks I cannot imagine why you would use such an archaic formulation unless you have a aversion to chemicals in principle (which I understand) or perhaps you are an anachroniste (like steam punks, renaissance festival type, etc.). Why do you wish to use such a decidedly retro formulation? Please know that it will ultimately destroy the pens you love.

 

 

This is hyperbolic fear-mongering, parts of which are lifted directly from a poorly researched Wikipedia page.  If you have a problem with the accumulation of ferric particles in a feed, it is easy enough to flush them out in most cases.  A simple lever-filler presents no difficulties in this respect. 

 

The effects of acid on stainless steel vary according to the acid and the alloy.  I'd like to think that Esterbrook chose an alloy that would withstand common ink acids, but who knows?  Perhaps they banked on the nibs being easily replaceable, or that the concentrations and use conditions of pens are not ones where you'd expect to see a lot of corrosion on stainless steel.  Also note that non-iron gall inks, especially washable blues are also highly acidic and that other common 1950s ink ingredients can cause corrosion on stainless steel, phenol for example. 

 

Nothing lasts forever, especially people.  Enjoy your pens and inks. 

 

 

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Aelfattrum
48 minutes ago, gyasko said:

This is hyperbolic fear-mongering, parts of which are lifted directly from a poorly researched Wikipedia page.  If you have a problem with the accumulation of ferric particles in a feed, it is easy enough to flush them out in most cases.  A simple lever-filler presents no difficulties in this respect. 

In fact, I've found many of the iron gall inks *easier* to clean out than a number of pure dye inks.

 

49 minutes ago, gyasko said:

The effects of acid on stainless steel vary according to the acid and the alloy.  I'd like to think that Esterbrook chose an alloy that would withstand common ink acids, but who knows?  Perhaps they banked on the nibs being easily replaceable, or that the concentrations and use conditions of pens are not ones where you'd expect to see a lot of corrosion on stainless steel. 

 

This is along the lines I was wondering about. In their time, the nibs were easily replaceable, but since they're not produced anymore, some of them are a bit hard to find.

 

I use iron galls freely elsewhere, but was just curious here whether there was any evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) about vintage Esterbrook fountain pen nibs and corrosion etc.

 

1 hour ago, gyasko said:

Also note that non-iron gall inks, especially washable blues are also highly acidic and that other common 1950s ink ingredients can cause corrosion on stainless steel, phenol for example. 

 

Even relatively modern inks can be highly acidic (or highly alkaline), [cf. https://www.indy-pen-dance.com/Inks-Report-on-the-pH-of-More-than-60-Inks.html ] and I wonder about potential effects of some of these on various stainless steel alloys.

 

1 hour ago, gyasko said:

Nothing lasts forever, especially people.  Enjoy your pens and inks. 

 

Words to live by.

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inkstainedruth
2 hours ago, Aelfattrum said:

(or washed it out and saved it!)

No, not really -- it was a one oz. bottle.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Aelfattrum
6 hours ago, inkstainedruth said:

No, not really -- it was a one oz. bottle.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

Fair enough.

 

For what it's worth (on the anecdotal evidence side), I came across this old FPN post:

On 8/12/2009 at 8:48 PM, ZeissIkon said:

There are only three parts in an Estie nib unit: the stainless nib, made of some magical alloy that never, ever rusts (better than what I have for tableware), the feed, made of some sort of injection molded plastic, and the collar, made of a different injection molded plastic.

 

(Though at least my Esterbrooks seem to have ebonite sections/collars.)

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kestrel

I have seen pitted nibs on old Esties.  I have no idea what caused the pitting.  I used a 2668 nib with some serious pitting to test several KWZI IG inks and saw no change in the pitting on the nib.  That is only one data point so take it for what it is worth. 

The link below is to a page on the KWZI website dealing with IG inks in fountain pens.  Konrad knows more about chemistry and inks than most people (especially me) so this page is worth reading.

https://www.kwzink.com/en/manufactured-inks/iron-gall-inks/fountain-pens-iron-gall/

Dave Campbell
Science Teacher and Pen Addict
Every day is a chance to reduce my level of ignorance.

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Aelfattrum
21 minutes ago, kestrel said:

I have seen pitted nibs on old Esties.  I have no idea what caused the pitting.  I used a 2668 nib with some serious pitting to test several KWZI IG inks and saw no change in the pitting on the nib.  That is only one data point so take it for what it is worth. 

The link below is to a page on the KWZI website dealing with IG inks in fountain pens.  Konrad knows more about chemistry and inks than most people (especially me) so this page is worth reading.

https://www.kwzink.com/en/manufactured-inks/iron-gall-inks/fountain-pens-iron-gall/

 

Though I think a lot of the KWZI inks are pretty light on the iron gall component (https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/360707-water-resistance-of-some-iron-gall-inks-some-herbins-diamines-others/?do=findComment&comment=4438206)

 

Though I'm curious what the "original" blue-black KWZI is like - I suspect it's more similar to Akkerman no. 10/Registrar's/etc. in terms of iron gall content.

 

But maybe worthwhile sticking to more 'obtainable' Esterbrook nibs (like 2668) just in case for for iron-gall inks.

 

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 You could try Lamy B/ BB or Pelikan B/ BB if you want to have a somewhat congruent experience to Iron Gall inks on an Estie.

 

 Unfortunately, we can only make assumptions... 

 

 There is a blogger who evaluated the effects of Iron Gall ink on certain nibs.

 

 LINK: https://kencrooker.com/igink/

 

 It could be safe to say that since Esterbrook nibs are from an era where Iron Gall inks were fairly common they should go along fine with said inks, but you never know.

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AAAndrew

Only have a couple of minor things to add. 

 

Vintage Esterbrook nibs were made of a chromium stainless alloy of Esterbrook's design and originally labled Estercrome when first made. 

 

The struggle to make a non-corroding dip pen goes back to the beginning. Thomas Jefferson complained to Peregrine Williamson of his steel pens corroding in the very acidic home-made iron gall ink of the day. 100 years earlier, they tried using silver and un-tipped gold to avoid corrosion, but they wore away too quickly. By the 1830's, commercial ink production began to be wide-spread and formulas were adjusted to adapt to the new steel pens. Yes, steel pens corrode over time, especially if poorly wiped or kept sitting in the ink, as some did. But then, they were made to be disposable. You bought steel pens by the gross for that very reason. 

 

Esterbrook had been working to find better ways of making dip pens that wouldn't corrode, but would have some of the desired characteristics of the steel dip pen. (their brass pens, like the 314 relief and Colorado line, won't corrode but also have no flex or "action" and the "Radio" coating did help some but didn't completely prevent corrosion). In the 1930's, Esterbrook introduced their Estercrome pens. Here's a page from the 1938 catalog. 

 

image.png.8bfa63566801b5c9f996fb9401896a0d.png

 

These pen nibs don't corrode, but then, they also don't have the same level of flex and "action" as one made of the high-carbon, crucible steel of their regular pen line. 

 

They then adapted this steel into their Renew Point nibs, which is whey they don't corrode, nor do they have the same level of flex or snap as their dip pens.

 

At this time, inks could still vary widely, with some acidic, and some alkali.  The vintage Esterbrooks were made to work with all kinds of inks of the time. 

 

Today's IG inks rarely use walnut galls and are not nearly as acidic or corrosive as the old formulas. (the tannic acid from the walnut galls was a big part of the problem if not properly buffered)  I would imagine you would be quite safe to use modern IG inks in an Esterbrook with proper pen hygiene. But then any ink, if not using proper pen hygiene, can damage a pen. 

 

So, I would have no problem using a standard, commercially available IG ink in any pen in which you would use modern saturated dye ink. Some older pens I am particularly careful with, and only use gentle inks like Waterman, but Esterbrooks are not one of them. 

 

My historical 2-cents worth, for whatever that is really worth. 

 

Andrew

 

 

 

 

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 Now THAT is a dang good answer!

 

 It's good to know that Estie nibs are engineered to withstand such inks.

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@AAAndrewThanks for the additional information on Esterbrook nibs and their chromium/steel alloys. (Oak galls rather than walnut galls, perhaps? There seem to be a lot of fairly acidic inks still around though, cf. https://www.indy-pen-dance.com/Inks-Report-on-the-pH-of-More-than-60-Inks.html)

 

(As a side-note, I wonder how 'gentle' Waterman Florida/Serenity Blue is (that's frequently a recommended 'safe' ink), as I think the washable blues tend to be on the acidic side (it looks like Herbin's Bleu Myosotis (which I think is similar) is 2.31 pH). That is, perhaps pH levels are not as much of a concern in many cases. For older lever-fillers and eyedroppers, I'm not really concerned about IG inks. If the nibs are gold, the ink won't damage the nib or (at least) ebonite bodies/feeds. I think corrosion of the lever mechanism is the only thing that might be of concern - but in cases where that would happen, it's really moisture that's the issue more than the particular ink.)

 

 

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