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Is there a scientific study of inks to determine their kindness, or cruelty, to vintage pens?


david-p
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I have read recommendations on several websites to avoid specific inks in vintage pens. Examples given are those that have pigments, most of the Noodler catalogue, and, curiously enough, Iroshizuku inks. This last surprised me, as they are not at all water-fast; but the writer claimed that they are highly alkaline.

 

Recommended inks are usually Waterman, Parker, etc, whose range of colours is not very exciting. How about Lamy and Diamine?

 

But more to the point, has anyone in our community actually done tests to determine the pH value of currently available inks? (Doing so is obviously not as simple as dipping litmus paper in the ink!) Further, what constituents in what inks make them bad for vintage pens? A scientific study would be very useful, so that I can with a good conscience use colours other than black and blue in my Parker pens, for instance.

 

David

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This thread might be of interest to you, although, as you say, pH is unlikely to be the only important factor determining the suitability of a given ink for use in vintage pens:  

 

 

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There are lists of ink pH.  Richard Binder has one or has linked to one from his site.   There are others.

 

I used alkaline Japanese inks in my (mostly vintage) pens exclusively for about a year.  I assumed they were safe.  Bad assumption.  All my latex sacs and diaphragms failed. 

 

Montblanc, Pelikan, Waterman, Parker, & Lamy all make inks that are not black or blue.   Ultimately, one must decide whether it is ink or pens that one prefers. 

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52 minutes ago, ENewton said:

This thread might be of interest to you, although, as you say, pH is unlikely to be the only important factor determining the suitability of a given ink for use in vintage pens:  

 

 

This is what I was hoping to find. Fascinating. Many thanks!

 

Lamy Blue-Black and Turquoise (!) seem to fit the neutrality (pH 7) requirement, as do quite a few Faber-Castell inks. The list confirms that all the Sailor and Pilot-Iroshizuku inks are alkaline, some strongly so. Interesting that so many Herbin colour fall on or near the line.  One of the common recommendations, Waterman Serenity Blue, is however strongly acid.

 

David

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11 minutes ago, gyasko said:

There are lists of ink pH.  Richard Binder has one or has linked to one from his site.   There are others.

 

I used alkaline Japanese inks in my (mostly vintage) pens exclusively for about a year.  I assumed they were safe.  Bad assumption.  All my latex sacs and diaphragms failed. 

 

Montblanc, Pelikan, Waterman, Parker, & Lamy all make inks that are not black or blue.   Ultimately, one must decide whether it is ink or pens that one prefers. 

Thanks. I will look for RB's list.

Although there are undoubtedly other features apart from pH, I am prepared to believe from your evidence that pH 7 is probably OK.

 

David

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1 hour ago, gyasko said:

I used alkaline Japanese inks in my (mostly vintage) pens exclusively for about a year.  I assumed they were safe.  Bad assumption.  All my latex sacs and diaphragms failed.

 

What inks do you use and recommend now?

 

David

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I read somewhere when I first started a recommendation for wet ink in vintage FP’s. I chose Waterman.

 

"Respect science, respect nature, respect all people (s),"

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I have always used Waterman or mainly Diamine with no issues ever. Occasionally use Aurora Blue also.

 

Have started dipping into Colorverse with Stars and Stripes in a Vac 51 and no issues with this one either.

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2 hours ago, david-p said:

 

What inks do you use and recommend now?

 

David

 

I use mainly piston fillers, lever fillers & eyedroppers.   With eyedroppers, anything goes.  Latex sac pens are fine with acidic inks.  I usually use iron gall blue blacks and washable blues from MB, Pelikan, Lamy, Waterman, Parker + Iowa-made Sheaffer Skrip.  I use  pretty much the same inks with vintage piston fillers, except that i don’t use the IG inks if the pen is a challenge to dismantle or if there’s a chance metal will be exposed to ink.  
 

 

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I'm not convinced that pH is the end all and be all of ink issues, but I don't discount it either.

 

Many classic "safe inks" are fairly acidic. Washable Blue ink from most Western brands(Pelikan, Quink, Waterman, Montblanc, Lamy, etc) is typically a single dye-Acid Blue #93, AKA Methyl Blue, dissolved in water. This dye has some acid-base indicator properties, and lower pH tends to give a more intense blue color.

 

Similar, the classic permanent ink is iron gall blue black-many of the classic formulas are, again, Acid Blue #93 in solution with iron gall. This solution tends to have a fairly low pH out of the necessity to keep the iron compounds soluble. They blue is there to allow you to see what you're writing since the iron gall is at best lightly colored, at worst invisible on initial application but slowly oxidizes/darkens over time. I don't worry about using inks like Pelikan Blue-Black, old formula Montblanc Midnight Blue, or vintage Skrip in my vintage pens. That's what they were designed to work with.

 

I think in general that with latex part pens, low pH isn't enough to rule out an ink, but there again pH doesn't tell the whole story. I just got a freshly restored 51 Vacumatic in the mail, and I'm not about to put BSB in it even though BSB is acidic.

 

Speaking of that 51 Vac, and my Vacs in general, I stick mostly to washable blues or classic IG blue blacks. I know that's a boring answer. I've done plain sacs myself(actually am waiting on some now so that I can sac a really nice 3-band Permanite "Big Red" Duofold-that's the highest stakes/most valuable pen I've braved myself) but haven't braved vacs diaphragms yet.

 

As far as interesting colors-there are some nice greens from the old makers, and greens in my experience tend to clean up fairly nicely and be kind in general. I have yet to try the new Pelikan dark green, but a lot of the others are brighter than this.

 

Reds can be hit or miss. I've not had much issue with Sheaffer Red(which is one of my favorite "standard" reds) but Pelikan Brilliant Red is a nasty ink that I use to use often but seems to go EVERWHERE and make a mess in any pen where I've used it.

 

Browns are fun and generally pretty safe, although they can contain red dyes. I've avoided Pelikan 4001 Brown for this reason, but have found the ink I still stubbornly call Havana Brown(it's now Absolute Brown) nice, and Montblanc Toffee Brown is an all time favorite ink of mine.

 

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, david-p said:

I have read recommendations on several websites to avoid specific inks in vintage pens.

 

Keep in mind ‘vintage pens’ only speak to the age of the writing instruments — and, even then, there is no agreement among collectors and hobbyists as to what the cutoff for ‘vintage’ is — and not either the specific filling mechanism, or the materials used for different parts of the writing instrument. An old steel nib may be more susceptible to corrosion by iron-gall inks than a gold nib of the same age; an celluloid pen barrel would be more prone to deterioration or staining than one made of sterling silver; and an old latex sac could be compromised chemically by certain inks in ways an old eyedropper-filler pen's ink reservoir would not.

 

So, are you talking about the lowest common denominator among vintage pens there, the most frail, most delicate, most easily damaged? Or some subset of vintage pens with particular specifications other than their age?

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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I use iron gall in all my vintage pens: piston fillers, vacumatics, vac-fillers... If not an IG, then Serenity Blue.

 

✒️:thumbup:

Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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If ink makers were around and making ink when your vintage pens were originally manufactured then it's a good bet that their inks will have been used in vintage pens over the years that the pens have existed. Therefore if they were safe then they should be safe now despite some ingredients being changed over the years. Lamy manufacturing from 1930 and Diamine manufacturing from 1864 should definitely be considered safe

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There is a thread on the r/fountainpens subreddit, where the author is testing the safety of Iroshizuku Kon-Peki and Noodler's Bad Blue Heron. It's almost been a year since the experiment started, and apparently things are fine. 

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1 hour ago, Dione said:

Therefore if they were safe then they should be safe now despite some ingredients being changed over the years. Lamy manufacturing from 1930 and Diamine manufacturing from 1864 should definitely be considered safe

 

I don't know how comfortable I'd be putting Diamine Registrar's Ink or Diamine (Inkvent Blue Edition) Winter Miracle in a precious pen, never mind the age of the material. My oldest pen — which must be older than me, since it has a promotional message commemorating the 7th Anniversary of some travel agency in a year before I was born — is a Geha piston-filler that I found among my late father's piles of junk, encrusted with decades-dried blue ink, so I wouldn't care what happens to that ‘vintage’ pen; but I certainly am not going to risk putting Diamine Winter Miracle in one of my modern, limited edition Aurora Ottantotto piston-fillers.

 

Lamy T53 Crystal Ink Topaz has already ruined two of my modern Moonman pens, by effectively drying to some sort of permanent adhesive after seeping into the threads between the gripping section and the (originally removable) nib housing.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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11 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

I don't know how comfortable I'd be putting Diamine Registrar's Ink or Diamine (Inkvent Blue Edition) Winter Miracle in a precious pen,

Well, Registrar's Ink is known to be bad news if used for a long time in any pen. Sorry to hear of your misfortune: luckily, I have never been attracted to the Lamy Crystal Inks. Is is that the crytals amalgamate to form the glue?

 

It seems that fountain pen people fall into three categories: restorers, collectors and users. Serious collectors seem only to put ink into their pens when they want to use them, whereas users are inclined to leave ink in them for long periods. The expertise of the restorers is high, but it seems not to extend to long term experience of the effects of inks that users put in their pens -- unless, they are restoring a pen that has been abused before they got it. Accurate information about how to avoid absue by ink is not easily found! :)

 

David

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1 hour ago, Dione said:

If ink makers were around and making ink when your vintage pens were originally manufactured then it's a good bet that their inks will have been used in vintage pens over the years that the pens have existed. Therefore if they were safe then they should be safe now despite some ingredients being changed over the years. Lamy manufacturing from 1930 and Diamine manufacturing from 1864 should definitely be considered safe

I  cannot see any reason to assume that an ink that has been on sale over many years has not been reformulated with unintended adverse long term consequences. A lot of people had to die of cancer before smoking was established as a major cause, and there are many other cases in other areas of life of collateral damage only being discovered down the line. That said, I think there is a better chance of old (though rather dull) favourite inks being safe. I have a 30-year old Parker 45 whose cartridges have dried out many times without any long term damage that I can detect; but I would not assume that pens manufactured from older types of materials are equally immune. Even regular cleaning will not prevent serious problems if you are going to refill the pen with a damage-causing ink.

 

David

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2 minutes ago, david-p said:

Is is that the crytals amalgamate to form the glue?

 

I actually think some ingredient in that ink dissolved and/or fused with one or both of the plastic components in those pens. I don't know how it managed to get into the threads in two pens, when there should be no seepage between the mouth of the converter and the top end of the feed, unless the ink compromised the black plastic nib housing.

 

8 minutes ago, david-p said:

Well, Registrar's Ink is known to be bad news if used for a long time in any pen.

 

I personally would be comfortable putting Diamine Registrar's Ink in a gold-nibbed Platinum #3776 Century or Pilot Custom c/c-filler. Actually, I have it in a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 right now, where … let me check my log book … it's been living for over four months. Uncapping and writing with it for the first time in weeks just now — writes straight off the bat, no hard starts, and no signs of corrosion or tarnish on the rhodium-plated 14K gold nib.

 

 

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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1 hour ago, IlikeInksandIcannotlie said:

There is a thread on the r/fountainpens subreddit, where the author is testing the safety of Iroshizuku Kon-Peki and Noodler's Bad Blue Heron. It's almost been a year since the experiment started, and apparently things are fine. 

Do you have a link for this thread? I am unable to find it. What pen is the experimenter using?

 

David

 

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32 minutes ago, A Smug Dill said:

I personally would be comfortable putting Diamine Registrar's Ink in a gold-nibbed Platinum #3776 Century or Pilot Custom c/c-filler. Actually, I have it in a Pilot Custom Heritage 91 right now, where … let me check my log book … it's been living for over four months. Uncapping and writing with it for the first time in weeks just now — writes straight off the bat, no hard starts, and no signs of corrosion or tarnish on the rhodium-plated 14K gold nib.

As correction to what I wrote above, I think that Diamine Registrar's attacks steel nibs, and probably gold is immune to corrosion. For people who have to use this ink professionally, buying a new cheap pen every so often is just a small cost of doing business.

 

David

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