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Why do some inks feather ?



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Patrick L

Why do some inks feather ? There's loads and loads of inks available nowadays and many ink manufacturers produce for example blue inks in several options . Some of these blue inks will feather, others won't, which mean that they can produce non-feathering inks , so why do they offer feathering inks in their assortment ? Should manufacturers not endeavor to offer best products to their consumers ?

Feathering is very annoying.

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The only inks I have which feather, have special properties. Usually being waterproof.

I have only one or two inks which don't spread out on the very loosest fibre paper, but I find them a bit dry on normal paper.

So there you have it without a chemical explanation. Manufacturers are not idiots. They trade waterproofing and wetness for feathering, and you choose what you prefer.

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That's it, it is a tradeoff.

 

Plus, writing is not just the ink. There are different papers and pens.

 

Some pens tend to lay out a poor supply of ink (they are said to be "dry") and benefit from an ink that flows better. Problem is, if it flows better on the pen, it will also do on the paper and tend to spread... on loose paper.

 

And consequently, the same happens with paper: there are many materials you can use, and may ways to prepare it. Some materials are more absorbent, some preparations make it more or less compact (leaving more or less space for ink to spread), some papers are coated, whatever... Thus, even a dry pen with a dry ink may feather in some papers (only less).

 

So makers just make a broad range of inks, and you can select the one that best adapts to your writing conditions.

 

 If you want to avoid feathering in most (not all) papers, just go for an EF nib on a dry pen and a dry ink. Otherwise you'll have to mix and match, which you may sort of minimize (but yours will always be the ultimate judgement) by looking at the ink reviews and discussion forums here on FPN.

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Paper is a big factor in feathering too, I would say the biggest, more so than the ink. All inks will feather on the worst paper.

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Arkanabar

Paper with high recycled content is especially prone to feathering.  Try some nice paper from Red n' Black, Rhodia, Leuchtturm, Clairefontaine, or HP 32lb laser paper.

 

But the ink also plays a role.  The property that I suspect matters most is surface tension.  The lower it is, the more capillary action you'll get.  Fountain pen inks contain surfactants to lower surface tension, because you need capillary action for the ink to flow down the feed channels to the nib.  You can actually increase surface tension of most inks by diluting them with water.

 

Of course, dilution has its own risks -- it makes the ink less saturated, and also increases the chance that it will be colonized by some unhelpful microorganism (you are also diluting whatever biocide was included to prevent this).  There are inks that I dilute in part because they are so featherocious, but I never have more than 5mL of diluted ink at a time.  This dilution will usually tame but not eliminate feathering.

 

The least feathery inks are the iron-gall inks like R&K's Salix and Scabiosa, registrar's inks from Diamine and Ecclesiastical Stationery Supplies, Platinum's blue-black and Classic line, Pelikan Blue-Black, Akkerman #10, and various iron gall inks from KWZ Ink.  (This is hardly an exhaustive list of iron gall inks.)  But these inks also have a reputation for dryness, and low (acidic) pH.  They contain tannoferrogallic acid, which is transparent but leaves a water-insoluble solid grey precipitate when oxidized (such as when exposed to air).  Letting them dry out in a pen is not recommended.  Most who use them very regularly in decent pens that seal well have little to no problem with them.  Of these, Salix and Scabiosa are widely regarded as the most benign.

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Inks have certain amount of surfactants to help the ink flow, kind like water conductivity.

Otherwise you could end up ink not coming through the feed, not getting into the slit, not wetting the writing spot and not getting on to paper.

 

Paper may or may not have sizing, which is the surface coating that reduces the amount of water absorbed into the fibre, kind like water resistance.

We need good water conductivity to get ink on paper, and good water resistance to limit the amount of ink penetrating into fibre.

 

I only had a quick look at few introductions about paper sizing while searching about Tomoe River paper.

There are some very good information about the sizing agents used by industry. But they seem deep and far to me.

The most real-life solution I found was from this video, restoring paper sizing using off the shelf products.

But honestly, I'd rather buy better paper or notebook when needed...

 

 

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I use Rhodia 80gsm as my "reference" paper. It's not the only good paper out there, but it's easy enough to get and easy to get in pads that work well for me.

 

In any case, I can pretty much throw anything at it and it won't feather. Have a pen blob or burp ink on it? You'll just sit there and it will dry sooner or later. Blobs/drops typically do soak through to the other side, but that's about the extent of them. Do the same thing on paper that's not so feather resistant and you'll have a big ink blot that spreads out huge on the page.

 

Wet writing ink and/or inks with heavy dye loads(saturated inks) tend to feather worse in my experience. Inks that are dryer, have less dye, and/or are fairly viscous tend to behave well. Noodler's X-feather line, for example, is a viscous ink that minimizes feathering. Interestingly enough, I've found the same with Parker Penman Ebony, which is a very deep, dark black but is also fairly viscous(it's part of the reason the whole line got such a bad reputation) and isn't great on bad paper but is better than some other inks. Iron gall inks, which tend to be very dry, tend to be known as good players, and I've had decent luck on poor paper with some "classic" washable blue type inks. Of course sometimes none of this works. I have a parallel thread running now about my terrible lowest bidder copy paper(30% recycled content) at work.

 

One of the most notorious feathering inks is Noodler's Baystate Blue. It's a wet ink with a lot of dye.

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