Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Diamine Red Dragon ink review

Looks like I'm caught in a vicious circle of red and burgundy ink reviews, because it's time for yet another red ink: Diamine Red Dragon. This is easily the darkest red I've tested, to the point where it could just as well be classified under burgundy, but since it has "red" in the name, this is what I will call it.

I reviewed Diamine Red Dragon in my trusty Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib.

Diamine Red Dragon shading

Bottle and pricing

Bottle capacity: 80 ml / 2.7 oz
Price: $12.95
Price / ml: $0.16

Color and saturation

As I already mentioned, Diamine Red Dragon is a very dark red ink, so dark in fact that if I were to put it under the Burgundy category, no one would bat an eyelid. As such, it is also highly saturated. To an extent, it resembles thick, coagulated blood. Or, if you will, dried dragon's blood.

To give you a better idea, I compared it with 2 other similar inks, Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses and J Herbin 1670 Rough Hematite.

Diamine Red Dragon vs Noodler's BSER vs 1670 Rouge Hematite


Because it's so dark Diamine Red Dragon doesn't have a lot of shading. Now, some people will say that it does, and I guess if you used a brush instead of a nib, and peered really hard, you would find a little color variation. Actually, you can see that on the Clairefontaine sample shown at the bottom. But for all practical purposes, when used in a fountain pen, even one with a broad nib, there isn't any shading to speak of.

Diamine Red Dragon handwriting


Diamine Red Dragon feathers a little on cheap paper, with the broad nib. No such thing happens on Clairefontaine 90g.


Considering the darkness and saturation of this ink, it was expected that it would at least ghost on cheap paper. That it does, though it doesn't outright bleed through. There's no ghosting on Clairefontaine.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

Diamine Red Dragon is very smooth - when it flows. I'm not sure exactly what happened to cause this, but in the Pilot Vanishing Point the flow was very inconsistent. At times it would stop entirely, and cause the nib to skip. I had to press the nib hard to the point of flexing, before it would start again. The Pilot VP has been a wonderful writer with other inks so it makes me wonder whether Red Dragon has some weird property that causes this. To make it flow properly, I had to resort to twisting the piston converter. But this made the ink flow a lot darker, for a while at least, until it would slow down again, becoming lighter in color.

I'm really puzzled as to why this is happening, especially considering that it is a fairly wet ink - when it behaves.

Drying time

Drying times were pretty long on both cheap and good quality paper, but that's partly due to the broad nib, as well as the wetness of the ink.

Smearing when dry

Unfortunately there's a lot of smearing going on, under certain conditions. First, Diamine Red Dragon is a slow drier. It takes its sweet time before you can turn that page, but this happens on Clairefontaine 90g. Second, you must leave it at least 24 hours before you can touch the text, or else it will smear. Even then, portions of the text where more ink has pooled will smear. It's not as bad as Diamine Syrah though.

Water resistance

There's no water resistance at all.


Diamine Red Dragon is a really cool looking dark red ink with a cool name and ordinary properties. I would really recommend it, with the caveat that it might (or might not) have some flow issues, and it might also smear if you are using it on good paper. If you are looking for a neutral, "true" red, this is not it, but if you want something outside the mainstream, perhaps trending towards burgundy/brown, you might want to take a look at Diamine Red Dragon.

Here are the two samples, on photocopy and Clairefontaine 90g, respectively.

Diamine Red Dragon on photocopy

Diamine Red Dragon on Clairefontaine

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Jinhao X750 revisited

Jinhao X750 revisited

A while back (well, about 2 months ago) I decided to revisit my Jinhao X750 fountain pen. As a quick reminder, Jinhao is a Chinese fountain pen brand and can be found cheaply on eBay. My own pen sports a broad nib, which seems to be quite rare on the X750.

Nostalgia dictated that I give this pen another try, even though it didn't score perfectly in my original review. So I loaded it up with Noodler's Heart of Darkness and gave it a whirl. Without further ado, here's what I like and dislike about it, bearing in mind that these points may or may not be true for different-sized nibs.

What I Like

  • Price. Back at the time I paid $8, shipped, but recently (after buying 3 more Chinese pens for very little) I realized that I could have gotten it for even less.
  • Heft and build. While close inspection will reveal a certain roughness to its construction, it feels very solid nonetheless. Being all-metal (most likely brass), it is heavy and feels indestructible.
  • Styling. It's not the most handsome pen out there. In fact the X750 is a bit kitschy if you ask me, what with the unevenly stamped checkerboard pattern, but its quirkiness is partly what lends it its charm.
  • Comes with an international-sized piston converter. Much more expensive pens still eschew a converter and it really makes me question why those companies can't be bothered to include one.
  • Easy to disassemble. The nib and feed can be easily pulled out from the section using your fingers. Cleaning is, thus, a breeze.

What I Dislike

  • A little bit kitschy and a little bit gaudy.
  • The nib is a hard nail.
  • The broad nib isn't a good writer. It skips often and simply can't suck enough ink to work properly. This makes for an annoying writing experience. At some points the feed will saturate with ink and start to write better but it doesn't last. Which brings me to the next point...
  • The ink dries quickly in it. It seems that the nib isn't sealed properly inside the cap, which causes the ink to dry and evaporate. As a result, the ink runs out quickly even if you leave it sitting on your desk.
  • The ink drying issue amplifies the nib skipping.
  • The clip is too stiff, basically not well designed at all. I don't find it attractive either.


As you can see, there are plenty of things not to like about the Jinhao X750, with only a few positives. The balance might improve in favor of "likes" if a different nib were used. We shall see. I have acquired 2 other Jinhao pens (different models) with medium nibs and I'm curious to see if those perform better. For now, I would suggest to either stay away from the broad nib or to hunt for a really good deal on this pen, hopefully no more than $3 or so, if you can snipe it from eBay like I did for some of the other Chinese pens I bought.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris ink review

You voted for it, so the next ink in my ink sample survey is Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris. I tested the sample (in fact I'm still using it as we speak) in my Kaweco Sport Classic with broad nib.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris shading

Bottle and pricing

A bottle of Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris holds 50ml / 1.7oz and retails for $12. That's $0.24 per milliliter, quite pricy.

Color and saturation

I've barely started this review and I have already arrived at the crux of why I don't like this ink. It's not the only reason, but I dislike the color. While it's considered a blue ink, there's not a lot of blue in it, I'm afraid. It veers more towards green, but the greenish shade of copper oxide, which, in fact, is where the term "verdigris" comes from. Either way, my eyes just can't see any blue in this ink.

To compound the problem, under fluorescent light R & K Verdigris looks like a dirty, dull gray. I've been using it daily at work over the past couple of weeks, under such lighting, and that's how it is.

I've compared it to two of the only inks I've tested which bear a passing resemblance to it: Noodler's Bad Blue Heron and Noodler's Bad Belted Kingfisher. You can clearly tell which inks are blue and which isn't.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris vs Noodler's Bad Blue Heron vs Bad Belted Kingfisher

As far as saturation goes, it's pretty high.


To be fair, Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris redeems itself just a little by showing some decent (but not outstanding) shading. It's best seen in the q-tip samples but also a bit in the writing samples, although the latter suffer from another problem which I'm going to mention shortly.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris shading




It ghosts a little on cheap paper and the reverse side remains writable, though barely so.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

Here's the second (and perhaps biggest) reason why I dislike Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris. Just like it's brand-mate Fernambuk, Verdigris is a dry ink. It flows poorly in the Kaweco, and also inconsistently. You can see that in my writing samples. Some lines are thick and wet, others thin and dry. In my book that's a big no-no.

Drying time

Thanks to its dryness, Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris dries very quickly, even on smooth Clairefontaine paper. Small comfort though.

Smearing when dry


Water resistance

This is not a water resistant ink. After 30 seconds under running water most of it has washed off.


There's nothing positive I can say about Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris. There must have been a reason that determined me to buy a sample but I can't think of it for the life of me. Perhaps it looked better in other samples I saw online. In person, the color doesn't appeal to me (though I'm sure plenty of folk will love it) and the dryness and inconsistent flow are deal-breakers. I'd say buy it - only if you dare.

Here are the two writing samples on photocopy and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris on photocopy

Rohrer & Klingner Verdigris on Clairefontaine

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fountain pens for sale - Aug 2014


  • Free shipping (except for the Noodler's Flex)!
  • Buy all 3 pens for $80 shipped!
  • Buy both remaining pens for $50 shipped!

The time has come for me to cull my growing collection of fountain pens. Reviewing my usage patterns has revealed that, despite being excellent pens, there are a few that I simply don't use anymore.

These days, my daily pens consist almost exclusively of the Kaweco Sport Classic eyedropper, and the Pilot Vanishing Point, both with broad nibs. As a result, I've decided to clear up some of the inventory and hopefully finance a future pen or two with the proceedings.

#1 TWSBI Diamond 530 EF + B (piston version 1.5) - SOLD!

I've decided to sell my beloved TWSBI 530 because it's the original design and I really like the new 580AL which I'm hoping to acquire at some point.

My 530 comes with 2 nib units: the original EF (in perfect condition and a very smooth writer) and a B unit which is excellent and I absolutely adore thanks to a little spring in the nib.

HOWEVER - fair warning - the B unit has a cracked section. This is a known issue and design flaw that a lot of 530s have suffered from. The nib works just fine and the cracks are mostly cosmetic but I am not sure how long you'll be able to use it until (and if) the section completely splits open. You might be able to obtain a replacement section piece from TWSBI (who have great customer service). I didn't have time to contact them unfortunately. You could also use the flawless section piece from the EF unit if you wish, as the two are interchangeable. Here's what the cracked section looks like.

My TWSBI 530 comes with all the original stuff: cardboard box, display case, instructions, wrench, silicone grease, and, of course, the B nib unit (the nib unit alone is worth $20).

Asking Price: $45 shipped
Shipping: $5 via USPS
US only, sorry.

#2 Yellow Pilot Prera with M nib - SOLD!

I love the little yellow Prera but it's been (figuratively) gathering dust for a long time. I don't have a lot of medium nibs in daily use and this pen has been sadly neglected. It needs to go.

I'm also including a CON-50 converter, worth about $5. This version of the Prera DOES NOT come standard with a converter.

Otherwise, the pen is in excellent, like-new, condition. It even has the original M sticker on it.

Asking Price: $40 (shipped)
Shipping: $5 via USPS
US only, sorry.

#3 Noodler's Nib Creaper Flex in Lapis Inferno

I have an Ahab which is better in every way than the Nib Creaper so there's no point in holding on to this one. The Nib Creaper is barely used so it's pretty much in like-new condition. It comes with the original cardboard box.

Asking Price: $10
Shipping: $5 via USPS
US only, sorry.

I accept payment through Paypal only.
Pens are sold as-is. I've described them to the best of my ability. I'm not offering any warranty, and once money is exchanged and the package has shipped, no returns either.

If you are interested, please contact me via the email listed on the About/Contact page.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses ink review

With my recent reviews of burgundy inks - Diamine Syrah and Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses - I thought it might be fitting to end this "series" by reviewing the other ink in Noodler's Black Swan family, English Roses.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses (BSER) is a bit of a departure from strict burgundy, but it's close enough that I can put it in this category.

I reviewed this ink in my Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib, same as its Australian sister. The VP really helps bring out the qualities in the ink.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses shading

Bottle and pricing

I didn't have a whole bottle of BSER, just a sample. But a 3 oz / 90 ml bottle will set you back $12.50, same as most Noodler's inks. That amounts to $0.14 per milliliter. Dirt cheap!

Color and saturation

While Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses is still a shade of burgundy, it's definitely more brown than Australian Roses. The original formula of Australian Roses was redder, while the new formula is apparently purplish. But English Roses leans towards brown. In fact, the first thought that came to my mind when I saw it on paper was that it looks like dried blood.

Saturation is high.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses writing

Initially I didn't like it much, after just having transitioned from Australian Roses, but it quickly grew on me. Now, I'd say it's a wash between the two. It may be that I slightly prefer English Roses over the original formula Australian Roses.

Here's a comparison between English Roses, Australian Roses (original formula), Diamine Syrah, and Sailor Jentle Grenade (discontinued). Notice how brown Enlish Roses looks compared to the others.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses vs Australian Roses vs Diamine Syrah vs Sailor Jentle Grenade


English Roses is very pleasing shade-wise. The line variation with the Pilot Vanishing Point's broad nib is outstanding, and it confers a lot of personality to the ink. The springiness of the nib helps bring out this character even more.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses shading

Sometimes shading is complemented by sheen, and I'm happy to note that, under the right light, Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses shows some interesting golden sheen, almost (but not quite) in the vein of J Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite. Don't get your hopes too high though, because this is hard to spot in written lines, but it can be seen in the q-tip swab.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses sheen


There is a little bit of feathering on cheap photocopy paper unfortunately, but it's probably due in part to the high saturation of the ink, as well as the broad nib. It's nothing to worry about, especially since it's a non-issue on better paper.


Black Swan in English Roses will produce a little show-through (but not excessively so) on cheap paper, since, I re-iterate, it's a dark and saturated ink, and it was tested with a broad, wet nib. On Clairefontaine that's not an issue.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

I am extremely pleased with how Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses flows in my Pilot Vanishing Point. It is wet and very smooth, just the way I like it. Apart from that, there's nothing else to say, except maybe that it didn't dry once from non-use, despite using the pen briefly once a day. I guess that's also a testament to how good the VP is.

Drying time

Wet, saturated inks will usually have longer drying times and so is the case here. On cheap paper it can take up to 15-20 seconds to dry, with the broad nib, while on Clairefontaine that time can stretch beyond 30 seconds. That is a bit of a problem because one of the things I do with this ink and the Pilot VP is to jot down journal notes in a Clairefontaine 90g notebook. I have to be careful to let it dry thoroughly before I turn the page.

Smearing when dry

Surprisingly, despite the darkness and saturation, English Roses doesn't really smear, even on smooth, glossy Clairefontaine paper, provided enough drying time is allowed. That's in sharp contrast to Diamine Syrah which does smear. In fairness, if I rub it really hard, I can see just a little bit rubbing off but not if I casually touch the text with my skin. I suspect this resistance to smearing is partly due to its water resistance.

Water resistance

The inks in this family are water resistant and so is English Roses. Not completely, as you can see from the sample, but plenty, such that you won't lose valuable notes if you get them wet. A little dye does get washed away though.


I started out being a little "meh" about Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses but as I used it more and more, it quickly grew on me, to the point where I can confidently state that I like it a lot, perhaps even more than Australian Roses. Imagine a saturated, brown-leaning, water resistant burgundy ink with great flow and exquisite shading, and that would be a good description for Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses. If you can load it in an awesome pen like the Pilot Vanishing Point, even better. My recommendation is to buy yourself a bottle (if you like the color) while the current formula is still being made.

Here are the two samples, on photocopy 75g and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses on photocopy

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses on Clairefontaine

Monday, August 11, 2014

2 things I don't like about Diamine Syrah

In my Diamine Syrah review I waxed poetically about how great this ink is. I will maintain my opinion (kind of), but in the meantime I discovered two things which made me cool down my assessment somewhat. Usually Diamine inks are very well behaved so I was surprised to discover that...

1. It stains plastic. Notice my Kaweco Sport demonstrator after I thoroughly washed it. I had to use copious amounts of rubbing alcohol and q-tips to get it clean again.

2. It smears on good/glossy paper (such as Clairefontaine 90g) even after it has had a week or more to dry. I used the Kaweco's broad nib so you might notice different behavior with a thinner nib.

In conclusion, caveat emptor.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ink Sample GIVEAWAY winner!

The ink sample giveaway has ended and we have a winner!

Congratulations to Anne Petersen (@apete06) who participated via Twitter!