Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon (V-Mail) ink review

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon is one of those inks that I wanted to test for a while and its time has finally come. Two things attracted me to this ink: the exotic name, and the color burgundy. It is also a V-Mail ink, resembling vintage inks to some extent. Along with this label, water resistance comes standard but this will be discussed in more detail below.

I tested a sample of Mandalay Maroon in my Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib.

Bottle and pricing

Bottle capacity: 3 oz / 90 ml
Price: $12.50
Price / ml: $0.14

Color and saturation

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon is a burgundy/maroon/reddish-brown ink with average saturation. It bears a passing resemblance to other inks I have tested but for the most part it has a unique color.

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon detail

Below, I compared it to a few other burgundy inks: Diamine Syrah, Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses, and Sailor Jentle Grenade. I believe you'll agree with me when I say that Mandalay Maroon is the least attractive ink in this lineup.

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon vs Syrah vs BSER vs Jentle Grenade

Shading

Sadly, Mandalay Maroon is completely flat, without any kind of shading or color variation. This is clearly evident from the 4-ink comparison above.

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon detail

Feathering

I'll admit I was a bit surprised that Mandalay Maroon doesn't feather even on cheap paper. For some reason I was expecting it to, especially since it really likes to seep into the paper. It's one of those deeply penetrating inks, similar to what you might find in alcohol-based markers.

Bleedthrough

Bleeding is high on cheap paper, to the extent that the reverse side will be mostly unusable. The situation on Clairefontaine 90g is improved but there's plenty of ghosting and even bleeding where the nib presses hard. This, of course, is based on my tests done with a broad nib. If you want to use this ink I'd recommend a medium nib or thinner. I'm sure those won't produce the same sort of bleeding.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

One thing that Noodler's Mandalay Maroon has going for itself is that it feels very smooth and flows well through the Pilot VP's broad nib. It's also pretty wet, which is probably what causes the bleed through.

Drying time

You would expect a wet ink in a broad nib to take ages to dry on good paper such as the Clairefontaine I used for one of the tests. Once again I was surprised by how quickly it dried. 5 seconds on this paper is incredible. This is easily explained by what I mentioned previously: this ink penetrates the paper like a drop of water on a dry sponge.

Smearing when dry

None.

Water resistance

Water resistance is one of the main features of Noodler's Mandalay Maroon. It didn't disappoint in my standard water test whereupon I held the sample under flowing water for 1 minute. OK, it wasn't completely watertight, and a tiny little bit of pink dye can be seen spreading out like capillaries from the edges of the lines, but the text and drawings remain perfectly intact.

Conclusion

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon is a quirky ink, quite interesting in some aspects (water resistance and drying speed) but dull in others (color/shading and bleed). To my eye it is not very attractive, especially in comparison to other burgundy inks. As such, I wouldn't buy a whole bottle but I know that lots of folks love it, so if Mandalay Maroon catches your fancy don't be detracted by my purely subjective opinion.

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon detail

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

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon on photocopy

Noodler's Mandalay Maroon on Clairefontaine

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Diamine Pumpkin ink review

Diamine Pumpkin is yet another orange ink from Diamine. How does it measure up to other orange inks? Does it shade? Is it worth picking up? Why Pumpkin over other inks? Pumpkins in March? All these, and more, will be answered shortly.

But first, a short reminder that I tested this ink in my Kaweco Sport Classic with broad nib and eyedropper conversion.

Diamine Pumpkin shading with Kaweco

Bottle and pricing

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

Color and saturation

Diamine Pumpkin is, once again, an orange ink. It is bright and very saturated, though not the cheeriest of oranges. It's not a pure orange, as Diamine Orange is (see comparison in the copy paper writing sample at the bottom), but a bit dirty. It's very pumpkinish in fact, and I find the name very appropriate for once.

Diamine Pumpkin shading

To get a better idea of the exact shade of orange Pumpkin exhibits, I'm illustrating this via a comparison with a couple of other orange inks I've tested: Sailor Jentle Apricot and Noodler's Dragon's Napalm (as well as Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki in the photocopy paper sample at the bottom).

Diamine Pumpkin vs Sailor Jentle Apricot vs Noodler's Dragon's Napalm

When placed side by side like this I actually find Pumpkin to be more fiery and expressive than both these inks, though each is beautiful in its own way.

Shading

Some inks are completely flat, as is the case with Diamine Orange, but Diamine Pumpkin is not. It shades very nicely, and that gives it a lot more character than its purer sibling. It's very easy to obtain darker patches of fiery orange and almost-red on top of lighter shades of orange. In writing, the shading is obviously more easily discerned with a broad nib, as is the case here.

Diamine Pumpkin shading

Feathering

None.

Bleedthrough

None.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

I can't complain here: Diamine Pumpkin flows very well in the Kaweco Sport and is appropriately wet. It's not the wettest ink out there and your experience may certainly differ if you are using a medium nib or thinner.

Drying time

On cheap paper (photocopy), Diamine Pumpkin dries almost instantly, but this time is considerably lengthened on Clairefontaine 90g, dependent, of course, on the nib. I'm assuming it would take less than 30 seconds to dry with a thinner nib.

Smearing when dry

None

Water resistance

Diamine Pumpkin is not water resistant but after being exposed for 1 minute to running water some faint traces remain. This component seems to be pink in color.

Conclusion

I am suitably impressed by Diamine Pumpkin. I was expecting this to be a plain ol' orange ink but it has more character than more reputable inks (whether that reputation is well-earned or not). What I like most about Diamine Pumpkin is that it's not just a generic orange, but instead has that "dirty" look (while staying bright and saturated) which gives so much justice to its name. And then the beautiful shading only helps to make it better. I would urge you to try Diamine Pumpkin. If you like orange inks, I'm betting you'll love it too.

Diamine Pumpkin shading

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

Diamine Pumpkin on photocopy

Diamine Pumpkin on Clairefontaine

Monday, February 9, 2015

Diamine Evergreen ink review

Diamine Evergreen is one of the more special greens that have passed through my hands in recent memory. I tested the sample in my Kaweco Sport Classic with broad nib. I can tell you right away that I like this ink but read on to find out more details.

Diamine Evergreen shading with Kaweco

Bottle and pricing

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

Color and saturation

Right off the bat, Diamine Evergreen starts strong with an interesting and rather unique shade of green. I have tested plenty of green inks but I can still be surprised. I'm of the opinion that Diamine Evergreen should have been called Diamine Avocado because that's exactly the shade of green - avocado - that comes to mind. It is dark, organic, and not too saturated, making it well suited for official use.

In the photocopy sample (at the bottom) I compared Evergreen to Diamine Green Black and De Atramentis Black Green, both of which I own a bottle, and both of which are also dark, somber inks. There is some resemblance between these three inks but Diamine Evergreen immediately stands out as - at the risk of repeating myself - the more organic of the bunch, and that imparts it more character in my opinion.

I've also done a comparison with Noodler's Green and Noodler's Marine Green, two of the darker inks I've tested but these are both more saturated as well as brighter and they don't resemble Evergreen much.

Diamine Evergreen vs Noodler's Green vs Noodler's Marine Green

Shading

Diamine Evergreen does a great job in the color variation department. The broad nib helps with that, but I have a feeling medium and even fine nibs will exhibit plenty of shading. In addition to the shading, if you look closely you will see an almost reddish sheen in the dark sections where the ink had a chance to dry in a thicker layer.

Diamine Evergreen shading

Diamine Evergreen shading

Feathering

None.

Bleedthrough

As expected, there's a little ghosting on very cheap paper but otherwise there's no bleeding and both sides of the paper can be used without fear.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

Diamine Evergreen is a wet ink. It flows really well through the Kaweco Sport. At times it feels a little too wet. If the paper is particularly spongy, it soaks right into it. For me that's fine because I love wet inks, but if you don't, you could always try it in a pen with a dry nib or one that has flow issues.

Drying time

On absorbent paper it dries within normal parameters, around 10 seconds or so, but on glossy paper it can take up to 30 seconds. Fairly average drying times for how wet it is.

Smearing when dry

None.

Water resistance

Diamine Evergreen is not meant to be water resistant but when I put it under running water for 1 minute it didn't wash off completely, so I guess you might stand a chance to recover some of your writings if they get drenched in water.

Conclusion

It looks like I started 2015 on a positive ink-reviewing note because I really like Diamine Evergreen. From the exquisite color to the great shading, to the wet flow, there's much to like about it and nothing really to critique. As such, I highly recommend Diamine Evergreen, especially if you are looking to emulate the appearance of "avocado".

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

Diamine Evergreen on photocopy

Diamine Evergreen on Clairefontaine

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014 ink of the year

I know this post is a month late and a few bucks short but better late than never. In my defense, I'm back from a long vacation and it's hard to get the old routine back on track.

Without further ado, I present you my top 3 favorite inks tested in 2014, along with 3 runners-up.

#1 Monteverde Brown

Monteverde Brown is absolutely the ink I enjoyed most in 2014. I just love brown inks and this is the definitive brown.

Monteverde Brown open bottle

#2 Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses is a close second. I love its burgundy/brown color and beautiful shading.

Noodler's Black Swan in English Roses sheen

#3 Diamine Green Black

Diamine Green Black is the ink which resembles the color "British racing green" the most. If I were to pick a green ink out of all the ones I've tested (not just in 2014), this would be it.

Diamine Green Black bottle

Runner Up #1 - Diamine Graphite

Normally I'm not a fan of gray inks because they're too boring, but Diamine Graphite changed my mind. It proves that a gray ink can be engineered well enough to make it useful in a professional setting and look good at the same time.

Diamine Graphite and Kaweco Sport

Runner Up #2 - Diamine Syrah

Diamine Syrah is an ink I love to hate. The color and shading are gorgeous and hard to beat. However, it likes to stain plastic and smears on glossy paper.

Diamine Syrah shading

Runner Up #3 - Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrun

Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrun is a wonderful shade of bright, saturated olive green with beautiful shading. R&K inks are a bit quirky though and flawed in other aspects, such as feathering and sometimes flow.

Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrun with Kaweco Sport

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black ink review

Christmas Edition Ink Review

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays folks!

This is my last ink review for this year and I decided to post it on Christmas day, at the risk of no one reading it. But Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black is a rather special and quirky ink so it's probably fitting. Don't get me wrong, I really like this ink, but for reasons that you will read about shortly, I find it a bit strange.

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black shading

I tested a sample of it in my Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib.

Bottle and pricing

Bottle capacity: 3 oz / 90 ml
Price: $12.50
Price / ml: $0.14

Color and saturation

The wackiness of Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black comes into play as soon as you start laying it on paper. Blue black you say? More like green black. You see, there's no blue whatsoever in it. It is very dark (almost black) and saturated but the only hint of another color that you will see is green. A dark, coppery green at that. You can even call it "verdigris".

Shading

Look closely at Noodler's Air Corp's Blue Black and you'll notice the green undertones. Does it also shade? Yes, to an extent, but being so dark it's hard to see.

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black shading

Feathering

None.

Bleedthrough

Well, this is a very dark ink and as a result it ghosts a little on cheap paper but even that is surprisingly well controlled. I would have expected a lot more show-through, to be honest.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

What I love about Air Corp Blue Black is how well it flows in the Vanishing Point, as well as how wet it is. Compared to a few other inks which passed through this pen, this one is a revelation. On the other hand, some might find it a bit too wet. I would give it a 9-9.5/10 for wetness. To me it feels wonderful. It starts right away and flows like silk through that broad nib.

Drying time

Unfortunately this is one of the longest drying inks I've tested. A very wet, dark ink can sometimes take its sweet time to dry and this one does it too, and then some. On Clairefontaine 90g (high quality paper) it wasn't completely dry even after 2 minutes. Even on cheap paper it needs about 30 seconds or so before it becomes safe to touch. I, for one, am willing to put up with this aspect, because the rest of it is so good.

Smearing when dry

Somewhat. I've noticed that it does smear a little on Clairefontaine, even after it has dried for days. I used this ink to jot a few entries in my journal and accidentally touched some of the older text with my hand, causing it to smear. It's not a big issue, as long as you're careful, but I'd rather it didn't behave like this.

Water resistance

If you thought by this point Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black ran out of surprises, you'd be wrong. First of all, this ink is billed as water resistant. As you can see from the photocopy sample, it remains completely legible after being exposed to running water for 1 minute. However, this is where the fun begins. Notice how some of it has run off? Well, that component is the very definition of blue. Yes folks, here's where the "Blue" in Blue Black was hiding.

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black wet bleed

Not only that, but looking at the reverse of the page, where the ink bled through (through heavy application of the q-tip), once again you'll be presented with the blue component in all its glory. Pretty cool, but I believe it still doesn't justify the Blue Black moniker.

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black bleed

Conclusion

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black is one of the most interesting inks I've tested, though a bit quirky. I love about it its dark color with green accents, the smoothness and wetness, and the water resistance. I'm not a big fan of how long it takes to dry and the risk of smearing. Having said that, I would still warmly recommend it. Most of its downsides can be easily bypassed by using lower quality paper, so if that's what you are using most of the time, you'll be fine. If a true blue-black ink is what you are going for, I'm afraid this isn't it, but have you considered green-black?

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

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black on photocopy

Noodler's Air Corp Blue Black on Clairefontaine

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Noodler's GI Green (V-Mail) ink review

Noodler's GI Green marks the 4th ink tested by me in the V-Mail series, after North African Violet, Burma Road Brown, and Operation Overlord Orange. Read more about V-Mail inks directly on Noodler's site.

I always enjoyed the way Noodler's comes up with all these different ink series, with similar properties within the series, but slightly different from the inks outside it. That's why I picked up a few samples of V-Mail inks a while back.

Noodler's GI Green shading

Today's review was written in my Kaweco Sport Classic with broad nib.

Bottle and pricing

Bottle capacity: 3 oz / 90 ml
Price: $12.50
Price / ml: $0.14

Color and saturation

While I found the previous V-Mail inks to be rather unique in color, I can't say the same about GI Green. Perhaps I tested too many green inks. While fairly pedestrian, it is a pleasant shade of green, nonetheless.

GI Green is a dark green, saturated ink. I found that it looks duller (less saturated) on absorbent (read cheap photocopy) paper, but more vibrant on something like Clairefontaine.

In the copy paper sample I compared it with Diamine Green Black (darker) and Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel (much lighter).

I also shot a separate comparison next to Noodler's Green and Green Marine. As you can see, these dark inks all look very similar, but personally I lean towards Noodler's Green.

Noodler's GI Green vs Green vs Marine Green

For what it's worth, this is the second ink review shot with my new camera.

Shading

Although dark(ish), Noodler's GI Green definitely has some shading going on. The shinier the paper, the more it likes to gather in dark pools at the end of the nib's stroke.

Noodler's GI Green shading

Feathering

None.

Bleedthrough

For how dark this ink is, it doesn't bleed a lot on cheap paper, but you can definitely see its ghost on the reverse.

One thing that I found interesting was how the ink showed through under the very thick q-tip swab, as well as the patch where it seeped through the paper in the water resistance test. Check it out below: some cool hints of gold-green and turquoise.

Noodler's GI Green bleed

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

In the Kaweco it flows very smoothly and also very wetly. I'm sure some folks will be put off by how wet it is. I'd give it a 9/10 wetness score. Just be careful if you put it in an eyedropper fountain pen, as it might start spitting once it runs low.

Drying time

The drying time is very quick on cheap paper but obviously longer on Clairefontaine. Even then, it's within acceptable range.

Smearing when dry

None.

Water resistance

Noodler's GI Green is supposed to be water resistant but I guess this varies from ink to ink. In this case, it's definitely not waterproof. As you can see from the sample, some of it washes off after being exposed to running water. The dark component runs off, leaving a much lighter shade of almost-turquoise or almost-teal.

Conclusion

Noodler's GI Green is the green member of the V-Mail family with nice shading and a bit of water resistance. If you want to collect all V-Mail inks, go for it. If not, it is still a very solid choice as a dark green ink. However, my personal take on this is that Noodler's simply has too many green inks (especially dark ones) in the lineup. While I love the quirkiness of Noodler's brand, sometimes it overwhelms even an ink enthusiast with so many variations of the same shade.

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

Noodler's GI Green on photocopy

Noodler's GI Green on Clairefontaine

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia ink review

Manjiro Nakahama Whaleman's Sepia is a special ink from Noodler's, in that there's an interesting story behind it, it comes only in 4.5 oz bottles which include a free pen, it has a peculiar scent, and the color is rather unique. One more, very important detail, is that this is one of Noodler's security inks, meaning that it was designed to be tamper proof, including high resistance to agents such as bleach.

The name Manjiro Nakahama comes courtesy of a Japanese gentleman who was really into ships and such. Follow the link under his name if you want to find out more but I won't bore you with the details.

In a nutshell, Whaleman's Sepia was designed to resemble the inks that old-time whalers used to make out of squid ink. Very cool concept. I wish it were actually made from squid ink.

I've been waiting a long time to review this ink and here it is, finally. Was it worth the wait? Methinks not, but read on to find out why.

I tested a sample of this ink in my Pilot Vanishing Point with broad nib.

Bottle and pricing

Bottle capacity: 4.5 oz / 133 ml
Price: $27.50 (+ free pen)
Price / ml: $0.20

Whaleman's Sepia is a tad pricier than regular Noodler's inks but not by much and it does come with a pen (an eyedropper Platinum Preppy). You're out of luck if you don't need so much of it though, because it doesn't come in smaller bottles.

Quick word about the peculiar smell. While pungent, I don't find it unpleasant at all. It doesn't stink outright, but you will definitely feel it if you put your nose to the bottle/vial.

Color and saturation

Whaleman's Sepia is supposed to be a sepia-colored ink, which is a shade of brown. It has high saturation but the main problem (for me) is that it comes very close to black as opposed to brown. To my eyes, on paper, it looks positively black. What's interesting is that the photos managed to capture the brown better than my eyes can distinguish it.

Speaking of photos, this is the first ink review where I'm using a new camera to shoot the ink samples.

Back to the ink, in the copy paper example there's a comparison with a regular brown ink, Noodler's Polar Brown. The differences between them couldn't be greater. Just for a lark, I decided to compare it to Noodler's Heart of Darkness (below) and it's obvious how much more it resembles a black ink than a brown one.

Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia vs HOD

Shading

I could say there's none, but if I peer closely into its murky darkness, there are slight variations, so for the sake of brevity I will admit that there is some color variation.

Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia shading

Feathering

None.

Bleedthrough

Obviously, such a dark ink will bleed on cheap paper. On Clairefontaine 90g it doesn't.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness

The crux of my beef with Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia is that it is a very dry ink, and I don't like this type at all. Folks with free-flowing nibs might enjoy it though, but it doesn't work for me. The Pilot Vanishing Point struggles with it and the nib dries up after every use. Once it gets going, it writes smoothly enough - when it doesn't skip - and it likes to do that a lot. Unfortunately I've been forced to pump the pen's converter pretty often, to get it going.

Drying time

Drying time is longish on smooth paper but fairly short on photocopy. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Smearing when dry

Surprisingly, this ink doesn't smear much, even on Clairefontaine, provided it dries well. I would have expected it to smear but apparently it bonds really well with the cellulose in the paper. That's very good, but don't forget this is a security ink, meaning that smear resistance should come with the territory.

Water resistance

Water resistance is 9-9.5/10. It's not perfect because a very thin layer washes off after exposure to water, but I don't see that as an issue.

One thing that I didn't test and I would like to find the time for, is bleach resistance. The documentation states that the ink changes color from brown to red to purple, the stronger the bleach. Hopefully I can test that soon.

Conclusion

Sadly I'm not a fan of Noodler's Manjiro Nakahama Whaleman's Sepia. I love the lore behind this ink and the intent, but the color is too dark (though I'm sure for others this is a boon), and worst of all it writes too dry for comfort. Furthermore, unless you need tons of it, you won't find it in smaller bottles. I would give this one a pass, but if you are a fan, please share your experience, I'd love to hear about it.

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

Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia on photocopy

Noodler's Whaleman's Sepia on Clairefontaine