Monday, May 2, 2011

Noodler's North African Violet (V-Mail) ink review

Noodler's North African Violet is a V-Mail series ink and it is, of course, purple. V-Mail inks are a collection of inks from Noodler's, with "vintage qualities" though I'm a bit unclear as to what that means exactly. All I know is that the term "V-Mail", which stands for Victory Mail, was used during World War II.

I did not buy an entire bottle of North African Violet because I just wanted to give this ink a try first. Besides, I'm not big on purple ink. So I got a sample from Goulet Pens. A sample is the perfect size for such a review.

Noodlers North African Violet

I tested North African Violet in my Noodler's piston filler fountain pen, which I only considered fitting seeing that they are from the same brand.

From what I had seen in other reviews, North African Violet is a lovely purple and I wasn't disappointed. Truth be told, I was also attracted by the "V-Mail" label and was curious to see what vintage characteristics this ink exhibits. Since I'm not an ink expert, I can tell you right away that I have no idea how a vintage ink is supposed to look or behave.

This was the first (and only) purple ink I tested so far and it was a good one. It has a deep, rich tone, though it is relatively flat without much shading. The color makes me think of dark grapes but that's maybe not accurate. What's certain is that it is very saturated and I like that in an ink. I'm sure it could be diluted with water to a great extent and it would still write strong.

One thing that I found very curious is that I couldn't get a good photo of Noodler's North African Violet. That's very strange indeed because usually when I shoot inks, the resulting photo is at least similar to the actual ink. In this case however, instead of violet, every single photo turned out blue, not matter how I adjusted the exposure or the white balance. In the end I had to adjust all the photos manually from software to get the color to look close to the original. As a result, the samples shown here may not be 100% accurate.

The ink flowed well in the Noodler's pen but it did tend to dry up, though I think that's more of a flaw of the fountain pen.

Drying times are moderate but it depends on the type of paper used. Higher quality paper almost always gives a longer drying time as you can see from the Rhodia which took ages to dry.

A great characteristic of this ink, which I wasn't expecting, is the good water resistance. As you can see from the sample written on photocopier paper, Noodler's North African Violet is almost waterproof. Some of it does wash off but I'm sure that's just the layer which hasn't bonded well with the cellulose.

Unfortunately there's also a "dark side" to North African Violet. It likes to stain fountain pens and it stains them really well. At least that is what happened to my Noodler's piston filler. I admit that part of the blame lies with me because I left the ink a long time in the pen without using it, until it dried up. But when I tried to clean the pen (which is a clear demonstrator), I couldn't. It remained stained purple. And, as you will see in a future article, I ended up destroying my Noodler's pen as a result.

To wrap up this review, if I were to buy a whole bottle of purple ink, Noodler's North African Violet would be it. I absolutely adore the color, saturation and richness of this ink. Its water resistance is a very pleasant bonus and something that I find desirable in a good ink. The only disadvantage to North African Violet is its staining capabilities. This means that I don't recommend it for use in clear demonstrators. Instead, dedicate a pen only to this ink, or use a fountain pen which doesn't show the ink reserve, or use the ink to refill a cartridge.

Here are the two samples on plain photocopier paper and Rhodia 80g paper.

Noodlers North African Violet on photocopier paper

Noodlers North African Violet on Rhodia


  1. Are you sure that this is a staining ink? I thought the Noodler's Kung Te Cheng was the one with the potential staining. That N. African Violet looks great... I want the entire V-Mail series! :)

  2. Well, it certainly stained my demonstrator real good. It is a gorgeous color, with that single caveat. In my next post I will describe in more detail how I managed to ruin my Noodler's fountain pen, in part thanks to this ink, in part thanks to my carelessness.

  3. Great review, and I really appreciate the link! Did you try cleaning with bleach, by any chance? A lot of the more stubborn Noodler's inks (like Baystate Blue) clean up nicely with a 10% bleach/water solution, I'm betting that would help tremendously with NAV as well. This is a very vibrant and popular ink. I just hope everyone's not scared away by this (and Peninkcillin's) cleaning experience with it!

  4. Thanks Brian!

    Just in case it wasn't clear from my review, I will re-iterate: I LOVE THIS INK! It's one of the most gorgeous purples I've ever seen. It's just that there's the little (potential) caveat that it might stain certain pens. Or maybe I was the unlucky SOB who ruined his pen because he's a noob :) So take the staining story with a grain of salt. After all, Bay State Blue is loved by many in spite of its... unruliness.

  5. Oh, I haven't tried bleach. I'm a bit scared of it. I don't even know how to buy it or prepare it, if you can imagine.

  6. Bleach can be bought at grocery stores/supermarkets like Wal-Mart, Meijer, etc. just be careful not to get it on your clothes, unless you want them turned white. :) I haven't tried it in pens yet, only ammonia which I too am afraid of sometimes. Bummer that this ink stained your Noodler's pen. I'll have to make note not to use it in mine if I get it.

  7. OK, another stupid question, but does it come in liquid or powder form? And how concentrated should it be? Should I dilute it with water when cleaning my pens?

    About the Violet, just don't use it in a demonstrator, or use it in a cheap eyedropper like a Preppy or something, or use it in a dedicated pen. But if you are looking for a violet, I urge you to try this one.

  8. Boy that's a gorgeous color! I wish it didn't stain demos. It'd look just awesome in a TWSBI! Have you had success yet in cleaning it?

    777 - Tyler Dahl

  9. No, I ended up destroying my Noodler's fountain pen (mostly out of my own stupidity).

    If you really like it, perhaps you should either dedicate a pen only to this ink, or try not using it in a demonstrator.

    The TWSBI might have a higher quality plastic than Noodler's so maybe it won't stain so much.

  10. I had North African Violet stain my bathroom sink and a diluted bleach solution is what cleaned it up. However, in some cheap converter the stain never did completely come out. It doesn't really matter, but was slightly annoying. I don't use NAV very often because of this staining issue. 

  11. Now I know I'm not losing my mind :) Thanks for that.

  12. This is great. Thank you! I like purple inks.