Monday, March 5, 2012

Noodler's Baystate Blue ink review

Well then folks, here we are, finally, with the fabled and notorious Noodler's Baystate Blue ink. If you've been watching the fountain pen community for a while, you are probably aware how controversial this ink is (or at least was). I'm not going to repeat what the controversies are because I want to start this review with a clean slate.

I wanted to try Baystate Blue for a while and I had a sample for months, just waiting for me to use it. I kept putting it off but finally decided to load it up in one of my Platinum Preppys, not the eyedropper from the review but a regular Preppy with a cartridge. I just filled up the empty cartridge with a syringe and off I went.

I kept an open mind during my time with this ink but I might as well just spill part of the beans here: even my low expectations were too high. Read on to find out why.

I only bought a sample but Baystate Blue comes in two bottles types. There's the classic Noodler's 3oz/89ml bottle for $12.50, or $0.14 per milliliter. And then there's the large eyedropper bottle at 4.5oz/133ml for $21 or $0.16 per milliliter. While the big bottle seems more expensive, it does come with 2 pens: a Platinum Preppy eyedropper with an additional rollerball tip and a brush pen.

Color and saturation
Baystate Blue's color and saturation are legendary. While they are both very bright, I think my expectations were a bit too high and I wasn't exactly blown over when I first started writing with this ink. It is a bright cobalt blue, very saturated, and yet I couldn't help but feel that this is just an ordinary blue ink.

In the writing sample on photocopy paper I also did a brief comparison with another bright ink I own, Noodler's Navajo Turquoise. While these two inks are different in every way, Navajo Turquoise is also a bright blue ink. To my mind, the brightness and saturation of the two inks are almost the same, with Baystate Blue being a little bit darker, and obviously of a different hue.

Baystate Blue doesn't exhibit any shading. It's a flat ink, although there are some shadows in the thick swab done with a q-tip. Still, I wouldn't call this a shading ink.

I didn't notice any feathering but other reviewers have. Different batches of ink perhaps?

Once again, Baystate Blue was very well behaved. The q-tip shows some ghosting but that's to be expected from such a saturated ink. The Preppy didn't bleed one bit.

Flow and lubrication
Here's where Noodler's Baystate Blue starts to slide downhill. One of the things that annoyed me about this ink was the poor flow. The Preppy itself can't be the problem because I've tried it with other inks and it flows well, not too wet but just right. Baystate Blue didn't flow well at all. While it didn't exactly skip, it felt very dry and wasn't at all a pleasure to write with. After resting in the pen over the weekend, it would sometimes dry up and would require some vigorous shaking to get it started. I hate dry inks so this is strike one.

Drying time
The drying time was very good. Baystate Blue dried between 5 and 10 seconds on regular paper and slightly longer than that on Rhodia. Considering how dry this ink is, it wasn't surprising.

Smearing when dry
Baystate Blue doesn't smear at all when dry. I'm thankful for that at least.

Water resistance
Noodler's Baystate Blue is water resistant but not bulletproof. As a result, it doesn't wash off when exposed to water but some of the dye does come off, as you can see from the sample.

You might have noticed that my review doesn't seem to find too many negatives about Noodler's Baystate Blue. The only significant issue seems to be its dryness. To me, a dry ink is a big no-no. This, alone, would cut an ink off my list. However, there are other, more subtle things wrong with this ink. Perhaps because I was hoping for this ink to be eye-searing, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't. Yes, it is bright and saturated but so are other inks. It is possible that this is the only blue ink with such properties. Still, I haven't tested enough blue inks to be certain. I have a suspicion that there are other bright blue inks out there which are more fun to use.

The other thing that I didn't mention yet is the difficulty of cleaning anything that comes in contact with Baystate Blue. I was wary of this ink from the start. I heard stories of what it can do and I treated it with caution. Yet, it permanently stained the insides of my Platinum Preppy and the cartridge I used, despite flushing it with water for almost half an hour. The sink was collateral damage, as well. I made sure to use my dark sink but even that didn't escape unscathed. The damage wasn't permanent though. It cleaned up with the usual bathroom cleaning supplies. Baystate Blue even managed to stain my yellow Ahab which happened to rest on a piece of paper towel imbibed with BSB. Luckily, it came off easily with rubbing alcohol.

Incidentally, if you need to clean Baystate Blue off of something, I recommend rubbing alcohol. It seems to work well, but you'll have to rub it hard. Unfortunately it isn't always possible to rub the insides of a pen. For that reason, if you really gotta have this ink, I recommend a dedicated fountain pen, preferably a cheap one. As long as you don't plan on cleaning that pen or using another ink in it, you should be fine.

So there you have it. My experience with Noodler's Baystate Blue has shown me that the controversy surrounding this ink does have some truth to it. It does stain whatever it comes in contact with and it felt dry and unpleasant to write with. It's a no-buy for me. Your mileage may vary.

Below you have two samples of Baystate Blue, on photopier paper and Rhodia 80g, respectively.

Noodler's Baystate Blue on photocopy

Noodler's Baystate Blue on Rhodia


  1. After reading reviews like Tyler Dahl's and yours and not being a big fan of blue ink to begin with, Bay State Blue sounds like an ink to avoid.

  2. I have used it in two fountain pens so far and have had no dry ink problems.  It does stain everything however including fingers.  The manufacturer recommends using bleach to clean it out, which I think is drastic measure.  I did bleach my fingers to get the stuff off me and it failed to clean it off me completely.  I use it in the pen supplied with the ink (big bottle).  I is great for writing checks.  That stuff won't come off no matter what you do to it! 

  3. With my Noodler's Ahab it actually writes a bit too wet,
    leading to some feathering and bleed-through on inexpensive photocopy paper,
    as shown here --> Maybe the dryness was due to evaporation (being a small sample
    left for some time). Perhaps adding a drop or two of deionized water (or tap
    water if you can’t be bothered) might fix it.

  4. BayStateBlue is  a powerful blue. It should be handled with care, finesse and not for the weak or feeble minded souls that want a ink to "perform". Oh no its for the skilled and crafty folks that have the time and tenacity to overcome others...shortcomings. Otherwise you might just have a shitty batch. I agree with both sides of the argument and it's not for everyone. However, you may not know it if you don't try it for yourselves.

  5. Well, you can always try a sample, like I did. It's funny that Tyler's sample seemed to display different properties than mine: purplish + feathering.

  6. But I've used inks that are much more resistant to water, usually all of Noodler's bulletproof range. BSB is only waterproof and a bit of it washes off.

  7. Wow, Tyler found the opposite: his Ahab performed atrociously with BSB. Different batches mayhaps?

  8. I agree. These reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. These are purely my own observations which tend to have a subjective bias. Sometimes first impressions aren't the right ones and further testing might lead me to fall in love with an ink, or even to hate one that I liked at the beginning.

  9. I am not so thrilled with it myself. I find it works really well with the Preppy with the roller-ball in it. I actually really like that roller ball, I think more than the nib, as I don't find the Preppy nibs very inspiring to write with at all.  I am not sure why, they are just so bla, I guess too stiff. I prefer the Varsity or the Bic disposables to the Preppy. I find it feathers really bad in a fountain pen, and am sorry I ordered the big bottle. It feathers really bad in the Ahab (set up to write quite wet anyway) and I am going to clean it out of that pen. I also will not be using it in any of my vintage pens, as I am afraid it may damage them. It is a strong blue though I do like the saturation and it does seem to shade a bit with the Ahab (as well as bleed through about 5 layers of paper), but will not show any shading with a normal pen. Flow is fairly good in my batch. I do think since his inks are apparently hand made there may be a bit of variation between batches.

  10. I love the Varsity. Have you seen my review? No fountain pen comes close to its performance for the price. Of course, you need to be willing to fiddle with it a little, if you want to fill it with custom ink.

  11. Baystate Blue is very prone to flow problems if it encounters another ink. Unless your Preppy was spotless that could be the problem. I have this ink and have the same issues others have had, it's a lot of fuss unless you love that ink. I like it but don't love it so I haven't bothered.

  12. You might have a point there. Both the Preppy and the cartridge were very well cleaned and dried before using BSB in them but who knows, maybe it did react with remnants of the previous ink.

  13. I bought this ink about a year and a half ago. This is the ink that got me turned onto researching fountain pen ink. I really did love the colour. It's especially surprising under fluorescent office/cubicle light. It's almost like a blue with a bit of purple in it. Anyway, I had an accident at the office and got some on my shirt and desk. It came completely out with some hand sanitizer. I also noticed the preppy pen that it came with looks differently than other preppys I own. The internal housing unit of the feed doesn't have a plastic surrounding like the other preppys.

  14. Yes, I have heard that other people were also successful with hand sanitizer. I also used rubbing alcohol successfully. So I guess BSB isn't resistant to alcohol.

    As for the Preppy, the ones that Noodler includes with some of their inks are customized. For one thing they don't include the small tube/shaft that goes into a cartridge. Apparently this makes them better suited as eyedroppers.

  15. Gosh, I must be one of the few that digs  BSB--and I've had no problems with flow or staining...Mind you, I haven't yet spilled any *whew*--but I love the stuff!

  16. Just don't spill it, ok? Which pen are you using it in? Don't you find it a bit dry?

  17. THANK YOU SO MUCH for the rubbing alcohol tip. I have a yellow Creaper that got stained with BSB, and nothing else was working.

  18. My pleasure! I'm a big fan of rubbing alcohol, it's like liquid duct tape.