What kind of black ink is best?
April 29, 2009 9:32 PM   Subscribe

So I've ordered my first fountain pen, a Lamy Safari. What kind of ink do I use?

I've heard a lot of positive things about Noodler's bulletproof black, but also that it causes "nib creep" with Safaris. Is this actually much of a problem or just a minor annoyance? Also, I'll mostly be writing in a Moleskine planner (which I hear works well with Noodler's) and on whatever generic paper I buy for class notes. Any specific paper recommendations are also appreciated, as I know ink brand/paper combos make a big difference. Yes, I'm only looking for black ink.

Bonus question: what kind of drying time can I expect?
posted by Roman Graves to Shopping (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, the Safari has an extra fine nib.
posted by Roman Graves at 10:02 PM on April 29, 2009

The cartridges aren't that expensive - you can get 30 of them on eBay for $10+shipping.

I got my second Lamy Safari in today, an orange with a medium nib. My first was a yellow with medium nib. I'm going to order a converter for the orange one, and use some Noodler's Black ink in it.

A couple days ago, I did a comparison of various disposable and cheap fountain pens in a Moleskine notebook, a Field Notes notebook, and a Doane Paper notebook:

posted by mrbill at 10:17 PM on April 29, 2009

I've got a Safari and I've had it for ages. I've used Parker ink, Lamy ink, and a few other brands of ink I can't recally, and there's honestly fairly little difference.
I second b1tr0t that you should get a converter immediately.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:34 PM on April 29, 2009

Perhaps this goes without saying, but don't use Indian ink. It will dry solid inside the pen and you will never get it out.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:55 PM on April 29, 2009

Waterman ink is fine stuff as well. nthing the recommendation to use a converter. As far as bleed-through on 'generic paper used for class notes', you're going to have to just try it and see. And don't assume that one batch of paper from a manufacturer will have the same properties as another batch. I see quite a variation in absorption and surface fibrous-ness even within the one product.
posted by tim_in_oz at 12:14 AM on April 30, 2009

I had a 'cheap' Parker fountain pen in high school that I liked specifically for the cartridges - easier to carry around. At some point in the intervening million years I got my grubby mits on a MontBlanc (a 'mid-range' pen, not the cheapest and no where near any of the crazy pricey ones) and it's like sex on paper. Or something. I always forget how good it is, until I pick it up again (roughly daily). This one uses the 'adapter'/filler mechanism.

I wasn't able to find any 'MontBlanc' ink (in the cool bottle) a couple/six months ago (I was totally out at the time) and so I bought some Pelican. It's a little insane to say I noticed any difference, but I'd swear I did.

So I'm saying go with the Lamy/Montblanc ink.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:09 AM on April 30, 2009

You'll want to try a few different inks to see what works best with your pen and paper.

I'm not a fan of Noodler's black myself because, on many papers I use, it takes forever to completely dry. Yes, it's "bulletproof" and can survive a week in the rain, but if I brush a sweaty finger across the page I get major smearing.

My current favorite is Aurora Black. It dries quickly and looks pretty good. Private Reserve makes two blacks, regular and "quick drying" that are also good, although the regular can take a while to dry on some of the less porous papers. Waterman black is a good cheap alternative.

Platinum Carbon black is blacker than any of these and great for drawing, but it's a real pigmented ink (like India Ink, but not as thick) and will clog pens if you're not careful.

"Nib Creep" is mostly due to a maladjusted nib and isn't the ink's fault.

Also, if you like extra-fine pens, go to eBay and find yourself a couple of Hero pens. They'll cost way less than your Safari and probably write better.

(I think the ultimate fine-point pen is a Pilot Vanishing Point with a custom-made XXXF nib, but I'm a bit crazy.)
posted by mmoncur at 2:05 AM on April 30, 2009

If you're asking about inks I assume you've already got a converter, but if not, I'll nth it anyway. Cartridges are convenient to have to carry around with you just in case (especially if you're taking notes in class; I always have cartridges in my backpack for that reason), but refilling on demand is much easier and you're never stuck because you forgot to reorder some cartridges when you got low. Plus a jar will last for aaaaages! (And if you intend to keep this pen many years, if you have a converter, you don't have to worry the manufacturer will decide to change designs and discontinue your cartridges and then it becomes a new, annoying adventure every time you have to find some. Though that's just my vintage pen fannishness speaking, and you probably don't have to worry about that with this particular pen.)

That said, I personally like Parker Quink. Cheap and available everywhere and the hefty jar has a nice big mouth for dipping into. Dries fairly quickly, makes a lovely black line, and never had any trouble with it clogging up the feeds on any of my pens. I use it for writing in regular spiral notebooks (so, fairly thin paper) and don't have a lot of trouble with bleed-through, so I can use both sides of the paper. I don't use moleskines myself so I don't know how it likes that paper, but you can always experiment -- this stuff should be under $5 at an office supply store, so it's not a huge investment, and you might get someone at the shop to let you dip the pen in the ink to try writing with it before you actually buy it.

Yay your first fountain pen! Enjoy. :)
posted by sldownard at 4:11 AM on April 30, 2009

Slightly off-subject but maybe useful advice: very many years ago in grade school when we were taught how to use fountain pens, we were told always to write with the cap on the pen (opposite the nib end, of course) because doing so gives the pen the correct balance. Ymmv.
posted by anadem at 7:35 AM on April 30, 2009

My goodness, you make me realize it's been years since I even got my fountain pens out to look at, much less write with.

I have dozens of old ones, including many Schaeffer Lifetimes, a couple of Parker Duofolds and several Vacumatics, quite a few of the original Pelikan 120s, a Rotring 600 for every nib style they made when they first came out, a lone Waterman Patrician, and a bunch of miscellaneous junk, really-- and to tell the truth, I ultimately came to prefer the old fountain pen style of Koh-i-noor technical pen with a tungsten carbide point to all of these for writing on paper at a desk.

But when I did use 'em regularly, I tried all the inks I could find and always came back to Higgin's Eternal.

It's still being made, to my surprise, but the current generation of fountain pen aficionados regards it with a certain amount of suspicion.
posted by jamjam at 9:44 AM on April 30, 2009

Rotring 600 for every nib style they made when they first came out

Any time you want to de-clutter your desk drawers and move those 600's along, JamJam, memail me. Seriously.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:44 PM on April 30, 2009

I have a Lamy Safari and use it with Noodler's bulletproof black ink. I've never noticed any problems with nib creep or excessive drying time. I'm not really a fountain pen expert though (this is my first fountain pen since high school) so I may be missing something. It's a really great solid black ink and I'm very happy with it as well as my Safari. I use a fine nib so I'm not sure how it would work with a thicker nib.
posted by peacheater at 9:25 AM on May 6, 2009

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