The cool thing about Waterman’s ink is the fact you can tip the bottles on their side:
This makes getting the last of the ink from the bottle fairly easy. South Seas Blue (now “Inspired Blue” after the EU made them reformulate without phenol) is the only bottle I have on the go at the moment. It’s a really nice shade of turquoise that gets very exciting with a flex nib.
Even better, if you lay it on very thick you get a fantastic red sheen at the edges:
It’s pretty but not something I would write with often. And I found that it had flow issues in an Ahab.
Waterman inks are good, cheap and generally safe. Richard Binder recommends them for vintage pens (along with Diamine). If you like their limited range of colours they’re a safe bet. But that bottle design is just great, which is why I’m hanging on to my empties.
This is a pretty useless pen, but a lot of fun and a quick and easy way to get into calligraphy. Pilot Parallel pens are so called because they have two parallel plates that feed ink between them (rather than a nib or dip pen) and they work really really well. They come with a handy little booklet of different styles, and they also come in four sizes:
I recommend getting a big one to start with, just because it’s easier to use. But then of course you’ll go through a lot of paper… anyway, in a few short sessions you can realise just how easy gothic black letter is:
OK, I’m sure someone who’s actually good at calligraphy would find fault but… for the rest of us, it’s a start.
The parallel pens come with specific cartridges and no converter. I used a couple and then filled all four of my pens eyedropper style (take some silicon grease to the threads and just fill the body up; I didn’t bother with an o ring). Ink is Diamine Graphite, that never really grabbed me as much as I wanted it to until I put it in these pens.
Some day I’ll finish the alphabet for my Sabriel game…
I’m a big fan of Kaweco, and I really like the Kaweco Sport.
The “classic” sport is made of ABS plastic, not glamorous but tough. It’s pocket sized and lozenge shaped:
Once you post them, they’re a decent size.
They come in lots of different colours and formats — I have a black “guilloche” with an EF nib, and a burgundy one with an ink roller tip.
The nibs are great. They also come in different materials like acrylic and aluminium and carbon fibre and now brass. The only downside is the section and nib are both short so you’re either going to hold the pen close to the tip, or hold it around the section threads. That’s actually more comfy with the cheapo plastic pen than the (much) pricer Aluminium, so for everyday use I’d go with the cheap ones. You can still get decent replacement nibs.
Cartridge only, though. I’m using the nice-but-boring Royal Blue that came with the pen, and a Visconti red cartridge (because I wanted the fancy Bakelite cartridge case).
Apparently the little coin on the case was for displaying a corporate logo when the cases were given out as gifts.
I really recommend a Noodler’s Ahab. They’re not the easiest to get hold of in the UK (but not impossible) but they’re cheap, you can completely disassemble them for cleaning, and you can flex them:
Which means you get some great line variation.
It also means you lay down a lot of ink, which will affect the colour of the strokes and in some inks (like this “Deep Dark Purple” from Cult Pens) you get sheen.
Not the best pictures, but you can see that the sheen is a really nice shade of dark green on top of the purple (don’t tell the Drazi).
The only issue with flexing is it takes so much ink at once that sometimes the feed can’t keep up. But also some Ahabs just don’t like some inks — it may have something to do with the ebonite feed, rather than a plastic one. Here it runs dry on heavy flexing.
Of course I was really pushing the flex on that one — normally when I write the result is more like the middle line. It still lays ink pretty wet, but that can work with e.g. laid writing papers. Gives a lot of character to the writing, even if you don’t know how to do copperplate.
This belonged to one or both of my grandparents: it now gets regular use for letters and so on.
I’m pretty conservative with inks in this pen, mostly avoiding wacky colours and saturated inks like the Diamine. This blend is fairly subtle but I feel it’s more than the sum of its parts: it gives a bluish intensity to the black, and makes the normal Skrip Blue-Black a bit bolder. Works with a lot of different papers. As mentioned earlier Diamine make several different blacks, and this one looks a bit like the Graphite.
Paper: Leuchtturm A5 Notebook, Dotted
This will be my new travelling notebook – it’s smaller than the Habana. Dots are the same spacing as the Rhodia dot pad. The paper seems to be fine with fountain pen ink, and a nice off-white.
One thing about Leuchtturm is they number their pages and put tables of contents inside, and they give you stickers for when the book is full and you file it away. I can take or leave that, to be honest. There’s a handy pocket in the back cover, like the Habana. But really this is just another black notebook with a ribbon and cream-coloured paper and a faux leather cover. It’s nice to write in and handle, which is what matters.
Test page (no bleeding or show through to speak of).
OK, you know what the Lamy pens look like by now. This one is transparent, which means that nice coloured inks are visible not only in the window but also the feed (top photo, although not a very good one).
Ink: Diamine Ancient Copper
There’s something about the combination of this ink and this pen that creeps badly; and when it does the brown ink appears to oxidise and go black. It’s all water soluble, it just looks filthy. The black crud under the tip can rub off on the first character of a new sentence, making a mess on the page (if you care about that sort of thing). I do wonder if it’s caused by the same mechanism as nib fouling in their Pumpkin ink–though clearly that crud has remained orange.
The ink was a free sample, and I like it, I’m just not sure what I’d use it for. It’s nice to make notes with occasionally but it’s a bit bright (much like the Diamine blue).
Paper: Pukka Vellum
Very nice, not too expensive paper. Feels lovely and the contrast with most inks is very nice. The Ancient Copper is a bit out of place–a black or grey ink would be better–but even so it’s nice to write in. Really wet pens like my Sheaffer will show through a bit, though.
Another italic nib, but this one is a fair bit smoother, rounder and thinner. It writes much more reliably than the Lamy italic nib for casual note-taking. Technically it’s a stub rather than a crisp italic nib. The line variation is a lot less, but just enough to create a little flair.
The pen is made from polycarbonate, and I bought the clear one.
Ink: Diamine WES Imperial Blue
This ink is just amazing, but not always in a good way. It’s fairly viscous so it coats the inside of the pen as shown above. It’s almost purple, which makes it very eye-catching, and it hardly seems to shade at all, just lays down an intense blue-purple line with no colour gradient. Also, the bottle is my favourite shape of all the bottles I own; it’s just a shame they no longer supply the bakelite cap. The downside is that it’s a little hard on the eyes to read a whole page of it–but it looks nice in a letter anyway.