Evaporating ink and fountain pens

I thought I was imagining it – an empty pen – I was so sure I had inked it just a few days before. Cleaned it, re-inked it, again it dried out. Rinse and repeat. Several times. Several pens. So, I set up an experiment. Every fountain pen I own: all cleaned, all fully filled, all left in the same drawer for a month.

The bad ones:

  • Hero 86
  • Lamy Safari
  • Noodlers Nib Creaper
  • Noodlers Ahab (two of them)
  • Pilot Kakuno
  • Pilot Prera
  • Zinhao x750 (two of those as well)

The keepers:

  • Platinum Preppy
  • Rotring ArtPen
  • TWSBI Eco

Granted, good or bad, my pens are all from the modest end of the fountain pen spectrum, but it appears that cost has nothing to do with the problem – the two Pilots weren’t that cheap and the humble Preppy is a bargain. (And it’s a available with an almost needle-like 0.2 nib… Just saying.)

The manufacturers and resellers don’t take this issue seriously. It matters, really matters, because good ink is expensive. Telling me I should keep my pen empty unless I want to use it straight away doesn’t cut it. These aren’t collector-pens or vintage pens but modern ones made with modern materials. I expect to be able to have them inked up and ready to go.

That Pilot Kakuno is marketed for kids. A beginners pen. It dries out to a totally empty cartridge within a week. Whatever the reason, it’s going to leave an entire generation, and their parents (and the aunty who bought the kid the pen), thinking fountain pens are unreliable. What were Pilot thinking?

The evaporation isn’t limited to plastic pens: the Zinhao are metal. (Very cheap on eBay, but there are Chinese cheapies that are fantastic. Price does not indicate quality in fountain pens. I bought these intending to replace their nibs with the flexible ones from the Ahabs. Won’t bother now.) That’s useful information because I can hereby quit daydreaming about the metal version of the Pilot Falcon, never mind the lovely soft nib, until it’s proven (by someone else) that they don’t evaporate the ink as fast as plastic Pilots.

I use my pens. Or rather, I used to use them. There are nine which will now be cleaned up and stashed away for winter. Useless. It doesn’t leave me with much for the rest of the year. OK, I heard that. Why would anyone want that many pens? Black, a couple of greys, a green or two and definitely sepia – in both waterproof (to use with watercolour) and water-soluble (think pen & wash). And that’s before thinking about statement-making bold line vs delicately spiderweb fine.

To ease the disappointment I’m getting a Platinum Plaisir in Gunmetal Grey. It’s just a metal Preppy. When it gets here I’m going to fill it with my very favourite Noodlers Lexington Grey. (Waterproof grey. Beautiful. Doesn’t look like a watered down black. Yes, there is a difference.) Now, I hear someone muttering that Noodlers ink isn’t expensive. Well, it is in Australia and far too much of mine has ended up dried up, soaked off and washed down the drain, along with so much of so many others. Not happy.