Category: Ink Review

Ink Review: Robert Oster Berry D’arche

Robert Oster Berry D’Arche ($16 per 50 ml bottle) is hard color to color to describe. It’s not quite a burgundy, not really purple but its not a brown either. And if you think describing it was a challenge, photographing it was even more difficult.

Looking at the swatch card next to other colors of similar hue is probably the best way to get a ballpark of the color in perspective. Scabiosa is definitely more purply and Syrah more red. Berry D’arche is definitely more of a muted, less vibrant color than some of the other colors shown. I began to think of Berry D’arche as a sophisticated color– appropriate for work but still a little different.

I still couldn’t get away from describing it as a two-color name… red-black, purple-brown, burgundy-grape? I would drive Myke Hurley to drink an entire bottle of Merlot with my two-color names! (If you listened to Episode 252 of The Pen Addict podcast, you’ll know he was not keen on the use of two-color names for things so I’m not helping myself here.) But some colors are just in that hazy, in-between space and what can you do?

Technically, this ink color does shade but there is not much sheening, if any, that I can spot.

The fact that its one of those is-it or isn’t-it colors makes it hard to recommend. Are you looking for a color that isn’t quite burgundy or purple or red or brown or maroon or black? Then this is for you.


Ink Review: Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Every year for the last… maybe eight SIX years now(?) Pelikan has tried to wow us with a new jewel-themed Color of the Year ink color. While Pantone is telling us this year is the year of “Greenery,” Pelikan is trying to convince us its a browner sort of year. Pelikan chose Smoky Quartz ($28 for a 50ml bottle) as its color of the year.

Side note: For a handy cheat sheet of all the Pelikan Edelstein colors released thus far, check out the list compiled on the Pelikan’s Perch. They even have information on the 2018 color that’s been selected: an olive-green though it has yet to be named. 

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz

The color is a deep rich, chocolatey brown for sure. The only other neutral/brown tone the Pelikan Edelstein has offered was the Amber in 2013 and it was much more of an orange-brown so fans of this line of ink are sure to be pleased with the richness of this color. I was happy to see that the color is a warm brown with a yellow, golden undertone.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz swatch

When I swatched the color, it magically got this highlight spot so that I could see the undertones. t gave it quite a Western Americana feel to me. It was the first time I really got the “smoky” part of the color.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz writing sample

The writing sample did not show a lot of color variation but its a nice solid brown ink. There was no noticeable shading or sheening. It’s definitely a “staple” ink and not a “boutique” ink.

Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz Swatch Comparison

I had a really hard time getting the color “just right” on these swatches. Suffice it to say that the subtleties got lost but the overall color values are captured here. Smoky Quartz is definitely one of the darkest browns in my collection. Bookbinders Eastern Brown and Kaweco Caramel Brown are definitely warmer colors. Tears of a Clown is more reddish. Platinum Pigment Sepia is the lightest and both formulas of KWZ Honey are more gold, leaning to green.

I hope theses images help to give you a better idea of how Smoky Quartz performs in real world tests. Right now Oster Caffe Creme is probably my favorite brown ink followed by KWZ Honey but I’d probably put Smoky Quartz in slot #3. That’s not a bad place to be. Its a solid performer and a good rich color and a nice alternative to black or blue-black.

Testing Notes: I used Rhodia Uni blank paper for the writing tests and my trusty Esterbrook #2442 nib in my Shawn Newton nib holder. For the header and ink swabs, I used a #4 round watercolor brush. For all the ink swatches shown I used the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book and a Zebra G Titanium dip nib in a vintage holder. To keep my lines straight, I use 6mm and 7mm guide sheets.


Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz Giveaway Package

THE PRIZE: Winner will receive ONE (1) bottle of Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz graciously provided by Goulet Pens AND ONE (1) Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book from The Well-Appointed Desk.

THE RULES: Leave ONE (1) comment below and tell me which of all the Pelikan Edelstein Color of the Year colors has been your favorite thus far. Is it Smoky Quartz? Or one of the previous colors? Or do you have a recommendation for what the next color should be? If so, you must give it the appropriately gemstone-y name.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, April 10, 2017. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within seven (7) days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US residents only, please.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Goulet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Lamy AL-Star Pacific Special Edition 2017 (EF Nib) and Lamy Pacific Ink

I spent a very amused hour listening to Myke and Brad fuss about the new Lamy Special Editions for 2017 on this week’s episode of the Pen Addict. Did you hear the episode? First, a big congratulations to the guys for reaching their five year milestone!

I was tickled that Brad was so passionate about not liking the AL-Star as much as he liked the Safari. My feelings on the subject are the exact opposite. The plastic Safari cost is about $30 but for about $7 more you can get the more durable (and IMHO more aesthetically appealing) aluminum AL-Star.

Finally, knowing that Lamy is doing the same pebbly finish on the Petrol Safari special edition that they did on the Dark Lilac means that the AL-Star is going to remain a classic since it keeps the original smooth finish. I’m not a fan of the pebbly finish that Lamy is using on the Dark Lilac and the upcoming Petrol model but you may disagree. So, as you can see, my opinions are diametrically opposite of Brad and Myke on the subject of the new Lamy Safari and AL-Star releases.

Onward, to the Pacific! Isn’t the color stunning? Like all the other limited edition Lamy colorways, the question really boils down to this… will you kick yourself later if you don’t buy it? Its the whole FOMO thing. If you love Lamy AL-Stars or you’re a fan of all things turquoise-y you are going to want to pick one of these up. If you’ve never purchased a Lamy Safari or AL-Star before and were considering buying one, this would be a good one to buy. As a fan of the AL-Star over the Safari, I’m always going to prefer it over the Safari but if you asked Brad, he’d tell you the exact opposite so you’ll have to use your best judgement here. Do you like metallic sheen? Or do you prefer glossy plastics or pebbled finishes?

I received the Lamy AL-Star Pacific with an EF nib ($37.60) from Goulet Pens. Generally, I find that the Lamy nibs tend to run a little wet and a bit wider than other European nibs. I find the Lamy EF nib to be a very pleasant everyday writing pen and with the Lamy Pacific ink ($10.50 for the 50ml bottle) its a great pick-me-up for a grey February day.

Don’t forget to add a Z24 converter ($4.95) to you order if you plan to use bottled ink.

There’s been a lot of discussion around the Lamy Pacific ink being repackaged Lamy’s Turquoise ink. Many pen shops (as well as Lamy) have clarified that the Lamy Pacific ink is the same ink as Lamy Turquoise so if you already own a bottle of Lamy Turquoise, you do not need to purchase another bottle of Lamy Pacific — unless you really want to. However, if you have not purchased Lamy Turquoise in the past, this would be a perfect opportunity to grab a bottle to match this lovely pen.

Lamy Pacific ink is a vibrant turquoise blue that has good shading and even a big of magenta sheen. Shading is visible even in the EF nib writing and the color stays bright and legible even in the fine writing of the EF nib. While Lamy has trouble getting a bright, legible green, they do a splendid job with their bright, legible blue. And at the price point, this ink cannot be beat. Add in the cool bottle with blotting paper built into the bottle and you have a great deal.

I’ve included a couple other current turquoise inks that are popular at the moment for comparison. All were painted on Rhodia paper. Robert Oster Torquay is notably darker and Sailor’s new Yuki-Akari is a bit lighter than the Lamy Pacific.

In the end, I find the AL-Star, and the Pacific color in particular, to be one of the nicest looking pens Lamy has done in awhile. Could you imagine if the Lamy 2000 had been Pacific Blue Makralon? I wish Lamy had been a bit more upfront about the ink color name change with retailers but Pacific/Turquoise is such a gorgeous color and it really does have a lovely sheen that I don’t think anyone will get stuck with too many bottles.

It does make me wonder if the ink for Petrol won’t be rebranded Blue Black though.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Goulet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: KWZ Honey (New & Old Formula)

KWZ Honey (old and new formula)

I finally had a chance to test both KWZ Honey (the original formula) and the newly formulated (less odiferous) version ($13 for 60ml bottle) and thought I’d write up a side-by-side comparison. The new formula of KWZ Honey hit the US in the fall with little fanfare and mixed opinions. This gave me a bit of time to play with both versions and let me simmer down in my feelings one way or another. The reason the formula was altered stemmed from the distinct smell in the original formula of Honey. It has a distinct astringent scent from the preservative used to keep the ink from molding or getting funky. It reminds me of menthol. The new version has very little scent, more of a traditional inky smell. Some people feel that the change in the preservative also altered the color and translucency. So, let’s see if you agree.

The original formula of KWZ Honey was purchased in cases this summer. I know this for a fact because I helped sell a lot of it behind the Vanness Pens table in Chicago and DC specifically. By the time we got to Dallas though, the new formula had be introduced. We really hadn’t had much chance to compare the two versions prior to Dallas other than a few quick swabs and the sniff test. So this is the first chance I’ve had to publicly share my comparisons.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) swab comparison

Above are the swabs of both versions. The  original formula swab is in the center and I did that when I first received my bottle of Honey several months ago. The swabs right and left were done on the same day, with the same brush and dried for exactly the same amount of time to be as close in comparison as possible and as unlikely to have any fading or other changes as possible. And those were done last week.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) writing sample

These are writing samples left and right with the same brush for the headers (my Silver round brush #6) and the same Esterbrook fountain pen nib for the writing samples done at the same time for color comparisons. In side-by-side comparisons, I was initially going to be all “oh, you can definitely tell a difference” but in the end, I really can’t tell a noticeable difference between the two versions other than the distinct lack of smelling like Vick’s Vap-o-Rub when using the new formula.

Honey shades from a nice golden color to a rich chocolate brown. There’s great range to the color.

KWZ Honey (old and new formula) swab comparison

I’ve include comparison swatches of some other warm golden browns, including Callifolio Heure D’orée which is a seriously underappreciated ink. I’ll be doing a more detailed review of it soon. Other browns don’t  shade with as wide as range as Honey.  Akkerman #22 Hopjesbrown is a much more reddish brown and Iroshizuku Ino-Ho and KWZ Green Gold 2 are both much more yellow-green but are closest in value.

So, if you had wanted to buy KWZ Honey but were not buying it because you only wanted “the one, true original formula” you are doing yourself a disservice. The new formula is just as lovely as the original with 95% less Vap-o-Rub scent.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Vanness Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Signature Khaki

Robert Oster Khaki

I am reviewing another in my heaping pile of Robert Oster Signature Inks. This time its the Khaki which I was surprised to discover was actually a bit more green than what I tend to associate with khaki but it may be a misinterpretation of Yanks vs. Aussies sort-of thing. Oster Khaki ($16 per 50ml plastic bottle) is a color I associate with the perfect cocktail olive — or at least the dark briny juice that one finds cocktail olives floating in. I couldn’t write with this ink without wanting to put on one of those fabulous Thin Man movies and fill a shaker with several ounces of the finest gin and copious amounts of crushed ice. Asta, darling, time for your walksies!

Robert Oster Khaki writing sample

All sloppy drunken jokes aside, the shading and color on this ink is quite delightful. It walks a perfect balance (at least for me) between a yellowy green and deep woodsy green. It’s dark enough to be legible but green enough to be green with enough yellow to be MY KIND of green. Sometimes, in order to get greens dark enough, inks get too black, too blue or too well, not green anymore. And I don’t always want a bright candy color (I know that might be hard to believe).

Robert Oster Khaki Swab Comparison

Here’s my comparison swatches. These are the greens that were closest in hue to Oster Khaki. The closest is Bung Box 88 Green Tea and you’ll be delighted to hear that Oster Khaki is considerably less expensive and (IMHO) a better color. Diamine Safari and Montblanc Daniel DeFoe are both much more saturated colors in comparison.

So, there you have it. If I were to make a list of my favorite green inks, this one would be pretty close to the top of the list. And I am super picky about the perfect shade of green. If I were to have my own “signature” green, this might just be it.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Vanness Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Fire & Ice

Robert Oster Fire & Ice

I could not wait to get my hands on Robert Oster Signature Fire & Ice ink ($16). It was sold out on Vanness Pens as soon as it was available so I had to wait a couple weeks to get a bottle of my own. It was totally worth the wait. This is one of the Oster inks with a lot of sheen so if that’s something you like in your inks, this is definitely a color to consider.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Ink Swab

Fire & Ice is a blue ink that leans to the dark turquoise (ice) side with a red/magenta sheen, hence the “fire”.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Writing Sample

The Oster inks still comes in the tall, slender 50ml plastic bottles, for better or worse, depending on your perspective. Its the only sticking point I have with their inks. I don’t mind the plastic part, since the inks ship all the way from Australia, I appreciate the overall weight reduction of the plastic and the dark material of the plastic. I even don’t mind the slender shape for storage but I know I’m going to get to a point with every single one of my Oster inks where I’m going to need to transfer them to other containers in order to get the inks out of the bottle. I’ll be buying lots of empty glass bottles from Vanness to store my inks for sure.

Robert Oster Fire & Ice Ink Swab comparison

I hope the swatch comparison above helps show where Fire & Ice falls in the “blue and sheen-y” ink category — at least in my ink collection. I also included all the other bluish Robert Oster inks. Callifolio Omi Osun is very close in color but does not have the sheen. Oster’s Aqua, Torquay and Blue Denim all sheen as well but are different colors of blue. Torquay is much more turquoise, Blue Denim is a darker blue and Aqua looks more teal comparatively. Sailor Yama Dori and Pilot Iroshizuku Ku Jaku both have sheen but are closer in color to Oster Aqua than Fire & Ice. And finally, I included Private Reserve Daphne Blue and Akkerman Treves-Turquoise which both sheen a bit but are much lighter, brighter cool blues.

So… if you collect blue inks, sheening inks or turquoise inks with the same wild abandon that I do, you’ll not want to wait a second to order a bottle of Fire & Ice. It’s pretty magical and mesmerizing to write with. But if this kind of inky trickery is not your cup of tea, then you’ve been sufficiently warned. Oster makes many other ink colors that are beautiful colors that I’ll be reviewing soon that may be more to your taste.

Ink Review: Robert Oster Blue Denim

Robert Oster Blue Denim

By popular request, I finally have a review of Robert Oster Blue Denim. It is one of the many shades of the new Robert Oster Signature Inks that I have and it is a great, shading, sheening color. There is a distinct red halo with this ink, even in finer nibs.It’s one of the first things you’ll notice along with the vibrant deep blue color. It’s definitely a cool blue, despite the red sheen. What a conundrum of a color! A cool color with a warm sheen!

Robert Oster Blue Denim Swatch

I’ve mentioned it before but I’ll say it here, the only downside with the Oster inks, if you perceive it that way, is the bottle. It’s a plastic bottle. The bottle is tall and narrow which will require a syringe to access inks after a certain point and could be prone to tipping if you are not careful. You may want to decant the inks into a different container if you fill your pens directly from the bottle. However, the bottles are plastic which means they are unlikely to break in shipping and are recyclable which, in another way, is a plus. Also, the bottles are dark so they protect the inks from light so the colors are unlikely to shift due to exposure to light. So, there’s that.

Robert Oster Blue Denim Writing Sample

In my writing sample, I used my trusty Esterbrook nib holder and my favorite #2442 fine stub nib which showed more turquoise coloring. I also have the Blue Denim ink in my Karas Kustoms Bar Stock Fountain K EF and the ink looks much darker with the red sheen far more evident. You can see a writing sample in my recent writing samples of the Ferme à Paris Planner writing tests.

Robert Oster Blue Denim Ink Comparison

Compared to some of the other Oster inks in my cupboard, Blue Denim is probably the closest to a “blue black”. Blue Denim is probably most comparable, color-wise to Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo and Noodler’s Navy — at least of the colors I have on hand. But clearly, there are differences. So see? You really do need another blue ink!

Oster Blue Denim in 50ml bottles is available from Anderson Pens and Vanness Pens.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.