Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham Ink Redux

Back in September, 2008, we wrote about a then-new, custom Noodler’s Ink made for our friends Murtaza et al at Sleuth & Statesman, i.e., Blue Upon The Plains of Abraham (BUPA). While we applauded our friends for their effort to provide their customers with an unique ink (and the terrific label on the bottle as chosen by them and/or Noodler’s), let’s just say we were less than enthusiastic about the ink, with good reason, describing it as “incredibly temperamental” and not being able to “figure out how to get work in a fountain pen” (sic).  The ink was subsequently discontinued.

It turns out that Wonder Pens has now released a reformulated BUPA (with the same great label) and so we thought it a good idea to compare the old and the new and see what improvements have been made by Noodler’s in conjunction with Wonder Pens.

For illustration purposes, the first scan below shows the two bottles of BUPA side by side with the old on the left and the new to its right.  It is obvious that something has changed with the new ink, i.e., the new BUPA seems to be a deeper darker blue while the old is lighter is much less so with a magenta tone.old and new Noodlers BUPA

So let’s take a look (below)at swabs of the old BUPA, before and after the bottle had been shaken to see if that would make a difference – and it did!  In fact, redoing these swabs reminded us why we described it as “incredibly temperamental”.  The ink was a nice blue, if not consistent, when properly mixed.  In fact, if the ink was left unused in a pen for as little as a day, it needed to be shaken to produce anything close to this blue.

Old BUPA scans

Now for the new BUPA – while there appears to be a small difference when the bottle has settled vs. shaken, it is not anything close to the old BUPA.  The magenta/purples shades are thankfully gone and while it is not as deep a blue as one might expect upon opening the bottle, it is a still a very nice blue – I would call it aegean – blue-grey – cerulean blue.

New BUPA scans

So, congrats are in order to both Noodler’s and Wonder Pens, with a special tip of the cap to Wonder Pens for giving its customers something different!

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LPC Goes Green – at least for one day!

Yes, tis true – the LPC went green for our Saturday, March 15, 2014 meeting to honour St. Patrick and the Irish people, including our own Irishman Stan O’ Waterman!  We have the photos to prove it – including some from a member in northern Manitoba, IIRC (Thanks O’wen, always good to hear from you!)

So, get yourself a drink (a pint o’ Guinness or a shot or two of Bushmills or Jameson whiskey), stream some Irish music (Celtic Thunder, Irish Tenors, etc.), sit back and enjoy more green pens and ink than you ever thought possible!

Of course, it wouldn’t be right if we did not have a proper blessing, so here goes:

“May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”

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These last few pictures come from a member who moved away from London a few years ago.  Thanks O’wen!!

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Without Ink

Perish the thought!  I am not writing what would be, for most of us, an unthinkable predicament, that is to find ourself without ink.  Ask the question “Does anyone have ink?” at one of our pen club meetings and there will be 20+ bottles on the table before you can say “Noodler’s”. 

As a seasonal aside, for the past two (?) years, at our Saturday meeting just before Christmas, the London Pen Club  does a gift exchange of sorts.  Everyone brings a gift of “mystery ink” – ink wrapped up in everything from LCBO bags to men’s underwear (they were clean but for the rainbow of ink stains).  The booty is placed on a table and we each get to pick the package that calls to us.  This year I gifted five FPN sample vials of Noodler’s ink – Borealis Black, Dragon’s Napalm, Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham, FPN Galileo Brown, and one that I did not know (the label was off the bottle).  I received two baby food-size jars, one containing MB Blue – Black and the other Diamine Presidential Blue.  Very nice – but I can’t forget that the MB Blue-black is an iron gall ink.

Back to the scary notion of “without ink”.  Like you, I probably spend too much time looking at and reading about pens and ink on the web.  Occasionally, I come across sites or blogs that catch my eye, such as WithoutInk   The writer describes himself in a way that struck a chord with me – “… even with all this cool technology. i have noticed — life is very different without ink. i used to write a lot. i enjoyed it. now i type a lot… and thats totally different.”  I could not agree more – I wished that I wrote much more and typed less (perhaps after reading this far, you also agree that I should type less!).  The site has a number of pen and ink reviews, each of them are thorough and well written.  I particularly like the template that the writer employs to give the reviews structure and consistency.  In fact, the format and content reminded me a lab report, which makes sense as the writer describes himself as a “tech geek”.  I actually sent the writer a note asking him if he would link our site and send me a copy of the template, which he (Matt) did kindly and promptly.  Matt mentioned that he intends to update the template soon, once he designs it.  I can’t wait.  Thanks Matt, keep up the terrific work!  Your site is now on my regular reading list and others would do well to add it to theirs.

Fooling around with ink and paper

I recently received a truckload of ink from our friends at Swisher Pens.  I also decided to buy a few pads of the Staples Bagasse paper – made from sugarcane – which seems to be the rage on pen-related discussion boards.

One of the things that I had noticed was the significant drying time for ink used on the Bagasse paper – it just seemed to stay wet forever (imho).  So with Rick ready with his Timex, we compared two inks (Noodler’s Dark Matter and Private Reserve Fast Dry Midnight Blues) on Staples bagasse paper and Rhodia graph paper (from a notebook).  You can see that the Dark Matter took quite a bit longer to dry on the bagasse paper – over 1 minute – compared to just over 15 seconds on the Rhodia paper.  Interestingly, the Fast Dry Midnight Blues lived up to its billing – it dried very quickly on the bagasse paper – less than 15 seconds – and almost immediately on the Rhodia paper.  I should also note that the PR Fast Dry ink was laid down on the paper with a Sheaffer’s Legacy medium nib that has flow like a firehose so we were most impressed with the fast dry qualities of this ink – it was really quite amazing!

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ink and paper drying tests July 20094

ink and paper drying tests July 20091

One of the other items that has come up for discussion is the apparent difference in the colour of Pilot blue ink – from the bottle and in their V pens.  The proof is in the pudding – as you can see below, the Pilot blue bottled ink appears to be much lighter in comparison to that used in the V pens. 

ink and paper drying tests July 20092

Finally, I was asked to do a comparison of light blue/turquoise coloured inks for someone on the FPN – here are some of the main brands and the colours on Staples bagasse paper.  I tried to use a blotter on the Dark Matter ink used to label the various blues – you can see that there is a faint line running down the right hand side of the page (yet more proof of the slow drying time of this paper!).

ink and paper drying tests July 20093

Blue Upon The Plains of Abraham ink

Label from bottle of Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham - a Bulletproof ink by Noodler's

Introduction

I recently came across a discussion on the Fountain Pen Network concerning a new, custom Noodler’s Ink made for our friends Murtaza et al at Sleuth & Statesman, i.e., Blue Upon The Plains of Abraham (BUPA).  As you can see from the above picture of the label, the artwork is very detailed and draws on (no pun intended) the historical significance of this location, namely, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (BOPA).  In fact, those of you who are more historically and/or artistically inclined may notice that the label is an artistic reproduction of A View of the Taking of Quebec, seen below:

A view of the taking of Quebec, 13th September 1759. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence).
A view of the taking of Quebec, 13th September 1759. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence).

A couple of nits about the label itself.  Obviously the Canadian flag is not historically correct.  I also must admit that I am confused by the meaning of the phrase “American Canadian Ink for Canada”.  I guess I could speculate a bit about that and maybe even rant; however, I have decided to let “sleeping dogs lie” in this instance rather than risk sparking a nationalist uproar.

History

Before I get to the ink itself, I think it would be interesting to review the history of the BOPA.  After all, it was only the most significant battle in Canadian history!  The actual Plains of Abraham (POA) was a large, flat piece of farmland on high cliffs to the west of Quebec City (and derive their name from a previous owner, Martin Abraham).  The BOPA was a battle fought between the French and English in 1759.  In less than an hour, the British troops led by Major-General Thomas Wolfe defeated the French forces commanded by Lieutenant-General le Marquis de Montcalm.  The French army retreated to Montreal and within a year had surrendered New France (Quebec). A few years later, France transferred its North American possessions to England.  Needless to say, had the French been successful in the BOPA, this blog might very well be written in French!

The Ink

Now, to the real reasons for you reading this blog entry – what is the story on the ink.

Cost and Availability

As I noted previously Noodler’s mixed up a limited number of bottles of this bulletproof ink for Sleuth & Statesman (S&S) in Toronto.  Unless you live in or around Toronto or plan to visit in the near future, you will have to email or call and have them ship the number of bottles that you require.  The cost of each bottle is around Cdn $25, including taxes, and shipping is extra (which will depend on the number of bottles and method selected).  Expensive, yes, but understandable in the circumstances – how else could S&S offer their customers a unique ink while recovering their costs and a small profit, if any, on such a small “batch” of ink (I thought that I read somewhere it was 50 bottles or so).

Performance of the ink

From what I have read, the ink has a strong magenta undertone that takes on varying and differing degrees of prominence.  It apparently can be so temperamental as to reflect those different undertones while using the same pen at different times!  Someone even referred to it as the Canadian “Baystate Blue” – not necessarily a particularly positive comment (to some people) but inaccurate, at least to the extent that the BUPA ink is labelled as being pH neutral – the Baystate line of inks are not.  On the other hand, it can very a very nice blue when the dyes stay mixed!

At our pen club meeting on Saturday morning, I test dipped the bottle with a Q-tip – the line that it laid down showed a variety of colours with a heavy magenta undertone; however, I did not see that special blue that I was expecting.  Perhaps it was because the ink was not as shaken up as it might have been (and that I can remain objective in my test dips and writing samples).

The first thing that I did on Sunday (after shaking the bottle a number of times) was create an ink swatch on Maruman grid paper with a Q-tip with ink from the bottle and then from the inside of the cap.  The results were much better than the first swab on Saturday, however, there is even a noticeable difference in these swipes.  When the ink is blue, it is a very, very nice blue; otherwise, I am not sure what to call it.

I then filled an old warhorse that I have, a Sheaffer Fashion fountain pen with a broad nib.  You can see the handwriting samples on first the Maruman and then the Whitelines paper.  In each case, the pen started skipping and then stopped after writing with it for a few minutes. When I chose to stop writing, capped the pen, and then tried to write with it again (less than five minutes later), the pen would not start – I had to pump the aerometric filler in order to restart the flow.  In my past experience with this Sheaffer pen, it has been a wet writer with a generous flow (I used it with Baystate Blue on a number of occasions without difficulty).  This ink felt very dry when writing on both paper samples, in fact, you could really hear the nib on the paper.  I could even tell that it was going to skip and stop, it was just a question of when.  The other thing I noticed on the Whitelines paper, was that the writing seemed to have a slight aura of magenta.

After leaving my desk and thinking about this for a bit, I thought it might be useful to try out this ink on some different paper (Rhodia reverse book this time) and using two glass dipping pens that I have.  What a disaster, as you can see below.  I tried both glass dipping pens with the same incredibly poor result – the ink either splatted off the pen or nothing, I could not write anything decipherable with it.  And there was clearly ink on the glass nib but it seemed to have dried almost instantly so that it was not able to flow from the glass nib to the paper.

Conclusion

This ink is incredibly temperamental – either the colour is not right or the colour is right but the pen is skipping and stopping.  I am going to have to decide if (and that’s a very big IF) it makes sense to invest some time trying the BUPA in different pens and on different paper to see whether there is a magical combination that works.

I applaud S&S for making the effort to provide their customers with a unique ink but it appears to me that something went wrong here.  I would love to see the test results for this ink and if they are positive, I would love to find out what I (and others) are doing wrong.  It should not be that hard, I mean, we are talking about fountain pen ink after all, not the formula for the fountain of youth.  I cannot believe that Noodler’s would put their name on ink that I can’t figure out how to get work in a fountain pen.

Matching Ink Colour to Pen Colour – Conclusion

First things first. Here are the names of the ink swatches in the scan:

1. Diamine Tropical Blue
2. Diamine Royal Blue
3. Diamine New Century Sapphire
4. Herbin Eclat de Saphir
5. Herbin Blue Pervenche
6. Noodler’s Ottoman Azure
7. Private Reserve Lake Placid Blue
8. Waterman South Seas Blue

Montegrappa considers my new pen to be turquoise. While turquoise is not included in the actual name of any of these inks, The Writing Desk includes two of these eight inks in its Turquoise Col-o-rama, namely #5 Herbin Blue Pervenche and #8 Waterman South Seas Blue.

Using a picture of the pen as well as a scan of the ink swatches obviously makes it difficult to match the two for a variety of reasons. IMHO, the biggest problem is the 2-dimensional picture cannot possibly show the depth and variation of the colour of the pen.

While I have not made my final decision, I have reduced the possible choices to three, listed below in the order of my likely preference:
1. Diamine Tropical Blue
5. Herbin Blue Pervenche
8. Waterman South Seas Blue

I like the Diamine Tropical Blue because it appears, to me at least, to include a few more darker shades of blue than either of the Blue Pervenche or South Seas Blue. Whether I choose one of these three, the remaining five or one of your other suggestions, I don’t think I could go wrong because they are all wonderful colours of ink, IMHO.  For example, I know that some suggested #6 Noodler’s Ottoman Azure, which has been a long-time favourite of mine.

Thanks again to all of you for your suggestions and comments.

Black and Sorta Black Inks

LPC member Kathryn R. from Calgary has provided us with two pages (see the bottom of this post) with some interesting pictures and entertaining comments on a number of black and sorta black inks.

My personal favourite is the Aurora Black which Kathryn seems to like as well.  I find her comments on the Private Reserve Ultra Black interesting and quite humorous.  I also note that Greg Clark found similar drying issues with this ink as noted in a recent Stylus Magazine article.

The Noodler’s Ellis Island Blue shown in the scan is a very attractive blue-black, at least to me, and she has also scanned Noodler’s Zhivago which is also a very popular black that has dark green undertones.

I must admit, while not an expert on black ink (blue is more my style), I was quite surprised at Kathryn’s positive remarks on Montblanc Black.  I have never really heard anyone speak about this ink, let alone make positive comments.  Perhaps I associate with people in “lighter” circles?

Black page 1 Black page 2