For the longest time the only colors of inks to be had in Manila were Black, Blue and Blue-Black. It bothered me that most Black was often grey, while Blue was usually watery and faded. That left me with Blue-Black, a dark blue that stayed, well, dark. Parker Quink Blue-Black with Solv-x, which was widely available in the 80s, was one of my favorite inks. Now that other ink brands have come to our shores I have a happy range of colors to choose from, but blue-black remains a favored color.
I decided to write this after buying Lamy Blue-Black, my only iron gall ink. I also have Waterman, Parker Quink, Pelikan and Pilot Blue-Blacks. Waterman. Parker and Pelikan are dye-based. My Pilot Blue-Black is vintage NOS (new old stock, possibly from the 1980s) and is pretty waterproof, so I’m wondering whether it’s iron gall or not.
It is immediately obvious that both recent incarnations of Waterman and Parker Blue-Blacks result in a totally different color – teal. There is speculation that they are made by the same manufacturing facility in France, after Sanford (a division of Newell-Rubbermaid) acquired both brands. Whether they are the exact same formula of ink hasn’t been proven, but they are quite similar. Pilot and Pelikan Blue-Blacks are a blue-grey without any hints of green, while Lamy, being iron gall, starts out dark blue and dries to a darker shade. Very retro, “vintage” colors.
Waterman Blue-Black has been called a lubricating ink – which in general means you can use it in any sort of pen and it will flow well. Parker Blue-Black has a similar flow. Pilot, Pelikan and Lamy are all dry inks and are best matched with wet-writing pens. Dryness is an ink’s quality that controls its flow in pens where the feed is designed to direct a generous flow to the nib. German fountain pens like Pelikan tend to be wet writers, for instance (at the other end of the spectrum are Japanese fountain pens, which write dry). Dry inks tend not to feather or bleed through on different qualities of paper, although using them on equally dry pens might result in “scratchy” or “balky” writing.
The above photo shows a drip test, similar to what happens when you spill your drink on the writing table. It’s not a very extreme example. Water can totally lift Waterman and Parker Blue-Blacks off the page as it runs. Water will wash off a layer of Pelikan Blue-Black from the page, but will leave a legible “ghost” of the writing. Pilot and Lamy Blue-Blacks are waterproof and permanent. Which makes me wonder whether Pilot is an iron-gall ink. There’s no official word on this.
Waterman and Parker Blue-Blacks in EF nibs will fade, depending on the quality of the paper used. Pilot, Pelikan and Lamy Blue-Blacks stay dark. This is assuming regular exposure to fluorescent lighting and not direct exposure to sunlight.
I would continue to buy Waterman and Parker Blue-Blacks for their flow qualities and teal color and not their blue-blackness. They are affordable and make good testing inks for new pens.
I am unlikely to be able to get more supplies of Pilot Blue-Black since the two bottles I have were from an old bookstore that has since closed down. There are no importers/distributors of Pilot fountain pen ink in the Philippines, which is a shame, because this is an attractive and permanent ink.
Pelikan Blue-Black is a personal favorite, one I would not hesitate to order online. Alas, it is no longer available in the US due to import restrictions on certain of its ingredients.
Lamy Blue-Black I would definitely buy again. I think its permanence and waterproof qualities are a plus. It also behaves well on cheaper, lower-quality papers (does not feather or bleed through). The 50ml ink bottle features a roll of blotting paper at its base, which is a very cool and useful thing. However I would only use it on wet writing pens, modern pens that are easy to clean (piston-fillers or converter/cartridge fillers). I would not let it dry out in any pen, because the particulates that form are likely to clog it. It requires regular flushing. Due to its being iron gall it probably just a little higher maintenance than other inks but in the right pens it makes for a lovely ink.
Waterman, Parker and Lamy inks are available at all branches of National Bookstore. Pilot inks are available online at Jetpens.com. Pelikan 4001 inks are available at Scribe Writing Essentials in Eastwood City Mall. I am not affiliated with any of these establishments.