The 10-ink challenge: set one

For a pen geek like me, few things are as agonising as choosing between inks. Picking one means consigning a dozen others to the shelf for weeks. I can prevaricate for a ludicrous amount of time choosing inks.

So I thought it would be a good test of my decisiveness to pick 10 inks from my 88 bottles as a kind of “desert island” exercise. Call it the 10-ink challenge.

As it happened, I enjoyed the process so much that I repeated it to create a kind of “alternatives” set — so this is my first set of two.

All inks are from my Herbin glass pen on ivory Tomoe River.

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BRIGHT BLUE: Pelikan Edelstein Topaz

You have to start with blue, right? With more than ten turquoises or other bright blues in my collection, this was a tough one. But I have always had good experiences with Topaz: it’s that bit darker than some turquoises, and very well behaved, with plenty of pop. And as a bonus, it has a lovely bottle.


MID BLUE: KWZ Azure #5

I’ve recently rediscovered Azure after a few months off, and it makes me smile every time. It’s like the uber-blue: you can drown in it, the colour’s so deep and saturated. And lubricated — it’s like writing with an oil slick. I love it.


BLUE-BLACK: Kobe #51 Kano-cho Midnight

I like my blue-blacks dark, and there are few darker than Midnight. The green sheen is a nice touch, and #51 gives you the usual great Sailor saturation and lubrication.

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PURPLE: Mont Blanc Lavender Purple

It goes down magenta but dries to a fabulous interesting purple. It’s beautifully well-behaved, as you might expect, and the shoe bottle is a design classic.


GREY: Diamine Earl Grey

Of course, Earl Grey. Deep, stately, with fabulous shading and the usual Diamine qualities: cheap and well-behaved.


BLACK ALTERNATIVE: Birmingham Alternator Crimson

I fell in love with this ink the first time I tried it. Like all Birmingham inks it runs really wet, and I’ve never seen another ink the colour of used engine oil. Sounds awful, looks awesome.


BROWN: Edelstein Smoky Quartz

I tried four or five browns before buying Smoky Quartz from Iridium in Kendal, and it’s the first one I really liked. It’s dark, beautifully behaved, and avoids slipping into red or green sides of brown. A keeper.


RED: Diamine Ancient Copper

This luscious rust-red is a wonderful shader, a gloriously complex colour, and has only one flaw: nib crud. Other inks I’ve bought since come close — Oxblood, Fireopal, and so on — but I picked the original and best.


ORANGE: Sailor Kin-mokusei

As I said in my review, this ink is the purest orange I’ve ever seen. The essence of orange. It had to go in.


GREEN: R&K Alt-Goldgrun

I keep trying to like “normal” greens. But most of them look plastic to me. The only ones I like are super fresh, like Diamine Meadow, Chiku-rin or Hofkwartier Groen, which are generally too pale to use and I tire of them fast. But interesting greens like Alt-Goldgrun have me hooked. The shading is magnificent. The colour of moss.


The reject bin…

No blacks. Crazy, I know. I wanted to keep myself to 10 inks, and black would’ve been a waste of a slot.

No teals. Doubly crazy, given how many I have, and how much I’ve adored them in the past. But for some reason I didn’t feel the need to add it as a category (even though I included three slots for blue. So sue me.)

No pinks. Hell, I’ve only got two. Same for yellow. Not everyday colours for me.

So what do you think? What would your 10 ink set be?

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9 thoughts on “The 10-ink challenge: set one

  1. Good choices, that’s a nice pallette you have there. Looking at my own currently inked line up, I think my equivalents would be 1.Waterman Serenity Blue 2.Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue 3. KWZ Azure #4 4. Conway Stewart Tavy by Diamine, 5.Waterman Tender Purple 6. Sailor Kiwa guro black 7. Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz 8. Mont Blanc Burgundy 9. Waterman Audacious Red 10. Graf von Faber-Castell Moss Green.
    The Sailor kiwa guro is a very useful and well behaved permanent black. Cobalt blue would be my number 1 choice. I like blue-blacks and have recently discovered the Aurora blue black which is well behaved too. I have not tried any grey inks yet. In fact there are loads of inks that I have not tried yey, which is a happy thought to finish on.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You know, I’ve not tried any of the Graf inks. That you’ve picked two says a lot. I’ll investigate! I will say, I never thought I’d like grey inks — but they have a wonderful quality.


  2. heh, I don’t think I own 10 bottles of ink, so here’s my top 5:

    1. Waterman Inspired Blue
    2. Pilot Blue-Black
    3. Sheaffer Permanent Skrip Blue-Black (a desert island is going to be wet so a permanent ink is a must)
    4. Monteverde Fireopal
    5. … I honestly can’t think of a fifth… I’m bad at this game.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Currently inked: December 2017 | UK fountain pens

  4. Pingback: In Praise of Boring Ink – The Economical Penster

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