In the UK we’re blessed with a number of wonderful stationery shops. Pure Pens, based in Wales, is one of them. They’re a fixture at pen shows and a stockist of unusual Noodler’s inks (I bought my bottle of Tianenmen from them back at the LWES). And, like me, they’re Pelikan addicts.
Pure Pens has just taken the huge step of launching its own line of inks, and I approached them for samples to try out, which they kindly supplied (you might want to check out my ethics statement here.)
The first thing to strike me is that this is a very well thought-through range. There are six inks at time of launch, and every single one is both interesting and usable, with not a single duff or dull colour, and no confusing overlap. A dark blue, a mid blue, a blood red, a dark grey, an orange/brown, and a turquoise. Perhaps the only colour really missing is a purple and you’d have a great starter ink set.
Each ink is shipped in a functional (albeit clear) glass bottle, with 60ml setting you back a keen £6.99, especially since the bottles are hand-labelled on front and on the cap, and bottled in Wales to boot.
What tickled me the most was that each ink is aptly named after a landmark of Celtic British nature, from the Saltire Blue of the Scottish flag to the grey of Llanberis Slate. I love this kind of stuff.
So how do they perform? I inked up six of my favourite pens with these beauties for a week of work, as well as making my usual swatch cards and test scribbles with glass pens and q-tips on Tomoe and other paper.
First up is Cadwaladr, a gorgeous blood red that somehow isn’t a doppelganger for Diamine Oxblood or Ancient Copper. Named after a Welsh King, I believe.
It’s a really saturated ink that smells a bit sweet, like a KWZ ink. Unlike some heavy reds that I’ve tried — Colorverse Andromeda, or Noodler’s Tianenmen — it doesn’t smear, and my Lamy 2000 is so far free of nib crud, too.
Cadwaladr shows shading on Tomoe but not much sheen. And to be honest that’s no bad thing: I’m a bit sheened out. Cadwaladr is probably my favourite of the six inks and will go straight into my regular rotation.
I put Porthcurno Cove into my broad, wet, Intuition Platino. This was a very difficult ink to photograph — my cameras kept losing the distinct green tint in the turquoise. Although I’ve never used Diamine Soft Mint, from photos it’s a spitting image for Porthcurno. So just ignore every shot below.
I have to say, this is not my usual colour preference (hence why I don’t have anything to compare it directly to), but I really enjoy the shading.
Probably best in broad nibs like this one.
How could I not put Saltire into my Scottish Namisu Ixion? This ink led me on a rollercoaster of emotion. It goes down super-saturated, like a blue oil slick. It’s gorgeous. Then it dries to a satin sheen and seems to lose its colour.
It’s a good daily user, a proper, straight-up dark blue with no funny business (apart from the sheen), but to me it’s nothing exceptional.
Celtic Sea is a powerful bright blue that is darker than most turquoises.
It reminded me of Akkerman #1 or Edelstein Topaz; maybe Blackstone Barrier Reef Blue. There’s some sheen and a lot of shading and haloing.
To me this kind of blue is the perfect middle-ground between personality and usability; bright but not as eye-searing as a turquoise.
I’ve been on a grey kick recently, so the beautifully named Llanberis Slate is right up my street. There’s a lot of colour variation depending on how wet your nib is, with plenty of shading and a pretty purple undertone.
More proof that grey ink is a million times better than boring old black.
Finally, Pendine Sands. I honestly can’t work out whether I like this ink. It’s very close to Kyo-iro’s Moonlight of Higashiyama (at nearly a third of the price), and I wasn’t sure about that one either.
It’s more orange than brown, kinda sandy (hence the name), with a load of shading.
It’s really interesting, but I found it a bit dry and I like my oranges more orange!
The final word
I had a good time trying these inks out. Each performed well, no problems apart from a couple being slightly drier than I like. With the exception of Saltire there’s no extravagant sheen; instead a joyous shading across the range. And great colours: you are guaranteed to find one that floats your boat here. For the price, you really can’t go wrong. Cadwaladr and Celtic Sea are definitely in my rotation now, and that’s high praise indeed.
You can pick up your own bottles here.