I’ve said it before that ink accumulation is a much bigger problem (at least for me) than accumulating pens. Ink is cheap (ish), so it hardly seems worth selling individual bottles. It’s heavy and fragile, so it’s a pain to post. And when you use an ink, you’re actually consuming it — a used pen is still complete, but who wants to buy a half-full bottle of ink?
So I ignored the problem, and continued buying exciting new inks every month or so. The accumulation was gradual, but undeniable. As of this week I had 185 “proper” bottles of ink, including a few duplicates, most 90%+ full, some never used at all beyond the initial swatch. (And another 30+ samples).
It was quite nice to heave open a drawer full of 50 bottles of blue ink, I admit. Nice to look at the different bottles, picking the next shade to fill, nice to flip through the swatches. Nice to roll the crazy names on my tongue… Spider Web Grey, Point Park Fountain Turquoise, Ruby, Ama-Iro, Waterfront Dusk.
So why did I decide to sell?
I’ll skip over the obvious reasons — space and money.
First, I’ve realised that there are some categories of ink that I simply don’t like very much, or don’t have much cause to use. Browns that lean red; luminous greens; blurples. I should be honest with myself and get rid of these entirely.
Second, there are some individual inks that I don’t use, for a particular reason: too much sheen, too dry, too shimmery, too long to dry. It’s a shame when the colour is nice, but these should go too.
But the real opportunity, and the hardest one to tackle, is “inks that I quite like”, particularly in a colour-category that I am drawn to. Take blue-blacks, or turquoises, for example. I had probably eight turquoises and maybe 15 or 20 blue-blacks, often quite similar shades, all good performers.
Here’s a pic of my “blue drawer” from before the cull:
Do I really need to keep Iroshizuku Ama-Iro, Montblanc UNICEF, Pelikan 4001 Turquoise, Akkerman Treves Turquoise and half a dozen similar shades? Sure, some are slightly greener, others slightly deeper, or slightly brighter. But is that variation meaningful? Can I settle on, say, half as many bottles?
This brings me on to the “how”. Instead of relying on swatches or distant memories to make my decision, I took all my inks out, Kon-Mari style, sat down with a glass pen, and wrote a line on A3 Tomoe River paper with each ink in a particular colour category, back to back.
I felt how wet it was, how the ink looked when wet versus dry, I watched the dry time, I looked closely at the colour. And when I’d finished writing with all of my pinks, or oranges, I could compare them directly, side by side, and see which ones came up short.
As I said, I had a lot of blues, and this was the first group I tackled.
There were so many overlaps that pairing and weeding took me ages.
Smaller categories — pinks, greens, oranges, browns — were a little easier.
Sometimes the pairs leaped out. KWZ Cherry lost to Herbin Encre Rouge; Lamy Vibrant Pink lost to Graf Electric Pink; Sailor Oku Yama lost to Colorverse Andromeda.
The two Herbins perform so nicely that I want to ink them up in something as soon as possible.
In the greens, Herbin’s Vert Olive and Chiku Rin were too pale; Akkerman #28, Conway Stewart and Noodler’s Cactus too bright; two of the three Birminghams were too similar to others. I am glad I kept hold of Montblanc Emerald — the colour has really grown on me.
I decided that the amber-orange colours were not my bag, so I ditched Herbin Ambre, KWZ El Dorado, Diamine Autumn Oak. For bright oranges I kept the Montblancs and Sailor Kin-Mokusei; for dark oranges I kept the Graf and KWZ. I must give KWZ Monarch another go.
Of the browns, I kept Montblanc Swan Illusion — unique in my collection — Smoky Quartz, SBRE, Single Malt and Moonlight over Higashiyama. Five browns is enough for me. I was really pleased with Montblanc Single Malt, and immediately inked up a Sailor King of Pen with it.
I’ve spent quite a while pursuing the perfect red, and ended up with quite a list of colours that I didn’t like all that much. I dispatched a fair few. I was surprised how much I liked Montblanc Chine Red, since I remember thinking it was too neon and pale when I first tried it. So that’s going on the list to try again in a pen.
Throughout the process, I tried to be ruthless. One colour may only come up short by the tiniest margin, but how many oranges, or greys, does one really need? It feels weird getting rid of something you like, but I couldn’t let that attachment be the only factor in my decision.
In the end, 71 inks were in a box to go, including Montblanc JFK, Montblanc Tolstoy, some Akkermans, some Sailors, Robert Oster, KWZ and more.
I knew I didn’t want to sell this many bottles individually. So I went on the Facebook Fountain Pens UK group and proposed “mystery boxes” of five inks, priced at £27 shipped in the UK. Someone would get a £60 bottle of Tolstoy and four other inks for £27, which I felt a little crazy about doing. But everyone would get a good value bundle, as well as the fun factor from the mystery.
It was a feeding frenzy, and my 14 boxes went in less than an hour. I’m shipping them in batches to save my sanity, and the first set goes tomorrow. I hope they arrive without any leaks…
So, it’s been a pretty time-consuming exercise for sure, and I hope I remember that when it comes to my next temptation. But I’m down to a little over 100 bottles (which let’s face it is still a lot of ink), and feeling like I’ve achieved something. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve rediscovered a load of inks in every colour category that I’m inspired to try again.