Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Pearl of Inks

I have long yearned for a solid gray ink with a degree of saturation that doesn’t leave me straining to make out the words. In my experience this is a rare quality in gray inks. In addition to the Montblanc Oyster Grey being reviewed here, I have four other grays—Sailor Jentle Ink Gray, Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun and Kiri-same, and J Herbin’s Gris Nuage—all rarely used. The reason is, none of them have a saturation that makes reading easy, but often require squinting or holding the paper under my nose. I mean, let’s face it, gray almost implies vagueness; it’s a diluted shade of black, the hue most often described as colorless. Unless the ink blender is very, very careful, the mix is going to end up pale and hard to read.

Des Atramentis hit upon a brilliant stroke when they added a dollop of green to gray and created the very readable Charles Dickens famous name ink. That green is the key to its easiness on the eyes. The Jentle Ink Gray from Sailor never worked for me, and after an initial infatuation, the two Iroshizuku inks paled. The J. Herbin Gris Nuage I used once and promptly forgot about. But along came Montblanc Oyster Grey and I am once again excited about a gray ink. In talking about a visit to the Montblanc store yesterday, I described the Oyster Grey as an elegant and aristocratic shade of gray. It also has the saturation necessary to make the color easy to read. The shading also impresses me, though I realize there are some who prefer less obvious deviation in the flow of ink. The Montblanc Grey gives what you could call shading plus.

I tested the Oyster Grey in two pens on four different kinds of paper: First, a Montblanc Meisterstuck 146, and then a Sailor 1911 Professional Gear, each pen on Clairefontaine, Moleskine, Life Noble Note, and common 20 lb white copy paper. The opinion of three people reflected a like choice. Oyster Grey in the Sailor 1911 (Medium 14k gold nib) on Clairefontaine 90g Triomphe stationery was the pick for ease of reading.

But here’s what surprised me—this ink is completely waterproof. I wrote three lines, allowed it to dry for ten minutes and then held the paper under running water for no less than thirty seconds. Every letter, every word was perfectly clear and legible at the end of that bath. Drying time for the ink is not so terribly slow, and might work fine for even left-handed writers. No bleed through, feathering or nib creep was there with either pen, on any of the four papers.

The feeling now is that I’ve found a gray ink I will go back to on a more regular basis.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America