Thursday, October 7, 2010

Steeped in Orchid

I never win anything. When I got word the other day from my friend Julie at Whatever that I won her Wancher ink giveaway, I figured something went wacky with the stars and planets. Maybe the moon is in the seventh house, as the flower children used to say. Such a rare phenomenon, I almost emailed Julie to say she’d better have Vanna White spin the wheel again just to be sure.

The ink arrived today, and I’ve been playing with it for the past couple of hours, testing it, comparing it to similar inks, and generally getting my hands so messy it looks like I’ve been squishing grapes in my hands. The ink is from a seller in Tokyo who makes (at least for now) only five colors: Matcha Green, Asuka Brown, Tenmoku Black, Imari Blue, and the one I have here, Ebine Violet. Believe it or not, he sells a 50cc bottle for $3.50.

The ‘violet’ in the ink Wancher has named Violet Ebine tôyôran was inspired by the purple of the Calanthe orchid. Let me include a brief of the explanation found on the Wancher ebay site:

‘This purple is the color of the Japanese tôyôran, which is ‘Calanthe orchid’ in English. In Japan the orchid has a long history dating back to the Edo Period (1600-1867). Orchids were loved by the rich nobles of the time, and the plants were often covered by a gold or silver net for protection. Flower viewers were required to cover their mouths with paper so as not to breathe on the orchids.’

Personally, I like very much the orchid-like beauty of this Wancher Violet Ebine. From first glimpse I recognized it as an ink I would go back to again and again. The only thing is, color and shade wise, there is not really anything to call completely individual about the color. In no time at all I pulled five other colors from my ink shelves that bear a close resemblance. But in saying that I intend no criticism. These days, it is quite difficult for even the top ink makers to come out with a color that is totally individual. Just too many out there, from Diamine, Noodlers, Private Reserve and J Herbin, to expect that one of them will release a never before seen color of ink. Subtlety, nuance and a hint of native color are what we can expect in the ink market of today. And of course, an ink that behaves well in more than one pen, on more than one kind of paper.

At first look, I thought the Wancher Violet Ebine resembled Private Reserve’s Plum. A little longer look and I thought of PR’s Arabian Rose. So, I decided to line up five inks beside the Violet Ebine. As it happens, all five are close enough to fool even the likes of Brian Goulet. The six inks in the photos here are from top to bottom:

(1) Private Reserve Plum

(2) Private Reserve Arabian Rose

(3) Diamine Syrah

(4) Wancher Violet Ebine tôran

(5) Iroshizuku Yama-budo

(6) Iroshizuku Tsutsuji

I call the Violet Ebine beautiful, but amidst such close similarity we have to consider performance. The best way to get a well-rounded feel for the ink was to try it in three different fountain pens, on three different kinds of paper. So that’s what I did.

(A) Montblanc Meisterstück Doué on Life Noble Note cream paper—The pen moved smoothly across the page, laying down wet, but unshaded lines of ink. Noticed right off that nib creep is a problem with this ink, in this pen. On this first test, I found the Violet Ebine comparatively fast drying.

(B) Pelikano Junior on Clairefontaine 90g paper in a Rhodia Webbie—The pen and ink both move well together on this paper. However, shading is almost non-existant. The flow of ink is good and not so wet on this thicker, richer paper. Drying time not quite as fast as the first trial.

(C) Waterman Carène on white Clairefontaine Triomphe stationery—Again almost no shading, and once more a case of nib creep. Drying time is the slowest on this paper. The Carène flows smoothly with this ink, wet, but not so much as on the Noble Note paper.

I might hesitate to say that the Wancher ink is performance wise in the same category as big name inks like J Herbin and Montblanc, or Diamine and Pilot Iroshizuku, but this Violet Ebine tôran from Wancher is not at all a bad or inferior ink. I rather like it and expect it will have its share of use in my fountain pens. If you’re partial to purple, or near purple inks, this one might be for you.

And thanks, Julie.


  1. Great blog! I love seeing the comparisons of the inks and am amazed at how many you have. Suffice it to say........I love colors and your unlimited array of colors fascinate me.


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