I’ve been using fountain pens on and off since I was in university; about a year ago that interest got a good deal more serious (it was the pandemic and I needed a distraction), and between us Jen and I began accumulating pens and inks at a ridiculous rate. Two of our first bottled inks were blue inks with some unusual qualities; after a year of using them fairly frequently, I have some thoughts about them.
First up is Noodler’s Q-E’Ternity. It’s one of several fast-drying inks sold by Noodler’s, and as a left-handed writer I was very much interested in fast-drying inks: I was getting tired of smearing my writing. The name takes some explaining. Noodler’s proprietor Nathan Tardif is a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian who has a habit of putting his political opinions on the labels of his ink bottles;1 in this case the name is a reference to quantitative easing (other fast-drying inks are named after former federal reserve chair Ben Bernanke).
It’s a blue-black ink with hints of teal, which is an interesting colour, especially since teal inks don’t generally have very good dry times. And Q-E’Ternity does have a very good dry time. The problem with it is that it tends to spread and feather, which is a side effect of that good try time. It effectively adds a nib size (I first loaded it in a medium-nib TWSBI Eco, which was a mistake: that was way too broad: it’s better in a western fine). It’s fine on G. Lalo Vergé de France, Maruman and Tomoe River paper. It bleeds a little on Clairefontaine and Rhodia but is still more or less useable. It bleeds a lot on Life paper, and on cheap notepad paper; it doesn’t behave well on G. Lalo Toile Impériale either. It’s not waterproof, but that’s not a dealbreaker: most fountain pens inks aren’t either.
What is a dealbreaker is that Q-E’Ternity’s tendency to spread and feather is not sufficiently offset by its quick-drying nature. Not every quick-drying ink feathers this much. There are plenty of blue inks with acceptable dry times (and by acceptable I mean: I, a left-handed side-writer, can use this ink without smearing it all over the paper). There’s even a very good blue-black that fits this bill and can be used on virtually any paper: Iroshizuku Shin-kai. Given an alternative like Shin-kai, it’s hard to recommend Q-E’Ternity.
Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham
The other ink is Noodler’s Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham, one of two store-exclusive inks only available from Wonder Pens in Toronto.2 Wonder Pens has a blog post explaining the ink; as for my own impression, it appears to be very close in colour and composition to Noodler’s Kung Te-Cheng (at least by reputation: I haven’t used that ink). Like Kung, Blue Upon is a blue-purple (“blurple”), though less purple than Kung; it’s a bit more purple than, say, Iroshizuku Asa-gao. Also like Kung, though not marketed as a fast-drying ink, Blue Upon is extraordinarily fast drying—faster in my experience than both Bernanke Black and Q-E’Ternity. Still like Kung, it’s waterproof: it does not run at all under water.
Given Kung Te-Cheng’s reputation for staining pens and nib creep, I figured I should play it safe with Blue Upon and use this in a cheap pen. I keep it in a Pilot Kaküno with a medium nib, where it’s performed admirably. (It doesn’t hurt that the Kaküno is an astonishingly good pen for its price.) It flows well and smoothly, though there’s quite a bit of nib creep.
Blue Upon the Plains of Abraham does spread, a little, but not nearly to the same extent as Q-E’Ternity. It’s also useable on more kinds of paper. It’s not great on cheap notepad paper, but it has behaved itself enough on everything else I’ve tried it on, including Toile Impériale (which has proven to be extremely finicky about fountain pen inks). Blue Upon is also my default for postcards and envelopes, where its waterproofness is useful (don’t want the address running if the envelope gets wet). But I also find myself using it as a general-purpose pen, at least for correspondence (it’s a bit too intense for note-taking); I’ve written plenty of ordinary letters with it.
It has, in other words, turned out to be a practical ink, one I use more often than not even if it’s loaded in my literal cheapest fountain pen.
- Tardif’s politics are not my politics, note. If a libertarian crank making inks in small batches in a shack in Massachusetts wants to put his dumb politics on his labels, I’ll let him; I can use his ink to write things he’d absolutely hate. (Besides, there’s no guarantee I’d approve of the politics of whoever’s running Diamine, Pilot, Rohrer & Klingner or any other ink-maker.)
- The other is Raven Black.