Perfect: SBRE Brown Ink

In college, I was bumped from a regular English class to one more focused on writing. A small group of us met a couple times a week to write, read, share, and discuss. I have little memory of what I wrote, but I remember this class as a bright spot in a schedule packed with challenging science and math courses that tested the limits of my 19 year old brain. I held my breath in those classes- petrified of getting called on to answer a question on material that was in grave danger of slipping right out of my head and onto the floor. In this writing class, I could exhale, play with words, and feel 65% less nervous.

The other thing I remember about this class was a girl named Victoria. While I had chipmunk cheeks and looked like I was fresh out of junior high, Victoria had dark eyes and perfect hair. She gave off a Kate Middleton kind of vibe- confident in the way that someone who’s stunningly good looking is confident. Perfect, while the only thing I’d perfected was my awkwardness.

I found her fascinating. My poetry was better than hers, but still.

But it wasn’t just her looks and confidence that fascinated me- it was the fact that she always wrote with brown ink. With a fountain pen and brown ink! I scribbled in notebooks with a lousy ballpoint from Woolworth’s, laying down erratic handwriting that tilted to the right for awhile then suddenly leaned back to the left. My script was as random as my outfits, while Victoria’s was as perfect as hers.

Maybe that class and that girl is why I tend to fall hard for brown ink. I associate it with something that seemed impossibly exotic to little ol’ ordinary me. Victoria and I existed in different orbits, as did our pens and inks. God, I wanted that brown ink. AND that handwriting.

Which brings me to this brown ink- SBRE Brown’s brown ink. I came dangerously close to missing out on this, as I stupidly dragged my feet, casually thinking that it’d be around forever. The day that I finally got around to placing my order was also the day that it went out of stock for good. That was a little too close for comfort.

Because- ohmigod- do I love this ink. Yes, I seem pre-disposed to fall for brown inks, but this one pushes all of my brown ink buttons like no other. It’s caramelly and rich, with great shading and flow- truly delicious in this Visconti Opera Elements Air, with its medium nib, on Tomoe River paper. I’m plowing through it by the converterful, and fretting about my supply like Scrooge worried over his gold coins.

This is the brown ink I’ve been looking for my whole life. Well…since 1978, anyway. My looks are still “eh,” and I still exhibit more than the recommended daily allowance of awkwardness, but who cares. My handwriting eventually came around and I have my brown ink. I have THE PERFECT brown ink.

Though his ink is no longer available, you can always keep tabs on what Stephen is up to at

The Verdict: TWSBI ECO with J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor

TWSBI ECO with Emerald of Chivor ink

The pre-release photos of J. Herbin’s Emerald of Chivor ink were so dramatic that I was drooling over the stuff well before it was available for purchase. The reviewers often used folded nibs which brought out the shine and sheen in very dramatic fashion. I don’t own a folded nib so I knew that my results would be more subdued, but I still pounced on the ink as soon as it was available. I picked up two bottles as fast as my “BUY NOW” finger could hit “Enter.”


There was a lot of chatter about the suspended gold particles in the ink, and speculation as to whether or not the particles could/would clog a pen’s feed. So I after I ordered the ink I spent some time thinking about the pen that I’d use it in. I decided to steer away from pens that were pricey or very dear to me, and knew I’d want to go with something replaceable, should there be catastrophic cloggage. One of my many Lamy Safaris would’ve been a perfectly fine candidate, as they aren’t costly, and nibs, or even whole pens, are easily replaceable without breaking the bank.


But instead of going the Lamy route, I caved and purchased a couple of TWSBI ECOs— a white one with a bold nib and a black one with a medium nib. I initially decided to forgo the ECO as I wasn’t sure I liked the look, and was content with my 540s, 580s, Vac 700, Micarta, and Minis. That seemed like plenty o’ TWSBIs for one person. But then I got it in my head that an ECO paired with the Emerald of Chivor ink would be the perfect match, and my “no more TWSBIs” resolution evaporated, as many of my pen-themed resolutions seem to do.


So…was that a good move?

TWSBI ECO filled with Emerald of Chivor ink

Hell Heck, yeah!


The TWSBI ECO is a very reasonably priced ($28.99) piston-filler fountain pen available with EF, F, M, B, or 1.1 Stub mm nibs. I find the 1.1 mm to be a little too wide for my handwriting, but wanted a good amount of ink on the page so I opted for both the bold and medium versions. At the time of this review, I’ve only inked the pen with the bold nib and am very happy with the nib’s smoothness and wetness. My small handwriting is still legible and some of the dramatic characteristics of the Emerald of Chivor ink pop on the page, though maybe not as much as would be seen with a wider stub. It’s a good compromise for me—a good amount of ink, some shine, some sheen, and legible writing.


The clear barrel allows for an unobstructed view of the gold sparkles in the ink. I may be easily fascinated, but I have to admit that this sight continues to dazzle me. A quick shake of the pen and the gold particles are resuspended so that they flow onto the page.

On Rhodia paper

On Rhodia paper, I see a good amount of sparkle, but not much of the red sheen. Still, the color is killer and there’s enough pizazz here to make letter writing or journaling, or even to-do lists, fun.

On Tomoe River paper

On Tomoe River paper is where this ink really shines and sheens. It’s hard to capture with my so-so camera and lighting, but there’s a lot going on on this page—red and gold and teal and blue. It’s pretty marvelous.

Tomoe River paper

I have two bottles and expect that this pen will be continuously inked until I run out. I can’t speak to how hard or easy it is to clean a pen inked with Emerald of Chivor as I haven’t done that yet, and it may be awhile before I do so.


Maybe this Emerald of Chivor seemed too good to be true, or over-hyped, but I’m in love with it. It mesmerizes me in the pen and on the page. Especially as the days turn darker and grayer, the surprising pops of color and shine in the words I write make me swoon in an inky kind of way. And for me, the TWSBI ECO is the perfect vehicle—sturdy, transparent, easy to fill (and probably to clean), with an easy-to-swallow price tag—to lay down a smooth rich line.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Like Nature: Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green Ink

Many thanks to the fine folks at Pen Boutique for providing this bottle of Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink for review. There are no affiliate links in this post and I was not, nor will I be, monetarily compensated. This review reflects my experience with, and observations of, the ink.

Montblanc Daniel Defoe ink

We tend to think of the grass as merely green. Same goes for the trees. During my walk yesterday I noticed just how many different shades of green there are in the fields and lawns and trees along my route. Pale fresh greens, darker mature greens, and just about every shade in between. Yellow greens in the grasses. Bluish greens in the pines. Too many greens to name or count. To call the trees and weeds and lawns and fields merely green would be selling nature short.

Green ink comparison

The same goes for Montblanc’s Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink. To call it simply green would be a mistake as this is an ink full of shading and surprises. To be honest, I’ve been fiddling with this review for a bit, and I finally figured out why. Reviewing ink is a tricky thing as accurately portraying an ink’s color is affected by so many variables— outdoor light and indoor lighting, nib size, particular pen characteristics with regard to flow, paper choice, camera settings and performance, computer display parameters, etc. I worried about “getting it right.” I think it’s been particularly tricky with this ink because it keeps looking different to me, which, of course, is something to celebrate, not fret about.

Writing samples

I wrote my first draft with my Visconti Opera Elements (medium nib), and really loved the way the natural looking green shades from a grassy light green to a deeper earthy olive shade. The ink is easy on the eyes— soothing but not boring. This is an organic green— very natural, very fresh.

Visconti Opera Elements on Tomoe River paper
On Tomoe River Paper using a Visconti Opera Elements with a medium nib

Wanting to test out the ink in a different pen with a different nib, I loaded up a Lamy AL-Star with a 1.1 mm stub and wrote another draft on a Rhodia dotPad.

writing sample with Lamy AL-Star 1.1 mm stub nib
On Rhodia dotPad using a Lamy AL-Star with 1.1 mm stub nib

Though it’s a perfectly nice looking green in a fine nibbed pen, the plucked-from-nature shading truly reveals itself in pens with broader nibs.

Dry time test
Dry time testing on Rhodia dotPad

The ink seems to have a little bit of a longer dry time than other inks I’ve used recently, so I ran a quick test, and my results seemed to bear out that impression. Again, dry time can be affected by so many things— paper, ink flow, humidity, etc.— so don’t take my results as gospel.

Ink swatch and writing sample

Montblanc’s Daniel Defoe Palm Green is aptly named as it calls to mind a tropical island with lush verdant foliage. The shading in this ink is equally lush and celebrates the range of greens seen on mountain trails, in seagrasses, on tropical palms, and in meadows. It’s complex and full of surprises— just like nature.

Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green Ink


Pen Boutique is selling the Montblanc Daniel Defoe Palm Green ink for $19. Not a bad price for a mini-tropical vacation!

For another take on the same ink, check out Ana’s review HERE.

I [heart] you: Pelikan M205 and Levenger Shiraz Ink

(Click on any picture for a larger view.)

Pelikan M205
Rhodium trim, Steel nib

This pen purchase resulted from a recent episode of The Pen Addict podcast where both Brad and Myke sang the praises of their Pelikans. That same day, someone on Twitter mentioned a sale on the Pelikan M205 at Fountain Pen Hospital, so I called it a sign and ordered one. What can I say, my arm was twisted. By fate.

Right around the same time, I was ordering some refills from Levenger, and decided to add a bottle of their Shiraz ink to the order. Both orders arrived on the same day so the obvious choice was to fill one with the other.

Hoo boy, do I love this pair.

Just like peanut butter and chocolate (or chocolate and peanut butter), the Pelikan M205 and the Shiraz ink are two things that work perfectly together. I’m always looking for reasons to use this particular combination, even though I’m someone who leans heavily towards “traditional” ink colors— black, blue-black, blue, brown, and dusty green. The Shiraz looks exactly as I hoped it would— not pink, not red, not purple, but SHIRAZ. It’s not waterproof, for those who care. I love the way it pops on a page without being obnoxious. Simply gorgeous, with a bit of shading. This is an ink that’s kicked me out of my “conservative” rut.

Levenger Shiraz

M205 vs. Lamy 2000
An understated pair for size comparison: Lamy 2000 vs. Pelikan M205

The M205 is one of my smaller (5″ capped; 4-7/8″ uncapped; 6″ posted) and lighter (a mere 14 grams overall) pens, but is an absolute joy to hold and use. It’s a piston filler which makes filling and cleaning fast and easy. The medium steel nib (the only option on this sale pen) is smooth and juicy, but without any flex. This is a very classic looking pen— devoid of any real bling— but who needs bling when you perform this well?! It’s understated and unassuming— a real classic.

Pelikan M205 medium steel nib

Pelikan clip/beak
Pelikan clip/pelican beak

The “pelican’s beak” clip is iconic and suitably springy. The caps band simply states “PELIKAN” and “GERMANY.” I have the black body version, but there are others available— red, taupe, white. Since I’m prone to making sure the pen and ink color complement each other, black is probably the best choice for me, anyway. Everything goes with black. Well…yeah…and also with white. And taupe.

Pelikan M205 ink window

The smoke-colored ink window lets me know when my beloved Shiraz is “down a quart.” I enjoy watching the ink slosh around as the level changes.

This is, admittedly, an entry level Pelikan pen, and there are many prettier and more expensive models available, but for everyday use, the M205 suits me just fine, and it’s been a great way for me to dip my toe in the shallow end of the Pelikan pool.

Pelikan logo

I’m irrationally smitten by the Pelikan logo on the cap— a mama pelican with her chick. Such a sweet pair looking at each other with affection— exactly the way I look at my M205 filled with the Shiraz ink.

Pelikan M205

True love forever.

Shiraz heart



Embrace the Darkness: Pilot Iroshizuku take-sumi

Many thanks to the fine folks at JetPens for sending along this bottle of Iroshizuku ink. I was not otherwise compensated, and this review reflects my experiences and observations with the ink in my pen and on my paper. Your results and opinions may, of course, differ.

When a bottle of Iroshizuku take-sami (Bamboo Charcoal) showed up in my mailbox, courtesy of JetPens, I immediately knew which pen I’d fill. I recently outfitted my Matte Black Pilot Vanishing Point with a black-plated 18K nib/converter unit, so I all I needed to complete the stealthy trifecta was a superb black ink, and here it was.

Iroshizuku take-sumi

In my previous job of 14 years, I was required to write in black ink (ballpoint, but still) all day, every day. So you’d think that I’d run screaming for the hills now that I’m free of that SOP-dictated requirement. Funny thing is, I still like and use black ink, and am always on the lookout for a particularly good one.

Iroshizuku writing sample

I already have a few Iroshizuku inks (kon-peki and fuyu-gaki…both luscious colors) so I was pretty sure take-sumi would get high marks for good behavior. And it does. In this Vanishing Point with its fine nib (Japanese fine, so it’s like a western EF), take-sumi goes on wet, but dries quickly— easily within ten seconds, even on Rhodia paper. It’s smooth and consistent— a very solid black. Solid in performance AND in looks. It’s not a grey black, not a watered down black. Is it the blackest black ever? Probably not, though I haven’t jumped too far into the black ink pool. I’d consider it to be an excellent black— surely the best I own. (How many times can I say “black”? A lot, apparently.)

Smudge test

I don’t regularly expose my hand-written pages to liquid so waterproofness isn’t something I really care about, but in the name of science, I “spritzed” my page.

Spritzed Rhodia page

So, yeah, don’t do that.

"Get to work!"

I don’t have a big collection of inks (though the pull to acquire more is strong), and I’m admittedly drawn to colors that look like the a glass of fine wine or the sea or a freshly sliced persimmon, especially when I’m writing letters and have time to appreciate an ink’s shading and depth and freshness. But there are plenty of times when I just need need to get stuff done, and black ink has always been just the thing for flipping on the “get to work” switch in my brain.

Pilot Vanishing Point Black Matte

It’s easy to love ink colors that pop off the page, but loving a black ink takes a little more work. Packaged in that gorgeously iconic Iroshizuku bottle, take-sumi impresses with its lovely darkness. It’s like the night sky. Usually you take it for granted, but every now and then you look up and think “wow.”

Back of the bottle

I’m smitten.

Uncaged: The Pilot Metropolitan Animal Prints (White Tiger, Violet Leopard)

Pilot Metropolitan Leopard and Tiger

I had every intention of passing on the new Pilot Metropolitan Animal Print editions. After all, I already own one of the black, silver, and gold models, and that seems like plenty. But then I watched Brian Goulet’s Ink Nouveau video and once he hit the White Tiger and Violet Leopard versions, my resolve dissolved. I hopped on over to the Goulet Pens site and placed my order asap. Good thing, too, because by the next day, both of those models were sold out. (At the time of this posting, they’re back in stock.) Seems I wasn’t alone in my new-found enthusiasm for two of the new colors.

Violet Leopard & White Tiger, posted

Squeeze converter
Included squeeze converter (or upgrade to a CON-50 converter which is available separately)

Both pens arrived in short order and were very WELL protected. (If you haven’t ever ordered from the Goulets, you need to do so, just to experience the awesomeness of their packaging. And the complimentary Tootsie pop.  And the bookmark and sticker. And the hand-written note. Their packages are a great example of customer service done right.) I filled the White Tiger pen with Waterman Serenity Blue, via the included squeeze converter, and have been using this pen as part of my current rotation ever since.

Pilot Metropolitan White Tiger

The White Tiger pen is a wonderful pearly white—a color that I wish I could find on more pens. (Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough.) I’m not sure that the look really comes through in my photos, but, trust me, it’s pretty. The purple, too, is hard to capture with my camera, and looks a little more navy in my pictures than it really is. The color is actually a very dark purple— a blackish purple that looks really rich, really beautiful. It’s definitely darker than it looks on the Goulet Pens site, and that’s fine by me. I have very few white pens and no other purple pens, so these are great additions to my fountain pen collection, just for the colors alone.

Leopard and Tiger patterns

As for the “animal print” bands that accent the pens, I like the White Tiger a little better than the Violet Leopard pattern. Really, each pen would look fine without this accent— maybe even classier?


As I mentioned, I’m already a happy owner of a few Metropolitans so I knew that I was getting a solid, good-looking pen with a smooth, fairly stiff, medium nib—medium being the only nib option. Because it’s a Pilot, the medium nib runs finer than a European nib, so I’d peg it closer to a fine, especially on my favorite Rhodia paper. With a brass body and cap, the Metropolitan has a substantial feel which belies its $15 price tag. The cap snaps on with a satisfyingly solid click, and posts easily and securely. I find the pen equally well-balanced whether I’m using it posted or unposted. I’m impressed every time I pick one up. And I’m always thinking, “Fifteen bucks?! Really?!”

Metropolitan Leopard & Tiger

The Pilot Metropolitan is the perfect pen to toss into a backpack or purse, or to tuck into a pocket. This isn’t a pen that you need to baby because it’s fragile or so pricey that you’re afraid to take it out and about. The Metropolitan is a pen to use throughout your day—wherever that day takes you.

As Tony the (orange) Tiger would say- “THEY’RE GREAAAAAAT!”

Leopard & Tiger Metropolitanss

Which got me thinking— what about an ORANGE Metropolitan with little black tiger stripes?! C’MON Pilot, DO IT!!

Mildred’s Pen: Sheaffer Lady Balance (Marine Green Striated)

Sheafffer Lady Balance

This Sheaffer Balance is another vintage pen that I picked up from Dan Smith, my go-to vintage pen supplier of late. As I’ve said, I’m a total novice when it comes to vintage pens, but I liked the look of the marine green striated celluloid and I trust Dan, so I happily plunked down a little bit of money for this Lady Balance.  I don’t have many green pens, so that might be what caught my eye initially, but what really tugged at me was the engraved name on the barrel— MILDRED F THAYER.

Mildred F Thayer

Though we all know that vintage pens once belonged to someone else, I apparently have a soft spot for pens where the original owner is named. Especially if the name is as “vintage” as the pen. I mean, how many babies named “Mildred” do you run into these days?

Striated Celluloid & Clip

The pen arrived in very good condition (to my eye), and the green striated celluloid looks as good in person as it does in Dan’s photos. It’s a petite thing— measuring 4.75″ capped and 5.78″ posted—and weighs a mere 12.2 g, thus the “Lady” designation.  Dan noted in his description that there’s a small amount of wear on each side of the ball at the end of the clip, but to the naked eye that’s not visible. For being 70-ish years old, it’s in great shape, with a crisp SHEAFFER imprint and an easy-to-read engraving of Mildred’s name.

Sheaffer imprint

The Sheaffer’s Feather Touch nib is very fine and was initially on a little on the dry side, just as Dan noted in his post. As I’ve been using it, though, it seems to be getting just a bit wetter, while still putting down an extra-fine line. Despite its fineness, the nib is quite smooth, with just a hint of feedback— very  pleasant. Dan was able to coax some flex from the nib, but I haven’t been able to do that as yet— which I’m sure is more a reflection of me and my light touch than the nib.

Feather Touch Nib

The blind-cap reveals a narrow piston which I’ve used to vacuum fill the pen with Montblanc’s Jonathan Swift Seaweed Green— a very dusty/vintage looking green that I initially wasn’t all that crazy about. But as I hoped, it’s a perfect match for the pen. I mean, c’mon— seaweed colored ink in a marine green pen. And over time, I’ve come to love the ink as much as the pen. It’s a muted, antiquey green— not a screaming green— which matches my personality and the way I use my pens.

Blind cap & piston

So those are the pen’s details, but back to Mildred. Where did she live? What did she do? Who gave her this pen? I googled her name and found a 12-year old Mildred F Thayer in the 1940 census who lived in Petersburg, Virginia with her father (William), mother (Janie), one sister, and three brothers. Is this MY Mildred? I’ll never know. And I’ll never know if she used the pen to do school work or office work; if she used it to write grocery lists, letters, journal entries, or poems. If only the pen could talk. If only it could tell Mildred’s story.

Sheaffer Balance

But since that’s not possible, I’ll use Mildred’s pen to tell mine.