NEWS & INFORMATION: Tools of the Trade

I’ve published just about 150 posts since my first post in August of 2012.  

A full sixty-five of those posts have been fountain pen ink reviews. My first ink review was Pilot Iroshizuku Shin Royku (didn’t love it).

My early reviews were messy. Lots of messes, lots of cleaning up. Over time, I’ve found a system that works for me and I thought it would be fun to share some of the tools I use. This post does contain some Amazon affiliate links. I joined while putting together the post – why not? These are all products I use and love.

Warning: This is a lonnnng post.

Nalgene Containers Hold Fountain Pen Ink

Nalgene Containers Rather than filling pens and dipping swabs directly from ink bottles, I prefer to decant the ink into these small Nalgene containers.  I like the 15ml size (that’s about half an ounce). These are wide-mouth (fit any size pen) and have screw-tops. A dozen of them are usually available on Amazon for around $20.

Nalgene 15ml containers

Of course, all of these containers need to be labeled. I have a fancy-shmancy label printer that I love, but any label maker will work.

But why decant? These smaller containers of favorite ink colors are easy to manage and they are right at my fingertips. A spill doesn’t mean that I’m going lose a full bottle of ink. A spill doesn’t mean that I’m going to have a full bottle of ink to clean up, either.

The biggest reason I like to decant ink, though, is cross-contamination. Last week, I was filling a pen with Noodler’s Habanero. I plunged the pen into the ink, twisted the converter up and down a few times to get a great big full fill, and started writing. What the heck?  Why was my orange ink looking….black? Because as careful as I am, the pen wasn’t as clean as it should have been. And because I’d twisted the converter several times – I ruined not only the ink in my pen, but also the ink in the container. But I didn’t ruin an entire bottle of ink. I cleaned up my mess, decanted a bit more ink, and was on my way to writing again lickety-split.

Fountain Pen Supplies

The above picture is one of the drawers in my pen desk.  Starting from the left, we have…..

Pipettes I love these things. And they are cheeeeap. A pack of 100 for around five bucks on Amazon.

I use the transfer pipettes to move ink from Goulet Pens sample vials (you are signed up for Ink Drop, yes?) to converters so I can test the ink in a fountain pen. I’ve found that it takes too much effort (for me) to fill pens from the sample vials. These pipettes take away all of that frustration.  And the great thing? Reusable. Of course, your mileage may vary and if those wee little vials with their wee little openings are working for you, then you don’t need these at all.

The middle section holds empty ink vials (these are the small ones similar to the sort that the Goulets use for their samples).  I use these (and the Nalgene) to hold inks if I’m traveling. Small, unbreakable,  reusable, no trouble at the airport – perfect!

Syringes come in handy for moving ink. I have also used them to fill converters from sample bottles. I’ve not used these much lately – not since discovering the pipettes – but they work just fine. The downside is that there are three pieces to clean. With the pipette, there’s just one piece to clean – and you can even toss them into the recycling bin if you don’t want to bother with cleaning.

Small Notebooks are kept in this drawer for grab-n-go convenience.

Next up….QTips!

Q-Tips for Fountain Pen Ink Swabs

Lots and lots of Q-Tips.

Funny story. . . I have my jar of ink-stained Q-Tips on my pen desk. My mother-in-law (whom I adore) saw the jar on my desk, wriggled up her nose and said, “Ew…you save your Q-tips?”

Yes, yes I do indeed save my used Q-Tips. 
I buy Q-Tips in bulk from Costco and use them primarily for ink swabs. They are also good for cleaning inks out of tight spaces – say from the barrel of your Metropolitan when you don’t seat the squeeze converter quite right.  Oops.
Towels sure come in handy. I’ve been using the bottom towel since the day I started blogging. At the time, I didn’t know that terry cloth isn’t the best option, but it seems to be working quite well. (A smooth fabric like a chamois would preferred – free of lint and no fabric to get caught up in the tines of your nib.)
I use the small towel to wipe dip pens.
Some people use paper towels. I’ve heard one person say they use (ahem) toilet paper.
I like towels because they are reusable and last practically forever.

Odds & Ends Extra converters, paper scraps cut into a consistent size, wax (I like pliable) and seals, extra nibs.  All of these odds and ends are kept in a drawer in the desk. Unfortunately, that drawer was a bit of a mess when I had the idea for this post, so you won’t be seeing them in their natural environment. Hahaa

The most important part of the picture above, though, is the Cutting Mat. I’d originally bought the mat for some sewing projects. When those projects were complete, I didn’t have a handy place to store the mat flat, so I put it “temporarily” on my pen desk. Let me tell you – it is perfect!

The top of the pen desk is granite – not very forgiving. The cutting mat acts as a bit of a buffer between the desk and pens and bottles of ink. It’s also amazingly easy to clean – spritz, wipe, go. I use the mat to measure pens and paper and it has created a nice writing surface, too.  Win!

And finally….

Notebooks and Paper Rhodia, Clairfontaine, Field Notes (don’t love the paper, love the designs), Apica, one (or more) of each!  This represents only some of my paper.

So..that it! Some of the tools I use everyday.  Maybe I’ll post about my review process one day. Or take you on a tour of my pen desk – or, yikes, pen storage.

Your turn.  What are some of your favorite pen things and how do you use them?

4 thoughts on “NEWS & INFORMATION: Tools of the Trade

  1. I must say I have enjoyed your post. Of course I am hopelessly interested in the topic. My husband uses the word “addicted”. But I don't much care for that term. And the length of your post was just right. Long enough for some serious eye candy and short enough to be quickly onto email number one billion and one. Keep writing, I'll keep reading. 🙂

  2. This was a fun post. I love the idea of keeping your Q-tip swabs in a clear jar. I've been tossing mine into my small, now-stained wastebasket. New plan! Also I am inspired by the divider thingies in your desk drawers. For some reason I believe everything will stay in its designated spot each time I clean out my drawers, somehow. But of course everything smoodges around and pretty soon it's all mixed in together. I have an old wooden box that belonged to my grandmother. It has a mirror inside and was probably designed for sewing or ??? I keep dip pens, ink cartridges and bottle of out-of -favor in it. Everything else is spread out in drawers and on a shelf. I am going to visit my nearest home-organization store and get me some drawer bins. Nice.

  3. I love the idea of the swab Q-tips in the clear jar. Starting mine now. Also I am inspired by the sight of your neatly organized desk drawers to do something about my er, pen mess. When I clean them out, I always somehow expect each little pile will stay where I put it. But of course as soon as the drawer closes everything starts migrating around inside. Putting drawer dividers on my shopping list. BTW I do enjoy your ink reviews, please keep 'em coming.

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