Finally found THE gall

As a noob, Waterman Blue Black was something I waited over a year to get. However, my excitement went poof when scribbles turned from blue to teal. I wanted an ink that dried dark blue or black, not green. Houston (or in this case, Manila) we had a problem.

Google revealed that a true blue black needs nature to strut its mojo. The oxides in a colorless base fluid darken with exposure. Chemists add a blue dye to allow the writer to see exactly what he or she is penning before the magic happens. As air and light caress the page, the ink turns black as a moonless winter. This is the stuff that countless poets, philosophers, bookkeepers and monarchs used before self-fillers came of age.

One is safe. The other will eat your nib alive.

The permanence comes at great cost. Iron galls are cruel to less noble metals. Even the hardy stainless manga nibs from Nikko or Zebra burn at both ends. Quickly. In their purest form, iron gall inks are bad juju for fountain pens.

Less concentrated versions are more congenial. Montblanc’s discontinued Midnight, and Diamine Registrar’s work up to a point. Nibs stall if I even pause to think about my next phrase, but their biggest failing is that they feel dry. Like fingernails scratching pavement. Not fun, so I gave up on IGs altogether.

Konrad mixes every batch of ink that bears his name. I love this small batch production method.

Enter the Polish ink KWZ, named after its chemist-owner Konrad Żurawski. Their iron gall formulation is advertised as safe to use in fountain pens. More exciting is that they offer colors in green, mandarin and something called Gummiberry. I was intrigued to the point that when Enabler asked me if I wanted anything from Vanness Pens, I smiled and exclaimed, “Gummiberry!!!”

Reminds me of Herbin’s older formula for Poussiere de Lune

My test drive involved a 14k needlepoint. If the ink would choke, it would do so in an XXXF. Surprisingly, the ink flowed like bootleg rye in a backroom speakeasy. The color bore a charming resemblance to the old Poussiere de Lune. After several minutes, it darkened to a black with barely discernable purplish undertones. Its most remarkable feat was that the tip actually had LOTS of glide. No iron gall ink I’ve used has ever felt this way.

Fresh off the nib. Pelikan F on top. Masuyama needlepoint below.

I then gassed up a few more pens with wider nibs. The color was more assertive, taking a longer spell to change clothes. Even when I didn’t write with the pens for days, the nibs started immediately.

I emailed KWZ to share my glee and ask about their own experiences. They responded quickly and said they use their IGs in Preppies, Plumixes, and TWSBIs all the time. No stainless nibs suffer so long as the pens are used regularly. They also told me that their oldest bottles remain stable at the 4-year mark. Encouraging news and enough to recommend the brand to other ink fiends.

Gall can be a bitter pill, but this one is oh so sweet. If you want to try a bottle, then fall in line as Konrad & Agnieska Żurawski fill their dealer’s orders.

You will pardon me though, if I choose to jump the queue.

(KWZ inks are available online from Vanness Pens in Arkansas, and from PenGrafik here in Manila.)

Addendum 5 August 2016

I’ve left a couple of pens inked but unused for a few weeks. Nibs started immediately but the ink color was closer to black. It seems the ink on the feed oxidized over time but once it sucked in stuff from the tank, the bright cheerful gummiberry tone returned. I remain impressed by how Konrad formulated this product. 

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3 thoughts on “Finally found THE gall

  1. inkophile

    Yet another good review of KWZ. Might have to give it a try soon and Gummiberry looks like just the place to start. 🙂

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