Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fountain Pens and Inks

I am finally ready to start sketching with my Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen and it has been quite a journey and learning experience. I thought I would share some of what I have learned so far.

My Art Journal: My first sketch with my Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen
(Noodler's Lexington Gray ink and watercolour)
(Atomic Rooster September Calendar pasted into journal at bottom)

Fountain Pens

I have used a dip pen with india ink to sketch for many years but I was interested in purchasing a fountain pen that I could carry around for urban sketching.

I started researching pens and was surprised that the prices can range anywhere from $45 to $600+. I was also surprised that so few stores in Ottawa sell a wide selection of fountain pens and inks.

So I turned to urban sketcher's blogs and artist reviews to help me decide on a pen. I ended up choosing the Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen from Wonder Pens in Toronto, Ontario

My new Ahab Flex Pen
I learned that the Ahab flex pen was introduced in late 2011 and is Noodler's largest and most popular fountain pen. I like the slide piston mechanism for refilling ink and the flexible steel #6 nib had good reviews (generally speaking).

The Ahab body is made of a celluloid derivative (and is therefore technically biodegradable) and lots of folks online complained about the strong odour it emits but this hasn't been a problem for me.

I should add that my favourite artist/sketcher/reviewer Teoh Yi Chie (aka Parka Blogs) didn't like the Ahab Flex pen that much. He gave it 3.5 stars out of 5. (You can read his review here:

Goulet Pens created a great video about filling the Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen and converting it to an eye dropper (11 minutes) below. If you watch just the first few minutes you get a sense of how the pen works and the various components of the pen.

Pigmented Ink vs. Fountain Pen Ink

My dip pen and nibs

I ordered the pen without giving any thought to the ink. I had plenty of india ink for my dip pens in my art room and wasn't that the same thing?


Rule #1: NEVER use pigmented ink in a fountain pen.

"The dip pen has certain advantages over a fountain pen. It can use waterproof, pigmented, particle-and-binder-based, inks, such as so-called "India ink", drawing ink, or acrylic inks, which would destroy a fountain pen by clogging it up, as well as the traditional iron gall ink, which can cause corrosion in fountain pens." (Source: Wikipedia)

Perhaps everyone else knew that pigmented inks could destroy a fountain pen but I sure didn't! I now needed to find fountain pen ink in Ottawa and that proved to be a futile task.

So I went back online to Wonder Pens in Toronto, Ontario. Wonder Pens offer many colours of Noodler's ink and they even offer 2 mL samples for only $1.25!

I now own:

  • Full bottle: Canadian Exclusive - Raven Black - inspired by Edgar Allen Poe.This is a bullet-proof and eternal black ink from Noodler's.  
  • Full bottle: Canadian Exclusive - Blue Upon The Plains of Abraham - Named after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham - this was an instrumental battle in the Seven Years' War. This ink is a deep beautiful blue with strong shading.
  • Sample: Lexington Grey
  • Sample: Walnut
  • Sample: Burma Road Brown

I can't wait to start sketching with them
Wonder Pens - Noodler Inks
Note: I'm still new to the world of inks but I am smitten by the Lexinton Gray sample that I bought for $1.25! And one of my all-time favourite sketchers loves that ink too

There are a LOT of pen addicts/experts out there. These folks really know their pens and know their inks. Just google "Fountain pen" + "ink" and you will find blogs like where I found this great graphic (originally from

What Is Bulletproof Ink? 

Bulletproof is a Noodler's term to represent waterproof, bleach proof, lightfast and archival qualities. It's quite rare to find waterproof black ink that's also safe for use in fountain pens, so Noodler's quite unusual in that regard.

My Art Journal: My first sketch with my Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen
(Noodler's Lexington Gray ink and watercolour)

I am really going to enjoy sketching with this new fountain pen. If you are thinking of purchasing one to experiment with, here are some links that I found helpful:

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