I believe “KWZ Ink” is a brand that no longer needs lengthy introduction. They very steadily gain ground in the fountain pen world. They are a relatively new ink company based in Poland. They operate since 2012. The brand was founded by a chemist Konrad Żurawski. Their niche seems to be Iron Gall ink. And that seems to have been the right move as iron gall slowly but surely disappeared in the past years from the market – not that there was much iron gall ink offered to begin with. Either way, KWZI revived it with great success. They also offer regular line of inks for those less concerned with archival qualities of the ink they use. Their Honey ink, for example, gained high status in the community fast and really got the brand some good exposure.
The ink I’m going to talk about today is from their “Iron Gall” series. I’ve talked to KWZI about my needs for permanent ink for artwork and I’ve been advised to try their Blue Black as it contains the highest iron gall content of them all, hence being the most permanent of the lot. Despite being advised and in contact with KWZI, I have purchased the ink with my own money. I have not been provided the ink for review purposes, nor have I been asked to do a review. Therefore all opinions in this review are my own and not biased in any way, except the quality of the ink itself.
The ink comes in an exceedingly simple white cardboard box that states the batch number as well as marketing name of the ink. It even provides a little swatch from the batch. I like the box, there’s nice simplicity to it. The ink itself is packaged in a generic brown medicinal bottle with a simple white plastic lid. The plastic doesn’t feel very high quality but it works and I haven’t had any cracks or issues. Despite the uninspiring design of the bottle, it serves the purpose – there are numerous cases where ink bottles, though pretty, won’t allow to fill pens comfortably. The bottles KWZI uses, I’m told, are generic medicinal bottles used by pharmacies. The reason for using these is that, especially with iron gall ink, it is critical to keep the UV light out so the ink doesn’t deteriorate. That’s the reason why they selected an amber colored bottle.
The bottle has a simple label with the name of the company and ink. There’s even hand written name of the ink on the label with the ink itself and again, a little swatch. This definitely is a nice touch, though I imagine extremely time consuming and wouldn’t be surprised if they refrained from doing it as they grow larger.
At the time I spoke with KWZI about this ink I was told that they are looking into changing their bottles and plan on updating the packaging. I have just bought a bottle of their Iron Gall Red #3 and it indeed comes in slightly different packaging. I shall be reviewing the ink soon and will show the differences.
The ink cost me 10€ which is very reasonable for a 60ml bottle of high quality permanent ink. I think it is an excellent value. Unfortunately their prices went up slightly as they expanded their distribution network. I was also no longer able to purchase ink from KWZI directly, which is a shame but understandable, so you might need to seek out retailers who carry their line. For me this was an unnecessary complication as I live in Slovakia which borders with Poland directly.
Update 8/2017: As I found out KWZI ink is actually available for purchase directly from them, although it takes them 1-2 weeks to ship. My apologies for the inaccuracy, this was a misunderstanding on my part.
My rating of the ink is shown on the following infographic. The ink deserves, in my opinion 5 out of 5 in all aspects, there’s not a shred of doubt about that in my mind. I can honestly say I have not yet encountered ink so good. Read further to find out why and understand what each rating represents. I don’t rate presentation here because, although important, it doesn’t affect the performance of the ink directly and you can always transfer your ink into a different ink well if you so desire.
UPDATE: The following infographic is updated to reflect my recent not-so-fortunate experience with the ink after cleaning my pens. Please read an update to the ink evaluation in the section on Composition.
Hue & Tone
5 out of 5
Hue and tone are the two visual characteristics that not only directly affect our emotional perception of the ink but can also restrict its usability due to excessive lightness or brightness of the ink.
You can see the color and tone of the ink very well on the ink cards. It is a very dark blue. However, the ink does not go on dark like this when wet. The inherent property of iron gall ink is that as the iron oxidizes the ink darkens. That is actually where the name Blue Black comes from. It goes on blue but dries black. And how much and how fast it does so depends on the content of iron gall component in the ink and on the amount of ink put on the page. There are iron gall inks that hardly exhibit any change of hue and tone. Also, some inks darken within hours, other within days and for some it can take weeks. The KWZI Blue Black does so very quickly.
As to this particular ink though, the color really is wonderful, both when still wet and afterwards when dry. This is, in my eyes, a true blue black ink. All the other blue blacks on the market that are not iron gall are actually just imitations in this respect, because they no longer provide the same natural experience of the ink turning from blue to black with the exposure to oxygen.
The color of the ink is very versatile as it is very suitable for professional setting. This is definitely a plus if you work in an environment where brighter ink colors raise eyebrows.
Personally this ink appeals to me greatly. The depth of its color is really nice and the hue shift is simply magic. I prize highly inks that exhibit this quality. There are some dye based inks that do so but their effect is nowhere near that of iron gall.
5 out of 5 (UPDATE: 2 out of 5)
Composition envelops a group of properties closely tied to how the ink is made, that is the additives and concentration of the dye/pigment component. These properties directly affect dry times, dry smear and overall maintenance requirements of the ink.
As I mentioned several times, this is an iron gall ink. I won’t go in-depth into what is iron gall ink or how it’s made. For that there are excellent resources. For example, you can visit “The Iron Gall Ink Website” to learn more about the chemistry, composition and manufacture of iron gall ink. The one thing I want to mention, though, is maintenance. Many pen people tend to avoid iron gall inks like the plague because they fear the maintenance aspect of it. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ve been assured by KWZI that as long as you use stainless steel and gold nibs, there is no reason to treat the ink differently from any other. Issues may arise from very bad pen hygiene, for example, letting your pen dry out and keeping the dried ink in a pen for months unattended. In my personal experience with this ink there’s really no noticeable short-term difference with maintaining a pen using iron gall ink vs. regular dye based one.
UPDATE 8/2017: As you can see, the ink no longer gets 5 out of 5 rating that I have given it at first. After using the ink in my Pelikan M1000 and Platinum #3776 Century for an extended period of time, I did my regular clean-up (I usually have inked my pens for a month or two, only refilling it, completely cleaning after this period). As I found, to my horror, the ink is not as friendly as it appeared to be. Due to the fact, I reduced my rating. Maintenance can not possibly get full marks. This is also reflected in my updated infographic above. I recommend you to be very cautious about using this ink in expensive pens. Despite the fact that both of my pens (Pelikan M1000 and Platinum #3776 Century) have gold nibs (18kt and 14kt), after thorough cleaning I discovered my nibs are stained. There is a slight gray tinge on several spots on the nib which doesn’t go away. The worst case scenario is that the ink reacted with the metal in one way or another. In fact, it does look like corrosion when I look at the nibs with a magnifier, which seems rather fantastic I have to admit. Nevertheless, it worries me that it may be the case. The best case scenario is that it is only a heavy staining. Either way, this is not a small thing when using the ink in such expensive pens. The rest of my review stands, the ink is incredible and exceptionally well-behaved. I will continue using it but ONLY and I repeat: ONLY in very inexpensive pens. I recommend you to do the same. Don’t fear using the ink as it is excellent but learn from my experience and be extra careful.
The ink is not exceedingly concentrated. I find it very balanced. There’s plenty of dye in the ink to produce very rich and deep color while still flowing very freely. The ink seems to be very well lubricated as well.
The ink dries very fast. I never had any issues with smearing. Not once I had to wait for the ink to dry. Produces excellent drying times. I am also happy to report that the ink doesn’t suffer from the unbearable dry smear.
5 out of 5
Performance indicates how the ink performs on various types of paper regarding feathering, bleed through, ghosting and what possible other undesirable qualities it exhibits. It also indicates the flow rate of the ink subjectively based on my experience and opinion.
If you’re like me and used Rohrer & Klingner Salix but didn’t like it because of how dry it was, than this ink is good news for you. The IG Blue Black is very wet! I really enjoy and love wet inks, very wet, gushing inks, as well as gushing pens. However, I had a slight issue with this ink, or rather an interesting experience. When established in the pen it’s very stable, as well as very pleasantly wet and smooth, no problems there whatsoever. But immediately after filling a pen, the ink literally dripped from the feed! Once I removed the excess from the feed then there were no drips or any issues whatsoever but I found it interesting. I tried in a couple of pens with similar results.
Performance on the paper is exceptional. And I mean exceptional. Really amazing performer. Whatever the paper, this is one of the best behaving inks I have ever used. I am not kidding. If you have just a little decent paper, the ink won’t feather and bleed however wet and wide your pen is. Even on really cheap paper I’ve great results. Excellent.
5 out of 5
Permanence is concerned with two main areas: water resistance and archivability. While water resistance is the “everyday” permanence aspect we enjoy and appreciate, archivability refers to longevity, that is long-term resistance to exposure to the elements. The more permanent the ink is the less it degrades in color and tone. This is difficult to guess with fountain pen ink since inks for fountain pens are not ASTM tested like artist’s paint.
Since KWZI IG BB is a strong iron gall ink, water resistance is excellent. After the ink dries it won’t wash away with water. I have not tried chemicals but I expect it would hold up pretty well, though I would be interested to hear actual results of such test.
As to permanence and resistance to UV light and age, I cannot very well comment on that at this time. Historically, iron gall ink is extremely tough and records attest to that. They show that the ink survived for hundreds of years. However, modern iron gall formula is much more gentle. I expect the ink to be very archival though. I will be doing a test where I’ll expose various ink types to sunlight for a period of time to see how durable they are from this aspect. This should provide a rough idea of the durability of the main ink categories, iron gall, pigment, permanent dye and regular dye.
Enjoy the following examples of the ink in a couple of different types on notebooks. The first notebook is a Winsor & Newton hard bound sketchbook with 170g acid free paper which is fairly absorbent but nice to work on. The second example was done in Leuchtturm 1917 hard bound notebook with dot grid paper. Both are A5 in size. In neither case, regardless of how wet my application was, there was no bleed, feathering or other ill effects. I have the ink in my Platinum #3776 Century Chartres Blue with a C nib. That is a good, wet double broad nib, which can smoothly reverse write with a fine line.
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For one reason or another, the following are inks that are in certain ways similar to KWZI IG Blue Black:
- Pelikan 4001 Blue Black: A wonderful ink that also contains iron gall, this is an ink for those who like the concept of iron gall but fear the consequences. That is because the iron gall component is not as heavily present in it as it is in KWZI’s. And so if you’re looking for an ink that meets you half way, this is the one for you. Does not darken with age.
- Rohrer & Klingner Salix: Another iron gall ink. Definitely a dryish ink that may not be as free flowing as KWZI’s offering but still very good an usable. Does not darken with age.
- Lamy Blue Black: No longer an iron gall formula, this is a regular dye ink from Lamy. The color is very nice but there is nothing special about the ink.
- Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite: A wonderful ink. Exhibits pretty hue shift. Nice color and very well behaved. Somewhat water resistant but does not seem to be permanent.
- Caran d’Ache Magnetic Blue: Not an ink I used a great deal. Similar to Tanzanite, it is a dye based ink that is not permanent.