Now that my ink samples have started multiplying like bunnies, I needed a better way to record them than writing them down in a notebook. The Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book‘s been all over the pen blogosphere for the past few months, so I decided to buy one and see if it lives up to the hype.
I won’t rehash all the details because I’m pretty sure every pen blogger on earth has already posted about these things. But in a nutshell, the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book is a set of 100 small sheets of 160gsm, ink-friendly paper held together by a binder ring.
When it comes to making ink swabs, there are no rules. Everyone has their own method, and it takes some experimentation to figure out what works. After some false starts, here’s what I came up with.
I used a syringe and an X-ACTO knife blade to make the swabs, and a Q-tip to color the bottom edge. Then I used whatever pen I happened to have filled with that color to write in the brand and name of the ink.
To make a swab, I drew a few drops of ink into the syringe, then dropped three drops on the left side of the Col-o-ring sheet. Then I took the X-ACTO blade and scraped it across the sheet, through the puddle of ink. (Similar to using a palette knife to apply paint.)
Next, I dropped one drop of ink below the first and scraped that across with the blade.
The syringe/X-ACTO method really shows off any shading and sheening properties of the inks.
For my first attempts, I used a Q-tip to make the swabs and the results were flat and uninteresting.
Then I tried using a paintbrush, but it also produced flat looking swabs. Even worse, it took forever to clean the brush well enough between swabs to prevent ink cross-contamination. The syringe and X-ACTO blade take seconds to clean up in comparison, and the results speak for themselves.
I still need to settle on one pen to use for ink testing. It might end up being a dip pen, or maybe just an easy to clean fountain pen with a broad nib. I left some room on each sheet to draw some figures when I decide what I’m going to use.
Overall, I’m pleased with the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book. The paper is high-quality, the chipboard covers are letterpressed and look fantastic, and the name is so clever it makes me smile. The binder ring means you can easily organize, and re-organize, your ink swabs to your heart’s content. I wish the paper were smoother (what can I say, I’m a Tomoe River fan) and the $10+shipping price tag feels expensive (but I doubt I could make one of these on my own any cheaper).
If you’re looking for a way to keep track of the inks you’ve tested, the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book is well worth your consideration.
Three Good Reviews of the Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book:
- Experiment 16: Upgrading Ink Tests With the Col-o-ring (via Inkpothesis, featuring some ridiculously gorgeous swabs that put mine to shame)
- Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book Review (via Ken Crooker, an incredibly complete review with all the details)
- Col-o-ring Ink Testing Book: A Review (via The Pen Addict, where I stole the idea of swabbing the bottom edge of each sheet)