Monday, September 7, 2015

Product Review: Sailor Nano Kiwa-Guro Ink

Sailor Nano Kiwa-Guro ink cartridges
If you’ve kept up with the ongoing refinements to my travel sketch kit during the past couple of years, you know that by now I’ve got it down to its leanest and meanest. In France, I consistently used enough of the items I brought that I would be hard-pressed to take anything out, and I can’t think of anything I need to add. My biggest challenge is to resist bringing more pens than I need. After four years of refining my basic pen nib needs to a very narrow range – my Pilot posting nib for very fine sketching and a Sailor fude nib for everything else – I should be able to get away with only two pens, right?

Well, not quite. Because the other variable is ink. I always have to have at least one pen with waterproof ink and at least one with water-soluble ink. The latter ink type is a simple matter of resisting my need for variety – I always want at least a blue, a brown and a black – but I don’t really need that many colors for a two-week trip. I just have to convince myself that one will do.

The waterproof ink issue, however, is another issue. Platinum Carbon Black has been my go-to for years. If I run out, I’m not likely to find more on the road. Bringing along spare Platinum Carbon ink cartridges would be a very easy solution – except that they don’t fit in my favorite Sailor pens. I will not consider bringing a bottle of ink and syringe to replenish my pens, because that would take up precious space in my already over-stuffed TSA-approved liquids bag (I always fly with carry-on only), and I don’t even want to think about a potential ink spill. So my backup plan has always been to bring additional pens already filled with Platinum Carbon. But why bring more pens when all I need is the ink?

It boiled down to a simple search: Find a waterproof black ink cartridge that would fit in my Sailor pens. It was fast, as the choices are very limited; the only one I found is Sailor Nano Kiwa-Guro ink. (The previous link goes to J-Subculture, where I bought a 12-pack for less than $5, but it’s also available at JetPens at twice the cost. Since shipping from J-Subculture is only cost-effective if placing a relatively large order, if you only want one pack, it’s probably cheaper to purchase from JetPens or Amazon. I, however, seem to have no problem finding enough items I “need” from J-Subculture to make the shipping fee cost-effective. J)

My loyalty to Platinum Carbon Black is long and deep; I’ve tried many waterproof inks, but no other meets all three of my requirements:
  1. It must dry almost immediately (most inks I’ve tried fail this one).
  2. It must flow “wet.” This requirement is difficult to quantify or describe, as it’s subjective, but some inks I otherwise like for its color variety, such as the DeAtramentis Document line, flow too “dry” for my taste. If I had to characterize it, I’d say that a wet ink flows more like oil than water.
  3. It must not clog my nibs, even during relatively long idle times – let’s say two weeks. (Super 5, a waterproof ink I initially liked, eventually flunked both the clog test as well as the “wet” test.)
Could Sailor’s competitive equivalent come close?

Water applied to Sailor Nano (bottom) and Platinum Carbon Black 10 seconds
after making the ink line.
Like Platinum Carbon Black, Sailor Nano Kiwa-Guro is a pigment ink. I conducted my typical waterproof test, which is to wait 10 seconds and then swipe the line quickly with a waterbrush. (Tests shown were done with Sailor fude pens and a Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook.) I daresay that the Sailor ink did better than Platinum Carbon – it showed almost no smearing after only 10 seconds, while the Platinum ink showed a trace of smearing. Dries almost immediately: Check.

I gave Sailor Nano the “wet” test in the only way I knew how: I sketched with it to see how it feels. Using it all morning at Bradner Gardens a couple weeks ago, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between it and my favorite Platinum Carbon ink. In other words, in my subjective hand, it flowed just as wetly. (In fact, I forgot I was testing it – that’s always a good sign.)

The only remaining test was whether it would clog a pen after two weeks of idleness. On Aug. 22, I stopped using the Sailor fude pen filled with Nano ink and placed it nib-end pointing up in a cup. For comparison, I stopped using a second Sailor fude pen filled with my usual Platinum Carbon Black. It, too, was placed in the cup, nib pointing up.

On Sept. 5, I made test scribbles with each pen, and disappointingly, they were both equally dry. I spritzed the nibs with water and wiped them down with a wet paper towel, and soon enough, both started flowing well again. I thought Platinum Carbon Black had performed better in previous two-week idle tests, but that obviously had more to do with the pen (my all-time idle pen champ, the Pilot Petit1) than the ink. In any case, Sailor Nano fared no worse.

Conclusion: Sailor Nano is a nearly indistinguishable product from Platinum Carbon Black. Would I abandon Platinum and switch to Sailor Nano Kiwa-Guro permanently? By the bottle, it’s more expensive than Platinum Carbon, so I don’t see a reason to make an across-the board change. I’m just happy to have found an excellent waterproof ink available in a cartridge that fits my Sailor fude pens – the ideal solution to this travel backup need.

Updated 10/9/15: I'm retracting my view that Sailor Nano Kiwa-Guro is a worthy substitute for Platinum. After my Sept. 5 idleness test, I put the pen aside, still filled with the same cartridge as was used in testing. Recently I took it out it out again, and for whatever reason, it is not nearly as waterproof as it had been during those initial tests, even on the same sketchbook page. After waiting a half-hour, an hour and even longer, the ink still smears a bit when water is applied. How strange that it was more waterproof a month ago! I can't explain it, but that inconsistency and unreliability is troublesome.

5 comments:

  1. I need to get a bottle of Platinum Carbon Black. I got a sample from Jet Pens but it is very low now and I've been doing a lot of ink sketching lately.

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  2. What about taking a couple (or a few) sample sized vials (as Goulet uses) filled with Platinum Carbon black to refill your pens? They are small enough that they're not over the TSA limit for fluids.

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  3. Great post. I'm a pen geek and one thing you didn't mention was how much being a pen geek influences the "need" to carry multiple pens :-) I do a constant juggle because I'm always playing with pens and generally have at least half a dozen of them with me. I carry a cut-down Platinum Carbon pen in my pocket for goodness sake.

    I've found the same difference you have between PCB and DAB but don't mind it as much as you. One solution is to buy a bottle of thinner and add about 10% thinner to DAB. This small dilution doesn't affect color at all but does make it flow better, and the ink becomes cheaper. I had to go to a dilution of nearly 50% just to gray it down to a dark gray like Noodler's Lexington Gray.

    On the dry nib front, I think fude nibs are the problem here and there's little that can be done. Their tips are further from the nib than most pens and so it's far more likely that they will dry up.

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  4. Hi, recently a reader posted on my blog saying the ink wasn't waterproof. I remembered that it was waterproof when I first used it. But after my reader's comment, I went back to use it again and it is no longer waterproof! How strange!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, that's really strange that you experienced that, too. . . I wonder if it's only waterproof when it's fresh and new!

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