Ink Review: Noodler's Lexington Gray

Noodler's Lexington Gray

The USS Lexington is the oldest surviving aircraft carrier in the world. Commissioned in 1943, it saw extensive service as part of the Pacific fleet during WWII, where it developed a reputation for being impossible to sink - so much so that Japanese navy began referring to it as a “ghost” ship. This reputation, coupled with it’s blue camouflage scheme, earned the ship the moniker “The Blue Ghost.”

Since then, the Lexington has had a long career, acting first as an attack carrier, then as an anti-submarine carrier, and finally as a training carrier. It was finally decommissioned in 1991 and now lives as a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas, where it was designated a National Historic Landmark. If you’re going to pick a ship to name a waterproof, battleship gray ink after, the Lexington is a pretty great choice.

“Battleship gray" was named for the particular shade of gray paint used to rustproof steel battleships - a practice that began in the Royal Navy. The paint gets its color from micaceous iron oxide, a sparkly iron ore comprised of millions of tiny rustproof flakes. Curiously, the same iron oxide was first mined to produce “pounce" - the sandy power used during the 18th and 19th centuries to help quickly dry writing ink. Fortunately, you won’t need any pounce to deal with Lexington Gray, as it’s a very well-behaved ink.

It exhibits a surprising amount of shading for an ink with such a high degree of saturation. It’s not a high-shading ink, but there’s enough variation to make things interesting, even in a fine-nib pen. It’s easy to read on a variety of paper colors and types, from white to cream to yellow post-it notes.

It is smooth-writing ink, though the flow is slightly on the dry side. Overall, it’s easy to write with across most types of paper. It also behaves quite well on all of the paper types I tested. Feathering was low across the board, and dry times were will within expectations for the different paper types I tested: cheap, office copier paper; Staples bagasse notepad; Rhoda Bloc pad; Midori MD notebook; and Canson XL Mix Media notebook. 

Paper Dry Time Bleed Through Show Through Feathering
Copier 1 second Moderate Moderate Low
Bagasse 5 seconds Moderate High Moderate
Rhodia 10 seconds Low Moderate None
Midori 15 seconds None Low None
Canson 20 seconds None None None
Noodler's Lexington Gray water test

Noodler's Lexington Gray water test

Lexington Gray is advertised as "bulletproof" - Noodler's term of art for ink that resists removal from that paper, once dry. As you can see by the water test, the description is entirely accurate; the ink isn't going anywhere. Once again, the Lexington lives up to its reputation as unsinkable. This is one of the most impressive water tests I've done. If I didn't tell you that the scan above was from after the water test, you'd never suspect it.

I do three types of tests to evaluate an ink's water resistance. In this case, the first test was the smear test, in which I ran a wet finger across the page. The ink didn't budge. Second, I performed the drip test, in which I placed several droplets of water on the page and let them soak for a few seconds before blotting them up. The ink looked at me and laughed. Finally, I ran the paper under a stream of water for thirty seconds in a process that I call a soak test. The ink just shook its head and said, "Hey buddy. I ain't going nowhere, nohow."

One other item worth noting is that Lexington Gray is also advertised as UV light-proof. Testing ink for light-fastness isn’t part of my standard repertoire, but I do understand that it is a concern for those looking for an archival quality ink. If the water-fastness test is any indication of the ink’s light-fastness, though, I’m guessing that you could leave your work face up in the middle of the Sahara desert for several millennia, and it wouldn’t fade one bit. 

Noodler's Lexington Gray bottle

Noodler's Lexington Gray bottle

Noodler’s bottles are very utilitarian, and this one is no exception. The bottle of Lexington Gray is their standard, stock bottle, filled to the brim with ink. Be careful when opening a bottle of Noodler's ink for the first time - it's easy to spill if you're even the slightest bit careless. On the label is a picture of the ink's naval namesake, the USS Lexington. Noodler’s is never going to win design awards for their bottles or packaging, but they don’t need to when the ink itself is so good.

If you’re a fan of gray ink, or of bulletproof ink in general, Noodler’s Lexington Gray is well worth picking up. It’s a workhorse of an ink, and it will definitely become one of those that makes it into my regular rotation.

Noodler's Lexington Gray is available from many fine retailers, including:

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from Canson’s XL line. The broad lines were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. The fine lines were made using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

House Rules

Hello guest,

Thank you for choosing our home. We know that there are lots of great options out there, so we appreciate your decision to stay with us. Here are a few House Rules to help you get situated, and to make sure that your stay here is as enjoyable as possible.

  1. Check in is after 4 PM and check out is before 12 PM.
  2. You are welcome to park on the street, but you will need to move your vehicle into the driveway overnight. Please leave your keys on the table by the front door so that we can move your car back into the street before we leave in the morning.
  3. When arriving for the first time, please announce your presence by hanging out in a corner of the ceiling instead of dangling by a thread in someone's face or crawling out from under a piece of furniture.
  4. The WiFi password is on the side of the router.
  5. You are welcome to help yourself to food in the kitchen. Especially the tiny ants. They're assholes.
  6. Smoking inside the house is strictly prohibited.
  7. We are routinely complimented on the comfort level of the upstairs bathroom. Please, however, refrain from using our towels or medicine cabinet as place to nest. If you decide to take up residence in the shower, please make sure to do so on the side of the tub facing the shower-head, so that we can see you even when rinsing our hair.
  8. No pets.
  9. Encounters with the cats may be unavoidable. We do not offer refunds in the event that you or a member of your family gets eaten.
  10. While we are an equal opportunity renter, we ask that, if you are a member of a venomous species, that you refrain from using said venom during your stay.

Other than that, there are no rules! We sincerely hope that your visit to Cleveland is enjoyable. Let us know if you need restaurant or entertainment suggestions - we're happy to help - and look us up on Arachnid BnB again!

Why I write...

So many things make me happy: the smell of mulled cider drifting through the house on a cool autumn night, the taste of slightly smoky single malt scotch, the quiet tick of a mechanical watch held close to the ear, the second movement of Beethoven's seventh symphony. Unfortunately, many of these things that bring me happiness are fleeting – eventually the bottle runs dry, the symphony ends, and the autumn leaves give way to a bright, white cocoon.

One thing that brings me happiness continuously and consistently, though, is writing. Everything about the process of creating stories, poetry, and essays makes me happy – from the moment of inception, when the kernel of an idea materializes out of the ether, through the process of construction, a cycle of writing and revising and writing and revising, to the final step of publishing, when my creation is unveiled and unleashed.

Writing can be challenging, to be sure. Sometimes the process feels uninspired. Sometimes it feels daunting. Sometimes it is deliberate – putting down one word at a time, one word after another until the end of a line. But even those times bring me joy – they are obstacles to be overcome, mountains to be climbed, and rivers to be forged. On the other side of each is uncharted territory, and discovering new lands is always exciting.

Even the physical act of writing makes me happy – from the beginning, when the pen glides across the surface of my notebook, to the end, when my fingers tap-tap-tap across the keyboard.

Beyond the joy of creation and expression, though, lies a level of happiness that is deep and powerful – it fulfills me and leaves me hopeful. I have hope that some part of me will endure even though my body must eventually succumb to the relentless march of time. When I am a faded memory in the faded memories of those who once knew and loved me, I hope that some of my words remain behind to tell the story of who I was and what I contributed to the world.

Hope. Creation. Expression. These are the reasons that writing makes me happy.

Ink Review: Diamine Blaze Orange

Diamine Blaze Orange. Click to embiggen.

Blaze orange is well known to Americans as the color of construction barrels, traffic cones, and hunting caps. It’s a color designed to provide significant contrast to the environment – critical when dodging traffic during rush hour on a busy highway or when creeping through the woods with dozens of other hunters, all of whom have high-powered rifles in hand. In those contexts, the color is aggressively monotone, obnoxious, and prosaic, but when embodied in ink form by Diamine, it becomes delightfully dynamic, engaging, and lyrical.

Its most laudable characteristic is its extremely high degree of shading, which is evident even in fine nib pens. It creates the impression of a flickering flame that dances directly off the page. My one quibble with the ink is that it is low in saturation, which, combined with the color, makes it hard to read on cream-colored paper. It looks good, though, on off-white paper and really comes to life on bright-white paper.

Blaze Orange is generally pleasant to write with. Like most Diamine ink, it is neither especially dry nor especially wet. It writes very easily on fountain pen-friendly paper like Midori, but doesn’t do much to make paper with a bit of tooth feel smooth.

In my experience, Diamine ink performs consistently across the different colors of the line: it feathers a bit on absorbent, un-sized paper, and it behaves admirably on coated, ink-resistant paper. Blaze Orange behaved as expected on the five paper types I used to test it: cheap, office copier paper; Staples Bagasse notepad; Rhodia Bloc pad; Midori MD notebook; and Canson XL Mix Media notebook.

Paper Dry Time Bleed-Through Show-Through Feathering
Copier 1 second Yes Medium Low
Bagasse 3 seconds Yes Medium Low
Rhodia 15 seconds No Low None
Midori 10 seconds No Low None
Canson 15 seconds No None None

Diamine Blaze Orange water test. Click to embiggen.

Blaze Orange exhibits very little in the way of water resistance. When I ran a wet finger across the page for the the smear test, I left a giant orange smudge behind. In the drip test, where I let a drop of water soak on the paper before blotting it up, the ink fared no better – the affected ink lifted cleanly from the page, leaving only a soft, orange haze behind. During the soak test, in which I ran the page under a stream of water for 30 seconds, the ink almost completely washed away, fading to a ghost of its original self. This is not an ink that one should use to address an envelope or anything else that might be exposed to the elements.

Diamine Blaze Orange bottle

Diamine Blaze Orange bottle

Diamine ink is available in 30ml plastic and an 80ml glass bottles, both of which are utilitarian and slightly boring in appearance. The 30ml plastic bottle has a neck that is very small in diameter, and I found that some of my larger pens would not fit all the way in, which made getting to the ink a bit of a challenge. Though you may wish to go with the smaller volume to try out a new color, my recommendation would be to go for the larger bottle due to its superior usability.

Blaze Orange isn’t likely to be an everyday ink for most people, but it is a pretty amazing one. I highly recommend it if you’re the kind of fountain pen user who keeps several pens inked at once, or if you just happen to be in a vibrant state of mind.

Diamine Blaze Orange is available from multiple sources, including:

Review notes: the handwritten portion of the review was created on 160 gsm, acid free, mixed media paper from the Canson XL line. The broad lines were made using a Pilot Parallel pen with a 3.8mm calligraphy nib. The fine lines were created using a Visconti Homo Sapiens fitted with an EF palladium nib.

Moleskine giveaway

Giant stack of Moleskine notebooks

Giant stack of Moleskine notebooks

Over the past five years or so, I've accumulated lots of notebooks, pens, and ink that are never likely to see use. Sometimes, my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so to speak, and I over-purchased. Sometimes, I just got distracted by whatever new product I had just stumbled upon. In the case of the giant stack of Moleskine notebooks pictured above, it was the latter.

I started feeding my fountain pen addiction on Moleskines, which are perfectly fine general notebooks, but then quickly moved to paper that is more fountain pen friendly. As a result, I have lots of extra notebooks. This stack includes:

  • Three regular size (5" x 8.25") sketchbooks
  • One regular size grid-lined notebook
  • One regular size blank notebook
  • One regular size ruled notebook
  • One regular size address book
  • One regular size recipe journal
  • One set of regular size ruled volant journals (flexible cover)
  • One pocket size ruled cahier (paper cover)
  • One pocket size ruled notebook

The address book, recipe journal, volant journals, cahier, and pocket size ruled notebook have been opened so that I could check them out, but all remain unused. In examining these years-old notebooks, I discovered that elastic on some of the books seemed to get loose over time, even without any use. Otherwise, they're in new condition.

Since I'm not likely to ever get around to using these notebooks, I am giving them away! To enter yourself, simply leave a comment below sometime before midnight EDT on Tuesday 8/16. I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner. Please make sure that the account you use to leave the comment has a method of contact so that I can coordinate delivery of your prize.

Fine print: to make sure that shipping costs are reasonable, this contest is only open to residents of the continental US.

UPDATE: we have a winner! PeppWaves03, the random number generator chose you!