Blackstone Inks

Australia, drawn in Blackstone InkBlackstone inks began in quite a roundabout way, coming from a discussion on Fountain Pen Network, but we'll come back to that. It's an interesting story, but you may just want to know what they're doing now.

Well, they're making inks in Australia, with colours based on the natural world there, with blues based on the sea, green echoing the Daintree rainforest, red from Uluru, and vivid yellow from the Golden Wattle flowers. And it's not just colours - they also produce a range of scented inks that smell like Australia.

Their Barrister range uses nano pigment particles to make permanent inks in a selection of colours - useful to anyone who wants permanent ink in their fountain pen, not just those in the legal profession!

Blackstone Black Stump - ink bottleThis range is all the more impressive when you realise that the people behind Blackstone Inks didn't make ink at all back in 2014. So what happened in 2014 that made them so quickly go from not making ink to making lots of ink? Well…

There was a discussion on the very popular fountain pen forum Fountain Pen Network, where the subject of powdered ink came up. The idea of powdered ink is quite appealing to a lot of people. You'd buy powder, which contains all the non-water ingredients of ink, and add water. Want a really intense colour? Don't add too much water. Want it less saturated? Add more water. Yes, more saturated with water would give a less saturated colour. I'm confused, but I think that works.

One of the people in our story made what with hindsight was an unwise statement, but which did lead us to great places. He said making powdered ink would be perfectly easy, and that it was not rocket science.

At that time, there were no Australian ink makers, and ink (being somewhat expensive to transport long distances) was more expensive there because of it. So they decided to prove their point by making powdered ink - making ink in Australia, and at the same time, making ink much cheaper to transport.

Blackstone Australian Bush - ink bottleWell, it turned out that while, technically, it isn't actually rocket science, it is most definitely not easy. They could not make powdered ink that worked. At that point, they found a friendly industrial chemist who wanted to get involved and help them out. Even then, making powdered ink turned out to be difficult - there are ingredients in ink that don't take well to being turned into a dry powder and then turned back into liquid ink.

So they hit on an alternative. They would turn the ink into a gel, which could, again, be watered down to make it up into ink again.

Unfortunately, this was also difficult.

At a certain point, two things became obvious:

  • Making powdered ink or even gel ink, that could be turned back into usable fountain pen ink was not a problem they were going to solve any time soon.
  • They now knew a lot about fountain pen ink.

While working on the problems, they had become pretty expert at making more normal fountain pen inks. So they decided to do that.

The dream is not dead - they're still working on the idea of gel or powdered ink, and hope to crack it some day. In the meantime, they have started producing some concentrated ink in liquid form, that needs to be watered down before use, giving some of the advantages of powder. But now, while they work on their dreams, we can all benefit from what they're learning on the way.

29 March 2019

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