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J. Herbin “Lie de Thé” (brown): Ink Review

On Scrively's Ink Reviews - Background Information (click to expand)

Lefties, Ink, and Fountain Pens

Why is there a need for an explanation of the format of an ink-review, you might ask?! Well, because the ink reviews on Scrively are not like all the other ink reviews that you will find out there. This, again, is because Scrively is written by a lefty. Hence, I have walked that extra mile and made the effort to come up with a slightly twisted own format for ink reviewing that aims at catering my needs – and hopefully the needs of many more southpaws out there. It is my sincere hope that I will be able to serve the lefty-fountain pen community with ink-reviews that are meaningful – in the hope for ever more lefties to start daring to pick up a fountain pen and also experience the joy of writing with fountain pens, which really is a pleasure indeed. Of course, I do also hope that the reviews are enjoyable to the ‘right’-handed fellows out there, too 🙂 .

So what is special about the ink reviews here on Scrively?

Well, lefties sometimes (think they) have a fountain pen issue, because the writing from left to right causes the writing hand to slide over what has just been written (the “writing line”), thus smudging and smearing the fresh, wet ink all over the place. This writing style is called side-writing and is the way most lefties, unless they’ve retrained themselves, tend to write. This includes myself as well.

Now there are a lot many well-meant tips out there on the internet on how, as a lefty, you might succeed in retraining your writing style so as to be able to write as if you basically were right-handed. Underwriting, for instance, is one of those “strategies” which are considered to be very effective, because this technique will keep your writing-hand below the writing line. With that, you will most likely have next to zero restrictions when it comes to fountain pen writing, i.e. you will be able to use all the nibs (flex, broad…anything that puts a lot of ink on the paper and, in turn, will take an eternity to dry), inks (no need for caring about drying times), and paper (so called fountain pen-friendly paper which is quite “ink resistant” and causes the ink to dry slowly – that helps the ink to develop more…let’s just call it “character” here) that right handed people can use, too. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

No, it doesn’t. At least not to me. Why? Personally, I tried to practice underwriting for a little while. Not more than some days, though. So yeah, technically, I can absolutely see this working. No doubt. However, I just refuse to strain and twist my wrist and joints into the most uncomfortable of positions for weeks or months, just to become sort of something I am not – a wannabe righty. To me, a writing-tool has to accommodate my needs, not the other way around.

On top of that, all this effort and stress of retraining your writing habits, at least in my own experience, is absolutely not necessary. That is, if you just consider a few things, that really ain’t a big deal: you just combine the right nib-sizes, paper-choice and ink. That might sound complicated, but really isn’t at all. In short, with nibs you stick with EF to M. With paper, you just refrain from the super-duper fountain pen-paper, that will have that ink laying on it’s surface for ages to show all that shading. Taking that into consideration, you are all set to become a very happy fountain pen user.
Disclaimer: Provided you have an approach that is similar to mine, i.e. you are more of a functional writer with a great appreciation for the aesthetics of writing (paper, pen & ink) while not being overambitious with artistic writing or calligraphy or a longing for thick strokes, a lot of line variation (i.e. flex nibs), very wet nibs/inks or paper that brings the best details out of an ink. Then you might really have to become an underwriter. Personally, I am more than good with a regular line and seeing at least most of the nice characteristics of the ink I use.

Having that said as a rather long prelude, let’s now turn to the format that I came up with and that I do employ for all of my ink reviews.

The Lefty-Ink Review Format

As a lefty, I will do all ink reviews using EF- to M- nibs. These do not lay down too much ink on the paper. The ink will then, of course, dry much faster than with a broader nib, which is what the typical lefty might want in everyday pen usage. Hence, I am mostly interested in how the ink performs and what the ink looks like (ink characteristics) using any of those nib-sizes. This also means that I am not using any flex- or whatever-nibs in my reviews, since I do (for now) simply not care how an ink behaves or looks with those ones. Since I am, of course, nevertheless interested in what the color (and some shading) really looks like on paper, each ink review will contain an ink swab.

On top of that, I will place special emphasis on the wetness and the drying times of the ink which, again, is of special interest to lefties. Besides the drying time, I came up with something that – besides the “Regular Smear Test – I call the “Left-Page Smear Test”. First of all, I do write with all the inks that I test for about one week, using them as my everyday ink for this period of time. This is the amount of time where I can really see how the ink performs in various conditions and where I will also fill a couple of pages in my notebooks. The “Regular Smear Test” then just comments on the “smeariness” (is that a word even?) of the ink that one would experience when actually writing “regularly”. The “Left-Page Smear Test” responds to the fact that, as a lefty, when writing on the right page of a notebook, your writing hand will rest (for longer periods of time) on the left page of the notebook. The ink on that left page is already dry, but the extended resting of the palm on that dry ink will occasionally cause smudging. And this is what the “Left-Page Smear Test” is all about: Will the dry ink on the left page smudge?

When it comes to the “testing ground”, which is the paper on which I test, I will always test on two types of paper: Leuchtturm 1917 and regular standard photocopying paper. Why?
For the Leuchtturm 1917, this is one of my (and many other people’s) preferred notebook. First of all, Leuchtturm is for many reasons among the favorite notebook options for many Bullet Journalists, which I am one of. Second, the paper is quite fountain pen friendly and lefty friendly. This means that it is just ink resistant enough to show you some of the nicer ink characteristics such as shading, while it is also just absorbent enough to make it the perfect choice for lefties. On top of that, the paper is slightly off-white or ivory, as are many notebooks out there, so you will be able to see what the ink looks like on such a paper.
For the standard photocopying paper: this is still the standard paper that is present in very many offices around the world, and you might also wanna use a fountain pen at work, the place where you most probably spend minimum 8 hours per day. Not everybody will have the option to pick whichever paper he or she would like to use at work. I, for one, am a PhD-candidate, which means annotating articles and grading student course papers – no way around standard paper here. The situation might be similar for many out there. Standard photocopying paper is also highly absorbent, which makes it a good option for many lefties because the ink basically dries – or rather: gets absorbed – instantly. This is, of course, the tradeoff of that kind of paper in combination with fountain pen ink: most ink will look rather flat (i.e. no shading), because the ink just gets ‘soaked in’ straight away.
Having that said, I do not test ink on e.g. Tomoe River or Clairefontaine paper, because I and many lefties do not write on such kind of paper. For the interested reader, ink reviews on such paper are widely available in other corners of the web, where my ‘right’-handed fellows do an excellent job in reviewing ink.

So, in short, the ink reviews on Scrively follow the scheme below:

Review criteria

  • Testing time is always 1 week (or more)
  • Unit capacity (ml) and price (€)
  • Price per milliliter (€ / ml)
  • Color and saturation
  • Shading
  • Feathering
  • Bleed-through
  • Appeared wetness
  • Drying time
  • Smudging/Smear when dry: deliberately smearing with a finger across dry ink
  • Smudging-/Smear-Test
    • “Regular Smear Test“: Smeariness when writing “regularly”
    • “Left-Page Smear Test”: Tendency to smudge once being dry for an extended period of time – i.e. the fact that, as a lefty, when writing on the right page of a notebook, the writing hand will rest (for longer periods of time) on the left page of the notebook. The ink on that left page is already dry, but the extended resting of the palm on that dry ink will occasionally cause smudging. This test checks, if the ink smudges under those circumstances, or not.
  • Reviews will always encompass an ink-swab and a writing sample with anything from EF- to M-nibs

Testing ground

  • Standard Photocopying Paper, white paper, 80 gsm
  • Leuchtturm 1917-notebook, off-white/ivory paper, 80 gsm

Lefty-Rating

Any ink that, after testing, can be recommended for lefty-use under the circumstances outlined above will then, at the end of the review, get a stamp for being “Lefty Approved” 🙂 . 

Ink_Lefty_Approved_Stamp_30grad

 

 

 

 

 

For providing accuracy and consistency when it comes to the representation of the ink’s color, all scans of my ink reviews are produced with a Doxie Flip mobile scanner @600 dpi.

I sincerely hope that this section will be helpful to you and that you enjoy reading it!

 

J. Herbin “Lie de Thé”: a nicely shading brown ink – vintage-style

J.Herbin "Lie de Thé" ink swab

Ink name: J. Herbin “Lie de Thé”
Unit capacity: 30 ml (glas bottle)
Price: ca. 12 € in Europe (cheaper in the USA – just around 11 $)
Price per ml: ca. 0,40 € (USA: 0,36 $)

  Leuchtturm 1917 Standard copy paper
Color  vintage style brown  vintage style brown
Saturation  quite high  quite high
Shading  extremely nice shading – from darker brown to a light golden brown  still decent shading, but a lot flatter than on Leuchtturm
Feathering  none  yes, slightly
Bleed-through  none (though a little on the 2nd pass)  often on the 2nd pass, sometimes also on the 1st pass or with slow writing
Wetness  pretty wet, but still dries relatively fast  pretty wet, though soaked in quite fast
Drying time  20 sec. (safe probably a wee bit earlier)  8 sec.
Smudging when dry  hardly, but can happen  nope
Regular smear test  just okay (when not writing too fast)  alright
Left-page smear test  okay  okay

Handwritten review on Leuchtturm 1917 paper
(scanned @600 dpi with Doxie Flip – click image to enlarge on Flickr)

J.Herbin "Lie de Thé" on Leuchtturm 1917

Handwritten review on standard photocopying paper
(scanned @600 dpi with Doxie Flip – click image to enlarge on Flickr)

J.Herbin "Lie de Thé" on standard paper

The J. Herbin-website describes this ink as “a subtle brown with soft shades whose name symbolizes the tea from Orient”. And I think when it comes to color, the description really fits. I love the vintage look and feel of the ink.

There is, however, a significant difference in the character of this ink, depending on the paper you use. While this is the case with most inks (not so much with black ink or the Diamine Pumpkin I reviewed lately, though), it is especially true for the J. Herbin “Lie de Thé”. The color is a lot richer and more saturated on Leuchtturm than on standard paper. The ink shades a lot better and looks much more interesting. While it shades from darker nuances to almost light golden brown on Leuchtturm, it looks a little flat on standard paper, though you can still see some shading.

Since “Lie de Thé” is a pretty wet ink, it has a danger of bleeding through on standard paper. If you plan to use it a lot on this kind of paper, I would be careful. No problem on Leuchtturm, though.

As for its ‘leftyness’, I can say that “Lie de Thé” just cleared the requirements. Even though it is a pretty wet ink, it still dries acceptably fast. You gotta be a little careful on Leuchtturm-paper, since it takes about 20 seconds to be dry here. Anyway, I have used the ink for about a week now in my Bullet Journal (bullet point-style entries, of course, but also some longer notes of several lines) and had absolutely no smudging issues. Once dry, you are definitely in the ‘safe zone’ with this ink – it really takes a lot of effort to smudge “Lie de Thé” once it has dried. On standard paper, you are in general rather on the safe side with this ink (dry after about 8 seconds), however it looks less interesting and feathers/bleeds a bit at times, which is due to its wetness.

Pricewise, the J. Herbin-inks are rather pricey in Europe. In the States they are considerably cheaper. Anyway, I think the “Lie de Thé” is such an interesting ink, it’s definitely worth its money.

Lefty approved? Yeah, you just made it, sis!

Ink_Lefty_Approved_Stamp_30grad

I hope this was helpful – feel free to check out my other ink reviews as well.

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