This week we’re going to take a look at Laban Athena Grey. This is probably the most interesting ink I’ve had in this series so far. While it may look like a dark grey, nearly black ink, the more I used it the more complexity I found hiding in it. Before this past week, I had only used it once or twice, so this was a great crash course in what this ink is like to write with.
Laban Athena Grey
To start, let’s take a look at the ink itself. It is a very dark grey ink. If you’re using a very wet nib, it may appear to be black. With a nib that’s a little drier, though, you can get the ink to shade and that’s where things get interesting. Depending on the paper I was writing on, shading brought out blues, reds and greens in this ink. I also found that on some papers the ink looked more red and on others it looked more blue. Taking a look at the chromatography, you can see that this ink does indeed break out into tones of red and blue.
As for dry time, this ink is quite wet and takes a little while to dry. It isn’t an absurd amount of time and I didn’t have any trouble using it in my journal, but it takes longer than the Iroshizuku inks I was testing out the past few weeks. With heavy applications, it also shows a bit of red sheen. Fortunately, I didn’t experience any smearing once the ink was dry. Out of curiosity, I decided to test how waterproof it is. Much to my surprise, almost all of the ink came off of the page, making it extremely not waterproof.
The Pens I Used
Each week I choose five different pens to fill with the ink I’m testing. My goal is to get a variety of nib sizes and styles, as well as a mix of modern and vintage pens. Here are the pens I chose this week and some writing samples from each:
Pelikan M205 – F nib
Using a fine nib with this ink is probably the best way to get it to look like a simple, grey ink. This Pelikan fine gave me some shading, but without the complexity of the Lamy OBB nib. It also tamed the wetness of this ink a bit.
Kaweco Sport – M nib
The Kaweco was a nice combination with this ink that gave me a nice, dark line with little shading. While it wasn’t very exciting, it was consistent and easy to use.
Newark Pen Co. Secretary (Vintage) – flex F/M nib
This was a very pleasant surprise for me. I had restored this pen years ago, but hadn’t used it more than once just to test it out. It is definitely going into the rotation, so expect to see it more often in tests! So anyway, how did this combination work? In a word, fantastic! This nib is a bit wetter than the Pelikan, but just about as fine. Writing with it was quite nice and having the ability to flex and bring out some shading was a lot of fun.
Parker Vacumatic (vintage) – B nib
I picked up this pen at the Colorado Pen Show in October and haven’t used it much. One thing I did not realize is just how wet the nib is. When combined with this ink, it was an absolute gusher! I actually had to refill the pen after writing with it for a while. At a certain point when the pen was running out of ink, I actually started to get some nice shading out of the combination, but the rest of the time it just looked like a black ink.
Lamy Vista – OBB nib
This Lamy is the magic combo for me. A big fat nib with lots of shading? I could write with this all day long.
Writing with this ink on a variety of papers gave me some surprises. On basic copy paper, it did feather and bleed a bit with the wet nibs. On most good paper, I didn’t see any feathering or bleeding. The one exception was on G. Lalo Verge de France, where it did bleed through a bit with heavy ink applications. My big surprise came with how different it looked on different papers. On Tomoe River it had heavy blue tones, while on Profolio Oasis, Leuchtturm, the previously mentioned G. Lalo, and Kokuyo KB Business Paper (which is what I used for the header ink-smear image), it had strong red tones. Keep in mind, these red or blue undertones mainly showed up in the shading of the ink. Regular writing all looked pretty much the same.
Cleaning The Ink Out Of Pens
Cleaning this ink out of pens like the Pelikan was quick and simple. I kind of expected that to be the case, given how little resistance it has for water. I was surprised that the Vacumatic took a bit more work to get clean. I don’t have a lot of experience with Vacs, so maybe they’re all hard to get clean, but I found that a bit of color was still coming out even after repeated flushing. Since this was the only pen I had this issue with, I’m going to assume it’s more the pen than the ink. I also think that any remaining bits of this color, once most of it gets flushed out of a pen, would not noticeably affect the next ink the pen gets filled with.
What an interesting ink! I’m no stranger to inks with interesting chromatography, nor am I a grey ink rookie. Still, this ink felt fresh to me. Having the undertones appear differently depending on which paper I used was a new experience. I also was able to pick up on subtle colors in the ink the more I wrote with it. At times I thought it was closer to a blue-black, at others grey, and yet other times it felt like a solid black ink. I know that many people may think it looks pretty boring. Still, if you want a dark ink that doesn’t need to be waterproof (and actually does interesting things when exposed to water), Laban Athena Grey might be an ink for you to consider.