currently inked bullet journal spread sailor pro gear fountain pen

Why I Keep A Currently Inked Journal (And Why You Should, Too)

John BosleyFountain Pen Ink 16 Comments

You may already know that I keep an ink journal. This is a great reference for how each ink looks in a variety of different pens. It’s also a handy reference for the properties of each ink (dry time, how it holds up to water, how it shades and sheens).

using fountain pens during quarantine ink journal

An ink journal can be a very valuable resource.

In a separate journal, I also keep track of each pen and ink combination that I’m using at any given time. The main reason I do this is to know which pens and inks I’ve used recently. This lets me see which inks or pens I’ve been using frequently and mix things up once in a while. There’s another huge benefit to this, and this one could possibly save your entire fountain pen collection.

Creating A Currently Inked Journal

First, let’s talk about how to create a currently inked journal. There are a few ways to do this, but the basic idea is the same no matter which way you choose. The two main ways to create a currently inked journal are to use a standalone notebook or to add it as a spread in your daily or bullet journal. You could also create a spreadsheet on your computer, but that’s not nearly as fun as a handwritten log.

Assuming you plan to keep a handwritten currently inked journal, the minimal information you’ll want to include is the ink used and the pen you used it in. If you have multiple pens of the same model, make sure to include a descriptor so that you know which pen it is (e.g., Lamy Safari M nib or Coral TWSBI Eco). Another good idea is to include the date you filled the pen. I often find myself looking at a daily journal entry and wondering which ink I used. It’s easy to find out with a quick check in my currently inked journal. If you really want to collect some extra data, you can also include the date you emptied the pen, but this isn’t necessary to the core function of the journal. I highly suggest writing each entry in the pen+ink combo you’re documenting.

currently inked fountain pen journal

In this style of currently inked journal, more information is included.

Which Journal Style Should I Use?

You may be wondering which of the two journal styles you should use. Ideally, you’ll use whichever appeals to you the most, but that’s not always the best answer. Here are my thoughts on each one:

Standalone Journal

  • Great if you typically have many different pens inked up at any given time.
  • Gives you plenty of space to write extra information.
  • Creates an extra journal to keep track of.
  • Keeps everything in one place for quick reference.

Incorporated Into Existing Journal

  • Good for fewer inked pens so it doesn’t fill up so fast.
  • Fits nicely into your existing daily notebook or journal.
  • Will span multiple parts of your journal, which means flipping across many pages.

Personally, I find that keeping a currently inked journal in my bullet journal is very convenient, but I sometimes wish that I had more room and didn’t have to continue the spread in a different part of the notebook. Both of these issues could be solved by creating a standalone journal, but then I’d have one more notebook to keep track of, which doesn’t really appeal to me.

bullet journal currently inked spread

This is my currently inked spread in my bullet journal.

How A Currently Inked Journal May Save Your Pen Collection

If you are ever unfortunate enough to experience mold in your ink, you’ll know that it is terrifying. Images of mold in all of your inks and pens flashes through your mind. Since mold is able to spread between inks and pens through the simple act of filling, it can quickly spread to multiple ink bottles and pens if not immediately caught. The real challenge is remembering which pens you’ve used in the infected ink. And then which ink you previously used in that pen.

An ink journal can help you track your pen and ink combinations so you can quickly quarantine any potentially contaminated inks and pens. Let’s say you go to fill a pen from Ink #1, but notice it has mold in it. Using your ink journal you can easily see what the last pen you used with Ink #1 was and which ink you last used in that pen. You can also see if you’ve since used that particular pen with any other inks and check them for mold as well. If those inks are infected, you can see which pens you used with them and check any other potentially infected inks until you are able to isolate all infected inks and pens in your collection.

It may sound a little complicated, but if you ever need to check for mold, believe me, it will save you a lot of time and worry. Mold in your inks and pens is no joke and should be treated very seriously.

What To Do With Moldy Inks and Pens

What happens if you do find a bottle of ink or a pen that has been infected with mold? The safest thing to do would be to immediately stop using it and throw it away. But that’s not what most people want to hear.

For the ink, don’t bother trying to save it. The cost of a bottle of ink compared to even one fountain pen that it can ruin just does not compare. You can still use moldy ink with dip pens, just be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect your nibs after using moldy ink. You can also use moldy ink to play with. Try some ink chromatography or play with some ink and water.

For a fountain pen that has been used in moldy ink, you have a few choices. Due to the many small channels and places for it to hide inside of a pen, mold can be nearly impossible to remove from a fountain pen. Still, as long as the pen writes well, it can be used. You’ll just need to use a little extra caution to keep from infecting your other inks and pens.

fountain pen moldy ink tools

These are some of the tools you can use if you have moldy ink.

One option would be to use ink vials so that you’re not filling directly from a bottle. Using ink samples or transferring a small amount of ink from a bottle to a vial (using a pipette) will allow you to use your pen with no risk to the other pens and inks in your collection. If your pen takes cartridges, this is another simple way to avoid filling from a bottle of ink.

A Less Severe Example

While mold is a big deal, it’s not the only way a currently inked journal can help you with pen problems. Here’s a real-world example that just happened to me last week. I pulled out a pen to ink up and noticed that there was a lot of ink left around the nib. This happened to be a vintage Waterman pen that I was sure I had cleaned. Still, I figured I must have missed it somehow, so I started to clean it, but noticed the ink wasn’t budging. What the heck was going on? I looked back in my journal and discovered that the last time I filled that particular pen, I used De Atramentis Document Green. Even after extensive cleaning, there’s still ink hanging out between the nib and feed. I don’t even want to know what the sac looks like. Lesson learned: Don’t use hard-to-clean inks in vintage pens.


As you can see, keeping a currently inked journal is a great way to keep track of the ink and pen combinations that you’ve used. If you like data, it can also provide some interesting information about your usage habits. A currently inked journal’s most useful feature is arguably the ability to track your pen/ink usage in the event of finding mold in your ink. The best part is that it hardly takes any effort to create and/or maintain. Simply write down each ink and pen combination as you fill it and that’s it! Whether you choose to create a new journal or use an existing one, this is one tool that every fountain pen user should have.

Comments 16

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  1. I picked up a new notebook and plan to keep an Ink/Pen journal. But I struggle to get started (cos it’s a precious new book! :P) mostly because I don’t use my fountain pens often enough. I’m super new to the hobby and was graciously gifted a bunch of beginner fountain pens, and a big collection of ink samples last Christmas. I don’t want to ink up my pens just to do swatches but I’m very curious to see what inks i have so I can pick the one that I like to write on more with one of my pens. What is the best way to limit the number of inked pens but still get to swatch inks in the ink journal? Do you suggest getting glass dip pens? Or, any beginner level dip pens that I can consider?

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      For swatching a large number of ink samples, I find glass dip pens are great, as you can write with them and they wash and clean quickly and easily. They don’t always represent how an ink will look in a fountain pen, but they do a good enough job. Cotton swabs also work great, but don’t represent how an ink will look when you write with it. You can even do a combination of cotton swabs to get an idea of the color and a dip pen to have a writing sample! I think a lot of people use that method.

  2. Cool! I guess I’ll give that a shot. I looked around your blog but didn’t find any information on glass dip pen. Do you know if there’s anything I should keep in mind when I pick a glass dip pen? That might affect the “usability” and durability”?

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      I don’t have any articles on glass dip pens, but maybe I should write something, eh? I have used inexpensive glass pens and more expensive ones and can’t tell much of a difference, although the inexpensive ones tend to have inconsistent tips where one side will have a sweet spot and with a bit of rotation it won’t write as well.

  3. I have a text document on my computer that has a list of my pens and what they are currently inked with. It came in handy when I discovered mold in three of my pens, because I was able to identify which ink was most likely the culprit — and when I smelled the ink I knew I was right.

    It isn’t quite as nice as a notebook with actual ink samples, but when I needed it to be there it was there.

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  4. I’ve seen that too. I used a loupe to look at the tip of one glass pen from a respected name and discovered it was chipped, which explained why it was so positionally sensitive. I don’t know when it chipped, but it’s been set aside now.

    I have two more now from another respected name, and their tips are uniform. They lack the position sensitivity too, delivering a remarkably uniform line no matter how they are rotated.

  5. I include currently inked pages in my journal, but also maintain a separate notebook because I clean and refill pens for my husband and he will often forget which inks he has chosen after his pens have been refilled and emptied again. The notebook is easy for him to reference, and takes away any guesswork.

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  6. It sounds like a glass dip pen would fit your habits if you just want to write a few lines at a time. I have seen people do ink swatches with cotton buds. If you happen to have some watercolor brushes, you can make some swatches that way as well.
    I’ve heard that Speedball makes a really good beginner dip pen.
    Have fun 🙂

  7. I’ve a tiny Rhodia notebook that lives next to where I ink pens, so it’s no trouble to write a line with pen and ink. I don’t bother with date, just flipping back through is enough to work out how long a pen has been in use. I’ve started a separate notebook for inks in different pens, but now I think I need several differrent papers, to include that variable! It never stops, does it! A dip pen and penknife blade do for my swatching, easy to clean and gives a good amount of ink.

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  9. I use fude pens (for drawing) so to see how that will look I like to swatch with a folded nib. I have also sometimes used a bamboo dip pen (very inexpensive, available at your local art store) and a tiny coffee stirrer from McDonald’s! Also it can be fun to use the tip of an eyedropper.

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