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Sumi ink sticks and dip pens

I just completed an experiment with a Sumi ink stick. Using a 20 year old stick of sumi ink of unknown provenance but good quality, I measured out 1 teaspoon of water into the well of an ink stone. Then I ground the ink stick for about 10 minutes.

I used a little tiny brush to apply the ink to the nib (Gillott 303), painting it on both the upperside and lower side. Once loaded, it wrote over 3 full lines before it needed another dosage. The ink was quite dark, dried quickly and supported as much flex in the nib as I would care to use in writing.

When done, I used a pipet (50 cents at Ben Franklin's craft store) to transfer the remaining ink to a cleaned-up Testor bottle (about 1/2 ounce worth). Altogether quite a successful experiment.

Based on this, I will likely be ordering several of the ink sticks which John Neal sells, advertising that they are used by master penman Mike Kecseg.

I was especially pleased with the brush application of ink to nib. This solves the problem of not having enough depth in the ink stand to fully immerse the nib. Also, when using an oblique pen, it is sometimes difficult to keep from going a bit too far and immersing part of the pen holder itself in the ink. Plus, by using a brush to apply the ink to the nib, there is no need for a wide mouthed ink stand.

Sorry no pics. I took a picture, but at 1.5 megs, I didn't think the mods would appreciate it. I'll try to figure out how to shrink it.

Would like to hear of others' experiences with sumi ink sticks and dip pens.
Cool! Never heard of an ink stick. Is that just water to reconstitute, or some kind of vinegar/water thing?

Edit: just water I guess, upon reread.
The ink stick is just soot mixed with a binder to form a very hard stick. The stick is then rubbed on a special stone - the kind you get with Japanese brush writing sets. Only water is used.

Upon further inspection of my practice sample, I felt that the tone was not dark enough. In such a case, it is a simple matter to darken the color by pouring some or all (it was only about 1/2 oz) back into the well of the ink stone and continuing the grinding process. I spent maybe another 5 minutes for a total of about 15 minutes and the ink color was darkened adequately over the first try. Of course, if it comes out too dark, just add a small amount of additional water.

The process of making the ink only has to be done occasionally. It is, of course, possible to buy sumi ink already pre-made. The Moon Palace brand seems to be the one recommended for dip pen work. I've never tried that particular brand, though.