Ink Review: Noodler's Midway Blue

April 9, 2018

 

There have been rumors surrounding the Noodler's company, namely that they have a problem with consistency in their products. I have never owned or used more than one bottle of any one of the Noodler's inks, so I can't say with any confidence whether these rumors have any backing. With that said, I feel it should be noted that some retailers, such as the Goulet Pen Company, have specific warnings to Noodler's customers regarding potential differences between batches of inks. Customers seem to have fallen in love with some Noodler's inks, only to find that the next bottle they buy isn't the ink

they fell in love with.

 

 

 

Going around the fountain pen websites online, such as the Fountain Pen Network, I was captivated by the story of a fountain pen ink maker who is famous (or infamous...) among collectors for his wild ink formulas that often border on novelty. The ink maker, Nathan Tardiff of Noodler's, had apparently reverse-engineered a bottle of ink he had come across that was reportedly made during the era of the second world war, and was now reproducing a chemical copy under the Noodler's label. The series of World War II inspired inks by Noodler's was dubbed the "V-Mail" series. My imagination was hooked. Imagine, as a fountain pen collector, having the opportunity to own and use an ink that is the same as those used in the fountain pen heyday. The chance was too good to pass up.

 

When the bottle arrived, I was completely taken with the design of the label. Sure, the Noodler's ink bottles themselves are not much to look at, but the printed labels that go on them are often very interesting. This one in particular shows planes used during the war years, as well as the flags of the Allied forces as they would have appeared during the war. This nod to history is something I appreciate, particularly in a bottle meant to mimic the inks used by the people involved in one of the most consequential wars in world history.

 

One thing to watch out for, as other Noodler's ink users can attest to, is that the bottles are always filled to the very top. Nathan Tardiff does not leave room for air in his ink bottles, so opening them carefully is a must. Filling a pen with the ink for the first time is very difficult. The bottles are filled so that it makes it challenging to get the nib and feed of a pen into the ink without at least some of it spilling over. Filling can be done without a mess using an ink syringe or an eye dropper, but filling a pen directly from the bottle for the first time can be a real struggle.

 

Putting a pen to paper for the first time with this ink is a true pleasure. The color is a light dusty blue with a slight hint of turquoise. The color of the ink is supposedly aimed at mimicking the Pacific waters where the Battle of Midway took place, hence the name, "Midway Blue." I can definitely see the color being inspired by water as it has just the right amount of blue and green hues to be reminiscent of the sea's surface on a sunny day. Some reviewers like to show complicated swabs of inks and various other demonstrations of an ink's color. I would do this, however, because everyone's monitors show color and vividness differently, I prefer to give a description of the color instead, along with simple pictures of how the ink actually looks when used for writing. No one buys a fountain pen ink for swabbing, so I don't see much sense in sharing pictures of ink swabs.

 

As far as performance goes, there are issues. This is, to be frank, one of the worst behaving inks I have ever come across. More than any other ink I have used, Noodler's Midway Blue is viciously particular about which papers it is used on; it tends to bleed on anything other than Rhodia or Clairefontaine. As mentioned before, Noodler's is known to have a bad reputation when it comes to consistency between their products, which makes it hard to tell whether or not I just got a bad bottle, or if the majority of Midway Blue ink is like this. Part of the reason for the ink's poor performance is its excessive wetness. I love wet pens and inks, but this one is too wet even for my taste. When a pen is held in a writing position, the ink is so wet that it pools in the fins of the feeds of every one of my pens. No other ink I have ever used has done this. Midway Blue, at least my bottle of it, turns even the driest pen into an absolute gusher.

 

This ink conflicts me. On the one hand, the color and story behind the simple bottle are both fascinating. On the other hand, the ink performs poorly on all but the best papers and is far too wet for its own good. While it may come in handy for owners of pens that are excessively dry, it's wetness makes it beyond practical for normal applications. I will continue to use it until I reach the end of the bottle. As to if I replace it after that comes down to whether or not I can be convinced that this is a fluke bottle, or if all Midway Blue performs similarly. One thing is for certain, Noodler's has to do something about quality control.

 

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