Iron gall inks aren't something I've experimented with much, as there are plenty of other inks to try that aren't difficult to clean out of your pen if you leave it idle for over a week. Not a big deal, still. And then, there's the archival quality of iron gall inks, but that didn't bring me in either. It wasn't until Brad sent me some samples of some KWZ iron gall inks that I gave them a try.
For those who aren't entirely acquainted with iron gall inks and their unique attributes, Vanness Pens has a page that describes the KWZ iron gall inks, as well as a few cautions against leaving it in pens unused for long periods. Basically, iron gall inks react with the paper when the water evaporates, making a (more or less) permanent mark on the page that grows darker as it dries.
To me, that's the main distinction, and one that I find fascinating to watch, regarding iron gall inks — they dry darker. This isn't normally the case for most fountain pen inks. They either dry a little lighter and less vibrant, or stay roughly the same, minus the sheen of wet ink.
Let's be honest, sometimes I just scribble with this ink to watch it dry over 20 - 30 seconds so I can watch it magically change color.
The particular KWZ iron gall ink I've tried first is called Blue #1. When wet, it looks like a pale, dusty denim color. After it dries, it's a dark midnight blue. It's so dark, I have a hard time discerning the exact color through all the black. But, in proper light, you can tell it's a deep, dark navy with purple and green hints. It's a very pretty ink, especially if you dig dark inks (blue-black fans?).
Like I said, watching this 20-second transition fascinates me.
When writing, the flow is a bit on the dry side. The Monteverde medium nib, which usually flows like glass with most inks, feels like it's dragging a tad. But, even though it feels a little slow, it's still smooth.
There's not a lot of shading in this ink, since it's so incredibly dark. You can see in the swab sample that there are some variations in color, but I never got that result from a nib. Show-through also isn't much a problem with this ink. It's on par in that respect in that you normally can't see it from the back of the page.
Dry time is also normal, coming in around 20 seconds or so in a medium nib. Not fast, but not slow either.
Since this is an iron gall ink, I also brought some water into the equation. If you've ever applied water to any colored inks, you'll probably find in most cases that the ink runs like a brand new red shirt in a load of white laundry. In the case of KWZ Blue #1, the results are impressive. I used cheap 20# copy paper for this test, and the aftermath is very usable. The text is legible, but it also barely bled and feathered. If you need an archival-quality ink in a dark midnight blue, look no further. This is permanent as long as the paper exists.
Cleaning the ink out of pens wasn't difficult. None of my pens laid around very long with the ink in them, so that's something to consider. I imagine it make take considerable more effort if the ink had been idle for a long period. Vanness pens make a special note of saying that stainless steel (which are used in a lot of nibs) is more susceptible to damage than gold nibs. It's nothing to panic about, but just be mindful!
In all, I have to admit I'm pretty impressed with iron gall inks, and KWZ, in general. The only complaint I have is in the name. I wouldn't say it's "misleading," but it's also not informative. Blue #1 doesn't indicate what kind of blue, and the screenshots online can be confusing. It would be great if they had signature names to tell them apart, because the blues all look fairly similar to me.
Apart from that one complaint, KWZ Iron Gall Blue #1 really impressed me. I hope the fascination with watching the ink change color as it dries never wears off. It's definitely worth your consideration.
(Vanness Pens provided this ink sample at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)