I reviewed my first Birmingham ink in September 2018 (older reviews can be seen by clicking the Birmingham Pen Co under categories) but already I need to update. There were 59 colours available in September 2018 and now I count 74 available shades. The Birmingham Pen Co. sells other inks as well as their own, the proprietary inks retail at $US9.99 for 60ml, $US5.99 for 30ml and $US1.99 for a 4ml sample. Irrespective of the volume purchased they are very reasonably priced ranging from 16.7c/ml for the 60ml bottle to 50c/ml for the samples. The other thing to mention before I forget, postage was very reasonable and I had all my inks within a week (Pittsburgh to New Zealand). I have nothing but the highest praise for all my dealings with the Birmingham Pen Co. and their exemplary customer service. They now also offer monthly ink flights for US residents, they seem to be very popular as attested by the numerous photos on IG.
Apologies for the alternating spelling of grey throughout this review – I spell it the British way but try to remember American spelling when naming the ink.
The Homestead Steel Works were located on the Monongahela River at Homestead Pennsylvania. The steel works are famous for the 1892 Homestead strike, aka the Homestead Steel strike, aka the Pinkerton rebellion and finally, aka the Homestead massacre. It was one of the most violent disputes in American Labour history.
The steel works developed in the 19th century, they were extensive as they served local coal and iron fields, a railway and lake steamships. Construction started in 1881 and in 1883 they were bought by Andrew Carnegie and integrated into his steel company.
The strike started on the 30th of June after a number of disputes over wages, hours and working contracts. It culminated in a fight between workers and private security forces on the 6th of July. The end was violent and a major defeat for the union.
In 1901, Carnegie sold his operations to U.S. Steel. The workforce reached its peak during word war II and the works ultimately closed in 1986 due to a downturn in the American domestic steel industry. A few remnants of the steel works remain and in 1999 the area opened as an outdoor shopping area.
The packaging remains simple and as you can see the ink is made for the Birmingham ink company in Germany.
I am not a huge fan of grey ink. In fact I tend to find it quite insipid. I bought some of the Diamine Earl Grey when it came out and am yet to open the bottle. This ink I bought because of its purple tones I noted in the swatch on the Birmingham Pen Co website.
I was surprised by the ink spread on absorbent paper as the centre was very dark almost black and the edges gave way to a peachy pink colour. Not at all what I was expecting and made me wonder how this would write.
I then swatched on both my col-o-ring and Tomoe River paper and the some lovely purple undertones appeared. In fact I thought the col-o-ring brought more out of the ink than the TR paper which was surprising.
My handwriting is not great as many will know if you’ve read previous reviews. I recently bought some pilot parallel pens to play with, to see if I could write any better or at least neater and to see if the broader nibs would bring out more ink characteristics for my reviews. I started with a test on Tomoe River and was playing with a 1.5mm pen.
It was a very pleasing deep grey and I thought I could use this. I had inked up a Jinhao 159. I know they are cheap pens but I really like using them I think they are extremely good pens for the price. With the fountain pen the ink remained grey. You will also note lined paper behind the writing above - it makes the Tomoe River paper look quite white, which was a surprise as it always photos slightly yellow / cream as you can see below.
On Clairfontaine paper it was a very grey ink but there was a little shading apparent. On both papers it is a saturated ink. The dry times were also very impressive, being dry by 15 seconds. I thought that might be a mistake and ran my finger over the writing above the dry time test and I couldn’t smear anything so it appears it is a fast drying ink.
Last but not least in copy paper. I used the parallel pen again as well as the Jinhao. I was extremely impressed with the amount of ink that came out of the parallel pen and yet there was no feathering on the cheaper paper and no show through when I turned it over.
The ink is almost the colour I thought it would be. I was really hoping for more consistency in the purple tones coming out. It is still a nice deep grey but I am not yet a convert to grey inks. Last but by no means least – look at that colourfastness, very little run off even after being held under a running tap.