I spoke with Konrad, the founder of KWZ Ink, after the show and asked him some questions about KWZ Ink and how it came about.
KWZ Ink is a small family business operated by Konrad – PhD student of polymer chemistry, supported by his wife, who is also a scientist in the chemistry field. K-W-Z are simply the initials of the founder.
Where are you based?
We are based in Poland, Nowe Grocholice which is just outskirts of Warsaw, the capital.
How long have you been producing ink?
What got you into producing ink in the first place?
I do really love writing with fountain pens and I write with fountain pens whenever it is possible.
When I was making my master degree in chemistry I had few accidents when my laboratory journal came into contact with water or some organic solvents. Some fountain pen and ballpoint inks are water resistant, but even small amount of some solvents can remove both of them almost completely.
When I started my PhD studies I decided that I need more resistant ink for my fountain pens, this is how I came on Iron Gall inks. I was not actually satisfied with the ones that were on the market in case of color and properties, so my first thought was that I will improve one of the existing inks by adding more dye. When I was making research on what dyes are compatible with Iron Gall inks, I realized that making new ink from scratch will be much easier than modifying existing one. Well it was not, at least at the very begining, but it started a great hobby.
At the show you mentioned something about your inks being especially suited to fountain pens rather than for glass dipping pens. Could you explain a bit more about this? It isn’t something I had come across before.
The ink designed for fountain pen should be characterized by certain rheological properties like low viscosity, surface tension and etc., to flow nicely from the nib so writing with them is a pleasure. Dip pens require ink which have certainly higher viscosity and surface tension then standard fountain pen ink. As we make our inks on the “wet side” in terms of fountain pen inks, they might be flowing to easily from dip pens, making the writing very dark.
You also have a range of iron gall inks – can you explain a bit more about the historical significance of iron gall ink and how it is different to a ‘normal’ ink? You have to be very careful with this ink in your pen, don’t you?
Well this topic is really wide, and I will shorten it. Well first to mention is that Iron Gall inks as they are populary named, is a very broad term and cover a very large range of inks made from different materials and in different ways. The very special thing about those inks is that they contain complexes of iron with gallic and/or tannic acid. Those complexes are intensively coloured and are very stable, thanks to that we are now able to read manuscripts which are thousand years old or more.
Modern iron gall inks which are designed for fountain pens are way more fountain pen friendly than IG inks, that were produced 50-60 years ago. The only important thing you have to be careful with Iron Gall inks is to not let them dry inside of fountain pen, as they will be difficult to clean – this is general rule in case of using waterproof or partially waterproof inks in fountain pens.
You have a range of 39 colours in the standard ink range – I’m sure you love them all but can you pick some of those inks out and tell a story behind them? Which are your favourite inks?
Well this is very hard to tell which are the most favourite, because this changes from time to time. But from standard range of inks I repeatedly come back to (in random order): Turquoise, Azure #2, Old Gold, Honey, Orange, Grapefruit, Green Gold #2 and Thief’s Red. Most of the inks were made because I wanted to see how it would be to write with this particular color.
Some inks, like Thief’s Red was made because I heard a story about punishing caught thieves by putting them dressed in bright colors on public view. Also for example we made Grey Lux ink, because one of members from polish fountain pen board asked us about grey ink.
Finally, we have to give a special mention to your Honey ink – this is quite an incredible success and was hugely popular at the London Pen Show. People were seeking you out to get themselves a bottle of this ink. What’s the story here? Why is it so popular?
Well Honey ink is very unique in terms of how it was made. By the time I started working on Honey we already were producing Old Gold ink and Cappuccino ink was also made. When I was looking at our colour pallete I was thinking that we are missing a colour between those two inks. What we needed was a warm yellow-brown ink, well saturated and bright, but at the same very legible, so it could be used for daily writing.
At this time it was very busy time for me at the university, and I only had very little time I could spare on making inks on weekends. Thinking about how this ink should be made took me around a week, I had not time to make any trials so I was mostly imaging which dyes and in what proportions would give the color I wanted. When I was coming back home on Friday I finally make up my mind about the recipe for this ink, I wrote it when I come back home. On Saturday morning I wake up pretty early made the ink and it was basically it, I did not change the initial formula even a bit afterwards. Why is this so special? Because even in case of inks which are made from lower number of dyes we do need at least 10-30 trials till we get the colour we want, and in case of inks of the same complexity this can go up to 40-70 trials. I do think that this ink so popular because it has pleasant and very unique color and ink performance is really good.