the price of ink

Q&A: Is Bottled Ink Cheaper Than Cartridges?

The Price Of Ink

the price of ink

It is a question often asked – is bottled ink cheaper than cartridges? Is it more economical to buy ink in bottles or go for the simplicity of cartridges? And if it is cheaper, how much cheaper is bottled ink? Well I decided there was only one way of resolving this problem – find out how much ink costs pound for milliliter. And with the results in we have a clear winner and sort of an answer to the question.

Is bottled ink cheaper than cartridge ink?

Bottled ink - Price per ml

Diamine 8p per ml
Lamy T52 19p per ml
Diamine Shimmer 20p per ml
KWZ 22p per ml
Lamy T51 22p per ml
Blackstone 23p per ml
Herbin D 23p per ml
KWZ Iron Gall 28p per ml
Herbin Scented 30p per ml
Herbin 1670 Anniversary 30p per ml
Robert Oster 30p per ml
Edelstein 34p per ml
Herbin Mini 38p per ml
Kaweco 40p per ml
Herbin 1798 Les Encres 42p per ml
Blackstone Barrier 47p per ml
Kyoto 50p per ml
Colorverse 56p per ml
Pilot Iroshizuku 64p per ml

Cartridges - Price per ml

Lamy T10 Cartridges 20p per ml
Monteverde Cartridges 24p per ml
Kaweco Cartridges 32p per ml
Herbin Cartridges 55p per ml

Well, the simple answer is yes – bottled ink is cheaper than cartridges. However it is surprising how little there was in it, in some cases not at all. Take Lamy ink – at 20p per ml in T10 cartridge form it isn’t that much more expensive than bottled T52 ink which comes in at 15p per ml. And Kaweco ink cartridges actually came in cheaper than their bottled ink. But if you want real value then of course a bottle of Diamine ink will see you through for a long time with an 80ml bottle costing just 8p per ml.

To be clear, these results were based on our retail prices as of 1 May 2017, across all bottled and cartridge inks in our range. For cartridge ink there was a small problem because no one seems to quote the volume of a cartridge, but general consensus seems to suggest that a small cartridge (e.g. Kaweco or Herbin) is 0.9ml and a larger cartridge like the Lamy T10 is 1.5ml so I based all calculations on those volumes.


Monteverde Ink Review – Inkfusion #2

Hi folks,

Our collaboration with Mateusz continues 🙂

Mateusz has been working hard and testing the entire line-up of 11 Monteverde inks. It is an interesting exposure of inks which we have in the house, but not many people know about. Monteverde inks come in cartridges which fit Lamy fountain pens and also any other pen which can take long International cartridges. Lamy end is wider and is also colour coded. International standard end is on the other side 🙂 We do use a lot of these in the office – Faisal’s favourites are Green and Purple. Mine are Turquoise and Brown. I had a go with Burgundy after seeing the amazing ink splashes in water <3

Click on each colour to see full review and those amazing photos that Mateusz takes here:

monteverde ink review by Mateusz

There are 2 unusual colours which are not suitable for everyday writing 🙂 but look amazing under UV light and work well as ink for underlining. Fantastic shots of the Monteverde fluorescent inks are here:

monteverde flourescent ink review

Enjoy, Mishka (^_~)

The Monteverde inks reviewed are available here for purchase at £2.75 for a pack of 5 cartridges. (Correct at time of writing)

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen vs J. Herbin Fountain Pen

Lamy Safari vs J. Herbin Fountain Pen

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen vs J. Herbin Fountain Pen

Head to head review


The Safari fountain pen has been a staple of the Lamy brand since the 80s, and while we at Bureau might not have stocked it for quite as many decades, we’ve definitely welcomed it as a permanent addition to our stock. The J. Herbin fountain pen is a relative new comer, having started stocking it towards the tail end of 2014 – but it’s proven a popular seller, especially when paired with a J. Herbin ink tin. As a newcomer to Bureau myself, I thought it’d be interesting to compare the two from the point of view of someone not quite as well versed in the world of fountain pens as other members of our team.


Style is always a touchy subject, so full disclosure – you might very well disagree with my views on this. If you’ve read some of my staff reviews you’ll know I’m quite the fan of industrial, minimalist, and functional design – most of which the Safari pen covers. Every line on the pen has clearly been carefully considered, from the flat edges of the barrel that curve around the ink level window and flow into the sculpted grip section, to the chamfered edge of the cap – it all suggests an excellent grasp of design that doesn’t compromise functionality for the sake of looking good. For such a relatively inexpensive fountain pen, it is an absolute pleasure to look at.

On the other side is the J. Herbin fountain pen, and next to the Safari it’s quite boring – disappointing even. While the design is simple it’s not really that interesting. Almost the entire body of the pen is a clear plastic, with some chromed plastic accents finishing off the cap, clip, and barrel ring. It’s a very safe and standard design, even down to the flourish on the nib. I found it quite difficult to write about the style of the pen, simply because it is so inoffensive – other than the scuff prone chrome orb on the top of the lid which I personally think detracts from the pen more than help it. Having said all that, seeing the ink in the feed of the pen is a very redeeming feature, as it pools nicely just below the nib as you write.

Both pens feature the respective company branding, and both work well to be subtle and refined – the Herbin pen does this with slim, silver lettering on the side of the cap while the Lamy has a cleverly debossed lettering at the end of the barrel.

Scores: Lamy – 9/10. Herbin – 6/10

Lamy Safari fountain pen

The standout feature of the J. Herbin pen is the completely clear barrel design, turning the entire pen into an ink level window – you’d be hard pressed to unknowingly run out of ink with this pen. The J. Herbin pen is quite a bit shorter (2.5cm capped, 3cm uncapped to be exact) than the Lamy pen, ideal for slipping into a pocket and has a no-frills clip on the cap. The pen uses the international standard cartridge type, so finding cartridges that fit the pen beyond J. Herbin’s own shouldn’t be a problem. Be wary of putting this pen down with the cap off, it’s an extremely adept roller – it’s found its way under my desk a fair few times during this review.

The Lamy pen also features the ability to view the ink level, however it does this with an understated oblong cut-out along towards the grip end of the barrel. The Lamy features its iconic (and very strong) clip on the cap, but it’s what is underneath that cap that is the Safari’s standout feature in my eyes – the swappable nib. Lamy provides a variety of nibs from extra fine to broad and everything in between, and swapping out your nib is a simple tug away. You’ll find the Lamy less likely to roll away from you on the desk, due to the barrel not being a perfect cylinder – it’s been flattened along two sides that helps prevent it from rolling (although once it gets started it’s just as spritely as the Herbin).

Scores. Lamy – 9/10. Herbin – 7/10


Personally I always prefer a larger or longer pen, as I find them far more comfortable to hold. In this regard, the Lamy Safari is one of the more pleasant to hold pens that I’ve used so far – the triangular moulded grip provides an ergonomic and comfortable position to hold the pen, while the long barrel rests snugly in the crook of the thumb and forefinger. If you go for the Charcoal or (now likely sold out Dark Lilac) the pen is even better to hold due to the matt, texturized finish. Whether you post your pen or not is of course a personal preference, however I find that doing so causes the Safari to become a little top heavy, and the lip of the cap can scratch against my hand while writing.

The overall writing experience with the Safari is very pleasant, with the fine nib gliding smoothly across the page, and with good ink flow. I’ve found the Lamy nibs to be quite forgiving when it comes to finding the “sweet spot” of where the nib writes best.

The J. Herbin pen, unfortunately, is a different experience. I have to knock some points off for the size of the pen, as I mentioned earlier the smaller pens just don’t sit as comfortably in my hand as I’d like. Luckily, posting the cap doesn’t drastically affect the balance, as the pen is very light – nor does the lip of the pen cap get in the way due to the shorter barrel letting the cap sit lower overall. The grip section of the Herbin pen is a simple tapered cylinder, and isn’t outstanding, I find it a little bit slippery and find myself having to hold it a little tighter than the Lamy.

The nib on the Herbin is much finer than that of the Lamy, comparable to their Extra Fine nib. Unfortunately this means the pen is a bit more temperamental with regards to the position of the nib on the paper – angle the pen out of the sweet spot and the writing experience becomes scratchy and unpleasant. However, I did find myself adjusting to it fairly quickly and once you find that angle the writing is much smoother, albeit not quite as smooth as the Lamy fine nib.

Scores. Lamy Safari – 9/10. Herbin – 7.5/10

J. Herbin fountain pen


With the Lamy and Herbin pens costing £13.95 and £8.95 respectively, neither of these will break the bank. Taking into account the features presented by both pens, I find that despite the higher price you’re getting about the same value for money out of both pens, with a slight edge towards the Lamy. For an extra £5, you get a better build quality and the bonus of easily swapped nibs with the Lamy, although the possible downside of being dependent on Lamy’s proprietary cartridges (though we do stock Monteverde Lamy-compatible cartridges, which provide more colours than Lamy’s standard offering, the odd special edition ink excluded). Of course you can always add in a Z24/Z28 convertor for £3.75 and use any ink you could imagine. Meanwhile the J. Herbin pen may not be as nicely built, nonetheless it does have the benefit of using the international standard cartridge type, therefore being compatible with a wider range of manufacturers. It’s worth noting that the Herbin cartridges have a capacity of about 0.8 – 0.9ml, about a third less than Lamy, although how noticeable that’d be in daily use is up in the air.

Scores. Lamy – 8/10. Herbin – 8/10


Going in to this review I knew I’d be quite biased towards the Lamy, as the design and size of the pen immediately appealed more to me than the Herbin. While I can’t quite look past some of the Herbin pens personal faults (the slipperiness being the worst offender), I’m not quite as put off by it after a week as I thought. I’ll likely always pick a longer pen given the choice, but I don’t think I’ll turn up my nose if I’m passed a shorter pocket pen – once I found the sweet spot of the J. Herbin nib it became a very pleasant and capable writer. For the price, I feel like the J. Herbin pen would be a very nice choice for people looking for a pocket-sized pen, especially with the multitude of fantastic ink colours that J. Herbin provide.

Total scores: Lamy – 35/40. Herbin – 28.5/40

Click here to see the Lamy Safari fountain pen

Click here to see the J.Herbin fountain pen

NB: All details correct at time of publishing

Please also note that Pawel has customised his Safari pen to be a ‘Stormtrooper’ pen, so that’s with an Al-Star front piece and a black clip. Possibly a side line for us one day…


My Weapon of Choice

What you will find on my desk today…

weapon of choice

A recent Instagram post I did made me think it was worth sharing a bit further and wider. Like most people, I’m sure, I have a selection of pens that are in favour at any one time. For some people it may be a collection of chewed Bic biros, for others it may be a treasured collection of Mont Blanc fountain pens. I guess I sit somewhere in the middle. Bureau-loyalty also sees me leave the Mont Blanc pens I do own at home, of course! I do admit to having one or two Bic Biros on my desk somewhere (not chewed – someone else in the office is guilty of that crime), but they are relegated to the status of ’emergency pen’ and when I used one yesterday it left an inky splodge on my weekly deskpad. Tch. So on my desk today you will find….(left to right):

Lamy Safari pink fountain pen with an extra-fine nib and purple Monteverde ink

lamy safari

This Safari is the most recent addition to my armoury. I already had one with black ink (see below) and I wasn’t prepared to wash out my pen to swap ink so I added a pink Safari pen and I’m experimenting with Monteverde purple ink for a contrast. It’s a nice ink, maybe a bit more pink than I had hoped for but it has a strong depth of colour to it. The Safari pen is as you would hope – a really nice pen to write with.

Papelote pencil

papelote pencil

I needed a pencil to sketch out some of the lettering I have been fond of lately, and whilst one pencil is pretty much like another when it comes to this kind of work, I do like these pencils with their Czech writing (it translates as ‘one pencil can write 50,000 words).

Ohto Dude rollerball

ohto dude

I recently wrote a piece about my re-discovery of the Ohto Dude pen, and so the feeling continues. It really is a lovely pen, that lays down a nice fine line of ink and suits me just right. In fact I would put my Dude pen as my No.1 on this list.

Herbin rollerball with Herbin bleu pervenche ink

herbin pen

A stalwart of the Bureau range now, the Herbin pen has so many inks you can choose from. In fact, once you pop in a universal converter you can have any ink. I like this one, which is a strong turquoise colour. I loved this pen from the first day it came in, but many others don’t so it’s something of a ‘marmite’ pen.

Lamy Safari yellow fountain pen with an extra-fine nib and black Lamy ink

lamy safari

I acquired this pen a while back (I think it was out of a photo shoot one day but can’t be sure), and I wasn’t sold on it. I then went back to it and decided to experiment with nibs. In case you hadn’t noticed by now, I quite like a fine point for writing and so I tested out some finer nibs – I went for an extra-fine nib, and even then I would have gone a bit further, but it was fine enough and I now love my Safari pen. I use it all the time, and if I leave it for a few days it still writes. It’s a pleasure to use  – so make sure you find the right nib for your writing and maybe it will make the difference.

Ohto Horizon orange ballpoint

ohto horizon

A former favourite, and although I still like this pen I have started to realise why ‘ink’ pens are so much better. There is something in the way that ink flows from a rollerball or a fountain pen that is so much more satisfying than the ink that a ballpoint lays down. Having said that, I do like the unusually fine point that the Ohto Horizon has so it still has a place in my affection today.

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