View Full Version : Please forgive me. I had to use a ballpoint pen. (OR) How cold is to cold?

August 18th, 2012, 08:56 PM
I went to get my PA hunting license today and I had to sign it. I always keep my Sailor 1911 Realo with a zoom nib (Noodler's X-feather ink) handy, but I couldn't use it for this. For the last few years the licenses are printed on a shiny plastic. At the signature line it has "Document Holder must sign with ballpoint pen"... I took a deep breath... held my nose, and used the community Walmart ballpoint pen. I went straight to the restroom and washed my hands. I felt so dirty using that pen, I just needed to get it off my chest.

It got me thinking...
I don't have any cold weather ink. If I want to bring a notebook and pen into the woods, will I have a problem?

I saw that Noodler's has a black, blue, brown, and green. Do Any other brands have some?

How cold is to cold for regular inks?

From what I understand ink is mostly water, so freezing would be 32 deg ( F ) or 0 deg ( C ), but that isn't always true depending on the rest of the ingredents, right?

Do freeze resistant inks clean out of your pens the same as regular ink?

I know it is a bit hot out to start thinking about snow, but I have to order ink and pens when the wife allows. LOL. It would be really "cool" if you could share any info or experiences.


August 19th, 2012, 12:40 AM
Hi there wiz9777, interesting problem.

From a purely physical stand point anything around the freezing point can cause a full clog-up. Under some circumstances ice can form even at very slightly positive temperatures (I am talking centigrade here, sorry, I am European and even though I lived in Canada for a while I don't understand Fahrenheit).

But inks are chemical solutions and the amount of dye that can be held in solution depends also on the temperature. This is called "super saturation". What can happen, especially with very saturated inks, is that the dye cannot be held in solution anymore and "flocks out", that is it becomes solid (in most cases dyes will be some sort of powder before being dissolved in water to become ink). That's the kind of residue the you can see on clogged feeds. Or it can form some sort of sludge. This can hamper the flow and, if it happens repeatedly, even clog up the feed or nib. The chemical properties of the dyes can make a huge difference, so it will even depend on the colours you are going to use.

Inks include other additives, such as "lubricants", fungicides, and surfactants (to adjust the high surface tension of pure water to improve the flow). All of these will ultimately influence the behaviour of the specific ink at low temperatures.

My assumption, though, would be that if you keep the pen warm (inside your jacket close to the body) and use it for note taking and such it should be fine. I wouldn't recommend writing a novel under such adverse environmental conditions, though. Keeping the pen warm at all times (including the metal nib!) is the key to using a fountain pen outdoors at low temperatures.

There's a thought, though: someone could design a "pen glove" for the outdoor enthusiast penman. Some sort of knitted sleeve or maybe goretex(TM) cover even to suit the fp aficionados amongst us that are not rooted to there desks. I can see it right in front of my inner eye: beautifully crafted and possibly enhanced with an active heating device... like an electric blanket... only on batteries... or maybe solar powered... (wanders off to his study pensively... get it? pen-sively! ha! beat that for a pun if you can! ) :crazy_pilot:

Just kidding :D

August 19th, 2012, 05:11 AM
Wonderful answer. And personally, I like the metric system better that the backward system we use in the USA.
I figured that if I keep it close to my body there wouldn't be a problem, but if I sketched something for a while the very thin layer of fluid in the feed and nib might not do so well. I also know about how temperature can affect the saturation. (Don't microwave distilled water for a few minutes then put a spoon in. It is a very violent demonstration of how the introduction of impurities affect the state of matter.) This is of course the opposite end of the spectrum, and me going off track. But if super heated water makes the molecules race around, cold water would make the molecules sludge up. It is the impurities that the first ice crystals start to grow on. The more it sludges, the more it separates from the base liquid.

I really don't think it is going to be much of an issue this year. We have had very mild winters, but you never know. The ONE day that I get a chance to go out could be the only subzero day of the year, lol and I'm probably going to pick up a bottle of polar black just in case.
As for the pen glove idea... I do knit :thumb:

August 19th, 2012, 02:56 PM
I have not much to say, but I have some observations myself: it seems that inks get drier or wetter depending on the season..I have tested some nice paper people used to send me letters, and the ink I used ( Pelikan 4001 Blue--generally dry) bled through more than the Eidelstein topaz they used.. is the humidity affecting the ink? (they sent the letter in the winter (drier) and I tested it in July (humid) or is this simply the paper absorbing the moisture in the air and "wicking" more ink into it? (thinking through it I would expect the latter to be true)

August 19th, 2012, 02:59 PM
(Don't microwave distilled water for a few minutes then put a spoon in. It is a very violent demonstration of how the introduction of impurities affect the state of matter.)

How am I now supposed to resist the overwhelming temptation to do this?

August 20th, 2012, 03:22 AM
How am I now supposed to resist the overwhelming temptation to do this?

I don't advise it. The water basicly explodes, it instantly boils and steams. It goes everywhere and if any gets on you YOU WILL GET BURNED!

August 20th, 2012, 03:25 AM
I tried an experment. I took Noodler's X-Feather ink and put it in one of those free Platinum Preppy fountain pens that I got when I bought the ink. I only filled it up about 1/4th of the way. I made sure it wrote well and put it in the freezer for about 2 1/2 hours. As soon as I took it out of the freezer I noticed the ink, in the body, was a block of ice. I sat down and tried it out. It worked perfectly! I guess the heat from my fingers warmed the section enough to make it write. There wasn't any start up problems, skipping, ot anything. I was shocked. It was a bit funny to see an ink-cicle in the pen. As I wrote and doodled the ink melted enough that it started to blob back and forth in the pen. The only problem I had was one after the ink fully melted, a few drops of ink rushed out, as I expected from an eyedropper with very little ink. As soon As I was done playing I cleaned out the pen with no problems.
I don't think I would do this with a pen that I paid for. I would be to afraid that the ink-cicle in the body might crack the pen.

August 20th, 2012, 08:55 AM
ink-cicle. I like that. :D

August 20th, 2012, 11:22 AM
I recommend just staying indoors!:)

August 21st, 2012, 10:43 AM
Rather than batteries or solar power (which, in the winter, sounds a little odd :/), maybe one of those clicky things with the gel that turns into crystals when you click a metal disc inside and releases a lot of heat?