This is the Col-o-ring ink testing book from Skylab Letterpress. It was designed and produced by Ana over at the wellappointeddesk.com . It's full of 100 pieces of paper, measuring 2 inches by 4 inches. The paper is 100lb/160gsm European paper. I bought mine over at Vanness Pens but as of right now they are sold out. You can also get on the waiting list at the Well Appointed Desk's site and they will email you when they have some back in stock.
This is the back, and gives the details of the paper and that they are made in Kansas City, Missouri. I prefer to buy American made when I can, so I love that they are made in the US.
The packaging is very simple-just a plastic covering over the book, but it's effective. When I first saw this post from the Well Appointed Desk, I knew I needed some of these pronto. I didn't just buy one either, I bought four. I test at least five inks each week, so I knew I would put these to good use. At first I wasn't really sure what process I should use to create the ink swabs, but the Well Appointed Desk to the rescue again! Ana made this video on youtube showing how she mades swabs which was super helpful for me.
I wanted to do my own testing to see which swatch method would work the best for me. I used Montblanc Lucky Orange for my tests just because it's the ink I reviewed last (you can find that review here). For the first swab I used Ana's method, using a watercolor round brush for the swab. I wrote "Montblanc" in a Lamy Al-Star medium, and "Lucky Orange" with a Noodler's Ahab. I wanted the swab to show the writing in both medium, because it's the nib size I use the most, and a flex nib because it shows a lot of the properties of the ink (sheen/shimmer/shading).
I don't like swabs that just show the ink in a huge blob because that gives you unrealistic expectations of how the ink will look in a fountain pen. Just because an ink shows sheen and dark shading in a blob doesn't mean it will look that way in an extra fine nib.
The first swab, done with the watercolor brush shows a lot of the ink's shading. The second swab was done with a q-tip, dipped once in the ink for about 5 second, but it looks a little too light to me. The third swab was done with a q-tip, which was dipped and swiped twice along the card. Only the first swab shows the shading the ink has.
@leighpod on Instagram has been posing amazing pictures of her ink swabs. She rolls the paper and dips the end in the ink bottle. They look amazing, so I wanted to try it out. I love the idea, and they look great, but my OCD isn't quite okay with the unevenness at the top. Every ink brand has a different bottle size, so every swab might end up being a different height, and it's harder to do with ink samples. I do think it's awesome to have the ink at the end of the swab so it's easier to compare swabs.
So the first swab was rolled and dipped into the bottle. The second swab was done with a round watercolor brush dipped in the ink and swiped across the paper. The third swab was done with a q-tip, but it lacks the depth of color that the others have.
Overall I think the watercolor brush method from the first set of tests shows the most ink properties.
I think this is the method that I'll use going forward. Here are some swabs for the inks I reviewed in the past week.
I'm completely in love with this paper. It shows the sheen and shimmer each ink has, and it's fabulous at showing shading.
Here's a close up of the Lamy Petrol swab. A macro camera lens is going on my wish list.
So here are the tools I currently use to make ink swabs. Grab some ink. I'm currently in love with Robert Oster's Tranquility (frankly I'm in love with pretty much every Robert Oster ink I've tried so far). I use a Noodler's Ahab and a Lamy Al-Star (this one is Pacific Blue) with a medium nib for the writing. I use a round #2 watercolor brush for the swab. You need a Col-o-ring book of course, and I currently have my swab supplies on my desk in a Nock Co. Sinclair case, mine is the peacock version.
My takeaway from playing with the Col-o-ring is that it's the best ink testing book I've every tried. It's the perfect size, the paper is amazing, and overall it's very durable. I get excited every time I pull it out to test out a new ink (which is just my inner pen geek coming out). Get a Col-o-ring and some ink and get inky!
Disclaimer: I bought all products discussed myself and was in no way compensated for my review.