Why don’t you like Noodler’s products?

So, in my videos, I’ve mentioned several times that I don’t really use products from the Massachusetts-based firm Noodler’s. As Noodler’s is a very popular company in the modern fountain pen community, people are often curious and/or confused about the why of this, and I have been asked to clarify my position several times.

Let me preface the rest of my remarks by saying these reasons are only my own, and my decisions on whether or not to use a product are not intended to persuade you one way or the other. I seek only to explain the why behind my own choices.

Pens

I have had a string of really poor luck with Noodler’s pens. Of the three or four I’ve tried, none were even remotely usable, and required a level of tinkering and adjustment that I find onorous. I’ve never particularly like the design of the pens, nor the build quality. The flexible nibs are an interesting, low-cost entry point into the world of flex, but I’ve had so much difficulty with pens that would not write at all, let alone well, that I can’t really recommend them to someone just getting started in the world of fountain pens. I know a lot of people like/love them, and I think that’s awesome. They’re just not for me.

Ink

The inks are more complicated. I have several Noodler’s inks in my collection (around 10 bottles or so) but I don’t purchase them much anymore, for a variety of reasons. The biggest issue is that Noodler’s inks have a history of causing problems with pens–especially pens that utilize latex sacs in the filling system. (There are many reports of Noodler’s inks melting sacs in pens.)

Noodler’s inks are particularly viscous (as they are designed in such a way that they can be diluted to extend value) and are often loaded with chemicals that make them permanent (e.g., cellulose reactive) but very, very difficult to clean thoroughly. They often do not play well with other inks, gelling up when they come into contact (like what would happen if you forgot to clean out your pen before re-inking.) Some of the inks bleed and feather ruthlessly, regardless of the paper. Many tend to stain demonstrator pens…or even stainless steel.

Across the larger, serious pen user community, it is my perception that Noodler’s Inks are considered rather harsh in comparison with many safer, gentler inks on the market. (Nibmeister Richard Binder writes about Noodler’s and Private Reserve specifically in a blog post on his site.) There have also been problems with inconsistency in color and writing property from batch to batch.

The main reason I don’t use Noodler’s inks is that I’m just not interested in dealing with the uncertainty of it all. With most ink brands, you find a certain level of consistency between colors in the brand. That’s not usually the case with Noodler’s inks. Noodler’s has so many different types of ink with different characteristics that, like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. I don’t have any need for the bulletproof or waterproof or lubricated or fast-dry or anti-feather characteristics that many of his inks contain. Or if I do, I can find them in other inks that are less problematic overall. And when it comes to color, I can find very close substitutes for almost any Noodler’s Ink in other brands.

Perhaps most importantly, I find myself less enamored with the performance of my Noodler’s inks as I gain more experience with other brands. I like other colors, the sheen, shading, or drying properties of other inks more. It’s not that Noodler’s inks are bad. It’s just that my preferences lean in a different direction.

Political Statements

When it comes to purchasing products, I don’t care what anyone’s personal politics are, so long as they separate their personal politics from their products. However, when a company uses their product to make political statements, then I (and again, this in only my personal take) consider the purchase of those products to be an act of support for the stated political platform.

Many Noodler’s products are politically agnostic. But occasionally, they (and by they, I mean the company’s founder, Nathan) will release a product with an explicit political bias expressed in the product name or packaging. When that happens, I feel I must weigh the political message before I would purchase the product. Since I talk about the products I purchase with a wide audience, doing so may seem like an endorsement.

Now, what little I know of Nathan’s politics is what he has discussed in his own YouTube videos, what he has incorporated into his product names and packaging, and what I have heard from others. I will not speak for him, nor attempt to lay out his beliefs, as that is not my place to do so. Nor will I express how my beliefs differ from my perception of his, as my beliefs are not germane to the subject about which I speak on this blog. Suffice it to say, I choose not to purchase additional Noodler’s products, as I do not feel comfortable in supporting the political point of view expressed therein.

Nor, I should add, would I think less of any person who does purchase them–either because the support the political platform or they simply don’t care.

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