I find the Sheaffer Skrip line of inks difficult to review, in the sense that they're not sexy and therefore difficult to convince people to try. They offer nothing unique in terms of color, water resistance, or “special properties." I've had many conversations with fountain pen users who refuse to consider Skrip at all on the grounds that the range of eight basic colors is “boring,” and they "don't use a fountain pen to write in boring colors." But at the same time, I can't think of a product that provokes the same degree of emotion/nostalgia in people, given Sheaffer’s history and the fact that millions of people used these inks (or versions of them) for years, even decades, at work and in school.
Skrip Red and Skrip Turquoise are my two favorite Skrip colors that I have tried so far. As a red ink junkie, who insists on being able to use at least one red ink in all my pens (vintage included), Skrip Red is a must-own. By all accounts, it’s a “safe” ink that washes out of pens fairly easily, and in my experience does not stain. (Caveat: I will back off my categorical “red-ink-in-all-pens" statement in one regard: if you have a high-end white celluloid pen or other material that stains very easily, don’t risk red ink at all. Even Skrip might leave you disappointed. For that matter, if you are super paranoid about staining, stick with Waterman Florida Blue or Aurora Black and don't even consider moving outside those two basic colors.) But in any event, here are five reasons why I love Skrip Red, and why it’s my go-to red ink workhorse:
- It’s cheap and plentiful. As much as I love my Montblanc Alfred Hitchcock Limited Edition Ink, I only have three 30ml bottles, and once that’s gone, it’s gone. I don’t want to waste it marking up other people’s legal briefs when all that writing will just be thrown in the trash. For $12 (or less), you get 50ml of fire-engine red Skrip to bleed all over those bad citations and split infinitives.
- It cleans out easily. As I mentioned, vintage pen people (including both Richard Binder and Ron Zorn) consider Skrip a “safe” ink. I believe it's still the only ink Ron Zorn sells. Peace of mind at $12 a bottle.
- It’s an American classic. I know, I know, the ink itself is now made in Slovenia, and even Sheaffer pens are now made abroad. But everyone from my parents’ and grandparents’ generation grew up using Skrip “writing fluid” in the cool inkwell bottle, and it evokes fond memories in many people.
- The color. It’s hard to find an ink that you can label a “pure red.” I would call Skrip Red a true “fire-engine red,” without any pink or orange undertones.
- It dries quickly and doesn’t bleed or smear. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that a lot of red inks tend to stay “tacky” for a while, probably due to the manufacturer using too much dye to achieve super-saturated color. This is the reason I stopped using Noodler’s Tiananmen, which was the first bottle of red fountain pen ink I ever purchased. It made me sad to give it up, because I loved the color, but I couldn’t take the smearing and the long dry times.
In terms of cons, I can’t come up with much related to the ink itself. I will, however, call out Sheaffer on a couple aspects of the packaging:
- Fix the bottle design. The little pyramid-shaped bottle is attractive, but it’s incredibly difficult to fill a pen that has an even moderately large nib once the bottle is 3/4 full or less. I’ve been using the ink in my Lamy 2000’s recently because that’s one of the only pens where it’s easy to get a full fill given the current ink level in my bottle.
- In connection with No. 1 above, bring back the Skrip inkwell bottle! Those are classic pieces of Americana and incredibly useful. I would even pay a couple dollars more for the ink if they resurrected the bottle with the internal inkwell.
If you want a workhorse ink that you don’t have to worry about using in the vast majority of your pens, and doesn’t break the bank, you won’t be disappointed with Skrip in any color. The red is a classic that looks great and behaves reasonably well on all types of paper. You don’t get any special ink properties such as water resistance or fade protection, but the ink dries quickly and won’t smear all over your hands and the page. Once I end my ink-buying moratorium and use up some of the bottles of blue and black ink that I have, I’m going to give Skrip blue and Skrip black a run through the rotation.