Bung Box Inks: Hard-to-Find Liquid Treasures
There’s a small, boutique stationery shop in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan called Bungubox that opened it’s doors in 2012. They were pretty much a mom-and-pop type of place, catering to local residents looking for nice pens and other writing supplies. Bungubox started commissioning various manufacturers to create exclusive items for their store.
One of these partnerships was with the company Sailor, who they commissioned to make a line of inks for them under the name Bung Box. Sailor’s Jentle inks are widely regarded as beautiful, high-quality inks, so it’s no surprise that the Bung Box colors were also very popular.
Sailor is one of the “Big 3” Japanese pen & ink manufacturers…with Pilot and Platinum being the other two.
Sometime last year (2015), word got out about the Bung Box inks, and all hell broke loose. People from all over the world began ordering the inks, making the shop proprietors scramble to fulfill orders and cleaning the inks off the shelves. The availability of Bung Box inks goes in and out as supplies run out and the inks need to be reordered & made. At this moment, at least some of them are available, so I ordered a pile of samples to check them out (at $42 for a 50 ml bottle, they’re extremely expensive inks…so I just stuck with samples).
Holy Gosh! I see why they’re so popular.
Below are images and descriptions for six of the Bung Box inks. There’s not a dud in the bunch.
Ink of the Witch
A deep, dark purple that can pass for black if you’re not looking too closely. But if you DO pay attention (and why wouldn’t you?!?), you can tell it’s purple, even when writing with an extra fine nib. The names for Bung Box inks are usually happy, quiet, natural sounding names (Norwegian Wood, Oamezaki Sea, Tangerine, Soleil, etc.), so the name Ink of the Witch really got my attention (as did the color). I loaded it up in my Sailor 1911 fountain pen, wrote about six letters and started to ooh and ahh over it. After roughly another 12 letters, I declared that it’s my new favorite ink. It’s a vibrant purple, but so dark that it’s not obvious…kind of an “undercover vibrant.”
Deep, rich, and dark with a sliiiiiiiiiight bit of shading (in broader pens). No sheen at all.
Very rich yet subdued red, somewhere between a red-black and dusty rose (as you can see in the image, it’s closer to a red-black in the dip pens, but more of a deep dusty rose in the swab. I’ve used a handful of red inks, and for the most part, I don’t like them. They’re usually too “in your face” and not that pleasant to look at. But the Bung Box Piano Mahogany is actually really nice. In broader pen strokes, it comes out as a dark reddish purple with some very nice shading.
This is a red I could use for everyday purposes. Beautiful shading, no sheen.
We’ve hit three-for-three on the richness scale. Silent Night is a super rich blue-black color. I’d put it in the same “it could almost pass for black” category as Ink of the Witch, but blue instead of purple. There is no shading whatsoever with any of the pen strokes, so the color is easily the flattest of all six of these inks.
It’s still very rich in appearance, very saturated. We’ve also hit three-for-three in the “no sheen” category. I approve.
Norwegian Wood (Emerald)
I’m not sure where the name Norwegian Wood comes from. Emerald is a much more fitting name for this bright, vibrant, shade-tastic ink. As with many inks, when writing with finer points, the Norwegian Wood turns out pretty dark, but with some striking shading that really comes out in letters with curved/arced lines. In broader pens, it’s a deep emerald ink with awesome shading.
Green inks are hit and miss with me. I like most bright greens to look at, but don’t usually feel compelled to write with them. Norwegian Wood is different, though. It’s one I could use at work and not feel silly. Awesome shading, no sheen.
Danger Will Robinson, we have a sheen alert! A lot of people go ga-ga over inks that sheen. Not me. I don’t mind inks that have secondary colors that appear at certain angles. What I DO mind is an ink with so much sheen that it looks like a different color when it dries. One of my big pet peeves is a blue, turquoise, or teal ink that dries with a loud, flashy red sheen. What is this nonsense?
While 4B isn’t as offensive as some others, this otherwise beautiful (and unusually vibrant) blue-black does have some patches of ruby-colored sheening that forms where ink pools on the paper. I do LOVE the color in the swatch…and I don’t see any sheening in the swatch or in the bold flourish at the bottom, so I have hopes that this ink might behave itself in a stub, where the ink will get spread out enough to avoid too much pooling. The shading is subtle but nice, and you’re likely to only get it from broader nibs.
I love me a good teal. Dandyism is a good teal, although it’s almost somewhere between teal-black and a slightly more vibrant army green. I got a little bit of really nice shading in the bottom flourish, but not in any of the other pen strokes, so I’m not sure how this would fare in a range of fountain pens. It’s up there with Ink of the Witch and Silent Night in the world of “almost black,” and other than that bottom flourish, it’s a pretty flat, yet saturated color.
As you can see, the bottom row of figure-eights came out REALLY heavy, and there’s not even a speck of sheen in there.
These inks are gorgeous. They’re vibrant without being loud, and they’re usable in any setting. The 4B Blue Black is the only one with sheen, and therefore one I probably wouldn’t plop down the money for a full bottle. They’re rare, they’re expensive, and they’re not always available, but if you’ve got the means to purchase any of them, they’re almost certain to delight you.