The moment you first experience the joy of having a little device mixing ink for you, you’ll never want to go back into a non-automatic ink stirring reality. I had seen people using Lab Stirrers quite a while ago, back when I was still mostly brush lettering and only dabbling in the world of Calligraphy. Back then I knew I couldn’t even justify spending $50 on a gadget that sure would use up quite a lot of space. But then my obsession happened. And then Luis released his video of a pretty, compact, absolutely adorable ink stirrer for Calligraphers and I knew I had to get it. And I did. And ever since that and the Launch of the InkMeThis stirrer the Calligraphy World is rediscovering stirrers. I very often get people asking me about supplies on a budget and as a student I 100% understand what you mean. So I jumped on Aliexpress and ordered a cheap lab stirrer and decided to do a comparison of the two. (Sorry guys, not many pictures this time round though…)
Okay, so what exactly are we talking about?
Magnetic Stirrers. If you’ve ever had a chemistry class in a lab you might have run across one of these. Basically there’s a magnetic field that roates at a certain speed and that causes the magnetic stir bar to spin and mix up the liquid it is immersed in.
So does everyone need a magnetic stirrer?
Most definitely not. A magnetic stirrer only makes sense if you often work with mixed inks or glitters. Anything that needs mixing up because it has settling particles. If you are using Gouache or BPW that you thin down you might want to get a stirrer for that. Generally you only need a stirrer if you spend a lot of time stirring ink. I found myself doing it quite often since I discovered the joy of Gouache and it definitely made me want to dig out all my shimmering and sparkling inks because I can now prevent the sparkle from settling on me.
What are my options?
Generally ink is pretty easy to mix and won’t need much power. We’re also talking about fairly small amounts of ink usually so generally any ink mixer will do for us, even the low-power low-capacity ones.
There are a few Stirrers especially made for Calligraphers so I wanted to give these a special little mention:
This one is battery powered and the button will stir for one minute and then shut off. It is fairly compact. I personally have not tried it, but it looks comparable to the Soap which I am reviewing today at a lower price.
A plugged stirrer in a pretty design, square and compact, doesn’t restrict the bottle size, can stir up to 1.5 litres. Also haven’t tried it, but everybody who has loves it.
One of my two Stirrers to be compared today.
Then there is of course the whole realm of magnetic lab stirrers available on Amazon, Ebay and Aliexpress. I checked Amazon for their Top Seller which was the Intllab Magnetic Stirrer It was $39.80 on Amazon, howevery I got this one on Aliexpress for cheaper.
The other Stirrer to be compared today.
And there is also the DIY route, just do a quick search on youtube and tons of tutorials will come up.
Okay, let’s talk about the two Stirrers at hand today.
The Soap was created by Luis Creations who’s a Calligraphy Pen maker. The idea of the Soap was to design a stirrer that was compact and pretty because that is how we most of the time choose our tools haha. So Luis created this Stirrer in the Shape of a Soap Bar and finetuned it especially for Calligraphy. The Soap is battery-powered and includes two stir bars (15mm + 10mm) as well as a box to store it, a traveling pouch for the stirrer itself as well as a small glass jar.
I posted a first impression/review on Instagram a few weeks ago and my opinion hasn’t really changed, so I’ll embed it here and let you have a read and listen.
Review – Audio on for compiled Mini Version, read on for longer full version! So today the Soap Ink Stirrer from @luis.creations arrived at my house, and of course I had to try it. The stirrer uses two AAA Batteries for power, it comes in two colors (of course I got rose, because you know me) and includes a small glass jar that holds 1oz (almost 30ml, you can fit 30ml in there). I was able to fit a slightly larger 40ml jar on it and stir without spilling, but I’d say that’s around the maximum that the included stir bars will mix (stir bars are 10mm and 15mm). I tried mixing pearlEx (@moyagraphy did a great demo of that), Schmincke Aqua Bronze got another chance, but it still sucked mixed to a liquid, so that wasn’t Soaps fault, I also tried to revive some settled gouache (needed a bit of help loosening first, but then did a great job!) and mixing up some fresh Gouache which is included in the video (It’s Winsor and Newton Designer’s Gouache in Viridian Lake) I loved it by that point for looking cute, mixing my ink and being super light and portable, but I was really curious to try how it performed with my favorite hinged plastic containers I buy in Bulk and use literally all the time. It didn’t do well, which was a bit of a bummer. It was weird because it just wouldn’t stir with the same power as in the glass jars. So I lifted it lightly and realized that as soon as I did, the bar would start to speed up. I don’t know if there is an official minimal thickness of the bottom and what exactly causes this behavior, but I was able to compensate that millimeter with just a few lint free wipe squares that I have basically all over the house. I’d love to know if someone has an explanation why the plastic doesn’t work that well on it’s own, I feel like there needs to be a reason. Apart from that little thing I totally adore this little guy and I can’t wait to take it with me. Also it mixes up Diamine Shimmertastic (last clip of the video) shimmering Inks are a pain, because the pigment settles within 10s or so, having it move while writing is a game-changer. #soapbyluiscreations @designinwords @luis.creations #inkstirrer #inkmixing #review
Generally I am very happy with the Soap, I haven’t had much spilling accidents since the power is finetuned and shouldn’t accelerate too much that the ink goes flying all over the place however I found that with settled gouache that has been sitting for a couple days and separated from the water, I do need to give the container a slight hand-stir before the stir bar can move inside since the bottom has this slimy mud consistency that doesn’t allow the bar to move enough.
What I love most about this one is the price. It is very convenient and has quite a lot of power. The Stirrer has enough power to mix 3 litres of liquid and comes with a plug (yay for having the option to choose a plug size, always happy when I don’t need to buy adapters) as well as a 30mm stir bar. The bar it comes with does not fit in my little containers that I like to use so I ordered this batch of oval stir bars in all sizes. The oval stir bars actually removed the problem of having to lift my little containers in the Soap which was great!
This one has a lot of power and I did cause quite a lot of ink to go flying all over my desk. Since the plate is quite large I did try to put multiple containers at once on it, but I guess this is where you can see it is rather cheap, since it did not work.
I tried stirring up some larger quantities and gave my big walnut ink jar a mix and it all worked fine. It does the job. It is louder than the Soap, but other than that in terms of mixing, all the same.
So who wins this battle? I call it a tie. Both stirrers do their jobs very well and they both are made for two completely different people.
If you love pretty things things and have the budget and want a small footprint and don’t mind small ink quantities, the Soap is for you. If you have a large desk, don’t mind the plug and don’t want to be restricted in your bottle size the Intllab one is for you. Also always consider the other options out there, the world of spinners is big! If I had to choose one I would go with the Soap since it is portable and I travel a lot with my art supplies and also never use large bottles (in fact I decant everything into my small containers). So it is my personal winner but I wouldn’t call it the winner of the battle since it’s not better than the other one, it’s just better for me personally.
I still don’t regret buying a second one, so now in the rare cases I need to mix up larger quantities or odd bottles I have the Intllab at home.
Extra: Cleaning Stir Bars of Ink Stains
So Ink stains those bars. Some people don’t mind. I do 😀 So I decided to go on the quest of cleaning recipes. I made a video for the one I chose. Also going to try Acetone and Glass Cleaner and will let you know how those go on Instagram probably.