Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: Sharpie Pen - Stainless Steel

I have always wanted to like the Sharpie pens, ever since they first came out in their "won't bleed through paper formulation."  I have used Sharpie markers in the lab forever, it seems, and I even had an advisor in graduate school who wrote with the markers routinely, as he helped me plan out experiments on paper.  Those markers bleed through paper like crazy, of course, because that's not what they are designed for, but he didn't care.  That was the only kind of Sharpie available back then, and we always had lots of Sharpies sitting around the lab (and likely as not, the "piece of paper" would actually be a paper towel, and EVERYTHING bleeds through a paper towel).

But of course, I am always on the quest for the holy Daily Writer (DW), and the Sharpie pen is beautiful enough that it always catches my eye in the store.  However, I can't like the Sharpie pen for it to ever be a serious contender for the DW.  There are lots of reasons for this, and I have not come to this decision lightly.  For one thing, it's a felt-tip pen.  My earliest recollection of trying to like a felt-tip pen was when the Flair pens came out in my childhood.  I didn't and don't like them either, although I will grant you that a Sharpie pen is head and shoulders above a Flair.  It's mostly an occupational reason: I deal with 3-part NCR forms on a routine, if not daily, basis. Felt-tip pens are usually not suitable for these kinds of forms because they require a certain amount of pressure to make the transfer to the sheets underneath.  So when I have to fill out one of these forms, it's always a ballpoint for me.  (Maybe I should experiment with one of the Sharpie pens and see if it might possibly work?)

(Do you think this point would stand up to an NCR form?)

Then there's the Sharpie pen's ink.  I am admittedly not that adventuresome when it comes to ink.  Black is ALWAYS my first choice, and then green and red (in that order), mostly because of my occupational need of marking up stuff and grading tests.  (Blue is never an option, although in the past I have been observed buying blue pens in a fit of insanity -- but these are always pens I have to throw out or give away later, because I never actually want to write with them.)

So black it is.  But it has to be the darkest, truest black that there ever was.  Blacker than the outer reaches of space, or the heart of the most evil person on Earth.  I find myself pining for the black ink that Rudyard Kipling required for his writing.  And here is where the Sharpie pen falls short most grievously, in my book.  The ink goes on the page fairly black, but it quickly dries to a lighter shade of black, verging towards a dark gray.  Dark gray will never be black, to me.  I suppose it has to do with the "no bleed through" formulation of the ink, since Sharpie marker ink writes jet black and stays jet black.

All the Sharpie pens are beautiful -- their style is consistently one of their best features.  This one is no exception: the sleek, attractive stainless steel body, the small black button endcaps that subtly tell you the color of the ink inside the pen, and the slightly cushy rubbery grip.  The whole pen feels good in the hand, and it's lightweight enough to write with for hours.  For what they are, the Sharpie pens do what they advertise.  But they are not anywhere near the competition in the quest for the Daily Writer.

Sorry, Sharpie pen!  We can definitely be casual friends, but that's about all you can expect from me.

 (This ink probably would not have been black enough for Mr. Gandhi, either.)

Style: A
Ink: C (black is not black enough)
Writing: B+ (smooth enough for a felt-tip pen, lightweight in the hand)
Blobbiness: A+ (not really a problem with felt-tip pens)
Chance that this will become a Daily Writer: 0%

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: Zebra Z-Mulsion EX Pen

A couple of days ago I received a fantastic surprise in the mail from the good people at a sample of a Zebra Z-Mulsion EX ballpoint pen.  I was excited because I rarely receive these kinds of things in the mail, but then I was doubly excited when I started writing with this pen.

Where do I even start with a pen like this?  I'll start with the smoothness, which is obviously supposed to be a big selling point with this model.  It is REALLY smooth.  I mean, like velvet, gliding on ice, greased lightning smooth.  It's really kind of amazing.  Many pens aspire to this level of smoothness but this is one that really succeeds.  According to the pen's description on, the ink is an emulsion of oil, water, and pigment that is supposed to provide "an unbelievably smooth writing experience."  I am here to tell you that this is NOT hyperbole, folks.  It is noticeably smoother than lots of other pens in its class.  Plus, with the admittedly limited testing I have already put this pen through, it does not produce the typical ink blobs that many other smooth writers seem to produce.  [Edit: See the pic below.  In my enthusiasm, I spoke too soon.  This is such a wet writer that its "blobbiness" is in line with other pens like it.  But to me it's not an excessive blobbiness, certainly not along the messy lines of a PaperMate InkJoy pen, so I still recommend this pen highly.]  Because of its wet ink, as with most pens of this sort there is a small piece of plastic covering the tip to prevent drying out before the first use.

Added to this is the fact that its black ink (the model I got) is a true, dark black.  The 1.0 mm ballpoint is a perfect match for the fluidity of the ink and the density of the pigment.  I am eager to try out other colors in the line to see if they are in the same class ink-wise.  (Note that blue and red ink versions are also available on, but there are more colors shown on the promotional card I received.  I'll definitely be looking around for the green in particular.)

The styling of the pen is hard to see from my crappy pictures, but I will say that it looks very sophisticated, and feels good in the hand.   It is also very, very light (perhaps almost TOO light, but we won't quibble about things like that -- that will simply make it good to write with for long periods of time).

The only negative that I could possibly say about this pen (and I will say up front that this is VERY quibbly) is the click mechanism.  It's good and solid in terms of how it works, which is overall quite well, but when the plunger is pushed down and the pen is extended, the plunger tends to want to flop up and down and around with a cheap sound as you move the pen.  Like I said, this is just IMPOSSIBLY quibbly, and I realize this, but it is noticeable and it may be a deal-breaker for some people -- although I seriously doubt it.  This is such a great overall pen that the clicker sound is something I can definitely overlook.

Style: A
Ink: A+, black (at least) is dark and true
Writing: A+, very smooth and gliding
Blobbiness: B- (produces some typical ink blobs but they are bearable)
Chance that this will become a daily carry pen: 95%

You should definitely check out the Zebra Z-Mulsion EX Ballpoint Pen today!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Taking the Plunge -- Field Notes Colors Subscription

For a long time (pretty much since they first became available), and like many people in the pen/pencil/paper fetish world, I have been enamored of Field Notes.  I don't use them a lot, and I am probably the next-to-last entry on their Favorite Customer list, but I love these little notebooks.  And I think that Favorite Customer ranking is about to change:

Yes, it's true: I have taken the plunge and ordered a Colors subscription.  "Colors" is the name they give to their special edition line of notebooks that come in different colors (duh) and designs, but all of which are evocative of some special time of year, or tidbit of Americana.  For example, the upcoming edition commemorates the iconic Traveling Salesman (complete with light green ledger pages inside).  These are really beautiful little notebooks, no matter what the color or edition, but this one kind of pushed me over the edge, for some reason.  I had to have it.  (OK, I admit it, I really like a beautiful rich chocolate brown, and especially the shade shown on the covers of these notebooks.  And chocolate.)  And while I was at it, I figured -- why not lock in the other three special editions to come over the next year?

(Photos from the Field Notes website)

I am really looking forward to receiving my first shipment in the Colors subscription, looking forward to using Field Notes again, and looking forward to blogging about them here!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: The Fisher Space Pen

I have to start this post by saying that this pen is one of those iconic pens that one wonders about -- is it really that miraculous a pen?  How does it write?  Is it worth the money?  I decided to splurge and buy one to find out.

The pen is definitely a thing of minimalist beauty.  All shiny chrome and sleek like a beautiful bullet.  In the package it looks impossibly small, which initially worried me since I have large hands, and trying to write with a too-small pen is the worst kind of torture.
However, I needn't have worried -- when the cap is posted, this pen is just the right size, something along the lines of a Cross pen in length and thickness.  Subtle ribbing near the point provides an excellent gripping area too.
Did I say minimalist?  It fits in a pocket so well that you don't even know it's there.  In fact, as I carried it around in my pocket today, I found myself repeatedly putting my hand in my pocket and it was just so I could absentmindedly caress the smooth finish of the pen.  (Is that weird?  I don't think so.)
I am sure other reviewers have mentioned this, but really the only disappointing thing about this pen is the ink.  Yes, it's a Space Pen, so it writes upside down, underwater, through grease, etc.  But the ink comes across as just ordinary ballpoint pen ink.  And that's not a bad thing -- it's just ordinary.  Still, it is a smooth writer, and it feels good in the hand, so if the ink is just ordinary, then that certainly is not a crime, and it does nothing to detract from the beauty of this pen.

Another, slightly inconvenient, feature of this pen is the fact that it's perfectly round and therefore prone to rolling off a table or desk.  They do sell clips for the pen on the Space Pen website, which would help the rolling issue.

Speaking of the website, it's well worth a visit.  The company has taken a simple pen design and cleverly embellished it in every possible (and collectible) way.  There's a Breast Cancer Awareness version (in pink, naturally), Space Pens with military insignias, religious symbols, Halloween pens, and pens in every possible color and finish.  I don't need more than one Space Pen (especially since I can't really see this as a Daily Writer), but the website certainly does make one salivate.

So my verdict?  I'm glad I bought one, just to satisfy my curiosity and to be able to say that I own one of these famous and historic pens.  But I will take a G-2 or a PaperMate any old day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shout-Out to the Lunatik Touch Pen

I'm a bad blogger, I know.  The number of posts I have written on this blog would not fill the smallest dimple on the smallest thimble.  Maybe it's something in the water or the air -- all of the pen/pencil/paper blogs I follow have been pretty much MIA for weeks now.  So I decided I would rectify the situation by posting a blog entry myself.

Today I feel compelled to give a shout-out to a pen that I have been using for several weeks now: the Lunatik Touch Pen -- Alloy Model.  I originally ordered one of these when they were being offered as part of a Kickstarter campaign.  But then the production and shipping on the pens was delayed, so the company sent me a free pen (the regular all-plastic body version) for my "inconvenience," which I assure you was only in their heads, not mine!  (Lesson #1 on how to be a Great Company: surprise your customers with little -- or big -- presents even once, and you will have a happy customer for life.  Just sayin'.)

(Image from the Lunatik website where you can buy this awesome pen!)
(Image from the website where you can also buy this fantastic pen!)

My crappy picture of my Touch Pen resting comfortably on my MacBook.  But look at the silver alloy of the pen -- it's essentially the same finish as the MacBook, which means it's WONDERFUL.

So now I have two of these pens.  And even though I just carry one at a time, I love both of them.  I did NOT love the ink cartridge they came with, however.  The ink was fine initially -- jet black and free-flowing, just exactly how I like it.  However, it wasn't long before the pen began sending out nasty blotches of ink that began getting all over my hands and papers and my students' hands and papers.  Don't get me wrong -- I like ink blotches as much as any other pen aficionado, especially when they come from a PaperMate Write Bros. pen, for some reason.  But this really was nasty, and it simply wouldn't do.

So I investigated the internal situation of this pen and found a cartridge that looked suspiciously like a Pilot G-2 ink cartridge.  Not labeled as such, of course, and more than likely made by a different manufacturer.  But the spitting image otherwise.  So I cannibalized a black G-2 I had sitting around the house (and since this is one of my favorite pens of all time, I had LOTS), and the G-2 cartridge fit perfectly.  And WORKED perfectly, with no more annoying blots.  (In other words, it wrote like a G-2!)  Now it is a perfect pen in every way.

But wait, there's more!  (Echoes of every bad infomercial you've ever seen on TV.)  This pen is also a stylus, of course, when the pen is retracted.  And it's a darn good stylus too.  I speak as one with experience, having bought at least 5 or 6 different styluses when I first got my iPad.  I don't use a stylus a lot (so you were right, Mr. Jobs) but there are times when I just want one.  And when I need one, I need it to work perfectly and fool the iPad screen into thinking it's my warm, greasy finger touching it.  That doesn't sound very complementary, I know, but the stylus part of the Touch Pen is a VERY GOOD stylus, just as good as your finger.  And that's saying a lot, if you have also been on the hunt for the perfect stylus like I have.

(I know the effect of a stylus is just as much a function of the app you are using as the nature of the stylus itself.  HOWEVER, this stylus really does seem to give me more control over what I am doing on the screen than do other styluses.  That's what I was trying to convey with my lines and squiggles.)

The pen is thick, which you can sort of tell from the pictures, and initially I thought I wouldn't like a pen that thick, since I do normally gravitate towards thinner pens.  But the Touch Pen turns out to be a perfect thickness for writing of every kind, and more than one of my students (who get to use my pen when they sign their registration forms or other important documents) have commented that it "feels really good" in their hands, and "that's a nice pen."  (These comments are from students who I'm pretty sure don't have the same pen/pencil/paper sickness I do.)

So in conclusion?  I am very happy with this pen.  I would promptly buy another one if I ever lost the two I have.  I carry it every day, and I use it every day.

And just because there are people out there who care about things like this, I was not compensated in any way, shape, or form for this review.  I did it because I really, really, really love this pen!