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%


  1. I recently acquired one of these pens. I very much like the way it looks, the way it feels in my hand (substantial), and the way it writes. I have found no bleed-through, as advertised. I lost it after only two days, but immediately went out and bought another to replace it.

    However, as I took it out of my pocket last night, the clip caught and pulled some threads.

    The reason became apparent when I closely compared the clips on the stainless steel and regular models of the Sharpie pen. They may be made using the same flat pattern, but they are formed differently. On the stainless steel pen, the two sides of the clip meet only where the clip touches the body of the cap. As the pen is slid out of a pocket, it has some tendency to gather the shirt fabric into that narrow V and jam. On the regular pen, the two sides of the clip meet to form a seam well away from the cap. It would have very little tendency to jam.

    To make matters worse, the clip on the stainless steel model is significantly stronger. (In a paper strip tug of war, a single stainless pen could defeat two regular pens.)

    To be fair, I was wearing a shirt with a very fine weave. With most fabrics, there would be no problem. And if it happens again, I'll know how to release the clip without damaging the pocket. I still like the pen.

  2. Thanks for your observations! I have had the same experience with the clip on other pens -- it can be really frustrating. Seems like the clip is often the part of a pen that the designers kind of overlook.