Hayley asks:

I am looking for a pen as a gift for my step-father’s 60th and I wondered if you might have any ideas please. He is a salesman and carries a ballpoint-ish pen in his jacket pocket. I’m happy to buy a good refill – like a Fisher space or a Schmidt or something – but I could use some ideas for the actual pen. He is a pretty glam guy, he’d be the one in the white dinner jacket when everyone else is wearing black, and he likes brightly coloured shirts but on the classy side, rather than garish. I suspect a nock/click would be most practical for him but a good post or twist would be ok too. I could probably get him something brass or gold but I wondered if you knew of anything a bit more eye-catching please? Thank you!


Hi, Hayley! This is a tough question without a specific price point so I’m going to give you a couple options at a couple price options. My first thought for a ballpoint pen that is classic but available in some options that could be colourful or understated is the Parker Jotter. It can be purchased in shiny stainless steel for a classy, upscale look for about $26 or in simple black plastic barrel with stainless steel clip for $7.95.

Cross offer their classic Century line which features both a ballpoint model which is a twist closure. There is also a rollerball model that features their Selectip option which has a traditional posted cap and allows for a ballpoint, rollerball or felt tip refill. A Century line pen can be purchased starting at about $24 for the black chrome plated ballpoint pen and the most expensive models would be the solid18K gold pen and pencil set for $6350. That one might be a little too pricey. The Cross Century line was updated and modernized into the Century II which is a wider barrel version which is available in ballpoint and rollerball versions as well as a fountain pen. The prices for the Century II start at about $90 for the ballpoint model.

I seem to keep coming back to classic Americana designs. The way you describe your father, it seems those might best suit his tailored, stylish looks. The next pen that came to mind was the Sheaffer 500 ballpoint in chrome ($15). Its a bit wider barrel but still a sleek, tailored look. It is also available in a variety of other colors, including a translucent red or blue with a chrome clip or a more sophisticated black with gold tone hardware ($46.50).

I hope these give you some good options and good luck finding just the right pen!

Susan asks:

Is it possible to get fine point ballpoint refills in a variety of coloured inks for the Hexomatic Retro 51?

The Hexomatic takes a standard Parker-style refill so your options are pretty broad. I’d recommend that you consider the Monteverde refills for Parker which are available in orange, green, purple, turquoise, and pink as well as more common colors like blue, blue/black, black, red and brown. These refills are available in both ceramic ballpoint and soft roll, even a gel-style refill. A wide selection of these refills are available from Refill FinderPen Boutique, and Goldspot Pens.

Pat asks:

I was given a very nice promotional pen from an associate. I do not know who manufactured it. I really like it and would like to use it, however the the rollerball ink cartridge writes very poorly. It is a Schmidt 888F. Can you recommend a better smoother writing alternative that could be used instead?

The Schmidt 888F is a standard G2 Euro Rollerball refill so you have a lot of options to choose from. A lot of folks prefer the Schmidt 8126 and 8127 over the 888F. But you can also use the Pilot G2 or anything else in the list on my Refill guide under the G2/Euro section.

I know that’s sort of vague but you have so many options you can probably just start twisting open pens from around your home and office and you’ll probably find a refill that will fit into the pen that you like pretty quickly. Then you’ll know what you like and can then buy refills accordingly.

Charles asks:

Since I want to try other refills than the standard Retro 51/Schmidt rollerball which 2 or 3 would you recommend to try? I don’t want to hack, simple refill only.

Retro 51s will take a Parker style refill with no modifications. If you are looking for a ballpoint refill and prefer a wider tip or a very fine tip, I recommend the Monteverde Soft Roll refills. If you prefer a gel refill, the Monteverde Gel refills are available in broad and fine and a variety of colors. If you prefer a medium gel refill, Parker makes them in red, blue and black.

4 Comments on Ask The Desk: (Ball)Pointed Questions

  1. I have carried a stainless steel Parker Jotter since I was in 10th grade. (I’m 40 now.)

    Every day I go to work (I’m a trial attorney), two pens are with me: my Pilot Vanishing Point (shirt pocket) and my Jotter (inside jacket pocket). I actually have two Jotters – one in my pocket and one in my bag as a backup.

    My point is the Jotter is the best darn ball point you can get for the money, and provided you don’t lose them or they don’t get stolen, are just work horses.

  2. Parker has “revamped” the Jotter line for 2016. The changes are subtle (and attractive) IMO; but controversial amongst die-hard fans of the original. See the new Jotters at www(dot)parkerpen(dot)com.

  3. I use Moleskine gel refills in my Retro Hexomatic. They’re my favorite gels (0.5 & 0.7 mm) in Parker-style form, with multiple colors made. However, it looks like Moleskine USA is discontinuing them; they’re out of stock of most 0.5 mm colors, and selling the rest at discounted prices. (Look for “Roller Gel Refill” and not “Roller Gel Refill Plus”.)

    There’s also Itoya’s Aquaroller refill, which is a Parker-style gel, with a “needle” point. I think it’s blue/black only.

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