Tag: pen

Review: Monteverde Soft Roll Refills

Monteverde Soft Roll Refills Retro 51a

Generally speaking, I tend to avoid ballpoint refills because I don’t often have very good luck with ballpoint ink. Being left-handed, it tends to smear more often and hard start more often for me than most people. But when Bert at Bertram’s Inkwell insisted I try the Monteverde Soft Roll refills in my Retro 51s as an alternative to the Schmidt P8126 refills, I decided to give it a shot, if only as scientific research. Bert insisted that the superbroad version was one of his best sellers but I was skeptical, being a proponent of the extrafine refills myself. So we settled on trying both. The Parker-style refills fit perfectly in the Retro 51s, something I had not actually tried before so that was an added bonus and opened up a whole new world of refills to me.

Monteverde Soft Roll Writing Samples

It turns out, that on Rhodia paper, both of the Soft Roll refills actually worked really well. The superbroad refill forced me to write a little bit larger than I normally do so that the letters didn’t close up. The ink was actually quite smooth and didn’t have that oily look a lot of ballpoint ink gets. It also didn’t skip or break up like a lot of ballpoint ink does when I write either. The extrafine wrote so smoothly and precisely I forgot it was ballpoint ink at all and kept thinking it was a gel ink.

Monteverde Soft Roll Refills Retro 51s

I used the extrafine refill all week in my Retro51 Bouquet so it was tested on copier paper, Moleskine paper and various and sundry office papers with satisfactory results. I did a few additional tests with the superbroad on a legal pad and there was a bit more evidence of bloops but that’s probably a result of cheap paper combined with the refill putting down a good deal more ink.

If I’m going to use a ballpoint, I’m going to choose one of these refills because the quality is far superior to the average drugstore stick pen. Go, Monteverde!

Both the superbroad and extrafine refills come in a two-pack for $8.95.


DISCLAIMER: Thanks to Bert at Bertram’s Inkwell for these samples. This item was given to me free of charge for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Platinum Maki-E Nylon Bristle Brush Pen

Platinum Maki-E Brush Pen

Platinum Classic Brush Pen with Mt. Fuji and Cherry Blossoms Pattern ($52) is a nylon fiber brush pen with a beautiful slender black body. It features a gold toned clip and gold accents and a painted Mount Fuji and cherry blossoms designs. Its one of the most traditionally Japanese motfi pens I’ve ever owned and I’m surprised how tickled I am with the overall aesthetics of the pen. The overal shape of the pen is a smooth torpedo shape and the cap has a smooth, pill-shaped clip which is simple and understated.

The pen came in a simple black paperboard box with gold foil lettering and graphics on the exterior and red velveteen paperboard on the inside with a simple ribbon band to hold the pen in place. The packaging was elegant without being extravagant, if that makes sense.

Platinum Maki-E Brush Pen

Platinum Maki-E Brush Pen

But the real feature of the pen is the brush tip rather than a fountain pen or rollerball under the cap. The brush tip is made up of nylon fibers like a paintbrush but inside the aesthetics of a fountain pen. The pen works with a cartridge or a regular Platinum converter.

Platinum Maki-E Brush Pen Close-up

The bristles on the nylon tip come to a crisp point and the nylon fibers spring back quickly with a nice bounce. I decided to test the pen on both my usual Rhodia paper as well as some Strathmore Mixed Media drawin paper which is a toothier stock and found both the pen and the stock ink cartridge to perform quite well. The toothier Strathmore paper made it a little bit easier to control the brush pen versus the silky smooth Rhodia paper making me feel a little more confident in my mark-making.

Platinum Maki-E Brush Pen Writing Sample

The pen comes with a black cartridge with Platinum Black ink and the  Platinum converter ($7.50) will fit as well which will allow a range of inks to be used. The Platinum Black ink is not waterproof but its definitely water resistant. I’m inclined to keep only black ink in this pen for the duration as I expect it would be difficult to ever get all this black out of the bristles and feed. I’d also be cautious about leaving this pen sit too long without using it in case the ink dried in the brush. It might be difficult to get it cleaned completely if the ink were to dry. Altenately, the Platinum Black is a rich, dense black that looks fantastic so it appears to be worth the trouble it might cause if you like a good solid black line for drawing or calligraphy.

Overall, I really like this pen. As its one of my first brush pens over $10 (by a long shot) I don’t have a huge basis for comparison. However, the quality of the brush tip itself is a big upgrade from the budget-priced nylon bristle brush pens I’ve purchased in the past. Add to that, the overall feel of the pen and the beautiful Maki-E painting and I feel like I have a real treasure on my hands.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Pen Boutique for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Retro 51 Bouquet (compliments of Anderson Pens)

Retro 51 Bouquet

I never thought I’d be a collector of Retro 51s. However, in the last couple of years, I’ve acquired a variety of different Poppers and a Classic Lacquer and, I must admit, I have a collection now. So, I now keep an eye out for the regular seasonal releases in the Popper series.

Retro 51 Bouquet

Just prior to the Atlanta Pen Show, Retro 51 released their spring design, Bouquet, and I scrambled to find a retailer who didn’t sell out in a minute. Luckily, the fine folks at Anderson Pens set not one but TWO pens aside for me and, as a result, one lucky reader will get claim this beauty as their own – or to give to their loved one, their mom, or their favorite person who deserves an everlasting bouquet of flowers.

Retro 51 Bouquet

The Bouquet is a smooth, watercolor floral printed on an ivory background. The flowers definitely have a tropical feel. The graphics are some of the most complex I’ve seen on a Retro 51 and they turned out really well. The colors are clean and rich. And the printing is flawless.

Retro 51 Bouquet end cap

The hardware is a soft, brushed gold. I’d almost call is rose gold but its not pinky nor is it brassy. The end cap is a rosy pink dot to match the flowers.

Of all the “Mother’s Day” releases that Retro 51 has done, this is by far the best one yet.

Retro 51 Bouquet

GIVEAWAY: See that one in the photo above still wrapped in shrinkwrap? That is #0288/1000 and it can be your. All you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me who in your life deserves a beautiful bouquet of flowers. AND… read the FINE PRINT. Big thanks to Anderson Pens for providing the giveaway pen!


FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, April 25, 2016. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your real email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US delivery addresses only please this time. Apologies to our international readers!

Pen Review: Uni Signo Angelics 0.7mm Gel Pens

Uni Signo Angelics

Since I started doing the #rockyourhandwriting challenge this month in my Field Notes Sweet Tooth editions, I’ve been having fun experimenting with all sorts of opaque gel pens. The Uni Signo Angelics ($2 each) are some of the best opaque gel pens available. The tips are 0.7mm and the pens dry to a matte finish which look great on white paper, black paper or colored stock.

Uni Signo Angelics

I got a several of the colors available to add some pop and flair to my coming #rockyourhandwriting posts. I’m particularly excited to add some of the white gel pen to the colored stock. It just looks so cool!

Uni Signo Angelics

Be warned, these opaque colors do take a bit longer to dry than regular gel pens and are only available in the 0.7mm tip size so they are not as fine as some of the Uni Signos I’ve come to know and love. But for creating some fun artwork and decorative details, these are definitely a nice addition to the pen collection!

Uni Signo Angelics Water Resistant Test

Addendum (4/23/2016): Following Rusty’s comment below, I did a water test to verify if the Angelics were water resistant. I used a water brush over the text I wrote two weeks prior so it was very much dry. Some of the color did bleed but the overall lettering stayed in place. I’d rate the pens “water resistant” but not waterproof. The color faded as a result of the water and some of the luminance was lost. So, if you were to address an envelope with these pens and the envelope got wet, the address would not vanish as a result of the rain but the color would no longer be as vibrant as it originally was. I hope that helps!


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Baron Fig Squire

Baron Fig Squire open

I recently received the Kickstarter edition Baron Fig Squire in silver aluminum. The pen came in the Baron Fig signature wine soft-touch box, similar to the box that the Baron Fig Confidant notebooks are shipped, nestled in carved black foam. The packaging is appropriate to the pen without being too over-the-top. Generally, as long as the pen is protected in shipping and delivery and the brand is satisfied with its presentation with making the packaging too ostentatious, I’m good. This packaging fit that description.

Several people had mentioned the branding on the pen being a bit much, having both the sword icon etched on one side and the name “BARON FIG” on the other. In the aluminum silver finish, these logos are actually quite subtle and I had to catch the pen in just the right light to see them so I don’t think the branding is too much. Once the pen is removed from the packaging, there really isn’t much to remind you what the pen is. We, as pen nerds, will know its a Baron Fig Squire but the the average consumer, there’s a strong possibility that a year from now, someone would ask them what the pen was and without the brand name on the pen, they might not remember off the top of their head. Since the branding is etched, I also suspect that it will patina over time.

Baron Fig Squire writing sample

The overall aesthetic of the pen is really quite understated in the hand. The finish of the silver aluminum is smooth without being slippery and the shape is comfortable and well-balanced. I was prepared to find the pen either heavy or too masculine but its neither. The writing end is a tad bulbous, aesthetically, but when writing, I didn’t notice it. It just feels pleasant in the hand.

The twist mechanism is unusual. Its a short half turn, if that much, expose the tip, and there is no knurling or texture added to the end for grip so if you have slippery fingers, the retracting mechanism might prove a little annoying. Maybe I’m spoiled by years of Retro 51 with the deep knurling that makes it easy to twist the mechanism even with wet or greasy fingers but the Squire is definitely for a drier pad. With the rollerball refill, you will definitely want to get the tip retracted too or you’ll have a big leak in your bag or pocket. If you swap out the refill with a ballpoint, it would be less of a concern.

One thing I did notice was that the silver finish of the pen pretty much picks up dirt and ink from everything. I was continually wiping smudges off the pen as I used it. Had I known the silver was quite so prone to gunge, I probably would have chosen the charcoal over the silver for a slightly more camouflage approach to dirt. The silver is pretty but clearly I’m messy.

The Baron Fig Squire ships with a branded Schmidt P8127 rollerball refill. Its a little too liquidy for me making my writing appear even more inconsistent than ever. But the refill is something that can be easily remedied. It looks like the Squire will accept a Parker-style capless refill so I’ll probably grab a couple Monteverde fine gel refills in blue-black, black and maybe turquoise ($4 each from Goldspot Pens) and try those out instead.

Baron Fig Squire closed

Overall, I really like the pen. And I say that with a bit of surprise because the pen was so hyped. Not that I didn’t expect the guys over at Baron Fig to do a good job. I did. But the Squire was a bit like a summer blockbuster movie for the pen community. There was so much hype and excitement that I wasn’t sure that actually holding the pen in my hand could live up to my expectations.

But in the end, I am really quite pleased. I suspect I will use it regularly. Its aesthetically appealing, comfortable in the hand and allows me plenty of refill options since I’m a great big picky-pants about that. And isn’t that what you want from a good pen? Something that feels good in the hand and writes the way YOU want it to write?

If you missed out on the Kickstarter and are interested in purchasing a Baron Fig Squire, they are taking pre-orders on their web site for $55.

Ask The Desk: Felt Tip Pen Conundrums

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Amanda asked:

I’m a university student that loves using felt-tip pens but I hate how they show through the other side of my pages! Are there any affordable felt tip pens that won’t show through the pages of a cheap spiral bound notebooks?

and then to make matters even more complicated, Grace asked this great big question:

I am a typical college student who fell in love with felt tip/plastic tip pens. I have gotten my hands on Sharpie pen, Monami Plus pen, and Stabilo 88. I mostly use them for rewriting and color-coding my notes. I write a lot and I write hard (press). I would like your suggestion/opinion on which pen I should use.

So far, the Sharpie pen held up the best. It writes neat and it’s the only felt tip pen that doesn’t bleed through the page. The only bad thing about it is that it tends to strip after a while and get on your hands. It’s like having black and sliver sparkles/glitter coming off fro the pen.

The Plus pen writes neat but the tip softens as times goes on, has a tendency to “trip and splash” on the paper. What I mean by that is… It starts off writing really smooth and thin. Then when there’s the smallest variation in paper (that wouldn’t be detected by other pens), the tip would flex and bounce, making an ink splash. It really doesn’t seem to last too long compared to the other pens that I have had in the past.

Stabilo 88 is fine but is a bit thicker, and that is understandable since it’s an art pen. It bleeds through but it really lasts a while. The color seems to darken after uncapping for a few seconds but comes back to the normal color after a few strokes.

So I am trying to narrow down the choices for the next choice of pens that I should use. From what I have, I know that the plus pen is out. I am leaning more towards the Sharpie pen and Stabilo (Sharpie > Stabilo). Now I have been searching for more pens and I discovered from various sites about Sakura Pigma Micron. Would you say that Sakura Pigma Micron is better than Sharpie pen for uses of smooth and continuous note writing in college? I’m looking in the aspects of: grip, cost, color variety, smoothness, bleeding, and the time it lasts.

Since both questions are about felt tip pens and the issue of bleeding through the paper I’m going to respond to them together. While Grace’s question is much more in depth, I hope Amanda will glean some info out of this as well.

But for both of you college-ladies-on-a-budget, the bad news is that felt tip pens will most likely show through, if not bleed through, most budget notebook paper. Be prepared to either use only the front sides of the sheets or get an extra sheet of paper or cardstock to use as a blotter between pages to keep the inks from bleeding to the next page. Cut down a manila folder as an option for a budget blotter but be sure its not coated or glossy or you could have a mess on your hands.

Onward to the pens!

For the greatest color range and a slightly finer tip than the Stabilo88s, I recommend looking for the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners. The tips seem to be the same but I find the Staedtlers to be a bit firmer and oh, the colors!

As for the Sakura Pigma Microns, they have very fine tips but tend to be pricier than Sharpie pens and the tips can go soft or dull very easily. As for the paint on the barrel of the Sharpie coming off on your hand, have you considered the Sharpie retractable model? It has a plain black barrel with a silicone grip section. There’s not as much ink in the retractable model as the regular capped model but if you can find a good price on a multi-pack at a big box store, it might be a good investment for comfort and no-paint-transfer. I also find that the Sharpie pens are the least likely to have show through on most papers, closely followed by the copycat Bic Intensity.

A budget option to the Sakura Pigma Micron is the ZIG Millennium line of felt tip pens. They can often be found in craft big box stores or online and the fine, fine lines of the 005 and 01 versions might not bleed through most papers but may not hold up to heavy-handed writing. But they are not as expensive as Microns so you won’t be heartbroken if you kill one. I have killed many many Microns so I know how sad it can be. I’ve also killed Copic Multiliners, and a whole army of fancy tech pens.

So for straight-up black felt tips, stick with the Sharpie pen in either retractable or regular capped. If you want to try something finer, try the ZIG Millennium. And for color coding, I recommend the Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.

I tested a bunch of these felt tips on the cheapest paper I had on hand, it was a budget-priced composition notebook that has basically newsprint paper inside just to show what kind of show through or bleed I got.

Cheap paper felt tip pen test Cheap paper felt tip pen test from the reverse

Best of luck with finals!

Article: Don’t Write Off The Pen

Newspaper article

My darling Dad sent me this article about the pen industry, including a short interview with the owner of Century Pens in downtown Chicago who was an absolute sweetheart to me last year when I went in to shop. It’s a good article about the good, the bad and the luxury in the pen industry. Sadly, I could not find the sidebar article about “Pens found on the desks of 10 Chicago Executives.” My favorite comment was from Sharon O’Keefe who is the president of the University of Chicago Medicine who is quoted excitedly about her current obsession, a Sailor Professional Gear with a fine point.

(From the Chicago Tribune from Sunday January 31, 2016)

Ask The Desk: The One Pen, Jotter Hacks & A5 Notebook

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Portia asks:

If you could only use one fountain pen, what would it be? I’ve never had one before, but I also don’t need another expensive hobby/collection, so I’d like to stick to just one purchase. I really like a smooth feel to my writing (so gels and ballpoints over felt tips!) if that matters.

Okay, here’s my answer but please leave your answer in the comments!

Pilot Metropolitan Reto Pop Fountain Pens

I’d have to say if I had to pick just one fountain pen that had a comparable experience to a gel pen, I’d probably pick a Pilot Metropolitan/Retro Pop with a F nib. They are super smooth writers and the fine nib is comparable to the 0.5mm or finer gel tips depending on the paper stock and ink. The M nib is closer to an 0.5-0.7mm gel tip, if you prefer a wider point.

You can get a converter for them which will give you an unending array of ink options as well. The Metropolitan/Retro Pop is not an expensive pen either so you won’t have invested too much into a new hobby and can put extra funds towards inks instead.

David asks:

I’m looking for a good A5 sized notebook/journal just for note taking and doodling. Nothing too serious :-). Just random thoughts and ideas as they come to me. I tend to write with ballpoints and pencils as I’m terrible at loosing pens so don’t usually buy anything more expensive than that. Which brings me to my question. Do you know if there are any decent A5 journals out there that come with pen loops/holders on them? Is this very common? Or do most people think this kind of thing is a bit intrusive which is why you tend not to see it so much.

The solution to your pen loop problem is the Leuchtturm adhesive pen loop. Depending on your locale, Bureau Direct, Cult Pens and Goulet Pens all stock this genius little add-on. I adhere one into the back of my notebooks and they work brilliantly. I’ve yet to try to remove one and they have not fallen off either so the adhesive seems good.

Leuchtturm Pen Loop

This opens up your options for an A5 notebook to a wider variety based on whether you prefer soft or hardcover books, lined, graph or blank paper. Actually, Leuchtturm1917 makes wonderful A5 sized notebooks in softcover and hardcover with lined, graph, dot grid or blank paper with numbered pages and an index. The paper is good quality and they pack a lot of sheets into each book. Most people consider them to be a step up, quality-wise from a Moleskine and the Leuchtturm1917 books are genuinely A5 sized. I reviewed the neon green edition here. Rhodia webnotebooks are higher quality notebooks with paper suitable for fountain pens but the books are pricier as well. If you stick to non-fountain pens, it may be more than you need. There are reviews of the Rhodia webnotebook in blank, dot grid and the Rhodiarama edition available for more details.

And last, Bill had a question about refills:

I do have a question about the Schmidt P8126 Capless Rollerball in the Parker Style refill section. Form the images I have seen of the refill it doe not seem to have the toothed cap on top like a standard Parker ballpoint refill. Do you know if the Schmidt P8126 will still work in a click pen like a Parker Jotter?

Sadly, the Schmidt P8126 will not work with the Parker Jotter. It turns out the P8126 is slightly too wide to fit into the Jotter barrel. Also, because of the flat cone shape of the refill, even boring out the barrel, the refill would not fit into the tapered end of the pen. Total pen hack fail.

But, I did find a possible alternative: The Kaweco Sport G2 Rollerball refill. It’s available in blue or black as a medium but I tested it out and its not super wide. Monteverde makes Parker-style gel refills in fine point in a variety of colors which might also be an option.

At the end of my written review of the Parker Jotter, I swapped out the regular ballpoint ink with the Monteverde gel ink fine point in blue black if you want to see how it performs. Its not a thorough review but at least its a peek. I write pretty small too.

Pen Review: Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens close-up

The Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens, available in SB, MB and BB, were something I discovered in a very roundabout way. I was reading Lisa Condon’s blog again and she was talking about more of the tools she liked yo use. I started clicking on links and next thing I knew, voila! I had these in my cart. They are longer than a standard Micron pen, more like a paint brush length and a bit more expensive at $3.90 each but the ink is fade resistant, archival and waterproof and I think the tips are a superior quality to the standard Pigma brush line so I think the upcharge is worth it.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen Tips

The tips of the pens are felt/foam/whatever-it-is and it is the springiest version of this material that I’ve ever experienced. Even with pressure, the points and edges spring back into shape quickly and easily. Making them fun to use and they keep their brush point shape. The point retention seems really good too though I’ve only used them for about a week so time will be the real determining factor here but so far, so good.

Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pens writing sample

These were so fun to draw with the range of line widths, even with the finest tip size was quite dramatic. The BB was big! If you like to work large or want to do something like calligraphic graffiti, this would be a great pen for it. Such fun. In my waterproof test, I had no issues with water but when I added the Sakura Koi Coloring Brush pens over the watered wet ink, I did get some running of the colors. I don’t know if this was a reaction from the ink in the Coloring Brush pens or the combination of the water, Professional Brush pen and Coloring Brush pens. That said, the Professional Brush pens were not affected by the water at all but did get some color travel with the other markers so you may want to do some experiments before using these pens on artwork just in case there are any other fugitive color reactions. My next experiments will probably be with actual watercolor paints and the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens. I think that would look great if the colors don’t bleed.

Overall, I love the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush pens and I look forward to seeing the longevity of the tips. So springy, I hope they last a long time!


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Gelly Roll 64-Piece Gel Pen Set

gelly rolls

Hoo, boy! When I decide to go down the path I pretty much take the WHOLE ROAD. In the case of the Sakura Gelly Roll pens, I got the whole kit-and-caboodle! That’s right, I got the Sakura Gelly Roll 64-Color Set Box ($80). I mean, really? How was I supposed to pick just a handful?

The pens came in a translucent plastic box divided into five sections and the wrapper has a color key on the reverse that I could fill in see what each color looks like. Don’t you just want to dig your fingers into each of these compartments and pull out all the pens?!?! The box is a standard plastic art supply tackle box but did not add anything to the cost of the purchase of the all these pens and gave a nice way to keep them all organized. The 64-pen set works out to $1.25 per pen which is cheaper than buying the pens individually so the case is basically free. WIN!

gelly rolls

The 64-color set includes 17 classic/regular pens (in 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm), 14 metallic pens, 10 Moonlight pens, 13 Stardust pens, and 10 Shadow Pens (5 in gold shadow and 5 in silver shadow).

The Classic Gelly pens (0.3 mm and 0.4 mm) glide on in a gloss look and dry to an opaque matte finish. These are available in fine and medium point and include on opaque white which is probably one of the most popular options. The white is a great pen for adding in highlights on drawings, using as a “white out” pen or for writing on dark papers. The Gelly Roll Classics look like matte paint when dry which is part of their appeal.

The Metallic pens (0.4mm)  have a fine mica metallic sheen and are opaque making them great for dark stocks.  The colors included a range of jewel tones, gold, silver and copper plus a black metallic which reminded me of asphalt.

The Moonlight colors (listed as 0.5 mm but its seems much wider) are fluorescent and/or super opaque bright colors but take an age to dry and are a pretty wide point. Despite the slow dry times and wide tips, I find myself reaching for these over and over.

The Stardust pens (listed as 0.5 mm but its seems much wider), particularly the clear which is one of my favorite, are glitter with an archival ink base. The glitter may flake away but the colors will remain true. These also had a bit longer dry time but not as long as the Moonlight or Shadow pens.

The Shadow pens (0.7 mm) are the strangest of the bunch, in my opinion. These pens will halo with either silver or gold with a core of the ink color. They are very thick, viscous color and take some time to dry but would be fun for decorating envelopes or letters. They are definitely a bit too broad from general note-taking.

gelly rolls

I tried to photograph my samples from a couple angles to catch the light and show the tinkly effects of the various pens but I think I’ll end up having to put together a quick video just to show off the full effect at some point.

gelly rolls

gelly rolls

gelly rolls

Strangely, my favorite colors in the set ended up being the Moonlight Fluorescent Vermillion, the Stardust Sky Star, the Metallic Emerald (that was sort of a “duh”), the Stardust Clear glitter, the Classic medium orange, and the fine Classic Royal Blue. I pulled those out and added them to my daily pen case. I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the Shadow pens but I suspect envelope addressing will be their forte.

If you think you might ever want to go down the Gelly Roll Rabbit Hole, I think you’re going to have to buy the whole 64-pen box. You’re going to want ALL OF THE COLORS. I know I did and I’m glad I did. Yes, $80 is a lot of money but then I think how much I spend on one fountain pen and it all goes back into perspective.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Pen Review: Pilot Multi Ball

Pilot Multiball

I found the Pilot Multi Ball pen in a subscription kit I received this week. Its not a pen I’d ever seen before but it turns out to be one I could easily pick up at JetPens for $1.65. Its a fine tipped rollerball and what I didn’t realize until after I wrote my review is that one of its notable characteristics is its ability to write on slick surfaces though it might take awhile to dry. I just used it as a standard rollerball and compared it to other pens in my stash.

Pilot Multiball

The entire time I was using the Pilot Multi Ball I kept yelling “multipass!” If you’re a fan of the sci-fi film The Fifth Element, you’ll understand the reference. Besides the silly and slightly distracting name, the pen was actually a pleasing experience. I was surprised because I  picked it up on a whim thinking it was going to be a ho-hum extra added into my subscription kit as filler.  I’m also one of those unfortunate left handed writers that choke the life out of rollerball pens so I have a tendency to avoid them most of the time. Killing a pen by touching it is just embarrassing. But I didn’t kill the Multi Ball. In fact, it wrote smoothly for me and created a nice, clean, fine line.

The Multi Ball pen is a simple, capped, plastic barrel with a rubbery grip section and a plastic clip. Its wider than most low-end, plastic, non-refillable pens. The barrel is closer in diameter to a Sharpie marker than to a Sharpie Pen. It makes it quite comfortable for longer writing sessions. The cap will post but the clip also keeps the cap from rolling off the table so I just left it off while I wrote.

Pilot Multiball

I wanted to compare the Multi Ball to the writing from a couple other pens to show the line weight and ink color. As you can see the black ink is quite dark and dense and, because of the rollerball tip, the Multi Ball is not going to lose its fine point over time the way a felt tip pen will. At the bottom you can see how, within three words, I choke the life out of a regular Uniball rollerball pen.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the Pilot Multi Ball. Its not a pen I would have purchased because of my past experiences with rollerball pens but I’m glad it ended up in my hands. It’s made me reconsider looking at other rollerballs as well.

Pen Review: Sakura Ballsign Neon & Pastel Sets

Sakura Ballsign Neon & Pastel 0.6mm

I tend to get afflicted with pen obsessions and my current passion is all things Sakura Ballsign. Poor pens with the stupid names but good grief are they fabulous to write with! At first, I thought Ballsign the shape was a little odd — sort of an elongated teardrop shape that was a little bulbous at the grip — and visibly unappealing that would make me not want to use them. However, what made them sort of dumpy-looking made them extremely comfortable to hold. The retractable tip also made them easy to use and super portable which made me want to use them even more. Add to that, the fact that the original set I purchased was virtually waterproof and I was hooked. So I had to order more of them.

I placed an order for the pastel ($13.50) and neon ($13.50) sets. These were both available in 5-color sets in 0.6mm sizes only but I was willing to give them a shot. Each 5-piece set came in a poly-plastic box. Its not super durable like the StaedtlerTriplus marker boxes but enough to keep the sets together if you prefer to keep them separated.

The pastel and neon sets at 0.6mm are just a tiny bit wider than what I would normally choose in my gel pens but because the colors are pretty light, the wider lines are probably not a bad thing to help make everything a bit more visible.

Sakura Ballsign Neon Pastel 0.6mm

Upon testing the colors first on white paper, most of the colors showed up pretty nicely on the paper. The neon yellow was a bit light  and the pastel white was, of course, not particularly useful on white. But I had a sneaking suspicion that these pens might also work well on dark or colored paper stocks.

Sakura Ballsign Neon 0.6mm

Sakura Ballsign Pastel 0.6mm

I tested both colors on swatches of black gesso and lo and behold all five colors in both sets are opaque over dark colors! If you have a kraft paper insert for your Midori Traveler’s Notebook or other toned paper stocks, you might find these pens to be very fun and useful. I even like the matte opaque qualities of the pastels on white paper and the vivid neon of the pink, red and orange on white paper as well.

The neon and pastel Ballsign pens are not as water resistant as the standard Ballsign gel pens which is the only drawback I could find and it really is a minor complaint since very few gel pens are actually water resistant anyway.

If you like the idea of adding some more varied colors to your gel pen collection for color coding than the neon and/or pastel Sakura Ballsign sets would make great additions.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Kickstarter: Baron Fig Squire Pen

Baron Fig Squire Kickstarter

After successfully launching their Confidant notebooks, Baron Fig has decided to tackle the pen market now too. Today, they launched their first entry into the pen market, The Squire. The simple design, aluminum pen is available in two finishes: silver and charcoal to match their signature notebooks. The Squire features a twist mechanism to reveal the pen tip and was designed to be small enough to fit in your pocket but long enough to fit comfortably in your hand.

The Squire is etched with the Baron Fig name and a sword, as in “mightier than a… ” All in all the design is clean and simple.

The Baron Fig Squire uses a Parker-style 0.6 mm fine capless rollerball refill so there are lots of options for modifying what type of refills you might use with the  pen.

The project can be backed for as little as $50 and the project has already been funded after being live for just five hours. There’s several other funding options, some of which include a special limited edition Confidant notebook too. You in?

 

Pen Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Nature Colors 6-colors Set

Staedtler nature colors triplus fineliner markers

First, I promise this is the last set of Staedtler Triplus Finerliner markers I will review because I have them all now. I couldn’t resist. That said, the Nature Set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners ($7.50) are probably my favorite set. It could be because they are the most seasonally appropriate here in the autumnal continental US right now. The set features Green Earth, Warm Sepia, Tuscan Red, Gray, Carmine and Mauve (which looks more like plum to me but I never think anyone names colors properly anyway). The gray in this set is actually a totally usable gray, unlike the silver gray in the Pastel set which is too pale to be usable for writing.

Staedtler nature colors triplus fineliner markers

Actually, I found all the colors in this set usable for writing and there is enough variation in color to create visual interest in note-taking to be interesting without being jarring. Sophisticated palette appropriate for nature sketches or just because.

The Staedtler Triplus Fineliners feature the slim 0.3mm felt tip point, water soluble ink, triangular barrels, and ink designed to be able to be uncapped for long periods of time without drying out. The set comes in the fold-over plastic travel case which is sturdy and easy to use.

Staedtler nature colors triplus fineliner markers

Now, if Staedtler would just make a set of these markers with waterproof ink , I would be the happiest person in the world. But overall, these are wonderful and if you are not trying to combine them with watercolor or other water soluble pens or brushes, I recommend them with my highest praise.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details

Pen Review: Crayola Gel Markers

Crayola Gel Markers

A few weeks ago I saw a post on Instagram where a calligrapher was doing some amazing lettering on black paper and laying off to the side was the distinctive undulating line on the marker of the Crayola wedge marker but the marker was black. Why had I never seen one of these markers before and how was the ink standing up all opaque on black paper?!?!? I must know what this is and I must know now!!!!! Since I have access to the source that the Crayola catalog, I went hunting and discovered that the marker was a Crayola Gel Markers and I toddled myself down to our corporate store ASAP and purchased a package to test them out myself.

Crayola Gel Markers writing sample

There are only eight colors available in the set: a black that looks more dark grey than black, red, pink, yellow, purple, blue (aqua), green and white. While the color range is not super broad, the conical tip provides a range of line variation and they are actually a lot more opaque than I expected. The white is actually clear and dries white so it works best if used slowly so you can keep track of your strokes but all the other pens leave visible lines as you write. Going over the white lines will also create a more opaque white which was nice.

Crayola Gel Markers writing sample

As with all Crayola products, the pens are washable (which means they are water-soluble) and non-toxic (they may not taste great but you can lick them if you want to) so you can share these pens with your kids and they are also extremely reasonable priced. I believe I purchased my set for about $5 or $6 but I’m sure you can find them in a big box store for less.

Crayola Gel Markers writing sample

I think these would be great fun to use with coloring books or on construction paper and a fun way to practice calligraphy, address envelopes or generally spice up an already burgeoning pen collection without breaking the bank. Go forth and scribble!


While this post can be qualified as “plugging the firm” I purchased these with my own money and all the opinions expressed here are my own and are no way influenced by my place of employment.

Review: UniBall Signo DX 0.38 Hello Kitty Special Edition Pens

Uniball Signo DX Hello Kitty

I’m clearly catering to my inner 7-year-old this month. I saw the Uniball Signo DX 0.38 Hello Kitty Special Edition gel pens and the next thing I know, the whole color array was in my mail box. There are only five colors available: red, pink, orange, purple, green and blue and each sells for $3 (a $0.50 upcharge than the standard Signo DX 0.38 gel pens but KITTY!). The barrels of the pens are covered with Hello Kitty’s signature bows and feature the Hello Kitty logo and her face. Other than those little details, they are classic Uniball Signo DX gel pens with the rubber grip, metal cone above the tip, plastic clip on the cap and round, plastic barrel.

Uniball Signo DX Hello Kitty

The colors are clean and bright and easy to see. Its actually a great starter set of colors if you’ve never tried Uniball Signo DX pens before. The 0.38 width are my favorites and are great for writing on a wide variety of office papers like copies, planners, index cards and sticky notes.

They write smoothly and cleanly and are actually pretty water resistant. Safe enough for addressing envelopes and could be used in combination with water-based markers without making mud.

Uniball Signo DX Hello Kitty

If you are Kitty-averse, these same colors are available in the standard UniBall Signo DX UM-151 models in the 0.38 size. But c’mon, who doesn’t love Hello Kitty?

Review: Zebra Kirarich Glitter Highlighter and NaKniSweMo

Kirarich glitter highlighter

This may be a strange way to talk about a highlighter or the start of November but stick with me for a minute. The beginning of November for a lot of people means the start of NaNoWriMo. For many knitters, myself included, its the start of NaKniSweMo – National Knit-a-Sweater-in-a-Month. This is my seventh year participating and hopefully my seventh successful completion. I’ve had some fumbles over the years but there are seven well-loved sweaters in my closet thanks to NaKniSweMo so I’m willing to compete myself to the challenge again this year. No, its probably not as hard as writing a whole novel in a month but its good fun and a challenge just the same.

Kirarich glitter highlighter

And for me, it means that I need a good highlighter to notate my pattern and highlight the specific size I’m knitting. That’s where Zebra Kirarich Glitter Highlighter in yellow ($2.05 each) comes into the picture. I ordered it awhile ago and its become my go-to highlighter. Why? It’s glittery!!!! Its not so glittery as to be distracting. But I know its glittery. It will catch the light and sparkle and just sort of brighten my day. My highlighting is all of a sudden kissed by unicorns. Its totally ridiculous and twee but I’ve been having a rough few weeks so if glitter makes me happy, so be it.

The Kirarich Glitter Highlighters are also available in blue, pink, orange, purple and green. There’s a five pack set with all colors for $10 if you need ALL THE GLITTER or a smaller 3-pack with just the yellow, pink and green if you have a little self- control.

 

Kirarich glitter highlighter


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Ask The Readers: Broad Nibs for the Vision Impaired

ask the readers header

Mark has a really great question, and I know that you, my readers, will have some great ideas for him:

I’m legally blind, and looking for a broad line. Currently, I use a Uni-ball Signo RT with 1.0mm refill. I’m considering the Ohto Fude Ball 1.5mm, Pilot VP with tuned broad nib, and Lamy 2000 with B or BB nib.

The Lamy BB looks nice and broad, but it has a reputation for QC issues. I’d love to see a line comparison between the Ohto Fude Ball and Vanishing Point in broad.

I tend to favor fine line pens so I’m not the best person to recommend broad nibs but that’s such a good option to help folks with vision issues. I’ve used the Kaweco BB nib and it lays down a THICK line. My instinct is that a European or US fountain pen with a broad nib, like most fountain pens, is going to have a broader nib than a Japanese pen, unless it is modified by a nibmeister.

Of course, the Nib Nook tool on Goulet Pens is a great to get a visible comparison between various B and BB nib options that they stock. Like this:

Nib Nook B and BB

In regards to gel pens, JetPens has a post on Broad Pens for its Penpedia that covers the pens it stocks from 1.0 to 1.6mm. There’s some good options there that will be both  broad and reasonably priced.

Does anyone have other thick line recommendations for Mark? Or some comparison images of some broad lines to share? If you include links in the comments, I’ll add them to the post. Thanks!

Ask The Desk: Tot Staples & MAGIC Erasers & Pens for the Signo 151

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Jan asks:

Is there a replacement for the Tiny Tot staples?
I’ve had a red one most of my life and only have a few bars left. Please help it is the best thing for my small desk.

Oh, I’ve got you covered! I too collect vintage TOT staplers and discovered that JetPens stocks staples from Japan No. 10s that fit perfectly. They even come in colors. You can also do a search on the internet or Amazon for No. 10 staples and find other options.

Kimmar asks:

Are Koh-inoor Magic erasers  available in the US?

Sadly, I’ve not found a source for Koh-i-noor Magic erasers in the US but there are vendors on  Ebay that will sell them from Europe and ship them over. That’s how I acquired my last batch. Andy from Woodclinched placed an order and sent me a few. Maybe you can find a few other pencil/eraser enthusiasts online to go in on an order with you? Maybe through the Pen Addict Slack channel, FPN or other social network?

UPDATE: Our good friend Greer Chicago does stock Koh-i-noor Magic erasers but does not have many in stock currently. Grab them quickly or check back and I’m sure they will restock soon.

koh-i-noor magic erasers

Jairo asks:

I was wondering if you know a good pen holder (i.e, retro 51, Karas Kustoms Render K, ti2 tech… etc) for the refill of a uni-ball signo UM-151 0.38?

it does not have to be all metal, but an improvement over the actual body of the pen 😉

The UM-151 sized refill is the same as the Pilot Hi-Tec C so there are some options available for a good pen holder. Should you need to later refill the pen holder, that refill is listed as a  Uni-Ball Signo UMR-1 or UM-151. UM-153 and UM-100 will also fit.

There’s the Eco-Essentials Pen, the Karas Kustoms Render K, the Big I Design Titanium Pen, the Tactile Turn Mover, and the Pen Type-A for starters. The best option is to look for pens that say they will accept the Pilot Hi-Tec C refill for the widest variety.

Preview: Karas Kustoms EDK Exclusively from MassDrop (Plus Giveaway)

Karas Kustoms EDK

Have you heard about the Karas Kustoms EDK yet? The EDK is the latest machined pen from Karas Kustoms. As the name implies, this is pen designed to be your next everyday carry (or would that be “karry”?).

Karas Kustoms EDK comparison

This is Karas Kustoms’ smallest pen to date. It uses the same whisper-quiet retracting mechanism as the RETRAKT. The EDK is just over 5” and the pen is just under 0.5″ wide (not including the clip). When held with the clip up, the pen is quite comfortable in the hand.  The grooves in the body provide extra grip and give the EDK a unique look when compared to other pens in the Karas Kustoms line-up. The most notable difference is the pre-weathered, tumbled finish is the EDK. It looks like its been in your pocket or in the bottom of your bag for years from the minute it arrives.

The EDK will be available in Aluminum, Brass and Copper combinations with prices ranging from $55-$105 depending on materials. The brass and copper models are a smoother finish, the aluminum is the only model that’s tumbled (or if there are aluminum sections in the model you choose).

Karas Kustoms EDK comparison
The EDK compared with (from left): Karas Kustom 2-Tone RETRAKT, Karas Kustom INK, Karas Kustoms Render K, the EDK, Kaweco Sport in aluminum and a Kaweco Liliput

The EDK ships with a Schmidt P8126 refill, a standard Parker-Style refill and capable of taking most G2-style refills if they are trimmed down to fit which gives you a whole slew of refill options.

Karas Kustoms EDK

The EDK will be available through MassDrop on Oct. 26. You can vote now and be notified the moment these become available.

Karas Kustoms EDK

In the meantime, if you’d like a chance to win this EDK, leave a comment below and tell me where the EDK will go with you.


FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Sunday, October 25, 2015. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Monday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 30 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US Residents only.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Massdrop for the purpose of preview. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pastel Set

Staedtler Fineliner Pastel Set

After my love affair with the large set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners I decided I needed more! So I decided to grab the Stadetler Triplus Fineliner Pastel 6-color set ($7.50). The set comes in a clear plastic case like the larger sets and are the same triangular shape and 0.3mm tips as all the other Staedtler Fineliners. The colors are water-soluble so plan accordingly.

Staedtler Fineliner Pastel Set

In this set was a Light Carmine (pink), Peach (orange), Lime Green, Delft Blue (blue grey), Lavender (lilac purple), and Silver Gray. The only color that was a duplicate of the previous set was the grey which I was particularly disappointed about since the grey was so light in the original set. To clarify, the grey included in both of my sets was the silver grey not the standard grey pen (which is presently sold out on JetPens). The other colors can also be purchased individually for $1.30 per pen on JetPens if you want to pick and choose your colors.

Staedtler Fineliner Pastel Set

However, the other colors more than made up for my disappointment in the grey. Particularly, the Lavender and Delft Blue colors. The Lavender is a smoky plum orchid color and is just lovely. The Delft Blue is a blue grey color and totally usable for writing or drawing. The Lime is a tiny bit too light for writing but would be fun for coloring in or underlining. The Peach is actually a punchy orange color and the Light Carmine is a soft dusty pink that is quite pleasing and not too My Little Pony pink.

Overall, I’m pleased with the set. The Delft blue and Lavender colors made me giddy because the colors were so unique in the world of colored markers. All the other colors in the set are fun pastels with the exception of the grey as well. I have a feeling I’ll just pull the grey out and replace it with a black Fineliner and then this set will make a great little travel pack.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Sharpie Pen Retractable

Sharpie Pen Retractable

Several weeks ago, I put a shout out on the internet asking if Sharpie made a retractable version of their Pen. Within minutes, I got replies back (all kindly withholding the urge to say “Duh, Ana! Of course they do!”). Indeed, there is a retractable version of the Sharpie Pen. So I immediately hustled out to my local big box office supply store and nabbed a pack of two. I only saw the retractable version available in black but do let me know if you’ve seen any of the colors available as well.

Sharpie Pen Retractable

Aesthetically, the most notable difference is that the Sharpie Pen retractable features a much wider barrel. The size in the hand is comparable to a Dr. Grip, multi-pen or biggie crayon as opposed to the capped Sharpie Pen which is just a little wider than a Marvy Le Pen.

This bigger grip is probably to allow room for the mechanism that covers the pen opening to keep the ink from drying out. Unlike a gel or ballpoint pen, felt tips cannot be left exposed to the air indefinitely or they will dry out.

There are a few other design modifications to the retractable model. There is a grippy rubber at the grip section which make the wider pen comfortable to hold. The clip is metal and much more traditional looking than the plastic clip on the capped model.

Finally, the retracting button is one of the longest retracting mechanisms I’ve ever seen. I compared it to the manual clutch on an old Toyota truck. The retracting button is full thumb extension for me like that old truck was full leg extension. Its not a good or bad thing, just unusual. If it lets me retract the tip of a Sharpie pen, I’m willing to suffer thumb hyperextension. It’l probably keep me from nervously clicking the button in meetings for fear of a repetitive stress injury.

Sharpie Pen Retractable writing sample

In terms of overall performance, the Sharpie Pen retractable has all the same features that made me fall in love with the original capped model: waterproof, non-toxic, acid-free ink; fine tip and good black ink color.

If you previously found the standard Sharpie Pen to be too narrow in the barrel or prefer retractable pens, the Sharpie Pen retractable is going to be the perfect upgrade. A 2-pack is $6.25 from JetPens. The price for the retractable is a bit higher than it is for the standard capped Pen but its worth it if you find yourself capping and upcapping your pen all day. Click, click! Done!

Pen Review: Sakura Ballsign 0.4 Gel Pens

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen header

I know, I know… I need more gel pens like I need a hole in my head but I decided I just had to try the whole rainbow of colors of the new-to-me Sakura Ballsign 0.4mm gel pens. These pens are Sakura’s entry into the already-heavily-fortified gel pen category with heavyweights like Uni Signo, Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Zebra Sarasa and many others. So, the question is what does Sakura bring to the category that the others don’t?

First thing to note is that the Ballsign pens are very slender with a bulbous grip section that has a grippy, elastomer material. Despite being odd looking, the shape is smooth and fits comfortably in the hand and the unusual grippy material is not as sticky and dust-collecting as silicone but still manages to feel good in the hand and counteract any slipping that might be caused by a tight or sweaty grip.

The Ballsign gel pens come in an array of colors. I purchased every color available in the small 0.4mm size which is the smallest tip available. There are neons, metallics and glitter options at 0.6mm and 0.8mm sizes. I will probably give some of those a spin based on my initial impressions of the 0.4mm gel pens.

The Ballgin gel pens are spring-loaded retractables and I quite like the mechanism. The tips are held in place pretty firmly with very little wiggle and the spring mechanism is easy to use. The clear barrels let you see not only the click mechanism and spring but there’s also a small transparent window to see how much ink is left. The top half of the barrel is painted in solid color to make it easy to find the pen you want.

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen set

The ten-pack set ($27) included: aqua blue (I labelled this Lt. Blue), black, blue, brown black, green, orange, pink, red, violet (I mislabelled this purple) and yellow. I also bought additional colors separately ($2.70 each) so that I’d have the full color range. The extra colors are: rose pink, cherry pink,  lime green, red orange, and blue. I mixed up all the pink colors immediately so I’m not sure which pink is labelled which way. Reviewing the samples on JetPens, I noticed more color differences between the pink and the cherry pink. The rose pink is the one I labelled “fuchsia”.

(Sidenote: I didn’t put the pens back correctly in the package because, like a kid, I dumped them all out and organized them in rainbow order and started doodling and writing. I do not have good impulse control when it comes to new office products.)

So now that I’ve cleared up all the naming inconsistencies, let’s discuss the performance.

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen color sample

The ten-pack set ($27) included: aqua blue (I labelled this Lt. Blue), black, blue, brown black, green, orange, pink, red, violet (I mislabelled this purple) and yellow. I bought the additional colors separately ($2.70 each): rose pink, cherry pink,  lime green, red orange, and blue. I mixed up all the pink colors immediately so I’m not sure which pink is labelled which way. Reviewing the samples on JetPens, I noticed more color differences between the pink and the cherry pink. The rose pink is the one I labelled “fuchsia”. So, now that I’ve cleared up all the naming inconsistencies, let’s discuss the performance.

The yellow is a bit too light to use for writing but all the other colors are very appealing. The lime green is also a little too light but its a bright, clean color so I’ll still probably use it. I love that they included the blue-black as a standard color in the 10-color set rather than the blue even though I like the blue color a lot. If I were to redo this order, I would still have bought the 10-color set but I would have only supplemented the basic colors with the red-orange and blue. The lime green is not the best and the pinks are all pretty similar. I’m not girly enough to need three shades of pink. But feel free to disagree.

Sakura Ballsign 0.4 pen writing sample

Each pen had the little globs of blue rubber on the tip to protect them from maybe drying out that I had to flick off. Once removed, these wrote super smooth and started immediately. I ended up finding the grip, despite looking sort of bulbous, are very comfortable to hold. I love the knock retractable feature.

I know folks love the Zebra Sarasa Clip clips but I’m kind of okay with the teeny tiny Ballsign clips. They keep the pens from rolling off my desk and since I don’t keep my pens in my shirt pocket, I don’t really need a big clip.

Sakura Ballsign waterproof test

At the last second, I realized I hadn’t done a waterproof test. Most gel pens are not particularly waterproof so I was going to skip it completely but I decided to test it anyway. I put a few Ballsign gel pens up against a few Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica pens I had sitting on my desk. And the grand differentiating feature was revealed! The Sakura Ballsign pens are pretty darn waterproof. After I took this picture I scavenged around and found a couple Pilot Juice and Uni Signo refills and tested those as well, for comparison sake. The Pilot Juice inks smeared with water like the Hi-Tec C. The Uni Signo refills bled a little, depending on color. The red more than the blue black I had, for example. But the Ballsign gel pens definitely stand out for water resistance in the gel pen category.

So, if you’re in the market for a wide variety of colored gel ink pens and don’t mind the comewhat unorthodox shape of the Ballsigns, I highly recommend them. Even if you do think they are a little wonky looking, add one or two to your next JetPens order and let me know what you think. I think you’ll agree with me… a little odd but a comfy, good little pen!

Review: Bic Intensity Marker Pen (Set of 7)

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

When I spotted these Bic Intensity Marker Pens in a set of seven colors at my local big box office supply store, I couldn’t resist trying them out. Its not often that I spy something in the big box store that I can’t resist. I could tell form the moment I picked up the blister pack that this was Bic’s best efforts to compete against the Sharpie Pen so I needed to see for myself if it could hold its own against such a reliable tool.

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

The Bic Intensity Marker Pens are listed on the packaging as smudgeproof and permanent. The package also lists the tip size as “fine” — equally vague sizing to the Sharpie Pen. The pack I bought included a black, blue, purple, orange, red, pink and green pen. The overall look of the pens is “shiny”. The black barrels are covered with zoom-y metallic silver graphics and the caps include a sturdy, metal clip. The clip is arched away from the pen cap which leaves space to attach the pen to a notebook or binder but it does make for a strange profile. The caps are also slightly metallic which wasn’t as noticeable in the vacform packaging. The ink colors are indicated by the colored plastic cap and the end cap on the pens. The colors of the plastic are not particularly true to the actual ink colors but they are in the ball park.

I don’t understand why American mass production, disposable pens have to be quite so “high tech” looking with lots of silver graphics and shimmery nonsense. Its a plastic marker pen, people… not the Space Shuttle. That said, this is not the worst looking big box pen I’ve ever seen.

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

So, let’s get into the true functionality of these pens. I was a little thrown by the pen cap colors hoping that the colors of the ink would match the complexity of the cap colors. But alas, no.

Thankfully, the black ink is a pleasingly, dark black and a total competitor for the Sharpie Pen. The red is a bright, true red. The blue was not a traditional blue pen blue but rather a lighter sky blue. The green is a bluish, emerald green color. The orange is a nice, juicy orange and the pink is actually a bit muted and not as raspberry as the cap eluded it might be. And finally, the purple is a muted, lavender color. I actually really like this color after I got over the initial shock of the purple not being a true violet color. All in all, the color range is okay. Some colors I quite like but for a standard array of six colors plus black, I was expecting more “intensity,” as the brand name implies. In actuality, some of the colors are quite light or muted.

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

Above you can see the wet, water test. No blurring or smudging at all which vastly improves these pens in my eyes.  Their waterproofiness means they can be combined with other art tools like watercolor, inks, pencils and the like and not blur. It also means they would be great for addressing envelopes or for anyone who might end up exposed to the elements. Big PLUS!

Bic Intensity Felt Tip Pens

And finally, a quick visual comparison of the tip size of the Bic Intensity to the Sharpie Pen and a Sakura Pigma Micron (0.3, I think). Despite my slightly fuzzy photo, you can see that the tip size is very comparable.

So, why would you choose the Bic Intensity pens over the Sharpie Pen or a Sakura Pigma Micron? First, availability. If your local discount store or big box office supplier stocks these locally, grab a pack. Second, price. The Bic Intensity is competitive to the Sharpie Pens and a little cheaper than Microns. If cost is a big deciding factor for you, than the Intensity pens maybe a little less expensive or on sale at your local shop. In terms of overall performance, you’ll be just as satisfied with these as Sharpie Pens. Finally, the more robust clip on the Intensity might be to your liking if you have ever snapped the clip off a Sharpie pen.

Let me know if you try these out. I’d love to hear what you like (or didn’t like about them).

From The Archives: Papermate Flair

from-the-archivesAfter attending Mike Rohde’s Sketchnotes Workshop, I rekindled my love for the PaperMate Flair. When we arrived for the workshop, each student was given a notebook and a PaperMate Flair. I hadn’t looked at or used one of these pens in a decade at least.

The PaperMate Flair is a simple, medium felt tip pen with a conical felt tip. The body of the pen is 100% old school. It has a softly tapered shape — wider at the center of the pen and tapering to narrow flat end at the cap. It doesn’t taper as much toward the end of the pen but the plastic has a matte look and feel. The cap has a slim metal clip.

This design probably hasn’t changed in 50 years. Actually, according to PaperMate’s web site, its only been 49 years! So its really a classic look and I’m so glad it hasn’t been changed.

PaperMate Flair Pen

While I have maintained an on-going love for felt tip pens, I have used mostly fine tip models like Sharpie Pen, Sakura Pigma Micron and Marvy LePen for the last few years. Uncapping the Flair is a trip down memory lane. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed using it after so much time. Its not the most elegant writing tool with its wide soft tip but it writes with a rich black line that makes labelling tags, file folders and other cases where a wider tip might come in handy. The Flair differ from the Sharpie marker in that they are not alcohol-based so the Flair do not bleed as much making them good for day-to-day office/school use.

The soft, felt tip will wear down over time especially on rougher surfaces. However, the Flair pens are reasonably priced. I bought a box of a dozen for about $10. So the shorter life span of these pens are too devastating.

I expect I’ll keep one tucked into each case and bag for writing notes and the occasionally doodle. They are just so classic and offer a writing quality that’s not available in many other pens.

The PaperMate Flair is also available in an array of colors (16, to be exact) and in an ultra fine tip which I’d be curious to find and try.

PaperMate Flair Pen

When left to dry for 10 minutes or so, the ink is fairly water resistant. But I do think it needs a little time to cure.


From the Archives is a series where I dig up old favorites, old classics and long forgotten tools and give them another look. Are they as good as I remember?