Posts Tagged ‘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?

Review: Sharpie Gel Highlighters

Sharpie Gel Highlighters

In my recent wanderings in the local big box office supply store, I came across the Sharpie Gel Highlighters. I’d been meaning to try these out for some time so I grabbed a three-pack with one each of yellow, orange and pink highlighter.

Sharpie Gel Highlighters

The Sharpie Gel highlighters have an unusual oval shaped barrel that is actually quite comfortable in the hand and keeps them from rolling off the table. There’s a clip on the stubby little cap that is part of the molded plastic cap. The clip would probably accommodate a notebook cover or pocket but not much else as its not very substantial and might end up snapping off if forced too hard.

Once uncapped, I discovered that the GEL wasn’t the same as gel ink (like you’d find in a Pilot G2 pen or a Hi-Tec C) but rather a a solid stick of a gel-like material. I can’t even think of a good comparison — maybe something between a crayon and a solid antiperspirant? Anyway I try to describe it, its quite unique. Since its a semi-solid material, the more its used, it will wear down so the bottom end of the pens has a twist mechanism to advance the Gel to the end like a twist mechanical pencil.

Sharpie Gel Highlighters

Did I mention that the highlighters smell like gummi bears?!?!? I haven’t wanted to sniff a marker since those grade school “smells like blueberries” markers as I do with these Sharpie Highlighters. That said, theses highlighters really do what they claim which is that they do not smear when applied over ink. Not fountain pen (your results might vary here as I did not test every fountain pen ink available), not felt top or gel pens. Not even pencil. And once the Gel Highlighters are applied to paper, they didn’t smear either.

I really like that Sharpie has attempted to rethink the highlighter, especially in light of how often gel pens are used these days and how easily some inks are to smear with traditional highlighters. These are definitely worth seeking out next time you’re near an office supply store.

Did I mention they smell like gummi bears?

Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner 20-color Felt Tip Marker Set (& Giveaway)

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Review

I was recently let loose in Target during back-to-school shopping without any adult supervision. In my melee of shopping enthusiasm, I couldn’t resist buying the largest set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliner felt tip markers they had.

The set included an array of standard colors and six neon colors as well. The set came in a sturdy plastic case with a flip top lid that would create an easel stand. It reminded me so much of those wonderful 64-color boxes of Crayola crayons with the built-in sharpener that I was helpless to resist. To an adult, fresh markers are just like a brand new box of crayons.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Writing Sample

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Writing Sample 2

The Staedtler Triplus series is notable for being quite long pens with a rounded triangular shape that makes them comfortable to hold.

I was surprised with how sophisticated the color palette was for this set including colors like a yellow ochre and rich reds and blues. These were certainly not watery kids’ markers in regards to the colors. The neons are lots of fun but the neon yellow is not dark enough for writing — maybe underlining or filling in shapes. Also, the grey marker was too light for writing but might be nice for drawing or coloring.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Review

The whole time I was using the Triplus markers I found myself comparing them to the Stabilo Point 88 markers I purchased not too long ago. There are a lot of similarities in regards to price as well. The Staedtler set cost me about $24 at Target while the mini sized Stabilo 18-color set was $15 from Jet Pens. Stabilo does make full-sized versions of the Point 88 markers which is entirely comparable in size, price and selection to the Staedtler Triplus markers.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner vs. Stabilo Point 88 0,4

The tips on the Stabilos and the Staedtlers are basically identical despite the numeric coding suggesting that the Stabilos are wider. I could not actually discern any difference in the writing samples I did. Colorwise, the two sets differed with the Stabilos having a wider range of traditional colors and the Staedtler having the wild neons instead. If you compare the Staedtler 20-color set listed on Jet Pens to the Stabilo 25-color set, the colors are very similar. The two sets are competitively priced ($25 and $22) but the Stabilo set offers five extra colors where the Staedtler set offers a more durable carrying case.

Staedtler Triplus Fineliner vs. Stabilo Point 88 0,4

Sorry this photo is a little blurry. (too much caffeine!) But you get the gist.

While I really enjoy the neon colors in the set I purchased, I wish I had seen the 20-color set available on JetPens that does include a wider array of grey shades plus yellow, orange, and aqua which I miss in the reduced set I purchased.

Would you like to win a set of 20-color Staedtler Triplus Fineliner markers or a 25-color set of Stabilo Point 88 markers from JetPens? I’m giving one set of markers away to a lucky reader. Leave a message in the comments and tell me which set you’d prefer and what you hope to use them for to be entered to win.

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Thursday, Spetember 17, 2015. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Wednesday. 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. US residents only please.

Finally, for an awesome chart comparing several type and brands of colored marker sets, check out JetPens’ Guide to Choosing a Felt Tip Marker.

News: Creative Types on Their Favorite Tools

Illustration by Kulapat Yantrasast

Illustration by Kulapat Yantrasast

There’s a great article on the NYTimes about Creative Types From Manolo Blahnik to Milton Glaser on Their Favorite Writing and Drawing Instruments. Thanks to Milton Glaser, I really want my own Koh-I-Noor multi-colored Magic Pencil.

While we’re on the topic of the NYTimes and its love of articles about pens and pencils, here’s a couple others to check out:

Video: How It’s Made: Space Pens, Colored Pencils, Fountain Pens & More

I found a great collection of pen-and-pencil-centric How Its Made videos. Some you may seen but I thought this would make for great lunchtime viewing. Enjoy!

This next video is how Aurora Fountain Pens are made:

This is the manufacturing process of Caran d’Ache colored pencils:

This next video is in Japanese subtitles with no spoken dialogue but its how Pilot makes its fountain pens so I thought it would be fun to watch even without narration. The first eight minutes is all about how the nibs are constructed which is a little slow to watch but fascinating!

Review: J. Herbin CreaPen Pinceau Brush Pen

J. Herbin Creapen Brush Pen

J. Herbin has gotten into the refillable brush pen arena with the CreaPen Pinceau Refillable Brush Pen ($20). It features a long narrow barrel design like traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes. The entire barrel is plastic and has minimal branding printed in gold. The cap is a simple faceted shape with no clip.The overall design of the pen is plain and simple. It does not offend visually but its pretty average looking overall.

What was intriguing to me was the synthetic bristle brush. The Akashiya Sai watercolor brushes are one of my favorite brush pens and they also use the synthetic bristles so I was hoping the CreaPen bristles would be similar.

J. Herbin Creapen Brush Pen

The tip holds a nice crisp point and is very springy making it fun for brush lettering and drawing. The ink flow is dark and black and dries pretty quickly. There were no smudges on my writing sample which is pretty impressive considering how much ink I laid down on a hot, humid day on a large Rhodia Uni-Blank #18 pad.

J. Herbin Creapen Brush Pen

For me, the biggest surprise is that the ink is completely waterproof when dry. This makes the CreaPen and accompanying ink prefect for outlining work mixed with watercolors or other wet media.

The pen ships with three black ink cartridges that appear to be slightly non-standard in shape and feature a metal ball bearing in the cartridge. Packs of four cartridge refills ($8 per pack) are available in black as well as four other colors Since the black ink is waterproof, I suspect that the cartridge could be refilled with Platinum Carbon Ink rather than using the J. Herbin cartridges but I’m curious if the non-black colors are also waterproof. I’d also like to see if a standard cartridge or converter would work with the CreaPen as a way to use non-waterproof inks. If anyone has tried this, please leave a comment to let me know if it works.

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.

The Downside of Teaching Your Spouse to Love Pens

@goldspotpens @retro1951 we have ignition! #liftoff

A video posted by ana reinert (@wellapptdesk) on

I don’t know where on the spectrum your significant other, spouse or children are on the “pen love” chart but I officially converted my husband to the joys of good pens about a year ago. As a result, certain items come into my house that I never, ever, ever see again. While I’m flattered that my pen-and-paper snobbery has rubbed off on him, I get jealous of the items he absconds with.

For example, the above video was the one and only time I saw the new Retro 51 Lift-Off pen. He showed me the rocket flare red cap and then it went in his pocket. To be fair, I totally bought the Lift-Off for Bob. I was able to garner from my quick peeks that the pen graphics are designed to read corerctly with the pen on its flat end, just like a rocket. Its apparent from the photos but until it was in Bob’s hand, I didn’t make the connection. And the bright red end cap does look like ignition burn red.

Bob also ran away with the Retro 51 Pinball edition. Which I was flattered he liked so much that he wanted it for himself.

He even checks out auction sites for NASA-specific Fisher Space Pens. I’ve yet to capture a good photo of it but he scored a mission-specific Shuttle launch commemorative pen with a space shuttle charm soldered to the pen cap. He loves this pen! See? He does not share his treasures! I’ve taught him too well.

(All I got for you is the Field Notes “stock photo”. You know as much as I do.)

Also, the new Field Notes Colors Edition Workshop Edition got as far as my kitchen table before Bob slid them to his side covetously. I wasn’t even allowed to open the cellophane. So, I need to order another set for myself. I cannot describe any aspect of the Workshop Edition other than it came in a cardboard box with a lovely postal label on it. I think I spied a magnet in a plastic bag as well. Otherwise, I’ve got no details. I can’t tell you how luscious the upscale paper is or which of the six editions I’m most likely to use first.

So, my advice, train your family and friends cautiously. They might run off with the new stuff before you even get a peek!

Pre-Order: Retro 51 Popper Lift-Off

Okay, now that I have already pre-ordered my Retro 51 Limited Edition Popper Lift-Off, its safe to tell you’all about it.

While other people get excited about the sports-themed Retro 51s, the nerds at Chez Desk get grabby hands for anything NASA or space-themed. Having just finished reading The Martian, I’m particularly excited about this limited-to-500 edition of the Retro 51, in all its Saturn V-inspired rocket glory.

Pre-order yours at Goldspot Pens for $35 and remember to tell them you heard about it fro The Well-Appointed Desk!

Review: New TUL Serious Ink Pens from Office Depot/Max

TUL Chest

The folks over at Office Max/Office Depot kindly sent me a new sample pack of the new and improved TUL Serious Ink products to try out. When they contacted me, I was expecting some blister packs of pens in a padded envelope. Instead I received this industrial-tough lunchbox with lock and key. Clearly, they are serious about this launch.

Pens in the TUL chest

Inside the aluminum box, in foam cutaways, were four sample tools (TULs?), one for each of the product types: a rollerball, a gel pen, a ballpoint and a mechanical pencil. They also sent along some rub-on tattoos that I forgot to photograph. It was quite the package!

The rollerball is the only capped pen that was included in the kit. The gel and ballpoint pens are both retractable and the mechanical pencil can retract not only the lead but the lead tube as well making it easier to transport and protect the lead tube from damage.

All the pens feature simple, clean design. The overall color schemes are black, silver and clear plastics. The barrels of the pens are plastic, painted with metallic silver and black paint. The cones that hold the pen tips and the mechanical pencil are metal expect in the rollerball.

The logos and graphics are minimal and minimal branding is really quite an appealing feature to me in pens. I find a lot of modern “big box store” pens have way too much text, graphics and branding on them. The TUL series is a nice antidote to this.

All the TULs feature silicone grips, or in the case of the mechanical pencil, the whole body is a soft matte rubber.  The rubber make all the TULs comfortable to hold but prone to collecting dust particles and pocket lint.

TUL Serious Ink writing samples

In writing tests, I was pleasantly surprised with all the TULs. Usually rollerballs choke on me and stop writing a few words into writing but I had no trouble using the TUL rollerball in medium (0.7). The black ink was dark and dried pretty quickly. The gel pen in medium (0.7) was also dark black and quick drying but a little bolder line than the rollerball. Both of these are also available in fine point (0.5) which I would probably love as both the gel and rollerball in medium were a little bold for my daily writing style. But otherwise, they are good “big box” pen options.

The medium (1.0) ballpoint was notably slippery on the Rhodia paper. On standard office stock, this feature would probably be a bonus but on super smooth paper, it felt like the pen moved faster than my brain. It didn’t skip as much as a standard office ballpoints which is a plus. I suspect the ink is closer to a hybrid ink than the traditional oily ballpoint ink. If you favor ballpoints, this would be a good option. A fine (0.7) tip version is also available.

The mechanical pencil writes comfortably with its fully rubberized body and features a retractable eraser on the end. I was curious as to exactly how long the eraser was and untwisted the whole thing. There’s a good inch or more of eraser that is twisted inside the pencil barrel. Very clever design! Spare erasers can be purchased online too. To be honest, the mechanical pencil was my favorite TUL. I even liked the thicker 0.7mm leads though I am inclined to try the thinner 0.5mm lead version as well, just to see. Pencils rock. Pencils with long retractable erasers rock even harder.

I forgot to photograph the water tests! The ballpoint is waterproof. The pencil showed no ill effects from the water but a softer lead might show a little blurring. The rollerball pen is considerably less water resistant than the gel pen. It surprised me a bit that the gel pen is more water resistant since gel ink is not often very water resistant but a wipe with a wet paint brush left a light grey halo but the lines I drew are still visible. The rollerball lines survived my wet paintburush but a lot more of the ink reactivated creating a much darker grey halo.  So if wet conditions are an issue for you, stick to the gel, ballpoint or pencil.

TUL Serious Ink Pens

I’m quite pleased with the overall quality of the TUL line. The writing quality and build quality was much better than I anticipated. Each of the TULs seems to be a house brand competitor to a brand name and I feel like I should probably do a  side-by-side comparison of the TUL version against the name brand versions, particularly the gel pen.  I suspect its supposed to directly compete with the Pilot G2 and the Pentel Energel. I think the TUL version is comparable but without doing a true side-by-side I can’t say for certain if the performance is exactly the same.  As for the rollerball, ballpoint and mechanical pencil, the TUL brand versions are on par with other products in the same category. I think the mechanical pencils is particularly appealing with its retractable, extra-long eraser and rubberized barrel.

I will say that, aesthetically, I prefer the TUL pens and the prices are comparable to similar products. If I were stocking my company supply cabinet, I might purchase the TULs over name brands just for the minimal branding and visual simplicity.

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

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pigment Pens

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pen Set

Technically, the full name for these pens is Kuretake Zig Memory System Millennium for Drawing & Scrapbooking but that is a mouthful. So, are we okay just calling them Zig Millennium Pens for the duration?

This set of five pens was recommended to me following my recent round-up of archival, pigment felt tip pens. Turns out the Zig Millenniums are budget-priced pens that offer all the same features of the more expensive brands and can often be easier to find in local craft and hobby stores.

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pen Writing Samples

I purchased this set of five on Amazon for the rock bottom price of $6.56 with free Prime shipping. The set included one of each in 005, 01, 03, 05 and 08 sizes which is a perfect size variety for me.

The pens are a wide barrel silver plastic — just a smidgen wider than a Sakura Pigma Micron. The Zig Millennium pens are 5.375″ long capped, just shy of 4.75″ uncapped and the cap will post making the pen 6.375″ long. The clip is metal and reminds me of the clip on the Pilot Precise V5. The Zig Millenniums are only available in black ink but, with these permanent felt tips, I find I only ever reach for the black pens anyway.

I’ve been using these pens regularly for over a week and the points have held up to various papers including over acrylic paint, watercolor brush markers, and colored pencil without being any worse for the wear. I’ll be curious how well the points hold up long term and if the ink lasts as long in the pen as other brands.

Kuretake Zig Millennium Pen Comparison

Colorwise, the ink is not as rich black as a Sakura Pigma Micron which is the gold standard at almost twice the price. Compared to other brands like the Copic Multiliners, Staedtler Pigment Liners and the Sharpie Pen, the Zig Millenniums are totally comparable in regards to how rich the black ink is. Actually, if I had to rank these felt tips by how rich the black ink is, I’d put the Zig Millenniums second only to the Microns, especially at the wider nib sizes.

With their wide availability and comparable pricing to Sharpie Pens, the Zig Millenniums are a great addition to your archival felt-tip pen collection, especially if you are looking for finer or broader nibs than are available in the Sharpie Pen.

Pigment Pen Comparison (AKA Archival, Waterproof, Felt Tip Pens)

Pigment Pens

Felt tip (aka, fiber tip, pigment pens, archival pens, etc) are some of my favorite writing and drawing tools. A couple years ago I did a Showdown of some of the pens I had in my collection but I thought it was time to take another look at these inexpensive and endlessly usable pens.

This time, I am comparing the Sakura Pigma Microns, Staedtler Pigment Liners (they discontinued their Mars Professional line), Copic Mutliners SP (same insides as the previously reviewed Copic Multiliners but in refillable bodies) and the Sharpie Pen.

What all these pens have in common is that they are all archival (acid-free) inks that are waterproof. I’ve been using all of these to draw as well as write and the waterproof qualities mean I can add watercolor, markers or paint to my drawings without losing the pen marks. These can also all be used for addressing envelopes with no worries that rain will obscure the destination.

Pigment Pen Comparison

Sakura Pigma Microns ($2.50 each):

The gold standard in archival, waterproof felt tip pens. Available in seven tip sizes and six colors besides black.

  • Plus: Best black ink of all the pens I’ve tested. Tried and true.
  • Minus: The ugliest beige pen barrel I’ve eve seen. The numbering system that Sakura uses on the Microns is wonky. All the other brands list the exact tip size, 0.3 = 0.3mm, but Microns have their own wonky math. The 03 Micron is actually 0.35mm. When selecting Microns, be sure to check you are getting the actual size in millimeters that you want. I prefer 0.3mm tips for most purposes so I have to buy the 02 Micron. Confusing, right?

Staedtler Pigment Liners ($3.30 each):

Available in five tip sizes, black ink only.

  • Plus: The set I purchased came in a plastic carrying sleeve.
  • Minus: The black ink just isn’t as black as the Micron ink. And the pens are slightly more expensive than either the Sharpie Pen or the Sakura Pigma Microns.

Copic Multiliner SP ($9.20 each):

Available in 8 different tip sizes in black as well as a brush tip. A dozen colors available but only in the 0.3mm size

  • Plus: These pens feature a refillable aluminum barrel. Tips can also be replaced. Widest range of tip sizes from 0.03mm to 0.7 plus the brush tip.
  • Minus: The pens cost over $9 each and replacement tips and ink refills are more than $2 each. So if you do the math, the cost of being more environmentally friendly by not throwing away a whole pen is exponentially higher. In the end, its probably a better value to purchase the standard Copic Multiliners rather than these.

The Sharpie Pen (approx $1.79 per pen):

  • Plus: Available in almost any office supply store, big box or drugstore in the US. Less than $2 per pen.
  • Minus: Only available in “fine” which is comparable to an 0.3mm roughly. If you prefer finer or broader, you’ll want to consider a different brand.

There’s one other brand that is frequently mentioned for archival pens and that’s the Faber-Castell PITT line. I was so unhappy with the PITT brush pens in the past that I’ve only ever tried these once. A four-pack of the felt tip models are $12.50 on Jet Pens so the pricing is competitive to the other brands. The Faber-Castell line guarantees lightfastness for 100+ years as well as acid-free, archival, waterproof ink so they are definitely a comparable option. I have seen these for sale in sets at big box hobby craft stores so these may be a good option for some folks who don’t have access to an art supply store or have a must-get-some-now need.

If you’re just starting out with pigment/felt-tip pens, I’d recommend starting with the Sharpie Pen. Just walk into your nearest office supply store, drugstore or big box and grab a couple black ones. If you want a super fine tip or a range of tip sizes, start with the Sakura Pigma Microns. To be honest, they will be the only ones you ever really need.

Pigment Pen Comparison

I tested a few of the colored ink variations but, to be honest, I almost never reach for them on a day-to-day basis. The best thing about these pens is the fine lines, dark blacks and waterproofiness. If you are planning to invest in a pigment pen, skip the colors and stick to black.The colors are very ho-hum. If I want color, I’d prefer to use Marvy Le Pens or my Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners. Though neither are water resistant, the colors are more vibrant and interesting.

Even with the Sharpie Pen which I find myself using everyday for everything from sketches to grocery lists, I only ever want to use the black one. And this is the exact opposite to my reaction about all other pens and inks.

DISCLAIMER: Some of these items were sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pen 20-Color Set

Sai Watercolor Markers

My good friend introduced me to the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens when she brought an assortment home from Japan. I ordered several individual colors to try them out myself and loved them so much I went ahead and got a full set of 20 colors ($34.50). The pens originally came in reusable plastic package but I like keeping them in a jar where they are easier to access quickly. These brush pens feature a filament brush tip that behaves more like a real paintbrush than other felt tip brush pens. This creates a finer point and greater line variation.

Sai Watercolor Markers

The colors are both vivid and unusual like a bright, pastel sky blue and a more traditional artist-based yellow ochre. There’s a super pale apricot color that is fun to use for blending and a indigo-like midnight blue that I love. The 20-color set provides a wide variety of color options and I didn’t feel like any color was missing from the spectrum.

Sai Watercolor Markers

Colors can be altered, lightened or blended with water or each other to create more colors. I tested these pens on my standard Rhodia pad but on a watercolor stock, the inks could probably be manipulated and modified to greater effect.

Individual Sai Watercolor pens can be purchased for $3.50 each. There is also an assortment of pigment, waterproof “liner” brushes that can be used in combination with the watercolor brushes. The liner brushes sell for $5.25 each or a 5-color set for $24.75.

If you’re looking for a brush pen that can be used for calligraphy or art-making, these are totally worth the price.

Artwork to cheer myself up. #sai #watercolor #markers @jetpens

A photo posted by ana reinert (@wellapptdesk) on

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.

Review: Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner 0.4 mm 18-Color Set

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner

One of my friends had a set of the mini Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners in her pen case that she uses to draw and sketch on the go. I have always envied this set so I finally broke down and got my own set. I got the 18-color mini finerliners in the “sporty” water bottle for $15.

I confess that I have a huge soft spot for metal-tipped, felt-tip markers. Marvy Le Pens were one of my middle school “gateway drugs” into the wonderful world of pens. I like the slight grippiness of the felt tip that helps me slow down and write a little bit neater than with the smooth-as-glass experience I get with some rollerball and gel pens. I love the wide array of colors for taking notes and color-coding my planner and calendars so a large set of colored, felt-tip markers thrills my inner 12-year-old. If I get anymore excited about this little mini bottle of markers, I might start drawing rainbows, kittens and unicorns.

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner

The pens are shorter than the regular Point 88 Fineliner 0.4mm marker pens but the cap posts nicely so that it feels like a full length pen in use. Since I tend to wear the tips of these sorts of felt-tipped markers out long before they run out of ink, the shorter pen seemed like a reasonable option. I can also fit a lot more of these shorties in my travel case, which is a bonus.

(via JetPens)

The pens are the same width and shape as a standard hexagonal pencil. Even the color of the barrel is reminiscent of a classic yellow Ticonderoga pencil but with classy white pinstripes. The cap snaps snugly on the pen cap or the base for posting the cap.

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner writing samples

The individual Point 88 mini pens do not have color names written on them so I made up some descriptive names as I went along. Jet Pens lists official names if you’re curious. The colors were all bright and clean colors. The point size is in my “sweet spot” for nib sizes at 0.4mm and exactly the same line width as the Le Pens.

(I lost to my inner 12-year-old and drew a panda. You forgive me, right?)

My first reaction when I started testing the Point 88 minis is how much the writing experience and colors reminded me of the Marvy Le Pens. I’m don’t have a complete set of Le Pens here but was able to cross-reference the writing experience and color with at least a dozen colors and there are some very comparable shades between the two brands.

The inks are not waterproof but neither are the LePens. The Stabilo pens are designed to allow for a long cap-off time without drying out. I didn’t test this out but hope that they live up to the hype and provide me a long life of colors over the next several months.

Stabilo Point 88 Mini Fineliner comparison to Marvy Le Pen

When posted, the Stabilo Point 88 minis are a tiny bit longer than the Le Pens full length but unposted.

The same Stabilo 88 mini Fineliner marker pens are available in a soft plastic wallet instead of the goofy “water bottle” but it costs $0.75 more for the envelope rather than the bottle. My Stabilo mini Fineliner pens will end up being dumped into my regular pen case so I’m okay with the $0.75 savings. The full-sized set of Stabilo Point 88 Fineliners includes all 25 standard colors for $21.50. I might go ahead and order the full set so I can have the greys, browns and the midnight blue color which are some of my favorite shades to use. Individual pens are $0.80 each so its worth adding a few to your next order if you’re not sure you want a full set or you need to “complete” your set.

The Staedtler Triplus Fineliner 20-color set is a little bit more expensive ($25) but a little bit finer at 0.3mm. I know the Staedtlers are quite popular as well so if you find the 0.4mm to be a bit too wide, these might be a good alternative. I’m going to stick with the Stabilo Point 88s.


New Sponsor: Karas Kustoms

Karas Kustoms Bolt

Karas Kustoms is a small pen manufacturer that started life as a custom machine shop. When machinist Bill Karas teamed up with designer Dan Bishop, a relationship developed that eventually led to the creation of their very first pen – the iconic Render K. The success of the Render K spurred the creation of several other pens – the Bolt, Retrakt, and the latest addition, the Ink fountain pen. The pens are designed to accommodate several different refills, allowing the customer to pick and choose, and even hack, the refills to best fit their favorite Karas Kustoms pen. Even the Ink fountain pen can be converted into a rollerball pen by swapping the grip section.

Karas Kustoms CUBE

The CUBE is a collaborative design project with Mike Dudek of Dudek Modern Goods, and is the perfect accessory for your desk.

With a staff of just nine people, Karas Kustoms designs, manufactures and ships each of their machined, metal pens and accessories.

I’ve been a loyal follower and supporter of Karas Kustoms and now they are returning the favor by being a sponsor of The Desk. If you own one of their products, you are supporting a team of craftspeople dedicated to delivering high-quality, long lasting goods. And if you haven’t had a chance to try one of their pens or accessories, there’s no time like the present. Use the coupon code “KARASPENS” for 10% off your next purchase.

Thanks to Karas Kustoms for supporting The Well-Appointed Desk and thanks to all you fine readers for continuing to support our sponsors.

Karas Kustoms RETRAKT

Review: Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5 Cartridge System

Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5

My gateway pen was the Pilot Precise V5. I’ve always had good results with it and found it to be one of my favorite big box store pens. Sadly, they are disposable plastic pens. I had always hoped there would be a way to refill them. And now there is! The V5 Hi-Tecpoint 0.5 Cartridge System (Way to come up with a confusing naming convention there, Pilot!) is the answer.

The V5 Hi-Tecpoint uses the same Pilot cartridges as Pilot’s fountain pens which means the pen could be fit with a converter as well. I believe either the Con-20 or the Con-50 should fit but you could also syringe fill the cartridge the came with the pen.

Aesthetically, the pen is the same round, straight barrel as the original V5 Precise. The clip is plastic rather than metal though. There’s new branding graphics which I’m lukewarm about but giant graphics on pens seem to be standard operating procedure for pens under $25 so I can’t fault them for going with the trend.

Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5

On my first test run, I removed the stock black ink cartridge and replaced it with a colored ink cartridge from the Pilot Mixable Color set for the Parallel Pens. I chose the violet cartridge. I was not sure how effective running water through it would be for removing the previous ink color so I just swapped out the cartridges and scribbled for about a half a page until the ink color shifted from black to purple.

Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5

The Parallel ink cartridge seems to work fine in the V5 Hi-Techpoint. I had no issues with flow or feathering so I feel pretty confident that I can jump to standard fountain pen inks next. Can I tell you how excited I am about this?

If you’re looking for a refillable rollerball that can take fountain pen ink, for $3.20 this is as good an option as the J. Herbin and gives a considerably finer line. The Hi-Tecpoint is also available in the V7 0.7mm version if you perfer a bolder line.

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.

Put Those Refills to Good Use

I like to liberate refills from the assorted plastic pens I have accumulated over the years. These are all those gel pens I’ve purchased over the years from Jet Pens. While I love the flow of the refills, the lackluster plastic barrels leave me wanting.

I started opening each plastic pen and discovering that they are almost always a standard sized refill like a Pilot G2-sized or Hi-Tec C-sized. There are also far more colors and point sizes available in the full pens than in most refill-only options. Red, blue and black are fine for many folks but I want to be able to choose orange, evergreen, turquoise or purple, if the mood strikes.

By hacking the refills out of plastic pens, I created  an almost unlimited supply of potential refills for my favorite pen bodies. And by using these fine gel refills, I have catapulted certain pens into EDC pens because now they are not only beautiful and comfortable but can contain the exact right refill for me.

Render K pen hack

This habit started with Karas Kustoms and the Render K and RETRAKT pens. The lengthy list of possible refills led me to create the Refill Guide and really start experimenting with trying different refills with different pens.

Render K pen hack

I even save the springs in a plastic retractable to help stabilize a refill in a machined pen. If the refill fits but is too long, trim it down with a pair of sharp scissors. Empty refills can be trimmed to add length to a too-short refill to fit into a different pen as well. With each plastic pen costing less than a couple bucks, its not a tragedy if you make a mistake.

Happy hacking!

Review: Pilot Frixion “Color-Pencil-Like” Pen Set


Pilot has made so many different variations of the Frixion line of erasable pens. Its a little bit confusing. There are highlighters, needlepoint “Point”, gel pens, markers and the “Color-Pencil-Like” pens. For you, my fine readers, I was willing to try these Frixion markers with the very weird description.


I purchased the 6-color assortment pack of the Pilot Frixion Color-Pencil-Like 0.7mm erasable gel pens ($13). The pens are plastic and have a faceted body to appear and feel a bit like a hexagonal pencil. The caps do not have clips, just a little nub to make it easier to remove the cap. The erasers for each pen are mounted on the end of the cap so that, when posted, the eraser is still accessible. The set came with yellow, red, blue, green, tea brown and black pens.

My first mistake was probably buying a pre-selected set of six since several of these colors I never would have purchased individually. Nine times out of ten, a yellow pen is useless for writing of any sort and the yellow Frixion is no exception. Because its a 0.7mm rollerball gel pen, its doubly true. The yellow is not wide enough to be used as a highlighter so it really is not particularly useable.

I would have much preferred trying an orange, purple, or one of the more unusual colors likt the gray, ultramarine blue or purplish red pens over this uninspired assortment.


If what you’re looking for with these pens is a pretty smooth, pretty quick-drying  0.7mm rollerball pen that erases, then these might be perfect. If you were genuinely hoping to have a uniquely “pencll-like” experience, then you will be disappointed.The pens did not seem to lend themselves to coloring large areas like I might do with a colored pencil so I’m not sure what Pilot was hoping people would do with these pens?

The product is described as “vibrant colors” but this particular assortment is very dark and solemn in tone. The red is the most vivid color in the set. The green is an evergreen color and even the blue is more blue-black than a bright royal or true blue. And the yellow is a total waste.


All of the pens in the set erased as well as any of the other Frixion products I’ve tried. The erasing is far superior to any other erasable pens I’ve ever used so if that’s a key feature for you, then these might prove useful.

In the end, I may have been more disappointed by the color assortment in this set than the actual writing experience. These are quite smooth and, even for a lefty, I had no smudging issues or false starts. Also, the writing experience was not “color-pencil-like” so I was disappointed by the sales pitch. They are just gel pens.

There is no cost benefit to buying a set of these pens rather than buying the pens individually ($2.15 each) so if you’re interested in trying these, I’d recommend building your own color assortment and avoiding the yellow altogether. There are other yellowish hues like the mountain yellow and yellow ochre available that might be a darker shade and more useable color than the yellow.

If you’re interested in trying some of the Frixion line, I prefer the Frixion Point 04 line and the Soft Color Highlighters. See my full review here.

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.

Fisher Space Pen Hack

Sometimes the aesthetic of a specific pen is not mirrored with the refill it contains. Case in point, the Fisher Space Pen. I love the simple good looks of the bullet pen but I have no need for a thick ballpoint that can write at zero Gs. I like fine, fine, fine gel pen refills. So, I hacked it.

Fisher Space Pen Hack

With a little bit of washi tape around the barrel in key points and a trim to the end of the refill, a standard Uni Style Fit Gel Cartridge fits into the Fisher Space Pen like a champ.

I suspect with some finagling, other refills of the Pilot G2 variety might also work. More tests and experiments to follow.

Fisher Space Pen Hack

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.

Pens for Notebook Testing

review pens

All this week, I’ll be publishing reviews of an assortment of notebooks. I wanted to share all the pens I used in the writing tests. I tried to use a wide variety of pens from gel, ballpoint, rollerball, fountain and pencils.

They were all oddly color coordinated too so I thought they were photo worthy. What pens do you use to test out your new notebooks? Do you do writing samples on the first page, last page or just grab a pen and start writing and see what happens?

(Do you recognize all the pens in the photo?)

Review: ALL The Erasable Pens (Pilot Frixion + Uni Fanthom)

Pilot Frixion Uni Fanthom Erasable Pens

Since delving into using a paper planner this year, one of the tools frequently mentioned in conjunction with a paper planner is the Pilot Frixion erasable pen. I’ve acquired a couple Pilot Frixion Color Markers and an 04 gel pen on my travels in Hong Kong but I didn’t really understand why someone might use one. In a standard notebook, I’m fine just crossing something out something. However, in the limited real estate of the week-on-two-pages format, having a meeting move from Monday morning to Tuesday afternoon to “no, let’s meet Tuesday morning” means that crossing out might not be the best solution. So, I’m starting to understand why folks are such loyalists to the Pilot Frixion gel pens.

Pilot offer the Frixion line in gel pen, “point” pens which seem more akin to a needlepoint rollerball like a Pilot V5 Precise or Morning Glory Mach 3, markers and even highlighters. I’m probably missing a variation but this covers a lot of pen needs. Pilot also offers Frixion colored pencils but erasable pencils are not as novel as a good erasable pen, IMHO.

Pilot Frixion Uni Fanthom

(Please ignore my misspelling of “erasable”. I do know how to spell it and I could have erased this but I didn’t notice the mistake until after I had already photographed the pages. Mea culpa.)

Pilot Frixion Gel 0.5

The Frixion erasable pens work because the heat caused by the friction of “erasing” makes the ink vanish. I received a letter this summer from a friend that was almost completely unreadable. It turns out it was written with a Frixion pen and must have either been left in the sun or out in a hot delivery truck that caused the writing to almost completely vanish. So, there’s the rub (pardon the pun). I would recommend keeping any writing done with Frixion pens to ephemeral data like calendar events and make sure that you don’t leave your calendar in a hot car.

I was worried that I might have to give up the convenience of a multi-pen if I switched to the Frixion gel pens for my planner but lo-and-behold, no. I can have my cake and erase it too with the Frixion 3-color Gel Ink Multi-Pen ($9.90).

I also noticed that Uni makes their own erasable pens called Fanthom, so I bought the 3-pack of 0.5mm with red, blue and black pens in the set ($10) to compare the quality. Both the Frixion 3-Color Gel Multi-Pen and the Uni Fanthom 3-pack use a conical rollerball-style pen tip. The Frixion pens feature a translucent rubbery “eraser” where the Uni Fanthom have a hard rubber cap that is supposed to be used to erase. The Fanthom caps just didn’t seem like an eraser to me but they worked.

Uni Fanthom Erasable Pens

The Uni Fanthom 0.5 pens had similar color in writing but erasing with the hard rubber cap left more residue and the black ink left a distinctly brownish haze on the paper. I can see why the Frixion pens are much more popular than the Fanthom.

Pilot Frixion Gel 0.38

I discovered that there are refills that will fit into the Frixion Multi-Pens that are available in a myriad of colors and some smaller tip sizes. So, I bought those too. While red, black and blue are good basic colors, the great thing about multi-pens is the array of ink colors available and I’m glad to see that the Frixion line is well-represented here.

Pilot Frixion 04 Point

I also tried out the Frixion 04 Point line available in a 5-pack ($18). When compared to the conical gel refills for the Frixion multi-pen, I liked the color intensity better with the Point pens. They more liquid ink left a slightly more contrasty color on paper which made the colors more legible, even in the lighter pink and orange colors.

Pilot Frixion Highlighter

I really liked the idea of erasable highlighters too so I grabbed a 3-pack of the Frixion Light Soft Color Highlighters, 3-pack for $4.95. Using the erasable highlighter over erasable ink leads to a completely erased page, so be warned. Using the erasable highlighters over standard gel ink (I used a Uni Style Fit Multi-Pen) left a smudgy mess. The highlighters might perform better with other types of pens for erasing so more testing is probably in order if you want to try these out. Using the erasable highlighters with text books, printouts or other documents would be a great option though. And the mild colors are bright but not blinding. I like the set a lot.

Pilot Frixion highighter smudge

Overall, I like using a specific ink color in my planner for specific activities (purple for work, green for personal, blue for general events and holidays… etc) and there are enough Pilot Frixion pen options to keep color-coding my planner while allowing for erasing as activities change, get cancelled or need to be moved.

Maybe one of our scientifically inclined cohorts will put the Frixion pens to the test? I’m thinking of Ms. Fountain Pen Physicist specifically who can put a more scientific spin to her test than I can.

Jeff over at The Pen Addict recently wrote his own write-up about the Pilot Frixion Ball Knock Series if you need more erasable pen impressions.

For more information and detailed information about all the myriad forms that Frixion pens are available in, check out Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens: A Comprehensive Guide on Jet Pens.

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.

Review: Yoropen Z3


This review for the Yoropen Z3 was a long time coming. When I heard about the Kickstarter project to create a new version of the Yoropen, that is designed to reduce hand strain and improve ergonomics, I was super excited to get one in my hand. When it arrived though, I had that “this is weird” reaction. I knew it was me being short-sighted so I wanted to let the experience simmer a little to get over my initial snobby reaction.


It is a very USS Enterprise looking tool in metal with a grippy rubber grip and funky space capsule-with-a-tail cap. Its not a simple straight tube that I’m accustomed for pens to look.


Even the refill had to be specifically designed to fit into the Yoropen with a sharp bend in the tube to accommodate the ergonomic angle of the tip-to-grip shape.


The cap will post on the pen but the flyaway clip makes for a very awkward look and feel. One of the first things I noticed was how easily the grippy section picked up paper dust and lint. Its super squishy but the gritty paper dust was visually unpleasant to me. (The Grip is totally black… in the photos you can see a hazy fuzz which is paper dust.)

I let my husband take the pen for a test rive too and his first comment was “How do you get the cap off?” The cap fits very snuggly (VERY snuggly) on the pen and the cap must be put back onto the pen at a specific position as the clip rests along the grip section. The cap won’t fit on in any other way which is a little annoying. The end of the cap is also very pointy so I would not recommend using the heel of your hand to push the cap into place. Ouch.

The clip is loose enough to clip the pen to a binder or notebook cover though the grippy grip does create some friction when clipping the pen.


As an AWKWARD (overhanded, hooked) left-handed writer, I had high hopes that the ambidextrous Yoropen with ergonomic grip would be a lefty dream. Of course, I didn’t read the instruction first so I found the grip a little peculiar. Do I hold the pen like this?


Or like this? No. You RTFM, Ana.


Ah… I needed to twist the grip section 180º to accommodate a left-hander.


Ah, ha. Better.

Both in my writing tests and when my husband tried it, we both felt very lukewarm about the overall balance and feel. Its a very different writing experience that may take time to get used to. Like using a Wacom Tablet or computer mouse for the first time, the Yoropen approaches the experience of writing differently than other tools.


My biggest stumbling block with the Yoropen is that I really don’t like writing with ballpoint. My handwriting looks atrocious. However, the ballpoint refill in the Yoropen performed exceptionally well for me with no stutters or smudges that I usually suffer from. So, if you like ballpoints, this is an interesting pen to add to your collection.

If you are suffering from any sorts of hand issues (arthritis or carpal tunnel), the Yoropen is definitely a tool you might want to try. The Yoropen is unusual and will be a conversation starter wherever you use it. Aesthetically, its space-age but its more Star Trek than Alien so its not scary, just unusual. (Bob says “More Wesley Crusher, less Worf.”)

I hope, in the future, Yoropen can create some gel or rollerball refills for the Yoropen because I’d like to try the pen again but the ballpoint ink just puts my teeth on edge.

The Yoropen Z3 starts at $64.99. Grip can be purchased in different colors, ballpoint refills start at $2.40 each.

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

Review: Uni Power Tank 0.7 Smart Series Pen Review

Uni Power Tank pen 0.7

The Uni Power Tank Smart Series 0.7 ($3.30) is another in the growing pressurized ballpoint market. The pressurized ink cartridges are designed to allow the pen to be used in severe weather, upside and in zero gravity though I’ve not had a lot of call to test the validity of these claims. The Fisher Space Pen is the original pressurized ballpoint. I don’t own one but my husband has one that he loves and uses regularly. The Fisher Space Pen is a small compact design with a standard Parker-style refill but the refill is pressurized to be used in extreme circumstances. I have a Rite in the Rain metal refillable pen that a reader sent to me as well.

Uni Power Tank pen 0.7 comparison

The Uni Power Tank is a “disposable” pen so the entry to use is a little lower. Since its a standard plastic barrel pen, it doesn’t feel like a commitment to a pen lifestyle. I’ve previously reviewed the Tombow Airpress ballpoint pen which is a similar idea to the Uni Power Tank.

Compared to the Tombow Airpress which has a very wide, stout appearance, the Uni Power Tank Smart Series is a more streamlined pen design. The width for the Uni Power Tank Smart Series is similar to a Sharpie marker — wider than a hex pencil but not as chunky as the Airpress. The grip area is textured with some horizontal ridges but its not a particularly cushy bit.

In writing, there is no discernible difference between the Airpress and the Power Tank. If you like the funky Stormtrooper vibe of the Airpress, go for it. For me, though, I’m not a huge lover of ballpoints but sometimes I need one and sometimes I need a writing tool that is going to work after months of neglect. When I need that, I’m going to reach for the Power Tank.

I think of the Uni Power Tank Smart Series as being a very no-nonsense pen. It works in severe conditions, you can leave this pen in your car from Key West to Fargo without worrying about it exploding or leaking or ceasing to function. At less the $4, you can leave the Power Tank on the diner table on that epic road trip and not be heart broken over the loss.

Uni Power Tank pen 0.7 writing sample

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.


Review: Parker Jotter Ballpoint Pen

Parker Jotter Karas Kustoms Tu-Tone RETRAKT

After discussing* how much the Karas Kustoms new Tu-Tone RETRAKT reminded me of the classic, “Mad Men” good looks of the Parker Jotter (prices start at $9.50), I realized I didn’t actually own a Jotter. So, I immediately remedied that. I purchased the teal-y blue version which is called “grey-green”.

The model I purchased is half metal, half plastic. The grey-green portion of the pen is a lightweight plastic, the rest is metal. Other options of this pen are available in stainless steel ($18) or polished stainless steel ($18.50) which probably would have been a more accurate comparison to the RETRAKT but would not have featured the familiar tu-tone look.

Parker Jotter Karas Kustoms Tu-Tone RETRAKT

The RETRAKT is clearly a heftier tool but you can see that the lengths are comparable. Since the barrel on this Jotter is plastic, its really like comparing a featherweight to a heavyweight, but the slimmer barrel of the Jotter certainly makes it a more pocketable tool.

Parker Jotter disassembled

Also, the Jotter utilizes the Parker-style refill — this is the pen that started it all — so there are quite a few options for refills if blue or black ballpoint ink is not for you. So, in terms of flexibility, the Jotter holds its own against the RETRAKT.

I love the etched arrow on the clip. I’m so glad Parker has not tried to modernize or alter the look of the Jotter. It is an icon in its simplicity.

Parker Jotter writing sample

In writing, it honestly took me awhile to get used to writing with a ballpoint. I only use ballpoints when a waitress hands me a receipt to sign so I am seriously out of practice. Ballpoint, especially on this silky, smooth Rhodia paper is slick. But ballpoints are god for everyday office situations where one might need to write on a variety of paper types. And this pen sure looks better than a Bic Stic. To be honest, the stock Parker ballpoint refill is one of the cleanest ballpoint inks I’ve used.

I went ahead and replaced the standard blue ballpoint ink with a Monteverde blue-black gel ink cartridge I had. (You think my pen stash is large, you should see how many pen refills I stash! If the apocalypse comes, I’ll be able to write for a millennia with all the gel and rollerball refills I have stashed.) Again, the gel ink was super slick on the Rhodia paper but the color coordinated nicely with the barrel color.

In the end, I think I might have preferred the metal barrel models of the Jotter for a more durable feel. Or maybe the RETRAKT has spoiled me? Either way, the Jotter is a classic and at less than $10, it deserves a place on every desk.

*See The Pen Addict Podcast Epsiode #130: Stop Spending My Money – Holiday Gift Guide 2014 for the whole conversation.

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.

Review: Karas Kustoms Tu-Tone RETRAKT

Karas Kustoms Retrakt Tu-Tone

In a pinch, today’s review was photographed with my new iPhone 6. Pardon any wonkiness but I had a wicked migraine yesterday and didn’t get a chance to pull everything together until today at lunch.

Karas Kustoms retrakt tu-tone in green

Behold! A pen, matched polish (before anyone asks, its OPI Gargantuan Green Grape), psychedelic office carpeting and my shoes!



And its here! The amazingly cool Karas Kustoms RETRAKT in the new Tu-Tone Colors… green, of course. And its oddly, fittingly Christmas-y in it colors. I filled it with a Zebra Sarasa 0.3mm in Viridian Green to match. I suppose this means I need a red one too?

And the almost-silent retracting mechanism means that I can nervously click without making everyone in a meeting want to murder me.


The aluminum body is comfortable to hold, not too heavy and well-weighted. After the brass INK, I was worried that the RETRAKT might be too heavy for me but I think its perfect. Very much like the weight of the Render K — enough weight to feel solid without feeling like I’m carrying a billy club.  I had to doodle this twice because of a typo so I was writing for a while and the pen remained comfortable throughout. (No Command-Z on paper!)


The RETRAKT in Tu-Tone Colors accepts any Pilot G2 style refills or Parker-style refills. Some refills might require a little jiggering to get them to fit just right but luckily the folks at Karas Kustoms include so extra parts to help with this including an extra spring, a black plug to lengtht he Parker refills and a length of translucent white piping that can be cut to length to fill any gaps. I’ve been know to cut down a too-long refill to fit as well. Finally…a way to use the great G2 refill without the cheap plastic aesthetics!

The fact that the RETRAKT can be filled with an unending array of refills, in a variety of colors, tip sizes and even style of refill (ballpoint, rollerball and gel) there’s no way you can’t love this pen. You get to make it your favorite just be picking your favorite refill.

The DISCOUNT: If you just can’t wait to see if you’ll win the giveaway RETRAKT Tu-Tone, you can place an order at Karas Kustoms today and receive 15% off your order with the coupon code “HappyHolidays” (although that code really should be “ANAROCKS”).

The GIVEAWAY: So, the fine folks at Karas Kustoms are letting me giveaway ONE RETRAKT Tu-Tone to ONE lucky reader.  You all know the drill… answer my question in the comments to be officially entered to win one RETRAKT Tu-Tone in your choice of color. Here’s the question: What do you like best about Karas Kustoms’ pens? If you’ve never owned a Karas Kustoms pen, what about their pens interests you most?

The FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. 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. Open to US residents only in order to ship in time for Christmas!

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

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