Time For a Change


That One Pen has been going since late 2013. At times, it’s been very busy. At other times, it’s been very quiet. I’ve learned a lot about what I do and don’t like when it comes to pens, pencils and paper. It’s been a lot of fun and although I have not achieved the goal of finding that one pen (never really was going to), it’s time to move on.

It’s time to move on, but it’s not time to go away. I’m moving my blogging efforts to a new space so that I can explore more ideas. And that’s really the key – ideas. That One Pen has been about stuff. Stuff is great, but stuff is not enough.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a teacher. Working with students is incredibly rewarding but I also really like teaching because I like the ideas. Looking back at the path I’ve taken since high school (Bachelor’s, PhD, fellowship, teaching) it’s pretty obvious that a fascination with ideas was always there. During the day, I get to teach chemistry and philosophy ideas to talented and dedicated students (most days at least). I need to expand my idea time into my blogging time.

To those who enjoyed my thoughts about pens and the like, I have two things to say. First, thank you. Time is a resource. Thanks for spending some of your resources here. Second, I have good news. I will still write about pen and pencil stuff on the new space. The new blog covers a broad range of topics (science, technology, philosophy, sports, music, politics), but there will be ink and graphite thoughts showing up there from time to time. In fact, a pen post is among the first already up on the new site.

The new blog is called XXXXXXX. If you followed me on twitter @thatonepen, please follow me @Cranerxn. (Isn’t that a cool way to abbreviate Crane Reaction?). If you followed me instagramly via That1Pen, please consider setting the instadial to Cranerxn. Hopefully you won’t mind bits about science, education, sports and other topics to go with your pen and pencil social media. Eventually, the That One Pen social media accounts will be ghost towns.

I never expected this blog to get as much traffic as it did so, again, thank you. I hope this is not goodbye. Instead, I hope it’s see you later.

What I’ve Been Using Lately

It has been a while since I posted mostly because I have focused on using stuff and not writing about stuff. Also, I have been in reading mode and not so much in writing mode these past several weeks. (That blog where I write about popular non-fiction science just might get started this summer!)

Anyway, I thought I would update folks on the tools I find myself using most these days. By design, you will see a lot of sameness here. While focusing on using, I also limited myself so I get a really good feel for the fewer things I am using. What you see here are the pens, pencils and paper used almost exclusively for the better part of a month. For pens, I used nothing but Karas Kustoms Render K version 2 since they arrived around May 13th. For wood-cased pencils, I’ve used only the Blacking 24 since it came out a few months ago. I have not used mechanical pencils all that much recently, but I did recently dig out my Lamy Scribble 0.7 mm. Turns out that thing is totally awesome if you take the clip off. As for paper, I have not written many notes in a pocket notebook (don’t know why – just haven’t), but the Doane Paper pads have seen plenty of action. Without further delay, a few pictures and a few thoughts.


Here’s pretty much everything I’ve used (almost) exclusively in the past 3-4 weeks. Atop the Doane Paper 8.25″ x 11.75″ pad we have, from left to right: blue Karas Kustoms Render K version 2 with a tumbled aluminum grip and Pilot Juice 0.5 mm blue, Palomino Blacking 24, orange Karas Kustoms Render K version 2 with a brass grip and Fisher Space refill blue fine, Apple Pencil, red Karas Kustoms Render K version 2 with a brass grip and Pilot Juice 0.5 mm red


The blue Render K with blue Pilot Juice 0.5 mm has been the go-to workhorse since it arrived in the middle of May. I bought a few different grips (aluminum, tumbled aluminum, black aluminum, brass) to see which combinations I like the best. I found the plain and black aluminum grips a touch slippery compared to either the tumbled aluminum or the brass. This Render K is shown with the tumbled aluminum grip. As for refills, I’m not ready to make it official yet but I think I have changed my gel pen allegiance from Pentel Energel 0.7 to Pilot Juice 0.5. It is not slam dunk by any means however, more often than not, I prefer the tighter lines and slightly less generous ink flow of the Juice 0.5 than the Energel 0.7. What about the Energel 0.5 you ask? For some reason, needle points and my left hand do not always work well.


My grading weapon of choice has been this red Render K with the brass grip section and a 0.5 mm red Juice. In bright light, the red Juice leans a touch in the orange direction which I like. Between the brass and tumbled aluminum sections, I prefer the added weight of the brass. The combination of the added weight and whatever goes on between my fingers and brass gives me a better sense of control. I have noticed that all the grip sections gains added character from small dings and scratches imparted by taking the cap on and off. I consider this a cool feature and not an annoying bug.


One more Render K, except here we have a ballpoint refill. Most of my ballpoint pens have a Parker Quink refill in them. For the Render K, a Fisher Space Pen refill seemed more appropriate. I go back and forth on whether I prefer the fine or medium tip for the Fisher refills. Right now, I’m leaning toward fine which probably has something to do with the fact that I write a lot with the 0.5 mm Juice so the medium Fisher refill seems too wide in comparison. The Render K, Fisher refill and brass grip make a really comfortable combination for me.


When it comes to wood-cased pencils, I am really down to two choices: Tombow Mono (usually in F) and Palomino Blacking 24. I prefer slightly harder graphite to avoid lefty-induced smudges. I also prefer my pencils to have an eraser. So, when it comes to the graphite, it is slight advantage Mono F. When it comes to having an eraser and the overall look and feel, the advantage goes to the Blacking 24. If I absolutely had to pick one and only one it would be the 24…at least for today.


I use an iPad Pro mirrored to an AppleTV when I teach so my Apple Pencil is indispensable. For reading the news and just generally goofing off, I really like using split view on the iPad Pro with Tweetbot on one side and Safari on the other.

So there we have it – the stuff I’ve been using lately. Here are some more pictures for you to look at.







I Know What I Like – Top 10 Pens and Pencils

Welcome to part 3 of the ongoing saga of I Know What I Like. Check out parts 1 and 2 if you have even more time to waste. I cover pens that have fallen out of favor in those previous installments. Today, we’ll cover the pens that have made the cut.

Before getting to the list of pens that have made it behind the velvet rope, let me just say that this narrowing process has been interesting and frustrating. Interesting because it made me assess what I like and how I actually use writing tools. The fact of the matter is that I do not have a lot of use cases for fountain pens. I just don’t, and I do not want to make you think I use fountains pen more than I do. It has been frustrating because, depending upon the day and my particular mood, a given pen may just make or miss the cut. Ultimately, this part 3 of I Know What I Like covers writing tools that, many more days than not, make the short list. Yes, I may flirt with other options but time and time again I find myself coming back to these choices. In an attempt to be fair, informative and easy to read, I limit myself to mentioning a few pros and cons of each item. Just know that, in my final estimation, the pros outweigh the cons for each item.

Pelikan Souveran K405 Ballpoint



  • Just look at it! A near perfect balance of sharpness and simplicity. I actually have an all blue K405 headed my way that I think I might like even more.
  • Takes the Parker Quinkflow refill. Yes, Parker Quinkflow may be boring and the blue ink may be a touch too purple, but it works for me.
  • The diameter of this pen is just about perfect for me.


  • It is a touch (just a touch) too light. If it were ~1 gram heavier it would be perfect.
  • The clip on my K405 is not quite tight enough. It sits fine in a shirt pocket, but it can come loose if kept in a front jeans pocket as is my preference.




  • TWSBI stainless steel nibs offer great price-to-quality ratios and the Eco uses nibs I have from other TWSBI pens.
  • Probably the best made fountain pen TWSBI produces. Unlike other TWSBIs, quality control does not seem to be an issue with this TWSBI edition.
  • Plenty of ink capacity
  • Feels great in my hand. I want to be in full control of a pen when I hold it. No slipperiness please! The Eco delivers on this point big time.
  • Piston filler on a fairly inexpensive pen is cool.


  • Not the best looking pen I own. The “chunky” cap is a bit of a mismatch for the body and the reliance of rubber rings is a bit cheesy.
  • The cap can post, but it looks and feels silly when you do.

Tombow Mono/Mono 100 Pencil (F graphite)



  • I’m a lefty so I need graphite that does not smudge easily. I have tried many, many, many wood cased pencils and the Tombow Mono and Mono 100 in F offer the best balance of smudge resistance and smoothness hands down. I will not debate this point! Other opinions are simply wrong! Maybe it’s the F graphite, but the point retention is superior as well.
  • The quality control on these pencils is excellent. The graphite is always centered, the wood sharpens perfectly each and every time and the finish of every Mono or Mono 100 I own is as good as the next.


  • It does not have an eraser. Some people don’t care about this. I do, but only a little. As you can see, I popped an eraser cap on mine. This does detract from the look a bit but I’m okay with that.
  • Not dirt cheap (~$1.20 per pencil on Amazon).

Pentel Twist-Erase Mechanical Pencil (usually 0.7 mm)



  • The grip material and diameter work well for me. These pencils got me through calculus, chemistry and physics tests back in the day so I think shared adversity breeds a bit of fondness.
  • The length of the pencil is almost perfect. I wish the clip were shorter or about 0.5 cm further from the point so as to completely avoid contact with my hand, but otherwise the length and balance are great.
  • Hey look, an actual eraser that (a) erases and (b) lasts more than 5 minutes on a mechanical pencil!
  • Very easy to find and cheap.


  • Non-retractable tip can make it shallow-pocket unfriendly.
  • The clip is too tight. I have to work a bit to make sure the clip slides onto a pocket.

Edison Menlo Pump Filler



  • Look. At. It. Look. At. It. Again.
  • The stainless steel nib on this pen is the best nib I have ever used. Smooth but not too smooth and never skips.
  • The pump filling mechanism is fun.
  • The writing experience and balance work equally well for me capped and uncapped.
  • The hold and control I have on this pen is fantastic.


  • This puppy was not cheap.
  • The material has a noticeable odor that took a few weeks to dissipate.
  • It’s a fountain pen so it does not get the use time that fully justifies its expense (that’s on me, not the pen).

Parker Jotter



  • Classic design and color options galore! This may sound odd, but I feel more connected to the bygone days of analog workflow when using Jotters than I do with any other writing tool, including fountain pens. To me, a fountain pen can feel more like an extravagance than a call back to days gone by. Meanwhile, the Jotter is a more subtle and realistic connection to the past.
  • Obviously, it takes the aforementioned Parker Quinkflow refill that I prefer.
  • Fun to collect without breaking the bank.
  • The quality control of the older Jotters (brass threads) is outstanding.


  • The diameter of most Jotters is on the thin side of acceptable for me.
  • Versions with the plastic threads can feel too light and cheap.

rOtring 800 Mechanical Pencil (in black and usually 0.7 mm)



  • Weight, balance and grip are all near perfect for me. I do not know why, but silver rOtrings always feel too cold and slippery to my hand but the black versions, especially the 800, feel so much better.
  • The retractable tip makes this 100% pocket safe and adds a bit of a wow factor.
  • I was able to move the clip up just enough so that it does not interfere with my hand when writing.


  • The diameter of the grip section is a hair too small for my perfect preferences.
  • Like most mechanical pencils, the eraser is an afterthought and replacements cost more than they should.

Delta Fusion 82



  • The fusion nib thing may be a bit goofy, but it works for me. Other than the nib on my Edison, this fusion nib is the best one I have in my collection and it was great right out of the box.
  • Weight, balance (posted or unposted) and grip of this pen all work for me.
  • The fine nib on this Delta is clearly finer than the fine nib on the Edison. If I want a true fine, I go with the Delta. If I want a medium-fine, I go with the Edison.
  • Given that the writing experiences are similar, this Delta was a much better deal than the Edison.


  • I’m not thrilled with the color. I did get it for a good price (relatively speaking) but picking this color was a compromise. It’s a decent color, just not ideal.
  • Unlike the Edison, this fountain pen does not do as well with the rough and tumble of a backpack. It does not really leak, but the nib and interior of the cap can get a bit inky if the pen gets knocked around a bit.

Lamy 2000 Rollerball (w/ Pilot Juice refill)



  • This pen is the newest member of the short list and currently occupies a particular need. Specifically, it is the capped (non-retractable) pen I am using for the Pilot Juice refills I enjoy so much. The Render K G2 use to hold this spot (and may again some day), but I want a capped pen option for using Juice refills and the Lamy 2000 is it right now. (Small amount of hacking required)
  • Like all the Lamy 2000 pens, the fiberglass body feels great in my hand.
  • The spring clip works well – easy on, easy off without any lack of hold.


  • The tiny metal bits on the grip section that hold the cap on can be distracting. I am past this issue but it is a thing to overcome.
  • You could easily spend $100 or more for this pen. You absolutely should not.

Tactile Turn Mover (w/ Pilot Juice refill)



  • Comes in a few different colors and materials so you have options. The “sand” colored aluminum version is shown here.
  • Metal pens can be hard to hold. The turns of the grip area are the best design answer to this issue I have seen. So simple yet so clever.
  • For me, this pen compliments the Lamy 2000 in that it is the retractable pen of choice for the Pilot Juice refills. My #1 grading pen is a TT Mover with a red Juice refill.
  • Weight and diameter generally work well for me. There are days I think it’s a touch to wide, but I’d rather it be a touch too wide than a touch too skinny.


  • I will not call it a quality control problem, but I did return a blue Mover I bought through Massdrop to maker. To his credit, he could not have been nicer or quicker about addressing the issue.
  • You do need to be deliberate with the knock mechanism. This is not the knock for figgidy folks.

So there we have it. It turns out there are ten items here, so I guess we could call this my top 10 writing tools. If I never buy another pen in my life, I would be perfectly fine with these ten. I will still look for other options of course, but I will be more particular about what I buy from now on. If I do not think a pen or pencil has a chance of displacing one of these ten items, then I will likely pass on it.

Lastly, I hear some of you asking, “Great. But what is your one absolute favorite writing tool?” Well, if I had to pick just one it would clearly be the…

I Know What I Like – Part 2

In I Know What I Like – Part 1, I went through a number of pens and pencils that have not made the cut for me. That list contained plenty of pens or pencils that I used quite a bit. However, they have not ultimately made it to the big time. To make a sports analogy, many of those pens and pencils made it as far as the quarterfinals. In this post, I will continue in the same vein; many of these pens are also quarterfinalists. Some could even be considered semifinalists. What likely separates the pens and pencils in this post versus those in IKWIL – Part 1 is that the former may not be sold/given away while the later probably will be. I may not use the pens and pencils here much, but I cannot bring myself to break up with them just yet and will continue to hold onto them for one more night.

It’s important to reiterate that all the items here and in IKWIL – Part 1 have positive qualities. In your eyes, these pens or pencils might be the bee’s knees, the bomb or all that and a bag of chips. For me, they are not making it onto the greatest hits collection.  Here goes…

  • Caran d’Ache 849 – I love the design of these pens. I love the color options of these pens. I also like the Caran d’Ache ballpoint refill well enough. Unfortunately, the whole is a bit less than the parts. Maybe it’s a weight thing. Maybe it’s a balance thing. Maybe it’s the “mushy” action of the knock. Whatever it is, the excitement and anticipation that the design and color of the 849 gives me is typically followed by a “meh” upon using it. I will narrow my 849 options down from the five or six I have to the one or two that have the most potential and hold off buying any more.
  • Karas Kustoms Render K G2 – The Render K G2 is, by far, my favorite Karas Kustoms pen. Design? Check! Colors? Double check! The grey anodization of the Render Ks is flat-out great. If you are thinking about getting a KK pen, get it in grey. Trust me. The pictures on their website are great but they do not do this classy color justice. I have three Render K G2 (blue, grey and orange/grey special edition) and they all look fantastic. As the name suggests, these pens take the popular Pilot G2 refill or the less popular but noticeably better Pilot Juice refill (Hackers will have even more options). More on this issue to come, but the Pilot Juice has become my gel refill of choice. So why is the Render K G2 also just on the outside looking in? Two words – grip and control. There is a bit of a step down from the pen body to the grip section which is not that big of a deal. What is a (big-ish) deal is that the grip section is ultimately a touch too narrow and more than a touch too slippery for my fingers. I want the Render K G2 to make my ultimate short list, I really do. But I cannot get past the slippery lack of control the grip inflicts on my writing. I will probably keep the orange and grey version I have for short note taking and say goodbye to the blue and grey pens. One more comment about Karas Kustoms. Their communication and customer service is tip top. I got the plug of a refill stuck inside the body of one of my pens and they replaced it quickly and with no questions asked. Good eggs to be sure.
  • Pentel Energel – The most viewed post on this blog is my write up of various Energel versions. Shockingly enough, that post will likely get top billing if you type “pentel energel review” into a Google search. Well, as I mentioned above, it is the Pilot Juice and not the Energel that has pride of place in my gel ranking. I still love the size and grip of the Energel-X and I will definitely keep a small number of Xs in stock, especially the orange, green and purple for grading. But the gel-based pens that I keep in my pocket and most handy on my desk incorporates a Juice refill. What pens might they be? You’ll just have to wait for I Know What I Like – Part 3. Anticipation is half the fun. I will tell you that it is not the Pilot Juice pen itself.
  • Blue Staedtler 925 Mechanical Pencil – Among the many drafting pencils I have, the Staedtler 925 plays second fiddle to only one other option. Which one? Again, anticipation is half the fun. I have the 0.5, 0.7 and 0.9 mm versions of these sharp-looking pencils and if the wear on the grip area is any judge, I used the 0.7 mm version quite a bit over the years. The weight of this pencil is just about perfect and the clip sits high enough that it never interferes with the webbing of my hand as I rotate the pencil. But, the ever-so-slightly-too-thin diameter and the fact that the tip is fixed puts the Staedtler 925 closer to the bottom shelf for me. I’m not getting rid of my 925s anytime soon but I won’t be using them as frequently as another option.
  • Parker 51 – I mentioned a few more fountain pens in IKWIL – Part 1 than I’m going to discuss here. In all honesty, the fountain pen that is closest to making my final list but did not is probably the TWSBI Mini that I discussed in that earlier post. In the realm of vintage fountain pens, the Parker 51 came the closest to making the final list. I have owned three 51s over the years and each had their merits (most classic of classic designs, solid build quality, good weight and balance) but I have yet to find THE 51 with the proper balance of smoothness, tooth and ink flow (Yes, I did the professional nib adjustment thing with one of the previously owned 51s.) and I think I’m done looking. Then again, don’t give up Todd! Maybe I should take the 51 I have now for an adjustment to give this classic design one more chance.

Okay, that’s all for now. I have literally tried dozens upon dozens (maybe 100s) of other pens and pencils prior to and during the lifetime of this blog and I have zeroed in on a final list of pens and pencils I like most. When it comes to trying new stuff, I’m not saying I don’t care anymore. Trust me, I do. In fact, there is one category of pen that has a couple of tentative finalists but that I also consider actively in flux. Beyond that, I’m happy with my short list of pens and pencils and future additions/replacements will not be taken lightly. I know what I like. Part 3 coming soon.

Pen horoscopes

Horoscopes – complete quackery but even the most rational of us sneak a peek at them from time to time. To think that the alignment of stars, whose light is hundreds of years old by the time it reaches Earth, has anything to do with our daily lives is crazy pants to the extreme. So, in the decidedly unserious spirit of “real” horoscopes I present…pen horoscopes. What does the pen you’re using today say about you?

  • Bic Cristal – It’s a no-nonsense kind of day. You probably don’t have a lot to write today so spend more time on your thoughts and less time trying to choose from 11 different shades of royal blue ink to put in your limited edition Delta Nefertiti fountain pen. You will need to take a break later today. Consider pulling out the Cristal refill and launching some spit balls.
  • Palomino 602 – Today is the day a secret admirer notices your simplicity and elegance. Consider replacing the stock black eraser with a classic pink or other brightly colored eraser to make sure your admirer takes notice. Be careful though – the 602 may draw the unwanted attention of a starving artist type and you do not need that instability in your life right now.
  • Pilot G2 – You hope to make a bright, bold impression today but if things do not pan out, don’t worry, others probably will not notice you tried. Whatever you do, skip the plain black – that crap is just boring. Go with blue if you must but try something a bit more colorful. Take caution – you want to get noticed for your ideas and not for the blob of ink leaking from the G2 refill.
  • Any Kickstarter Machined Pen – It is time to use your practically indestructible pen and get some damn work done jack wad! But first, spend at least 30 minutes selecting the refill type and color to use in your machined pen of choice. Be sure to spend another 45 minutes fiddling around with spacers and Scotch tape to make sure that refill fits just right. Oh, don’t forget to mix and match the bodies, grip sections and caps of all your machined pens to find the perfect combination. Okay, now you can get to work. No wait! Try a different spring on the tip of the refill to get rid of that last little bit of wiggle. Okay, now get to work.
  • Any Fountain Pen w/ Broad Nib – Well look at you Mr(s). Fancy Pants. Today is your big day and everyone is going to notice. Sure, your ideas have been complete crap for the past month but none of that matters now. Today is the day you’re going to turn it all around because even your boring ideas look fantastic written with a shimmering ink on overpriced snow-white French paper.
  • Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen – Es ist wahrscheinlich Montag, weil nichts sagt Montag wie ein Lamy 2000. Zu viel Bedürfnissen rechts zu gehen für Montag, um Ihren Weg zu gehen, warum also nicht mit einem Stift, die einfach genug aussieht, aber ist eigentlich sehr wählerisch. Aber keine Sorge. Morgen ist ein neuer Tag und eine neue Chance, um einen anderen Stift holen.
  • Pilot Vanishing Point – Life is good. You have a fountain pen and it is retractable. Most people don’t have a fountain pen. But you do and it retracts. That’s neat. Go ahead. Press the button very slowly and watch that little door open as the nib extents like the Millennium Falcon escaping from the Death Star. Cool. Who cares what the rest of the day brings because your fountain pen is retractable.
  • Ballpoint Pen from Random Bank – This is bad. Try to stay positive, but odds are today is going to suck big time. All hope is not lost. You’ll make it to lunchtime when you can run over the Staples and pick up a pack of something, anything to get you through the rest of day. Things could potentially get really bad if you start thinking, “Hey, this pen from Occidental Bank is actually pretty good.” Don’t settle. You did that once with an old flame from college and look how poorly that ended.
  • Leo – Intellectual or artistic work could take up a lot of your time today, Leo. Your level of inspiration is high, and you’re apt to be full of ideas that others would find beneficial. You’re also likely to sense the thoughts and feelings of those around you before they themselves are consciously aware of them. This not only increases your career standing, it can help you in the love department. Enjoy your day! (You caught me. This one isn’t pen or pencil related. It’s from an actual website of “real” horoscopes. Can you believe this crap?)
  • Storebrand Pencil – FML, shit is real bad now. Honestly, how did you let it come to this? Thankfully, you’ll be spending more time sharpening this hexagonal wooden nightmare than actually writing with it so much of today will not even make it into the written record.
  • Bonus horoscope for those using a single-pen carrying case – It is time to live a little. Your spouse, your kids, your friends and your co-workers can all see it – you need a vacation. But perhaps money is tight and now is not the time for a vacation. Well, start by selling that stupid single-pen carrying case and put your naked pen in your pocket like a normal human being. You’ll see, life is way better without that single-pen carrying case. Seriously, take a vacation.

I know what I like

This website has now existed for a little more than two years. It has had busy times and quiet times. I have talked about dozens of pens, several pencils and maybe even a few pieces of paper as well. Through it all, I’ve discovered what I like, what I thought I liked but didn’t, what I dislike, what I thought I disliked but didn’t, what I use, what I really use, what I thought I would really use but didn’t and more. At this point, I know what I like, I know what I like and will use and I know what I like and won’t use. I certainly have not tried everything and, honestly, I’m done trying tons of different pens and pencils. I’ll still try new stuff but only if I’m convinced that it has a chance of making my short list. This attitude may cause me to miss out here and there but I’m fine with that. I’m happy with my short list and I’m not going to let the myth of the perfect continue to be the enemy of the good.

To start, here is a rundown of several pens and pencils I’ve tried over the years that, for one reason or another, are not and will never be on my short list. I’ll save what is on my short list for a later post. I’ve had nice things to say about many of these items in the past. However, after additional time and experience they are now on the outside looking in. To be clear, this is a woefully incomplete list. I could say plenty about plenty other pens and pencils but these are the ones that come most readily to mind.

  • Lamy 2000 – Like, actually love, the design. Hate the nib. Hate the fact that I cannot find the right spot to consistently hold the pen. Hate the fact that the weight doesn’t work for me. If there is one pen that we’re all suppose to like but that I just don’t, this might be it.
  • TWSBI Mini – This pen stayed in my rotation longer than any other pen that is now out of the rotation. Why is this pen now and forever out? The need to screw the cap onto the back to post is a bad design choice (I will not even try the Vac Mini because of this issue). The pen is unusable without posting and needing to take time to post and to make sure the clip doesn’t dig into your hand is annoying. Also, build quality. I had my Mini for more than a year but, sure enough, different parts eventually cracked. TWSBI Mini, you’re dead to me.
  • TWSBI Vac 700 – I liked this pen a lot at one point but the need to open the plunger to get a good ink flow became annoying. Also, part of it cracked like the Mini so screw it.
  • Pilot Metropolitan – Nice balance, very good nibs, horrible step between the body and grip. I don’t have to put up with that on other pens so why am I putting up with it here? Answer – I’m not.
  • Parker Vacumatic – Maybe one of the best looking pens I own but the barrel and grip are too slippery for me. Why am I trying to hold onto a pen that doesn’t want to stay in my hand? Answer – I’m not.
  • Pilot Vanishing Point – I tried. I really did try to like this pen but the clip and the squeaky nib are just too freakin’ annoying. Vanish Vanishing Point.
  • Every other Pilot fountain pen I tried – I’ve spent plenty of money on several Pilot fountain pens and none of them have made the final cut. It is unlikely that I’ll ever try/buy another Pilot fountain pen again in my life.
  • Palomino 602 – I wanted to be one of the cool kids. I really did. This pencil looks cool and has a really nice feel, but that graphite is just too soft and smeary. Hey Palomino, maybe you didn’t know, but some of us are left-handed. For similar reasons, I have to write off all current and future versions of high-end Palominos as well (Pearl, Black, 211, 725, 1138, 2pi, 6.02 E+23, 1812, 42, etc.).
  • Palomino HB – Of all the writing tools I’m writing off, this one may be the most painful break up for me. This pencil is so close to perfect that it’s all the more annoying that it isn’t. Great colors (both the orange and blue finishes are fantastic). Classic design. Functional eraser. But again, the graphite is just a touch too soft and smeary. Hey Palomino, maybe you didn’t know, but some of us are left-handed.
  • Dixon Ticonderoga – After trying pencils with better quality graphite it turns out that these pencils just suck.
  • Palomino Golden Bear – Have you held one of these pencils? It sort of hurts. Why am I holding a pencil with sharp, painful edges? Answer – I’m not.
  • Kuru Toga Pencil – Good length. Clip does not interfere with my hand. Plastic body and subtle ridges provide plenty of grip. Why does the graphite need to twist? Talk about over-engineering. Have we become so lazy that we need the graphite in our pencils to twist to keep a consistent point? I find the graphite turning to be far more annoying than useful.
  • rOtring 600 & 800 (silver finish), 600 Newton Lava – I like the vibe of rOtring. But, I cannot keep an adequate grip on these pencils to save my life. The same is true for the beautiful 600 Lava pencil I have but that is because the grip area of the Lava pencil is too skinny. Interestingly, the black rOtring 800 pencil is a lot easier for me to hold.
  • Most Retro 51 Tornados – I simply cannot use their rollerball refill. I dig the design of the pens, but that refill just won’t work for me. Yes, the Retro 51 can take ballpoint refills but I find the extent to which the refill tip protrudes and wiggles to be inconsistent from model to model. One of these days, I’ll figure out which of the 51s I have work well with a ballpoint refill and keep those but the inconsistency likely means I’ll never buy another 51 again.
  • Karas Kustoms Retrakt – Love the vibe of the company and the color options are a lot of fun. But, a cold aluminum pen that tapers significantly as you move towards the writing tip is a pen that I cannot hold onto.
  • Karas Customs Bolt – It’s like trying to write with the handle of a light saber. Why am I trying to write with the handle of a light saber? Answer – I’m not.

I’ll stop there for now. I understand that some of these writing tools may be the single greatest pen or pencil you’ve ever tried. I’m just saying that they don’t work for me and, in some case, I’m actually disappointed that they don’t. All I know is that they don’t work for me and I’m moving on.

There is now a I Know What I Like – Part 2 that can be found here.


Ti2 TechLiners for Sale

With my eye on a new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for teaching, the inventory reduction sale continues. Here I’m selling two limited-edition Ti2 TechLiners. I enjoy the TechLiner but these pens do not get nearly the use as other favorites. Hopefully someone out there can give them a good home.

I have two TechLiners for sale. One is the special edition Burple Tricamo TechLiner made specifically for Nockco.com. The other is the limited edition Orange Crush. I believe both pens are currently unavailable placing them in the “hard to get” category. Both pens are essentially brand new. I’m listing them for ~15% off what I paid for the pen plus shipping. Shipping within the continental US is included in the price. The pens will NOT include a refill.

Please send an email to thatonepen@gmail.com if you are interested.

Limited Edition Orange Crush $95 SOLD
Includes magnets in both ends, the small donut magnet for the refill and clip.





Special Edition Nockco Burple Tricamo $85 SOLD
Includes magnets for both ends, the donut magnet for the refill, a few spacers/washers and a clip.





Field Notes for Sale


In the hopes of partially funding a new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to use for teaching (and personal stuff of course), I am putting up a portion of my Field Notes stash for sale. All the prices below include USPS shipping within the continental US. I tried to set the prices at levels that are noticeably better than what you can find on eBay and still make a few bucks after accounting for shipping. So, no haggling please. To encourage bulk buying that reduce my trips to the post office, I will knock off $5 from your total for every trio of packs you buy.

Please send an email to thatonepen@gmail.com to express interest and I’ll get back to you asap. All purchases will be done via Paypal. Because of the holiday weekend, shipping will not commence until Monday, 11/30.

All books are in un-opened three packs (except for the Arts and Sciences which comes in un-opened two packs). The Unexposed editions are truly unexposed!

Drink Local: Lagers $18 (3 2 pack available) SOLD OUT
Two Rivers $18 (2 packs available; If you just want one please specify the “blue pack” or the “red pack”)
Ambition $20 (2 packs available) SOLD OUT
Unexposed $18 (2 packs available) SOLD OUT
Arts and Sciences $20 (2 packs available)
Cold Horizons $18 (1 pack available) SOLD OUT
Shelterwood $18 (1 pack available) SOLD OUT
DDC-054 Factor Floor #1295 $40 (1 pack available) SOLD OUT
XOXO 2014 $30 (1 pack available) SOLD OUT

Again, $5 off for every three packs you buy.

UPDATE – Some of these packs are still available, but this post is now several months old and the economics of different editions of FN has since changed. I still have packs of several older and recent FN Colors editions. Send an email to thatonepen@gmail.com if you’d like to find out what I currently have.







Karas Kustoms Render K G2


Beyond my laptop, phone and wallet, my most frequently used personal item of the past three months may be my (somewhat) unique stonewashed Karas Kustoms Render K G2 in orange and grey. I nabbed this bad boy during one of KK’s Instagram flash sales. I am not a man who believes in fate, but luck was clearly with me that day because this pen has turned into one of my favorites. In fact, of the dozens upon dozens of pens in my collection, this orange and grey Render K G2 is easily in the top 3 right now.

Let’s start with the looks. Stop reading and just scroll through the pictures. I stink at taking pictures, but even my pedestrian shots look pretty good. The colors offer a nice juxtaposition of the bright and fun orange contrasting with the sleek and classy grey. It’s the mullet of color combinations – party on the body of the pen and all business on the pen cap. The stonewash produces a nice weathered appearance around the knurling of the cap, along the threads near the grip section and along the circumference of the end. It is a subtle but compelling effect. If it’s not my favorite looking pen, it’s damn close to it.


Next up, build quality. It’s a machined pen made of high quality aluminum – ’nuff said but I’ll go on a bit more. Compared to a fountain pen or an inexpensive plastic pen, the Render K feels like a tank. At around 30 grams capped, it has some heft to it. When writing without the non-posting cap, the Render K comes in around 20-22 grams which is right in my wheelhouse. I have zero hesitation about bringing this pen anywhere or carrying it in any way (in a case, in my bag, in my pocket, etc.). I’ve become protective about the pen but not because I’m concerned about damaging it. I just don’t want to lose the thing!


Last and most important – the writing experience. The balance of the pen overall and the form factor of the grip area work well for me. At around 5 inches, it is not a long pen so folks with large hands may find it to be a tad short. Not me. The pen fits nicely in my average to small hands. Like all aluminum pens, the Render K can feel a bit slick but this is where the grip area helps. As you can see in the picture below, the diameter of the pen increases a bit going from back to front and there are two small steps before and after the threads. The combination of steps and threads provide direction for my fingers seeking the right grip while also offering texture for the edge of my thumb pad to hold onto. To put it succinctly, the design of the pen allows for a confident grip for what could otherwise be a slippery pen.


As for refill choice, I have grown quite fond of the 0.5 mm Pilot Juice. I think of the Juice refill as the grown up version of the Pilot G2 refill available in office supply stores. The balance between flow, smoothness and feedback is just about perfect in the 0.5 Juice and it works on a wide range of paper types. The common G2 refill can be splotchy with a writing experience that is a touch rougher than the Juice. As with most machine pens capable of taking different refill types, there is the smallest amount of play in the tip of the refill. Since the Render K is a capped pen (as opposed to a retractable pen), it is easy enough to modify the refill with bit of scotch tape near the tip to eliminate the wiggle. Also, adding tape to the end of the refill gets it to protrude a few millimeters past the cone as is my preference.

Since getting this Render K through the Instagram flash sale, I have added a blue and a grey Render K to my collection. Of course, I switched the grey and blue caps between these pens to generate color hybrids. The blue body / grey cap combo packs a teal 0.5 Pilot Juice and is used for grading while the grey body / blue cap is currently rolling with a 0.7 Juice.

In summary, I really dig these pens.