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.


10 thoughts on “I know what I like

  1. Re LAMY 2000, the nubs that hold the cap are designed to be felt by the thumb and forefinger. It’s a subtler ergonomic guide than the triangular grip of the Safari/Vista. When the pen is held between a 40-45 degree angle to the paper, there’s the “sweet spot”.

    But if you don’t like it, then you don’t like it.

    1. I didn’t know that! But I find I like my Lamys with a broad nib anyway and the sweet spot on a Lamy BB is about as wide as the English Channel.

  2. I am so pleased to see your “I know what I like” approach rather than a “Best/Worst pens” approach. Sharing your personal likes, dislikes, and frustrations makes your comments much more useful to me.
    By the way, my first Kuru Toga pencil is in shipping right now. Here’s hoping my experience is different than yours.

  3. The Retrakt was actually one of the most comfortable pens I own..they taper makes it a tad slimmer in feel. The only downside I find to it is the length and amount the pen sticks out of one’s pocket.
    Whats even more interesting is they make their new EDK pen which is kind of like a shorter Retrakt but it tapers less..this gives it a much thicker feel even though its the exact same diameter as the Retrakt. They then put grip rings in the EDK which look cool but
    end up being sharp against your fingers.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I do think the extent to which the Retract and EDK stick out of the pocket is a significant design bug of those pens. It makes accidental deployment easier if you keep the pen in a pants pocket. I never looked to seriously into the EDK because it uses the Retro 51 style refill and that guy doesn’t work consistently for me.

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