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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Pelikan405

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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 Eco 

TWSBIEco

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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)

TomboMono100

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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)

PentelTwistErase

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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

EdisonMenlo

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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

ParkerJotter

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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)

Rotring800

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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

DeltaFusion82

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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)

Lamy2000

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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)

TactileTurnMover

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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…

Karas Kustoms Render K G2

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The Pens and Pencils I Actually Use

That One Pen has been around for a while now. I’ve posted several dozen reviews and have been fortunate enough to accrue something resembling a decent readership. What I have not done is clearly written about what I actually use on a consistent basis. For those of us afflicted with late-stage pen and/or pencil addiction, writing tools constantly fall in and out of favor. However, over time, we find ourselves returning to a short list of favorites. What follows is a somewhat lengthy consideration of my pen and pencil short list. As with any such list, it is idiosyncratic, biased and personal but it is not hastily constructed. Trust me – the overflowing storage boxes and lower-than-otherwise-would-be bank account are evidence that this post is the result of plenty experimentation.

Here are the ground rules for this post – no categories and no rankings. I do not want to get caught up in listing my top 5 this and my top 5 that because I do not use pens and pencils based on their relative ranking in a particular category. I use stuff based on some random combination of needs and wants. Also, ignore the order in which these items are listed. If it is in this post then I like it, use it and recommend that you consider it as well. One final point. I only selected writing tools that I use, or at least have handy, multiple times in a typical week. As a result, the list is light of fountain pens. It’s not that I don’t have and use fountains pens with some frequency it’s just that only one or two are consistently inked and handy at most times. We’re focusing on the work horses here. Let’s get started.

Pentel Energel 0.7 mm
The gel pen category is huge and seems to grow every month. The range of colors, ink properties and point sizes makes the gel pen options dizzying at best and bankrupting at worst. That said, if you can buy it at Staples or order it from Jet Pens, odds are I’ve tried it. For me, the micro, needle points tend to be too scratchy and inconsistent with respect to ink flow and the broader points tend to be too wet and I need quick drying ink as a lefty. So, medium points usually find the sweet spot between smoothness, feedback and dry times. Enter the Pentel Energel. Like I said – I’ve tried just about everything in this category. Yes, I’ve flirted with other options and even gone steady with more than few, but in the end I always come back to the Energels with the 0.7 mm point. From the Deluxe RTX to the Energel-X to the Alloy to the non-retractable options, these pens come in a variety of body types. Personally, I prefer the Energel-X. The Deluxe is a tad too long. The Alloy is a bit longer still and also less comfortable and the non-retracble versions are less convenient. In a perfect world, one of the established machine pen makers will use the Energel refill as inspiration for a future design. Are you listening Karas Customs, Tactile Turn, Ti2 Design, BigiDesign, etc.?! One quick note – the Energel ink is not water-resistant so do not write your mortgage check with these pens. Actually, don’t write your mortgage check at all – send it electronically. Given that I write 2 checks a year (at most) and have never had issues with water ruining important papers I’ve written, I consider the water thing a total non-factor.

Energel

 

Tactile Turn Mover and Shaker
Speaking of machined pens…Of all the categories of pens, I find machined pens (especially those offered on Kickstarter) particularly tempting. What late-stage pen addict can resist the idea of a purpose-built pen while also supporting an entrepreneur chasing his or her dream? Heck, as a teacher I’m easily sucked into a story of hope and potential so Kickstarter is basically design to get money from folks like me. All of that said, I have grown weary of quality control in the small to medium batches that these vendors deal with and a bit tired of the utilitarian design favored by this segment as well. I am not saying machines pens are poorly made but I am saying I have sent multiple machined pens back to multiple vendors for minor tweaks here and there. Not a huge issue but it is a thing. Anyway, to me, the best pens are simple, efficient and maybe even a bit classy. I’m not going to get on any particular makers, but I have discovered that pens made from slippery aluminum tubes with screws showing on the clip are not my thing. Now, the Mover and Shaker pens from Tactile Turn give me the chance to support a small business and get an object that looks and feels like a pen. The shorter Shaker takes Parker-style refills. The longer Mover readily accepts G2-type refills. The Mover is a touch too long for my hand, but I do get a fair amount of use from my Mover when its loaded with a 0.5 mm Pilot Juice refill (more on this pen below). I don’t use it frequently, but it has a permanent place in my pen cup so it belongs in this list. Likewise, the Shaker is not my primary Parker-style refill pen (read on to find out which one is) but it’s certainly makes the short list.

TactileTurn

 

Staedtler 925 and Uni Kuru Toga (the less expensive mechanical pencils)
Honestly, how many cheap mechanical pencils does the world need? If every pencil manufacturer stopped making mechanical pencils tomorrow wouldn’t it be about 20 years before we would notice the beginnings of a shortage? I enjoy mechanical pencils as much as the next guy, but pound for plastic, there may not be another category of writing implements I’ve blown more money on than cheap mechanical pencils. Enough complaining. What less expensive mechanical pencils do I keep coming back to? Staedtler 925 and Uni Kuru Toga. Like all cheaper mechanical pencils, both of these pencils are a tad too light for me but they are also among the most comfortable writing tools, pen or pencil, I own. There isn’t any fancy about the Staedtler 925, but the ridged rubber grip is comfortable without being too squishy. As you probably know, the Kuru Toga has a cool clutch mechanism that keeps the graphite line consistent and the subtle contours of the grip area provides plenty of control. There are other mechanical pencils I carry with me and use more frequently (see below) but I have multiple sets of Kuru Toga and Staedtler pencils in multiple locations to make sure a decent mechanical pencil is always handy.

StaedtlerUni

 

TWSBI Mini (Honorable mention for TWSBI Classic and Vac 700)
To try to talk about all that fountain pens have to offer in the context of this post would be silly. There simply is too much history and too many options to get into it in one post, two posts or twenty posts. I have about 20 fountain pens in my collection but time and time again I come back to my TWSBI Mini. It’s not the best looking fountain pen I own. That honor might go to my Parker Vacumatic. But it is the fountain pen that fits my hand the best and works perfectly each and every time. It has to be the nib and feed because the TWSBI Classic, which uses the same hardware, is also rock solid for me. I prefer the slightly wider barrier of the Mini compared to the Classic and if only the darn cap of the Mini would just slide on instead of screwing on the back to post, the Mini would be perfect. While I may not use it as much as other writing tools on this list, I want to give a shout out to the Vac 700. It’s one of the quirkiest pens I own and it’s far too big to carry around but it is the ideal tool for when I want that old-school-sitting-at-my-desk-writing-like-it’s-1925 feeling. Again, there are plenty of other fountain pens in the collection but none, including the vintage pens I own, have earned my trust and loyalty like the TWSBIs. One more comment. My TWSBI Mini did develop a crack in the body. I sent an email to TWSBI USA on a Sunday morning and I got a positive reply within minutes. That, my friends, is how you do customer service.

TWSBI

 

Parker Jotter (Relatively inexpensive but classic writing tool part 1)
I don’t care what any of you pen snobs think – I love the Parker Jotter. What’s more, I like them best when they are loaded with the basic Parker Quink ballpoint refill. How do you like them apples pen dorks?! Along with spending far too much time trying different cheap mechanical pencils, I spend way too much time (and more than a few bucks) down the Parker-style refill rabbit hole. I bet I could find (conservatively counting) 15 different types of Parker-style refills in my home office in under 20 seconds. While a Fisher Space Pen refill and a 100% fresh Visconti gel refill have their benefits, I continually come back to Parker’s own Quink refill. I’ve been debating between medium and broad point recently, but one way or another it’s typically Parker Quink for me. As for the Jotter itself, its iconic design is the epitome of simplicity, efficiency and class. In truth, the Jotter is probably a few millimeters too thin to be perfectly perfect for me, but that’s just me being perfectly picky. Whether it’s a quick line on a Post-it Note, a to-do list on an index card or problem solving in a student’s five subject notebook, I know I can grab a Jotter and get a solid result each time on any paper and look classy while doing so. Remember, the Jotter has been around since 1954 so you get relatively inexpensive collectability and the benefit of touching history with each pen stroke. Love. It.

Jotter

 

Dixon Ticonderoga and Tombo Mono (because sometimes you need to go old school and O’natural while you keep it real)
I don’t always use a wood-cased pencil (because why would I) but when I do, I like to keep it simple and/or yellow and/or smooth and/or slightly hard. Wood-cased pencils are a whole thing unto themselves. I have allowed myself to dip more than a big toe into this pool but, like my 8-year-old self, I refuse to dive in head first. I have learned enough to know that there are bad pencils, decent pencils, good pencils and (supposedly) really good pencils but given that wood-case pencils are not terribly portable and there simply is no way I’m going to use more than 8 wood-cased pencils in my statistical speaking 34 years left on earth, I’m just not going to go there in any significant way. Why do I prefer F grade graphite? I’m left-handed and prefer not to look like I’ve been playing in the dirt after writing. The Dixon is on this list because (a) the F/2.5 grade version is fairly easy to get, (b) I have a thing for iconic design and (c) it has an eraser. The Tombo Mono is on the list because it’s the best writing wood-cased pencil that doesn’t smudge that I’ve tried to this point in my life. So why not just go with the Mono alone? See items (a), (b) and (c) above. Like the cheap mechanical pencils I discussed above, I have plenty of “copies” of the Dixon and Tombo here, there and everywhere to make sure my old school pencil itch can be scratched any time.

DixonTombow

 

Pentel i+ and Lamy 2000 Multi pen
Let me be honest here. I feel like any self-respecting pen nerd should have a favorite multi pen or two. So, these two entries feel like obligations as much as anything. Don’t get me wrong – I use them often just not as much as the other gel or ballpoint options on this list. Frankly, multi pens are a weird category. On the one hand, they should be the answer to every pen nerd’s need to have more than one writing option on hand at all times. On the other hand, you cannot physically write with more than one pen at a time and multi pens never do their job as well as a single refill pen. Putting all of that aside, whenever I need/want the convenience of a multi pen I go for either my Pentel i+ or my Lamy 2000 with the final choice based on whether I’m in a gel ink or ballpoint mood. Ultimately, picking a multi pen comes down to minimizing concessions. So, if I’m going to use a gel ink multi pen then the refills need to work consistently (I’m looking at you Pilot Hi Tec C Coleto), thus my preference for Energel inks. If I’m going to use a ballpoint multi then I prefer to go with one that looks and feels great, thus the Lamy 2000. These pens may not be true work horses for me, but they definitely pull their own weight on my pen and pencil farm.

PentelLamyMulti

 

Caran d’Ache 849 (Relatively inexpensive but classic writing tool part 2)
With all due respect to friends across the pond, the Caran d’Ache 849 is basically the european Parker Jotter. The 849 came along some 15 years after the Jotter. I don’t know its full history and looking stuff up on the internet can be so complicated, but I suspect the folks at Caran d’Ache were inspired by Parker’s work. Given the design of the 849, they were certainly inspired by the humble wood-case pencil so there is an interesting cross over there.. Like the Jotter, we have the flexibility of multiple refill options and the added fun of moderately priced collectability given the varieties of color and finishes available within the 849 line. Simple. Efficient. Well made. What’s not to like? In case you’re wondering, the pen in the foreground of the picture below is the 100th anniversary 849 Caran d’Ache released earlier this year. So colorful and detailed.

CarandAche849

 

rOtring 600 Lava and rOtring 800 (the more expensive mechanical pencils)
The rOtring mechanical pencils I have may be the best made items in my entire pen and pencil collection. The precision, efficiency and build quality of these pencils is insane. As with all things, there is a point of diminishing return when it comes to price and mechanical pencils. After all, we’re basically talking bout a sleeve for a stick of graphite. Still, if you have a need for mechanical pencils, why not use the best? Like any mechanical pencil, these rOtrings are not suited for extended writing sessions but when it comes to problem solving and other typical mechanical pencil uses, these tools are top of the line without being stupidly expensive (~$70). I dig the lava finish so much that I have two of the 600s (one for home and one for school) and the 800 is a constant travel companion. Both of these pencils have retractable tips (the 600 retracts with a click, the 800 with a twist) which adds to their pocketability. If you want to show someone how writing implements are supposed to be made and how efficient mechanical pencils really can be, show them a rOtring.

rOtring

 

Pilot Juice 0.5 mm (the other gel pen)
Like I said, the gel pen world is a dizzying array of confounding choices. So, it makes sense that any pen nerd should have a couple of favorites from this category. Why the Pilot Juice? (1) It has a 0.5 mm canonical shaped point. I prefer cone shapes to needle points and when you get down to 0.5 mm and smaller, many makers go with needle points. (2) The ink chemistry of the Juice is different from the water-based Energel so it writes a tighter, drier line that compliments the Energel nicely. (3) It has the same size and shape of the ubiquitous G2 refill so it works in variety of pen bodies, including the Tactile Turn Mover discussed above. Given my preference for 0.7 mm lines in the Energel, you might think I’d like the Juice in 0.7 mm as well. That has yet to be the case. Maybe I haven’t tried the right color in the 0.7 Juice but, for whatever reason, the color intensity at 0.7 mm is less satisfying than at 0.5 mm to my eyes. Overall, the Pilot Juice is not my go-to gel ink but it is my go-to-next gel ink.

PilotJuice

 

BigiDesign Ti Ballpoint
This plucky little guy is the most recent addition to my consistently used list of pens and it’s here for one reason; the interior design of the pen is such that the Parker-style refill does not wiggle one fraction of a nanometer during use. With retractable ball points, there can be a hint of wiggle in the point. To be clear, this is not the case with my favorite Parker Jotters or Caran d’Ache 849s (but I am looking at you Retro 51). However, when I want a truly 100% rock solid feel in a ballpoint, I’ve been grabbing for the Ti ballpoint from BigiDesign in recent weeks. It’s not perfect. Un-posted it’s a bit too short and posted it’s a bit too long. But compared to bullet-style Fisher Space Pens which also provide a rock solid feel, the Ti Ballpoint’s grip area and heft of the titanium works better for me. It does come with a rather useless rubber stylus tip on the bottom end. Thankfully, you can swap it out for a flat end cap that comes with the pen.

BigiDesign

 

Miscellaneous Stuff I Use Often
We’re closing in on 3000 words so this post is already too long. I will not go into significant detail for the items below, but I did want to mention a few paper items, inks and other things that fit into the broader pen/pencil world as way to round out this post.

The Friendly Swede Micro Fiber Stylus – Along with all the money I spent on cheap mechanical pencils and Parker-style refills, I also spent too much searching for the best stylus for my iPad. This is one to get. It works first time every time.

Pilot Iroshizuku Kon Peki – Like many of you, I have more fountain pen ink than I could possibly use in this or three more lifetimes. Of all the ink bottles I have, the level in the bottle of Kon Peki is the lowest – ’nuff said.

Field Notes – You should carry a pocket notebook and you should carry the one that offers the best balance of paper quality, style and durability. Like many of my favorite products in this list, Field Notes has a certain inexpensive collectability that adds to the fun.

Yellow Legal Pads – Honestly, I probably write more notes on these legal pads than on any other surface. I’m currently using the Docket Gold pads by Tops. They’re not perfect but they’re about as good as legal pads get.

Nock Co. Dot Dash Index Cards – The last thing I do before leaving school each day is prepare a to-do list for the following day. I used to write this list on any old note card I could find. These days, I refuse to use anything but Nock Co Dot Dash cards.

Park Sloper Wallet/Notebook Holder by One Star Leather Goods – I’ve been thinking about going with a smaller front pocket wallet and leaving the Field Notes naked in my back pocket, but this wallet is so damn well made and so damn functional that I can’t bring myself to make the switch.

Mountain Briefcase by Topo Design – If I could recommend only one product in this entire post, the Mountain Briefcase might be it. I got the green one for Christmas last year and I could not be happier with it. It fits several pens, my MacBook Air, a legal pad, a stack of student test papers and various other bits and pieces with an insane level of efficiency.

Pen Holders by Dudek Modern Goods – I have several of Mike Dudek’s solid walnut pen holders, including a couple that were custom-made. Also, I’m this close (forefinger and thumb about 1 cm apart) to ordering another custom piece from Mike. These holders may straddle the line between function and luxury so it’s not like you need one. Still, you should want one because they do what they do well and look great doing so.

So there you have it. The pens, pencils and other stuff I actually use. Of course, this post will be revised in the weeks and months ahead but it won’t be updated without serious consideration. I hope you found this post 5% as informative as I have. Sitting down and clearly thinking about what you actually use, without worrying about what you think you should use or what is trendy, is an eye-opening process.

 

**Disclaimer – Other than a few products that were gifts from immediate family or close friends, all of the items in this post were purchased by me with my own money. I have not been compensated in any way by any of the merchants or makers discussed in this post. Any links to vendors are provided purely for reader’s convenience.**

 

 

Uni-ball Signo 307

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The Uni-ball Signo 207 is often touted as one of the better pens you can buy at the big box office supply stores or even your local grocery store. Although I have never formally reviewed the 207, I would generally agree that it is a solid buy. That said, the Uni-ball Signo 207 is not my readily-available gel pen of choice. For me, that distinction goes to Pentel’s Energel. If you want a gel pen that writes consistently, smoothly (but not too slippery), offers bold colors and is fairly easy to find, you cannot do better than an Energel in my book. Could Uni-ball’s new entry into the gel pen world, the Signo 307, topple the Energel from its lofty perch?

I came across the Signo 307 during a quick stop at Target. I went there looking for Cliff Bars, some things made by a company named Hanes (too much information?) and salsa. I left with Cliff Bars, Hanes products and the Signo 307s (they were out of the salsa I prefer). Like many of you, I wander into the stationery aisle of Target whenever I’m there. Of course, 99% of the time, there isn’t much new or interesting in the aisle but this recent trip was that rare 1% bonus. I have no idea how widely available Target is making the new Signo 307 so the experience at your local Target store may vary. By the way, they were running a sale on packs of Pentel Energel pens as well so you now have two excuses for a Target run.

Hopefully the pictures below show you most of what you want to know, but here are a few quick take aways:

  • Compared to a medium point Signo 207, the medium Signo 307 clearly lays down a bolder line.
  • While the 207 does not really skip, it will occasionally hesitate a bit when starting. In fairness to Uni-ball, most gel pens need a stroke or two to get going but the 307 seems less prone to this hesitation than most gel pens I’ve used.
  • The 307 felt a bit smoother than the 207.
  • The size, shape and feel of the 207 and 307 are identical.
  • Cosmetically, the 307 swaps out the silver-colored trim of the 207 for matte black. The 307 barrel is also not as transparent as the 207 and features a fading checkered pattern on the body. Personal preferences are personal preferences. Me? I prefer the look of the 307. They’re both plastic pens but the 307 looks a bit more refined.
  • The dry times of the two pens were pretty much the same.

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uniballsigno307d

uniballsigno307a

So, which do I prefer? I like the 307 a bit more. Will the Signo 307 replace the Pentel Energel as my “go to” gel pen? Nope. Ultimately, the Signo 307 does not do anything better than the Energel and the all but instantaneous dry time of the latter keeps it at the top of the podium for me. That said, I encourage you to check out the 307, especially if you like the 207 but would prefer a bolder line.

Tactile Turn Titanium Mover

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Short Review:  This is a fantastic pen!

Slightly Longer Review:

The name of this site is That One Pen. Its goal is to track my efforts to find that ONE pen. I’ve written nearly 50 posts and reviewed about 25 pens and a handful of pencils. In the grand scheme of pen-dom, 25 is but a tiny drop in the pen cup. All of that said, if I had to pick one pen as That One Pen today, the Tactile Turn Ti Mover would be on the short list at the very least. In fact, right now, today, the TT Ti Mover is my favorite pen.

I previously reviewed the TT Mover and the shorter TT Shaker. Back then, I was more enthusiastic about the shorter Shaker than the longer Mover. My take on the Mover was positive if somewhat lukewarm. Today, my perspective on the Shaker remains positive while my opinion of the Mover has “evolved”. What made me go from “okay” to OMG regarding the TT Mover? My discovery of the Pilot Juice refill and the new titanium body.

TactileTurnTiMover2

A full review of the Pilot Juice is in order and I hope to take care of that later. These refills are now my preferred gel pen option. I’m on record as being a big fan of the Pentel Energel as they lay down a consistent line, come in a nice array of colors and offer quick drying times. The performance of the Juice refills is similar or just a touch better in every way. The writing experience of the 0.5 Juice is smoother than the 0.5 Energel and also lays down a line that is more consistent and tighter. Additionally, the 0.38 mm Juice is the first sub-0.5 mm point that worked well for me. Most micro tip gels feel too scratchy to me. Those that do write somewhat smoothly often skip (I’m looking at you Hi Tec C). Anyway, I still dig Energels but I find myself grabbing for Juice pens much more frequently these days. The Pilot Juice refill has the added benefit of being the same size and shape of the (over) popular G2 refill which may fit more pen bodies than any refill except for the ubiquitous Parker-type refill.

Now for the titanium body. Titanium is a touch heavier than aluminum which works well if, like me, you find most aluminum pens a hair too light. Titanium is also resistant to corrosion so it will look good as new today, tomorrow and the thousands of tomorrows to come. There is also the relative “warmth” of titanium compared to other metal pen material. (Warming, science content coming) Titanium has a relatively low specific heat. This means it conducts heat efficiently. So, while aluminum will have a noticeably cold feel to it when you first pick it up and for several moments thereafter, titanium warms up quickly. Twirl the TT Ti Mover in your hand and it quickly loses it metallic coldness and feels great.

TactileTurnTiMover3

Lastly, there’s design and build quality. As you can see, the design is simple, clean and effective. Those tactile turns toward the front of the pen really, really, really do their job well. Hey lefties, you know how we push a pen across a page which can cause our fingers to slide down pen? Well, the warm feel of the titanium body combined with the grooves of the grip section completely shuts that sliding down. Then there’s the invisible seam. It’s really cool how the seam pretty much disappears as the front and back sections come together.

To conclude, the TT Ti Mover looks great, works well and is built to the highest standards. It’s hard to say. Maybe it is that ONE pen, maybe it isn’t. But I do know, at this point, it easily has a spot on the medal stand. At $139, it certainly is not an impulse buy. So, think about it for a few minutes before you get one.

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Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto

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Multipen systems make an immense amount of sense. Why carry around two, three, four or more pens of different colors when you can carry around one pen with multiple inserts of various sizes. There are; however, some concessions to make in order to gain the convenience of the all-in-one multipen system. First, the barrel of your average multipen is wider than most other writing implements. Second, the options for refills are limited and often proprietary. I haven’t done a rigorous survey of all the multipen options out there, but I suspect most use ballpoint technology and only a handful work with refills not made by the pen manufacturer.  So, when I find a multipen option that doesn’t feel like I’m writing with a cigar and gives me some flexibility with respect to the refills then I give it a serious look. Specifically, the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto comes in a variety of body sizes and, although proprietary, the range of colors available for the gel refills provides a version of flexibility.

Coleto6

As you can see from the pictures, I tried the Coleto 3 and the Coleto Me (4 refills). Both use the same Hi-Tec-C multipen refills that come in several colors and a few different point sizes. Let me start with point sizes and then I’ll get into the differences between the Coleto 3 and the Coleto Me. The choice of point size actually factors into another point regarding multipens and that is build quality and noise. Because multipens involve several moving parts, these pens often have a rattle sound here and clicking noise there. Also, the deployed refill can demonstrate a bit more wiggle compared to single-refill retractable pens. Afterall, a refill in a multipen needs to move forward and away from the inside wall of the pen body as it advances out the hole. (By the way, is there an official name for the hole where the refill pops out of a retractable pen?)  So, what does all this have to do with point size? It seems to me that the thinner point size (0.4 mm in my case) grabs the paper a bit more which causes the refill to show more wiggle than a broader point size (0.5 mm in my case). Of course, much of this can be due to writing style but using a ultrafine tip in a multipen seems to be a no-go for me. My advice – if you’re interested in writing with anything smaller than a 0.5 mm Hi-Tec-C point, go with the single-refill stick option. The thin point needs the added build quality (i.e. less wiggle) of a dedicated pen body.

Coleto9

As for the gel ink itself, there’s not much I can add that likely hasn’t been said elsewhere. The inks are vibrate and the 0.5 mm point size lays down a solid but certainly not wet line. In terms of line consistency, all the colors I tried (black, blue/black, blue, aqua blue and orange) behaved well save for black. It could have been my particular refill, but the black offered the most hesitancy to start but not so much that I grew frustrated with the refill. I’m not a big black ink guy anyway, so not much of a loss there.

Coleto5

Between the Coleto 3 and the Coleto Me, I’m going with the 3. The Me does have a simple grip that works well but the barrel diameter is just wide enough to be a touch awkward for me. Also, the rounder shape of the plastic tip seems an awkward contrast to the thin refill tip coming out. There’s also a noticeable step up between the grip section and the upper body of the Coleto Me that detracts from what should be, given the thinner point and gel ink, a sleek feeling writing experience. The Coleto 3 is a touch thinner at the grip section which I like and shows more width consistency along the entire length of the pen. I think I like the contoured grips of the Coleto 3, but I’m not entirely sold. Also, compared to the Me, the plastic tip of the 3 is more cone-shaped and less rounded which just seems to match the line of a thin gel refill better. In general, the Coleto 3 feels a touch more solid. The Coleto Me is not poorly built. It’s just that the Coleto 3 beats the Me by a nose in the overall feel of the build quality.

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Should you buy a Coleto multipen of some sort? In short, I would say yes. The pens are inexpensive enough and the refills offer plenty of color and size variety that it’s worth spending $15-$20 on a couple of pen bodies and a few refills to see what you like. But don’t expect a precise writing experience or to get a pen that you’ll want to write with for extended writing sessions. I’ve gotten a fair amount of use out of mine when helping students with problems solving and for grading. The multiple colors are helpful for highlighting different portions of problems and the orange color stands out nicely when marking papers. One quick word of caution. I did notice that the refill skipped a bit after I wrote over writing done in pencil. It seems the graphite interferes with the refill tip for a just a bit before the normal flow returns.

Coleto3