Parker Jotter

ParkerJotter1

Is it an overstatement to suggest that the Parker Jotter is the most important writing implement of the 20th century? I don’t think so. While it was not the first ballpoint pen widely available to the buying public, it was the first ballpoint that was both reliable and affordable. Introduced in 1954, the Jotter original cost $2.50 (about $24 in 2014 dollars). Considering that a standard, well-built Jotter can be had for less $10 and that various “deluxe” versions with upgraded materials go for about $20, the Jotter remains a solid buy.

The Parker Jotter is on any short list of iconic pen designs. While its basic shape has not changed in 60 years, there have been a handful of modifications over the years. The clip and plunger have gone through a few iterations and the body comes in more colors and designs than you can easily count. Early on, the clip got its arrow shape and the engraved feathers have come and gone and the plunger has been rounded, flattened and rounded again. These small tweaks are nice and all, but for me, the fun of collecting Jotters is all about the colors and designs. But why would anyone need more than one Jotter? Well, for a small investment, you can get a consistent writing experience in a variety of colors and designs to suit any situation or mood at work, school or home. Of course, the same can be said for other widely-available pen designs such as Retro 51 or the Fisher Space Pen.

ParkerJotter2

The build quality of the Jotter is solid. Of the 20 plus Jotters I’ve owned during 20 plus years, I’ve never had a hint of an issue with the body or clip sections. I have lost the tiny spring that sits inside the tip of the body, so you’ll want to take care not to loss the spring when replacing the refill. The spring usually stays inside the pen when changing refills, but every now and then it will get stuck on the end of the refill and you may lose it if you’re not paying attention.

One minor, yet noticeable, alteration done to the Jotter sometime in the 1980s was swapping the brass threads for plastic threads inside the cap section. It’s not a huge difference, but I do like the extra bit of weight the brass threads provide.

There are literally dozens upon dozens of refills made by a variety of manufacturers. So, while we’re not talking fountain-pen-range-of-options here, surely you can find at least one refill that works for your typical needs. Personally, I’m partial to the newer Quink refills made by Parker and Fisher Space Pen refills. Other folks swear by the EasyFlow 9000 from Schmidt or the various gel refills made by Monteverde, which brings me to a quick bit of advice. If you audition an older Jotter, look inside the pen first. If it has an older Parker refill then do not give the writing experience any credence. Instead, focus on the design and condition of the pen itself and know that you’ll be able to get a solid writing experience with a new refill.

ParkerJotter8

It’s an icon. It’s well built. It accommodates a variety of refill options. Put it all together and the inevitable conclusion is that you should get a Jotter (or two or three) and spend a bit of time and money finding a preferred refill. Personally, I prefer the metal Jotters to the plastic ones. Unless it’s an older Jotter with the brass threads, I find the plastic versions to be too light; I would rather write with the added heft of the all-metal editions. Once you find a workable combination, keep the pen handy and I suspect you’ll find yourself reaching for the Jotter more often than you might have thought.

(Note – This review was prepared a few months ago just before That One Pen went into hibernation. It’s longer than most reviews will be from now on but it seemed like a bad idea to let this review go to waste.)

Ti-Ballpoint Pen by BigiDesign

TiBallPoint

The Ti-Ballpoint is my second pen from the folks at BigiDesign. I also have the Ti-Click Classic. While the Classic was designed with the Uniball Signo 207 in mind, it takes a whole host of refills. It may be the most refill-flexible pen ever made. I recall carrying both the snooty Montblanc fineliner refill (Is it me or are those things a giant rip off?) and the pedestrian workhorse Pentel Energel refills at some point in my Ti-Click Classic. At $89, the Classic isn’t cheap but it’s incredibly well made and the wide-range of refill options makes it worth investigating. The Ti-Ballpoint is a bit more purpose built in that it takes just Parker-type refills. That said, there are so many variations on the Parker refill that there is a good chance that any picky pen person can be satisfied. Personally, I’m going to grab the Ti-Ballpoint more frequently than the Ti-Click. Why? Well, I’ve discovered that I enjoy shorter pens with a bit of heft to them and the Ti-Ballpoint is exactly that – a shorter pen (at least when unposted) that still feels substantial in your hand.

The Ti-Ballpoint ships with a Fisher medium black refill which is a good choice because the pen feels like it has an EDC sort of vibe so a refill that writes in most any situation makes sense. (Tangent/Rant…Why is the default color for ballpoint refills black? Anyone know? Did someone do the market study and determine that more people prefer black ballpoint ink over blue?) What I really like about the pen, other than the obvious build quality, is how the refill tip does not wiggle one tiny bit when you write. With some pens that take a refill, there is often a bit of wiggle in the tip. 99% of the time it’s a minute amount of wiggle so it doesn’t much matter. But with the Ti-Ballpoint there is zero, zilch, nada wiggle thanks to a tight, spring reinforced, fit. You know how most refills just slide into a pen body and you screw it shut easily enough. Not so with the Ti-Ballpoint. It certainly isn’t hard to replace the refill, but you do need to apply a bit force as you screw the grip section into the body. It’s like the pen is saying, “This refill is mine now!”

The pen is actually called the Ti-Ballpoint + Stylus. So, it comes with a rubber stylus on the end of the pen that can be replaced with a flat end cap (see my picture) that you’ll want to use a flat head screwdriver to attach securely. The stylus works fine, but that bit of rubber doesn’t seem to jive with the whole sturdy, EDC thing the rest of the pen has going for it. Thankfully, the folks at BigiDesign were smart enough to include that end cap option.

At $75, the Ti-Ballpoint is not a casual purchase. The $59 I paid during the Kickstarter campaign made the choice a lot easier. Should you buy one? Well, you need to have a Parker-type refill you like. I like Fisher refills and Parker’s newer Quink refills, so I’m all set. You should also like slightly thinner pens that have a bit of heft to them. All in all, it’s a winner for me. Great job BigiDesign.

Pentel Energel – Point Size Comparison

Frequent readers of this space know that the Pentel Energel is one of my favorite writing instruments. Like most gel pen brands, the Energel comes in a variety of point sizes with the 0.70 and 0.50 mm points being the most readily available. In my experience, the 0.70 mm is the more consistent writer as the 0.50 mm can skip occasionally. It’s not a huge deal by any stretch of the imagination but it can be noticeable on certain, less ink friendly, paper types. To complete the tour of the Energel line, I tracked down the broad 1.0 mm and the extra fine 0.35 mm tips and gave them a go.

Here’s a shot of all four tips and writing samples.

EnergelPoint1

Interestingly enough, I found the 0.35 mm tip to be a better writing experience than the 0.50 mm. Somehow, despite its thinner size, the 0.35 wrote smoother than the 0.50 mm and it did not seem to suffer the occasional skip like the 0.50 mm. Again, I’m not trying to condemn the 0.5 mm. It’s a fine pen and it typically provides a consistent writing experience. So, who knows, maybe it’s something about my writing angle (somewhat closer to vertical than most) that lends itself to working more effectively with the 0.35 vs 0.50.

EnergelPoint8

EnergelPoint10

As for the 1.0 mm, I can summarize the writing experience in one word – luscious. There can be a bit of an issue with getting a consistent start on down strokes (take a very close look at the top of the “1” of “1.0” in the picture above) but otherwise the pen glides across the paper and lays down a generous and dark line of ink. I haven’t used the 1.0 mm as my daily writer. If I did, I suspect the thicker point size would bleed the refill dry fairly quickly. Honestly, the 1.0 mm point size wouldn’t fit into my work flow often enough as a daily writer. However, I am thinking about tracking down the red or purple versions for grading purposes. The thick line and fairly quick drying Energel ink should work perfectly for that task.

As you can see below, I have the 1.0 and 0.35 in stick versions. Pentel doesn’t seem to sell retractable versions of these bookend sizes but the refills are all interchangeable so you can mix and match as much as you want. While I generally prefer my gel pens to be retractable, part of my preference for the 0.35 over the 0.50 may be because the former was the stick version and the latter was retractable and perhaps the more solid feel of the stick works better for more precise tips.

EnergelPoint2

The other big difference between the stick and retractable versions would be the clip. For looks, I like the silver of the stick version. For functionality, I like the curved plastic of the retractable version more as I tend to clip pens to the pocket of my pants and the plastic clip slides smoothly onto the thicker pant material. Those who carry their pens in a shirt pocket may find the clips of the sticks hold more securely to the thinner material.

So, what are my point size preferences? I still favor the 0.70 mm for most situations with the, surprisingly, 0.35 mm getting more use than I initially thought. With the 0.35 working out nicely, I’m finding it hard to keep the 0.50 in the rotation and the 1.0 will be limited to situational use.

EnergelPoint3

 

Tombow Mono Pencil(s)

TombowMono2

A pencil review?! I thought this was thatonepen.com, not thatonepencil.com. That’s true but doesn’t everyone pick up a pencil at least now and then? In my job as a chemistry teacher, my analog writing time is divided something like 70:30 between pen and pencil. Like most folks, I write most of my notes or to-do lists with a favorite pen. Unlike most folks, I need to do a fair amount of scientific problem solving/thinking. Maybe it’s just habit, but these process just feel more natural with a pencil in hand.

Back in my student days (Don’t ask how long ago. Suffice it to say that I was writing organic chemistry mechanisms before anyone heard of a little known governor from Arkansas), I did most of my problem sets and tests with a mechanical pencil (typically 0.7 mm) and one of those clicky erasures. I didn’t have anything against wooden pencils, but a couple of mechanical pencils loaded with “leads” seemed like a more efficient approach than walking into a test with a fist full of wooden pencils. In graduate school, I had to use pen in my lab notebook of course (Anyone remember these bad boys?) but I picked up the habit of using a wooden pencil from my research advisor. He always had a Cross Century ballpoint in his shirt pocket, but he also kept a cup of sharpened wooden pencil handy on his desk. Maybe I was trying to suck up or maybe I thought that if wood pencils were good enough for one of the smartest people I knew they were good enough for me, who knows. Regardless, pencils, in one form or another, have always been close at hand in my world.

Fast forward to today and this little pen blogging hobby has brought about a number of minor life experiences and opportunities including two pen shows, more than a few ebay purchases, much more than a few orders to JetPens and Goulet Pens, a Field Notes Colors subscription, custom-made pen holders and a few reminders. I’m reminded every day that I, and you if you’re reading this post, care much more about what I write with than the typical (read “normal”) person. More recently, I’ve been reminded that this writing implement snobbery extends to pencils as well. It was always there, but folks like the Erasable podcast gents and sites like Dave’s Mechanical Pencils have made me come to terms with this part of my personality. In short, my name is Todd and I’m a pen AND pencil snob. (Paper too but let’s confront one demon at a time.)

Well, that was more preamble than I original planned so let’s get to the present pencils shall we. Like most casual users of pencils, the idea of using a pencil that doesn’t have an erasure just seemed inefficient to me. Then again, what are all those clicky erasures doing on my desk and in my book bag? Upon further review, it was clear that I dismissed a larger portion, probably a majority, of finer pencil options for no good reason over this erasure issue. I came to Tombow brand pencils after ordering a bunch of different wooden pencils from Pencils.com and Jet Pens. Specifically, I got the Palomino collection pack from Pencils.com and a couple of different Tombow 2558s from Jet Pens. While I liked aspects of nearly all of these pencils, I found myself going back to the Tombow 2558 (H) most frequently. So, with my no-erasure pencil bias eliminated and my Tombow preference in tow, I walked the aisles of Blick Art looking for other options – enter the Tombow Mono.

TombowMono5

First, the pencils looks awesome. The black finish and white end produce a sharp chiaroscuro. Add the gold-colored lettering that resists chipping or fading and you’ve got yourself a classy pencil. Maybe this sounds strange, but this wooden pencil also feels solidly built. Compared to bodies of other wooden pencils I have that demonstrate a bit of flex, the Tombow Mono almost seems not to be made of wood. I can even hear a difference. When I roll multiple Palomino, Dixon or other pencils in my hands the sound is dull, almost hollow, compared to the higher pitched “click clack” I hear when rolling the Monos in my hands. The label on one facet of the Monos reads “hi-precision DRAFTING” and I think the description fits well. These are wooden pencils that, when sharpened nicely, feel very much like a mechanical drafting pencil. It’s a weird analogy, but I think this will work. Tombow Monos are the cyborg of pencils – fundamentally organic yet with a mechanical, precise feel.

TombowMono6

TombowMono9

How do the pencils write? Let’s start with the HB grade. Compared to other quality HB-ish pencils I have, the Tombow Mono HB definitely favors the hard end of the HB spectrum. For instance, compared to the Palomino Blackwing 602 or the standard Palomino California Republic I have, the Tombow Mono HB graphite is clearly made of sturdier stuff. While I don’t have one to compare directly, I suspect we’ll need to get into a Mono 2B range to find something comparable to the 602 or Palomino. As we move to the F and H Monos, the graphite cores clearly get harder but, importantly, they maintain a surprisingly smooth writing experience. Right now, I think the F is my preferred grade. It’s very smooth, lays down a decently dark line but doesn’t require the frequency of sharpening of an HB core. My preference isn’t so profound that I seek out the F grade exclusively. Usually, I just grab any of the Mono’s out of the cup and go with the flow. However, If I’m looking to pair pencil grade with writing circumstance, then I’ll grab the HB for smooth paper like Rhodia, the H grade for cheap notecards and most legal pads and the F grade for copy paper and Field Notes. Yeah, you know it’s bad when you’re selecting your pencil grade based on the paper you’re using. Goodness help us all. Yes, I do mean “us” because you’ve read this far haven’t you, you pencil freak.

So, there it is – my first pencil review. It won’t be my last but I suspect it may be a while before a wooden pencil that compares so favorably to the Tombow Mono comes to my attention.

TombowMonoCollage

Parker 51

Parker51aHere, the teal blue Parker 51 has a deep green color

It’s simple. It’s perfect. It’s a fountain pen. It’s the Parker 51. Much ink and many pixels have been spilled and typed in the name of this fine pen. Frankly, a vintage pen ignoramus like myself can’t add much to the discussion other than my own personal experience and thoughts so that is what you’ll get here. I bought this restored pen with a new sac on ebay from a seller I have had positive dealings with in the past. Compared with the prices I saw for 51s at the Philly and Long Island pen shows, the $120 I paid seemed fair. Considering it may now be one of my two or three favorite fountain pens, $120 seems all the more reasonable. As for the age of the pen, the “Made in USA” followed by  “9.”,the teal blue color and the “Parker” imprint on the cap band makes me think the pen originates from July to September of 1949. As such, the pen body is made from poly(methyl methacrylate), also known as Lucite. Remember plexiglass? Same stuff, just not clear like plexiglass.

Parker51g

Let’s talk about the writing experience. Mine is a Parker 51 Aerometric with a fine nib and it seemed to me that a classic pen deserved a fairly classic/conservative ink so I loaded mine with Waterman Florida Blue. If I had some blue Parker Quink I would have used that instead. (By the way, how the hell do I not have blue Parker Quink in my collection?! Seriously, isn’t a bottle of Parker Quink essential for any serious pen nerd?) In a word, the writing experience is…fantastic. I L…O…V…E the way this pen writes. The nib is stiff enough to feel like it will tolerate plenty of use and abuse but also produces a fair amount of line variation. Maybe it’s because my handwriting is entirely utilitarian (on a good day), but line variation and ink shading are not big deals for me. Still, it is fun to work with a pen that you know can be an everyday workhorse and still give your writing some genuine character. I have noticed that, after a day of disuse, the 51 takes a couple inches of writing to get going (see the word “Parker” in the picture below – it’s a bit lighter than the rest of the text). Otherwise, I have not experienced any issues with skipping or other typical troublesome nib concerns. As for weight, balance and feel, all are nearly ideal. While the weight is ideal for my hand, I do find the Lucite material to be a touch slippery and the length of the pen to be a tad too long. Perhaps the purchase of a demi 51 is in my future to address the length concern but neither the minor issue of feel nor the less than minor issue of length will stop me from using this pen every chance I get.

Parker51kHere, the pen has more of a deep blue color

Parker51lRhodia White and Rhodia Yellow – As you might expect, the pen releases more ink onto the thirstier yellow paper

Of course, you can’t talk about a Parker 51 without mentioning the hooded nib. Personally, I love the whole design aesthetic of a hooded nib as the pen manufacturer is saying, “Hey, we’re not trying to be flashy here. We’re going to focus on making a workhorse pen.” Is the Parker 51 a tad bit boring? Yes. If you want sexy, go for a modern Visconti. If you want understated simplicity and a pen that only draws the attention of genuine pen freaks, then get yourself a well-maintained/refurbished Parker 51.

Parker51fWait, now we have a softer teal color going on here.

Rating and Conclusion
I cannot recommend this pen enough. It’s an absolute “Carry It” pen for me and I plan to do just that every day. Give my this Parker 51 with Waterman Florida Blue, two Energel-Xs (one blue or black for general writing and one in purple or green for grading) and a TWSBI Mini with whatever ink is matching my mood that week and I’m good to go for all occasions. One last comment – how about that color?! It’s blue, it’s green, it’s blue-green…Depending upon the light, this pen has a anything from a midnight blue color to a soft teal complexion – very cool. Anyway, here’s my bottom line: find a way to budget a Parker 51 for your collection and find a way to do it soon. You can’t have this one, but thankfully there are many more like it out there. But don’t wait because I’ll be looking for more 51s in the days, weeks, months and years to come and I’d hate for us to be bidding against each other. 🙂

Parker51CollageNow the damn thing looks almost black in some of these pictures!

 

“Stone” Paper (Da Vinci Notebook)

DaVinciPaper1

Q. What do egg shells and paper have in common? A. They are both made of calcium carbonate. At least the “stone” paper from this Kickstarter project is made from the same stuff as egg shells. Nick, the creator of the Da Vinci Notebook, sent me a sample of this interesting paper and I decided to put it through a few paces.

The first thing you’ll notice about the stone paper is that it feels very soft and that there is almost no discernible texture to the paper. The phrase “smooth as a baby’s bottom” comes to mind. It also has some heft to it. I cannot find the paper weight in the information that Nick sent me but I’d guess that a single sheet of stone paper weighs about the same as at least 3 sheets of Rhodia. Seems to me that a 100 page, 5″ x 8″ notebook of this stuff would weigh a pound or more. Lastly, in the initial impression category, would be the color. The paper has a flat white color to it. It is not bright white like most copy paper but it is not in the cream color range either. I’d call it flat or off-white or soft white. Whatever name fits the color best, the important point is that it’s easy on the eyes. The paper is also described as water and tear resistant. I’d agree that it does have some water repellency, but it didn’t seem to take much more effort to tear than the decent copy paper I have. When it does tear, it seemed to do so neatly without many fibers showing along the tear line.

DaVinciPaper2

How does the paper perform? Well, it depends. For most pen and ink combinations it performed well and felt smooth. For a couple of pen and ink combinations it was more or less, as the kids might say, epic fail. Let’s take a look at pictures of particular pen/ink combinations.

First, my go-to-non-fountain-pen-of-choice, the Pentel Energels. I’m happy to say that the Energels took to the stone paper like a fish to water. This was especially true of the wider 0.7 mm point. In my experience, Energels write well on most paper surfaces but they felt particularly smooth on the stone paper and laid down a solid and consistent line.

DaVinciPaper3

Unfortunately, the dry times for the Energels on the stone paper were less than ideal. Energels are, in my experience, the fastest drying gels pens on the market today but something about the gel chemicals and the stone paper inhibits drying times. Regardless, there is smearing evident, even at the 10 second mark. That said, the writing experience is so smooth with the gel/stone paper combination that I might be willing to take my time writing and enjoy the ride.

DaVinciPaper11

What about fountain pens? Well, the few that I tried did not fare particularly well. My fine nib Kaweco AL Sport with Kaweco Blue did reasonably well. The writing was smooth but there was a touch of feathering on a letter or two. My TWSBI Mini, also with a fine nib and sporting Kon Peki, was less successful as the sharper point of the TWSBI dug into the stone paper a bit. You can see the digging in with the “T” of TWSBI in the pictures below. My Parker Vacumatic (also fine, also Kon Peki) was the one epic fail of the lot. All in all, I think good results could be obtained with a rounded fine nib and less slippery inks, but I did not immediately find a fountain pen/ink combination that worked like a charm with the stone paper.

DaVinciPaper7

DaVinciPaper8

Let me finish with the pen/ink combinations that took to the stone paper best. Hybrid and ballpoint inks did very, very well on this paper. Color saturation was amazing (on par with gel inks) and the dry times were nearly instantaneous. I think I can use a touch of chemistry to explain why the ballpoints worked so well. Apparently, the stone paper is made with 80% calcium carbonate and 20% non-toxic resin (I’m guessing these are weight percentages). Ballpoint and, to a less extent, hybrid inks are oil-based (i.e. hydrocarbon) media which I suspect bind effectively with the resin (i.e. hydrocarbon) of the stone paper. Interestingly, my Lamy rollerball (water-based ink) also wrote nicely and dried quickly on the stone paper but a post-writing water test showed some differences. The water-based rollerball ink and the gel inks smeared noticeably after dabbing with water but the hybrid and ballpoint inks held up great.

For what it’s worth, I also used some pencils on the stone paper. Very sharp and hard points dug into the paper too much, but softer/wider leads wrote smoothly. You can see the evidence of digging into the paper by the bits of embossing on the back.

DaVinciPaper9

Let’s conclude. Fountain pens and inks? Probably not. Gel pens and inks? Yes, but take your time to avoid smearing. Rollerball inks? Yes (but avoid water as always with rollerball inks). Ballpoint and hybrid inks? Yes, absolutely, my goodness yes! In fact, I decided to back the Kickstarter project for the Da Vinci Notebook based solely on the positive results I saw with ballpoint and hybrid inks. Backer options start at $12 on Kickstarter so trying the notebook for yourself won’t cost too much.

On a related note, Oxford makes a stone paper notebook that is available from Walgreens of all places (Sorry, I can’t bring myself to put a link to Walgreens on my blog). After playing with the Da Vinci Notebook paper sample, I ran over to my local Walgreens and got lucky. The paper in the Oxford book does have a similar texture and also provides a smooth writing feel. However, the Oxford paper is noticeably thinner than the Da Vinci Notebook sample. In fact, the page beneath the current page does become slightly embossed from writing in the Oxford notebook. I’m happy to have the Oxford notebook to play around with more stone paper, but I’m hopeful that the Kickstarter Da Vinci Notebooks will be a clear step up in quality.

A sample of the stone paper was provided to me free of charge by the creator of the Da Vinci Notebook Kickstarter project. Opinions and perspectives are entirely my own.

Parker Vacumatic

 

ParkerVacumatic5

I believe this is the first vintage pen I’ve reviewed on That One Pen and boy is it a nice one to start with. First, let me be honest here, I don’t know much about vintage pens. I’m certainly not a vintage collector but seeing so many Parker Vacumatics and Parker 51s at the Philadelphia and Long Island pen shows put the vintage bug in my ear. So, I spent some time surfing the fountain pen forums and ebay listings looking for a quality vintage pen and eventually came across this Parker Vacumatic on ebay. It has been wonderfully restored and, compared to prices I was seeing at the pen shows, I think I got a reasonably good deal. It wasn’t a steal by any stretch, but I feel comfortable that I got very good value for my dollar. Importantly, of all the Vacumatics out there, I’ve always liked the ones with the black and blue checkered look so I’m especially happy to find this little gem.

ParkerVacumatic16

I’ve been using the pen consistently for about a week now and, although not a perfect writer, it’s darn close. I’m thinking seriously about sending the pen off to get the nib tweaked a bit. Given the investment I’ve already put into the pen, a few more bucks to get the nib closer to perfect would make some sense. It is a fine nib but to me, it writes closer to a medium. Actually, the best way to describe the writing would be to call it a wet fine. So, I might send it off to get the nib thinned a bit and maybe get closer to a wet, extra fine writer. The pen is currently loaded with Kon Peki which flows especially well. I may try something like Parker Quink or Waterman Florida Blue that might be a bit stingier with the flow. I’m open to other suggestions as well. Do you have an ink you use in pens that write just a bit too wet for your tastes?

ParkerVacumatic11

In terms of size and feel, the Vacumatic is also close to perfect. The posted length of the pen is ideal for my relatively small hands. The grip width is just a touch on the thin side for what I prefer but still comfortable. The gold nib is fairly small and matches the overall design of the pen beautifully. Even though the pen has been restored, everything about the writing experience just screams vintage to me. It’s a cool feeling writing with something so old yet so effective.

ParkerVacumatic13

Filling the Vacumatic could not be easier. Insert the nib into the ink bottle and depress the plunger 5 or 6 times and you’re ready to go. Being a restored pen, the tension of the plunger is tight but not too tight. I don’t have a lot of experience with Vacumatic plungers, but this one seems to work as well as these systems should. As you can see, there is a cap that covers the plunger and there is no discernible seam between this cap and the body when closed. Again, an old pen that just plain looks and works great.

Rating
I really, really dig this pen. It most certainly would be a “Carry It” pen for me, but the cost of the pen and the fact that it is vintage most likely means that it will not spend a lot of time in my pocket. For now, I’m keeping it in a pen case and leaving it safely on my desk when not in use. I suspect, as time passes, the reins will be loosened.

Analogy
Frankly, I’m having trouble with coming up with an analogy here. The Parker Vacumatic may be the oldest thing I own. It’s certainly the oldest thing I own that gets used on a regular basis. So, think of something old that is also cool looking and still works like a charm and you’ve got a good analogy for the Parker Vacumatic. In short, it’s a winner!

ParkerVacumaticCollage

 

Bexley Admiral

I attended my second pen show of the year by making it to the Long Island Pen Show in mid March. Compared to the Philadelphia Pen Show I went to earlier this year, the LI show is a more modest affair. In terms of space and number of merchants, I’d put the LI show around 50-60% the size of the Philly show. Despite its smaller size, the LI show more than holds its own. Anyway, the show is not our focus here; perhaps a post about the show will come later. Those interested in a review of the LIPS should go here. Right now, let’s talk about my favorite purchase of the show – this small but beautiful bit of fountain pen fun…

BexleyAdmiral5

I bought this Bexley Admiral from Richard Binder with a fine nib. As you may know, Richard tunes up the nib of any pen he sells so you’re guaranteed to be more than satisfied with your purchase. Now, there are a few oddities to the Admiral that makes it less than perfect, but the writing experience is great – at least for my everyday writing style. At this point, I have around 15 fountain pens with different nibs and it’s clear to me that I prefer a stiff fine nib that lays down a moderately dry line. I don’t want dry dry, but I definitely do not want anything most folks might consider wet. The nib of the Admiral fits my bill rather well. In fact, it may be the stiffest nib in my collection and the line is offers is fairly typical of an American or European fine line (shown here with Waterman Mysterious Blue).

BexleyAdmiral13
BexleyAdmiral12

It’s not apparent from any of the pictures, but this is a small, pocket-sized pen. Capped, the Admiral is about a centimeter longer than a TWSBI Mini. Posted, the Admiral is about a half centimeter shorter than a posted TWSBI Mini. If you only write with big, heavy pens then you should stop reading and avoid the Admiral all together. Now for some of those oddities.

First, the name. A pen called the Admiral should be a big , brawny handful of a pen. Look, the size works for me but a more appropriate Navy-themed name would have been something like the Bexley First Mate or the Bexley Ensign. Then there’s the nib. While I really like the function and the look of the nib on its own, the gold tone of the nib is mismatched with the blue, white and black camo/cow pattern with silver trim of the pen body.  I suspect it’s a matter of stock and scale at Bexley and that they don’t want to tailor their nibs to all the pen bodies they sell, but the combination may be a turnoff for some. Lastly, the short length of the barrel means a full-sized converter is a no go and we’re stuck with one of those stubby plunger converters.

BexleyAdmiralConverter

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the Bexley Admiral. The nib/body mismatch and small ink reservoir are, no pun intended, small concessions to make for a pen that can go anywhere with you and that, thanks in no small part to Mr. Binder, writes wonderfully. If you’re looking for a smaller fountain pen that might make more of a style statement than other pocket pens, the Admiral is a great way to go.

BexleyAdmiral1
BexleyAdmiral8Zoom

Looking for a few good pens

WARNING: There are not a lot of pictures to be found in this post. I’m working through some issues here, so please bear with me. Also, this is a fountain pen-free post. If you’re all and only about fountain pens, don’t waste your time. If you’re interested in reading about my travails with several common/office-supply store gel, roller and ballpoint pens please read on.

Pens, pens, pens, everywhere pens. If you frequent this or other pen blogs then you’re likely searching for new pens to try. Odds are you currently own or have tried more pens than you can remember. I’m no different. But as much as I like opening the box or cracking the blister pack to reveal my latest pen prize, the sheer volume of options can be a bit much. Go ahead and click on the “Pens” tab at JetPens and you’ll be presented with some 5430 choices and this is just one particular vendor specializing in bringing Asian writing implements to the US market. Heck, go to your local office supply store and browse the pen section. I’m just guessing here, but there’s probably around 100 different pen options between ink type, point size and color. Throw in the pencil choices and even your basic Staples and Office Depot can seem like too much. Don’t misunderstand me – I dig searching for great-looking, excellent-writing pens. Apparently, I like it so much that I’m willing to spend a fair amount of my free time writing about it. What I’m looking for these days; however, is a little bit of closure. Well, maybe closure isn’t the right word. I guess what I’m looking for are some conclusions regarding what I know works for me and what does not – at least for now. So, to that end, I spent the last few weeks and more than a few bucks surveying a wide array of  gel and ballpoint options. I dug out forgotten pens from desk drawers, took trips to Staples and Office Depot and placed multiple orders with online vendors. I haven’t specifically counted, but I suspect I checked out about three dozen widely available pens options.

I put several pens through their paces on a variety of fairly common paper types including cheap copy paper, nice copy paper, a Rhodia pad, a Clairefontaine notebook, Field Notes (FN Lager to be specific), cheap note cards, nice note cards and yes, the devil’s paper itself, Post-it Notes. Not only did the pen have to pass through this paper gauntlet reasonably unscathed, but the ink had to dry quickly enough to be lefty friendly in order to make the short list. (You “north paws” are so spoiled when it comes to pens that I just want to punch you all in the face. Hold on. Sorry. That was a bit much. I love being a lefty, especially on the tennis court, but it does make finding “that one pen” a bit more of a challenge.) Let’s get to the pens shall we.

Below, in no particular order, are our contestants. My primary concern in this collective review is the performance of the refill in terms of smoothness, saturation of color and dry time. Obviously, the body of the pen matters a great deal but if the refill doesn’t work for me then there isn’t much point in debating the finer points of the body (unless a suitable hack can be found).

Signo 207 gel in 0.7 and 0.50
Jetstream gel in 0.7 and 1.0
Acroball ballpoint in 0.5, 0,7 and 1.0
Acroball Multipen
Pilot G2 1.0 and 0.7
Zebra Surari ballpoint 0.7
Pilot Juice in 0.7, 0.50 and 0.38
Pilot Easytouch 0.7
Pentel Energel in 0.7 and 0.5
Zebra F301 ballpoint
Zebra G301 gel
Zebra Sarasa  0.7
Moleskin gel M and F
Retro 51 with Retro 51, Schmidt M and Schmidt F rollerball refill
Parker rollerball refill
Sheaffer rollerball refill
Paper Mate Liquid Flair 0.7
Various Parker-style ballpoint refills including:
Parker Quinkflow in M and F point size
Parker gel
Schneider Slider 755 M
Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 M
Fisher Space Pen refill M and F
Monteverde gel refill M and F

I’m going to place each of these pens into one of three categories. (1) The winners. These pens write well, dry quickly and have good color saturation. (2) The losers. These pens are, for me at least, fatally flawed. Maybe it’s the balance. Maybe it’s the looks. Most likely, it’s the ink. In between we’ll have (3) The runner ups. These pens ultimately fall short of working for me for one reason or another but they’re great pens and will very likely make most people pretty darn happy. I’ll offer a short blurb why each pen/refill is ranked where it’s ranked. I may follow-up with a more detailed review on many of these pens down the road.

Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. Some readers may find a favorite on my loser list. Don’t take it personally as pen preferences are incredibly subjective.

The Losers:
Monteverde gel M and F – scratchy and skippy – ’nuff said.
Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 M – I don’t get it. A lot of people have nice things to say about this refill but I must have a bad batch because these things suck big time. It’s like there’s a pebble in the tip. Yuck.
Parker gel – Smooth. Actually very smooth. But, they skip like a flat rock on a calm pond and the quality control from one refill to the next seems nonexistent.
Paper Mate Liquid Flair – Smear city and the design is sophomoric.
Shaeffer and Parker Rollerball refills – We’re headed back to skip city here. The Shaeffer was a bit better but still a no go.
Retro 51 and Schmidt M Rollerball refills – A bit splotchy when I write with them. Some skipping but the best of the poor performing rollers.
Moleskin M and F – Smear city and the rectangular pen shape is trying too hard to be “all that”.
Zebra G301 and F301 – The gel smears and there are better ball point options out there.
Pilot Easytouch – I like the body but the refill is about as boring as ball point refills get.
Pilot Juice 0.38 and 0.7 – The 0.38 is too scratchy and the 0.7 smears too much. Nice colors, but not pens I’ll go back to at all.
Zebra Surari – Some folks like this pen and I can sort of see why. But, it smears readily and there are similar pens that are a bit better.
Pilot G2 1.0 and 0.7 – The body length fits my hand nicely but there are way better gel inks out there as far as I’m concerned.
Jetstream 1.0 – Holy cow this pen is slippery. It’s like writing on ice with an icicle.
Signo 207 0.5 – A touch too scratchy for me and the ink smears; like the grip and the length of the pen though.

Bottom line – I’m unlikely to ever buy one of these pens again even if one or two aspects of many of these pen have some positives.

The Runner Ups:
Fisher space pen refill M and F – There’s nothing to hate about these refills but their color saturation falls short of other ball point options.
Schneider Slider 755 – Compared to the Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 M, these refills write like a dream. Still, they fall just a bit short of the winners.
Retro 51 Schmidt F refill – The best of the Retro 51 refill lot. There is some skipping on less expensive paper types, but these are decent writers.
Zebra Sarasa 0.7 – Of course the gel colors are great. The pen body size works well for me too. The ink dry times are good but not excellent.
Pentel Energel 0.5 – Maybe I’m not into the whole needle point look. Also, and more importantly, these refills will skip a touch on cheaper paper.
Pilot Juice 0.5 – The Goldilocks of the Pilot Juice pens? They do smear too much for me but the colors and smoothness make the 0.5 worth keeping around for occasional use.
Parker Quinkflow F – The Quink ink is very good. The F point is less consistent than the M.
Acroball (all types) – I want to love these pens. The grip section may be the best of any office supply store pen and the color saturation is very good. Unfortunately, they smear too much for lefties. Come on Pilot, figure out a formulation that dries a bit quicker!
Jetstream 0.7 – These pens write on everything, even Post-it Notes. They are a bit too slippery for me which keeps them at the runner up level.
Signo 0.7 – Like the Acroballs, I want to love the Signo 0.7. It’s smoother than the 0.5 and the body/grip is excellent but the ink does smear too easily.

The Winners:
Energel 0.7 – My affection for the Energel is well-known. The blue and black colors are a bit slippery and can be a challenge to control at times. For some reason, the purple 0.7 isn’t as slippery and writes like a dream. That said, the dry times on these pens are fan-freaking-tastic. Great colors, various body options and nearly perfect dry times all make these pens a big winner. Also, they wrote on every type of paper I threw at them which is no small feat for a gel pen.
Parker Quinkflow M – Look, I get it. Parker refills, seriously, Todd? You’re putting these most boring of boring refills on your winners list? Yes, I am. They’re not perfect but they do have better color saturation than most ball points (Acroball notwithstanding). They are smooth but not Jetstream slippery. The dry times are functional for lefties and, like most ballpoints, they write on every paper type I throw at them. The fact that these refills fit into all sorts of pens is an added bonus. I have plenty of Parker Jotters loaded with these refills, but I probably use Quink refills most frequently in Pelikan ballpoint bodies.

So, there you have it. If another common/office supply store pen is to make it into my hands on a consistent basis then it’s going to have to be on par or better than an Energel or a Quinkflow refill.

QuinkEnergel

Pentel Energel – Multiple Pen Review

Energel2

*****UPDATE: Now doing an Energel Pen giveaway. Details are at the bottom of this post*****

Welcome to the first multiple pen review done here at That One Pen. We’ll be focusing on the various forms of the widely available Pentel Energel pens. Energels most commonly come in two point sizes: 0.7 mm (M) and 0.5 mm (F). You can buy 1.0 mm (B) and 0.35 mm Euro needle-points online, but I generally only find the (M) and (F) pens in my local office supply stores. All the pens shown in this review are 0.7 mm (M) points.

Going left to right in the picture above we have: Energel Deluxe RT blue, Energel Deluxe RT purple, Energel Deluxe RT pink, Energel Alloy RT, Energel Stick blue, Energel-X RT blue, Energel-X RT purple and Energel-X RT sky blue. You’ll see samples of other colors later; I just want to show the array of options available in the Energel line right now. The Deluxe RT version (3 on the left) also come with grips colored the same as the ink and not just the white grips as shown. If you imagine the colored grips of the Energel-X’s (3 on the right) on the Deluxe versions, you pretty much have it. The Energel Alloy RT also come in different colors. What’s nice is that the Deluxe RT, Alloy, Stick and Energel-X all take the same Energel Liquid Gel refill (LR 10, LR 7 or LR 5 depending on point size). If you’re into the whole hack thing, the LR refills are plastic tubes that can be easily cut to fit other pen bodies. The particular shape of the refill tip limits the pen bodies you can get the LR refills to work with so we’ll leave it to the reader to experiment. In the US, you can find the blue and black refills at Staples and other major office supply stores if you want to experiment with the refills without getting the actual pen.

Energel5

Given that all versions use the same refill, there are obviously a lot of similarities to the writing experience. The Energel refill is smooth and, most important to us lefties, very, very fast drying. To me, the writing experience of the Energel is a touch smoother than that offered by the widely available Pilot G2 pens but there’s no doubt (none – I’ve checked several times) that the Energel dries faster than the G2. I won’t dismiss the G2 at all. It’s a fine pen with a great range of colors and might even be a bit easier to find than Energel. I find that the 0.7 mm tip of the G2 leaves a thinner line than the 0.7 mm tip of the Energel but again, the G2 is just a touch rougher of a ride.

Let’s get to some of the differences, starting with the grips. Below is a close up of the grips for the Stick, Alloy, Deluxe RT and Energel-X RT (L to R). Not surprisingly, the Alloy has the hardest feel followed by the Stick then the Energel-X then the Deluxe RT. I did not measure the grip widths with a caliper, but to my fingers the Deluxe RT feels the widest, the Stick and Alloy follow and are very similar and the Energel-X feels a touch thinner still. Don’t get me wrong – the widths of all the grips are very close. Still, I do feel a difference – certainly between the wider Deluxe RT and the thinner Energel-X.

Energel3

Let’s talk clips. With the exception of the Energel-X and its all plastic build, the pens have metal clips with some plastic tabs near the top. Including the Energel-X, all the clips feel strong and well made. The edges of the clips on the Stick and the Deluxe are a bit sharp and could possibly scratch/dig into the lip of pocket material if you’re not careful. The other noticeable difference is that the Energel-X clip has some printing on it and, unlike the other three pens, the bottom of the Energel-X clip curves away from the pen barrel a bit.

Energel4

When deployed (and capped in the case of the Stick), there are some clear differences in length as you can see below. The Stick is the longest followed by the Alloy. The Deluxe RT and Energel-X are similar with the X possibly being shorter by a hair. When posted, the Stick also feels noticeably wider than any of the other pens.

Energel17

Also when deployed, the Deluxe RT and Energel-X can rattle just a bit because the button does not stay in the pushed-in position. As you can see in the picture above, both buttons are depressed for the Deluxe RT and Energel-X, but they easily slide out to create the rattle noise. The noise is not terribly loud or distracting, but it’s definitely there. The Stick, as you might expect, is perfectly quiet and the button of the Alloy has some added spring tension that keeps it stuck out whether the refill is deployed or not so it’s nearly 100% silent as well.

*****UPDATE: Now doing an Energel Pen giveaway. Details are at the bottom of this post*****

Interestingly and/or unfortunately, you cannot swap parts of one pen with parts of another. The picture below shows all the pens disassembled. The Deluxe, Alloy and Stick separate at the body/grip divide while the Energel-X opens at the button/body divide. The thread sizes and female/male sections are all different from pen to pen so you won’t be using the grip section of the Deluxe on the Energel-X or, most disappointingly, you won’t be attaching the Energel-X grip to the Alloy body. In fact, the Energel-X grip section appears not to unscrew from the body at all. It does look like the grip sections of the Stick (far back in picture) and Deluxe (front in picture) should be interchangeable but it’s definitely a no go.

Energel7

Getting back to the writing experience. Bottom line, I really like the way these pens write. I rarely use an Energel for extended writing sessions, limiting most of my time to writing short notes or, more commonly, to grading tests and quizzes. The writing action is smooth and consistent. I have yet to find a paper surface that causes an Energel to skip. Even Post-It Notes, which can be notoriously difficult for various pen types, are no problem for the Energels. (Aside – I like Parker gel refills but Post-It Notes or slightly glossy paper wreak havoc on them so they’re out). Have I mentioned yet that they dry faster than any pen I’ve found to date. Is the ink waterproof? Honestly, I don’t know and it’s not a test I really care about.

Energel8

Being gel pens there are, of course, several color options available. Having used these pens in all their colors for several years, I’ve noticed that the regular blue and black flow more readily than the other colors. For me, the blue and black are almost too slippery on something like Rhodia but work fantastic on “toothier” copy or Field Notes paper. Because they can be purchased readily on their own in the Deluxe version, I’ve used purple and green more than any other color besides blue. But, having recently grabbed a multicolored pack of Energel-X, I see the sky blue and orange getting quite a workout soon.

Energel11

So, do I have a preference between the Deluxe RT, Energel-X, Alloy and Stick? Well, the Stick is definitely in last place for me. In my work flow, gel pens are meant to add a bit of color to lecture notes, write a quick list or grade so I prefer the efficient retractable versions. The Stick is well built and the cap attaches with a satisfying “click” when capping or posting so there’s nothing wrong with it; I just prefer the convenience of the retractable pens. I want to like the Alloy more than I do. The body colors options are cool (especially the black) and they feel built to last. But, the balance is off for me as I wish it was weighted more towards the grip section. For the longest time, I used the Deluxe RT much more than any of the other models. That said, I’ve spent time with the Energel-X recently and I’m changing my allegiance. The ever so slightly thinner feel of the Energel-X, its comfortable but not too soft grip along with its less sharp clip compared to the Deluxe RT work better for me.

*****UPDATE: Now doing an Energel Pen giveaway. Details are at the bottom of this post*****

Importantly, these great refills come in a variety of colors and body styles that most folks should be able to find something that works. Do you prefer a longer, wider pen? Go with the Stick. Do you want something sharper looker for the office or to give as a gift? Go with the Alloy. Do you like clean lines and Apple-inspired white style? Go with the Deluxe RT. Do you like a slightly thinner grip and/or prefer that the color you’re grabbing to be blatantly obvious? Go with the colorful Energel-X style.

Rating
The Energel is a “Carry It”, “Desk It” and “Give It” pen for me. I carry them everywhere. There are probably 2, 3 or more on my home and office desks right now and I’ve given them as Secret Santa gifts to make a few converts.

Analogy
The Energel is like my collection of Peter Gabriel albums. I may have too many pens and too many albums to name (and goodness knows I do on both counts). Still, no matter how many pens or albums I get I always come back to my Energel pens and Gabriel albums. The Energel just works for me each and every time just like Peter Gabriel’s albums work for me at any time, while in any mood and for any occasion. Do yourself a favor. Check out the Energel in the style that would work best for you.

Here are some other reviews of Energels, including a couple for the Tradio. The Tradio is more refined-looking version of the Stick that takes the same refill and comes in a variety of colors.
Review on Pentel’s Site
Gourmet Pens (A colorful review of the full line of Energel-X.)
Pen Addict (Tradio review)
A Penchant for Paper (Stick review. See embedded links for other Energel reviews.)
Pens! Paper! Pencils! (Energel-X review)
Clicky Post (Tradio review)

EnergelCollage

 

Energel Pen Giveaway!!! I will be giving away 1 Energel Deluxe RT blue, 1 Energel Stick blue, 1 Energel-X blue plus two(2) other Energel related surprises. The pens I’m giving away will be new or very, very close to new. To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. The giveaway will close Sunday, February 23 at 5:00 pm Eastern time US. I’ll ship the pens to any US address. The posts will be numbered in the order they are received and a random number generator will select the winner. Feel free to leave up to 3 comments if you’d like to enter multiple times. I may respond to your comments, but obviously my comments are not counted or numbered as entries.