Ink Drop Soup: Pen Chalet Giveaway!

1 04 2014

A giveaway that I don’t have to run??? Yes, awesome, sign me up and sign you up, too. The folks at Pen Chalet are having a gift card giveaway which you can enter here. They’re also offering a 10% discount to us all! :) The coupon code is NOPENINTENDED


Good luck!

Ink Drop Soup: The Curious Case of the Moldy Sheaffer

8 03 2014

This story begins the slow summer of my first job, when I and my lab-mates tackled the task of cleaning up the lab and discovered, tucked away abandoned in a drawer, a few old Sheaffers that probably belonged to the previous professor of the lab. The current professor of the lab gave us his blessing to keep them, and thus the unknown Sheaffer entered my personal collection. This was also the summer I discovered JetPens—my memory is shoddy but I suspect the two are causally related.

If this looks like a classy old man pen, that's because that's probably exactly what it was

If this looks like a classy old man pen, that’s because that’s probably exactly what it was

For quite some time, the pen wrote well. We probably used some bottled black Cross ink from the university bookstore in the beginning, up until I found the converter sac had a leak, and I switched to self-contained cartridges. I ran through a pack of lovely turquoise cartridges, and then made the switch to the ill-fated brown.

Here they are, complete with ill fate. Or perhaps that ill-fated feeling was just the hot dogs and potato chips I unwisely had for dinner

Here they are, complete with ill fate. Or perhaps that ill-fated feeling was just the hot dogs and potato chips I unwisely had for dinner

What exactly happened, I don’t know. Perhaps the pen was low on ink, and I was intending to clean it before switching to the next cartridge. All I can say is that I opened the cap and found this:

Cue the terror-violins

Cue the terror-violins

That’s not cotton candy. That is the horror that haunts this earth. That is a waking nightmare beneath a twist cap.



My reaction beyond a wordless “HUAGHUHHGGH!” was to put the cap back on, mentally brace myself first, and come back to clean the pen once armed with some information.



Time only made it weirder. The cotton candy transformed into black crusts. The black crusts were probably the last step before the mold gained sentience.

White crusties was a new, but no less concerning color

White crusties was a new, but no less concerning color

With no end of conflicting advice available, I decided on a cleaning regimen: first water, then vinegar diluted in water, then water, then J.B.’s Perfect Pen Flush, then water again. The vinegar, I somewhere read, could turn the nib black if it wasn’t real gold; my nib is still golden, so either it’s real-deal gold or that tidbit of advice was bunk. But in spite of all the cleanings, the pen just wasn’t right. The flow was off—I suspected the feed, in which you could see new white crusties had formed, and got in contact with Sheaffer.

Old feed: misleadingly easy to take apart

Old feed: misleadingly easy to take apart

We were making good progress in resolving the situation (no, I don’t want new cartridges; cartridges caused this problem in the first place; yes, I do want a new feed because your nefarious ink killed this one), and it even seemed like I’d be getting that new feed around the beginning of December. I sent Sheaffer my address and waited patiently, while my contact at Sheaffer presumably embarked on an epic quest to hand-forge my new feed in the mouth of an active volcano, because I didn’t hear from her for about 3 months.

The squeaky bird gets the grease

The squeaky bird gets the grease

I sent follow-up emails to no avail, and had given up all hope of ever hearing back from Sheaffer when I tweeted my disappointment. And almost as soon as I sent the Sheaffer twitter people my contact information, lo and behold the person I’d originally been emailing suddenly emailed me back! She survived the Ordeal of the Mt. Sheaffer Feedforging! I was so worried.

Not exactly the same! But compatible! And the only reason I figured out what this Sheaffer pen actually was? Listed on the part inventory: Connaisseur feed

Not exactly the same! But compatible! And the only reason I figured out what this Sheaffer pen actually was? Listed on the part inventory: Connaisseur feed

And whaddaya know, I got the new feed and the pen works now, the flow back to normal. Granted, I can’t get the nib to go on this new feed as far as it would go on the old feed—probably need special tools, or at the very least the legendary Mjolnir because I swear this new feed was friction fit with the force of the gods and only Norse magic can get this nib to go all the way in. I certainly couldn’t get the feed to come out. I doubt Sheaffer could either, since they sent the whole screw-in grip section with the feed.

You may now cue your favorite mystery music as appropriate

You may now cue your favorite mystery music as appropriate

What was it about those fateful brown cartridges that caused the pen to mold? Why does Sheaffer probably use hard to reach volcano gods to create impossible-to-take-apart feeds and grips? These mysteries may never be solved. What matters is that this old Sheaffer Connaisseur writes once again, and with that I’m willing to conclude the curious case of the moldy Sheaffer.

Ink Drop Soup: Is This a Trick Question?

29 01 2014
This post has too many words and not enough pictures. Hopefully this makes up for it.

This post has too many words and not enough pictures. Hopefully this makes up for it.

Some exciting little updates for No Pen Intended (title to this post inspired by the first thing I think whenever someone contacts me asking if I’d like to try one of their products and review it… OF COURSE!!!!)

Zait Pens Resident Reviewer – what what??? Yes, the good people at Zait Pens liked my review so much that they want me to review more (all? many?) of their pens, and have named me their Resident Reviewer. There’s even a rare picture of what I look like (if you were looking at me under very specific conditions…)

JetPens Sponsorship - they’re gonna send me things! Things to review! More on this later but get excited for now!

200th Review Giveaway – we’re not there yet (we’re somewhere in the 160s I believe), but once I post my 200th review I will be immediately following it with a giveaway of various pens, pencils, notebooks and such that I have stockpiled over the course of a while. The only rule for objects I’ve collected for the stash is that I had to get them on sale, and believe you me, I got some good stuff on sale. Brace yourselves!

I’m also still working my way through a 9lb box of various notebooks sent by Grandluxe, I’ve got one more Daycraft diary to review,  updates to post on my attempts to learn a thing or two about nib grinding, and plenty of other good stuff in the works! Also, I’m learning to run again. Running is hard. If I were running around to catch a package of Reese’s Cups in the plains, maybe I would be better at this running thing.

Ink Drop Soup: Expensive Fountain Pens Just 30 and Below

21 12 2013

If you follow my Twitter, you already know about the humorous exchange I overhead at my local pen store. It went like this:

“I want an expensive fountain pen.”

“What’s your price range?”

“Thirty and below.”

For those not afflicted with the fountain pen condition, that probably sounds like a reasonable number. You may be thinking, why I could get upwards of thirty units of terrible crappy pen that I like for thirty bucks! But you’re thinking of an entirely different beast. For me, expensive fountain pen starts being an applicable label once we reach one Benjamin, and anything past about three of ole Benjy-boy is reaching the territory of “you had better not” expensive; any price tag with four or more digits is comfortably in the laughably unattainably probably-not-even-if-I-won-the-lottery category of expensive. Five figure fountain pens? Mythical beasts, the mere suggestion of which I will giggle madly at until I cry at the very idea of a mere mortal owning such an ethereal figment.

But back to real human numbers; there are a lot of good fountain pens you can get for thirty-and-below, so rather than merely laugh at the ignorance of the uninitiated, I figured I should throw some suggestions out there. So, random dude I didn’t even talk to in the pen store, it all depends on what you’re looking for when you say “expensive.” I’ll break it down by body types.

Mostly Plastic

They comes in colors everywhere~!

They comes in colors everywhere~!

There are all types of pens under 30 when you look at mostly plastic bodies. The advantage of plastic: bright colors. Stand-out in this category is the Lamy Safari (which apparently I haven’t actually reviewed yet, in spite of owning…several; for link purposes it’s similar to the Vista),  but I’ve enjoyed all of the pens pictured here. There’s the Paperchase Wonderland Fountain Pen, the Chelpark Terminator (and similar, yet unreviewed Conqueror), Noodler’s Ahab Flex and Noodler’s Piston Fill Fountain Pens, the Sailor A.S. Manhattaner’s (which is no longer available, but pretty much identical to the Sailor Clear Candy, and comes in a zillion colors), the Lamy Safari, the Pelikan Future (as yet unreviewed?!), and Pilot’s Penmanship and Plumix.

Plastic & Metal

I also have a Pelikan Steno I got for under 30 that would go here except I don't know where you would get one. Mine showed up at my local pen store...

I also have a Pelikan Steno I got for under 30 that would go here except I don’t know where you would get one. Mine showed up at my local pen store…

Not quite as many, but you’ve got the Pelikan Pelikano, the Hero 616 (as yet unreviewed!), the Ohto Rook, and the Sailor HighAce Neo Beginner’s Fountain Pen.

Mostly Metal

Bonus points if you start singing some kind of musically appropriate song when you see the word "metal"

Bonus points if you start singing some kind of musically appropriate song when you see the word “metal”

Metal is probably more what I’d think a person would have in mind when they want to put the words “expensive” and “fountain pen” together. All three of these are solid options: the Schrade Tactical Fountain Pen is probably the smoothest of the bunch, with three colors available, it also comes with a rollerball option if you get tired of the fountain pen, and it doubles as a weapon. What more could you want for about $25? The Muji Aluminum Round Fountain Pen is a little more comfortable than the Schrade, but less likely to help you win an impromptu brawl. And the matte black Sheaffer VFM is simple, classy, and smoother at both ends than the other two. Bonus, all three take standard international short cartridges.

In hindsight, I probably should have posted this earlier in the gifting season, but depending on your holiday you’ve still got potentially plenty of time to pick any one of these pens up.

Ink Drop Soup: Billet Pens Kickstarter Electric Blue Update

10 12 2013
A most glorious color!

A most glorious color!

Just a quick update to the giveaway and Kickstarter for Billet Pens & Markers — there’s now an electric blue option! It’s currently limited to 10 pens and 5 markers, so if you were holding out hoping one would appear, here it is!

Ink Drop Soup: Billet Pens and Markers – Kickstarter & GIVEAWAY!

8 12 2013

When it comes to Hi-Tec-C pens and Sharpie markers, you’ve got two quality brand lines there with almost endless color choices. With so many colors to choose from, you can never have too many pen bodies to put them in—and just in time for the gifting holidays there’s a new pen body on the Kickstarter scene—the Billet Pen and Marker.

Image credit goes to Cliff/Billet Pens for all these images

Image credit goes to Cliff/Billet Pens for all these images

The body is anodized aircraft grade aluminum, with five basic body colors (red, black, purple, machined/silver, and matte black) and several laser engraved options. This Kickstarter is going fast, because the creator, Cliff, wants to get these pens out in time for those who make Christmas their #1 gifting holiday—multiple reward tiers are scheduled to ship on the 18th of December. I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too—the 18th?!? What is this, Chinese factory magic? No, Cliff is a careful engineer and has been working on this project well in advance, stockpiling the pens needed (using a slower laser) to make sure that what he offers will be ready in time.

Two solid choices for refill types

Two solid choices for refill types; Hi-Tec-C Billet body comes with black, red, or blue option refill

Reasons I’m excited about this pen:
+ Thicker barrel body. Some people like slim and slender barrels—they’ve had their pens made time and again. It’s time for something I can wrap my meathooks around and actually write with for a while, and these look like just the solid-sized pens for the job.
+ Magnets. Magnets are always exciting. Unless you swallow two or more of them, in which case magnets are an emergency.
+ Attention to detail. I asked Cliff if he had made considerations to ensure that the refills wouldn’t dry out after a week, two weeks, a month, or more of not being used, because I have had some problems with Hi-Tec-C refills in alternate bodies going dry if I’m not constantly using them. The Billet pen has a special rubber plug, and the marker has a special inner cap to keep them from going dry.

Did I mention the excellent price? It's excellent.

Did I mention the excellent price? It’s excellent.

This Kickstarter ends Monday, December 16th at 2:59am EST, so get on it!!! That’s not very many days, and the project only has to get to $5000 to be funded! Don’t deny me this pen because you were feeling Scroogey :)




To sweeten the spirit of things, Cliff is offering to give away a Billet Pen to one lucky winner! If you win, you get your choice of any of the pens being offered on the Kickstarter! Your rules as follows:

1. To enter, just leave one comment on this post any time between now and Monday, December 16th at 2:59am Eastern Standard Time. Sadly, this contest is only open to U.S. residents (but not to worry, internationals, you can get one of your own if you back the project on Kickstarter).
2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Only one comment per person! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. I will hand number the entries because that’s just how I roll. The Random Integer Generator at will be used to pick the number of the winner.
3. I’ll post the contest winner the morning of Monday, December 16th. Winner must email me as soon as possible! There’s a link to my email at the top right sidebar. I’ll forward your info to Cliff so he can ship you the pen of your choosing!

Good luck! And thank you to Cliff of Billet Pens!

Ink Drop Soup: Pen Bros

12 11 2013

Brought to you by randomly deciding to organize some of my pens

I just noticed, this Chelpark Emperior and this Rotring Surf could practically be brothers (clones is probably more the word I’m looking for). Anybody know which one of these two came first into this pen world???

P.S. They are totally different under the hood:


It’s like when you look at twins. Then you look closer and you’re like OH WHOA OK YEAH you guys are actually two different human beings

But the outside was just too uncanny to go without comment!

Ink Drop Soup: Monsieur Notebook on IndieGoGo

28 08 2013

Exciting notebook news! Monsieur Notebook has started an IndieGoGo campaign today in anticipation of their launching in the US. Backers can get their own artwork laser engraved on some awesome-looking leather notebooks! I’ve heard good things about Monsieur Notebook, so go check it out.

Monsieur Notebook Campaign on IndieGoGo

Ink Drop Soup: The Most Awful Jetstream

24 08 2013

I’m not sure how the folks at Uniball/Sanford go about designing products for the American market. I assume they sit in front of a pile of beautifully designed pens for the Japanese market, and say to themselves, “These pens are attractive and successful. Now, what can we make that will be neither of those things?” And thus, the Jetstream Premier model was born.

What could the design prompt possibly have been? See how awful a pen has to look before people will stop throwing their money at the promise of a Jetstream?

What could the design prompt possibly have been? See how awful a pen has to look before people will stop throwing their money at the promise of a Jetstream?

From the weirdly smooth knock feature to the garish iridescent silver plastic body, the design experts behind the Jetstream really went out of their way to house a wonderful pen in an outstandingly ugly body. And to top it all off, do they use the Alpha Gel grip, sneakily seen in the American Signo 207 Premier model? OF COURSE NOT WHY WOULD WE DO THAT when we can have this grotesquely shaped horrible-looking repurposed nuclear tire accident of a grip?

The two hard protrusions aren't even the same on both sides! Why?! WHY?

The two hard protrusions aren’t even the same on both sides! Why?! WHY?

I am forced to assume that whoever designed this grip thought it was some kind of improvement on the Alpha Gel, that what they enjoy is a grip with about all the give of a fresh watermelon rind. Well, good for you, mystery person. You have the pen of your dreams. The rest of us have one of the biggest wastes of money you could ever associate with a Jetstream.

P.S. For a cheaper Jetstream Alpha Gel, take 1 Uni Signo 207 Premier body + 1 Jetstream RT style refill of your choice = squishy cushy goodness. But please don’t throw away good money on the Jetstream Premier body.

Ink Drop Soup: Category Killers

3 08 2013

I want to do a brief lineup, a shout-out and nod to products so exceptional that it becomes almost impossible to review anything in their category without mentioning them, without adding a disclaimer acknowledging that the product under review certainly isn’t a so-and-so. Compared to the category killer, everything else lags behind in a competition for second place.

Mechanical Pencil: Uni Kuru Toga

Alpha gel grip for bonus points

Alpha gel grip for bonus points

It rotates the lead as you write. There’s an Alpha Gel grip model. All other mechanical pencils can go home because for me, this pencil reigns supreme.

Ballpoint Pen: Uni Jetstream

As close as a ballpoint can get to perfection

As close as a ballpoint can get to perfection

Your mileage may vary. I’ve heard some people complain that the Jetstream is too smooth, in what I assume is much the same tone that rich people use when they complain that they just have too much money. There may be good competition in the super smooth world, tolerable substitutes even, but a ballpoint pen can’t fall in my hand without being measured against the Jetstream.

Convenient Fountain Pen: Pilot Vanishing Point

  CLICK click CLICK click

CLICK click CLICK click

I love a lot of different fountain pens, but when it comes to convenience, the Vanishing Point is the undisputed champ. I own three now. Send help.

There are still categories out there where a single winner hasn’t seized my heart. Gel pens, rollerball pens, felt-tip pens, hardcase wooden pencils (though the Palomino Blackwing is pretty strong), lead holders (though I have a soft spot for the Ohto Comfort Sharp), highlighters … I don’t yet know the end-all champion in those realms (gel pens may never be settled, as there are many good gel pens). But now, henceforth, you all know when I review a mechanical pencil, ballpoint pen, or fountain pen touting its convenience, unless that product is the new category killer, it will go without saying that it isn’t in the same league as these fantastic writing utensils.


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