Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Retractable Gel Ink Pen – 0.5 mm – Blue Black

29 03 2014
yee

Blue black, possibly the classiest gel color

You want to talk about a pen I really can’t improve much on, it’s this exact pen—the Pilot FriXion Ball Knock. It’s a retractable, erasable gel with a nice design at an easy price point.

I'm going to take a picture of the back side, I said to myself, and promptly forgot to do just that

I’m going to take a picture of the back side, I said to myself, and promptly forgot to do just that

The body is simple, professional, and color-coordinated to the color of the ink. The only detracting feature is that the back side is covered in Japanese (instructions, probably) printed on the body—would have been better to have all that printed on an easy-remove sticker.

When deployed, the three little window squares show yellow green. What a delightful little detail

When deployed, the three little window squares show yellow green. What a delightful little detail

To spare you the several seconds of embarrassment that stymied me when I first got one of these pens: push down on the top of the clip, NOT the eraser—the clip is what operates the retractable deployment mechanism. There, hopefully I’ve saved you valuable seconds of pressing the eraser, yelling “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG??”

Also known as the friction nubbin

Also known as the friction nubbin

What makes the FriXion so much better than the erasable pens of my youth is that the erasing isn’t accomplished by removing the material off the page—instead, the friction created by the act of rubbing/erasing generates enough heat to cause a reaction in the thermosensitive ink, changing the color to an almost imperceptible near-white, effectively erasing the ink. This process means no eraser crumbs. And this design means none of the problematic situation of the Pilot FriXion Point, whose cap, when posted, would block the eraser. Bravo, design team.

I think this came out looking a bit too bright blue. Please adjust your computer monitors accordingly for the duration of this picture

I think this came out looking a bit too bright blue. Please adjust your computer monitors accordingly for the duration of this picture

The grip is simple, streamlined with the body. Might I suggest a deluxe model with a luxuriously squishy grip be added to the FriXion lineup? Ultimate student model?

Sweet gel action

Sweet gel action. That makes me think of flavored ink. Imagine FLAVORED ink! This is not flavored ink, but if it were, it would probably taste like dusky blueberries (/food poisoning don’t eat the ink kids)

The goods! There are some things you need to know about the FriXion gel inks—they will never be as bright and vibrant as typical gel inks—every color, even the black, has a subdued, muted, almost milky opaque quality to it. It looks lovely, but if you want those strong, bright colors then the FriXion line may disappoint you. Next note: if you press hard into the page when you write, yes, you will still be able to see the indentations of your writing. The eraser is neither magic nor anti-gravity, but I imagine this is also a problem for pencils, so I wouldn’t hold it against the FriXion in particular if a heavy-handed writer is you (but perhaps consider a larger diameter tip, like the 0.7mm). All that said, I find the FriXion writes smoothly with almost no pressure needed. I love using this for taking notes, between the writing and the erasability—just make sure you don’t leave them in, say, a hot car (either the pen or the notes) or you’ll have to stick them in a freezer to bring them back from invisibility. The only possible suggestion I’d add is roll out a needle-point version. Because heck, why not?

Gloomy lighting brought to you by the weather! Cooperating with my pen pictures since never.

Gloomy lighting brought to you by the weather! Cooperating with my pen pictures since never.

There will always be room in my pen case for a Pilot FriXion Ball Knock. Thanks to JetPens for providing this sample!

Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Retractable Gel Ink Pen – 0.5mm – Blue Black – at JetPens

 

 





Monteverde Poquito Fountain Pen – Chrome

27 03 2014
Top, writing sample with Poquito #1 that did not want to cooperate. Bottom, writing sample with Poquito #2, somewhat more cooperative

Top, writing sample with Poquito #1 that did not want to cooperate. Bottom, writing sample with Poquito #2, somewhat more cooperative

I had a review all ready and done for this pen. Here’s basically the summary of that review: “the last thing you want as a fountain pen user is the indignity and embarrassment of a pen that refuses to write.” No matter what I did, the pen just would not write. The flow was terrible. It would dry out after mere hours of not being used. But the Goulet Pen Company, being awesome, when I contacted them for advice on what to do about the poorly performing Poquito went ahead and sent me another one to exchange. Now, I have a less terrible Poquito to review.

It is certainly compact

It is certainly compact

Appearance-wise, the Poquito is on winning ground, which was what originally attracted me to it. The idea was to get a serious metal-body contender for the pocket fountain pen category at a more affordable price than, say, the twice-as-expensive Liliput. The snap cap won points for convenience, and though the Chrome body picks up hand and fingerprints clear enough to convict a crime, I chose chrome over one of the painted jobs thinking it would hold up better in pockets that might also include keys and other oddments. The cap snaps nicely closed, and posts securely. So far, so good.

Here is where the unmitigated goodness ends

Here is where the unmitigated goodness ends

The writing, however, is on a little shaky ground. As I mentioned, my first Poquito wouldn’t write reliably at all. The second Poquito is doing better, though I still had some problems when I first got it—the pen seemed to dry up overnight, it would need to be scribbled around with before I’d get it writing again.

"Poquito"---Spanish for "little," likely being the general amount of ink you'll be able to coax out of this pen.

“Poquito”—Spanish for “little,” likely being the general amount of ink you’ll be able to coax out of this pen.

But it seems to be writing for now, so let’s evaluate that performance. On the whole, the flow seems a bit dry and also a bit variable. It’s not been so dry as to completely ghost out, but you can see where the ink gets thinner. The nib is neither terrible nor remarkable; it simply is.

Oh Poquito, I had such high hopes for you!

Oh Poquito, I had such high hopes for you!

There are good, reliable compact fountain pens out there, but the Poquito doesn’t top the list. I would probably recommend the too-juicy A.G Spalding & Bros. Mini Fountain Pen over the Poquito (JUST KIDDING I inked up the A.G. Spalding mini and MY GOODNESS IT IS WAY TOO JUICY). If you want a solid way to spend your money, for the same price at The Goulet Pen Company you can get two bottles of Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa Iron Gall ink, which is pretty much the most magical ink I’ve ever tried (and it will be shipped in the most secure and Fort Knoxian bubblewraptopia of fashions). Or you can take a whirl on the quality control roulette wheel and give the Poquito a try.

Monteverde Poquito Fountain Pen – Chrome – at the Goulet Pen Company





Moleskine Dotted Pocket Notebook – Soft Cover – Underwater Blue

23 03 2014

I can’t ignore the most popular and pretentious notebook maker, even when I’ve had extensive first-hand experience with their paper quality being generally terrible and all their products being overpriced. For one thing, I do like the format of some of their calendars—the extra small weekly calendar is perfect for keeping track of my work schedule. Plus, their notebooks are ubiquitous, and I denounce them at my own peril. Every so often I will check back in on the quality of Moleskine, to make sure my denouncements stand on experienced fact, and a brand new style of paper in the form of a dot grid notebook was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Underwater blue maybe if you're under water and drunk and looking at a robin's egg

Underwater blue maybe if you’re under water and drunk and looking at a robin’s egg

We’ve got this attractive robin’s egg blue cover that I would describe as almost distressingly soft. The corners of the front cover want to curl up when the elastic isn’t on. Soft covers are so strange to me. What is the advantage of soft cover anyway? Are they easier to stuff in a back pocket because they fold around your buns?

I will give bonus points for the color-coordinated back pocket accents

I will give bonus points for the color-coordinated back pocket accents

All the usual features are here: braided bookmark, back pocket, elastic band (all matching in color), and the “In case of loss” section in the front, with a newer dot-based Moleskine logo (or maybe it’s supposed to evoke apps? I know I’ve seen it before, perhaps online).

Ahahaha I forgot to take a picture of the back of the page...too late now

Ahahaha I forgot to take a picture of the back of the page…too late now

A cursory glance will tell you that this dot paper doesn’t look like it does as bad with fountain pen ink as a typical Moleskine. Let’s look at typical Moleskine for reference.

Notes section from this year’s planner

Notes section from this year’s planner

Now look again at the Moleskine dots paper.

Why the bluish tint? Why did I do all these backwards? These are the mysteries of a rainy day

Why the bluish tint? Why did I do all these backwards? These are the mysteries of a rainy day

Better. But a curious pattern emerges—the best performance by far on the Moleskine dots paper comes from using the Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink. Look at the difference.

LOOK AT IT

LOOK AT IT

Most regular inks are prone to some bleedthrough so bad you can’t use both sides of the page—not so with the Scabiosa, especially when writing in cursive. Lest we get too excited and forget what regular good paper is like, let’s look at some tests on Leuchtturm1917 paper.

Beautiful Leuchtturm1917 paper

Beautiful Leuchtturm1917 paper

Based on the evidence, I’m concluding the following:

  • This Moleskine dots paper is of better quality than most Moleskine writing paper
  • It’s still not as good as known fountain pen friendly paper (such as Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Leuchtturm1917, Quo Vadis, etc. etc.) but—
  • Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink is magical, and can be combined with the Moleskine dots paper for a fountain pen friendly experience.
Acceptable!

Acceptable!

I feel like this is the kind of product you can only offer a backhanded endorsement to. “I don’t always use my fountain pens in substandard notebooks, but when I do I prefer Moleskine dots (with Scabiosa ink).” It won’t give you the best performance but with the right ink the paper performs quite acceptably (of course, if you prefer using gel pens or ballpoints, this whole paper quality discussion is pretty much moot to you). This notebook is a fun spring color, and surprisingly not a complete waste of money. Good job, Moleskine!

Moleskine Notebook – Pocket – Dotted – Underwater Blue – Soft at Moleskine





Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen – Medium Nib – Black Crocodile Body

21 03 2014
Pilot/Namiki black ink cartridge

Pilot/Namiki black ink cartridge

The Pilot Metropolitan has been on my radar for a while—I’ve heard good things about it, even got to try it a few times at my local pen club meetup. Every time, I’ve thought, “What a solid pen!” and then promptly forgot to get one. So I was delighted when JetPens sent me one free of charge to try out.

High quality at this absurd price?? It's hard to believe

High quality at this absurd price?? It’s hard to believe

When you see the word “CROCODILE” on a box, you either think of Steve Irwin or you’re thinking of some kind of eccentric piece of old lady accessory fashion.

Fake crocodile on fake leather

Fake crocodile on fake leather

Thankfully, the crocodile pattern accent is totally tasteful, and nicely done—not some cheap sticker. The metal body is matte black (not the same matte black material as the Vanishing Point, so hopefully it won’t have that same problem), with an appreciable little bit of weight to it. In terms of appearance, it’s a lot like the Sheaffer VFM—an attractive, modern, minimalist black pen. Sometimes I wish I was a fancy businessperson with a briefcase. I would put this pen in my briefcase.

The downside of a streamlined body is the inevitability of a hard grip ridge

The downside of a streamlined body is the inevitability of a hard grip ridge

For once, a treacherous, precipitous ridge at the grip lines up in such a way as to completely not affect me. But that edge might be a pain if it falls on a delicate part of your grip.

Now, where do I buy other nibs for this?

Now, where do I buy other nibs for this?

The writing on the Metropolitan is really stand out. I had no trouble getting it started, and the flow is great—juicy but not too juicy. The medium nib is true to the same size medium lines laid down by the Pilot Vanishing Point.

None of my other Pilot nibs look quite like this

None of my other Pilot nibs look quite like this

I am not familiar with this style of Pilot nib (I know the cheapo nib used on the Varsity and the Petit 1 (unique in its ability to fuzz and feather on nearly any paper); the Super Quality style used on the Plumix, Penmanship, and Prera; and the gold Vanishing Point nibs). This nib is new to me, and it’s pretty great. The sweet spot is oh-so-sweet, a whisperingly smooth tactile nib skating along the page.

We have a winner

We have a winner

Pros of the Metropolitan: great writing performance, quality build, round grip, metal body, and comes in different colors and accent patterns. Cons: medium nib only (though I’d bet other steel Pilot nibs can be swapped on), proprietary cartridges (but it did come with a converter for bottled ink use). This is another great under $30 entry level fountain pen, or a great every-day-carry-around pen for the fancy collector who wants a knockabout pen that, if lost in the course of frequent daily use, wouldn’t induce a heart attack.

Thanks again to JetPens for providing this sample!

Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen at JetPens





Shaw Pens – The Bessemer Ballpoint

19 03 2014
lkj!

Because turquoise makes everything better

Alan Shaw contacted me about helping come up with a name for a new pen he’d designed, and happily I accepted the challenge.

I opened the mystery package to this intriguing nameless pen

I opened the mystery package to this intriguing nameless pen

The look is high-class mechanic, with a touch of the inventor about it with that o-ring grip and accents, and the hex nut around the knock. The name is a nod to Sir Henry Bessemer, who developed the process to mass produce cheap mild steel, which paved the way for the proliferation of the hex nut.

As decorations, the o-rings are a solid choice

As decorations, the o-rings are a solid choice

The o-rings as grip will be a make or break feature—either you will appreciate their grippability, or you will find them too hard. It may depend on how hard you grip the pen.

I am getting hungry for sweets

I am getting hungry for sweets

The body I love. It looks like an enchanted cola float captured in resin. The pen will come in other colors, but anything reminiscent of a tasty dessert is a good start.

I wonder if o-rings come in other colors. I wonder if I'd want the o-rings in other colors...

I wonder if o-rings come in other colors. I wonder if I’d want the o-rings in other colors…

My only complaint is the length of the pen. For me, this pen would be perfect if the tip came out right where the grip meets the nosecone. As is, it feels a bit long in my hand, feels like it would balance better if it was just that little bit shorter. Maybe if you have bigger hands it’d be perfect.

I need Uni-ball to make Parker-style Jetstream ink ballpoint refills. That would complete my life

I need Uni-ball to make Parker-style Jetstream ink ballpoint refills. That would complete my life

The refill it comes with, a Franklin-Christoph brand Piper Premium 1000 Ultra-Glide ballpoint, is a fairly smooth and fairly dark Parker-style ballpoint refill. There are some moments occasionally when writing when I can feel some oddity, something less than 100% smoothness, but it’s generally a pretty decent refill. The pen will take any Parker-style ballpoint refill, so I’ve paired the lovely cola colors with a sky blue Private Reserve ballpoint refill, to fabulous effect.

Here's hoping there will be some new ones at the Raleigh Pen Show!

Here’s hoping there will be some new ones at the Raleigh Pen Show!

Keep an eye out at the pen shows and on the Shaw Pens website for the Bessemer!





Dialogue A5 Lined Notebook – Fuschia Pink

16 03 2014

This Paperluxe Dialogue notebook by Grandluxe seems to combine some of my least favorite things about a notebook—big, floppy soft cover, horizontal elastic closure, horrendous shade of pink, no storage pocket, and paper of questionable quality.

Eating this notebook will do nothing to cure nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, or diarrhea.

Eating this notebook will do nothing to cure nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, or diarrhea.

This plain Dialogue is a lot like the Quotes Dialogue, only instead of having a quote embossed in the cover you have the imprint of the elastic digging into the Italian polyurethane.

The quote is just like one long hyphen

The quote is just like one long hyphen

Already you can see some wear to the cover going on—this is why I tend to prefer a hardcover notebook.

Not using both sides of the paper is deeply troubling to me

Not using both sides of the paper is deeply troubling to me

I don’t know what to make of this paper. Definitely no point in printing lines on these blank backs, because most everything shows or bleeds through. Gel pens and ballpoints aren’t much problem. Cheapo Pilot rollerballs seem to fare better than the more fancy/expensive Parker and Sheaffer models. Fountain pens, on the other hand, seem to be a complete mixed bag. Most all of them seemed pretty terrible on this paper, exception a Bic disposable (that has a nib I’ve done a little work on) and the Kaweco Sport which look ok, and the Sheaffer Connaisseur, the Pelikan M150, and the Zait Fountain Pen (all rocking Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa iron gall ink) that seem to do the best.

Scabiosa iron gall ink by Rohrer & Klingner: possibly magical

Scabiosa iron gall ink by Rohrer & Klingner: possibly magical

This isn’t the kind of paper you can just start writing on with whatever fountain pen you like and expect everything to look normal. None of it looks quite normal, especially close up. The thing that seems to be happening is that this paper absorbs ink very quickly. Thus, the show/bleedthrough, the occasional fuzzing, and the generally slightly off-color appearance of the inks. There’s a definite trade-off when it comes to this paper. Faster drying time (and decent enough looking writing with the right pen/ink), but you can only use one side of the page.

Start a dialogue...with yourself

Start a dialogue…with yourself

My first snap judgment of this notebook was a little harsh—once I got to know it, I could appreciate its benefits (except for the pink; that’s still terrible). Luckily for the world, it comes in other colors. If you’re looking for a soft notebook you can jot in quickly, then the Dialogue might work for you.

Grandluxe/Paperluxe A5 Dialogue Notebook on Amazon





Mini Review: Pilot Vanishing Point Matte Black Body

14 03 2014

I feel like I’ve referenced this pen in one way or another enough at this point that it ought to have its own review of sorts. I bought my stealth matte black Pilot Vanishing Point with a medium nib (an excellent decision, as I love the M nib for general use), but I’m not going to re-review the M nib just because it’s a different color (refer to this Vanishing Point review with the black plated nib; they behave the same). This will focus instead on the infuriating mercurial beauty of the matte-black Vanishing Point body.

Neither the cat nor the sunlight wanted to cooperate today for a more dynamic photo of this unusual pen box

Neither the cat nor the sunlight wanted to cooperate today for a more dynamic photo of this unusual pen box

The box it comes in combines a strange attractiveness with maximum space inefficiency—too cool to throw away, and too bulky to easily store. It would be great to display on the mantle…if I had a mantle.

9 out of 10 ninjas recommend it

9 out of 10 ninjas recommend it

The matte black rides that ineffable line between class and badass. That look was why I bought it— I wanted a Vanishing Point to be my motorcycling pen. It looked good. It felt good; wonderful to hold, so smooth to the touch. I kept the pen well protected in various pockets, but discovered after one trip that the finish was so delicate that it had worn away in several places down to the brassy metal of the barrel. It looked horrible. But the good news was that Pilot responded with great customer service—I took the pen in to my local pen shop, he mailed it off, and it returned to me looking brand new.

And then I ruined it again

And then I ruined it again

In spite of being fixed, nothing could change the fact that this matte finish is just too darned delicate. Despite taking extra care this time around, you can already see more wear on the body. It hasn’t gone completely through the finish yet, but it’s not looking good.

Here's what the regular 18k M nib looks like, for your reference

Here’s what the regular 18k M nib looks like, for your reference

Looks cool, but too high maintenance. Unless you’re a delicate person/don’t actually intend to use this pen, think twice before going for the matte black finish.

I got mine from Office Supplies and More, but the matte black Vanishing Point is widely available online (the Goulet Pen Company, JetPens, and Goldspot all carry it, just to name a few).








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