The X-Pen +prototype+

30 08 2012

My tiniest writing sample yet

This will be my first review of a prototype. Arash Malek emailed me out of the blue, asking if I would be interested in reviewing one of the prototype samples from their Kickstarter campaign, and like always with these kind of review requests (seriously, are these trick questions? who says no?) I said yes.

I guess I should have used normal items of scale, like rulers or coins. Too late now!

My first reaction was a delighted “OH MY STARS AND ENVELOPES; IT’S A TINY PEN!” I love small pens with an eye toward everyday carry convenience. Other notable pens that activate this joyous whimsy include the Kaweco Liliput, the Pilot Petit1, the E+M Workman Pocket Clutch lead holder, the Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock—but this is the first compact felt tip pen I’ve encountered.

You haven’t seen photoshopping this poor since the dawn of the internet

Let’s talk about design. It looks like a battery. Or a robot cigarette. Probably both! (Stay away from cigarettes, kids, robot or otherwise. Except for this X-pen; it’s not actually a robot cigarette.) It’s strange and I like it. I’m not an engineer, but if I were designing a hip-and-with-it engineer, this looks like the sort of pen I would have ever in the hands of that engineer.

Hexes aren’t just for witches and wizards

As you probably know (unless you hate science and fun), magnets are one of the coolest things discovered for the human technological arsenal (sorry to be speciesist, but how many aardvarks using magnets have you seen?). The cap closes and posts with magnets. I cannot stress enough how satisfying it is to close the cap. Yes, it’s also very functional and keeps the cap securely in place, but most importantly it’s way more fun than it really should be. I find myself idly opening and closing the cap just for the fun of it. Functionality bonus!: the hex on the cap unscrews the hexamabob that holds the refill in place.

Note: there’s no finish on this round of the prototype, so the steel sleeve in the front is starting to rust a bit—this was noted to me by the makers before I got the prototype, so I’m not concerned.

You may recall my discovery of the Pilot Fineliner, and my delight in its performance. Well, though my sample came with a Pilot Razor Point refill, you will be delighted to note that the X-pen also takes the Pilot Fineliner tip/refill. MOST EXCELLENT.

Boring ordinary Pilot Razor Points

The Razor Point refill itself is quite nice—though I feel like it takes perhaps a couple of words to warm up, after that it’s nice and smooth, no drying out or whatever other problems exist in the felt-tip writing world. Even though it’s short, it’s long enough even unposted for a normal writing experience; and even though it’s pocket sized, it’s thick enough (thicker than the original Pilot Razor Point body) to be perfectly comfortable.


From what I’ve seen in this prototype, I think the X-pen will be an excellent pen (IS THAT WHAT THE X STANDS FOR HMM?). It’s very exciting to see some pennovation that goes beyond just another body for Hi-Tec-C refills. Thank you to Arash for providing me with this sample!

Check out the X-Pen Kickstarter campaign, and get in on it while there’s still time!

Pilot Fineliner – Black Ink

18 01 2011

While clicking will enlarge this image, it won't do a single thing about how crappy my scanner is.

Imagine, for a moment, our intrepid pen-reviewer out with a few pens (and friends) in a dim and hip little bar. As she approaches the bar for drink number …3?, one of the patrons catches her eye–or rather, she is drawn to what the patron is holding. A pen! Conversation is initiated. The owner of the pen–one Risden McElroy (or so I wrote on a napkin), tells me his father swears by this pen, as an artist, and Risden offers to let me have said pen! I promise Risden such delights as a forthcoming review of this pen, firstborn offsprings, etc. And here we are. Risden, I apologize for not remembering what your face looks like; we will, for simplicity’s sake, assume it somewhat resembles your name, as drawn above.

It caught my eye due to its 1950s kind of simplicity. IT CAUGHT MY HEART DUE TO ITS 1950s KIND OF OBEDIENCE

The body itself is of little note–lightweight plastic that feels neither super cheap (like a Bic Stic) nor super fancy (or even regular fancy…maybe subfancy).

This is what it looks like when you tell a really cheap pen to clean up and look respectable for the company. It's still a cheap pen, deep down, but it's not the cheapest.

The cap posts without problem, fanfare, complication, technicality, or difficulty, and more importantly it stays there.

The clip looks sturdy, but I never clip pens onto anything. It could be absolutely awful and I wouldn't know.

For writing, this pen is nothing outstanding; felt-tip pens aren’t my favorite for writing purposes. For drawing, however, this pen has excellent line variation. In the hands of a talented individual, I bet this pen can do great things.

I have probably spent most of my life shortchanging the capabilities of felt-tip pens.

Even being pretty novice-level at using felt-tip pens, I found it easy to adapt to the possibility of holding the pen at different angles to get different line widths. It was also easy to consistently achieve the kind of lines I wanted, which was part of what made using this pen so fun. Even not knowing what I wanted to draw, I knew I wanted to keep making different marks with this pen. I like when a pen is fun to use; obviously, I end up more likely to use that pen and then get better at the particulars of its operation.

Using a photo to accurately represent the color of the ink would be more effective if I bothered to take my photos in good lighting conditions.

Two things to note about the ink: it’s not pitch black (in spite of how my images look), and it isn’t even close to being waterproof. However, the ink creates a lovely cool grey look when subjected to water; undoubtedly exploitable for artistic applications.

I like this pen, and I’m glad I got the serendipitous chance to review and use it. If I create any new, neat artwork with it, I’ll get a link up here, because I definitely plan on working more with the Pilot Fineliner.

Unfortunately, the Fineliner isn’t available through JetPens. Here’s the Pilot Fineliner on the Pilot Pen Online Store; I haven’t looked into where else it’s available yet.

Before we close this off, let’s take a look at the set-up involved today in taking the pen pictures. I took them in a weakly-lit cafe using a very low ISO, and had to come up with some precarious improvisations to keep the camera still enough to get a clear shot.

Timer for the French press coffee / decorative pen support

Tripod / cup of coffee. Yes, there's still coffee in there. No, this probably was not my wisest decision.

Thanks again, Risden! :)


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