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

 

 





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





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).





Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen – White Body, Black M Nib

21 02 2014
words

Diamine Ancient Copper is an awesome color

Since my first Pilot Vanishing Point, I’ve come around more on my opinion of this pen, which should be abundantly apparent when you consider that I now own four of them. For this review, I’ll focus on my most recent addition, a white body Vanishing Point with black medium nib.

words

White like the snow we got stuck under last week

The look has grown on my over time. The aesthetic is clean and modern, while still being high class. There is a white body available with matte black accents instead of the rhodium, but I can tell you that the matte black finish isn’t as durable. An everyday pen needs to be durable. The black nib, though subtle, gives me that sporty white/black look without sacrificing the pen’s general usability.

words

Black like the night. I am the night. I am Batman.

I still don’t necessarily like having the clip on the writing end, but I understand why it has to be there. You get used to it. The payoff is having a retractable fountain pen, which is the greatest convenience a fountain pen can have. This is my #1 work pen of choice.

words

18K black plated stylish magic, with a few spots of dried ink

I own broad, medium, and fine Vanishing Point nibs, and the medium is by far my favorite for everyday work use. The nib is tactile on the page, smooth but not so smooth that it’s out of control. I had no finicky problems like I did with my broad nib (which has behaved well since I took it to Richard Binder)—the flow is good, and the ink doesn’t stop until the pen is totally out of ink.

words

Fancy writing just waiting to happen

The Vanishing Point is attractive, reliable, and convenient. It’s a bit premium-priced, but with no competition in terms of other retractable fountain pens, it’s worth the price for such a high-quality pen.

Looking around briefly, it looks like the best way to get this combo online is through the Goulet Pen Company. Here’s the white body, with your choice of size and color nib. I got mine from Office Supplies and More, which sort of requires you to either show up in person (and probably call ahead and tell him what you want, etc.—he might have to order it) or catch him out at one of the pen shows.





Pilot Symmetry Ballpoint Pen 0.7mm – Mint Green Body

15 01 2014
Pilot Symmetry: coming to absolutely no stores near you. Probably.

Pilot Symmetry: coming to absolutely no stores near you. Probably.

I picked up this pen so long ago that JetPens doesn’t even carry it anymore. Oops.

I don't even think anyone carries them anymore. They were apparently discontinued in 2012

I don’t even think anyone carries them anymore. They were apparently discontinued in 2012

Looking at this pen, its name needs no explanation. The Symmetry is a perfect design execution of a basic principle. It’s like a reflecting pool in pen form. I look at this pen, and I think calm, gentle, peaceful.

The next version should have a decoder ring instead of a simple alphabet, so we can decipher all of Pilot's darkest secrets

The next version should have a decoder ring instead of a simple alphabet, so we can decipher all of Pilot’s darkest secrets

Since a clip would ruin the mirror-image aesthetic, the Symmetry has an “initial ring” around the middle that serves the dual purpose of helping identify the pen as yours (in a world where more than one person in your life has a Symmetry), and keeping the pen from rolling off and away (unless you give it a big push, but why would you do that?).

An anti-lint grip would be an excellent invention. Unfortunately, this is not such an invention.

An anti-lint grip would be an excellent invention. Unfortunately, this is not such an invention. It only looks clean because I cleaned it pre-picture

The knock end has a flexible rubber that folds down when you deploy the pen. The grip is a nice rubbery sort, excellent at collecting debris on its surface. I do appreciate that the gripping material goes all the way down onto the nose cone—it makes for a more comfortable-holding pen.

It's not a Jetstream

It’s not a Jetstream

The performance of the ballpoint falls squarely in acceptable mediocrity—I’d put it above cheap, substandard ballpoints but below the Dr. Grip (and it’s not even comparable to a supersmooth ballpoint; don’t make me laugh). It’s better for drawing; if I had to do a lot of writing with a ballpoint, this wouldn’t be my first or second choice (but it does the job of writing without complaint when needed).

If you take it apart, don't lose the little plastic letter window. It WILL fall out. Pay attention

If you take it apart, don’t lose the little plastic letter window. It WILL fall out. Pay attention

It’s definitely attractive enough to be worth having around, especially if you’re a fan of Japanese pens, but if you want one now it may be a bit of a grail quest to find one. Good luck!

Pilot Symmetry Ballpoint Pen 0.7mm – Mint Green Body information page, no longer available, at JetPens





Pilot G2 0.38mm vs. Uni-ball Signo 207 Ultra Micro

24 09 2013
It's like an arcade game, with less quarters

It’s like an arcade game, with less quarters

There’s a big, wide world of micro-tipped pens out there, but when it comes to what’s available in physical American stores, choices are limited. So it’s high time for a showdown between the two most commonly available retractable micro tip pens: the Pilot G2 0.38mm and the Uni-ball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (in blue).

Imagine the sound of two pens clicking aggressively at each other. That is the soundtrack to this review

Imagine the sound of two pens clicking aggressively at each other. That is the soundtrack to this review

I’ve laid out my thoughts before on the design of both of these pens. Comparing the two is like trying to determine the winner in a noodle-armed slap fight. No one really wins, and we all feel a bit silly.

Are these really both 0.38mm? They don't look the same size.

Are these really both 0.38mm? They don’t look the same size.

What it really comes down to here is writing. The Signo 207 has lighter ink, and it appears to write thinner than the Pilot G2 by an almost microscopic factor. But the Uni-ball Signo 207 is occasionally plagued by some odd feeling at the tip when writing, something I can’t properly put into words. It’s not scratchy, it’s not like there’s any problem with the flow of ink, but there’s something, some slight something, that is at times getting in the way of 100% smooth writing.

And the Signo does a lot of this. See those near-railroads?

And the Signo does a lot of this. See those near-railroads?

The Pilot G2 isn’t exactly perfect either. It isn’t scratchy, but it feels ever so slightly slower when writing compared to the Uni-ball, like some kind of microresistance is involved—but the performance is more consistent, both in terms of the feel and the quality of the lines being laid down. The vertical line of my Ts with the Uni Signo 207 betrays an occasional tendency to deposit less ink in the middle than the sides of the line. The Pilot G2 does it too, but less often.

This has the makings of an excellent family crest. I'll get the castle fixed up and have it printed up on some flags and armaments.

This has the makings of an excellent family crest. I’ll get the castle fixed up and have it printed up on some flags and armaments.

If the Uni Signo 207 could get itself together and always write without that weird feeling to it, then in spite of its annoying grip it would be the clear winner. Both of the pens I’m using for this comparison I’ll admit are a few years old, brought back into use for this review, so even if age has brought the performance down it should have done so equally, because I got these pens around the same time.

For its consistency in performance, I declare the Pilot G2 0.38mm the winner of this fight.





Pilot B2P Bottle to Pen Gel Ink Pen – 0.7 mm – Blue Ink

13 09 2013
Now I just need a bottle made out of recycled pens and the cycle will be complete

Now I just need a bottle made out of recycled pens and the cycle will be complete

I’ve had this pen for a while, resting first in a general all-purpose “To Review” drawer, and then, around when I moved, I promoted it to the smaller, elite “Cool-Looking Pens to Review” drawer. And there it sat in all my laziness until an inquisitive nudge made me realize I still hadn’t reviewed this pen.

Warning: do not fill B2P with water. Results will not be satisfactory.

Warning: do not fill B2P with water. Results will not be satisfactory.

I like the look of it. The nigh-gimmicky plastic-bottle-reproduction body works for me, right down to the bottle label. It’s cute, it’s clever. I appreciate the feel-goodery of a product containing 89% recycled content. This is an all-around improvement over the standard G2.

Needs a tiny nutrition facts table.

Needs a tiny nutrition facts table.

But I find the hard plastic body uncomfortable to write with for any significant stretch. If you write like a normal human being, with a tripod grip, it’s likely this won’t be such a problem for you. But if you write like me, with the ungainly grip of a ridge-browed troglodyte, you may find this pen uncomfortable.

I wonder if there's a significant difference in blue vs. black Pilot G2 ink performance. Maybe my problem all along is I've been using black, when the acceptably mediocre champion is blue.

I wonder if there’s a significant difference in blue vs. black Pilot G2 ink performance. Maybe my problem all along is I’ve been using black, when the acceptably mediocre champion is blue.

Quality control, in my experience with the Pilot G2 refills, is the pen equivalent of playing Russian Roulette with a gun that’s 80% loaded full of writing-killing, poor performance bullets. Maybe I’m just a particularly unlucky punk. But in this pen-stance, the G2 refill has thus far written without any major hair-pulling problems. Nothing phenomenal, nothing atrocious. In keeping with the Be Green branding, the pen is easily refillable with any size or color G2 refill you happen to fancy (I would suggest the 0.38mm refill, as it is the only G2 that has not consistently brought me despair).

The multi-packs should come in a reused plastic water bottle, full of B2Ps. Genius. Pilot, you may now shower me with your moneydollars for this marketing gold.

The multi-packs should come in a reused plastic water bottle, full of B2Ps. Genius. Pilot, you may now shower me with your moneydollars for this marketing gold.

It may not be entirely comfortable for me, but I like the direction this B2P takes the G2. It’s a thoughtful design, both aesthetically and environmentally.

You can find these pens in box stores, at JetPens, and on Amazon.





Pilot Juice Gel Ink Pen – 0.38 mm – Dark Red

15 08 2013
Dark Red Juice, extracted from the Spills-On-Your-White-Carpet Fruit.

Dark Red Juice, extracted from the Spills-On-Your-White-Carpet Fruit.

Let’s come right out and say it: this bad little boy is an obvious clone of the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip. I don’t know which came first in Japan, but JetPens only recently began carrying the Pilot Juice so I assume it’s the derivative model. But perhaps ‘derivative’ isn’t the right word, because derivative sounds negative, and this pen is a definite positive.

Basic beauty

Basic beauty

I love the design. It’s covered in little touches—the dots on the translucent grip, the gentle wave of the plastic around the knock, even the design-conscious label printed on the clip (a clip which has TWO holes, one for lanyards and one for charms, or heck, double lanyards! double charms! go nuts!).

I wonder if they sell pens from vending machines in Japan. The answer should be ABSOLUTELY OF COURSE AND HERE IS YOUR FREE ROUND TRIP PLANE TICKET TO JAPAN TO GO SEE SUCH A VENDING MACHINE!

I wonder if they sell pens from vending machines in Japan. The answer should be ABSOLUTELY OF COURSE AND HERE IS YOUR FREE ROUND TRIP PLANE TICKET TO JAPAN TO GO SEE SUCH A VENDING MACHINE!

It just looks good. Not dollar-dropping, work-of-art writing utensil good, don’t be silly. But it’s darn satisfying. Pilot, tell your people that designed the Juice “good job” and give ‘em gold stars all around.

It looks like it should open more. Believe me, it won't.

It looks like it should open more. Believe me, it won’t.

I don’t think the clip capacity is as great as the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip, but I’m not too worried. I’m not looking for a binder clip with a pen attached.

No blobs here. Lookin' at you, Uni Signo DX Bordeaux-Black. I still remember your blobbery.

No blobs here. Lookin’ at you, Uni Signo DX Bordeaux-Black. I still remember your blobbery.

When Pilot can make a gel pen that writes as nicely as the Juice, as attractive as the Juice, why do they even bother with the unreliable ogre that is the G2? It boggles the mind. The Juice performs well, laying down sharp lines without skipping or blobbing, and isn’t scratchy, provided you don’t write with a hammerhand (but then, no pen writes smoothly when you’re trying to bore a hole in the table through your paper). It comes in a bevy of colors, 0.38mm and 0.5mm tip sizes, and is technically refillable (though I don’t see any refills currently for sale at JetPens, the pen opens and the ink cartridge does come out).

DARE TO COMPARE! DOUBLE DOG DARE!

DARE TO COMPARE! DOUBLE DOG DARE!

The closest comparable tip size for the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip is probably the 0.4mm. A brief run-down of the differences, besides being 0.4mm vs. 0.38mm: the Zebra barrel is a few millimeters thicker, the Juice, a few millimeters taller. The Zebra clip appears to be a type of hinge and opens wider than the Juice, which relies on a coiled spring in its clip. When clipped onto something, the Juice sits higher. How does the writing compare? Honestly? Switching from one to the other, they’re practically twins. But the Juice costs less. SCORE.

Life would be better if I were an octopus and if all these wonderful pens worked underwater so I could write with more than 1 or 2 pens at a time.

Life would be better if I were an octopus and if all these wonderful pens worked underwater so I could write with more than 1 or 2 pens at a time. The world is just full of fine pens!

For a look at the 0.5mm model, I recommend you check out The Pen Addict’s write up. He’s also got the link to the Japanese marketing site for the Juice, which is…something very special indeed. Just like the pen.

Pilot Juice Gel Ink Pen – 0.38mm – Dark Red at JetPens





Pilot Dr. Grip Full Black Dual Layer Grip Ballpoint Pen – Black Accents

12 07 2013
Dr. Grip is here with your prescription FOR PAIN! Wait, sorry, that's wrestling. Dr. Grip's prescription is relief from pain.

Dr. Grip is here with your prescription FOR PAIN! Wait, sorry, that’s wrestling. Pen Dr. Grip’s prescription is relief from pain.

Eons ago, in a time before regular disposable income (a time also known as “childhood’), I owned some form of Pilot Dr. Grip writing utensil. The memories are a bit hazy—it could’ve been a pencil, or maybe it was a pen—but either way my writing instrument probably had a Ph.D in writeology (or maybe I’m thinking of the Paper Mate PhD) and because I had no discerning taste I probably loved it. Seeing these new Dr. Grip models in my local pen store, I decided to see how the modern model stacks up against the nostalgia.

"What are you going to do with your degree?" "Become a pen."

“What are you going to do with your degree?” “Become a pen.”

Though there is a statistically significant portion of this pen that isn’t, as the name claims, Full Black, I’m willing to give it a pass. I love the matte black bits, and wish the whole barrel had been made with that material. But what do I know, I’m not paid to design pens.

 I'm paid to ask you where your emergency is, provided your emergency is within a certain Southern town. Also paid to tell police officers to go to your emergencies, and you know, resolve that stuff being emergent. I also send firetrucks and ambulances, tell your friends!

I’m paid to ask you where your emergency is, provided your emergency is within a certain Southern town. Also paid to tell police officers to go to your emergencies, and you know, resolve that stuff being emergent. I also send firetrucks and ambulances, tell your friends!

The grip is supposedly some kind of fancy dual-layer construction which, like pretty much every other deluxe grip invented, seems patently designed to collect lint and debris on its surface. I’m beginning to think this is the weird trade-off for luxury grips. You can sort of get a sense in this picture of the two layers. It’s pretty comfortable, but I like a squishier grip (think Alpha Gel). But it’s undoubtedly a step up from a nothing grip.

It looks less messy than it should because the ink is on me

It looks less messy than it should because the ink is on me

Here’s the part I’m certain beats out whatever Dr. Chumpstick I had in days of yore. This refill is surprisingly smooth. And undeniably black. I tried to compare it to my 0.7mm Pilot Acroball (Pilot’s own supersmooth) and it was no contest; the Dr. Grip was hands-down the winner in terms of ink gliding across the page. Now, it’s possible my Dr. Grip is actually 1.0mm and I’m comparing that orange to the apple of a 0.7mm, or maybe the passage of time and not being regularly used has left my resident Acroball not as smooth as it once was…but this is a fine writing pen and I’d pick up my Dr. Grip a hundred times before I’d pick up my Acroball again, given the choice between the two.

You do this enough times and you'll have ink on your hands too

You do this enough times and you’ll have ink on your hands too

The Dr. Grip is not only refillable, but it’s solid enough to feel like it’s worth refilling. You can either take it apart in the middle, or take it apart utterly and completely because you want to watch the world burn.

1 out of 1 cats approve the Pilot Dr. Grip for superior deliciousness

1 out of 1 cats approve the Pilot Dr. Grip for superior deliciousness

I got this bad boy cheaper at my local pen store than what JetPens is offering, but if you don’t have a local pen store, and don’t want to set foot in a big box office supply store (which some of them surely carry this pen), you can fork over a little extra and get it from JetPens. Either way, it’s worth it.

Pilot Dr. Grip Full Black Dual Layer Grip Ballpoint Pen – Black Accents at JetPens

Pilot Dr. Grip refills also available at JetPens





Follow-up: Pilot Petit 1

3 06 2013

20130603-214523.jpg
Hadn’t written with this little guy in probably a year; started right up!








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