Tombow Zoom 505 Mechanical Pencil – 0.5 mm – Brown

27 06 2014
It has been requested that my new giant puppy dog make guest appearances much as my cat does, but she's currently too deeply embedded in the CHEW EVERY SINGLE THING stage to be trusted around fine writing utensils

It has been requested that my new giant puppy dog make guest appearances much as my cat does, but she’s currently too deeply embedded in the CHEW ALL THE THINGS stage to be trusted around fine writing utensils

This pencil was the very first item I put on my JetPens wishlist nearly four years ago, when the madness was just beginning to take hold, back when more than ten dollars for any one item seemed exorbitant, luxuries beyond the comprehension of my budget. Onto the wishlist this went, a maybe-one-day dream, until to my surprise I opened the bubble mailer to see that JetPens had sent me this sample to review. Inside the clip, I see the year stamped “2006.” I think I’ll consider this both a birthday (June 24th) and belated high school graduation gift (2006). Thank you JetPens for providing this sample!

Does this remind you of a robot cigar? A high-class fancy party robot cigar?

Does this remind you of a robot cigar? A high-class fancy party robot cigar?

The body is shiny aluminum, specially treated (so I’m hoping it will prove durable). The accent is rubber, like the grip. The whole thing looks fantastically executive, in spite of being a magnet for fingerprints and little debris specks.

Subtle "0.5" label in raised lettering, excellent choice

Subtle “0.5″ label in raised lettering, excellent choice

Guess what happens when you post the cap? As you push down and it snaps into place…THE LEAD ADVANCES. Either right now you’re hearing a choir of dragonfly angels singing joyful hallelujahs, or you’re thinking, “DUH, why would it not?” Hypothetical second person, it only takes one pencil in your life where that’s not the case to turn such an intuitively expected bit of design into a delightful surprise.

It looks like it's got more ridges than a ruffled potato chip, but somehow still manages to be both comfortable and not covered in salt

It looks like it’s got more ridges than a ruffled potato chip, but somehow still manages to be both comfortable and not covered in salt

If you grip low (like on the nose cone), then this design won’t suit you, but for me the grip falls right in a goldilocks zone of comfort. The rubber has just the right amount of contour, and the material is neither too smooth nor too tacky. The pencil itself has a well-balanced heft to it, with or without the cap posted. Feels like I should be penciling in some significant or substantial things.

Book me to fill out your corner-office day planner today! Starting at a zillion dollars.

Book me to fill out your corner-office day planner today! Starting at a zillion dollars.

Technically, there’s an eraser. Practically, I would save it for only the most dire of erasing emergencies. If lives are somehow on the line, and erasing is the only thing standing between you and certain death. The eraser is the lead stopper; to get to it, you have to unscrew the grip from the body. Remember this when the time comes.

It was foretold at the hour of your birth that one day you would save the world with a tiny eraser. Probably.

It was foretold at the hour of your birth that one day you would save the world with a tiny eraser. Probably.

It’s lead! What more can you say? The sleeve holds the lead securely, and the cap keeps the whole stabby lead situation from escalating into puncture wounds if you’re reaching in somewhere blindly to retrieve this pencil.

Just needs a fancy matching easy-use eraser

Just needs a fancy matching easy-use eraser

The Tombow Zoom is a simultaneously shiny and classy mechanical pencil that seems to hit just about all the right notes. Thanks again to JetPens for providing this sample!

Tombow Zoom 505 Mechanical Pencil – 0.5 mm – Brown at JetPens

Tombow Zoom 505 Mechanical Pencil – 0.5mm – all models at JetPens





Tombow Pfit Clip Mini Ballpoint Pen – Orange Clip – Sharbo X Blood Red Refill

28 02 2014
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Featuring a Zebra Sharbo X 0.4mm Blood Red Gel Refill ordered back in 2010

Thanks to an incurable case of pen-ADD, I’ve got a lot of cool pens ordered in a fit of JetPens mania, played with for a while, and then forgotten about before getting a chance to do a review—and I’m working on that! The Tombow Pfit is now benefiting from my renewed attention.

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Apparently, the clip features a flat surface so it can be decorated with stickers or jewels if desired. Clearly I’ve been owning this pen all wrong. Someone hand me some adhesive decoratives.

It looks like a full-sized pen cut in half with a bright clip streamlined into the side of it. The grip-like grey section is more for looks than function, as it doesn’t seem to line up much with my grip. Overall in the looks department it fits in comfortably with other trendy hip little Japanese pens.

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Pfit probably stands for “petite fit” but I will also accept “possible fit” “panther fit” and “propane-based fit” as potentially fitting answers

The clip has good clippability to it. It clips to the hard cover of my notebook, onto my lanyard, on a pocket, onto a bunch of pages (maybe not all of those at the same time) without looking too bulky.

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And you can hook it on a little lanyard loop! In case you need to lash it to one thing and clip it to another and thus hold together the very fabric of your office

The cool thing about the clip is that to retract the pen, you open the clip. The pen can’t be deployed when you’ve got it clipped on a pocket, because the clip is slightly open. It’s a fun mechanism to play with—push the knock to deploy, open the clip to retract, and repeat until someone smacks the Pfit out of your hands.

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Who even knows what I did with the old refill, probably bartered it to a wizard for candy

Originally, the Pfit came with some kind of 0.7mm standard ballpoint, probably similar to the Tombow OnBook. But I went on a Sharbo X refill kick (that’s what happens when you don’t just suck it up and buy something that you want) for all my mini pens that would take one, and have long since outfitted the Tombow Pfit with a Blood Red 0.4mm Sharbo X gel refill, which is still writing years after I put it in. The lines get a bit anemic in the middle sometimes, but that’s my only complaint in the writing department, and how much that issue might be due to age I can’t be sure.

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No longer available in orange!

The Pfit is a fun little pen, and would make a nice out-and-about accessory for office life or a cute little gift for others. The orange clip Pfit is no longer sold at JetPens, but they do still have some jewel-tone clips available!

Tombow Pfit Clip Mini Ballpoint Pen 0.7mm at JetPens

Zebra Sharbo X Gel Ink Pen Refill Component D1 – 0.4mm – Blood Red at JetPens





Mini Review: Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – Twin Tip – Gray & Black Ink

1 02 2013
This drawing is from 2010!

This drawing is from 2010!

In honor of Hourly Comic Day, I wanted to give a little shout-out to my HCD pen of choice, the Tombow Fudenosuke twin tip brush pen.

What does it say on it?? Probably says BEST HOURLY COMIC DAY PEN YOUR EQUIVALENT OF 4.25 US DOLLARS CAN BUY

What does it say on it?? Probably says BEST HOURLY COMIC DAY PEN YOUR EQUIVALENT OF 4.25 US DOLLARS CAN BUY

It pairs well with my Rhodia Dotpad No. 12 for the perfect quick-sketch experience.

The caps are not the most convenient things to post on each other, but you do what you can. BONUS! This picture is actually of 2 pens. I'm still waiting for the first one I bought in 2010 to die.

The caps are not the most convenient things to post on each other, but you do what you can. BONUS! This picture is actually of 2 pens. I’m still waiting for the first one I bought in 2010 to die.

Though a little dark, the gray is perfect for rough sketching and shading, and the black is sufficiently dark for inking and borders. There is a little give in the brush tips, but not so much as to be unruly or unwieldy for a brush pen novice.

Old tips on the left, new on the right.

Old tips on the left, new on the right.

Though I would prefer a lighter gray, the big winning factor for the Tombow Fudenosuke is convenience. I only need to grab one pen and my Rhodia dotpad, no keeping up with multiple pens. The tips do wear down over time, and as they near the end they get dry, but you more than get your money’s worth before that day comes.

If I draw anything sufficiently neat this year, I’ll add it to this post! Happy Hourly Comic Day!

 
Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen – Twin Tip – Gray & Black Ink at JetPens
Rhodia DotPad Notepad – Black Cover – 3.25″ X 4.75″ – 80 Sheets – 5 mm Dot Grid at JetPens

 

 





Tombow Olno Body Knock Pencil – 0.5 mm – Clear White

29 06 2012

The ever elusive pencil review!

The only need I have for mechanical pencils anymore is when I want to psych myself into thinking I want to take a bunch of scan-tron tests. When I need pencils for drawing, I’ve been going for lead holders and wooden pencils, and I have no normal need to write with something so irredeemably smudgy as graphite. It takes something truly peculiar to make me want to go get my hands on a mechanical pencil.

Truly, something peculiar

This is the first and only grip I’ve encountered that covers every point where my hand touches the pencil. It looks a bit unbalanced, but it feels great. And inside this grip of exceptional dimensions you’ll find the most fantastic little innovation this side of the Kuru Toga.

According to JetPens, ‘OLNO’ is a play on the Japanese word “oru”, or to fold/bend. I will generously assume the pun is much more enjoyable if you know Japanese.

In addition to the snoreatorium standard method of lead advancement (a.k.a. clicking on the eraser end), the Olno allows lead access by applying pressure toward the upper part of the grip.

IT MAY BEND, BUT IT WILL NEVER BREAK! Actually don’t lay down the violence too harshly—I’m sure it will eventually break.

At first it seems unnatural, as if you’re violating the sacred trust between you and a $5 writing utensil that you shouldn’t be manipulating as if to snap in half. But once you get over that feeling and realize you’re not manhandling the pencil to pieces, it’s a pretty efficient maneuver. It’s just a slight upward squeeze of the thumb for me, and it doesn’t disrupt my grip of the pencil—intuitive stuff.

Also includes non-intuitive stuff

The only thing that doesn’t make sense here is the eraser. The semi-circle clip-like object doesn’t keep the pencil from rolling away if it has any momentum going. And you can’t really clip it to anything because it pops right off—that’s where the eraser is hiding.

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME

Standard mechanical pencil-sized eraser, but in a less than convenient format. You can smush it in upside down, and it will stay put—as long as you don’t actually use it. Then it pops right out. Pretty sure this is bad for the plastic.

One day I will learn how to make fine, snobbish distinctions so as to be like a wine connoisseur of pencil leads. For now it’s pretty much THIS WRITES or THIS DOESN’T WRITE WHICH MAKES NO SENSE BECAUSE LEAD ALWAYS WRITES

Just leave the eraser secured in the top (for emergencies) and use a separate eraser. Otherwise you’ve got an unwieldy little choking hazard on your hands. Eraser aside (or capside), it’s a neat little treat to write with. No problems with the lead or general use of the pencil.

Public Service Announcement: the lead goes in here

For your general reference, to refill the lead, pinch at the top of the grip and the bottom of the clear part and twist the two apart. Don’t worry—the pencil is designed so that the little red-orange bit doesn’t fall out.

Without opposable thumbs or a written system of language, Tobi has a hard time using the Tombow Olno pencil.

Many thanks to JetPens for providing this sample to review!

Tombow Olno Body Knock Pencil – 0.5 mm – Clear White at JetPens

Tombow Olno Body Knock Pencil – 0.5 mm – All the other exciting colors at JetPens





Tombow OnBook Clip Friendly Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Turquoise Blue Body

22 10 2011

Tombow OnBook OnPaper InMyNotebook

Another goody courtesy Brad at JetPens: the Tombow OnBook ballpoint pen! My curiosity had been piqued by the pseudo-gimmicky innovation of this pen for quite some time, but I resisted tossing it on my JetPens Wish List for serious consideration—until they busted out a turquoise model. Turquoise makes everything better.

Things that turquoise makes better: the color blue, this pen, Moleskine notebooks, my mood

It’s a nicely constructed little number. I am both baffled and enchanted by its design, a merger of minimalism and peculiar, appealing shapes.

This is not normal. Dali's melted clocks would write with a pen like this.

Also made of adorable shapes. I can't think of a shape I'd find friendlier.

But I can’t quite figure out how I want to hold this pen. There are a lot of awkward/mildly uncomfortable ways to wrap your fingers around this plastic construction, due to the two rounded ridges on the flat side of the pen. Thanks to my natural grip, it seems like some part of my hand is always pressing into one ridge or the other. Using the “ideal” pliers grip seems better, but we should know by now that, without firmly molded guiding grips, “ideal pliers” is practically a pipe dream for me.

Note that little dot. It will become very important if you ever want to undeploy the pen.

I am also a bit confounded by the design decision that, instead of retracting the tip by re-clicking the plunger, you have to press in that little dot. If you have hard, sharp, bony fingers then it’s probably no big deal, but if you have squishy fingers, it is inconveniently slightly more difficult than necessary to push the button in far enough to release and retract the pen. Aesthetically, I love the dot. Practically, I wish it weren’t the only retraction method.

How does it do being on books? For that, I’m pretty pleased.

Off book, ONBOOK

The flare-up at the end of the clip makes it easier to slip on, but doesn’t flare up so much that it digs into your book (especially important if you’re clipping it on the cover, rather than the spine). Stays on nicely without death-gripping. If you want to get your OCPD on (I know I am tempted to), you might complain that there is a mere 2mm protrusion of cap above the clip, preventing the pen’s profile from being perfectly flush with the book; but it’s not so much that it’ll be getting knocked around. The flattish side of the pen rests nicely against both covers and spines, so much so that I think it makes up for that 2mm protrusion. Wait, am I really griping about 2mm?

Forget 2mm; let's talk about 0.7mm

It writes decently; not phenomenally convert-strangers-on-the-street-into-using-this-pen smooth (a.k.a. Jetstream butter-smooth), but it’s a far cry from the frozen black molasses that passes for ink in cheap ballpoints. If I had to write a bunch with this pen, I would probably get more tired of the grip before I would get fed up with the ink. Low instances of ballpoint-ink-blobbing, and it writes easily with very little pressure; just generally the sort of nice performance that I think a standard ballpoint pen should give.

The only way this could get any more handy is if the pen body were made out of tanned hand leather. But that would be unsellably weird.

I’m not gonna sit down and write out the Next Great American Grocery List, pages 1 through 4098, using this pen. But I think it’s perfect for keeping on the spine or cover of a book/journal/calendar/planner/assemblage of bound paper, so as to have a pen handy for jotting down notes and ideas, and other esoteric margin scribblings.

It also comes in other colors, if, for some insane and unfathomable reason, you don’t like turquoise.

Tombow OnBook Clip Friendly Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Turquoise Blue Body at JetPens

Thanks again to Brad and JetPens! :)





Appalachian Motorcycle Pen Battle: Round 1

12 06 2011

Round 1, because all of these pens will need to be re-evaluated again after more motorcycling and abuse. These are just the results from a single 4-day motorcycle trip.

You will recall the intended contenders:

The Fisher Space Pen I've tested extensively before. It (or more accurately, a similar model not pictured above) was my default motorcycle pen. That's the standard to beat.

I switched from the basic bullet-style Space pen to one with a Maglite attached both for functionality (hey! I have a pen AND a flashlight! I’m a wizard!) and for the simple fact that I had a hard time finding the slippery little standard Space Pen in my jacket pocket. The clip my standard Space Pen came with is of no help; it has come off so many times in bags and pockets that its whereabouts currently remain unknown. But I rarely want to pull the whole pen-and-flashlight operation out of my pocket; doing so tends to launch a cascade of receipts to the ground. Using the Space Pen with no cap on, it’s too small to comfortably wield and is a bit slippery. A different pen was needed. Let’s take a look at the Fuel Log from my trip and get into the good and bad with each of these pens.

Yes, this is a Moleskine info book. In spite of my loathing of this paper, it /is/ conveniently pre-tabbed; something I'm far too lazy to do to a book with good paper.

Riding over to meet up with my family Thursday evening I used my Space Pen, just for reference.

The most ineffective nunchucks I own

Day One featured use of the Tombow Airpress.

Designed for rugged Japanese construction workers. And also me.

What I like: pen is lightweight, has a decently sturdy and secure clip, compact body, satisfying plunger mechanism. The whole surface of the body is a kind of non-slip rubber, and there’s a lanyard clip. There are a lot of little features here. And it’s not so expensive that I’d be outlandishly upset at losing this off the side of a mountain.

What I don’t like: I want the clip to be even sturdier. Sturdy enough that I feel like I could ride with it clipped in my pocket, instead of zipped securely away. And what is that black arrow piece on the clip for? It confounds me.

Judgment: I wonder how much abuse it will stand up to. I worry it would probably melt if I accidentally dropped it on the motorcycle and it hit something hot. At the same time, I think it has the right kind of look and function for what I need it for. Definitely one to keep around.

Day two  I brought out the Lamy Pico.

I have a lot to say about this one

What I like: Design, design, design. The size is fantastically compact, very low-profile in the pocket, but expands to a full-size pen:

Looks pretty cool, right?

This pen has that screaming jet-black aesthetic you expect from motorcycle things. It’s an item where, eventually, you’ll pull it out to write something down and get asked about it. The body is thick, which makes it easier to hold with gloves on, and it has a nice weight to give it presence.

What I don’t like about the design: one, there have been several times where I pushed the end in but didn’t push it in enough to get the mechanism to catch. You don’t look very cool when you have to push the end of your pen any more than once to get pen functionality. Two: no clip. What Lamy could do, however, is take that little silver logo bit and make it out of a powerful magnet, with the word “LAMY” recessed into the metal. Then you could at least magnetically clip the pen to your bike. I say this because I drove halfway to Asheville with a magnetic pocket tire pressure gauge on the side of my bike, and did not notice till I stopped for gas and saw it was still there. Just a thought.

What I really don’t like: The ballpoint cartridge is crap. I don’t think there was a single time where I started to write with it that it wanted to write right off the bat. Which brings me to another thing I really don’t like: this pen is ludicrously expensive for a ballpoint pen, especially one with a shoddy ballpoint cartridge. And being so pricey, I think I’d have a small heart attack if I lost this pen.

Judgment: The pen is made to look cool and feel cool, but not actually be worth more than a Bic disposable in terms of writing performance. Unfortunately, the cartridge for the pen is oddly shaped, so I’m not sure if we’ll be able to find a better cartridge to hack into the pen to make the price worthwhile. Accept this pen as a gift, but don’t buy one for yourself.

 

 

Day Three I intended to use the Uni Power Tank, but first ended up using my Lamy Vista EF nib with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses (I wanted to see how a fountain pen would do in my pocket on a hot summer day). Fountain pen ink on Moleskine paper was as suboptimal as you’d expect, but I otherwise saw no difference in performance of the pen. What I really liked about the Lamy Vista was the clip.

I think this clip alone is worth the cost of an entire Lamy Pico

The way the end bevels up makes it super easy to slip onto a pocket, but the way the rest of the clip hugs the barrel makes it reassuringly secure. I rode with the Vista clipped upright in an unzipped pocket and had no worries about it flying away.

Alas, Day Three was a short ride; I only fueled up once, so I had to use the Uni Power Tank to note my mileage at the end of the day.

Is the grip made of tires? It might as well be. Nothing is gonna slip on that grip; it is diametrically opposed to the common banana peel. They are like matter and anti-matter; touching the grip of a Uni Power Tank to a grounded banana peel could destroy the universe.

What I like: writes beautifully every time, solid and dark. Comes out looking very fine for an 0.7mm, which I am a fan of. I’d say, of the bunch, the Uni Power Tank has the unique distinction of both writing the best, and being the most inexpensive. I could stand at an overlook and throw dozens of these pens into a ravine and STILL buy more because it would be a pen worth having. And the grip is pretty neat.

What I don’t like: while it’s well designed for a great, inexpensive pen, I want something with a bit more oomph and dollar signs in the design. I want to put a little more money down and have a designated Motorcycle Pen. If we could put the insides of a Uni Power Tank inside the Lamy Pico, and put the Lamy Vista’s clip on all that, then we’d have exactly what I want. At the very least, I’d like a pen that’s a little shorter than the Power Tank, and with some kind of usable clip in place of the standard plastic snap-off affair.

Judgment: This pen is cheap enough and writes well enough in multiple conditions that I think it’s worth keeping a few in my saddlebags. It writes well enough to be the primary pen, but there’s a bit more I’d like from the aesthetic.

Day four I don’t remember what pen I used, unfortunately (I didn’t write down which pen I was using at the time, oops). Instead, I’ll wrap this up by noting that I didn’t get a chance to try the Sharpie pen :( and I’d like to give an honorable mention to the Ohto Capstick. The Ohto Capstick writes wonderfully and has an excellent, compact design, but if I lose the cap…

The ingenious retracting feature makes the cap LITERALLY INDISPENSABLE; you lose the cap, you might as well switch to another pen.

I can’t have my primary pen contain an integral part that’s sooo easy to lose.

As it stands, every one of the four main pens I tested (Airpress, Pico, Vista, and Power Tank) had enough good things going for them to save them from total expulsion, but no pen had everything I was looking for. As it stands, I’ll probably work on a rotation of these main four (perhaps getting my hands on an EF white body Lamy Safari with Noodler’s Polar Blue, and trying to jam every tiny cartridge under the sun into the Pico until I find something better or give up in despair), plus perhaps a nice orange-body Ohto Pieni in lieu of the Capstick. After a year of abuse, I’ll do an update to see which pens have ultimately fared better than the others. If anyone has any other suggestions, I’ll add them in to the rotation!

In order of appearance:
Tombow AirPress Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body at JetPens
Lamy Pico Pocket Size Extendable Ballpoint Pen – Medium Point – Black Body at JetPens
Lamy Vista Fountain Pen with Extra Fine Nib (no link because I paid full price for mine in a fancy pen store…if you want this one, you can do your own work to find it at a good price! :P )
Noodler’s Ink Black Swan in Australian Roses Bottled Ink at Goldspot Pens
Uni-ball Power Tank Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body – Black Ink at JetPens
Honorable Mention: Ohto Capstick Cap-Knock Needle Point Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Red Cap / Black Body at JetPens





Mini Review: Playing Favorites

27 03 2011

For some reason, I decided to go through my pens, and for every brand where I owned two or more products, decide which product of that brand was my favorite. First, let’s meet the contestants. For brands where I only owned two products, I put both in the picture here, except for Tombow–I forgot to put my Apro Airpress in this picture. IT IS TOO LATE TO FIX THIS NOW.

Disclaimer: I am tired. But I am doing this mini-review anyway.

Here are your contestants. From left to right: Tombow, Kuretake, Platinum, A. G. Spalding, Tachikawa, Sharpie, Zebra, Pilot, Uni-ball, Pentel, and Sailor.

I proceeded to make drawings with the winning favorite of each brand, in an order that is completely incongruent with the picture above.

First up: Kuretake. Your winner:

The waterbrush wins! The waterbrush also is incapable of making art by itself. We are all very saddened by this.

Next, Tombow. Like I said, I forgot the Apro Airpress, but don’t worry; it wouldn’t have won anyway.

The Tombow Fudenosuke twin tip brush pen wins! This is the pen I used for my first hourly comics day. Its performance on that day earns it this coveted winning spot.

Platinum was a category of little contest–between the fountain pen and the sign marker, in spite of a broken cap, the fountain pen takes home the victory.

If only your plastic weren't so brittle, Platinum Preppy, you'd win other contests of my heart, instead of merely beating out a marker pen that I have no use for.

Tachikawa featured a battle between two different colors of the same style of scratchy, paper-fiber clogging and collecting fountain pen, and the far superior comic dip pen nib and holder. Sorry, frustrating fountain pens, crow quill wins every time.

I also enjoy how this reminds me of a baseball bat. (Ink used is Noodler's Bulletproof black)

In spite of being the most thick-writing “fine” nib fountain pen I’ve ever marked a page with, the delightful style of the A. G. Spalding mini fountain pen gives is a leg up over its mini-ballpoint brother. Ink used is a Rotring cartridge, because the one it came with was even worse, even wetter. Dear A. G. Spalding: THIS IS NOT A FINE NIB PEN. Please stop living in denial.

What a suave and adorable little fountain pen! It has some problems, but nothing that sheer adorableness can't overcome. This is also the working principle behind cats.

Sharpie has put a lot of effort into its products, especially in their willingness to innovate in the past few years. What I’m saying is, blah blah blah I like the Sharpie pen, and though I prefer the grip on the retractable pen, it worries me too much that I’m going to accidentally deploy the pen in my bag. So, the Sharpie Pen with Grip takes the Sharpie category.

Around this point, you may notice that my desire for some much-needed rest started to creep into my drawings.

I think we already knew that the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip 0.3mm blue-black gel pen was going to take the Zebra Cup. None of my other Zebra products even made it to the competition picture, because they were not competition.

I'm excusing this poorly drawn nonsense due to having done some decent doodles on the actual review of this pen.

I own three types of Sailor fountain pen, and yet, the cheapest remains my all-time favorite. In fact, it may be my favorite pen out of all pens. Every time I make a JetPens order, I try to remember to throw another one of these pens into the order, because they have allegedly been discontinued, and one day there will be no more. I’ve tried refilling one of my Sailor Ink-Bars so far (with much mess), but the ink I used (Noodler’s Bulletproof black) just isn’t the same and doesn’t dry as fast. :( Sailor, why would you cancel my favorite pen? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Sailor Ink-Bar, you are the winningest winner of everything that has ever won my heart.

Now we get to the final three categories–also some of the biggest three sources of pens in America. For each brand, I had trouble deciding which writing utensil within each of these final three categories would be declared my favorite.

The Pilot semi-finals: Pilot Plumix italic nib fountain pen, Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me 4 component multi pen (3 mechanical pencil components, 1 eraser), and the Pilot Fineliner

It was a tough call, but ultimately this Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me multi pencil won the day with its stylish body, complement of pencils, and onboard eraser.

Not winning: my attention span for this task

Uni-ball also had a trifecta of star products. The decision, again, was quite difficult.

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO CHOOSE BETWEEN MY FAVORITE MECHANICAL PENCIL, MY FAVORITE BALLPOINT PEN, AND ONE OF MY FAVORITE GEL PENS?! AUGH UNI-BALL WHY DO YOU HAVE SUCH NICE THINGS

In the end, my love of the smoothest, butteriest ballpoint pen just edged out the wonderment I hold toward the Kuru Toga. But only just.

So rich and smooth and creamy and delicious.

Good things allegedly come in threes. Three great pen companies, each with three great contenders for favorite product…that makes nine. So that adage is a useless lie.

The Pentel semi-final was dominated by art products: the Tradio Pulaman "fountain" pen, the Jolt (with Pentel's Stein blue lead), and the Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy

Due to my continuing lack of mastery of the Pocket Brush Pen (my fault entirely), the win ended up going to the much easier to master (or at least seem competent with) Tradio Pulaman.

Unfortunately, by this point, I could only draw something weird.

And there you have it. Favorites (as of the time of this writing) have been declared! Many pens came very close, and really, just about every one of the pens I own is pretty terrific (except for the Sharpie Liquid Pencil–but that is a review for another day). Let’s have a round of applause for all our contestants, and an extra round of applause for the actual winners. Yay!

Your winners! Also pictured, your losers! And my cold coffee! And my breakfast plate! Hooray!





Tombow AirPress Apro Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Brown

15 03 2011

Sweet squiggly pen lines, Batman! I had no idea this pen would be such a fun sketcher.

Now, I don’t remember why I decided to buy this pen, but I will give you a few good reasons to keep it around.

Subtle, plastic, interesting, doo-dads, whooziwhatsits, nothing too flashy but not boring either.

The Tombow AirPress Apro ballpoint pen is pretty much a magical construction made mostly of plastic and practicality.

See how that yellow part appears on the barrel under the plastic? That way, you know when the pen is deployed, in case you're incapable of looking at the other end of the pen. Like if that half is buried in the ground, or in someone's neck.

The pen itself (like seemingly every pen I’ve picked up lately) is made of lightweight plastic (believe me, when I finally get a nice weighty pen, I’ll let you know), which is nice considering one of the main ideas behind this pen is to be able to clip it to your pocket without having the pen drag the collar of your shirt down to your bellybutton.

Look at that. I've already gotten ink all over the tip. WHY CAN'T I HAVE NICE THINGS?? This is why.

While the AirPress Apro doesn’t write like fantasmagorical Jetstream butter, it is a smooth ballpoint pen that writes under a broad range of pressures, from the kind where you’re trying to press the pen through to the other side of the table to the pressure you use when you’re trying to write on the delicate wings of fairy angels. This feature is quite probably due to the air-press mechanism: every time you push the cap, air pressure is injected into the ink cartridge. Allegedly this allows the pen to write on challenging surfaces, which may include slightly damp paper and upside down paper, but does not include the greasy paper our cafeteria wraps its breakfast biscuit sandwiches in.

A homeless gentlemen on the street once said this to me, and I'll say it to this pen: "DAAAYUM, you got it goin' ON."

While I especially enjoyed sketching and shading with this pen, you may note that the writing and drawing sample is plagued with little blobbies. I never see them on the end of the pen, they just appear. Everywhere. On the page. This could be a ballpoint pen thing, but this pen seems especially blob happy; consider yourselves warned. Also of note: this pen has one of the shortest ink cartridges I’ve ever seen at 2.25 inches (I can’t yet attest to what kind of cartridge lifespan this equates to). These are drawbacks, but not dealbreakers, as this pen has a lot of other things going for it. Like the plunger–for one, it has that odd little knob off to one side that’s exactly PERFECT for holding onto with your teeth, and the plastic is sturdy enough that it doesn’t feel like I’ll chew through it anytime soon. Doesn’t even show any bite marks yet. The plunger is also very quiet–not exactly a ninja, but it has enough stealth that it could probably pull off a minor assassination. Normally, I like a nice, satisfying click to a pen, but this is problematic when I’m in the middle of a quiet meeting where I should be paying attention but instead want to use a pen. None will be the wiser about your lack of attention thanks to the whisperquiet deployment of the Apro.

What are these? Teeth? Penna dentata?? PENNE PASTATA??

On to the final outstanding feature of the Apro–this clip. It’s hinged, for starters, allowing it to usefully clip on to more than just a single piece of paper or a wafer-thin shirt pocket. Even better–when the clip is open, like so, the ink cartridge automatically retracts back into the barrel, and cannot be deployed back into place until you let go of the clip. When the clip is down, it has a part that serves as a locking mechanism that allows the pen to be deployed. What is the use of this? I have watched my father, while absentmindedly trying to put a pen back in his shirt pocket, proceed to repeatedly mark all over his shirt (he was talking at the time; didn’t want to interrupt) until putting the (still open) pen away in his pocket. With this pen, as soon as you put a little pressure on the hinge to open the clip, the ballpoint is safely spirited away, and shirts remain unmarred by wasted lengths of ballpoint ink.

I haven’t had a chance to put this pen through a kind of penathalon to see how well its air-pressure injected cartridge compares to, say, a space pen, but on its own the Apro is a handy little workplace pen packed with the kinds of innovation I like to see in my writing utensils. Not a perfect pen, but definitely a pen worth having.

And, in the right light, the lettering on the clip looks like 90's Microsoft Word Art! Remember that stuff? Why did we let those dramatic 3D words and their hamfisted shading and their cheesy mirrored sunglasses-style color gradation ever leave our lives?

Tombow AirPress Apro Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Brown at JetPens








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