A few months ago, whilst trawling (trloling?) the internet for some left
ist-handed writing utensils, I saw rumors of that dread beast–a pen ideal for lefties (I presume these are all designed by right-handed individuals who define “ideal” as “for getting ink EVERYWHERE!! HAHA SCREW LEFTIES!”). This pen had a twist: it was inkless. Base madness? Perhaps. But I was drawn in by the allure of writing with smudgeless, non-erasable metal. Sure, it was brazen gimmickry, but the payoff, if it came through, had great potential. Nevermind that I had to order the pen from some company in England, I had to have this inkless wonder.
I like the packaging the beta,pen comes in, very architecture-hip. This packaging is also the best way to carry the pen around, for two reasons centered around the fact that this pen has no cap: the metal alloy nib is relatively soft (so says the website I ordered it from), and the metal alloy nib contains trace amounts of lead (don’t worry, it is a minuscule amount, well below regulated guidelines (so says the website that was out of stock of this pen when I wanted to order it). I tend to nibble on my pens, on occasion, and I don’t want to be wondering about ingesting trace amounts of lead (I am probably already ingesting enough minuscule trace amounts of lead from unknown sources, no need to minutely add to the fun), nor do I want to be banging up the tip in the rough-and-tumble world of a pen case. In the foam and plastic it stays, for easy transport.
The matte finish metal body has a nice weight to it (probably because…SURPRISE! it is made of metal). It is smooth and physically cool to hold (both temperature-wise and social-wise). Unfortunately, there is nothing on the pen to keep it from rolling away. I suppose such an addition might detract from the aesthetics, but, for a pen whose tip might break off from a hard fall, it would probably be worth the cost.
With such a minimalist design, there isn’t much to comment on. This thing looks sleek. It looks professional. It evokes a lusty, “ooh, what’s that?” as it proceeds to roll madly off the table. It is a mystifying object, the kind that belongs on a very expensive desk just to perplex lesser mortals who know only the sloppy inklife of Bic Stics and G2s. These don’t just belong in space, they belong in space president’s High Confabulated Councilroom, where everything is shiny and largely unlabeled.
Let’s get down to metal-alloy tacks (brass tacks are for the commonfolk), and talk about performance.
I don’t think it’s too crazy to say the smoother the paper the better when you’re using this madcap delight. Regular notebook paper and my Behance Dot Grid produced somewhat light and kind of mediocre performance, by which I mean effort was required in the writing and the handling was slightly unpredictable regarding when writing would be smooth and when it would catch and require more effort. Writing on Moleskine (regular and sketchbook), Leuchtturm 1917, and Rhodia paper allowed for a good balance of smooth writing to darkness of metal. The beta,pen performs best, so far, when writing on the white part of the glossy paper insert that comes in its package.
For sketching, it’s a real treat, again with smoother paper being better. Once you’re free from the rigid directionality of writing and can just make lines any which way you please, it’s much smoother. The range from dark to light is great; I don’t have to have a delicate hand to get light lines. I guess the same thing could be accomplished with a harder pencil, but let’s not forget: this thing writes in metal. Take the page you just made lines all over and hold it at an angle to the light. Everything is silvery and shiny. Sparkle-y, even. Not like a crappy vampire though, like…like pure joy caught on a piece of paper.
Now, in spite of the hype, the beta,pen can be smudged and erased–with effort. You have to put some work in to take the metal off the page. Gotta really want it. Are you hungry for some intense erasing? Are you prepared to smoosh your finger back and forth across the page like you’re trying to scrub someone out of existence? Sometimes, you are not removing the metal so much as you are removing bits of the page, and the metal that’s on top of it (as happened in the waterproof test). The real smudge question to answer was: how silvery would my hand be after a more extended writing test, compared to the performance of a regular pencil?
No. Contest. Even if everything else about the beta,pen were nothing but lies and slander, it came through in the most important category: not turning my hand grey. Everything else is icing; this right here is the cake. Even after a short writing test on smaller-than-standard-notebook-sized pieces of paper you can see the difference. How less grey-handed I would have been, had I had a beta,pen on all those abominable timed essays during my schooling days (mostly they were abominable due to the entire awful process of writing in smeared and smudgy pencil. By the end of the essay most of everything in the beginning, “white” space and written words alike, was a near-uniform shade of grey).
If smudging isn’t a problem for you and you aren’t even slightly intrigued about writing in metal, then take a pass on this pen. Spend your money on something else. For the rest of you, I think this is a fun and functional pen with a slick design, and certainly worthwhile if you like collecting unique writing instruments.
Beta Pen at Grand Illusions (ships from the UK)