Rotring Core Lysium Fountain Pen Extra Fine Nib

22 06 2011

What is the deal with this pen.

I was looking for a fountain pen specifically for that special class of victims I call my friends, as I’m often pressing fountain pens onto them, and they, for their part, are making a career of gripping these pens by the nib and getting ink all over their hands. I put a call out over Twitter for suggestions of fountain pens that even my fountain pen challenged friends could use without making a terrible mess, and got a response from one reader, Claire, that I should try the Rotring Core.

I don't know what to make of this.

Let’s take this insanity one step at a time. So the look of the Lysium version of the Rotring Core is evocative of the kind of design choices that might be made by a queasy and colorblind extraterrestrial.  There’s a lot going on here, visually, and it just doesn’t quite make sense. Is this a pen, is it a nightstick, I’m not sure.

NO DON'T UNCAP IT YET

I’m not ready to let go of this design. I’ll start with the body. It’s covered in cryptic, Pepto-Bismol colored phrases like “FORCE RESOURCE” and “WRITE-ON SYSTEM”. Next to “WRITE-ON SYSTEM,” the pen indicates “TURN THIS WAY,” and though it indicates a direction, the body of the pen is unclear what, exactly, is meant to go that way. Thankfully it comes with a helpful set of instructions.

I lied. These directions don't explain anything.

I will have to reserve judgment on this FORCE RESOURCE feature and this WRITE-ON SYSTEM, as the pen comes with no helpful indication of exactly how these mechanisms are meant to work.

I THINK this has something to do with the FORCE RESOURCE. It is unclear what is being forced.

Before we open this pen, let’s pause for a minute and examine that cap.

Theory: the Allen-head screw is meant to conjure feelings of IKEA

The cap sports such features as being as heavy as the pen itself; odd, rubbery turquoise coating; two ridges on that rubbery coating that seem intended to increase the gripping power of the clip, but actually just make the pen nigh-uselessly difficult to clip onto objects; and just being strangely humongous.

WARNING: Posting this cap on the end of the pen only makes the pen even more impossibly difficult to use

My general experience with Rotring Fountain pens is that Rotring doesn't seem to consider the consequences of posting the cap on the end of the pen

Opening up the pen, you’ve got an allegedly ergonomic recessed grip, and a nib covered in golf-ball dimples.

Makes the nib more aerodynamic when you throw it out a window

I’m not going to quibble over fine versus extra-fine. I’m going to quibble about how oddly uncomfortable this grip is (I never felt like I was gripping it quite right, or when I almost did, the feeling was fleeting), and what a schizophrenic performance I got from the nib.

This looks terrifyingly exotic.

It was so terrible on the Behance Dot Grid paper that I couldn’t write all the way to the bottom of the page. But I was not willing to put the pen down yet, so I gave it a go on some Clairefontaine paper.

Clairefontaine paper makes everything better

And, for good measure, I busted out a few more doodles on my other favorite magicpaper, some Strathmore drawing paper.

If Clairefontaine paper and Strathmore Drawing paper had paper babies, there would be no need for any other paper ever in my life

The Rotring Core performed well enough to be worth not throwing out, but is that really what I want from a pen? “Just good enough to not be garbage.” No. I can’t imagine that there will ever be a time where I think, “You know what pen would be great for this task? The Rotring Core;” unless the task is “bring a writing object that can put ink on a page AND embody social awkwardness.” Maybe you like odd and awkward pens. Here’s your new true love. For me, the only niche this pen fills is “design oddity that looks like it doubles as a weapon.” I don’t regret it, but I really don’t love it.

Drunk and depressed, the Rotring Core slouches against the side of a coffee mug, wailing to the night, "WHY DOESN'T ANYONE LOVE MEEEEE?"

The Rotring Core is also not the easiest pen to find, but I do believe I found the best price on it at Pens & Leather, if you’d like to persist in making your acquaintance with this pen.

Rotring Core Lysium Fountain Pen in Extra Fine Nib at Pens & Leather

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12 responses

23 06 2011
Jomammie

That was one of the funniest pen reviews I have ever read! Nice job!

23 06 2011
Holly

Your reviews make me happy. They’re both thorough and thoroughly entertaining. Thanks for taking the time to do these!

25 06 2011
Claire

As I recommended it, I suppose I should defend it a bit. I actually think your review is completely fair on almost everything (and as funny as ever), but I’m not sure it’s quite as bad as you seem to think it is, at least in terms of writing quality.

I have the exact same model, same color, same nib, and it actually works pretty well for me. I am right-handed, though, and it could be more problematic for left-handers. Also, the grip is definitely weird—I hold it so that the ribbed bits rest on my middle finger, and my index finger and thumb meet in the recess, which seems to keep the nib oriented correctly. I have no idea whether that’s what the designers imagined. (Crappy picture at http://t.co/4JGGm7U .)

On the overall design, they were clearly going for some sort of “fountain pens ain’t just for grampa” aesthetic. It reminds me of a running shoe, especially with the mix of materials and the grey and aqua bits on the cap. I kind of like it, in a so-ugly-it-makes-you-smile sort of way, but I doubt I would have bought it had I had more money and more experience. (Ten years ago, when I bought mine, I was interested in playing with a “real” fountain pen, but didn’t have a lot of money to spend, especially since I wasn’t sure I’d like it. I had a Rotring Art Pen before this one, which made Rotring attractive, and it was fairly cheap (at something close to full retail).)

I believe that the FORCE RESOURCE bit just means that there’s space for an spare cartridge in the barrel.

The WRITE-ON SYSTEM is supposed to let you squeeze the last few drops of ink out of a cartridge; you unscrew the barrel a few turns, which engages a mechanism that does… something. Not sure exactly what—maybe loosens the cartridge to let more air in or something. I don’t think it works with a converter, at least, not that I’ve noticed.

The clip actually works pretty well, with the rubbery barrel doing a nice job of keeping it in place. Getting it clipped onto something in the first place or removing it is definitely challenging. Also, over time, the rubber can break down a bit (mine has a weird scuffy crack thing on top of one of the ridges).

Just like you, I found that the cap is way too heavy for me to use the pen when posted, which is a shame as it clicks on in a very satisfying way. I bet it would work better for someone with bigger hands. I’m not a huge fan of posting caps, though, so that never bothered me much.

Finally, writing performance. I haven’t had the bad experiences you had, maybe because of the handedness issues. The steel nib lays down a fairly fine line for a non-Japanese pen, maybe around 0.5 mm. I have used it extensively for commenting on senior theses, which involves scribbling lots of little symbols between lines (not double-spaced) and tiny notes in the margins, and it has worked quite well for that. My Sailor Sapporo with its extra fine rhodium-plated 14K gold nib is better, of course, in pretty much every way, but it also cost about eight times what this pen cost (at retail; twelve times as much with current prices).

I’m sorry you didn’t like it, and I feel a little guilty. Do try it on your friends—maybe they’ll have better luck (and maybe someone will take a shine to it and you can give it to them!).

25 06 2011
No Pen Intended

Haha don’t feel bad! This pen was fun, in spite of my problems with it. Not like with the Pilot G-2 (my gold standard for Pen I Hate Most)…that pen just fills me with rage. The Rotring Core just filled me with baffled, confused delight and bewilderment. I almost got something to be …doing…something? in regards to the WRITE-ON SYSTEM…but I could never figure out what, exactly, I was getting things to do. It was clear something was being done to the cartridge, but unclear what. The FORCE RESOURCE thing I was completely lost on, but I will admit space to carry an extra cartridge is a good idea.

And I do think there might be something to the left-handed thing…my grip does cause the nib to approach the page from a different writing angle. Or it could be an issue of inconsistent quality. That’s always something I wonder about with pen problems…is it just my pen, or is it all pens of that model? That’s why having lots of reviews of a pen is helpful :)

28 10 2011
Edison Collier Silver Marble Fine Point Fountain Pen « No Pen Intended

[…] as a miniature nightstick. It is BIG. The only pen I have that’s thicker is the cap of my Rotring Core; the only pen longer is my taper-ended Rotring Art Pen. In a little more than two full revolutions, […]

26 01 2012
Tommy D

Ok. Loved, loved, LOVED the Rotring 600 series. This piece of monkey-poo has got to be because Rotring got bought out by… ok, think about what company could have POSSIBLY designed such an abominable eyesore. Yes, RUBBERMAID. Need I say more?
Bauhaus Chic to Ostentatious Geek.
Don’t get me started.

ps- I just happened upon your blog and I am in love with your reviews. Besides being sorta informative, they’re pretty helpful. I am still laughing. :-)

9 02 2012
No Pen Intended

You say Rubbermaid, and I look at this pen, and suddenly it all makes sense

21 06 2012
Xamdu Aden

Folks,

I’m looking for infor on Rotring Pens before starting my Tech Course at college …can anyone recommend a site.

Cheers,

Jeff

6 02 2013
jonathan

I admired the strange rotring core fountain pen from a distance for a dozen years before finally getting one. Now I have three and use them daily. I must have huge manly hands, but the heft of the pen, yes even with the cap posted, is very pleasant and even enhances my writing. The tightness of the clip allows me to carry it everywhere and not lose it–for four years of daily use surrounded by kleptomaniacs. Much prefer it for daily use over my safari & watermans. Viva le Core!

1 07 2013
George

I am unpacking for the move into my new house and uncovered my Core pen. Great find-but I need refills for the pen. Does anyone know where to find them?

27 08 2013
No Pen Intended

I am pretty sure that any standard international short refill will fit. I recommend perhaps Diamine? Or at the very least NOT Private Reserve; those P.R. Refills are prone to drying out quickly and making crusty color crystals form on the pen nib

24 07 2014
VelevtSky

It also takes Watermans international large (70mm long instead of standard 37mm), and means you can use the windows to see how much ink is left (more of a challenge in the standard ones).

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