New Premium Line of TUL Pens from OfficeMax — and GIVEAWAY

3 12 2012
Four for one special!!

Four for one special!!

This review would have been brought to you sooner, but someone decided to make vanish my original sample package. Whoever you are, I hope you weren’t expecting pens in that box. I hope whenever you so much as look at a pen you are filled with an unending sense of guilt that haunts you all your days.

Given that it's the premium line, I would have put them IN a line, but that just didn't fit nicely in a picture


So, I too was contacted by OfficeMax to see if I’d be interesting in taking their new premium line of pens for a whirl. As always, I am thrilled for the opportunity to test some new pens. Also, something about a giveaway? We’ll come back to that.

From top to bottom: marker pen, rollerball, gel pen, ballpoint

From top to bottom: marker pen, rollerball, gel pen, ballpoint

I like the general design of this TUL line (confession: I am not at all acquainted with the previous line so I can’t really compare the two). These pens don’t try too hard; they adhere to basic, minimalist designs that stick to a general theme while giving each pen a unique look.

The ovals are another good element

The ovals are another good element

Design-wise, the gel pen is my favorite. I like the long grip, and the color accents are just enough to let you know what the ink color is while not detracting from the simple, stolid office theme. The capped pens (marker and rollerball) have hard plastic that I’m afraid might be prone to crack over time (similar to the Platinum Preppy). The ballpoint would be better with a longer grip section, like the gel pen, but I’ll survive.

Here's where all the important parts come in.

Here’s where all the important parts come in.

The marker pen is smooth, and the only bleedthrough I had was on the drawing portion. The rollerball was a little inconsistent (or character-filled, if you prefer), and was probably my least favorite of the bunch just due to that and the occasional odd sensation of the ball rolling not quite properly. If I’m going to have character-filled lines, I prefer to have them coming from a fountain pen, when I can have whatever color ink I want. The gel pen was smooth, bright, and consistent, all good. But my favorite, by and far, was the ballpoint pen. It was dark and smooth to the point that it took me completely by surprise. I think I’ve finally found a pen that performs close enough to a Jetstream that I can keep on my desk, but not be too distraught if the pen walks away.

If I ran an office, I'd order them

If I ran an office, I’d order them

Suggested retail prices range from $1.99 (single pens) to $20.99 (12-pack). Not bad at all.

TUL Marker Pen from OfficeMax

TUL Rollerball Pen from OfficeMax

TUL Gel Pen from OfficeMax

TUL Ballpoint Pen from OfficeMax




Now for the part you’ve been looking forward to: the giveaway! OfficeMax is generously providing a sample set directly to one lucky reader here. Your rules as follows:

  1. To enter, just leave one comment on this post any time between now and Monday, December 10th 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Sadly, this contest is only open to U.S. residents.
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Make any kind of comment—but only one comment! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. Because my blog doesn’t seem to number the comments on its own yet, and I STILL don’t have time/the willpower to fix it, I will probably just hand-number all the entries in Photoshop like I did here because this is the kind of solution that sane people come up with. The Random Integer Generator at will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on Tuesday, December 11th. Winners will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar. I’ll forward your info to OfficeMax so they can send you your pens!

Good luck, and thanks again to OfficeMax!

Disclaimer: I received the TUL products mentioned in this post from OfficeMax in order to facilitate my review. The items featured in this giveaway are also provided by OfficeMax and will be sent to the winner directly. Opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own. I have not been compensated for this post in any other way.


Stabilo Bionic Worker Roller Ball Pen – 0.3 mm – Black Ink

14 07 2012

It is theoretically possible that one day, I will find a rollerball I like as much as I like the Jetstream ballpoint that I’ll go around championing. But today is not that day.

One of these days, maybe I’ll learn to stop trying rollerball pens. We just don’t work well together, me and rollerball pens, but resisting such a brightly colored new arrival proved impossible (thanks to JetPens for providing this sample!).

Good for Halloween, and for public safety cone emergency replacements

I’m all over this design. Bright minimal-industrialist, the curves, the dots—and it looks great next to a Rhodia notebook.

Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation talking, but zoom in on this picture—doesn’t it look like there’s a black bird standing on the S, dropping a dot on the T? Maybe it’s just the sleep deprivation.

It’s got the little touches that are nice to see on an industrial pen, like the unobtrusive little bump there to keep the pen from rolling off when uncapped, metal clip, and a cap that posts and secures nicely. The rubberized body, though it has a mild propensity to gather a few cat hairs, has nice traction (because I assume all industrialized environments more or less involve working in three feet of oil).

Labeling can sometimes be used to great design effect. EXCEPT WHEN IT’S COVERED IN LIES

I know that a European fine is thicker than a Japanese fine, but there is nowhere on this planet where a 0.3mm tip pen should make a line this thick and be called a “fine.” This is not fine. This is very unfine. You should be fined for making something so unrefined, Stabilo.

shhhh the sleep deprivation is talking

Maybe German workers have no need for fine things. Maybe other people like pens that don’t write consistently clean, crisp lines. I don’t know. All I know is I have a cool looking pen here that I’m not particularly drawn to write with.

Fuzzy writing on majority of papers is a pretty constant problem for me and rollerballs though, so don’t blame Stabilo too badly for that.

I might try to see if I can hack the Stabilo ink insert out and put something else in, and if it works I’ll report back. Otherwise, unless you really need something to match a Rhodia Notebook, or you collect all the rollerball pens, or you have better luck than me with these mercurial liquid ink sticks, I’d pass on this pen.

Stabilo Bionic Worker Roller Ball Pen – 0.3 mm – Black Ink at JetPens

Pentel EnerGel Metal-tip RT Gel Pen – 0.7mm – “American” vs. “Japanese”

15 10 2011


JAPAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (disclaimer: both of these writing samples should be the same color of purple. Any difference is due to my incompetence with Photoshop, not due to any actual differences in ink)

With impeccably fortuitous timing, Brad at JetPens sent me a sample of the new Pentel EnerGel purple pen they started carrying just as I was preparing to review the American edition I’ve always seen in stores of that very same pen. I’m fascinated by the difference between the common American and the common Japanese office supply markets; it’ll be thrilling (for me and me alone probably) to examine those differences in the microcosm of a single pen model!

What Pentel thinks America wants...

...and what Pentel thinks Japan wants. (I apparently think Japan wants terrible lighting conditions)

Someone, somewhere, dictated that these pens would not look the same. I wonder what kind of market research goes into these designs. Are there focus groups, or is it just one pendividual’s personal conception of what each country stereotypically likes? Why does the “American” version have a metal clip? Because Americans would break a plastic clip? Why doesn’t the “Japanese” model look like an overenthusiastic spaceship impersonator? Why doesn’t the “American” model have color accents that are the same purple as the ink?



Even the logo branding differs.

Less obtrusive clip-based branding....


The biggest structural difference is where the pens come apart. The “American” model unscrews where the grip meets the barrel of the body; the “Japanese” model unscrews at the top, where the opaque plastic of the clip/plunger meets the translucent body barrel. Whhhhhyyyyyy? There is probably some good reason for this design divergence, but it’s far beyond my imagination. Elucidate me, Pentel. Make your secrets known.

These are like, what, the pen equivalent of fraternal twins? Or identical twins who had two different visions for how their plastic surgery should go?

Writing-wise, I love them both. These are, without a doubt, THE BEST EnerGel pens I have ever used. Not just because they are smooth/consistent/write in my favorite color, but because they and they alone seemed to not fall prey to the problem I have had with EVERY SINGLE OTHER EnerGel pen I’ve tried; it’s a problem that in other models completely undermines Pentel’s claim of the EnerGel being leftie-friendly. Do you recall this problem? Though the ink did seem to dry quickly and not smear, it still, after dry, managed to get all over the side of my hand and get redistributed back onto the page. But maybe “ideal for lefties” in a right-hander’s world just means not being dropped in a gulag, or not being forced to sit on the far, awkward side of the room, socially ostracized in the few feeble, rusty, and dilapidated “left-handed” desks the school provided as an afterthought.

As far as I could tell in tests of both pens, I did not have the unique problem that the black ink EnerGel models gave me. This is why colorful ink is better. Why am I not allowed to sign official documents in colorful ink? I think this is infringing on my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The pursuit of happiness bears a striking semblance to the pursuit of desirable writing utensils. Maybe we ought to let Thomas Jefferson know.

They write the same, and I think they both look good, in their own different way. I feel like I’m a kindergarten teacher telling every kid that everyone is special, only with pens instead of children.

Call upon your own personal aesthetic and decide which style choice is right for you, or decide that none of them are right and send Pentel an exuberantly worded and belligerent letter detailing exactly what you want. They probably won’t make it for you, but won’t you feel better getting that off your chest?

The “American” version of the Pentel EnerGel can be found all over the place. I probably got this one at either Jerry’s Artarama or my local pen store, Office Supplies & More. But you can also get it just about, if not every big-box office supply store.

The “Japanese” version, you guessed it: at JetPens. Pentel EnerGel X Metal-Tip Retractable Gel Ink Pen – 0.7 mm – Violet Body – Violet Ink
P.S. These pens are made of 84% recycled plastic, if you’re into that sort of thing.

P.P.S. This review is actually just a comparison of the EnerGel-X (the “Japanese” model) and the EnerGel Deluxe (the “American” model). It’s just that I’ve only ever seen the Deluxe in American stores, and the X on JetPens, but never the other way around. Also it’s more fun to pretend that this is just another example of my beloved conspiracy that none of the major pen companies want the American pen market to have anything good, and that the Japanese pen market is a wonderland of magic and endless ink-based delight. Isn’t it more interesting that way?

Pilot Precise V5 RT

4 10 2011

A lack of alternate colors precluded the appearance of leprechauns in these sketches

Perhaps you recall my ultimate beef with the regular Pilot Precise V5: an uninspired design that’s screamingly evocative of the plasticky depths of the cubicled 90s. Great pen, garish body. But Pilot is something of a multi-model king, so I had hope that a better body would exist in the Precise V5 line. Enter the Pilot Precise V5 RT.

Finally, a design that hails from sometime in at least the past ten years.

It’s a definite design improvement. It’s not a mind-meltingly stunning masterpiece of design, but it’s decent, and certainly looks like it emerged from a time after the invention of the iPod. Keeping the unique stacked-disc cone design for the tip was a good move. I also appreciate the improvement of adding a rubberized grip (most capped office pens seem to base their grip section on an ideal of a jagged staircase of uneven concentric cylinders).

Pen doubles as a sewing machine needle

There’s one thing about this much-improved model that bedevils me…the original Precise V5 is a liquid ink pen, but looking at the refill of the retractable model, it seems to be a gel pen? It has that same rust-colored goop section above the ink, like the Pilot G2 gel pen refills. Is it gel? I don’t know. Does it even make a difference? Probably not.

Why stacked discs? Why not? WHY NOT THE WHOLE PEN BE STACKED DISCS? Why not me making consultation of grammar correctingness?

The pen wrote right away after over a month or so of non-use. Would an uncapped liquid ink pen be able to boast the same? Am I willing to leave a liquid ink pen sitting around uncapped for a month to find out? Tune in next time, when the answer will still be no.

Pen also doubles as a bulls-eye, for miniature target practice.

What a disgustingly dirty close up. Maybe there’s a good reason that we can’t see detail like this with our natural eyesight, just absolutely filthy— oh, right, how does the pen write. It writes very well. I daresay it’s even better than the regular Precise V5; certainly felt a little smoother for me.

Now with 100% more dynamic action lines than the regular Pilot Precise!

The design is great, the pen is comfortable, and the ink is dark, smooth, and consistent. In fact, I think the Pilot Precise V5 RT might actually be the good pen that people often mistakenly think that the Pilot G2 is. Take your Pilot G2s, donate them to the penless, and go to your nearest pen store to get the Pilot Precise V5 RT instead.

Uni-ball Vision Elite – 0.8mm Blue-Black

31 08 2011

Blue-black: not as overexuberant as blue, not as boring as black

There was a day a few months back when I was jonesin for a blue-black pen. I hit up one of my local big-box office supply stores for a 3-pack of the only blue-black they had available: the Uni-ball Vision Elite. I had vague memories of my favorite pen I used to use in my high school AP Chemistry class being some kind of blue-black Uni-ball. So it was that this pen came riding into my collection on a wave of probably misplaced nostalgia.

Kind of like a space-ship, as imagined from the 1950s

I’m surprised Uni would market a design so almost cool in America. It’s simple, with a nice use of geometric repetition and an attractive translucent element on the cap that bears no resemblance to the actual shade of ink within.

Now the spaceship is a laser gun

The plastic around the tip of the rollerball is a much closer match for color. The cap snaps firmly closed, but only slides on to post—meh. I’m ambivalent on the waffle grid grip.

Roll in syrup for a snack in times of desperation

But that’s how I tend to be with grips. Unless it’s luxurious squish-cushioning or aggressively uncomfortable, it doesn’t merit much attention from me.

If you look closely, you can see my distorted reflection in the plastic of the pen.

In writing, this pen is especially dependent on the paper being used in terms of how the experience goes. In my Behance Dot Grid review notebook, I felt like I was getting resistance while trying to write. On Clairefontaine paper it rolls just fine, but takes too much of FOREVER to dry. I end up smudging ink all over the page and my hand. It looks like I’ve been awkwardly punching Smurfs.

DID YOU KNOW: Uni-ball's decision to switch their ink from being Smurf blood based to Na'vi blood based in 2010 caused such a drop in color consistency and quality that it sparked a 9 day riot outside of their Mongolian headquarters?

But Clairefontaine paper isn’t what a pen like the Uni-ball Vision Elite would normally come in contact with. So I tested it on regular paper—legal pads, notebook paper, printer paper, etc.—and found new ways of being dissatisfied. The ink soaks through these papers, making the back side useless, and the lines themselves on the front side look a bit fuzzy. I like my lines crisp, no matter how thick they are. I don’t want my writing to look like some kind of moldy growth on the page.

Is it terrible? No. If I were currently working in Cubicle Land, I’d probably throw these into a cup on my desk (a cup near the door, where other people might be tempted to walk off with them), and they would do a perfectly unremarkable job of recording my thoughts. But the Vision Elite isn’t some thrilling object that I would try to convert my entire office into using (like I did with the Jetstream). It’s standard office fare.

At least it's moderately attractive/possibly usable as a prop in a low budget alien-spaceship-invasion film.

Since the Uni-ball Vision Elite is available even in Wal-Mart, I’ll just link to the official Uni-ball page for the Uni-ball Vision Elite.

Griffix 3 Ink Writer – Right Handed

10 08 2011

I apologize for this. I'm not even close to being right-handed. BUT I TRIED SO HARD.

I was very disappointed when quality control issues kept me from being able to accurately review the Pelikan Griffix 4 Fountain Pen, so I’m very excited to have picked up a Griffix Step 3, which is not as complicated and thus harder to ruin with sloppy production.

Hooray! Not ruined!

The idea behind the Griffix 4-step system is to indoctrinate train children from preschool onward in the skills needed for good penmanship. Step 1 is a wax pen, not handed, for learning to hold the pen and apply pressure. Step 2 is a pencil, now introducing the concept of handedness. The third step is the ink writer, designed to teach fluid writing in preparation for Step 4, the fountain pen.

Bonus whimsy and delight

The design of the Griffix combines delightful childlike simplicity with extreme ergonomics. At the far end of the pen are these little “fun buttons” (“For individual design”); the pen comes with two: one for you, and one for you to trade with a friend (encouraging children in the mechanics of social interaction and shrewd economics). They serve no purpose other than for customization, and to make it impossible, design-wise, to even hope to post the cap on the end of the pen. There’s also a place where you can apply the provided stickers with your name on it, in some theoretical magic world where so many kids have Griffix pens that the name-sticker and fun buttons are the only thing standing between you and utter chaos (/losing your pen).

The packaging only comes with ideological instructions, not actual instructions on how to put the pen itself together.

As best I can figure (operating without directions here), you HAVE to carry your spare cartridge around with you in the end of the pen; there is no other mechanism for keeping your primary cartridge in place to write. I think it’s a great idea, but it’d be great if I’d known that going in, rather than puzzling foolishly at my pen for 3 minutes.

For those with poor handwriting, the little smiley face is either inspirationally encouraging or depressingly mocking. At least you know when you've got the pen in the right hand.

My favorite part about the Griffix is the grip. Look at that grip. No, really.


There is no room to screw this one up, no room for misguided interpretation as for what this so-called “pliers grip” is supposed to look like. The grip takes you gently by the hand, so to speak, and says reassuringly, “Here. Here is where your fingers are supposed to go.” It’s comfortable, and great for training yourself to develop the allegedly ideal “pliers grip”.

Time to take the cap off. And to look at that grip a little bit more.

Biggest problem with the Griffix: where are you supposed to put the cap? In your nose? A pen designed for children should be all over this cap issue. Or Pelikan should sell boxes of replacement caps, because there’s no way kids are gonna NOT lose this cap.

I think there is some kind of ink-emitting star in the center of the tip of the pen.

As the sun gives off heat in all directions, so too does this nib put ink to paper at any angle in which some part of the tip of the pen is touching the page. There is no finicky zone within which the pen must be held to make writing happen; it is a very forgiving pen. As best I can tell from photographing the pen and peering at it with an eye loupe, this tolerant nature is achieved through a 360-degree slotting pattern on the end of the pen. I’ve never had any pen like this before, so we’ve just hit the limits of the extent of my knowledge on slotted-end ink pens. I can say it’s great for writing, a very satisfactory feeling when this nib is moving along the page. It’s smooth, but not so smooth that your handwriting runs out of control.

If this is just for kids, then I am the biggest kid because this is a cool pen

I got my Griffix 3 at my local pen shop, Office Supplies and More. Unfortunately, they don’t have a website for people to buy from, and the only place I’ve found selling the Griffix online is this store called Bureau Direct, who I’ve never actually bought anything from. So, if you know of any other stores selling the Griffix 3 that I can link to, let me know and I’ll add them to this post!


Edit: here’s a store! Pen Fountain carries the entire Griffix line. And seems to be based in a currency on the other side of the ocean from me, so this one goes out especially to all my friends and followers for whom JetPens shipping isn’t so convenient! :)