Ink Drop Soup: A Couple More Kickstarters

8 04 2015

Everywhere, all the time, Kickstarters! I have a few Kickstarterized pens in the wings waiting to be reviewed, but in the meantime, here are a couple more new Kickstarter pens you can choose to throw money at and see what happens.

The Patriot Pen

Image from The Patriot Pen Kickstarter Page

Image from The Patriot Pen Kickstarter Page

Inspired by GUNS! Aside from the Space Pen Bullet pens, I don’t know too many pens with designs so overtly tributary to weapons. Are there any sword pens? Do they still make Bond-style pens that are actually guns? Would such a pen gun sticking out of my pocket be considered open carry or concealed carry?

The refill for the Patriot Pen is a Pilot Dr. Grip, which hasn’t come up much (if at all) in any other Kickstarter pens yet (but maybe I’m just not paying attention). The product description seems to walk a fine line between hyperbolic satire and needless genderization (as Bic has yet to learn, pens aren’t piloted by genitals) with lines like “the testosterone boosting power of manly gear,” “every man needs gear that not only works well, but also testifies of his complete studliness,” and “ensure that every onlooker will know you are a man with real mettle.” WILL MY GENDER CHANGE IF I USE THIS PEN??? In the name of coolness, that just might be a risk I’m willing to take.

The Patriot Pen by Dimond Point LLC on Kickstarter


The Umigi Pen

Not umagi (possibly some type of anime?) or unagi (definitely a type of delicious sushi), but the Umigi Pen features a unique shaker mechanism: shake down to deploy, shake sideways to retract. All the other shaker writing utensils I’ve seen so far in my life have been mechanical pencils (shake to advance the lead, but no way of shaking to retract anything). I’m not one to normally watch many videos online (I am just weird that way and like reading things / looking at pictures), but the three 30-second shorts videos under the “fun stuff” section brought a smile to my face. And since you don’t have to change the way you’re holding the pen to deploy and retract, this apparently makes the Umigi Pen more convenient for those with physical challenges. A.k.a. making pens more accessible for everyone! The goal for the Umigi Pen is much further away, but the backing cost of getting an actual reward is WAY lower than possibly any other Kickstarter I’ve seen. The Umigi Pen (blue ink color) for $5??? It’s worth $5 just to throw down and see if it can be done.

The UMIGI Pen on Kickstarter

Zebra V301 Fountain Pen

7 04 2015
Works as a dip pen!

Works as a dip pen!

The first time I bought a Zebra V301 Fountain Pen was July 2011. It was utter rubbish, I decided to attempt to take it apart for reasons unknown (some vague notion of fixing it, no doubt), and basically obliterated the pen beyond all hope of ever functioning.

It was 2011. Things were different then

It was 2011. Things were different then

So what would possess me to buy such a piece of crap again? Poor decision making / it was there / it was only $5 / being sick makes me impulsive

Thanks a lot, upper respiratory infection plus allergies. Like the several bags of discount candy I bought yesterday, you've once again led me astray

Thanks a lot, upper respiratory infection plus allergies. Like the several bags of discount candy I bought yesterday, you’ve once again led me astray

The Stainless STEEL Barrel (so the packaging claims) with black plastic accents makes for a simple, rugged looking pen. The cap snaps on hard (perhaps a little too hard) to close, and snaps a little more easily to post. When closed, the cap stays still. When posted, the cap spins around freely. There’s not much weight that would send it needlessly spinning around, but it’s a bit vexing.

Tubes of metal

Tubes of metal

The pen body is of a comfortable thickness, the grooving and shaping of the grip is nice, and the whole body is very lightweight. I bet it would be a nice long haul writing experience, if the pen actually wrote.

This is not how a fountain pen is supposed to work

This is not how a fountain pen is supposed to work

You know when Cruella DeVille, in 101 Dalmatians, tries to write a check and her fountain pen doesn’t work? And she shakes the pen, shouting, “Blast this pen, blast this wretched, wretched pen!” That’s me right now. Except Cruella actually got ink to come out of her pen. The V301, for the most part, operates on an entirely inkless philosophy.

I tried to find a video clip of Cruella and her pen, but all the clips I found that were NOT two minutes long consisted of Cruella blasting her pen onto other Disney characters. Fetish? I don't know. I don't want to know.

I tried to find a video clip of Cruella and her pen, but all the clips I found that were NOT two minutes long consisted of Cruella blasting her pen onto other Disney characters. Fetish? I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

I put in the ink cartridge. Nothing. Let it sit, capped, nib pointed down for a while. Nothing. Tapped it on the page. Nothing. Eventually I took the ink cartridge out, smacked that on the page, and got ink on paper. Then I dipped the tip of the fountain pen in the ink sitting at the lip of the cartridge and was able to write for a little while. It’s a shame, because the writing felt great for a cheap pen—no scratching, just a very tactile workhorse type of nib. Then the dipped ink ran out, the pen fitfully managing a few more scribbled lines and frustrated expletives before giving up entirely. The pen seemed to work best when writing with the nib upside down, though whoever finished the nib wasn’t in on that plan because the nib is very scratchy upside down. Just so we’re clear:

When you're up, you're up, and when you're down you're down, except when you're a Zebra pen you're in a perpetual existential crisis

When you’re up, you’re up, and when you’re down you’re down, except when you’re a Zebra pen you’re in a perpetual existential crisis

Metal to the sky is right side up. Feed to the sky is upside down. The pictures on JetPens agree with me. But the instructions on the back of the V301 packaging state:

Gently hold your pen with the nib facing down and properly balanced when making contact with the paper.

What do they mean, exactly, nib facing down? Is it really possible that they designed the mechanics of the feed such that the pen only works upside down?? It can’t be. How could it?!?!

Note the dot of ink spreading onto the page as I held the pen there? That did not happen with the nib facing up.

Note the dot of ink spreading onto the page as I held the pen there? That did not happen with the nib facing up.

Other gems from the packaging include:

Your new fountain pen will become a personal writing instrument as the nib of the pen adapts to your personal writing style. For this reason, we recommend that the fountain pen be used only by yourself.

No, I don’t think, if you’re using your steel nib with the appropriate pressure, short of writing with it for a hundred years it will really make that much of a difference in the shape of the nib. Other people can use your fountain pens as long as they know what they’re doing. And as long as you’re using a pen that writes.

Zebra Pen guarantees the performance of this writing instrument. If it fails to perform properly, please return it to Zebra Pen Corp. for repair or replacement.

Why would I spend more of my own money to mail Zebra this terminally dysfunctional pen? I could literally use the money it would cost to ship this pen to buy a working low end fountain pen from another company (for example, Pilot Varsity, Platinum Preppy). Zebra, you need to take this pen back to the drawing board because whatever you’ve done, it’s something very wrong. Perhaps it’s the (what seems to be) felt-like mechanism in the feed. That part is garbage. Throw it out. Re-evaluate your life choices.

Fountain pens really aren't that hard you guys

Fountain pens really aren’t that hard you guys

Bonus, this trainwreck of metal and ink takes proprietary cartridges! ZEBRA, WHY. This pen is the price-point opposite experience of the Paperchase Wonderland Cartridge Fountain Pen I found at Target. For only $4.99 plus tax, Paperchase knocked it outta the park. A near-perfect beginner fountain pen. The V301? Possibly a diabolical plan by Zebra to keep the masses from ever falling in love with fountain pens, pushing them to pursue a life only of ballpoints, gel pens, and rollerballs.

No link today because I don't want you to even think of wasting your money on this thing. Though, for the record, I got mine this time around at a Walgreen's

No link today because I don’t want you to even think of wasting your money on this thing. Though, for the record, I got mine this time around at a Walgreen’s

For five bucks, I don’t want a pen I have to mess around any with. It doesn’t have to be life-changing, it just has to write. For the second time now, this pen fails to meet the basic functioning definition of a pen.


3 03 2015

I first learned about the SmudgeGuard as we left-handers learn about all things critical to our sinister existence—telepathically (at least, I can’t remember how else I came to know about it, so telepathy is the most likely explanation). At some point (probably after smearing several paragraphs of PROBABLY Diamine ink), my need reached critical mass, and I reached out to the SmudgeGuard creator to turn my green dollars into a stretchy black hand covering. (Disclosure: I did receive a blogger discount when purchasing this product).

I gotta hand it to 'em, this thing is a great idea

I gotta hand it to ’em, this thing is a great idea

I went as classic as possible, a one-finger SmudgeGuard in black. After discussing my hand measurements with the creator, I went with the medium size.

The packaging does not lie

The packaging does not lie

It feels comfortable and looks about as unusual as you’d expect. You will be asked what the heck is on your hand. Tell people you have a rare condition that makes just your pinkie allergic to all forms of light.

It matches my notebook

It matches my notebook

It’s unobtrusive enough that I can easily switch between writing by hand and using the computer (especially relevant at work), without having to remove the SmudgeGuard. And it’s worked well so far, especially with sweaty hands (which, combined with fountain pens is typically a recipe for an ink-stained disaster). Now, if you’ve got wet ink on the page like standing water, there’s a very good chance that will still get smudged. It’s not the SmudgeAnnihilator, nor is it equipped with fabric that can bend the rules of time and space. It appears to be well made (time will tell how much abuse it can take). My only complaint is that the finger is just a bit too long for my hand—a situation I’ll probably take to my sewing-inclined relatives to help rectify. Most important to me, however, is that it so far has been preventing one of my biggest pet peeves (when the moisture content of the side of my hand causes already dried ink to be picked up, smudged by my hand, redistributed on the page, on my skin, etc. It drives me nuts). As long as I remember to bring my SmudgeGuard with me, I don’t have to have that problem.

Low profile tag, with no irritating tag bits inside

Low profile tag, with no irritating tag bits inside. Works for right-handed people too, by the way

Most of the testemonials on the SmudgeGuard website are from Wacom/tablet users/digital artists. Now you can add the leftie fountain-pen user endorsement to the list.


Ink Drop Soup: CursiveLogic

14 02 2015

Most Kickstarter projects, at their heart, are a delightfully selfish proposition. I give you money, but you give me a sweet pen, which I will then lord over everyone else in my day-to-day activities. There’s nothing wrong with that. I like that. But the CursiveLogic Kickstarter is a little different. Sure, I can give money and receive a sweet book on how to learn cursive, but that money is supporting a fantastic new system of learning the perpetually-dying art of writing by hand.

This is not your mother's rote memorization

This is not your mother’s rote memorization

Heck, you don’t even have to receive the books yourselves. You can gift them to schools. Schools full of children. Children who can learn and ENJOY cursive writing. Imagine a new army of little cursive writers. They will demand better pens to showcase their beautiful writing. The slow revival of fountain pens will explode with the force of a million tiny hands. Or give them to adult learning facilities. Though the books are colorful and fun, they don’t rely on childish gimmicks to try to force children to participate, and thus are appropriate for all ages. The draw is in the beauty and function of the writing itself.

If you're making a gift of it, I'd recommend pairing with some entry level Pelikan fountain pens, like the Pelikano or the Twist

If you’re making a gift of it, I’d recommend pairing with some entry level Pelikan fountain pens, like the Pelikano or the Twist

The CursiveLogic system for teaching the cursive alphabet makes a lot of sense—breaking it down into a few basic shapes, reinforcing with colors, catchy phrases, etc. I wish learning cursive had been like this when I was in school. Take a look at the CursiveLogic Kickstarter page, which explains the whole system a lot better. I’ve been sent an advance copy to look through and it looks great. Simple, but, dare I say, logical.

CursiveLogic: Cursive is Endangered, Together We Can Save It on Kickstarter

Ink Drop Soup: Back Me Up (The Pen Rest)

8 02 2015

Because I can’t resist these sorts of things but am not made of infinite money, I have an unofficial Kickstarter budget for myself. It isn’t any kind of dollar amount, rather, it’s number of projects outstanding at a given time. My tolerance is approximately 3 projects having my money with me not yet having my reward. With only two projects outstanding right now (the Nexus minimal fountain pen and the Scanadu Scout which should be arriving within a week), the time was right to throw my money at something else. I picked The Pen Rest

I don't have this pen though. See aforementioned limitations of money

I don’t have this pen though. See aforementioned limitations of money

In order to better appreciate the pens I already have, I’ve been shifting a lot of my personal purchases toward pen-life support objects (cases, ink, nibs, nib altering implements, etc.). The Pen Rest is in the right place at the right time, so I’ve backed it. My plan is for enough other people to back it that we reach the second stretch goal because I REALLY want to be able to easily hang it on the wall. I have plans for a very awesome DIY Murphy Desk in which I plan to store inks and pens and nib altering stuff and in which it would be PERFECT to hang this Pen Rest on the wall. Otherwise I’ll just have to put it on the desk, where there is a significant chance of the cat slowly pushing it off the desk and onto the floor.

One day I'd like some kind of wood top for it. But I'm getting way ahead of myself

One day I’d like some kind of wood top for it. But I’m getting way ahead of myself

I’ve only backed for one Pen Rest at this time, but there’s a reward level for up to nine of them. They are stackable (the top you see in this picture is removable) and interlocking. They could go all the way from the floor to the ceiling if you wanted.

Feel free to back this many or more

Feel free to back this many or more

Make my desk dreams come true, and I suppose get a cool pen rest for yourself in doing so. :)


The Pen Rest by David Frieslander on Kickstarter


United P2: Pocket Pen

7 02 2015
Time to kick another starter!

Time to kick another starter!

What I have here today is a prototype model of the United P2 Pocket Pen that just launched on Kickstarter. I’ve spent a few weeks throwing it in pockets and bags, I’ve showed it off to nearly everyone I work with, I’ve lost it for almost a week in someone else’s car before finding it again, and I’ve scribbled my fair share of notes with it. Now, my memory is a bit hazy, but this just might be my favorite compact ballpoint pen.

Aluminum body. Stainless steel cap. Machined awesomeness

Aluminum body. Stainless steel cap. Machined awesomeness

It looks part lava lamp, part minimalist rocket. It feels fantastically smooth to the touch, the finish some kind of mix between metal and silk. I’ve left it unprotected, free to jangle against keys, pocket knives, coins, and yet still I can’t find any signs of a scratch yet. I haven’t tried chucking it across a roughly paved parking lot or tried dropping it from the top of a five story building, but I’m not sure I’d want to. I like this pen too much to take the abuse quite that far.

I was worried about a small cap on a pocket pen, but it works

I was worried about a small cap on a pocket pen, but it works

The cap (machined out of solid 17-4 stainless steel bar stock) and its locking grooves are machined so precisely that when you push the cap on, air has nowhere to go, thus requiring the hole in the top of the cap. When you pull the cap off, the air being sucked back in as you pull makes a little pop! when the cap is free. The result is a very secure cap that is nevertheless easy to remove and incredibly fun to play with.

If you grip your pens at the very absolute tip of the pen, this might be a problem, but everyone else will be okay

If you grip your pens at the very absolute tip of the pen, this might be a problem, but everyone else will be okay

Not sure what I was expecting the first time I pulled the cap off, but this wasn’t it. This was something altogether strange and different. This looked like a candle, with the writer’s flame of a ballpoint tip. I was a bit skeptical. But then I followed the groove of the pen and was pleasantly surprised with the result.

I need to work on having a more photogenic grip

I need to work on having a more photogenic grip

For my hand, the prototype is the perfect size. The weight of the pen gives it presence in the hand, but the comfortable way it’s balanced makes the weight almost unnoticeable. The refill included, a medium Schmidt, is nice and smooth in its own right. But the United P2 is designed to take a D1 refill. You know who makes a D1 refill? Do you?! UNI BALL. THE ANSWER IS JETSTREAM. THE ANSWER IS I CAN HAVE A FANCY LITTLE JETSTREAM REFILL POCKET PEN AND A CHOIR OF PENLY ANGELS SHALL SING ABOVE MY HEAD. Ok put that thought on pause. Brad Dowdy has discovered (as I did once he pointed it out and I tried swapping the refill) that the Jetstream refill is too skinny. I HAVEN’T GIVEN UP YET. RESEARCH MUST BE DONE. But I’ll have to come back to this. I’m holding out hope.

UPDATE from the inventor himself:

“Also for the record, the production pen WILL accept all D1 refills. Currently the prototype doesn’t accept some refills because the coating thickness is a little too thick which in turn made the hole size a touch smaller than it needs to be.”


Everyday carry approved

Everyday carry approved

Tweaks are already planned for the production run vs. what I have here in the prototype. The pen will be a little larger, both in length and in diameter. Personally I’m fine with the prototype size, but I have medium sized hands. It would be nice, down the line, to perhaps have “large” and “small” size options for the United P2. No one size will be perfect for everyone, but it would be nice to have a choice. I worry that a larger pen wouldn’t fit nicely in the pockets of my fitted jeans. The production run pen will also have a smaller cap hole, which I didn’t have a concern about either way. Finally, the production run will have the press fit cap on the back end of the pen flush with the pen body. It sticks out so slightly on the prototype that I didn’t even notice until I saw this improvement listed, but that update is a good idea. Don’t know when I’d need to stand the pen upright, but just in case.

There are still 28 days to go and already the United P2 has reached its (admittedly easy to attain) funding goal. The makers of this pen have successfully completed a Kickstarter project before (a small brass spinning top that looks really cool and I really want one now, thanks a lot research). If you’re interested in this pen, hop onboard.

United P2: Pocket Pen by Dylan Polseno on Kickstarter

! 200th Review Giveaway Winner !

25 12 2014

WOW!!! There were 177 awesome giveaway participants. Everyone said so many nice things! I wish I could give everyone everything, but I can’t afford all that postage. I do want to thank everyone for entering and especially for all the wonderful comments! Now, for the winner:

jeff, the winner is you

jeff, the winner is you

If this jeff is you, please send me an email (link is on the upper right links menu) with your mailing address ASAP! That way I can start wrapping all these goods up, and possibly figuring out international postage if necessary. Thanks again everyone for participating!


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