SQ1 EDC Pen by RNG

28 02 2017

Better lit picture pending either the return of the sun or the revival of my scanner


Have we had a lot of Kickstarter pens designed around the Fisher Space Pen refill? No offense to any creators if we have, but I can’t remember many if any that caught my eye until I saw the Shipwrecked finish SQ1 sample on the Clicky Post‘s Instagram feed.

Caption typed by my dog: Q`1

This was something different. This was all thumbs up and a basket of yes. And at the Kickstarter special price of two for $40, I didn’t even have to choose between my two favorites. Ryan did a good job of communicating and updating throughout the project process, and a good job of getting product out (estimated delivery October, actual ship November)–especially for a one-man show machining some quality pens.

In my Kickstarter experience, you only earn the right to complain about the project timeframe if it’s been so long you forgot you even backed the project. Lookin’ at you, Fidget Cube.


The bodies of the SQ1 are all 6061 Anodized aluminum or stonewashed aluminum (I opted for a black and an olive drab green anodized), with four cap material/finish options (polished brass, polished copper, and then the two I chose: brushed copper and shipwrecked copper). In spite of reading how long the pen would be (5″ long, with a 5/16″ diameter), the thing itself in my hand was smaller than what I’d expected. Unless I actually measure and draw out a scale representation, I never really have an accurate conception in my mind of how big a Kickstarter pen will be.

But I guarantee, even with reference images including normal every day objects, my mental sization will be inaccurate


The aesthetic is a simple but satisfying arrangement of circles and lines – dimpled lines of circles for the grip, circles carved around the ends to create a visual of lines, all on the straight-line cylinder of the pen body. I like that the cap isn’t flush with the pen body; it makes the grip more comfortable as there isn’t a step down between the pen body and the nose cone, and it gives the pen a stylized matchstick look.

I’m going to end up looking at actual shipwrecks some day and probably be very disappointed that the colorations aren’t as pretty as this


But the biggest draw for me is that gorgeous shipwrecked finish. Every bit as beautiful as I’d hoped, and then some. The steampunky brushed copper looks great too. I’ve had both pens knocking around in bags for some time now, enough so that the anodized body of the black pen shows a bit of wear to it, but the finishes on the end caps look as good as the day I got them. I appreciate whatever protective or magical force has accomplished that, because I would hate for those beautiful patterns to get worn off.

The nose cone isn’t shipwrecked. Magic, or conspiracy??? ConsPIRACY ???? Arr.


Speaking of wear, here’s the wear I mentioned on the body. In dim lighting it’s hard to find but in sunlight, it’s visible. As long as I’m not losing my shipwrecked finish, then the more character the merrier. My only complaint for these pens: the threading on the nose cone. The cap doesn’t easily catch onto the threading. I have to take care and pay attention to make sure I’ve got it right. If anyone reports stripping the threads after a hasty or drunken recapping of the SQ1, I won’t be surprised.

Please write responsibly


I considered taking off points for the slight complications involved in freeing the refill. You have to unscrew the back end, then take a 1/8 allen wrench (not included) and insert it to unscrew the set screw, and then you can shake out the refill. But the set screw holds the refill perfectly and firmly in place. And if you’ve ever assembled or at least thought very hard about assembling any piece of IKEA furniture, then your toolbox probably already has an allen wrench or two drifting along the bottom with every spare mismatched nail you’ve encountered in your adult life. It wouldn’t be worth increasing the price of the pen to include one. My only beef here is with the cap threads on the nose cone (the threads on the back end to post the cap don’t have the same problem).

Pairs well with a rugged Field Notes and/or a gin & tonic


Though I haven’t actually reviewed the Space Pen itself yet, I’m not going to get into that this time. The short of it: it’s not a Jetstream, but it never said it was. It writes in all manner of environments, as would befit an EDC pen. Would I hand write a novel with it? No. Jot the jotty sort of jots one would expect of an EDC pen? Gladly.

 

The RNG website isn’t ready for selling yet, but at time of writing there are a few SQ1 pens available on the RNG Etsy shop.





Skilcraft U.S. Government Pen

10 05 2016

Trying out a Field Notes for this here writing sample. It’s ok because it’s ballpoint

When you get an email with an offer to try “The official pen of the United States Government,” you can’t say no. That’s how you make bald eagles cry, and George Washington would not be pleased with that.

Insert partisan political joke of your choice here


These pens look like a retro throwback straight out of some non-existent idyllic past (a.k.a. the good old days). I dig the stamped-on “SKILCRAFT U.S. GOVERNMENT” label. But wow, these pens are tiny.

Granted, I’m comparing this to normal, full sized pens. Maybe it actually aspires to the compact carry category?

Makes me think about the size of a 1950s McDonald’s meal vs. now. Cheeseburgers of a rational size that look microscopic in comparison to the heaving patty towers of the modern era. I digress. This is a short, slender pen, light of weight and modest of design.

So official

The knock is a slim button, but with a strong and satisfying click. There’s a decent amount of resistance to it–when you deploy the pen, it’s a deliberate action. This! Is! Government! Business!

Does very good job attracting dust and cat hairs

Some minor quibbles – alignment. The clip doesn’t line up with the label. The metal spacer ring in the middle mostly lines up, but you can feel the slight edge line between the plastic and the metal. Psychologically, I really want the words to all be in a line, and the surface to all be impossibly smooth. 

See how none of these refills seem quite centered? That will become relevant

The refill is a bronze-bodied affair rumored to last for a mile (I don’t have paper long enough or patience sufficient enough to make over 5000 one foot long lines to test this claim). It’s no modern marvel–compared to the super smooth ballpoint kings, the Skilcraft refill is lighter in color and not as smooth. It’s good when it gets going, no blobs. There’s about half a millimeter of play laterally between the refill and the end of the barrel, the result being a soft but not unpleasant sound as you write, like a gentle tapping with each pen strike on the page. If you like tactile things, it’s a bit zen-like, your own personal write-powered white noise generator. If you crave absolute silence, then this could at times pose a problem.

Technically I have a dozen of these, but all those not pictured have migrated their way into the fabric of my life, and the reliable bottoms of my bags

This pen seems designed to be as unobtrusive as possible while still retaining usability as an everyday jotter. I doubt this would be very comfortable for a marathon note-taking session, but for quick notes such a slim pen tucks away easily to be ever-available. It’s stood up well to several months of abuse thrown in various bags without care. I find myself including one in each of my bags, in case I need a normal people pen, especially one I won’t have to worry about loaning out or losing.

Available wherever they are sold. Like Amazon, apparently. And probably other places.

A little more about Skilcraft – it’s the trade name of the National Industries for the Blind, employing those who are blind or visually impaired. Let me just link to the Tiger Pens Blog post about Skilcraft, which has a fantastic and fascinating write up about the company that makes these pens.

(Industries for the Blind, Inc. provided this product at no charge for reviewing purposes. Opinions entirely my own.)





TUL Pens – Serious Ink

8 09 2015
I really need to get my nice big scanner set back up again, so I can easily to writing samples bigger than a playing card again

I really need to get my nice big scanner set back up again, so I can easily do writing samples bigger than a playing card

I received an email from the new representative of the Office [Max/Depot] mecha behemoth advising me that I needed Serious Ink, which I pictured to be a very large bottle of black ink with a stern-faced, possibly dead individual on the label. No, apparently that’s not what Serious Ink is. Serious Ink refers to Office Depot‘s line of TUL pens. Would I like a free sample to review? Sure, I said, as long as these are somehow different from Office Max‘s line of premium TUL pens I reviewed before.

Obviously these are different, they came in their own suitcase

Obviously these are different, they came in their own suitcase

No reply from my Office DaxMepot liason, but this thing showed up on my doorstep (in the arms of the UPS guy, whom my dog viciously barked at). The previous set included a marker pen, a rollerball, a gel pen, and a ballpoint. This set included a pencil, a rollerball, a gel pen, and a ballpoint.

Literally, the same ballpoint

Literally, the same ballpoint

As before, the ballpoint delivers dark, super smooth ink performance in a somewhat bland-looking package. Put the ballpoint refill in the previous TUL line’s gel pen body, and then we’d be talking. But in spite of being the same ballpoint, the refill on this new one tends to sometimes rattle, which is definitely a step in the wrong direction.

The little keys that came with the little suitcase, by the way, do not work.

The little keys that came with the little suitcase, by the way, do not work.

They’ve taken everything I liked about the look of the previous gel pen and completely done away with it, the beter to match the less-inspired design of the ballpoint. The gel ink remains smooth and skip-free, but still has spots where it takes too long to dry. Not very left-handed friendly. This is the medium point size—I’d like to try this gel pen in fine.

Oh rollerball. You have liquid ink, but are not a fountain pen. I never know what to do with you

Oh rollerball. You have liquid ink, but are not a fountain pen. I never know what to do with you

I will give them credit in that the designs of this new set seem to go together a lot better, particularly the gel pen and the rollerball. Again, I’d like to try this in a fine; my handwriting just looks too thick. The medium rollerball seems to write much more consistently this time around, and the dry times are decent—much better than the gel pen.

I'm not very picky about mechanical pencils. Either it works, it's a Uni Kuru Toga, or it's a useless piece of garbage

I’m not very picky about mechanical pencils. Either it works, it’s a Uni Kuru Toga, or it’s a useless piece of garbage

Now this looks like it matches the design of the TUL gel pen that I liked before. I love the long rubbery grip, and that the lead and tip can be pushed back into the nose cone when you need to travel. And almost an inch of twist eraser! No complaints; it does everything a mechanical pencil should and in no way fills me with any rage.

By our powers combined, we are OFFICE INK DEPOT SERIOUS MAX

By our powers combined, we are OFFICE INK DEPOT SERIOUS MAX

Design-wise, the pencil is the clear winner for this TUL group. Performance-wise, the day goes once again to the TUL ballpoint. The refills between the gel body and the ballpoint body are compatible with one another, so I’ve now gone back to my first set and put the ballpoint refill in my much more beloved gel body. Now my life is complete.

TUL Writing Line – Available online or at your nearest amalgamated Office Depot/Max.

Thank you to Office Depot OfficeMax for providing these samples free for review. Please consider adopting a slightly less unwieldy name though. 





The Patriot Pen

1 09 2015
Hopefully the volatile combination of Doxie Flip Scanner and Pixlr editor on Chromebook rendered this writing sample at least somewhat approximate to reality

Hopefully the volatile combination of Doxie Flip Scanner and Pixlr editor on Chromebook rendered this writing sample at least somewhat approximate to reality

Here we have another successful child born of the Kickstarter penterprise—the Patriot Pen. You may recall I mentioned it before, and now I have it here before me. I have not yet turned into a man from using this pen, in spite of being “knee deep in pure manliness” with every writing session. Nor have onlookers assured me that they knew I was a man of real mettle by virtue of having this pen in my purse (Brad Dowdy did admire the knurling in a bar at the DC Pen Show, but I think that’s a far cry from being a testament to my “complete studliness”). This pen was provided to me free of charge as thanks from the good people of Dimond Point—since I wasn’t a backer, I can’t attest to how they functioned on that end of the process, but they did seem to get their pens out on their actual deadline target.

Hail of bullets not included

Hail of bullets not included

I gave this pen a shout out in the first place because I liked the look of it. A gun-inspired pen that’s tactical, not tacky. The squared-off barrel parts, the long and lanky powder coated spring steel clip, and of course the iconic “muzzle brake” styled tip, all in stealthy black. The only thing I didn’t like was the way the knurled version, when capped, just visually had so much knurling all in a row. I’m still on the fence about it. Posted, the knurling looks good echoed at both ends of the pen, but capped? Capped, the smooth grip style looks better.

Neon orange is such an awesome color that neither my camera nor my Photoshopping ability could adequately capture it

Neon orange is such an awesome color that neither my camera nor my Photoshopping ability could adequately capture it

The threads are well done; it’s easy to get the cap on and off, both capping and posting. However I’ve had the cap unscrew itself and fall off into the pocket of my bag more than once. Maybe I didn’t tighten it enough those times, but the possibility is there. The anodized threads are also starting to show wear already—you can see the metal through the black coating. But I think this adds a personalized ruggedness to the instrument (see Spyderco clip, above).

Doubles as an emergency nail file.

Doubles as an emergency nail file.

The knurled grip is comfortable—if anything would get in the way of my comfort for a prolonged writing session, it would probably be the rounded corners formed by the squared body. The harder you grip your pen, the more those rounded corners may pose a problem.

Unless whatever you have next to the Patriot Pen is made of something hard, like diamond or adamantium, beware

Unless whatever you have next to the Patriot Pen is made of something hard, like diamond or adamantium, beware

Do be careful of putting the knurled grip in a pocket with basically anything else in it that you don’t want damaged—I had it clipped in a bag pocket next to my Bell System Property Wearever twist pencil, and the plastic got quite a bit scratched up.

Quite possibly the longest clip I own?

Quite possibly the longest clip I own?

I couldn’t replicate the smooth pocket-clipping action of the Patriot Pen’s Kickstarter video (but I did come close to ripping my back pocket off), but the clip slides nicely onto papers without assistance (and onto fabric objects if I pull the clip out a little first). I like the texture that the powder coating gives. It makes this pen a delicious sampler of tactile sensations.

brratatatatat! pow pow pow! bang! bang! pyew pyew! wait maybe that last onomatopoeia is for laser blasters ....

brratatatatat! pow pow pow! bang! bang! pyew pyew! wait maybe that last onomatopoeia is for laser blasters ….

The Pilot Dr. Grip refill was a good choice, being common (and thus easy to obtain) while still providing good performance. As I reviewed with the Pilot Dr. Grip pen, this refill is smooth (almost in the realm of the super smooth), sufficiently dark, and held back only by occasional blobs.

AMERICA GEORGE WASHINGTON FREEDOM WAVES OF GRAIN

AMERICA GEORGE WASHINGTON FREEDOM WAVES OF GRAIN

The goal is to eventually add The Patriot Pen for sale on their website, with updates to be announced (possibly on their Kickstarter?) If you’re interested, keep your eyes out!





Yoropen Z3

13 04 2015
Writing samples will be tiny for a while, until I can get my computer/scanner set up again. I'll be using my Doxie Flip scanner and hoping it will be good enough

Writing samples will be tiny for a while, until I can get my computer/scanner set up again. I’ll be using my Doxie Flip scanner and hoping it will be good enough

The ever unusual Yoropen! It’s been a few years since the first Yoropen undulated into my life. And now here we are, this silver phoenix born again through the fire of Kickstarter. Thanks to the folks at Yoropen for sending this free Z3 to review.

Box not pictured, one because it looks just like the box on the Yoropen website, two because after moving I'm not 100% sure where I put the box

Box not pictured, one because it looks just like the box on the Yoropen website, two because after moving I’m not 100% sure where I put the box

The Z3 is an executive pen and comes in a tasteful box to match—nice enough that you’d never have to hide in shame when giving it as a gift, but not so nice that you’d feel like you couldn’t throw it away, if you’re not of the box-hoarding persuasion. Included with my sample pen: 1 proprietary cartridge, and 1 mold to turn other refills into Yoropen-compatible refills.

Grip colors available are black, blue, and reddish

Grip colors available are black, blue, and reddish

The grip is made of comfortable, dust-collecting material. Once you start using it, it will never be fully clean again. The grip is adjustable, making the pen suitable for both left- and right-handers. I’m still trying to figure out exactly where I want my grip twisted to so as to facilitate the correct grip positioning.

I think I'm holding it correctly. I think I followed the instructions...

I think I’m holding it correctly. I think I followed the instructions…

To get the full ergonomic benefits of the Yoropen requires some grip retraining, which allegedly will take you about five minutes. I didn’t really time it, but my cursive handwriting of this review did look a lot better by the end.

The end of that clip is just inviting my cat to walk up and chew on it while I'm writing

The end of that clip is just inviting my cat to walk up and chew on it while I’m writing

The cap snaps securely on the end, the clip a tilde floating in the wind. But closing the pen, the cap is very particular—it only goes on one way, in such a way that it pushes the nub of the clip’s end into the grip.

The mystery of the dented grip was quickly solved thanks to Scooby Snax and menthol cough drops. Or maybe it was simple logic.

The mystery of the dented grip was quickly solved thanks to Scooby Snax and menthol cough drops. Or maybe it was simple logic.

Every time I put the cap back on, I have to remind myself that pushing the clip into the grip is correct. This creates a dent in the grip, which is more aesthetically annoying than really having any functional impact.

This is actually the Zebra Surari refill I molded, not the refill it came with. Shhh, they look the same in the pen

This is actually the Zebra Surari refill I molded, not the refill it came with. Shhh, they look the same in the pen

It’s surprising how little pressure is needed to get the Yoropen refill to write. It isn’t a particularly dark or striking refill, especially when applying so little pressure. But it flows smoothly and leaves marks on the page.

Top refill is a Zebra Surari multi-pen refill molded to fit the Yoropen. Beneath, the actual Yoropen refill. Finally, a Jetstream multi-pen refill being molded in the actual mold

Top refill is a Zebra Surari multi-pen refill molded to fit the Yoropen. Beneath, the actual Yoropen refill. Finally, a Jetstream multi-pen refill being molded in the actual mold

New to the Yoropen Z3 (as opposed to previous Yoropen models) is a little plastic mold (shipped with the Kickstarter pens, currently available on the Yoropen website with each plastic refill ordered, plans in the future to be included with pens sold from the site). This little bit of plastic opens up a world of possibility. The idea is to take any similarly proportioned plastic refill and bend it into a Yoropen refill shape. It doesn’t work perfectly (the writing tip end doesn’t get bent far enough down, compared to the Yoropen refill), but it works well enough to get the newly molded refill into the Yoropen. You may have to finagle a bit, and physically encourage the refill to go where you want when you put the pen back together, but in the end I got mine to work. I first molded a Surari multipen refill (not sure how long it actually takes, as I just left it in the mold for a few days). Next, I went to mold a Jetstream refill and broke the plastic tip off the mold. Oops. The mold still works though, and as long as I keep the broken-off tip I’ll still be able to line up refills to put the Yoropen bend in at the correct distance from the pen tip.

All the pieces

All the pieces

I’m not used to using a ballpoint with such an incredibly light touch, and with a super-smooth refill in it? Smoother than buttered skates on oiled ice. It’s like first learning to write with a fountain pen all over again. You know how you’re supposed to write with your whole arm, not your fingers? The Yoropen is comfortable yet controllable enough for me to actually start doing that. I haven’t adapted quite as well to any other pen that demanded me to change my grip style (tripod style is typically a disaster, and every five years or so it used to be that I’d buy a PenAgain and soon remember I can never write right with it).

Ordinarily I don’t go for the idea of spending top dollar on a ballpoint pen (that money’s for fountain pens), but with a comfortable design and the ability to mold super-smooth refills to fit? That just might be worth it.

Yoropen Z3 Black Ver. 02 at Yoropen Inc.





ZPIII Zait Jerusalem Olive Wood Ballpoint Pen

11 02 2014
"ffv" That is the caption my cat wrote by stepping on the keyboard as I uploaded this sample. I've decided to honor her literary genius and leave that caption

“ffv” That is the caption my cat wrote by stepping on the keyboard as I uploaded this sample. I’ve decided to honor her literary genius and leave that caption. She wanted to add a bunch of apostrophes & closing brackets too, but I’ve got to draw a line somewhere

Where to begin when my heart is so full of delight? First, a thanks to Zait Pens for providing this sample to review. They also included an amusing little letter for me, and noted that though this pen comes in a lovely gift box, they sent my sample in a velvet pouch so as not to inundate me with boxes that I don’t want to throw away. THEY’VE BEEN PAYING ATTENTION, YOU GUYS! My heart is a basket of warm fuzzies.

I might need to bust out my top hat for this one.

I might need to bust out my top hat for this one.

I love art deco. I think I may be morally obligated to sign all checks underwriting my speakeasy with this pen. I don’t own a speakeasy. Maybe I should.

Maybe I should have ordered them by size. Well, it's too late now and too much Photoshop would be required to fix it. Pictured: Zait Olive Wood Ballpoint, Zait Olive Wood Fountain Pen, Pelikan M150, Parker Rollerball, Sheaffer Taranis, Pilot Vanishing Point, Pilot Prera, Kaweco Liliput

Maybe I should have ordered them by size. Well, it’s too late now and too much Photoshop would be required to fix it. Pictured: Zait Olive Wood Ballpoint, Zait Olive Wood Fountain Pen, Pelikan M150, Parker Rollerball, Sheaffer Taranis, Pilot Vanishing Point, Pilot Prera, Kaweco Liliput

This pen isn’t necessarily small, but it cultivates a diminutive feel to its appearance—and my love of the compact pen runs deep. In spite of seeming small, it’s as thick as an ordinary pen and has a good weight to it that feels evenly balanced.

The pictures don't even do the inlay justice

The pictures don’t even do the inlay justice

The body is Jerusalem Olive Wood with hand-laid Carob Wood inlay (which apparently comes from a magic tree, because it shimmers different shades of brown as I turn it), with 24kt gold plated finials and black chrome accent band on the nosecone. It’s an attractive package. It makes me happy just looking at it. Can you be in love with a pen design? Perhaps I should see a doctor or registered psychologist.

Clockwise to deploy, counterclockwise to retract.

Clockwise to deploy, counterclockwise to retract.

The deploying mechanism is twist action, with a satisfying feeling of locking in place with the last bit of twist. The refill is accessed by unscrewing at the black chrome band—it comes with a Dayacom brand ballpoint but takes any Parker-style refill.

Tungsten carbide ball! I don't even know what those metals are but they sound cool!

Tungsten carbide ball! I don’t even know what those metals are but they sound cool!

The Dayacom refill (with tungsten carbide ball) is a pretty standard pre-supersmooth type of ballpoint. They’re really great for drawing and shading, and good enough for writing. No blobs, ink comes out steady once you start writing—dark gray, rather than black—it’s not super smooth, but it’s also not choppy or too terribly slow. That said, I’ve already gone out to inquire on what other options are available in the Parker-style refills department. I’m currently testing out a Private Reserve Easy Flow 9000 black refill…it’s not quite a Jetstream, but it is pretty dark (darker than a standard ballpoint) and fairly smooth.

Ledger entry 00143: accounts payable to 200 flappers for expenses listed as follows: 15 gallons of premium Mississippi hooch, assortment of bloomers, 600 renditions of the Lindy Hop....

Ledger entry 00143: accounts payable to 200 flappers for expenses listed as follows: 15 gallons of premium Mississippi hooch, assortment of bloomers, 600 renditions of the Lindy Hop….

I feel a little bit more classy just holding this pen. This model retails for $85.00, including standard international shipping and handling charges plus the box. Quite an eye-catching pen!

ZPIII Handmade Jerusalem Olive Wood Twist-top Ballpoint with Carob Wood Inlay at Zait Pens





Paper Mate InkJoy 300 RT

25 12 2013
INK JOY TO THE WORLD, a decent promotional pen has come. Let earth, receive, semi-decent-but-somewhat-messy writing!

INK JOY TO THE WORLD, a decent promotional pen has come. Let earth, receive, semi-decent-but-somewhat-messy writing!

At last year’s employee safety expo, one table was giving away Sharpie Pens—like hotcakes, they went. I was expecting another good promotional pen presence this year, but the only brand name pen I found was this Paper Mate InkJoy.

It was purple. I couldn't resist.

It was purple. I couldn’t resist.

Simple, colorful design, rubbery grip, and translucent barrel—always a good style choice. And a lot of space for promotional branding.

Warning: this can get messy. Mostly on you, mostly inexplicably and without warning

Warning: this can get messy. Mostly on you, mostly inexplicably and without warning

The negatives: every so often gets messy in ways I don’t understand. I have ballpoint ink on parts of my hand that have no contact with the pen. And the ink isn’t a super-rich black. Looking closely at a line is almost like looking at a fingerprint. But in spite of all that, the InkJoy is enjoyable to write with. It’s pleasantly smooth. It isn’t perfect, but it’s nice.

If you feel that Jetstreams are just too nice, this InkJoy is the perfect blend of decent writing and overall cheapness

If you feel that Jetstreams are just too nice, this InkJoy is the perfect blend of decent writing and overall cheapness

I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by a promotional pen picked up for free to advertise some company, but the InkJoy surprised me with its smooth usability. Available all over the place!