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. 

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HMM Rule/One

2 07 2015
I guess I should have used the ruler more in the writing sample. Too late now

I guess I should have used the ruler more in the writing sample. Too late now

Not gonna lie, I got a little burned out on crowdfunding pens in 2014. When I first saw the link for the Rule/One, I resisted. I thought, not another Kickstarter pen…do I really have the mental and emotional energy for this? Do I have the money to spare for the umpteenth time for a vision I may not actually see realized for many months, if ever? How many airplanes could we have built out of all the aluminum that we’ve crowdfunded into pens? But I couldn’t get the Rule/One out of my mind, so I backed it.

Background feline not included in standard packaging

Background feline not included in standard packaging

There were delays. There are always delays. But the HMM team kept updating with their attractive product progress pictures and earnest missives (all of which I read in the voice of BMO from Adventure Time, which I assure you makes any news better). When the unveiling came, it did not disappoint. I ripped open my FedEx envelope to a slick tube of trendy packaging. Even though I’d seen pictures, and voted on the particular color scheme, I was still impressed to hold the actual packaging in my hands.

The empty holes are where I didn't back the stylus option and the lanyard loop attachment option

The empty holes are where I didn’t back the stylus option and the lanyard loop attachment option

Eventually I’m sure this cardboard will fall apart, but in the meantime it makes a handy carrier. Let’s take it out of the tube though.

Metric for the more cooperative parts of the world, inches for us stubborn Americans, and anyone else thus inclined

Metric for the more cooperative parts of the world, inches for us stubborn Americans, and anyone else thus inclined

Matte black body, pop of color—this is the design that had me hooked. It’s simple, fun and functional. I couldn’t wait to show it off once I got my hands on it. The ruler has laser engraved measurements in inches and centimeters (one on each side).

One ruler to rule them all, and in the gel ink bind them

One ruler to rule them all, and in the gel ink bind them

On the one hand, I almost want to abuse it a little to see how durable laser engraving is; on the other hand, it’s so pretty that I don’t want to hurt it. Time will tell, I suppose.

Three for exactly what I paid for one! Whaddadeal

Three for exactly what I paid for one! Whaddadeal

Due to some trial-and-error issues with the magnets, HMM provided all three different types of pen heads free to all backers. The simple tube style works best/fastest with the magnets, the conical screw-on head keeps the pen most secure but does not use the magnets, and the original version of the magnet head (the one in the middle) allegedly has a better weight balance for writing.

You can even post it backward, for minimal comfort

You can even post it backward, for minimal comfort

The refill shipped with the HMM Rule/One is a Mitsubishi UNI 0.38mm gel refill (same as a standard Signo 207); this was the first Kickstarter pen I’d seen designed specifically with the Uni Signo refill in mind. It writes wonderfully, as the Signo is wont to do. The refill itself fits snugly in the pen body, with no rattling and no drying-out problems thus far (and I have let it sit unused for probably at least a month at a time at some points). There isn’t a grip, but the matte-finish twelve-sided barrel never feels slippery in my hand. It doesn’t feel exceptionally comfortable either, but there’s only so much you can expect from a tube of metal.

Note how it is ever so slightly out of alignment

Note how it is ever so slightly out of alignment

While the Rule/One is well made and attractive, there are a few oddments/negatives about it. The screws on either end easily and frequently come loose (mostly in the course of transport). A bit of Loctite might not be a bad idea (although then I would probably need more than a fingernail to unscrew the screws if needed). While there’s no play between the pen and the cap with the screw-on head, the fast and streamlined tube magnetic head allows for over a millimeter of play in which you can push the pen out of alignment with the cap (perpendicular to the length of the pen, as seen slightly in the above photo).

At least it's pretty easy to take apart and put together

At least it’s pretty easy to take apart and put together

The screws are threaded along the ordinary “righty-tighty lefty-loosey” principle, but the interchangeable pen heads are backward. Twisting the pen head when it is facing you, you have to twist clockwise to loosen, and counterclockwise to tighten. Or just think to yourself, do the opposite of what you were thinking whenever you want to change the heads.

Also designed to be used as a bookmark, unlike other pens that you try to use as a bookmark and they, in turn, pop right out of your books

Also designed to be used as a bookmark, unlike other pens that you try to use as a bookmark and they, in turn, pop right out of your books

In spite of the few negatives, and in spite of the fact that I pretty much never have need of a ruler in the course of my daily life, I still love the Rule/One. There are also attachments available (which I was too cheap to purchase) that go in place of the screws (a capacitive stylus head, a loop for lanyard attachment), which unfortunately do not yet appear to be available for individual purchase (though it looks like if you buy the Rule/One from HMM it will come with all attachments, but not all pen head styles, just the same magnetic tube style in 3 colors).

If I weren't lazy and hadn't already been working on this review for months, I'd make a little gif of the fun of magnets

If I weren’t lazy and hadn’t already been working on this review for months, I’d make a little gif of the fun of magnets

If you need a ruler in your life and a gel pen in your life, this is a pretty sleek combination of the two. Plus, you get the joy of magnets.

HMM Rule/One





Pilot G2 0.38mm vs. Uni-ball Signo 207 Ultra Micro

24 09 2013
It's like an arcade game, with less quarters

It’s like an arcade game, with less quarters

There’s a big, wide world of micro-tipped pens out there, but when it comes to what’s available in physical American stores, choices are limited. So it’s high time for a showdown between the two most commonly available retractable micro tip pens: the Pilot G2 0.38mm and the Uni-ball Signo 207 Ultra Micro (in blue).

Imagine the sound of two pens clicking aggressively at each other. That is the soundtrack to this review

Imagine the sound of two pens clicking aggressively at each other. That is the soundtrack to this review

I’ve laid out my thoughts before on the design of both of these pens. Comparing the two is like trying to determine the winner in a noodle-armed slap fight. No one really wins, and we all feel a bit silly.

Are these really both 0.38mm? They don't look the same size.

Are these really both 0.38mm? They don’t look the same size.

What it really comes down to here is writing. The Signo 207 has lighter ink, and it appears to write thinner than the Pilot G2 by an almost microscopic factor. But the Uni-ball Signo 207 is occasionally plagued by some odd feeling at the tip when writing, something I can’t properly put into words. It’s not scratchy, it’s not like there’s any problem with the flow of ink, but there’s something, some slight something, that is at times getting in the way of 100% smooth writing.

And the Signo does a lot of this. See those near-railroads?

And the Signo does a lot of this. See those near-railroads?

The Pilot G2 isn’t exactly perfect either. It isn’t scratchy, but it feels ever so slightly slower when writing compared to the Uni-ball, like some kind of microresistance is involved—but the performance is more consistent, both in terms of the feel and the quality of the lines being laid down. The vertical line of my Ts with the Uni Signo 207 betrays an occasional tendency to deposit less ink in the middle than the sides of the line. The Pilot G2 does it too, but less often.

This has the makings of an excellent family crest. I'll get the castle fixed up and have it printed up on some flags and armaments.

This has the makings of an excellent family crest. I’ll get the castle fixed up and have it printed up on some flags and armaments.

If the Uni Signo 207 could get itself together and always write without that weird feeling to it, then in spite of its annoying grip it would be the clear winner. Both of the pens I’m using for this comparison I’ll admit are a few years old, brought back into use for this review, so even if age has brought the performance down it should have done so equally, because I got these pens around the same time.

For its consistency in performance, I declare the Pilot G2 0.38mm the winner of this fight.





Uni-ball Signo 207 Battle – Blue Ink

19 09 2013
Do not believe the faint refrains of advertising media; bolder is NOT better

Do not believe the faint refrains of advertising media; bolder is NOT better

First, a disclaimer: I only bought the bold (1.0mm) and micro (0.5mm) Uni Signo 207 gel pens new, because I already had a regular/medium (0.7mm) and an ultra micro (0.38mm) in blue in my horde. As much as I love wasting money, I decided to cheapskate it this time and so, if any incorrect conclusions are drawn because half of these pens aren’t brand-spanking-new, I apologize. Please lodge any complaints with Uni-ball, since in spite of my undying love for their Jetstream, they have not yet seen fit to shower me with freebies.

The most straightforward, boring picture of the lot. My apologies.

The most straightforward, boring picture of the lot. My apologies.

Overall, the Signo 207s are virtually identical except for two overt things: the iconic clip—

You'd be able to recognize that clip even on your grandmother's old black-and-white notebook-sized television

You’d be able to recognize that clip even on your grandmother’s old black-and-white suitcase-sized television

And the color of the labels printed on the clip and the barrel.

 Why pretty silver for the big bad 0.7 and 1.0mm pens? Why the slightly less attractive gold for the more lovely-writing 0.38mm and 0.5mm?

Why pretty silver for the big bad 0.7 and 1.0mm pens? Why the slightly less attractive gold for the more lovely-writing 0.38mm and 0.5mm?

As far as the design goes, I’m keen on everything except the grip. It’s not a mind-bendingly beautiful look, but it doesn’t need to be. They look slick, and they make the pen cup they’re in look put together. Professional yet disposable (though they are refillable, most casual pen users will likely toss them once they’re empty). My big beef is with the grip. I do not like all the little raised ovals.

Little ovals of sheer annoyance

Little ovals of sheer annoyance

It has been well established that I simply cannot learn the ideal tripod grip. I constantly revert to my ill-advised multi-finger ergonomically-challenged grasping. The little ovals get pressed into the base of my thumb, which gets annoying over time. The Premier 207 body with its Alpha Gel grip doesn’t have this problem, but this isn’t a review of that pen.

IT IS SO AMAZING UNLESS YOU ARE COLORBLIND OR FOR SOME REASON HAVE A BLACK AND WHITE COMPUTER MONITOR

IT IS SO AMAZING UNLESS YOU ARE COLORBLIND OR FOR SOME REASON HAVE A BLACK AND WHITE COMPUTER MONITOR

I almost forgot the secret bonus difference—like the G2s, it appears the tip of each different size of Signo 207 gets its own color.

Shout out to this nose cone design! Do like. Goes well with the clip.

Shout out to this nose cone design! Do like. Goes well with the clip.

So how do they all write? Doing my best to ignore the discomfort wrought unto me by these cursed little ovals, the ink flow on all these pens seems good. No problems with skipping or the pens not writing. Looking very closely, you can see a problem with uniformity of line.

Choo-choo all aboard the almost-railroading express

Choo-choo all aboard the almost-railroading express

The ink deposits thicker on the sides, thinner in the middle. It never gets to the point of full railroading, but it worries me.

Top: biggest vs. smallest. Bottom row: ultra micro vs.  micro, micro vs. medium, medium vs. bold

Top: smallest vs. biggest. Bottom row: ultra micro vs. micro, micro vs. medium, medium vs. bold

The ultra micro is thin and crisp, but there is an occasional odd feeling at the tip—it’s rare, but it’s there. It’s not scratchy…I don’t quite know how to put it. The micro strikes the right balance that the ultra micro falls just short of—the micro isn’t as thin, but there’s no weirdness to it when writing. It’s smooth, without having a large tip (which leads to messy-looking handwriting for yours truly). The 0.7 is smooth, but we’ve crossed the threshold—my handwriting doesn’t look as nice. And the bold? Now we’re totally off the rails. This pen requires DRY TIME, especially on smooth paper. And it looks SO. MESSY. No thanks.

I like Uni Signos, but the 207 isn’t my favorite in the Signo line. It doesn’t write as nicely as other models I’ve tried. But as far as the 207 goes, the 0.5mm micro Signo is the best of the bunch.

Available basically everywhere, including but not limited to office supply stores, corporate leviathans, select gas stations, the inside coat pocket of a shady individual hawking last minute back to school deals sometime in August, and multiple sources online.





Paper Mate Gel Pen 0.7mm Green Ink

1 11 2011

I can't see green without thinking of leprechauns and shamrocks. Maybe this is why I don't own more green pens.

As fun as it is to review expensive, esoteric, aesthetically transcendent, and otherwise otherworldly pens, I figure it’s high time I once again review something simple. Something normal, non-pen-crazed people might recognize, perhaps even own in their pen cups: the Paper Mate gel pen.

It kinda looks like the less-cool cousin of the Jetstream Sport.

The design is unobtrusively simple; not boring, but not exceptionally eye-catching either. It’s pleasant. It’s modern (or, it’s at least not horrendously outdated).

Wavy clip. Wavy is modern.

I feel like pens on the cheap end of the spectrum need to be a bit overboard in terms of their on-product branding. You’re not going to mistake a Pilot Vanishing Point for a Lamy Dialog 3, but am I really going to know Paper Mate from Write Bros from store brand without some obvious labeling? Possibly not. And dark gray was a nice choice for the lettering.

Does any pen come out of a close up looking clean / not covered in fuzz and debris?

Most importantly, the Paper Mate gel pen does a decent job of writing. Smooth enough, no blobbing or messes, consistent ink flow, good color. Yet again, we have found a pen I think would be better for office use than the Pilot G2.

For best results, use on a backdrop of perfect leather.

I’m pretty sure I got this as a freebie sample when these first arrived new at my local pen store, Office Supplies & More, so I can’t accurately advise on price or on if you have to buy these in packs of more than are really necessary. But I’m pretty sure all the major big-box office supply chains carry them as well, if you are not fortunate enough to live near an independent retailer of pens.

Paper Mate Gel Pen profile at Paper Mate





Uni-ball Fanthom Erasable Gel Ink Pen – 0.5 mm – Green

4 08 2011

Johsts? No, Fanthoms.

I’ve been meaning to pick up the Fanthom for a while. Of course, I’ve also been meaning to review at least one of the many Pilot FriXions I have lying around, and that has not yet happened. We’ll just have to go with what I’ve got.

This picture seems to have come out way bluer than I intended. WHOOPS.

I swear this pen is actually more of a green.

The pen body is a hard, lightweight plastic, with no actual grip to speak of—there are small recessed ellipses where a grip might be, but don’t be fooled—it’s just more hard plastic. For those of you looking to build up your writer’s callous, look no further.

Uni does get one major design factor right, above and beyond the standard set by Pilot’s FriXion: the eraser is the cap, and thus, the eraser is always accessible. Pilot, for some reason, puts the eraser on the bottom of the pen in every FriXion model (except for the FriXion Ball Knock and the FriXion color-pencil-like pens) so that you cannot actually use the eraser with the cap posted. Points to the Fanthom in the eraser category. However, this does mean that as you are erasing (which, if you note the tests above, does require some persistence and occasionally some force), you are wearing away at the cap.

Don't believe what you only hope to be true--you ARE losing part of the cap when you erase.

You can see some flat spots forming on the cap, which will only get worse with continued use. But I think it’s more of an aesthetic issue than a structural one; I’ll let you know if I manage to erase a hole in the cap.

A satisfying Uni standard gel pen tip

Ink flow is pleasantly consistent. Very rarely, I’ll get less than a millimeter’s worth of railroading when I start a letter, but this happened so infrequently that I only noticed it upon close scrutiny. The ink itself has a sort of opaque, pastel, milk- or chalk-like quality to its color. It’s hard to describe, but I’ve seen it in all the Pilot FriXion models as well. I rather like it, but I suspect that this is due to some quality that makes the ink erasable, and that means that you won’t get a true and vibrant black from a pen in the current generation of erasable models from either brand.

Acceptable erasing substitutes include pocket lighters, hot cars, flame-based superheroes...

How well does it erase? On par with the FriXion, which is to say, leaps and bounds better than the erasable garbage peddled back in the 90s. I had some difficulty on the Behance Dot Grid paper, but on other papers I’ve been able to get all the ink off the page without grief or strife. Or, I should say, I get all of the ink on the page to undergo the heat-based chemical reaction  necessary to make the ink no longer visible. The ink is still on the page—just stick your paper in the freezer, and it will come back in time. Maybe don’t use this ink to write sensitive or offensive things? When you tilt the paper in the light, you can see the ink you’ve “erased”, but for note-taking and other standard writing purposes not taking place in sub-freezing or boilingly-heated environments, the Fanthom ink erases quite well enough to easily be written over.

The Fanthom is a good start for Uni-ball. What I’d like to see are more/better body options, as the current grip is far from comfortable. Picture it: Uni-ball Fanthom Alpha Gel Retractable Gel Ink Pen. You know it would sell like squishy, erasable hotcakes.

Uni-ball Fanthom Erasable Gel Ink Pen – 0.5 mm – Green at JetPens





Special Edition: Battle of the Office Pens

26 12 2010

Three pens AT THE SAME TIME?!?! That's GOT to be cheating!

Is this pen review for you? Ask yourself a few questions:

Do I work, perhaps in some scenario where I need to write things down, and where my employers provide pens for me? Yes? THEN READ ON. Everyone else, you are free to leave.

Where I work, my boss, though awesome in all other respects, simply does not understand the importance of a good pen. Even though he is similarly left-handed, he is content to make his scribblings with the cheapest ink-squirters money can buy. I like to pretend that, deep down, he acknowledges that the Jetstream pen I gave him is maybe the best thing he has ever written with, but just doesn’t say anything so that I remain convinced that he thinks I’m slightly crazy.

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just isn't an unmitigated pile of plastic garbage.

Before I made input, the two go-to contenders for writing utensil were the Bic round stic grip fine ballpoint pen, and the “deluxe” *snort* option: the Pilot G-2 07 gel pen. Let me show you what the G-2 is good for.

Launching projectiles across the office, that's what they're good for.

ANYTHING BUT WRITING. The barrel doesn’t actually contain black gel ink; what you see there is black liquid frustration. If you have an idea you’d like to write down, you’d do better to stab yourself in the hand with the G-2 and write it down in your own blood smeared across 37 sheets of photocopy paper. Please see my writing attempts above, far left. A dozen-pen box of this hellish devilment will run just shy of $10 through corporate ordering sources. As I mentioned, you might as well buy 10-cent steak knives and a box of band-aids for everyone.

The Bic, you might think, is just a cheap pile of crap you would leave in a cup for everyone you hate to partake of when they feel particularly kleptomaniacal. For writing, this is still true. You can probably get a dozen of these for a dollar. Some people might even pay you just to take them away. But the Bic has a place; two places really. It is the pen you buy for the masses to use; if someone walks off with one, don’t worry, there are probably a thousand and ten more in a closet somewhere. It is also the pen you buy for your workers if, instead of writing things down, you’d rather have them making elaborate and fantastically shaded doodles and other such masterpieces. In the writing department, the Bic requires your typical amount of *urgh* effort to write with; it’s slight, but significant. It certainly impedes my writing. For drawing, though, this thing is great! The crappy ink is excellent for light shading, since it doesn’t come out consistent and solid and black as the Batman’s latex-covered butt, you can get nice variations and effects going.

Then I was given the power to make suggestions for what office supplies we should order. Imagine my unbounded delight when I saw that, for  a few dimes cheaper than a box of atrocities against humanity Pilot G-2s, I could bring into this lab a shining dozen JETSTREAM PENS. You know how I feel about Jetstreams. If you can order these bad boys through a corporate website, DO IT. DO IT TWENTY TIMES, for the love of ink, it is an excellent deal. My boss wondered why we needed TWO boxes of fancy pens (a coworker does not share my furiously burning hatred for the Pilot G-2), and I rationally explained to him without the use of caps lock that these pens were more important than life itself, and I would be a happier human being if he bought them for us all.

 

I TOLD YOU, MY BOSS IS AWESOME :D

When I saw the box of these waiting on my desk, my eyes lit up like a Christmas tree on burning gasoline. I have been converting coworkers to the joy of a ballpoint pen that doesn’t require pressure to write (these Jetstreams, I tell you, they are SMOOTH. I do not lie. They are like writing with warmed butter), that lays down ink like the ink is an attractive member of its preferred sex that it wishes to have intimate relations with, and it is the smoothest operator since Casanova. Look at the writing sample. It isn’t as good for drawing, because this pen is all the time about consistent and dark ink flow. While it has a place in the drawing supply pantheon, perhaps augmenting the delicate shading of a Bic, it’s not the best stand-alone drawing unit. But it is EXCELLENT for writing. Whenever I have an idea at work that I need to write down and I reach for this pen, the encounter does not end with my idea forgotten as I growl and hurl the pen down a hallway, since all of our second-story windows do not open for fear of suicides and bad acid trips. No. I reach for this pen, and it flows, and the experience, every time, really does make me just a little bit happier. And happy employees are productive employees, you guys.

 

THANKS AGAIN TO MY BOSS! :D