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.



Stabilo ‘s Move Easy Left Handed Pen

28 09 2011

Ergonomic grips: the fastest way to make your handwriting look as terrible as possible

This pen dates from way back when in 2008, before I’d even heard of JetPens. I was studying abroad in Venice, and discovered the office supply wonders of the nearest Testolini. That’s where I first saw this:


in multiple colors, but all were right-handed models. I was not confident enough to hazard my own translation to ask “Do you have the left handed model of this pen? Could you order it for me?”, preferring instead to drown my sorrows in wine and to visit Testolini often, in the hopes that the pen fairy would see fit to take pity on my situation.

Things the pen fairy did not do: exist; take pity on my situation.

It wasn’t until over a month later that I finally found the left-handed model I wanted in some office supply shop in Paris.  Was I delighted? I was so delighted, I didn’t even know what language to use to say thank you. Or maybe that wasn’t delight; maybe that was wine…

Strangely not hypermagnetized to attract debris

I can say that even after almost 3 years, this pen still looks pretty good. It has withstood abuse well. It feels great to hold, curves in all the right places. Of course, I apparently grip my pens in the most ergonomically unsound way possible, so holding the pen and writing with it aren’t precisely the same story, but I think that’s more a function of me than the pen.

Another pen cap that makes me think of a squid

My biggest unfounded concern with this pen was the cap. I figured there would be no way this thing would still be with me after any appreciable length of time. But there it is before your very computer screens. I appreciate the consideration Stabilo put into the cap. It pushes on and/or screws on to close, unscrews to open, and snaps firmly onto the end to post. Doesn’t pull off when it’s shut, doesn’t unscrew by itself, and despite my best efforts, cannot be accidentally knocked off the end when posted.

Place for your name, again in this magical fantasy world where all the children have cool pens

And can we just stop for a moment and admire this minimalist design? It may be a child’s pen, but (at least with this color scheme) it’s far from childish.

Mine came with 3 ink refills, and probably more than one nameplate sticker and laminate sticker cover in case I screwed my name up

In spite of my ergonomic-defying gripping tendencies, I still enjoy writing with this pen, even if my handwriting doesn’t look as good because my mastery of the “ideal” pliers grip is on par with a first grader. There is a kind of velvety smoothness to this rollerball—tactile, smooth but not buttery smooth, deliberate but not in a way that feels like I’m getting resistance. It writes well and consistently from almost every angle, except when I attempt a very unnatural-feeling 90-degree perpendicular approach to the page (at that angle, the ink is thinner, lighter, and there is resistance).

Gimmicky? No, gimmexcellent.

The good news: I like this pen. The bad news: one, I don’t think this particular model is sold anymore? It has been slightly redesigned, with an aesthetically-challenged  snub-nosed cap. Two: I have no recollection of how much this pen cost, especially since I bought it in another currency, at a time when I was pretending that the euro and the dollar were equivalent (because otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent any money at all, because I would have thought everything to be far too expensive). Three: I don’t know a good site to link to for you to buy this pen! Here‘s the current iteration of this pen at Stabilo’s website, but if any of you reading this know of / are a site selling this pen, let me know and I’ll add a link!

Pelikan Pelikano Blue Left-Handed Fountain Pen

20 04 2011

Forgive this writing sample; I wrote it in the first day of having this pen, and knew not quite how to use it.

If you follow my tweets, you might recall I mentioned this pen about a week ago, and expressed great need for it to exist in my life. But!…I am currently in a pen-buying hiatus until I have my next job lined up. Quite a dilemma. Much sorrow felt across the land. But then, like Father Penmas of old, Tom, of the fantastic Goldspot Pens, offered me the opportunity to review this pen for free. I think I now owe Goldspot Pens a life-debt in gratitude, or possibly an ink cartridge containing 3 drops of my soul mixed with 2 parts blue-black ink…I digress.

I wept internet tears of desire merely over the sight of this pen. Look at it! The plastic is probably made of 53% recycled FUN.

I was first drawn to this pen based on looks—-the design is playful, but not childish. No parts to knock off or damage; the pen has a very sturdy appearance. I’m not going to worry about carrying this pen around every day. The body is thicker than most, but I like that. Pens that are too thin hurt my hands. You have something substantial to hold on to, but the pen itself is pretty light to medium weight—-most of the weight is in the brushed metal cap. Speaking of the cap, is that plastic bit that reads “Pelikano” intended in any way to be a clip? I’ve noticed I can slide a single sheet of paper up to the “i” but I’m terrified to actually use this as a clip for fear of breaking off the playful plastic. We’ll say it’s not a clip.

What an adorable logo. I hope it never wears off.

My biggest complaint about the cap is that, when posting the cap, there’s no snap-into-place intended alignment. You just push the cap on the end until it stays there. It’s pretty sturdy; you have to knock the end of the pen on a table a couple of times before the cap will come loose. It just isn’t psychologically satisfying. I prefer a cap that snaps into place when you post it. That way I know I’ve done it right.

At the other end, the cap snaps over the nib quite decisively to close the pen. And once it’s closed, it’s quite secure. This is not a cap that will be accidentally jostled off. You have to open the Pelikano and mean it. As I suspected from appearance, this is a pen that will doubtless travel quite well in the hodge-podge I call my daily pen arsenal. I won’t have to baby the Pelikano.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the blue, almost turquoise color of the body of this pen. Isn’t that lovely? I have a lot of notebooks this will look really nice with.

Now, enough about appearance; that speaks for itself (all of the above could be summarized as: “LOOK AT THIS PEN”). What really matters is what’s under the cap. How does this left-handed fountain pen write?

Obviously, it writes by transferring ink to the page. DUH.

The answer isn’t straightforward. One of the reasons this review took longer to get out than I intended is that I spent all weekend trying to figure out how, exactly, to use this pen. This is not a failing of the pen, per se; every right-handed person who has picked up my Pelikano has had no problems getting it to write. I think the problem is with my grip.

On the left, how I think this pen intends for me to hold it (APPROXIMATELY LIKE A NORMAL PERSON). On the right, how I normally hold pens (LIKE A WEIRD PERSON)

If I hold the pen the way I normally hold pens, then I ignore the grips explicitly put on the pen to help improve proper grip and writing position, but I have no problem getting the pen to write. If I try to hold the grips somewhat properly (or at least the closest I can manage to what I imagine is proper), I often end up having difficulty getting the pen to write.

A very particular nib (underside view)

The nib is designed specifically for left-handed writing; note how the left side of the nib is smaller/thinner than the right. In my experience, this nib has a sweet spot—-when I’ve got it lined up just right, writing feels so perfect. You can feel the nib moving along the page, smooth but making contact. This writing feels substantial. It feels like what everyone is always talking about when they go on about the experience of putting pen to paper.

Back it out a little. Zoom on out there. Everything will be okay.

But when I don’t have it lined up on that sweet spot, all bets are off. It becomes alarmingly easy to hold the pen in a way that results in no ink coming out at all, as the nib is no longer properly contacting the paper in a way that will transfer ink. And what way of holding the pen leads so often to that result? The way I think the grips are indicating I should hold the pen. Maybe it’s because I’m resting the pen on my third finger instead of my second. Perhaps it’s creating a bad angle for writing in spite of the pen being left-handed. Either way, much of my weekend was spent in mild frustration, trying to figure out how to hold this pen in a way that both utilizes the grips and makes writing happen. I’ve used up probably a third of the ink so far, writing stream-of-consciousness in a nice, orange Clairefontaine notebook as I tried to master the grip. Most of the writing was pen-existentialist, questioning reality itself, bemoaning what I might be doing wrong, where did fault lie, why is this happening, why is writing being this hard—-and so on.

I want you to look at this nib and tell me what I am doing wrong. OUR LOVE IS MEANT TO BE, PELIKANO. WHY DO YOU RESIST DESTINY?

I’ve been trying and trying to find the perfect way for me to hold this pen and extract the best writing experience from it. You’d think maybe I’d give up. But no—-I’m convinced the problem here is me, not the pen (though I do wish the nib had a greater range of angles from which it would write), as no one else who has picked up my pen has had any problem making it write. I haven’t tested it with any other left-handed people, mind you, so perhaps my data is incomplete, but I have hope that I will, at some point, crack this problem and unlock perfect medium-nib writing.

Because honestly, the pen has a lot to offer there; of my medium nib fountain pens that actually write a medium-nib line, this Pelikano is my favorite. It is generous with ink only as much as it needs to be. I’ve been using it in my large Piccadilly grid notebook with no bleedthrough and almost no fuzzing or feathering. What little fuzzing and feathering I do see is something you have to look very, very closely for. There’s no pooling of ink, no taking forever to dry. It’s not the fastest drying ink I own, but it dries fast enough that I’ve had no problems with smearing or smudging in everyday use. My typical concern with medium nibs is how messy they make my writing, and this was not a problem I had with the Pelikano.


Aside from my current inability to adapt to a one-size-may-not-fit-all grip, this is a great pen. Solid and stylish design, smooth writing (when held correctly), perfect ink flow. Many thanks again to Goldspot Pens for making this review possible!

Pelikan Pelikano Blue Left-Handed Fountain Pen at Goldspot Pens

EDIT: Many thanks to Connie and Erin for pointing out something that in hindsight seems obvious–the tines of my nib were slightly misaligned. I must have stared at those pictures I took of the nib for ten minutes or more without noticing, but I looked at the nib today through an eye loupe, and sure enough the tines look slightly off. I applied a brief fix attempt using only a red table clamp, a pair of tweezers, and when that failed to have any effect, my fingers—-and I’ve got the tines lined up much better now. Already the difference is palpable. As I wrote after realigning the tines, “These people are geniuses. whoa. ****in magic whoa whoa – – – much better. This is amazing.” I’m going to have a look at the tines under a diamond microscope this weekend to make sure they’re fully aligned, but already I’m writing, using the grips, and hitting nothing but sweet spot. This is fantastic.

SO…do you know what this means? It means I’ll have to do an updated mini review! I’ll take some new pictures of the nib, and put up a little writing/possibly drawing as well sample. Yay!