Uni Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen and Pencil – Purple

15 04 2014
Someone hand me some failing tests, that red is just itching to give out a big glowing F minus minus

Someone hand me some failing tests, that red is just itching to give out a big glowing F minus minus to some poor sap not smart enough to be using a Jetstream

What’s better that a Jetstream? Several Jetstreams rolled into one. Thank you to JetPens for providing this sample!

It comes it several colors, but obviously dark purple is the superior choice

It comes it several colors, but obviously dark purple is the superior choice

The body is simple and professional, with tasteful silver accents. The markings to denote refill colors are unobtrusive—quite appreciable, as multipens are ever in danger of looking like rainbow vomit with their many-colored plungers.

I like how the pencil is referred to as "0.5mm SHARP"...it makes a mechanical pencil sound so much more dangerous and exciting

I like how the pencil is referred to as “0.5mm SHARP”…it makes a mechanical pencil sound so much more dangerous and exciting

The sticker on the body was easily removable and left no residue. Coupled with the subtle branding imprinted on the clip, you’ve got a pen that looks good and keeps distractions low key.

Things I was not expecting to find in here: metal. Things that all of in here consists of: metal.

Things I was not expecting to find in here: metal. Things that all of in here consists of: metal.

The pen itself is nicely balanced, with the majority of its light weight focused lower, in the grip. The grip section is metal, with a nice grippy rubber on top (though it would be PHENOMENAL to have the grip be Alpha Gel instead, that would probably make the pen unbearably wide, and would collect more debris than this grip does). The upper half is mostly plastic (excepting the clip), and the overall composition of the pen makes it pretty comfortable for a longer writing session.

In the event of a graphite emergency, break the snap seal located on the top of your multi pen and apply eraser directly to the emergency

In the event of a graphite emergency, break the snap seal located on the top of your multi pen and apply eraser directly to the emergency

Normally I’m not a fan of easily-lost caps covering uselessly tiny erasers, but this cap hold surprisingly firm to the pen. It’s not going to get lost unless you set it down and forget to put it back on. The eraser itself isn’t much to speak of—more of an emergency provision. The pencil component is deployed by pressing down on the clip, and lead is advanced by pressing the deployed clip down again. It’s a wise design choice, providing a larger plunger for easy use of the pencil while concealing it design-wise in the clip. The only improvement I’d like to see here is for Uni to find a way to shrink the Kuru Toga mechanism into the size of a multi pen refill. A multi pen made of Jetstreams and a Kuru Toga would be unstoppable.

If you need more colors than this, be sure to give yourself a stern lecture about how back in my day we didn't have any newfangled ink colors. Pens were also used uphill both ways. In the snow.

If you need more colors than this, be sure to give yourself a stern lecture about how back in my day we didn’t have any newfangled ink colors. Pens were also used uphill both ways. In the snow.

I’ve had some problems recently with certain Jetstream color models not living up to the Jetstream name—consider this pen redemption. All colors perform smooth and vibrant, as a Jetstream should. The 0.5mm provides crisp lines that glide onto the page with almost no pressure whatsoever. The barrel is a bit wide, as almost all multipens are, but it’s not unwieldy—only if you really prefer a slim pen will it be something that might bother you. And, after handwriting out this whole review, the side of my hand is clean. This is the Jetstream I know and love.

If someone at Uni isn't feverishly working right now on adapting the Kuru Toga mechanism for multi pen use, then they don't know good money

If someone at Uni isn’t feverishly working right now on adapting the Kuru Toga mechanism for multi pen use, then they don’t know good money

If you use red, blue, green, and black ballpoints on a regular basis, you’ve got to give one of these a try. I’m thinking especially professionals and students in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, plus anyone who needs to mark up papers, or just likes having access to all the traditional pen colors at once. The refills are smooth, the mechanisms solid, and the pen looks good. Classic Jetstream goodness!

Uni Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen and Pencil – Purple at JetPens

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.



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.

Uni-ball Signo 207 BLX Retractable Gel Ink Pen – 0.7 mm – 4 of 5 Colors

28 05 2013
No brown-black, sorry!

No brown-black, sorry!

When you’ve got a good pen in your lineup, it’s important to keep the body fresh and modern (or at least keep it from being the pen design equivalent of padded shoulders (or fetid swamp water)). Or, more accurately, it’s important to me, maybe you, and probably absolutely no one else in the general market.

Any scrap of novelty in standard American pens is exciting to me.

Any scrap of novelty in standard American pens is exciting to me.

As soon as I saw these babies at my local office supply store, I snatched them up. I didn’t see brown-black, but red-black, green-black, blue-black, and purple-black were all there. Compared to the regular Signo 207, there are only a few major differences, biggest of all being the BLX clip is plastic instead of metal (presumably so it could be a stealthy matte black).

Yeah, that's definitely cool enough to be worth sacrificing structural integrity.

Yeah, that’s definitely cool enough to be worth sacrificing structural integrity.

I just find plastic clips inherently suspect, as I’m certain all they’re there for is to one day break off. And why isn’t the nose cone the same matte black? Why is it glossy black? Why isn’t everything matte black? Who decides these things?

The brooding Batmanesque colors of the Signo line

The brooding Batmanesque colors of the Signo line

I do like the body; no longer a translucent barrel, the BLX features a color fade to black that isn’t too tacky. The grip is the same as the standard Signo 207.

Now, when can we expect 0.5mm? 0.38mm? Approximately never?

Now, when can we expect 0.5mm? 0.38mm? Approximately never?

One of my biggest problems I’ve had happen when writing samples for reviews with some brands of gel pens is that the dry ink will somehow come off the page onto my hand and get redistributed back on the page. Pentel’s EnerGel line is a particular offender. I didn’t have any of that happen on this writing sample with the Signo 207. The writing is smooth and the colors are gorgeous (this purple-black is my new best friend). The ink is also allegedly resistant to check washing and other such grandiose claims you can find printed on the back of a standard blister pack. Not yet being of criminal mind, I’m not sure how one goes about attempting to wash checks (and I’m pretty sure that’s one of those google searches that gets you put on a watch list), so I can neither confirm nor deny this claim of the ink’s properties in that regard.

And they are technically refillable! (I’m not sure where one necessarily gets such refills though.) The refill size is comparable to the Jetstream retractable or the Zebra Sarasa retractable refills, so you could, for example, put this refill in the body of the Zebra Airfit Jell or the Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip, and have a fantastic hybrid fancy body Signo BLX.

You can find these pens in most big box stores, at my local office supply store (Office Supplies and More), and JetPens also carries them.

Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Ink Pen – 1.0 mm – Blue

26 01 2013
Feel the sparkles in your heart

Feel the sparkles in your heart

I’m no connoisseur when it comes to glittery gel ink pens—I may snag one as a novelty, but I don’t have my finger on the pulse of that movement like I did in the 6th grade. My knowledge of the quality of entrants in the field is lacking. That said, I do have a rather cat-chewed Sakura Gelly Roll gel pen in sparkle purple that I will use for comparison.

Pleasantly acceptable!

Pleasantly acceptable!

The body is nice, as far as these cheap things go. Sparkles in the body and cap—noticeable but not gaudy. Cap posts securely on both ends. Pen itself is theoretically easy to refill (who knows how easy refills will be to find, however).

Looks like a mess waiting to happen, though I assure you it isn't.

Looks like a mess waiting to happen, though I assure you it isn’t.

First, how the ink writes. I find it smoother than the Sakura Gelly Roll, and generally more consistent. If I’m gonna be taking some sparkly notes, on writing quality alone I favor the Uni Signo over the Gelly Roll.

Unless I'm writing on my hand, then the day goes to the Gelly  Roll

Unless I’m writing on my hand, then the day goes to the Gelly Roll

As far as personal preference goes, be advised that the Signo ink is more translucent and the Gelly Roll more opaque.

Let it shine

Let it shine!

There is a big flaw in the Signo that you have to be warned of, one that does not plague the Gelly Roll: the Uni Signo glitter ink smells like fish. Smells *powerfully* like fish. If you write with it long enough (read: at all), you’ll think you’ve been transported to an open air fish market. It is truly bizarre.

Perhaps I should have known, blue---> water---> ocean---> FISH.

Perhaps I should have known, blue—> water—> ocean—> FISH.

If you like fish, get this pen. If you want glittery and smooth writing, get this pen. If the mere thought of seafood turns your stomach, DO NOT get this pen.


Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Ink Pen – 1.0 mm – Blue at JetPens

Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pens – 0.5mm – Light Blue & Purple

17 05 2012

Angels are weeping right now, Uni-ball, and they are not tears of joy.

I’m not particularly subtle when it comes to my feelings about the Jetstream line of pens. I constantly shoehorn in mentions of them. I rank them somewhere between a writing utensil and a god (perhaps on par with Hercules, or something that writes in a combination of butter and black gold). I hold the Jetstream to a high standard, because that’s what the Jetstream delivers. That said, I’m not sure these are Jetstream pens.

They are perhaps wolves in pens’ clothing

They look like Jetstream pens. Exactly like the black 0.5mm Jetsteam I so dearly love—that same slick and sweeping modern design, attractively and accurately color-coded to match the ink inside.

The purple seems to be coming out too dark in several of these pictures. This is a more accurate representation of what this purple looks like. Pretty close to what Wikipedia terms “Mardi Gras” purple

Really spot-on with the color. You have no idea how much I appreciate that.

This is shattering every fundamental truth I ever knew about the universe, Uni-ball. The sky is blue, the earth orbits around the sun, Pilot G2s are generally pretty terrible, and the Jetstream writes like an oil-based miracle. THAT IS THE WAY THE WORLD IS SUPPOSED TO WORK

Let’s not kid ourselves—even on Clairefontaine paper there, this ink performance isn’t up to snuff. The tip is an absolute mess, and I think that’s where all the problems are coming from.


Picture it: the ink gums up at the tip, leading to blobs. Blobs that don’t get transferred to the page lead to slight, jerky resistance as they get worked around the surface of the ballpoint, and all this inconsistency and uneven distribution of ink leads to the occasional ghosting.

These two are up to no good

It wants to be smooth, really it does. But something about the formulation for colorful inks is having this terrible side effect. This is a ballpoint pen. Maintenance is not part of the repertoire for a ballpoint pen this inexpensive. I shouldn’t have to be cleaning off the tip of a ballpoint pen. I’d also like to note that in handwriting this post, the blue pen just started having the pen equivalent of agonal breathing, and I had to switch back to the purple.

I thought maybe using bottom-barrel paper might bring out some kind of desperate last-minute hat-trick-miracle, but no.

What is going on here, Uni-ball? Whatever it is, it’s not okay, and should NOT be called a Jetstream.

Take those nametags off right now, you rank impostors!

You can either find a way to fix this ink, or don’t dare call this thing a Jetstream. Your choice.


So, where do we go from here, my fellow penficionados? I suggest stockpiling canned goods, and buy up more REAL Jetstreams.

Real Jetstream Ballpoint Pens at JetPens

But it’s your money, you can do whatever you want.
Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Light Blue Body – Light Blue Ink at JetPens
Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Purple Body – Purple Ink at JetPens

P.S. Many thanks to JetPens for providing these sample pens free of charge!

Mini Review: Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 5 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Black

23 12 2011

Old body, new body, and my bathroom counter.

Can’t go mentioning the sleek new 3-component Mystar Meister without also acknowledging the slightly cheaper (in all senses of the word) 5-component body. In my undoubtedly never-ending quest for the Perfect Multipencil, the Mystar Meister is an upgrade from my first multipencil/my first Style-Fit body.

The new body might be the teensiest bit thicker than the old body, or I might be the teensiest bit hallucinating; it's hard to tell.

I didn’t get any new components to go in the new body, because why would I need two fully-loaded multipencils at the same time (/why would I need to spend an extra quantity of money exceeding $10)? So this will just be about the body. The Mystar Meister has a matte finish to its plastic body (as opposed to smudgy-fingerprint-showing slick plastic), a tapered end with streamlined plungers (as opposed to airplane wings), a metal clip on a plastic plunger (as opposed to an all plastic clip that could break at any moment), and an eraser with easy-to-lose cap (as opposed to no eraser whatsoever). I like these improvements, for the most part, but there are still some problems with the Mystar Meister’s overall design.

You don't need to know what components you're using, right?

The tiny window is a slight problem. All the labels, on the gel pens especially, are at the bottom, now hidden by the grip. The only thing I can see on this 0.28mm Black Gel component is the beginning of a label that says ” .24 BLACK” (what happened to 0.28??) and the only thing I can see when that component is deployed is “CK”…. ink components need to be labeled with all Style Fit bodies in mind, not just the original model.

At least I could relabel the pencil components myself.

Remodeling the plungers, however, was a good move. Looks much nicer/less like a rocket ship.

No one is ready for take-off now

Much of the improvement in this model is geared toward making the Style Fit a better multipencil. The old model body, while technically multipencil capable, was a pain in the thumb when you needed to advance lead. You had to press down on the little airplane wings, which were not exactly optimized for the task. And the old model body had no eraser.

Let me quote my first Style Fit review: "I think I’d rather have no eraser at all than be saddled with a uselessly small eraser beneath a tiny, easily lost plastic eraser cap." ...... it's like they listened...to half of what I was saying.

I still much prefer the Hi-Tec-C Coleto eraser component. I’m glad to see an eraser on the Style Fit…but I doubt I’ll use that dinky thing very much.

Finally, I want to mention the biggest improvement/problem in the new Style Fit:

Forget doofy wings; we can go back to advancing mechanical pencil lead in the way our ancestors intended.

Deploy pencil you want to use. Push down on the top. Lead advances. EXCELLENT….at least conceptually. In practice, I have frequently (not always, but enough to be very annoying) had the component I was trying to advance lead on spring back up into undeployment whenever I clicked the top to advance lead. The lead advanced, the component retreated. NOT EXCELLENT.

The design is a much better—and most importantly, more aesthetically pleasing—way to advance lead (PILOT I HOPE YOU ARE TAKING NOTES). But Uni needs to work out whatever design bug is causing this frequent retraction problem. I don’t know what condition causes it (I am sitting here right now trying to replicate the problem on command, but the multipencil refuses to obey, as if to say “I can change! Please don’t tell the world about my one major design flaw! I swear I won’t do it again!….until after you’ve posted your review”)…and that unpredictability makes it all the more annoying.

I can be a good multipencil! A good multipencil like you wanted!

It’s an improvement, yes, but it still has a ways to go. If you’re looking for a good multipencil without outrageously flaring wings, I’d just load up the Mystar Meister 3-component metal body. No eraser, true, but I haven’t had any problem with components waywardly retracting in that model. And it looks all kinds of snazzy.

 Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 5 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Black – at JetPens

Holiday Gift Guide — AND GIVEAWAY!

24 11 2011

It’s just about that time of year, my good people, when all your favorite gift-giving holidays convene. That’s right, such holidays as: my mom’s birthday. My grandmother’s birthday. National Fritters Day. Letter Writing Day. Pepper Pot Day. AND MANY MORE!

You will need to be armed to the teeth with gifts if you hope to make it to the other end of December alive. Personally, I like to do all my shopping from the same location, as far away from humanity as possible, and preferably while sitting. I think you know what that means—online shopping! This post will almost entirely feature items from JetPens; maybe, if I’m feeling particularly industrious, I’ll do another (or more?!) post(s) involving writing utensils from other websites.

And! As promised in the title, there will be a giveaway associated with this post. Details will follow. But first—pens!

I’ll organize this into two major categories—pens I own, and pens I don’t own but am going to recommend anyway—and for the first category, I’ll break it down by price. Let’s begin!


Pens I Own

$1 to $10

There are far too many pens in this category to list them all individually. So I’ve compiled a wish list of them on JetPens! And now it can be your wish list.


$11 to $30

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy – $13.50

Great for artists and people who can write in Japanese.

It’s got individual synthetic fiber bristles, and it’s refillable. Can write from a hair-thin line to an I-can’t-be-bothered-to-measure-how-thick broad line. Comes with 2 refills.


Uni-ball Alpha Gel Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil – 0.5mm – $14.00

This has all my favorite things in a mechanical pencil. All of them. Including lead.

Fantastically comfortable Alpha-Gel grip + Kuru Toga lead-rotating mechanism = maybe the best pencil ever? Especially helpful for those who have to take a bunch of scantron tests / handwrite a bunch of essays in pencil. A.k.a. students.


Uni-ball Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip Series Ballpoint Pens – 0.7mm – $16.50

There is possibly nothing I can do to make this ballpoint pen better.

Can’t have my favorite mechanical pencil without my favorite ballpoint pen. As an added bonus, I have reviewed this one before! This body takes any size Jetstream retractable refill (I currently have the 0.5mm refill in mine), and also fits the Zebra Sarasa gel refills.


Sailor HighAce Neo Beginner’s Fountain Pen – $16.50

Be careful, you're gonna put your eye out with that thing.

I’ve reviewed this one before, too. It’s a nice fine nib pen. Warning: doesn’t come with a refill. I’d advise buying the converter; it’s cheaper than the cartridges, and easier to refill. Warning: I bought the cartridges (which I refill by syringe), but I have not personally tried the converter.


Akayashi Sai Watercolor Brush Pen – 5 Color Autumn Set – $17.50

Convenient watercolors? Yes. It can exist.

I would recommend buying these brush pens with the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Mini Pallet ($4.50) and a waterbrush pen like the Kuretake Small Compact Size ($4.25), which actually pushes the total cost of this set up to $26.25, but I think it’s worth it. And the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen works great with these for a watercolor black.


J. Herbin Tapered Body Frosted Glass Dip Pen – Large – $20.00

Fun fact: I studied abroad in Venice before my fine pen obsession kicked in. I only bought 1 glass dip pen from Murano. I REGRET THIS VERY STRONGLY.

Impractical, but beautiful. Especially nice for ink enthusiasts (I recommend Noodler’s, which you can get through places like Goldspot Pens or the Goulet Pen Company). Easy to clean; just don’t drop it.


Kaweco Classic Sport Fountain Pen – $21.00

Alas, the price has gone up on these since I bought this one. Curse you, modern economy!

From extra-fine nib to broad nib in a variety of colors. Also check out the Kaweco Ice Sport line if you like translucent and bright colors. I have the medium nib, which I find to be one of the thinner mediums I own.


Lamy Safari, Vista, and Al-Star Fountain Pens – $26, $26, and $37.50

So the Lamy Al-Star is technically out of this arbitrary price category I decided to sort things by. JUST TRY TO STOP ME!

Colorful, durable, with nibs ranging from extra-fine to broad, and in my experience, they’ve all been wonderful writers. I’d recommend getting the converter with this one, as these pens go well with having a nigh unlimited spectrum of ink colors to choose from. Warning: also recommending the converter because the Lamy takes a special cartridge rather than the standard international short cartridge. The pen is designed so that you just drop the cartridge in and then twist the nib section back onto the barrel; the cartridge then punctures itself. Warning: I’ve never actually tried to shove an international short cartridge into a Lamy, as far as I can remember, so I can’t advise what would happen.


Lamy Joy Calligraphy Fountain Pen – $29

Pen is conveniently named to describe what emotion you'll be experiencing while using said pen

Comes with a converter. And a lovely tapered body. And the cap posts on the end! Calligraphy nib options: 1.1mm, 1.5mm, and 1.9mm. Nibs are interchangeable with the regular Lamy nibs, if you just like the body.


$30 and up (except for the already mentioned Lamy Al-Star)

A. G. Spalding & Bros. Mini Fountain Pen – Fine Nib – $33.00

Sleek and classy, like a little sci-fi spaceship.

This pen has grown on me a lot more since I first reviewed it, and especially since I started using Rotring Turquoise ink in it (warning: that is a ridiculous price; I paid $4 for my refills at the Art Brown Pen Shop, but they don’t seem to sell that refill online). More of a medium or maybe even broad (what do I know; I never use broad nibs) nib. Warning: do not try to take the clip off or accidentally take the clip off. It comes off, and scratches the satin metal finish in the process. Oops.


Kaweco Liliput Al Fountain Pen – $53.00

This is such a disappointingly unsexy picture of a phenomenally sexy pen.

I got the fine nib. Yes, this pen is everything I hoped for, and also more. Yes, I desperately owe you all a proper review of this pen;  I am waiting for the opportunity and the lighting so that I can take the kind of pictures that do this pen justice.  Comes in extra-fine to broad nibs. Takes international short cartridges. Also takes….YOUR HEART.


Pilot Prera Clear Body Fountain Pen – $58.00

When I first held this pen, I couldn't leave the store without buying it. And now here we are!

I bought the fine nib, which was a Japanese fine nib—also known as an extra exceptionally fine line nib. Possibly the finest nib I own (too bad I dropped it on the nib (ARGH WHOOPS)). Also comes in medium nib. I’d recommend getting the Pilot Plumix as well (currently cheapest at Target, I believe); the nibs are interchangeable. You (like me) can have a Pilot Prera with an italic nib! Makes your handwriting look even fancier than normal.


Pens I Don’t Own

I’m only going to make two recommendations. First, the Uni-ball Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen + 0.5mm Pencil ($16.50); I bought one for a friend and he loves it. Four colors of Jetstreams, a pencil, and an eraser all in one body! Second, the Zebra Sharbo X….specifically the Zebra Sharbo X LT3 Pen Body Component – Silver ($49.50). Look at that thing. I want it. Why wouldn’t you?





Brad at JetPens has generously offered up a $10 JetPens gift card for one lucky commenter on this post! The rules:

  1. Leave one comment on this post any time between now and Sunday, November 27th 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. This contest is open to all readers in any country! That includes you, international people!
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Just make any kind of comment—but only one comment! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner in the evening of Sunday, November 27th (sometime between noon and midnight). Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.

Good luck! And preemptive happiness to your holidays!



P.S. I should have it set up so comments will post without my having to approve them all moderator-style. But if your comment doesn’t show up right away, that means I didn’t set that up correctly, and your comment will show up when I go through and hit “approve” on all of them. Don’t worry! Or, if you are worried, feel free to email me!

Uni-ball Vision Elite – 0.8mm Blue-Black

31 08 2011

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

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

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

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

Now the spaceship is a laser gun

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

Roll in syrup for a snack in times of desperation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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