Zebra V301 Fountain Pen

7 04 2015
Works as a dip pen!

Works as a dip pen!

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

It was 2011. Things were different then

It was 2011. Things were different then

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

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

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

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

Tubes of metal

Tubes of metal

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

This is not how a fountain pen is supposed to work

This is not how a fountain pen is supposed to work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other gems from the packaging include:

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

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

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

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

Fountain pens really aren't that hard you guys

Fountain pens really aren’t that hard you guys

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

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

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

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

Zebra Prefill 3 Color Multi Pen

29 01 2014
In honor of the fast-approaching Valentine's Day, this scan has decided it wants its magenta-purple ink to appear pink instead. I give up

In honor of the fast-approaching Valentine’s Day, this scan has decided it wants its magenta-purple ink to appear pink instead. I give up

These names for multi pens get unwieldy. This is technically the Zebra Prefill 3 Color Multi Pen – Light Blue Body Component / 0.3mm Mechanical Pencil Component / 0.4mm Sarasa Gel Ink Components – Black and Purple. There, that’s everything.

In the world of budget-priced, customizable multi pens, there’s no perfection—only some pretty good options. The Prefill (‘preferred’ + ‘refill’) is Zebra’s pretty good option.

Simple and clean. Like that song. This will now be the soundtrack for the Zebra Prefill.

Simple and clean. Like that song. This will now be the soundtrack for the Zebra Prefill.

The body is hard plastic, and comes in a range of colors and patters (you can get a 3 component body or a 4 component body). Like the original Uni Style Fit, we’ve got a see-through grip to easily identify which components are loaded. Advantage over the original Style Fit: lead advances when a pencil component is deployed by pressing down on the top knock button. Disadvantage: the Prefill has no eraser (also, the Style Fit fixed that problem in another body). That’s right: no eraser; not on top, useless and tiny but still existent, nor as an optional in-body component, like the glorious Hi-Tec-C Coleto line.

Help me I'm still listening to the song. Hold me, Zebra Prefill, whatever lies beyond this morning....

Help me I’m still listening to the song. Hold me, Zebra Prefill, whatever lies beyond this morning….

Biggest thing going for the Zebra Prefill is probably this clip. Cribbed from their Sarasa Push Clip, Airfit Jell, and Surari 4C multi pen, its hinged clips pinch right on my heartstrings. Love a hinged clip.



A lack of eraser is a serious negative if the Prefill ever hopes to be a strong multipencil, buuuut among the Prefill, Style Fit, and Coleto systems, the Prefill is the only one with three size options (0.3mm, 0.5mm, and 0.7mm) for the mechanical pencil. The Coleto has 0.3mm and 0.5mm, and the Style Fit only has 0.5mm for its pencil component. It all depends on what your priorities might be in building an affordable multipencil.

Fine, I give up. Whatever. It's pink.

Fine, I give up. Whatever. It’s pink now.

If you’re a Zebra fan (think Sarasa gels and Surari super smooth ballpoints), then the Prefill is a good way to bring your loves together in one body, with some caveats. First, there’s only one size option listed for your various gel pen colors (0.4mm) and one size option for your ballpoints (0.5mm)—though the 0.7mm Surari ballpoint refill from my Surari 4C fits in the Prefill, making that 2 ballpoint size options. Second, it seems like individual Sarasa Pens write better than the components in the multi pen. Sometimes a little sacrifice is in order when you want compact convenience. But it’s like there are these times when the gel ball tip feels a little odd while writing…not so consistently nor terrible as to render the pen totally annoyingly unusable, but know that this may come up for you, and you may not like it.

Here's where an eraser would go...IF THE PREFILL HAD ONE.

Here’s where an eraser would go…IF THE PREFILL HAD ONE.

Zebra may be a little late to the low-end game, with not as many gel size options, but the Prefill is a comfortable start. I don’t think it’s enough to unseat the Style Fit or the Coleto, but it should at least pique the interest of Zebra’s Sarasa and Surari fans.

Zebra Prefill Multi Pen System at JetPens

Zebra Airfit LT Ballpoint Pen with Push Grip – 0.7 mm – Pearl Green Body – Black Ink

4 08 2012

One day I will collect all my best doodling ballpoint pens in one place and draw myself into oblivion

Ten points to Zebra, for making a “feminine” version of an already gender-ambiguous pen, without offending the entire human race. Many thanks to JetPens for providing this sample!

Before I froth and rave about its predecessor, let’s evaluate the Airfit LT on its own merits

It’s a standard-sized, lightweight plastic body, simplicity done well. You’ve got 3 colors, nicely balanced—mostly pearlescent mint green, with main accents translucent-clear, and just the right amount of silver shine.

It sparkles! Like fairy dust magic! …or vampires, apparently. I know when I look at sparkles, the first thing I think of is the blood-sucking undead.

I wasn’t expecting a ballpoint, for whatever reason (the reason being that I didn’t pay enough attention when reading the product description). I’m curious why, if the original Zebra Airfit is a beefed-up version of the Sarasa Push Clip, they wouldn’t outfit the ballpoint version of the Airfit with a Surari refill.

Not pictured: the Surari refill that SHOULD be the standard for the Airfit LT

It makes a difference. While this pen is decent for doodling, for writing I’m not thrilled. Surari smoothness in this pen body would be thrilling, as would having a deluxe version of the Surari (comparable to the Jetstream, which has quite the snazzy deluxe version). It’s a good pen, but it could be better.

AIRFIT BATTLE! Featuring adorable cell phone charm by Chiou!

A quick rundown of their differences: the Airfit LT is obviously thinner, and slightly shorter, with a smaller grip section. The big advantage in the LT’s design: much smoother transition between the grip and the nose cone. Very well done, and undoubtedly superior to the abrupt stop between those elements on the original Airfit. Now, what the LT gets wrong:

Pretty much this entire area here

I’m biased. I’m a HUGE fan of the clip on the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip. Really disappointed it didn’t put in an appearance on a pen of the same size. I’m willing to sacrifice some of the minimalist appeal for a clip that functional. Especially if it has accommodations for an adorable little cell phone charm.

As far as refills go, I have been unable to get the Sarasa Push Clip, Uni Signo & Jetstream multipen refills, and a handful of assorted other refills to fit, though I have not yet had a chance to try the Surari refills I have. Will have to update that later today.

While it’s a good pen, I still prefer the original Zebra Airfit (which fits Sarasa Push Clip refills and Jetstream RT refills). But I’m a sucker for that clip. If you hate the Push Clip’s clip, and want that neato airfit grip without the oversized barrel, then this is probably the pen you’ve been looking for!

Zebra Airfit LT Ballpoint Pen with Push Grip – 0.7 mm – Pearl Green Body – Black Ink at JetPens

Zebra Arbez Piirto Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body with Blue Accent – Black Ink

8 02 2012

Ballpoints are almost like pencils. They sketch almost like pencils. Minus the erasing part.

Threw this pen in originally to round out an order—I’d been eyeing it for a while, but wasn’t breaking down doors to get my hands on it. The design is intriguing, and as with most Zebra products, the price is great.

I don't interact with a lot of ice picks, so I can't attest to the resemblance of the Piirto to implements of wintry destruction

I’m glad I bought it! The design is right up my aesthetic alley. Also, reminiscent of IKEA, no? I know Finnish isn’t Swedish, but they’re right next to each other, right? Any craving of Swedish meatballs is therefore justified, right?

YOU GUYS, "ARBEZ" IS "ZEBRA" BACKWARDS. I ONLY NOTICED THIS YESTERDAY. I am probably the only one late to this party. Also, according to sources (Google), "Piirto" means "overhead" in Finnish? Significance of this: unknown.

The only thing I’m not sold on is the clip design. It looks cool—

So streamlined!

But functionally, at least for people who like to clip their pens on things, this pen leaves a bit to be desired—like the ability to lay flat against a book.

Lanyards---good. Hardcover books---bad. Softcover books---getting bent.

For me, it’s not a game killer. The number of times I clip a pen to a hardback book can pretty much be counted on one finger. But if you want to clip this to books, reconsider. It won’t end well for you. Get a different pen.

There's only so many exciting things you can say about ballpoint ink. Mostly things like "this is a Jetstream" and "this isn't a Jetstream," and "this is very nearly but not quite like a Jetstream"

You twist the tip to deploy (I’m ambivalent on this feature), and the pen you get is a nice, standard workhorse ballpoint. This is the kind of pen that should move in to replace typical, uninspired-looking stick ballpoints. If you want your business to look just a little more modern and with it? Toss your BIC sticks and get Piirto pens instead. My only warning is to watch where you keep these, as the plastic is potentially delicious to cats (my cat, anyway).

Zebra Arbez Piirto Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body with Blue Accent – Black Ink at JetPens

Zebra SL-F1 Mini Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body – Black Ink

9 11 2011

Are ballpoint pens the very best pens for sketching? I would suggest a hearty MAYBE!

Final goody from my most recently received bequeathment of complimentary pen-based joy from JetPens. Thanks again to Brad and JetPens! Now, let’s look at this little bugger.

And while we're at it, let's look at this dirty penny.

The nomenclaturally uninspired Zebra SL-F1 is a wonderfully, conveniently small pen. I’ve been keeping mine in a little zipper pouch/boombox (I will save that awesome item and its mini-arsenal for another post) that I keep on my keychain (because, like most people, I lose my keys unless there is a small boombox attached to them). It has a nice little weight to it, with the metal it’s packing, but isn’t actually that weighty, being so small.

Too bad this doesn't extend via high-powered spring-button, like an umbrella. That would be violent/awesome.

Fully extended, it ends up being slightly shorter than Zebra’s Telescopic (at least, as far as I can recall, since all of my Zebra Telescopic pens have buried themselves in the pen hordes and do not wish to be found at this time), and the barrel is definitely slimmer than the Telescopic / a standard pen.

Please ignore my terrible hand. Wait, did I say that was my hand? I mean please ignore the terrible hand of this random stranger, whom I paid in cheap ballpoints to be my hand model.

For me, even though it’s on the short side, it’s still long enough to be comfortable. I tend not to prefer thin pens, especially for extended writing, but for note-jotting (which I think is the primary niche a pen like this fills), it’s fine. If you have very big hands / are the ghost of André the Giant, then this pen might be too short for you.

Pause: can we take a moment to admire the matte finish? And the shiny accents? I'm pretty sure this is a textbook example of the scientific formula for classiness.

Maybe it is just hallucination on my part, but I think the refill that came in the SL-F1 has been the best so far in terms of all of Zebra’s mini pens I’ve tried. It takes the standard mini refill size that all other Zebra mini pens, Zebra Sharbo X multipens, Tombow Pfit, Marvy Petite pens, aaaand many others that I don’t own yet to have a chance to confirm if the refills are the same. I appreciate this refill size standardization, especially since the only refills JetPens lists on the same page as the SL-F1 are Black, Blue, Red, and Green 0.7mm ballpoints. I don’t want my wee pocket pens confined by conformist notions of color and line thickness and ink type. I WILL WRITE WITH WHAT I WANT!

And what I want is this

Back to the refill it comes with; I found it to be of decent smoothness, minimal blobbing in the sketches, almost no blobbing in the writing, and overall consistent. Another gold-star standard of what I think all typical pens should achieve.

The allure of a miniature pen at sunset on a leather notebook on top of the trunk of my car in the parking lot at work.

This is a good pen for keeping handy. As I mentioned, it now comes everywhere with me, [inside of something that is] attached to my keys, ever-ready. Should I need a pen, and find myself desperately trying to remember if I’m carrying anything that is not a fountain pen (which is now my standard reaction to “Can I borrow a pen?”), I know I’ve got this one stored for easy access. Plus, it looks attractive (/doesn’t look like a Doric column). It perfectly fills a niche for small, attractive, inexpensive, and accessible pens.

Once more, my thanks to Brad and JetPens! :)
Zebra SL-F1 Mini Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body – Black Ink at JetPens

Zebra Airfit Jell Gel Ink Pen with Push Grip – 0.5 mm – Yellow Orange Body

22 09 2011

I was in rather dire need of a nap when I drew this up; can you tell?

In my never-ending quest for the pen pinnacle of grip-based comfort and opulence, I stumbled upon the Zebra Airfit Jell.

Opulence is comprised of 49% pearlescent sheen

Design: love it. End of story. It’s fun, it’s color-coordinated, it includes bits that are transparent, translucent, opaque, and also shimmery and shiny. It has metal, it has plastic. I don’t know what else you could ask for it to have. Silk? Titanium? Wood? Come on, people, this pen is only $5. There’s only so much you can buy with $5. Speaking of price, every time I pick up this pen, I marvel to myself, “this thing really feels like you’re getting your money’s worth. THIS IS WHAT FIVE DOLLARS SHOULD GET YOU IN A PEN.” But no one around ever cares, so I keep that kind of thinking to myself.

Smooth like butter. Yellow like butter. Goes well with toast, popcorn, and deep-fryers at a state fair like butter.

The clip is an even better version of the one found the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip, which I already thought was the cat’s meowing at the bee’s knees. This clip style is tied with the Lamy Vista/Safari/Al-Star style of clip at #1 for what I think a pen clip should be.

This is probably not very stable.

If the clip can’t clip onto a pocket or lanyard without giving me the apprehension that I might, at the slightest sneeze, break it, then you might as well not put a clip on there. This clip is a clip’s clip. It can clip onto clips clipping onto other clips. The metal hinge is sturdy. And, in an improvement over the Push Clip, there is a little window-hole at the top of the clip, which I’ve finally figured out is for those ubiquitous (in Japan at least) cell phone charms to attach to your pen. Granted, this 1″ figurine of Hello Kitty dressed as an aardvark/rabbit/donkey on a surfboard is not the best thing to happen to the balance of this pen, but if you’re so inclined as to loop accouterments onto your pens, then your day has come.

Note: the cone around the tip is actually metal, not just plastic painted to look like metal. It's the little things that show a pen company really cares.

Let’s talk about grips. Since temperatures in my area have dropped recently, I can’t speak to the alleged cooling properties of the grip’s hollow air chambers, but I can attest to the rest of the grip. It’s long enough to accommodate  the way I normally hold a pen; the grip touches both the resting point on my third finger and the upper inside of my thumb, toward the hollow. These are two high-stress places in my hand, especially when I am writing quickly and forget that maintaining an unwavering death grip on the pen isn’t necessary. Of all the deluxe grips I’ve tried so far, the Airfit is easily the most firm. Compare:

The ungripped grip

not being held, to:

Gripped in the grips of gripping

holding the grip as if to write. Hardly any distortion. I think it’s largely a function of the air chamber supports. If you like a grip with the consistency of Silly Putty, then this is not the grip for you. It still has a bit of springiness to it, but like I said, it’s the firmest grip I know.

The only negative point: the Airfit grip does have the nice-grip tendency to magnetically attract microscopic debris, but not to a point that I find bothersome.

Too much holding and typing sweet nothings, not enough writing and typing sweet nothings.

How does it write? As well as any Zebra Sarasa of 0.5mm line width, which is to say, quite well. Smooth, consistent, no blobs, no skips. The gold standard of how a gel pen should write.

Gold standard remarkably not-so-very-gold colored...except for the deceptively lit parts

But if bright blue or 0.5mm doesn’t do it for you, just swap in any Sarasa refill. They all fit, so far as I’ve tried.

I dream of a day when I will see this logo on this pen in typical American office-supply stores.

The Zebra Airfit Jell is an awesome, inexpensive gel pen with a wide range of available refills. It also comes in several other inoffensively pastel accent colors, if yellow orange is the worst color in your visible spectrum. An especially awesome step up for fans of the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip.
Zebra Airfit Jell Gel Ink Pen with Push Grip – 0.5 mm – Yellow Orange Body at JetPens

Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen – 0.8 mm – Limited Edition – Vanilla Scent – Brown Ink

26 07 2011

I did not realize that this ink registers in the nearly invisible end of the scanner spectrum.

Even though I have no need for a pastel, scented, slightly almost pearlescent gel pen, cheap novelty is nearly impossible to resist, particularly when pens are involved. And thus, after much flavor deliberation, I threw the vanilla Pticolon into my latest JetPens order.

What does "Pticolon" mean? I have no idea.

The body of the Pticolon is simple, yet pleasing. The rounded square cap keeps the pen from rolling away, rather than using a clip; this streamlines the look of the pen without taking away from the functionality. Clips are great, but gel pens like these belong in bunches together inside of three-ring zippered pouches.

If you eat the pen, it will taste like ice cream!* *(please don't eat the pen)

The cap fits snugly on the end, no problems there. However, if rattling noises irritate you, then be warned that there is a small metal ball in the end of the pen. I always liked for my gratuitous not-very-schoolwork-functional gel pens to have this feature, because I liked the small noise it would occasionally make. I don’t know what function the little metal ball serves, but now you know it’s there.

Dispensing non-edible semi-liquid ice cream, one line at a time

The Pticolon has a little grip section whose sole purpose is to tempt me into making tasteless and inappropriate jokes (it doesn’t seem to add or take away anything from the writing experience). But it writes well, with a consistent ink flow that dispenses neither too much nor too little ink, with an appropriate level of smoothness that still allows for a sort of tactile feel to the pen hitting the page. My only complaint against this pen is that, though the cap may indeed be brown, I cannot under any stretch of the imagination nor of the color spectrum construe this as being brown ink. It’s a peach pink kind of color. Under the most generous of circumstances, I’ll say that maybe it’s almost a variant of tan (pink tan). But not brown; that cap color is a lie. Other than that, it’s a solid and simple pen, and if I could I’d shove a few of these in a time machine and send them back to my middle school self.

Zebra Pticolon Gel Ink Pen – 0.8 mm – Limited Edition – Vanilla Scent – Brown Ink at JetPens

Zebra Surari 4 Color Emulsion Ink Multi Pen – 0.7 mm – Blue Green body

19 05 2011

These doodles started off on a downhill incline, and only progressed with even greater velocity in that initial direction as I continued.

Number 3 in the gift basket of penly delight from JetPens (for which I continue to give many thanks :D ), we have the Zebra Surari 4 Color Emulsion Ink Multi Pen. I own, but have not yet given much pen time to, a Zebra Surari emulsion ink pen in both 0.5mm and 1.0mm—this is no fault of the Surari, merely a reflection of the combined phenomena of “I probably have too many pens” and “the Jetstream has already won my heart.” But let’s see if we can’t get a little penfidelity going.

Sadly, I do not actually have 4 Zebra Surari 4C Multi Pens.

I want to say this jumped onto my wishlist when it was a hot new arrival, but I don’t remember. What I do know is that it appealed to my current obsession with blue/green/turquoise colors and my love of Zebra’s hinged pen clip. Also, I wanted to be able to try out several emulsion ink colors, but I’m too lazy to go through the rigmarole of wishlisting/buying four separate pens. I couldn’t ask for more.

The combination clip/black ink plunger strikes quite a strange profile.

The body of the pen is a great color. The only thing I might change there is make the white plastic of the clip hinge something more unobtrusive, like the like the darker-colored blue-green plastic above the grip, and make the odd metallic-periwinkle-lavender color used to pick out words on the clip be anything but that color. Just kidding, I think a plain silver, successfully used elsewhere on the barrel, would look much better here. I wouldn’t want to introduce a new and unrelated color on the clip; it would be visually incongruent.

I really like the silver ring in the middle of the barrel; it’s a nice accent, and it kind of goes along with the elements immediately above it: the rings formed by the plastic where the top of the barrel screws onto the bottom, and the silver springs of each pen component beneath the translucent blue-green plastic.

I love when the functional components of a product create an appealing design

They look cute and cozy now, but they know to keep their distance when the barrel's on and it's time to write.

In the hand, the Surari multi pen is light but big; wider than the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me 4 component body, but about the same weight. The grip is just a hard bit of matte rubber; I have spoiled myself into preferring extensively squishy/fancy/soft/ergonomic grips lately, so I find this grip a bit hard; its only function is to not be slick. Since the barrel is a bit bigger than most, I found my normal grip radius had me gripping too hard, but it was something I could adjust to, with practice. In spite of being mostly plastic, the body does feel well put together; nothing feels loose, nothing seems to rattle.

Right off the bat, one thing this pen excels at is the plungers. I’ve had several multi pens (Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Uni Style Fit) where components would get caught on one another or stuck in some way when switching from one component to another. Not always, but enough that it would be a notable pain. I have not once had any of the Surari plungers/components get stuck so far. Switching from one component to another always sends the last component up and leads the new one out without problem. This means that I can idly click through the plungers without having my mindless rhythm interrupted by something getting caught.

And let’s not forget that hinged clip.

It has the astounding hinge radius of an alligator with its jaw partially wired shut.

You can’t use the hinge when that plunger is deployed, and it doesn’t open super-wide, but you can still clip it onto a decent amount of stuff. Far better than a non-hinged clip.

So how does it write? Well, quite well. The components themselves are very sturdy when deployed. It really is like having four pens in one body, instead of having one pen with four shaky and schizophrenic personalities. For drawing, the 0.7mm was just too thick for the small scale of doodling I like to work on, but I’m not really imagining this pen so much as a drawing-focused pen. It’s really a little writing workhorse, especially for people who like to color-code notes, who have to grade papers, or who can’t stand to write with the same color for more than two minutes at a time.

Good things come in fours, like pen components, and ninja turtles of a teenaged persuasion.

And the smoothness? I must say I’m quite impressed with the emulsion ink. The colors are all very bright and vibrant. All four inks are buttery-buttery smooth, I daresay on par with the Jetstream. The ink does have a tendency to leave little blobs in the writing occasionally, and especially in the drawing (which is very detrimental to small-scale sketches). I’ll have to compare it to the 0.5mm to see if this is a function of tip size, or a product of this particular ink. But in most of the writing, no blobbing is evident and the lines look nice and crisp. I had no smudge problems when writing, though I did get a little ink on the side of my hand, it never came from smearing anything, and it never ended up redistributed elsewhere on the page.

To get four colors in a Jetstream multi-pen, you have to pay almost 3 times as much. Now, I love me some Jetstreams, but this Surari is an exceptionally smooth-writing ballpoint pen, even if it weren’t at such a good price. And the Surari multi pen is cheaper than buying 4 individual Surari ink pens. I’d be thrilled to see 0.5mm refill options for the Surari multi pen, but for now, this is a great bargain for a great pen. Also, the ink smells nice, like ballpoint ink should. Odorless is boring. I love the scent of a bunch of ballpoint ink on a page. But then again, I’m weird.

Thanks again to JetPens for this sample! :)

Zebra Surari 4 Color Emulsion Ink Multi Pen – 0.7 mm – Blue Green body at JetPens

Zebra Tele-Scopic Ball Point Pen

11 05 2011

I almost, ALMOST got the purple toned right on this. Almost.

I picked this up out of curiosity during some trip to one of the big box office supply stores. I forget which one. Do they really carry selections so different from one another? No.

It is a mini pen! Wait noo it is a full-sized pen! WAIT BOTH!

The design seems evocative of, oh I don’t know, accountants and banking. Very sleek, you know, with the silver barrel looking like some kind of architectural column. Or like the legs of a robot’s pinstriped pants. Then there’s the dark, slick upper barrel looking like the soulless depths of some fat cat’s black obsidian desk…this metaphor is going to get away from me soon, so I’ll just drop it.

There’s a lot of metal in this pen, so it has a nice weight to it. Not super heavy, but good to hold. The size of the pen when compact is small enough to easily tuck into a pocket or clip unobtrusively to the side of a checkbook (or something like a checkbook, but not as obsolete), and when extended is the size of a regular ballpoint pen. Of course, if the size of a regular ballpoint pen isn’t your thing, then this is the pen for you. The silver barrel only needs to be pulled about 6 millimeters out for the tip of the refill inside to be fully exposed and ready to write, so you can extend the pen to any length between full extension and tip barely poking out for the pen to work. There’s nothing to snap or lock in place, just telescope it out as far as you like and then write (should I say telescope? It’s really only a two piece telescope, if we want to pretend it’s a telescope. I’m sorry, it’s not a telescope, it’s just telescopic. Moving on).

The writing core poking out of its protective sheath

The ballpoint pen refill that the pen comes with is not particularly exciting. I had a lot fewer globbing problems with this ballpoint than with most ballpoints, but I think that’s because each individual line it lays down involves far less ink than is standard. If you look at the writing sample closely, you’ll note how most of the marks, especially single-pass marks, have a sort of grainy quality to them; this is because the surface of the page is not 100% smooth, and ink isn’t getting in the minuscule texture valleys of the paper. It gives the pen some good sketching potential, with easier control over lighter ranges of shading, but for writing, whatever.

What you should get excited about with this pen is that you can put Zebra’s Sharbo X refills in it. Ballpoint AND gel. I was first clued in to this Zebra trick in The Pen Addict’s review of the Zebra Penpod mini keychain pen, and I thought when I took this Tele-Scopic apart, I wonder if the same will work here too…

Just put it back together like this, only do not bring the barrel in at that angle. That should actually go on the left. The other way is just wrong.

I was very excited to find that this actually works, especially since I am in the “kind-of-want-but-can’t-pay-that-much-money-for-it” camp regarding the Sharbo X. Now I can have 1/3 of the Sharbo X multipen writing experience, instead of what I had before, which was a bunch of refills I couldn’t use because the Penpod is nearly impossible to write with comfortably. But that’s another review.

So you’ve got a simple, classy, inexpensive, compact-for-travel-full-size-for-writing pen body AND the option of oodles of refills. I can’t find much to complain about here.

Moving on to the finer points in life...

I can’t find a link online to this pen on any of the big box websites (neither Staples, Office Max, nor Office Depot), but I know I got mine from one of those, and it came in a two pack. Here’s the info, but no point of sale, on the Zebra website. I trust you guys can figure it out. Also, I’m not sure if this is in the stores or not, but Zebra’s Tele-Scopic line also has a series with brightly colored upper barrels, if the slick-black business pen look isn’t for you. Once you’ve got your pen body of choice, load it up with some Sharbo X Gel Ink refills or some Sharbo X ballpoint refills from JetPens, and you will be cooking with the metaphorical dynamite of excitement that is pen modification.

Get a red barrel for a more convincing simulacrum of dynamite when wielding metaphors

Mini Review: Playing Favorites

27 03 2011

For some reason, I decided to go through my pens, and for every brand where I owned two or more products, decide which product of that brand was my favorite. First, let’s meet the contestants. For brands where I only owned two products, I put both in the picture here, except for Tombow–I forgot to put my Apro Airpress in this picture. IT IS TOO LATE TO FIX THIS NOW.

Disclaimer: I am tired. But I am doing this mini-review anyway.

Here are your contestants. From left to right: Tombow, Kuretake, Platinum, A. G. Spalding, Tachikawa, Sharpie, Zebra, Pilot, Uni-ball, Pentel, and Sailor.

I proceeded to make drawings with the winning favorite of each brand, in an order that is completely incongruent with the picture above.

First up: Kuretake. Your winner:

The waterbrush wins! The waterbrush also is incapable of making art by itself. We are all very saddened by this.

Next, Tombow. Like I said, I forgot the Apro Airpress, but don’t worry; it wouldn’t have won anyway.

The Tombow Fudenosuke twin tip brush pen wins! This is the pen I used for my first hourly comics day. Its performance on that day earns it this coveted winning spot.

Platinum was a category of little contest–between the fountain pen and the sign marker, in spite of a broken cap, the fountain pen takes home the victory.

If only your plastic weren't so brittle, Platinum Preppy, you'd win other contests of my heart, instead of merely beating out a marker pen that I have no use for.

Tachikawa featured a battle between two different colors of the same style of scratchy, paper-fiber clogging and collecting fountain pen, and the far superior comic dip pen nib and holder. Sorry, frustrating fountain pens, crow quill wins every time.

I also enjoy how this reminds me of a baseball bat. (Ink used is Noodler's Bulletproof black)

In spite of being the most thick-writing “fine” nib fountain pen I’ve ever marked a page with, the delightful style of the A. G. Spalding mini fountain pen gives is a leg up over its mini-ballpoint brother. Ink used is a Rotring cartridge, because the one it came with was even worse, even wetter. Dear A. G. Spalding: THIS IS NOT A FINE NIB PEN. Please stop living in denial.

What a suave and adorable little fountain pen! It has some problems, but nothing that sheer adorableness can't overcome. This is also the working principle behind cats.

Sharpie has put a lot of effort into its products, especially in their willingness to innovate in the past few years. What I’m saying is, blah blah blah I like the Sharpie pen, and though I prefer the grip on the retractable pen, it worries me too much that I’m going to accidentally deploy the pen in my bag. So, the Sharpie Pen with Grip takes the Sharpie category.

Around this point, you may notice that my desire for some much-needed rest started to creep into my drawings.

I think we already knew that the Zebra Sarasa Push Clip 0.3mm blue-black gel pen was going to take the Zebra Cup. None of my other Zebra products even made it to the competition picture, because they were not competition.

I'm excusing this poorly drawn nonsense due to having done some decent doodles on the actual review of this pen.

I own three types of Sailor fountain pen, and yet, the cheapest remains my all-time favorite. In fact, it may be my favorite pen out of all pens. Every time I make a JetPens order, I try to remember to throw another one of these pens into the order, because they have allegedly been discontinued, and one day there will be no more. I’ve tried refilling one of my Sailor Ink-Bars so far (with much mess), but the ink I used (Noodler’s Bulletproof black) just isn’t the same and doesn’t dry as fast. :( Sailor, why would you cancel my favorite pen? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Sailor Ink-Bar, you are the winningest winner of everything that has ever won my heart.

Now we get to the final three categories–also some of the biggest three sources of pens in America. For each brand, I had trouble deciding which writing utensil within each of these final three categories would be declared my favorite.

The Pilot semi-finals: Pilot Plumix italic nib fountain pen, Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me 4 component multi pen (3 mechanical pencil components, 1 eraser), and the Pilot Fineliner

It was a tough call, but ultimately this Hi-Tec-C Coleto Me multi pencil won the day with its stylish body, complement of pencils, and onboard eraser.

Not winning: my attention span for this task

Uni-ball also had a trifecta of star products. The decision, again, was quite difficult.


In the end, my love of the smoothest, butteriest ballpoint pen just edged out the wonderment I hold toward the Kuru Toga. But only just.

So rich and smooth and creamy and delicious.

Good things allegedly come in threes. Three great pen companies, each with three great contenders for favorite product…that makes nine. So that adage is a useless lie.

The Pentel semi-final was dominated by art products: the Tradio Pulaman "fountain" pen, the Jolt (with Pentel's Stein blue lead), and the Pocket Brush Pen for Calligraphy

Due to my continuing lack of mastery of the Pocket Brush Pen (my fault entirely), the win ended up going to the much easier to master (or at least seem competent with) Tradio Pulaman.

Unfortunately, by this point, I could only draw something weird.

And there you have it. Favorites (as of the time of this writing) have been declared! Many pens came very close, and really, just about every one of the pens I own is pretty terrific (except for the Sharpie Liquid Pencil–but that is a review for another day). Let’s have a round of applause for all our contestants, and an extra round of applause for the actual winners. Yay!

Your winners! Also pictured, your losers! And my cold coffee! And my breakfast plate! Hooray!