My Favorite Disposable Pens

Favorite Disposable PensIn the knife community when you pick up a knife that catches your eye at the checkout register (think gas station or rural convenience store) and admit to it that is enough to get you banned for life on the internet knife forums for buying such presumed junk quality. In the pen community when you make a good score with a gel pen that was on sale or overstocked in a funky color you get high fives across the same internet. Funny, and I enjoy the high fives a hundred times more. Usually these finds come at the checkout of the big box office supply chains. $2 seems to be the price point cap so I bite more times than not and I would say my batting average is probably a .500 with those purchases that I keep. The other approach I take is sometimes on pay day Friday I just want a pen fix so I will shop Jet Pens in sort of a game mode to get as close to $25.01 for the free shipping. This usually includes something that writes from the Whats New area. Jet Pens’ excellent service has them in my mailbox, across the country, on Monday. From both approaches the keepers that I have enjoyed are numerous so I’m sharing them with you here to fuel your ideas in case you haven’t tried any of these. Forgive the short reviews of each pen, they are disposables so my review criteria is slim, they write good, they are not uncomfortable to hold and a simple scale of 1-10 with 10 being my highest rating.

Here is what I started with

All of my disposable pens

And here we go with the top choices in no particular order:

Papermate InkJoy Gel .7

This was a big box office supply store checkout counter find. It looked interesting and I always loved the name PaperMate, those two words together just say PEN to me. I was very impressed with how it wrote and liked it so much I found one of those 14 color pen deal and bought it. The whole body is rubberized which is kind of unique.

  • Writing: 10
  • Grip: 9
  • Aesthetics: 5 plain
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Pilot Juice .7

A new one for me but I quickly fell in love. The clip is the BEST of the bunch if that is something you use frequently.

  • Writing: 10
  • Grip: 7
  • Aesthetics: 8
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Pentel EnerGel .7

Another drugstore stumble find and I find myself grabbing it often sitting around the house. I don’t own alot of Pentel product and I’m not sure why not.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 10 fat body
  • Aesthetics: 4 Blah
  • Deployment: 10 knock

And now for the Uniball Signo Run

Uniball Signo 207
Probably my favorite grip and always a consistent writer every time I pick it up.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 10
  • Aesthetics: 9
  • Deployment:10 clicky

Uniball Signo 307

There are reportedly some differences between the 207 and 307 somewhere but I can’t find them except in the looks department. They both write and grip just the same but I would bump up the 307 by 1 point in the aesthetics category as I think it’s a touch nicer looking.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 10
  • Aesthetics: 10
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Uniball Signo UM-100-.7

The longest body shortest cap of the lot with a step body that I’m not sure the purpose of but it’s a solid performer.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 4 all plastic
  • Aesthetics: 4 the cap to body balance is off to me
  • Deployment: 5 cap

Uniball Signo UM-151-.5

Probably my favorite stick style pen with a cap.

  • Writing: 10
  • Grip: 8 rubber is there but firm
  • Aesthetics: 5 plain clear body
  • Deployment: 5 cap

Uniball Signo DX UM-151-.38

The smallest tip size I will go. I am surprised it writes as smooth as it does but I only use this one occasionally when I have a specific need for a really fine line.

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 8 firm rubber again
  • Aesthetics: 5
  • Deployment: 5 cap

Uniball Signo RT1 .5

  • Writing: 9
  • Grip: 8
  • Aesthetics: 7 kind of sleek for a disposable clicky
  • Deployment: 10 clicky

Plenty of great pens in the $2 price range and if you’re going to have pens in the car, garage and kitchen drawer why not have ones that write good!

What are your favorites?

Remember: Write something nice……

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Darkstar Collection Pocket Notebook Review

The pocket notebook appears to me, like a simple engineering product. I’m sure there is more to it than I know. Just by the brands that have passed under my nibs, ballpoints and gels I have enjoyed many well thought out features. Some of these features help us gravitate to one brand or the other. The latest to pass over my desk is from the team over at Darkstar Collection in the UK.

Darkstar’s contribution to our community comes in two formats, Pocket Notebooks and a larger Adventure Notebook. I am even seeing some rumors and IG spy photos of a hard cover.

  • 100GSM paper
  • Flexible covers available in yellow, black, orange and red
  • Printing available in Grid, Crosshair, Dot Grid and Lined at 5 mm ruling
  • Price: $9.22 US / Pack
  • Pocket Notebooks
  • – 4 x 5 ½”
  • – Pack of 3
  • – 54 pages
  • Adventure Notebooks
  • – 5 ¾ x 7 7/8”
  • – Pack of 2
  • – 72 pages

Overall Construction Fit & Finish

The version I tried out was the lined black pocket notebook. Packaging is minimal with a branding description band for point of sale. A foiled Darkstar logo is inconspicuous on the front cover which helps me orient the notebook quickly when I’m picking it up. Page one is an owner’s page and 2 staples hold it all together.

Paper and covers are cut well and clean with flawless rounded corners. The cover seems heavy enough and after a couple weeks in and out of my pocket it has held up well. I’m sure one would fill the pages before wearing anything out.

The printing is straight and fully flooded all the way to the edges. The lines appear to be a greenish gray. The lines stay out of the way but still guide my writing. Looking at it under a loupe it’s two lines of dashes right next to each other with the squares alternating in a checkerboard pattern. It’s a good look that works and a small detail that harkens to my opening paragraph and proving I really don’t have a clue what it takes to design a good pocket notebook.

Paper

At 100GSM the paper works great with any pen I use in pocket notebooks. From my broad wet Ondoro, to my gels that I usually have with me on the go and I even threw in an Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Brush pen and it worked great. Impressive.

No feathering, no bleed-through and if you look hard you can see some faint ghosting from the broader lines but I wouldn’t hesitate at all to use both sides of the page.

Drying time is good at 6-8 seconds with a wet broad fountain pen. The writing is smooth but with this dry time performance I suspect this is not a coated paper.

Darkstar Ink

This is cool. Darkstar has teamed up with Robert Oster, who is on a big popularity run right now with their ink colors. Both companies collaborated on a Blue-Back ink shade they call, of course, Darkstar Blue. I love the other RO inks I have so this just got added to my want list. Robert Oster Darkstar Blue Ink.

Conclusion

Darkstar offers a great selection of configurations for your small notebook needs. 4 printing options, 4 colors and 2 sizes. There are even some special editions they call Shine Stars. I wouldn’t change a thing about the basics of the notebook. The 100 gsm paper is wonderful and the covers are tough. If I could reach for more I would offer three suggestions to Darkstar:

  • A blank page option
  • A wider rule lined option
  • A blue cover that matches their signature ink

If implemented, none of these things make the Darkstar a better notebook, they already hit that out of the park. These would only broaden their market appeal but I understand adding a new sku is expensive and only Darkstar can determine if the cost makes sense.

Thanks again to Craig and the Darkstar team for sending these over, I am enjoying them.

The Gentleman Stationer had some good things to say about the Darkstar as well. Check out his comments here.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Caran D’Ache 849 Fountain Pen Review

I have owned some Caran D’Ache ink and was very pleased with it but I have never really seen any of their writing instruments that jumped out at me and had to rest in my shopping cart. Recently my friends at The Pen Company gave me an opportunity to look at the Caran D’ Ache model 849 fountain pen. I’m glad I did.

Founded in 1915, Caran D’Ache is a Swiss manufacturer of office, school and art supplies including some beautiful fountain pen ink colors and writing instruments.

The 849, in ballpoint or fountain pen, is one of their moderately priced models with a hexagon shaped barrel and comes in multiple powder coated colors. The Fluo edition, which I reviewed, comes in striking and bold anodized colors. My fluorescent green will not be mistaken for any other color in any light!

The Pen

Caran D’Ache 849 Fluo

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Nib: Steel available in M, F, XF
  • Length Capped: 5.5”
  • Length Uncapped: 4.85″
  • Length Posted: 7”
  • Weight: 18.5 grams with ink cartridge
  • Street Price: $49

Overall Appearance

The 849 would be considered a hex shape pen though technically it’s almost a 12 sided pen. The 6 large flat spots meet each other by way of 6 smaller flat spots. The finish and the light reflection from all the edges is a unique look I haven’t seen before. In contrast to my Faber Castel Ondoro, another popular hex shaped barrel pen, where the edges are sharper. Caran D’Ache even trademarked their design.

The bright green anodized finish is a real stand out on any desk if you like bright and loud but it doesn’t look plasticy or toyish either.

Section

The section is black plastic with a fairly steep taper for a pen that starts out slender to begin with. The stop collar near the nib is large enough to be a tactical que for your finger to stay uninked by not going any further towards the nib. Uneventful, well executed.

Cap

The cap is the coolest part of this pen to me. It’s the same diameter as the body of the pen and has a smaller chrome collar at the bottom that slips INSIDE the body of the pen to make the capped pen all one diameter. It stays on with a definitive and satisfying snap. The cap established itself as my favorite part of the pen when I learned it posts the same way slipping inside the barrel end. Quite cool. Granted when posted it makes for long pen at 7” but usually one posts a pen for better weight balance or better length to fit their hand. I don’t think the unposted 849 needs either of those, but it’s still fancy.

Clip

Functionally the clip works well and I’m not sure how I would redesign in but it looks like an afterthought to me. It’s a stamped steel variety that clamps around 5 sides of the hex shaped cap. Again, the clip works fine and given the design you could choose to remove the clip altogether without a trace and I think that gives the pen a real streamlined look. The Caran D’Ache branding is visible on the cap right under the clip.

Filling System

The 849 accepts international standard short ink cartridge and comes with a blue black cartridge to get you started. A converter is available for about $8.00

Nib

The nib is unadorned except for a small hexagon shape engraving with a circle in the middle. I’m not sure what that stands for as the official Caran D’Ache logo is just their name in a fancy font. Like the pen itself the nib is long and slender which really works aesthetically. My medium wrote very smooth and a little on the dry side which I don’t think is a bad thing and if you prefer a little more ink a nibmeister could customize it for you in short order.

Writing

This is a slender pen, plenty of length and the hex edges, as described above, are almost not edges at all and thereby comfortable with any grip I tried. The section is long. The nib requires some pressure to get the darkest lines out of it. That may be adjustable with some nib work but I found myself lightening my pressure and not getting as much ink out as I would like, not a deficiency, just a preference. I didn’t experience any hard starts or skips. Overall it was comfortable and I’m sure one could go awhile with this pen. I took it for three pages and just ran out of things to write, the pen was still comfortable.

Conclusion

After my time with the 849 Fluo I will admit I shopped the Caran D’Ache brand a little deeper than I have in the past. The Pen Company has a great selection. The nib was a strong performer out of the box, fit and finish were flawless from my inspection and that cap is just ingenious. If you want a reasonable entry point into a Swiss writing instrument you have many choices in finishes here and I don’t think you will go wrong with an 849.

Thanks again to the Pen Company for sending this one over and broadening my brand horizons.

BTW here my friends over at Scrively reviewed it  and Ana over at Well Appointed Desk reviewed it as well.

Remember: Write something nice……

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