Michael’s Pens FAT BOY Pen Review

A pen is a pretty straightforward design, a long slender tube, a stick if you will. Some are prettier than others with companies being creative by using variations on round, varying the thickness, accoutrements and of course what raw material they use. Sometimes those variations can move a pen closer to a piece of art or depending on your tastes and perspective they could venture into a novelty. Hopefully any execution of art or novelty does not impair the practicality of a pen as a writing instrument. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with a maker’s pens that jump out a little farther with the design aesthetics than what you typically see on this blog. I’ve had fun with these.

Michael Hochstetler of Michael’s Pens is a creative type when it comes to writing instruments. Since 2003 he has been building quite a design collection of his signature Fat Boy pen right here in the US. Impressive longevity when the industry of small production custom pen manufacturing is still relatively young.

Over the years, he has innovated using the basic design of a robust aircraft billet aluminum pen body, Parker size refills and German Schmidt internals. All quality parts and when you see the pen you will see the name fits, and it’s not just a pretty moniker, they are fat for a reason and I found that trait pleasant for me over my time with three models:

Red Wire High Voltage Tesla Coil

By far my favorite is the black body with 2 strands of red wire tightly wound around the body attached with stainless steel screws. The effect looks like the windings of an electric motor. The black clip is hinged where it attaches to the pen body. This is a numbered special edition model that sells for $219

Red Comet

The Comet starts with the red billet aluminum body then Michael diamond cuts four streaking comets into the barrel. The comets retain the raw aluminum look for a striking contrast. Clip is a stamped steel version that pressure clamps across the top of the pen. The Comet series comes in 4 different colors and sells for $85

Red Chopper

Laser engraved flames set the Chopper Collection collection apart and against the red I think I even feel tougher writing with it. Clip is a stamped steel version that pressure clamps across the top of the pen. The Chopper series comes in 4 different colors and sells for $85.

All of the Fat Boy pens are available in a Pencil with Eraser configuration as well.

The major outlet to find the most versions of Michael’s Fat Boy is at Fountain Pen Hospital where search results on the Fat Boy returns 84 pages! Names like Archangelo, New York, Civil War Cannons, it’s fun to browse through how many unique variations Michael has designed over the years. The Fat Boy could easily be a collector model like some people collect say Lamy Safaris or Kaweco Sports.

Michael also sent over a really cool pen stand made from a ring of ball bearings specifically for the Fat Boy. If you’re considering the Fat Boy for a gift, or your desk pen, this stand would put it over the top. These sell for $45 with 6 variations to choose from Fountain Pen Hospital.

The Pen

Material: Aircraft Grade Billet Aluminum

  • Refills: Parker Style (Comes with a Monteverde Soft Roll P15
  • Length: 5 1/8”
  • Body Diameter: 5/8″
  • Weight: 1.94 oz. (Comet Model)
  • Street Price: From $85

Packaging

Michael does a nice job on the packaging from a shipping protection standpoint and also to support his major retail outlet Fountain Pen Hospital. The shiny black box and protective outer box depicts the quality that resides inside whether being opened up across a sales counter or a customer receiving it as a shipped package.  Michael has also taken the time to design some short documentation on the pen which may not affect the writing but accurately portrays that thought and details were not spared in his design.

Overall Appearance

The Fat Boy is a big fat pen. It’s like a 300 pound linebacker vs a more conventional pen as a 300 pound 7 foot tall NBA center. The proportions are different. Not bad or unattractive, quite the opposite for my tastes. At just over 5” I would not call this a pocket pen but it’s a good length for every day writing. The big rubber treads where you grip the pen also give a big beefy look. At the tip and tail there is a large turn down in the diameter to mate up with the tip cone and the knock. A unique look.

Construction Fit & Finish

The red finish that I tried out were striking with a smooth finish and no machine marks or assembly scratches anywhere. Threads were smooth and it includes an o-ring in the tip to help with squeaks, rattles and keeping the tip tight. The wire wrapping on the Tesla Coil edition is wrapped perfectly. I catch myself starring at it wondering how he did that so precise. A well put together pen with attention to detail obvious in the design and construction

Ergonomics

Did I mention the Fat Boy is a big fat pen?. The aluminum makes it a comfortable weight for me and I happen to like big fat pens. At 5/8″ diameter It fills your hand. You feel the extra hardware on the Tesla Coil edition but there were no harsh edges that really bothered me. The weight differences between it, the Comet and the Chopper didn’t make any difference to me. The knock works splendid like most Schmidts do and the three rubber rings at the gripping section work wonderfully for a grip. I would almost call them tires more than rubber rings.

Clip

All of the clips worked well. The stamped steel wrap around clamped version of the Chopper and Comet has good tension and performs it’s intended role just fine. Here again the Tesla Coil is my favorite with the hinged and tapered clip definitely being a step up. It’s emblazoned with M I C H A E L S and the hinge adds a little bit more mechanical panache to the pen.

Refill

Great choice by Michael on the Parker style refill. He includes a Monteverde branded refill with every pen which is a really good writer but it’s simple to unscrew the writing tip end and slip in your favorite Easy Flow, 9000M or whatever you fancy. On the Tesla Coil edition he throws in an extra refill, nice touch.

Conclusion

A Fat Boy will get noticed in a room full of more ordinary pens. The aesthetic style may not be for everyone but I loved them. The large diameter and the grip was a joy to write with and the build quality was top notch so it’s a winning combination for me.

Thanks again to Michael for sending these over to try out.

You can find Michael’s pens at michaelspens.com and Fountain Pen Hospital.

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The Fastest Pen in the World – Porsche Shake Pen

I’m a car guy. I don’t own a lot of cars and the most I ever owned at one time was 3 old cars with a combined Blue Book value of a new small economy sedan. Growing up it was a dream of mine to get up in the morning and be able to choose what car I wanted to drive to work from a fleet of cars I enjoy driving. Do I want to drive the Jeep, or the sedan or the sports car?

I did that for a while but the upkeep, insurance and tags became more money than the sum of enjoyment I derived from it. During those short periods I never owned a German car due to the unfounded fear that maintenance and repairs are expensive so as a side benefit of this pen hobby I now own a Porsche. Ok it’s a pen and technically a Porsche Design pen that has been billed as the fastest pen in the world. Read on to see why that marketing hype may not be that big of a stretch. Either way I can now get up in the morning and ask myself what am I going to write with today, the Edison, The Bentley, or maybe that’s Bexley, or the Porsche?

Recently my friends at The Pen Company sent me over the Porsche Design Shake Ballpoint in white resin to give it a try. I wonder about the Porsche moniker being used for anything outside of the automobile realm but here is an excerpt from the Porsche Design website.

Porsche Design is a luxury brand with a particular focus on technically inspired products. The brand was founded in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, whose products have stood for functional, timeless and purist design ever since. The products are designed in the Porsche Design Studio in Zell am See, Austria and sold around the world in the company’s own stores, shop-in-shops, high end de- partment stores, exclusive specialist retailers as well as the official online shop.

The Pen

  • Material: White Resin
  • Length Overall: 4 1/16”
  • Barrel Diameter: 25/64”
  • Weight: 1 oz
  • Street Price: $103 USD
  • Germany is stamped on the side of the tail piece but the website says designed in Austria

Packaging
Packaging is well done and what you would expect with a Porsche licensing. My usual disclaimer applies: I’m a box saver and this one stacks easy, but if you’re not a saver this one doesn’t give you any pause as being unusual. Enough about that.

The pen is in the box with the refill loaded and ready to write.

Construction Fit & Finish

This is a pocket size pen at just over 4” with no cap or clip. Three major parts that you see, the body made of thick resin, and two metal chrome ends. Looks like it could take a good pocket beating and stay nice looking. The White resin appears to be white all the way through so I suspect that would help with scratches. I would need a little more mileage on the pen though to positively confirm that.

Overall Appearance

This is a short attractive pen with gentle curves and a beefy mid-section. With the proportions and the curves of the chrome end pieces I can use a little imagination and see a little Porsche 911 in it, or maybe that’s just me not being able to let go of the car associations. I don’t know how they do that with some of the other products selling under the Porsche Design line but I think they played decent aesthetic homage to the brand with the pen entry.


Porsche design calls the barrel special edition white pearlized resin. It contrasts better than I thought it would as white on chrome.

The tail piece has a slight bump that works perfectly as an anti-roll device and it holds a vertical branding of PORSCHE DESIGN engraved in it. Tasteful and discrete.

Ergonomics

The girth of the pen fits my larger than average hand well, even with the short length and there is no sharp edges on the tail where it rests in the web of skin between my index finger and thumb. The length is probably at the length limit for me to call a pocket pen without a clip. A 1 ounce weight and a little bigger grip section near the tip of the pen makes this a comfortable pocket writer for me.

By far the most interesting feature of this pen is the tip retract and extend mechanism. It’s done with just a shake of the pen, or maybe I would call it a flick of the wrist. I’m a big fan of EDC pens being quick to deploy because if I’m going to carry it in my pocket it’s for quick notes on the run, emphasis on quick, while waiting in line, checking out or some other task that usually has people waiting behind me to do the same thing so I like to get done and out of the way.

The Shake Pen is unique and one handed it worked for me every time. This is where I would give props to the claim of fastest pen in the world. Even with a conventional one-handed click pen there is some finger re-positioning after deploying the tip with your thumb and then moving to a writing grip. With the Porsche Shake Pen you just flick your wrist in the direction of the pen’s writing tip and your writing tip appears. Sign your receipt, flick it again and tip is gone. Done, clean, slick. Here is a short video I did showing the shake in action.

Clip

No clip, proceed to next section.

Refill

The Shake Pen uses the venerable and widely available D1 format. There are a lot of good choices on D1 refills if you don’t like the Pelikan branded unit that came with the pen. It worked fine for me as a ballpoint.

Porsche Shake Pen ApartConclusion

My first Porsche is attractive, doesn’t need to be insured and the shake function is fun and practical. Deploy and retract worked every time that I flicked it correctly. If you’re a fan of the brand this pen could support that in a small way and would probably look good in the center console of your 911, Boxster or Buick. I liked the pen and have not rotated it out of my pocket carry yet. Thanks again to The Pen Company for sending this one over to try out.

Any connection you have with pens and cars?

Remember: Write something nice……

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TiScribe-Bolt Pen Review

The fidget factor in pens can be alluring if you write and wait or write and think a lot. Whether it’s a cheap swag click pen, a magnetic cap, those fancy Visconti cap threads or other methods, moving parts on writing instruments get our fingers’ attention. Who hasn’t been annoyed in a meeting while the person across the table incessantly plays with a loud clicker. To compete with the colleague with the click Bic there is probably no greater fidget factor than a bolt action pen. I don’t know who did it first but there are several out there and the designs are similar. I’m not overly dexterous so the form factor is not my absolute favorite but I cannot deny the fun and rarely can I resist a good bolt action pen.

The latest offering to hit the pen scene is a Kickstarter from Kelvin over at Urban Survival Gear, called the TiScribe-Bolt. Kelvin has released several good writers and based on the review sample I received the TiScribe-Bolt will fall right in line with the quality we’ve come to expect from him. The design element that sets the TiScribe Bolt apart from the rest is the the whole clip moves the slide action to extend and retract the writing tip. I wouldn’t call it a revolutionary design but we’re talking about the company that was brave enough and cool enough to make a machined pen highlight. Kelvin’s creativity is inspiring, and it’s a great pen.

The Pen

  • Material: Available in brass, copper and titanium
  • Finish: All three are available in stonewashed or polished
  • Length: 5.5”
  • Diameter Body: .375 ”
  • Weight: 27.4g
  • Price:   Early Bird pledges start at $49 (Brass) up to $74 for Titanium.

Packaging

Urban Survival Gear takes a minimal approach to the packaging. I like the thinking behind more money and effort put into the product. Kelvin uses the popular clear twist tube that serves the pen community well. This style packaging ships a lot of pens around the world safely and inexpensively. If you’re short on room or just not a box saver no big worry dropping this one in the recycle bin.

What You Get

  • TiScribe-Bolt Pen
  • Pilot G2 Refill

Construction Fit & Finish

Anything I have with the TiScribe name is high quality. The finish is good with no obvious machining marks, threads start easy and they are quiet. I love that attribute and the attention to detail. The cone is about ¾” long and it took me a minute to get a good enough grip to unscrew the pen. It’s tight and probably helped by the O-Ring. I didn’t need pliers or anything like that but this thing won’t be rattling loose. The J channel for the bolt action accommodates the clip assembly well with the machining tolerances giving a smooth action with no looseness or sloppiness. Impressive

Overall Appearance

Kelvin is offering a polished or stonewashed finish of titanium, copper or brass. The review sample I received is the polished copper and out of the package it’s beautiful. Patina sets in quickly so depending on how you feel about that order accordingly, you know it’s coming.

True to the TiScribe line of pens the Bolt has a clean utility look that is simple and attractive. Five machined grooves near the business end of the pen offer a visual breakup of the smooth body and also offer a good grip. The clip on all the pens is titanium.  The clip is stout looking but rounded enough to work with the aesthetics of the curved tapered nose cone of the pen. A nice depiction of the Urban Survival Gear’s logo is engraved in the tail end of the cap. A nice touch and if I had one nit pick of the pen I would like the angular lines of the logo to align with the clip. That’s probably more to blame on my brain wiring than a real design element.

You will recognize this as Kelvin’s work and that’s a good thing. Unique enough from other machined pens but not straying too far from convention.

Ergonomics

The TiScribe-Bolt is a comfortable writer, diameter is good and the 5 grooves give your fingers a nice resting place without any sharp edges. The copper is the heaviest of the three metals available but I found the weight and balance to be fine. Writing tip engagement and retract is an easy one handed thumb affair. Isn’t that what a bolt action pen is all about?.  Maybe not quite as fast as a boring pushbutton knock but fidget toy factor:  A+.  I found it easier than some of it’s competitors I’ve used and I think it’s because the clip is a bigger handle for my thumb to run the bolt through the J groove. A benefit I didn’t see in the pen initially but one I experienced as I spent more time with it.

Clip

Kelvin is making all the clips from titanium. I’m sure copper and brass make lousy clip material and making one clip for all models is a more efficient production model. The clip on the TiScribe-Bolt moves. That’s ok, the metal is stiff and you get a slight gap between the pen body and the end of the clip. That helps put a stiff clipped pen in your pocket or clip it into a pen loop. If you’re looking for a super strong hold on a file folder or something that’s super thin then you may want to test that fit first. In my play time I could not detect any marring of the pen body from the clip movement and I suspect there has to be some movement to get the smoothness in the bolt action.

Refill

The TiScribe-Bolt is Pilot G2 size. For an extra $10 you can get an adaptor for the Parker size. I’m fine with the G2, the Uniball Jetstream, Pilot Juice or V5. A wide choice of refills fit this size pen. Standard stuff for machined pens and thanks Kelvin for sticking with a popular standard.

Conclusion

I like the TiScribe-Bolt and Kelvin’s innovative design. Not groundbreaking writing instrument stuff but a creative twist on what is relatively new pen mechanicals, the bolt action. I applaud that in a maker. Thank you Kelvin for letting me go along for the ride.

Here is what my friend Mike Dudek had to say over at the Clicky Post on the TiScribe-Bolt

Here is the Kickstarter Campaign

Here is the Kickstarter video

Remember: Write something nice……

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TiScribe-HL Highlighter Review

Urban Survival Gear. I think that is what I am, an urban survivor that consumes a lot of gear, ok HAS a lot of gear that is rarely needed for actual survival. A company called Urban Survival Gear has launched a Kickstarter campaign for the TiScribe-HL .

Kelvin, from USG, recently offered to send one over for me to try out and warned me there was nothing else like it in the world. I might be coloring that a little bit but I love a maker that is passionate and excited about their product. Having reviewed the TiScribe fountain pen about a year ago I remember being impressed with Kelvin’s work and attention to detail so I welcomed the chance.

What came in the mail call was a bit of a surprise. The refill was a Mont Blanc Document Marker. Until I popped the cap off the refill I had no idea that “HL” in the name of the pen and Document Marker are synonymous with highlighter. It was a What The Heck! moment. In Kelvin’s defense, and with a smile on my face, I agreed there wasn’t another one like it the world.

The Pen

fullbfull2b

  • Material: Available in brass, copper and titanium my review sample is in a shiny brass
  • Length Capped 5 ½”
  • Length Uncapped 5 1/8”
  • Length Posted 5 5/8”
  • Diameter Body 3/8”
  • Diameter Cap 7/16”
  • Weight 39.2 g
  • Pricing: Pledges start at $41 for the brass version and at the time of this review that level was still available.

Packaging

Urban Survival Gear takes a minimal approach to the packaging. I like the thinking behind more money and effort put into the product. Kelvin uses the popular clear twist tube that serves the pen community well. This style packaging ships a lot of pens around the world safely and inexpensively. If you’re short on room or you’re just not a box saver no big worry dropping this one in the recycle bin.

packagingWhat’s In The Box

  • TiScribe-HL Pen Body and Cap
  • Mont Blanc Document Marker Refill (Available in green or yellow)
  • O-Ring (More on this later)Construction Fit & Finish

High quality was no surprise after my first TiScribe. The attention to detail is as good as any machined pen I have reviewed. I every time I used the pen the cap threads started easy with no squeals or roughness. I wish more machined pens took the time and focus that Kelvin and team have on the TiScribe-HL relative to body and cap threads. It doesn’t affect the writing quality of the pen but when they are smooth and quiet the experience for me is just better. A+ here.

The O-ring threw me at first until I got a little rattle after installing the refill. I knew a detail this big was not overlooked and that’s when it donned on me. Using the O-ring allows for any tiny manufacturing variances that may occur with the refills’ length and insures a tight quiet fit. Great idea, well executed. My only suggestion would be a drawing or quick text of instructions for dummies like me.

end-o-ringOverall Appearance

The brass is beautiful right from the start. Highly polished and smooth from the TiScribe factory. You can read mixed reviews on the patina that sets in with any brass or copper pen. It’s really a personal preference that you have decided before purchasing a pen made from one of these materials. You know it’s coming.

The accents on the HL include 4 grooves turned into the body of the pen at the normal grip section. They look nice and provide a good reference point for your fingers in the event you grab the pen while multi-tasking or your eyes are glued to text.

The tail of the pen is nicely tapered and near the tail are two black O-rings set into the body. I like the aesthetic appeal of the black but these mostly are functional to allow a grip of the cap when posting.

Another O-ring near the writing tip and a nice rounded taper going down to the yellow wedge tip of the refill.tip-grip-sectiontailgrip2Ergonomics

I’m not sure ergonomics is a stringent requirement for a highlighter but the TiScribe has no drawbacks here either way. Length is good, the four rings grooved into the body near where your fingers rest give a good indicator grip and the diameter of the pen comfortable. With the short cap the threads are close enough to the writing tip that your grip hand will probably never be bothered by them.

Cap

The cap is small, about 15/16″ in lenght and slighter larger diameter than the pen body. The very top is chamfered both for aesthetics and comfort I suspect. Threads are wonderful as described above and an O-rings mates the cap to the body to prevent any premature drying out of the refill.cap2Clip

My review sample came as a no clip option.  A clip is available (+$10), as well as a magnet installed in the tip of the cap (+$5) as a retention option.  I have the magnet concept on another pen and it’s actually quite handy. That would probably be my choice and retain the clean lines of clipless.

Refill

I have never used a Mont Blanc Document Marker. I have not reviewed a lot of highlighters to compare it with but thus far my limited experience says USG has made a good choice with the Mont Blanc. It’s wet and goes down thick, a trait I like in my fountain pens, so I welcome it. The color is vivid and dried quickly on the sample paper I tried. Winner in my book.

Conclusion

I don’t use highlighters a lot. Mainly because I find mainstream versions ugly and low on character. Coming from true pen nerd having nothing to do with highlighting text. I have a cool one now so I suspect I will be highlighting more than I have in the past.

If you are a highlighter and reading this blog you’re likely a pen nut so a TiScribe-HL may be eligible for your next pen spend. I can almost guarantee you there is not a cooler, or better quality highlighter out there. There is still time to get in on the Kickstarter. An added bonus is pricing is on the lower end of the machined pen spectrum.

Remember:   Write something nice……  (and highlight it!)

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Two New Kaweco Colors

bothnewI have written many words on the joy of owning and using the Kaweco SPORT line of pens. Recently Kaweco came out with two new colors in their SPORT Fountain Pen series. First is a Red Classic series that Kaweco calls, well, just Red. I like the hue, it’s a bold fire engine red with maybe a touch of orange but it’s an unmistakable red. The red is a nice contrast to it’s gold colored stainless nib.


The second new color is in their Skyline series called Macchiato and looking at the pen I can see the resemblance to a favorite coffee blend. Maybe vanilla with a hint of brownish yellow. Attractive without being flashy. On the Macchiato they chose polished stainless steel finish.

red newmacciato newInside mechanicals and writing experience are same as I reviewed here on the aluminum bodied stonewash version. These two new colors are in the all plastic line. Both come with Kaweco’s very good medium stainless steel nib.

  • Stainless Steel Iridium Tip Medium Nib
  • Street Price: $27.00
  • 4.15” capped
  • 4” uncapped
  • 5.25” Posted
  • 10.6 grams with ink cartridge

If you’re a colors collector you’ll want to add these two attractive additions.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Kaweco Classic Sport Ballpoint Guilloche Review

I ended up with two similar Kaweco pocket pens about the same time. A couple of weeks ago I reviewed the The Classic Sport Gel Roller in Black Chess Pattern so I won’t bore you by repeating much of what I’ve penned in the past about the Kaweco Sport line and I will spare you the duplication on my commonly written philosophy on the pocket pen genre. Most all of it was summarized in my review of the Gel Roller.

Today I want to share with you about my time with the The Classic Sport Ball Pen in Black Guilloche  Overall5 Length: 4.15″
Weight: .4 oz
Uses D1 Size Refills

APPEARANCE

The Guilloche variant features a black octagonal barrel with a subtle guilloche engraved effect and gold colored metal decal on the push button. Manufactured from ABS or sometimes called macrolon plastic, the guilloche is small, light and attractive.

Overall3 Overall4 End Cap2 Tip3Black pens are hard for me to photograph well but in the pictures I hope you can appreciate the creative design Kaweco has added to this one.

ERGONOMICS

The Guilloche is a close cousin to an Ice Sport I have carried and abused for several years. So no get familiar time was needed for me.

Where the ballpoint excels over the gel roller in my mind is speed to deploy. The knock push button is one handed and just faster than two hands needed to remove a cap.

The downside is there is no cap to post. The cap of the gel writer makes it a more comfortable pen to write with, you just can’t pull that feat off with the ballpoint design. Where the ballpoint shines is convenience. Receipts or signatures are a quick and efficient execution, unpocket, click, sign, click, repocket, done.

REFILL

Apart1The D1 refill scared me at first as there is an obvious trade off with size and ink capacity but there is a bigger variety of D1 refills than I expected. With these manufacturers producing the D1 size I’m sure you can find something you like.

    • Retro 51
    • Monteverde
    • Uniball Jetstream
    • Zebra
    • Pilot
    • Staedtler
    • Kaweco
    • Platinum
    • Ohto
    • Pentel
    • Tombow

I don’t worry about proprietary refills with the Kaweco. The Soul 1.0 that ships with the pen is worthy performer or if you prefer another here is a review I did on a wide variety of these D1 refills. I found a favorite.

CONCLUSION

The two newest Kaweco Sports to my collection are a really hard toss up on which to carry. I really like the quick deploy of the knock push button on the ballpoint but the writing comfort (posted) and Parker refill of the gel writer makes for a nicer writing experience. Either one you pick, or both, I think you will enjoy the Kaweco quality and know it’s going to work for you every time you call it to action.

Remember: Write something nice……

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TWSBI Eco Review

The entry level fountain pen market is not overly crowded but I would call it dominated by two pens, the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari. TWSBI has a reputation for playing a little above that entry level field but offering a true bargain in a real piston filling pen. Namely the ever improving 530/540/580/580-AL series. In July of 2015 TWSBI’s back room may have just put a bulls eye on Lamy and Pilot for the entry level market and I’m glad to report there is a solid third player in that niche field now. The Eco is a demonstrator piston filling fountain pen for under $30. I had no need for another pen and my daily rotation was humming along good but my curiosity won out so I ordered an Eco to see how well TWSBI could do for less than three ten dollar bills. The Eco has been out for several months now and it’s been reviewed by several of my blogging colleagues. My findings are similar to others but I will add my personal taste comments and preferences.

The Pen

IMG_0284TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

  • Steel Broad Nib
  • Price: $29
  • 5.5” capped
  • 4.15” uncapped
  • 6.55” Posted
  • 22.8 grams, with ink

Packaging

The packaging belies the price point for this pen. I think thatmakes it an exceptional bargain for gifting as the whole package looks more expensive than it is. Not quite to Apple’istic level of the 580 but pretty darn impressive for a $30 pen.

IMG_0327

What’s In The Box

    • Pen secured and well-presented
    • Wrenc h for disassembly / maintenance
    • Silicone for maintenance, mostly the piston seal after many flushes with flushing solution.

Overall Appearance

Overall Cap OffThere are two models of the Eco differentiated only by the color of the cap and tail. Both models (colors) of the Eco are demonstrators, love them or not. You can get a white or black cap and tail. The cap and tail have a hexagon shape that tapers into the round clear plastic body of the pen. The clip and the band at the bottom of the cap or both chrome, the clip being metal and the cap band is plastic with a chrome finish. Another nice accent is the red TWSBI logo inset in red on the very top of the cap.

The whole design is unique which does open it up for honest critique. I’m not really a demonstrator pen person but right now I have the Eco and a 580 AL inked up and I’m enjoying watching the ink slosh around, my mood varies.

IMG_0299Ergonomics

I don’t think any of the aesthetics of the pen detracts from it being a normal handling pen. Round barrel, average size with a good tapered section down to the nib. With the mostly plastic construction weight is light and I like the balance of the pen unposted. I do not post my pens so I’ll refrain from opinion on using the Eco posted. The cap does post but I have no basis for comparison of the writing experience as a poster.

Section

SectionThe section is smooth and reminiscent of other TWSBIs. I personally don’t like the ink seepage around this area where it goes into the feed but I’m told it doesn’t hurt anything and I’ve had no mishaps with it. Your annoyance factor may vary.

Cap

FinialThe hexagon shaped cap is topped with a red TWSBI logo inset. I don’t think I would call it a finial but it gives character to the pen and displays its lineage proudly as does the ECO and TWSBI printed on the chrome band at the bottom of the cap.

Clip

capThere is nothing special here but nothing wrong with it either. It’s a flat, straight design that fits with the overall design of the pen. Ramp is good so it catches well on a pocket or pen case. Tension is about average and seems adequate.

Filling System

IMG_0304The filling system is the most amazing part of the value proposition that the Eco delivers. A true piston filler that uses the majority of the pen body as an ink reservoir giving you nearly 2 ML of ink capacity. That should keep you writing a while even in broad nib mode. The piston worked smooth and is even user serviceable with the included wrench and lube. Now TWSBI has been doing the wrench and lube inclusion for years but at this price point I was surprised. Probably another note on ergonomics is the hexagonal shaped tail makes for a good grip for the piston movement.

Nib

NibI’m sure the nib is made by one of the major players, Jowo, Bock, etc. TWSBI does a nice job engraving the nib and mine was perfectly aligned out of the box with every measurement I could see with my 10x loupe.

Writing

With its well aligned nib and consistent flow the writing experience is wonderful. Not glassy smooth so you definitely interact with the paper and pen contact. I would call it smooth, with feedback, for good control but not slick. The broad I purchased is maybe a little on the smaller size of broad but I tend to like Magic Marker size lines from my broads. Wetness falls just to the wet side of the scale and I have not experienced any hard starts or skips even after a thinking session with the cap off. I have come to appreciate my pens that are solid starters and performers. Every time I put nib to paper I just want ink to be there, simple request and many more expensive pens have not delivered. Superb job here TWSBI.

Writing SampleIMG_0301Conclusion

For less than $29 . The only thing that would keep me from recommending this pen every time to a new user is the frequent reluctance of new fountain pen users to use bottled ink. I don’t blame them, I started with cartridges myself but as soon as one is ready to try bottled ink this should be your first pen. Very impressive TWSBI.

Some other reviews

Are you a TWSBI fan?

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D1 Pen Refill Shootout

Some things related to this hobby I just don’t like. 1) Full size pens in my pants pocket and 2) A lack of refill choices in my non-fountain pens. Both equally easy to avoid individually with a multitude of high quality mini size pen choices and the variety of full size rollerball / ballpoint refills available. Where I used to run into trouble is combining these two. A mini pocket size pen is usually restrictive on refill choices due to manufacturing limitations of the size. Most pen manufacturers just don’t make a lot of variety in mini refills. One ubiquitous refill is the somewhat universal D1 size used in many different pens. My Google box search did not yield the original origin of the D1 but I did get many hits for pens that use it, including my current every day carry.

One of my favorite pocket pens is the plastic Kaweco Sport Classic with the push button retract and you guessed it, D1 size refill. Here is my battle scarred, ever faithful, Kaweco Classic Sport Ballpoint in Green Ice. Probably more pocket love than any other pen I own. It’s light, plastic, won’t scratch up other EDC goodies in my pocket, deploys quickly and works every time.

Kaweco Ice Sport GreenThe refill that Kaweco provides is good but to my #2 point above I like choices. Fortunately the ever resourceful Jet Pens carries no less than 75 different D1 refills. I was surprised. Now granted many of these are the same refill with different colors and tip sizes but still with 75 choices you’re likely to find something you like. I discovered one I like, but more on that later in the post. Some good companies represented and putting out D1 refills:

  • Retro 51
  • Monteverde
  • Uniball Jetstream
  • Zebra
  • Pilot
  • Staedtler
  • Kaweco
  • Platinum
  • Ohto
  • Pentel
  • Tombow

The D1 size is also very popular with the multi-pens that pack more than one color in a single stick. So you can have a blue, black or red line of ink and carry just one pen. Most of that is accomplished with three D1 refills of different colors in a slightly larger than normal pen body.

Jet Pens was kind enough to send me over 12 examples of the D1 genre refills available. I think that represents a great cross section. Please don’t expect an in-depth review on each one but I’ll comment briefly on my short experience with each. I figured a picture of each one is a waste of bandwidth due to the similarity of the design. Not much variation can be managed and still fit such a wide cross section of D1 toting pens on the market. Here’s a group shot before unpacking started and ink began to flow.

collection2Monteverde Soft Roll Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Blue Black – Pack of 4

  • $6 Pack of 4
  • The first sample I loaded up and not surprisingly very ballpointy. I would prefer a little more consistent darkness and saturation but I think that is the nature of the ballpoint. Solid performer.

Ohto R-4C7NP Needle-Point Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Blue

  • $1.20
  • Smooth writer with no skips or blotting but seems thin for .7mm. I would call it more of a .5mm. At a $1.20 this ties with the Kaweco for best value.

Pentel Vicuna XKBXES7 Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Black

  • $2.50
  • I got a little bit of dragging on this one. Seemed to need more effort and the line was a little blotchy at times. At $2.50 it’s comparatively expensive so I think there are better options.

Pilot BRF-8F Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Blue

  • $1.30
  • I found the end and start of strokes were sometimes lighter. It seems to be more sensitive to pressure with my writing style. Pass

Platinum BSP-100S Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Blue Ink

  • $1.65
  • This one was a bit too slick for my tastes. Not smooth but slick like I had to slow down to write neat. There was no skips or blotting and the line looks more .5 rather than a .7

Rotring Ballpoint Multi Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Black – Pack of 5

  • $16.50 pack of 5
  • Great starter and more saturated than others. I would say this is one of my favorites but at $3.30 it’s the most expensive in our lot which knocks it off the perch as my top choice.

Staedtler 92RE Multi Pen Ballpoint Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Blue

  • $1.65
  • Nice writer, I found it needed a bit more pressure to perform but the line was consistent though a bit light.

Tombow VS Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Black

  • $1.35
  • Good, thin line, no skips, a little bit of globbing when you stop writing before you pick up the tip. Kind of like turning off a water hose and that last bit of water in the hose. May not be a big deal to some and I didn’t spend a lot of time with it so there may be a technique that minimizes it. For me, there are better choices.

Zebra 4C-0.7 Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.7 mm – Blue Black

  • $1.35
  • Required above normal pressure to attain a consistent line. I really wanted it to be darker. The Blue Black was extremely light and no saturating. I also got some skipping at the start of letters. Pass

Zebra 4C-1.0 Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 1.0 mm – Blue

  • I could feel the 1.0 width and with more ink flowing it felt smoother. It gave me a wide consistent line. (spoiler alert) This one returned to my pen after all the testing of the others.

Zebra ESB-0.5 Emulsion Ink Ballpoint Pen Refill – D1 – 0.5 mm – Black

  • $2.65
  • I’m not sure what the Emulsion ink difference was but this was a very good writer with no blotting or skipping. The .5 in this one was a little too thin and that kept it off my top pick list.

Kaweco Soul 1.0 Blue

  • $6 for a pack of 5
  • No real need to change out this factory choice. Not as saturated and consistent as some of the others but at $1.20 these are a tie for the value winners and a very respectable writer. I didn’t replace mine until the original refill ran out.

Writing SamplesBWriting SampleAAnd The Winner Is

Many of these are winners in my book and it’s unfair to rule any out just based on my own personal tastes. I’m just not a big ballpoint fan for extended writing. They have their place in an EDC arsenal for sure and I carry one almost every day. My preferences for any pen are hard for the design mechanics of a ballpoint to even attain: Medium to broad line, no skips, easy start, saturated dark colors. Many of these are good but of course in a shootout one has to rise to the top. My favorite D1 refill:

The Zebra 4C-1.0 with the Ohto and Rotring close behind.

Your taste may vary but I hope I have given you a little more information on each one to help with your D1 refill shopping.

For additional reading I found my friend Ian over at Pens! Paper! Pencils! did a compare back in 2014 and I think I saw a refresh in 2015.

Conclusion

I’ve always wanted to use the word Shootout in a blog post about pens, it sounds exciting. This post was exciting as I anticipated each new player while reassembling my trusty Kaweco over and over. It was fun to do, more work than I expected but I so enjoyed the pay off. Big thanks to Elaine and team over at Jet Pens for supporting what I do and specifically making this post possible.

Do you have a favorite D1 pen and refill? I do now!

Remember: Write something nice……

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What Is It About Cheap Disposable Pens?

I went to our kitchen pantry the other day and retrieved the last two tea bags from the box. Customary in our household is everyone helps draft the shopping list for the next grocery store run. This mundane domestic task is completed with a sticky note pad in the drawer next to the silverware. Usually right next to the sticky pad is a disposable pen that is required to complete said task. This particular time I picked up a Papermate ComfortMate Ultra 1.0. An inexpensive, poor writing, rudimentary click disposable pen.

Papermate UltraNow I love my pens but I’m not so in love with them that I need to debate whether I write TEA BAGS with a wet fine nib or go up to a medium. I don’t have any idea how this Papermate pen ended up under my roof so it got me thinking and I set out on a quest to collect all the disposable cheap pens around the house. I gathered this eclectic representation of the disposable gel, ballpoint and rollerball pen industry and a few advertising freebies.

Bunch of DisposablesI often wonder about how non-pen people go about choosing what writing instruments to buy. I realize there a lot of pharmaceutical and other advertising pens going around so those probably reside with a good part of the population. I suspect a lot of the above were collected by trying to reach the $25 free shipping minimum with my friends at JetPens. Even without JetPens there is such a wide variety of brands and models in all the retail outlets. Recently while browsing in Walgreens, a local drugstore chain, I was impressed with the breadth of the writing instruments aisle. Standing there I surmised a couple of drivers that might prompt a trip home for any of these pens.

  • Price
  • End Cap Product Placement
  • Packaging / Marketing (New & Improved, Smoothest Ink on the Planet, etc)
  • Aesthetics (that’s a cool looking pen!)
  • Brand loyalty

I’m sure there are others. I recall as a corporate office supply buyer when I purchased at least a million Papermate stick pens for $.72 a dozen. Granted that was back in the 80s but they worked and they were cheap. During that same period I also recall rummaging through the supply cabinet looking for the cool pens for my desk. You could sometimes even sweet talk / bribe the department administrative assistant in charge of supplies to buy your favorites if they came by the dozen and could pass the test as a cheap disposable.

Most of the disposables I’ve used over the years write well enough to get the task at hand completed. Today’s example, the Papermate was a disappointment with its skips and uneven flow. In contrast a similar looking pen I recall, and actually wrote a review on, was a Staples branded Sonix rollerball. I was very impressed with it and if I had a need for pens in bulk I would not hesitate to try and work a deal on those.

Have you ever bought pens in bulk or for your business? What is your selection criteria?

Remember: Write something nice……

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Uni-Ball Signo 307 Review

IMG_2840-resizedI know I’m late to the game on the Uniball Signo 307 but I think it’s a great pen worth reviewing. While playing with the 307 I was reminded of the days before my real focus was fountain pens. I would frequently wander the aisles of the big box stores looking to see if I spotted anything new in the writing instruments section. I couldn’t really keep track of all the models and manufacturers of what I had already bought so occasionally I would end up with something I had already tried. Most of the time I just got sucked in to cheesy marketing when NEW AND IMPROVED was printed on the packaging. That might as well have been a catapult from the shelf to my buggy.

In the past couple of years I have not been a big disposable roller ball or gel pen user but you couldn’t tell that from the inventory of same sitting around my house in every drawer and open counter space. All of them get picked up and used for convenience. Most write well and get the job done and probably end up getting borrowed, lost or broken before the ink runs out.

When I read all the recent reviews on the new 307 I looked around and found a Signo 207. Frankly it didn’t make the top of my list but not because it was a bad pen but just nothing stood out for me. With my NEW AND IMPROVED interest piqued I actively searched out and purchased a Signo 307 for a compare and this review.

Aesthetics

Aesthetically I like the 307 slightly better the obviously comparable 207 but that is totally subjective. I think the 307 has a slightly more modern look to it, which is no surprise. They are very similar. The 307 has a subtle grid gradient on the barrel that gives a bit of a carbon fiber look that’s popular today. The 207’s barrel in smoky transparent where the 307 is black. Also the tip surrounding the writing point was changed from chrome on the 207 to black on 307.

IMG_2842-resizedIMG_2844-resizedIMG_2850-resizedClip

The clip on the 207 was chrome metal and in what appears to be the only downgrade the 307 went to plastic. Maybe a cost saving measure? They both seem to hold ok but I have to believe the metal would win out in a durability match.

IMG_2852-resizedErgonomics

No changes here that I can tell. The rubberized grip with the little nubbies is comfortable to hold. Average length, diameter and weight in line with most disposables in the class. The retract works smooth with a definitive click loud enough to drive your cubicle neighbors crazy.

Ink

The biggest advertised difference is the use of Uni-ball’s Super Ink technology in the 307. The promotion of the ink seems more geared towards its proclaimed permanency than the smoothness and writing experience. Uni-ball appears proud of the Uni Super Ink technology, which assuming their claims are true, it’s pretty impressive. From the Uni-ball website:

  • “…. The color particles of uni Super Ink stay suspended, the ink is not soluble in water or solvents. The uni Super Ink won’t wash off when immersed in water, acetone, glycerin, bleach or other chemicals used by criminals. Once on the page, uni Super Ink can never be removed….”

The 207 and the 307 both write well. Smooth with no skipping or ink blobbing but nothing really special to report. I will admit I was intrigued by the claim that nothing will get the ink off the paper. I fancy myself a bit with having a wide range of cleaning chemicals stocked in my garage for a variety of household projects that come up. No muratic acid but the toughest I get to is automotive brake cleaner which if you’ve ever let that stuff sit on your hands. Well it’s pretty strong and can be a good substitute for pepper spray, but that’s for another post.

I started with a sheet of good paper HP Premium Choice Laser 32lb. I figured the paper should at least be able to hold up to the chemicals. The magic formulas I tried with the 207 and the 307:

  • Water
  • Goo Gone
  • Greased Lightning
  • Simple Green
  • Purple Power
  • Mechanics Hand Cleaner
  • WD-40
  • Household bleach
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Denatured Alcohol
  • Gumont Carb & Choke Cleaner
  • Gasoline Unleaded 87 octane
  • CRC Brake Parts Cleaner

Maybe the 207 was converted to the Super Ink formula already?

IMG_2860 2Permanent or Removable?…Uni-ball’s Super Ink claims are not far off. I would say it’s pretty permanent. Now whether that’s any value to you or not I can’t tell but it was fun stinking up the garage all in the name of research for you dear readers

IMG_2861Conclusion

I like the 307. I didn’t use the 207 extensively to fairly compare the two but others have said the 307 is a slightly better writer. It’s smooth on a variety of media, I did not experience any skipping or ink blobbing and the ergonomics are as good as in disposable I have used.

Are you a big fan of the 207 and have you tried the 307 yet?

Remember: Write something nice……

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