Under My Radar: ACME Stiletto Rollerball

The scene is a familiar one. I receive a gift certificate and a bit of birthday money and the next thing you know I’m steaming up the case of pens at our Scandinavian Design gift shop. I don’t quite have my nose pressed up against the glass, but almost.

This time, though, before I could get into another epic mental wrestling match with myself over which pen to choose, the sly owner (who is clearly onto me), blindsided me with a pen that I’ve NEVER NOTICED before. How is this possible? I have supersonic pen-seeking radar and have purchased a jillion pens from this place and yet I missed these?! Clearly, I’m slipping.

Hmmmm.

In my defense, they WERE tucked to the back of the case, behind a more prominent display of ACME Crayons. They’re very slim. And in a clear tube. And may have been hiding.

Meet the ACME Stiletto Rollerball, Frag model (Designer: Giovannella Formica).

ACME Stiletto Frag

To be honest, my immediate reaction was “nah.” Too skinny. I do like (or have gotten used to) beefier pens and this one is just 0.3″ in diameter. A mere wisp of a pen.

But then I held it, and my opinion starting easing. Hmmm…nice heft for its size. The striped lacquer feels substantial, and the stripes have just a hint of texture. This is a slender, but not a fragile (fra-gee-lay!), pen. Interest is spiking.

Posting end
Posting end

When I went to do a test-doodle (required) I realized that the cap simply pulled off AND WAS MAGNETIC, and that it could be MAGNETICALLY POSTED.

Posted pen
Posted pen

Well take my money.

I’m fairly certain the body is lacquered brass, as this seems to be the metal of choice for ACME pens. The trim is chrome. The capped pen measures 5.8″ and the posted size is 5.9″. And as I said, this is a very narrow pen, so clearly not for everyone. It’s also clipless and very rolly, so if that annoys you, move along.

Magnetic cap
Magnetic cap

As I doodled, the sleek, skinny feel started to grow on me, but it was that magnetic cap that reeled me in. It *SNAPS* into place with strong magnetic conviction and stays put. I could play with that thing all day. Very convenient, too, as there’s no excuse to NOT post the cap. It’s so easy and so addictive (in a magnetic pen cap sort of way).

Disassembled

The liquid ink refill is #5888, which is longer than the standard ACME refill, but writes the same. Black. Smooth. Consistent. The rollerball tip puts down a medium 0.7-ish line on my Rhodia dotPad. As I’ve clarified in previous reviews, liquid ink is subject to a bit of spread, more so than gel ink, but I don’t find this to be much of an issue as long as I’m writing on fairly decent paper.

P8126 vs. longer 5888 refill
Refill comparison: P8126 (standard) vs. 5888 (long)

There were a few other designs available— one with pop art flowers, one with stripes that ran the length of the pen, and one with pink, blue, and yellow hexagonal dots— but I liked the red, blue, green, and white stripes on the Frag model. It looks a bit nautical to me.

P1030498

Packaged simply, in a clear tube that’s plugged on both ends, this is a minimalist pen in the best sense of the word. It’s sleek, simple, playful…

Stiletto packaging

…and magnetic.

ACME cap

Happy Birthday to me.

Compare and Contrast: Kaweco Classic Sport Liquid Ink Rollerball

In last week’s post, I wrote about the ACME Eames Chairs Rollerball. This week’s pen is ALSO a rollerball, so I thought it might be an interesting exercise to compare the two. While there are a number of similarities, there are also some key differences, so let’s take a look.

While I purchased last week’s pen at a local shop, this “gently used” Kaweco Classic Sport Rollerball was sent to me by JetPens. It happened to arrive close to my birthday— a happy coincidence. It’s not a birthday without a new (or “new to me”) pen!

PACKAGING
Kaweco tin

Each pen comes packaged in a cool tin, which is probably my favorite type of pen box because I know it’ll last virtually forever. Both tins have hinged lids, but the relief graphics and lettering on the Kaweco tin really make it pop. For a relatively inexpensive pen, this is an impressive package that has an appealing, somewhat vintage, look.

MATERIAL
Kaweco Classic Sport Rollerball

The ACME Rollerball is a brass and lacquer pen, while the Kaweco is plain black ABS plastic, with just a bit of accent branding. The plastic is sturdy and durable, great for pockets and purses and backpacks. While I’m very careful with my ACME, the Kaweco is the perfect on-the-go pen. Does the plastic get scuffed up a little bit? Sure, but this is a pen that’s meant to be carried, so if it suffers a ding or scrape, that just means that it’s out doing what it was made to do. I love the ACME, but it’s more likely to live a pampered life than this rough and tumble Kaweco.

CAP and POSTING
Uncapped Kaweco Classic Sport

My ACME Rollerball sports a snap cap, while the Kaweco features a threaded cap. Both caps post deeply and securely by pushing them onto their respective pen bodies. The ACME sports a good-looking clip. The Kaweco is clipless, though an optional slide-on clip can be purchased separately. Since I tend to tuck this “everyday carry” pen in a pocket, I’m fine without a clip. The Kaweco’s faceted body keeps it from rolling away on a desk, so a clip isn’t needed for that purpose. But, as I said, if you’re happier with a clip, there’s one available.

Posted pen

As for posting, it really is a must for the Kaweco as the unposted pen is very compact at a mere four inches. This is, for me, usable in a pinch, but posting the cap makes for a much better writing experience. For those with larger hands, posting is a necessity. The ACME feels a bit top heavy when posted, so I usually use THAT pen unposted.

REFILL
Disassembled Kaweco Classic Sport

The refill in this Kaweco has no branding or markings but it’s the exact size and shape as the ACME 888 Safety Ceramic Rollerball refill in my ACME rollerball, which, incidentally, is also the same as the Retro 51 branded refill (or the Schmidt P8126, for that matter), which means you’ll get the same writing experience in all of these pens. These refills contain liquid ink, not gel, so there’s the potential for a tiny bit of bleed or feathering depending on what paper you’re using. I have to say that I tend to prefer gel ink over liquid ink, but as I rule, I enjoy either one more than ballpoint. Gel is just a bit crisper and predictable, but my qualms with liquid ink are very, very minor.

The one thing that I’m not crazy about with the Kaweco rollerball is that the refill rattles a bit inside the pen. I don’t mean that writing tip wiggles— that’s actually very solid— but that you can hear the actual refill rattling a bit when you move the body of the pen. Hearing this always makes me think that the cap is coming unposted from the back of the pen, but it’s not. Though not a huge deal by any means, it’s something that makes the Kaweco feel less solid.

PRICE
This Kaweco Classic Sport is available for $21.00 at JetPens, while I paid $69.50 locally for the ACME rollerball. Obviously, we’re talking plastic versus brass. Since you get the exact writing experience with either pen, it comes down to a matter of personal taste and intended use.

Kaweco emblem
I’m a sucker for that Kaweco logo!

If you’re looking for a cool, compact solid writer, the Kaweco Classic Sport is a great option. It’s super handy and ready to take on anything the day may throw at you. The ACME is a looker, but not something I want to treat lightly. Some days— actually MANY days— I have so much vying for my attention that the last thing I need is pen angst. So, for me, the ACME is better off at home and in controlled environments, whereas the Kaweco is ready to hit the ground running.

The ACME’s like visiting a museum. You have a good time, and see cool stuff, but there are rules. On the other hand, the Kaweco is like a day at the beach where you boat or swim or play ball. No rules, just fun.

The choice is yours.

Kaweco emblem

I choose…….BOTH.

Sitting Pretty: ACME “Eames Chairs” Rollerball

For Christmas, I received a gift certificate to our local Scandinavian Design store. Despite that fact that the store is packed with a ton of cool stuff, there was no doubt that I was going to put it towards one of the capped ACME rollerball pens— but which one? Even before I stopped at the store, I was mulling over a few options— Nancy Wolff’s “Dogs” and “Cats,” Lurinda Spear’s “Quote,” and Ayse Birsel’s “Write.” Since I had a kitty that was quite ill at the time, I was sort of leaning towards the cat pen. Oh, the mental energy and steam I put into pen decisions! If it could be harnessed, I’m sure I could power a small office building.

Once in the store, though, the choice became even harder. Karim Rashid’s “Orange” spoke to me, and I kind of fell in love with the old-school typewriter key graphic on Michael Doret’s “Qwerty.”

But then I saw the “Eames Chairs.” Hmmmmm. More pondering.

Eames Chairs Rollerball

I have no doubt that the saleswoman— who was outwardly very patient and helpful— was probably ready to scream into a pillow while I fondled pens and mulled over this epic decision. (It’s not a lie to say that I’ve picked out a new car faster than I chose this pen.)

In the end, I couldn’t resist the “Eames Chairs” design. After all, I love to sit. Simple as that.

ACME Eames Chairs Rollerball

The ACME website has this to say about the husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames: CHARLES and RAY EAMES are ranked among the finest American designers of the twentieth century. They are best known for their ground-breaking contributions to architecture, furniture design (the Eames Chair), industrial design and manufacturing, and the photographic arts. The legacy of this husband and wife team includes more than 100 films that reflect the breadth and depth of their interests and the integrity of their vision. Theirs was a design collaboration in the deepest sense, and all their work, whether graphics, film or furniture was a product of their collective design process and philosophy. These products are approved and certified by the Eames Office, which is dedicated to communicating, preserving, and extending the work of Charles and Ray Eames.

Once I researched the couple a bit more, I was even more pleased with my choice. They sound like they were really cool people. And, again, CHAIRS.

A couple of special touches made me fall completely for this pen. The center band is etched with the simulated signatures of both Ray and Charles— a sweet little detail.

Ray Eames
Ray Eames

Charles Eames
Charles Eames

The pen’s snap-cap sports a “wheel and spoke” design that adds just a little pop.

Uncapped Eames Chair Rollerball

This rollerball is made from brass that’s silkscreened with the “Chairs” design, then coated in lacquer and clear coat. I do tend to baby it a bit as I’m afraid of scratching the design and that would make me crazy. The pen measures 5-1/3″ when capped, 4-7/8″ unposted, and 6-1/8″ posted. It’s a substantial pen so I tend to use it unposted, though the cap posts solidly and does not shift the balance too drastically.

Chairs

From the “autographed” center band, to the fun little design on the cap, to the “just right” taupey background color, and, of course, THOSE CHAIRS, this was clearly the pen I was meant to take home.

Loaded up with the ACME 888 Safety Ceramic Rollerball refill, you can expect a wet dark solid line that’s very much like writing with the Retro 1951 rollerball. The pen comes packed in a hinged tin, fitted with a dense foam insert, that’s perfect for storage and display. My pen lives in the tin when I’m not using it. (Refer to “scratching phobia” noted above.)

ACME tin

Pen in tin w/ pamphlet
Pen in its tin case, with the included ACME pamphlet

“Take your pleasure seriously,” Charles Eames is quoted as saying. Oh, I do. I surely do.

Just ask that saleswoman.

Eames Chairs

Teal and Purple Friday: ACME Crayon Rollerball in New Colors

The new ACME colors

My local source for the ACME rollerballs emailed me just before Thanksgiving to let me know that the two newest colors— teal and purple— had finally arrived. She’d given me a “heads up” a number of weeks prior to this, but every time I stopped in the store, the story was the same— nothing yet. But now, just in time for Black Friday, the pens were in stock.

Teal & Purple ACME rollerballs

When I bought my first ACME Crayon— a red one— I had no intention of acquiring the entire collection. But little by little, I picked up each color until I owned a full set, including the retired colors. There’s something irresistible about these hefty brass pens. The design is pure nostalgia, with colors straight from that big box of kindergarten crayons. The slightly matte body is textured to feel like the paper wrapper on your favorite crayons. These are pens that conjure up memories and tug at your heartstrings. (Can’t you just hear the hiss of the radiator in your elementary school classroom? Or am I the only old one here?)

Well-polished

A collection slowly sprouted up, as collections tend to do, and I knew I’d have to pick up the two newest colors to round out the set. So— on Black Friday— after lounging around the house most of the day and lunching on plates of Thanksgiving leftovers, we ventured out to our small Scandinavian Design gift store and picked up this pair. Other than groceries, that’s all the shopping we did that day.

Exploded view

The ACME rollerballs take the Schmidt P8126 refill and it’s good one— dark, smooth, and consistent. The ink does have a tendency to feather just a bit on some papers. I wrote the rough draft of this review in a Clairefontaine spiral notebook and you can see (if you click on the above photo) that the letters aren’t perfectly crisp, even on this excellent paper, due to the liquid nature of the ink. But I like the pens enough that I’m willing to overlook what some may call a flaw.

BUT, if any amount of feathering makes you crazy, there IS another option. Just as the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 ballpoint refill works in the Retro 1951 Tornado rollerballs, turns out it ALSO works in these ACME pens. Mike Dudek, of The Clicky Post, turned me onto these refills and they really are excellent— one of the best ballpoint refills out there, in my opinion. It’s always great to have options.

Teak and purple rollerballs

So my Black Friday— well, my Teal and Purple Friday— was a quiet one. No doorbusters. No waiting in line for hours. No midnight madness. Just time spent relaxing with my husband, lounging in a cozy chair, eating tasty Thanksgiving leftovers, and, of course, playing with these new pens.

ACME Rollerballs

My motto: A day without pens is like Thanksgiving without the turkey.*

*One year my grandmother made roast beef. It was weird.

When Things Go Wrong: The Good, the Meh, the Bad, and the Truly Ridiculous

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things go wrong with PENS. And when things go wrong, some companies leap over tall buildings in a single bound, some gingerly scale small fences, while a few can’t be bothered to get off the couch. Some examples? Don’t mind if I do.

THE GOOD

TWSBI

A wee TWSBI

TWSBI STORY #1: I’m in love with my TWSBI Mini (as you can read here), but soon after I posted my review, blobs of ink would periodically fall onto my paper from the nib. I flushed the pen, re-inked it, to see if that made a difference, but it didn’t. So I emailed TWSBI and received a very quick response from Philip Wang. He was as baffled as I was, but offered to take a look at the pen to see if he could diagnose the problem. Just as I was getting ready to box up the pen for mailing, I noticed an o-ring in my pen case, right near the elastic loop where I keep the Mini. Ah ha! By looking at the schematic drawing that came with the pen, I was able to determine that an o-ring was missing from the piston end of the pen. It obviously came off when I dragged the pen through the case’s elastic loop. Once replaced, no more maddening drips. So the pen wasn’t at fault, but HAD IT BEEN, Philip was prepared to make it right. We exchanged a few emails over the course of a few days trying to sort this out, and the replies were always prompt, courteous, and sincere. I came away from the exchanges an even stronger TWSBI fan. THAT collection is bound to grow.

TWSBI STORY #2: This weekend, my husband and I were looking over past American Express statements for some reason, and when we got to the October 2012 statement, I noticed what appeared to be a duplicate charge for a TWSBI purchase. One charge was via PayPal, while the other appeared to be from TWSBI itself, both for the same amount, on the same day. Being a saver of receipts, I put together an email with documentation, and sent it off (Sunday evening), feeling like a bit of a stooge because I’d just noticed an October 2012 problem in February 2013. (Kick self.) A little before lunch on Monday, I received a PHONE CALL from Philip. He’d investigated and found that there WAS, for some reason, a duplicate charge, which he promised to immediately refund via PayPal. He’d even investigated my previous purchases and found nothing amiss. Who knows why this happened- we’re both baffled- but the whole thing was cleared up quickly and professionally, and WITH A PHONE CALL. FROM A PERSON. Yeah, I’m happy. TWSBI, you made my day.

Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell e-motion Parquet

After I posted the review of my Faber-Castell e-motion, a commenter asked about interchanging nibs between the e-motion and BASIC pens. Hmmmm…I couldn’t answer that, so I contacted Faber-Castell, and received a lightning fast response. (No, they can’t be interchanged.) So many times, an email to a company seems to fall into a black hole, but Faber-Castell reads and responds. QUICKLY reads and responds.

A few weeks later, after I reviewed the Faber-Castell BASIC fountain pen, a commenter complained about an issue he’d been having with a Faber-Castell rollerball:

The issue: I own both the carbon roller, and clicky ball-pen. I wanted to get the fountain, however the roller uses the same rubber-grip screw-into-carbon construction, and over time, the plastic at the base of the threads have cracked and the thread section is holding on, barely.

The response: I’m very sorry to hear that you are experiencing a problem with the pen and I would like to correct the situation for you. Please contact me at consumer@fabercastell.com so that I may assist you in replacing the broken part.
Sincerely,
Renee Lamb
Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell…making it right.

Daly’s Pen Shop

Matte body w/ black nib

When I received this Lamy Safari Charcoal (EF nib) from Daly’s Pen Shop, the blasted thing would not write. I cleaned it and coaxed it with different inks, but couldn’t get anything more than a dry, dry line. I emailed a few photos of the issue to Daly’s, and received a quick offer to replace the pen. Daly’s tested the 2nd pen before mailing it out (smart move). Happy ending. Happy customer.

JetPens

Kaweco AL-Sport

I ordered an EF nib for my Kaweco AL-Sport from JetPens. Once installed, I was disappointed to find that the nib performed horribly; not at all like the buttery smooth EF nib on my Kaweco Liliput. Once again, I emailed a couple of photos showing the inconsistent and dry lines, and by the next day, a new nib unit was on its way to me. Problem solved without breaking a sweat.

Kaweco EF nib

The Goulet Pen Company

I’ve been eyeing a TWSBI Micarta for a LONG time, but have been a little put off by some of the reviews that call it a “dry writer.” Since I’m not, as yet, able to adjust my own pens, I’ve been hesitant to order one. I noted this dilemma in an email to The Goulet Pen Company, and received a quick and helpful response. The folks at Goulet Pen will happily ink up and test a pen prior to shipping to make sure that it flows properly. All it takes is a mention in the comments section of the order form. Good to know.

THE MEH

Levenger

Pilot Prera
I’m a big fan of Levenger products and am knee deep in Circa notebooks, Circa punches, True Writer fountain pens, and even a piece or two of furniture. Their products are strong, but their customer service could stand to kick it up a notch or two. In mid-December, I used a promotional gift card to place an order for a Pilot Prera with free ink, then applied a promotional discount to the bundle (after first checking with Customer Service to verify that the discount could be applied). “Yup, no problem.” Shortly after that, I received a back-order notice. Fine, I’m in no hurry. Sometime in January I started wondering where my pen and ink were, so I checked the order status online and found that the order had been cancelled. Cancelled without notification. Yikes. AND my gift card still showed that it had been debited for the order! Double yikes. I called and spoke to someone who said that they would pass along the issue to “Customer Service” (who was I speaking to?!), and that they’d get back to me. Never happened. So I called again, and reached someone who did all the right things. She started from scratch by re-loading the gift card, then placed the order a second time. Some time after that the Pilot Prera arrived (with free shipping, for my troubles), and it’s a dream. (But that’s another story.) The ink, though, has yet to arrive. After emailing yet again, I was told that the original receipt date has been pushed further into February. And so I’m waiting nearly two months for a bottle of Levenger Cobalt Blue.

I have every confidence that I’ll receive the ink, just as I received the pen, but the problem is that I’ve been doing the bulk of the work in this transaction. I’ve been emailing. I’ve been calling. I’ve been waiting. I have no problem waiting as long as I receive timely communications whenever there’s a change. Maybe it’s a fluke, but this transaction ran off the rails a few times. If I wasn’t such a fan of their products, would I stick around after this falderal? Probably not.

THE BAD

ACME Studio, Inc.

So this happened…

ACME Crayon

Yup…I dropped my precious white ACME Crayon rollerball on a counter at work, and it hit in such a way that the top of the brass crayon “cone” sheared off. Totally my fault. I emailed ACME Studios, explained what happened and sent the picture, hoping that the damaged piece could be replaced (on my dime, obviously). When I didn’t hear a peep, I tweeted the same photo and story to @AcmeStudioInc.

*Crickets*

Nothing irks me more than no response. I’ll take a “sorry, tough luck” response over no response.

And so I remain irked.

THE TRULY RIDICULOUS

[md]-pen on Kickstarter

I’ve backed a number of pen projects on Kickstarter, and have received a number of very cool pens…one WAY ahead of schedule (thank you, David!), but most a few months after the expected ship date. Communication has, at times, been spotty, but in the end, I always wind up with my pen. Until now. No matter how slowly a project has progressed, NOTHING compares to the wild ride the 321 backers of the [md]-pen have taken (myself included). It all started out very normal oh so many months ago, but deteriorated to the point that I’m 99.9% sure that there is no pen. And yet the charade continues. Over the course of the project’s history, there have been tales of manufacturing woes and misunderstandings, an admission that the creator’s profile photo (since taken down) DOES NOT BELONG TO THE CREATOR, tales of computer hacking, stolen images, and stolen ideas, countless lies, no follow-through on promises, and giant gaps between updates.

I can’t even begin to explain the whole saga, but you can read about it here.

Kickstarter projects are not guaranteed. I understand that. If a project fails because of an unforeseen complication, so be it. But to feel defrauded is an ugly feeling. A pretty awful feeling.

Things can and do go wrong, and when they do, companies would be wise to treat these hiccups as opportunities to show their customer service strengths. Happily, a number of my favorite pen companies and vendors do just that. Some certainly have room for improvement, while others simply disappoint.

All of this made me think, as I go throughout my day, how am I treating my “customers” (for no matter what we do, almost all of us are dealing with people who we could call our customers)? Where am I on the scale of TWSBI to ACME? (Let’s ignore that Kickstarter debacle as a true outlier.) Where do I shine, where can I improve, and where do I disappoint? Hmmmmm.

May we all be a little more TWSBI.

———-

Updated to add: Just after posting this, I received an email from Levenger with the tracking number for my ink. IT HAS SHIPPED.

Let’s Play: The ACME Studio Crayon Rollerball

I love where this pen takes me– right back to the Saturday mornings of my childhood (we’re talking late 60′s). There I am, watching Bugs Bunny and Road Runner in black and white (though I swear that my brain saw colors), eating Lucky Charms out of the box, and playing Trouble with my younger sister. Our parents were still sleeping so we worked hard to muffle the sound of the Pop-O-Matic (which seemed SO high tech back then). And sometimes we colored. Was there anything better than a brand new box of crayons? Especially the BIG box of 64 colors with the built-in sharpener. Now THAT was the holy grail of crayondom. I feel myself relaxing just writing about those times.

So it’s no surprise that I love this ACME Crayon Rollerball.

The spot-on crayon look brings back that flood of memories, but it’s also pure fun to write with and is SOLIDLY made. This thing, made of lacquered brass, has well-balanced heft. To deploy the rollerball tip, simply twist the back of the crayon.

The refill is also an ACME (#P8126 Capless System) and the ink flows quickly and easily. There may be just the tiniest bit of feathering on this Levenger Circa paper, but you really have to look for it.

So here we are, no longer in the 60′s, no longer lounging in front of the TV watching the (Acme!) anvil fall on the coyote’s head. Our days are packed full of the all of the stuff we HAVE TO DO. The ACME Studio Crayon Rollerball is a perfect way to counteract that; a way to play while we work. It’s simple, smooth, and a blast from your childhood.

Go ahead. Have fun. Really. You should.

Hmmmm…suddenly I’m craving Lucky Charms.