Traveling With Pens: A Case Study (or a study of a basket case?!)

I’m attending a conference in Indianapolis, IN this week. But before I traveled here, I spent a god awful amount of time mulling over which pens to bring with me. Clothes? Easy. Pens? Not so much.

Right up until the last minute I was swapping pens in and out of my Nock Co. Brasstown case. The case, at least, was pretty much a given. Even though I schlep three or four Nock Co. Pen cases to and from work every day, I knew I only wanted to travel with one, and the Brasstown quickly made the cut. With its roll-up, multiple pen holding “tongue” and space to carry some ink cartridges and a small ruler, the case was an easy pick.

When it was time to leave for the airport, I had to STOP with the pen swaps and go with what was in the case. Here’s the final line-up:

Fountain pens
Lamy AL Star Blue-Green (fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Lamy Vista (extra-fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Pilot Knight (medium nib) with Namiki Blue/Black cartridges

Rollerball pen
Retro 51 Betsy Tornado Rollerball

Gel pen
Nock Co./Karas Kustoms exclusive Render K with 0.5 mm black G2 refill

Ballpoint pens
Fisher Space pen (matte black bullet model)
TactileTurn Shaker with Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 black refill

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I’m a couple of days into the conference now and have a few thoughts about my choices. The Lamy Vista is great. The EF nib is perfect in my Clairefontaine notebook and I especially like being able to monitor the ink level. The fine nib on the Lamy AL Star is a little broad, while the medium nib on the Pilot Knight is wonderfully smooth and lays down a precise fine line as it’s a Japanese medium.

The Fisher Space pen has been particularly handy for filling out entry forms at today’s trade show. It’s easy to carry and completely reliable. Maybe not my favorite refill of all time, but great when you just need a pen to do its job whenever and wherever.

I haven’t used Betsy or the Shaker as yet, though both are favorites when I’m home. I think I’ll work them into tomorrow’s sessions. Could it be I have pen A.D.D.? Is that a thing?

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A couple of other Nock Co. products have really performed well on this trip- the Fodderstack loaded with the DotDash 3×5 cards paired with Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive G2 Render K. The pen looks and writes great. I love the playful trio of colors, and loaded with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, it’s been perfect for taking meeting notes AND for keeping track of action items that are popping up at work and at home. By jotting down tasks on the DotDash cards, I’m able to concentrate on what I should be concentrating on- the conference.

Someone on Twitter suggested that I should travel with only one pen as a challenge, and I considered that for a little bit. Obviously, I didn’t go that route since I have a stupid number of pens with me. But really, I’m having fun swapping pens from day to day…or even within the same day.

And, I must admit, pens are something of a security blanket for me. I feel better when they’re with me.

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There…I admitted it.

Written and photographed on my iPad and iPhone with poor hotel lighting. But written nonetheless!

A Fair Shake: The Field Notes Bic Clic

A little shorter review this week because there’s a new member of the household who demands our full attention! Meet FLAPJACK! He’s our 9-week old Silky Terrier whose middle name should be Houdini. He scaled his playpen on day two, and is keeping us on our toes. We love him to bits.

Flapjack (9 weeks)

NOW, for the review…

Field Notes branded Bic Clic

My latest package from Field Notes included one of the Field Notes branded Bic Clic pens. As I was about to reflexively toss it into a mug of pens, it dawned on me that I’ve never spent much time writing with one. I give them away, I have them lying around, I stuff them into pen cups, but I don’t write with them. It was about time to give this retractable blast from the past a fair shake.

Bic Clic (Made in Mexico)

I spent a day using this pen only— an unheard of feat! (Sometimes I change pens in the middle of a sentence. No lie.)

It turns out, there are a lot of things I like about this pen. It feels comfortable in hand— nice taper, easy to grip. I’m smitten by the retro look and simple Field Notes branding. The clip, with its embossed Bic branding, is perfectly adequate. The knock functions reliably and with a solid sounding “click” (thus the name). The refill FEELS smooth and is not draggy. It’s easy to carry and inexpensive, which means it’s a good candidate for a “take it everywhere” pen. Lose one? Not a big deal.

Bic Clic knock

There is, though, one flaw. And for me, it’s the fatal flaw.

Bic Clic refill

The refill is merely adequate— just as it’s always been. There’s a lot of white space in the line, and the “black” ink is a blah gray. The line is not rich or solid— two things that I demand from my ballpoints. Since discovering the uni-ball Jetstream and the like, that’s pretty much the standard by which I gauge all other ballpoints. The Bic Clic, despite the attributes of its simple and iconic pen body, just doesn’t deliver a memorable writing experience.

Ink comparison
Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 refill vs. Bic Clic’s refill

Oh, how I’d love an ink upgrade in these pens!

Errand pen
A good errand pen

I posted a comment on the Field Nuts Facebook page asking if folks regularly use these pens and the answers were plentiful and varied. Some people love them, others don’t. Some use them for work all day long, while others leave them in their car or purse as an “emergency” pen.

Because I do love the Field Notes branding and the pen’s easy-to-throw-in-pocket form factor, I’m going to make a point of using these pens a little more, if only when I’m running errands and might have to jot something down. And maybe I’ll set a few free in the world— in a bookstore or coffee shop. I think that’s what these pens are best at— spreading a little Field Notes love.

Do YOU love and use the Field Notes Bic Clic, or, like me, do they cause you to reach for something better? Do you know of a refill hack that elevates this pen’s writing performance?

Be sure to let me know.

Fun Find #2: Monteverde Invincia Deluxe Nighthawk Ballpoint

Monteverde Nighthawks
A pair of Monteverde Invincia Deluxe Nighthawks: Ballpoint [top] and Fountain Pen [bottom]

I picked up the Monteverde Invincia Deluxe Nighthawk fountain pen (a collaboration between Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens and Monteverde) as soon as it was released, just about a year ago. In my review of that pen, I noted how it pushed a number of my “this will make me buy a pen” buttons, like:

  • Stealthy looks
  • Matte finish
  • Carbon fiber

Unfortunately, the Nighthawk line has been discontinued by Monteverde because of some production difficulties (i.e., In some pens, tiny bubbles trapped in the carbon fiber were visible under the matte coating). My fountain pen appears to be free of this problem, and I’m particularly happy to own one since production has ceased. (There are some available from Goulet Pens and Anderson Pens, but these are the end of the line.)

Monteverde Nighthawks

So what does this have to do with a BALLPOINT Nighthawk? Well, I was poking around on the Anderson Pens site one evening and noticed that not only do they have some of the remaining fountain pens, but they also offer a Nighthawk ballpoint. Because I already own the fountain pen, it just made sense to pick up one of the ballpoints, because that pen, too, is wonderfully stealthy, and I assume, in limited supply.

Disassembled Nighthawk

The Nighthawk ballpoint takes my favorite Parker-style refill— the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000— which lays down a lusciously rich jet black line that’s smooth and thick. The blue refill is just as nice as the black one, assuming that you’re okay with lines that are on the broad side.

Nighthawk innards
All-metal innards

The ballpoint weighs 44 grams, so it’s no lightweight. I use it throughout my work day jotting my to-do lists in a Field Notes notebook so I don’t experience hand fatigue from writing with such a heavy pen. Longer writing sessions could, I suppose, get a little tiring, given the heft of the Nighthawk. The pens “innards” are sturdy metal (brass?) which explains why the pen feels so solid and substantial.

Monteverde Nighthawk ballpoint

The refill is deployed by twisting the upper or lower half of the pen’s carbon fiber body. This mechanism works silently and smoothly.

A subtle difference
VERY subtle Monteverde logo on the ballpoint end cap vs.  the plain fountain pen cap

In looks, the ballpoint is a “fraternal twin” to my fountain pen version, which means that there are a few differences aside from the fact that one’s a fountain pen and the other is a ballpoint. There were two slightly different versions of the Nighthawk fountain pen. I have the original version with a bigger carbon fiber weave and very minimal branding. The ballpoint more closely resembles version 2.0 of the fountain pen with a tighter carbon fiber weave, and just a touch more branding. My ballpoint features a very subtle rendering of the Monteverde logo on the clip end of the pen. This small detail was not included on the original version of the fountain pen to keep the pen super-stealthy.

Fraternal twins

A little bit of research revealed that there is an actual bird called the Nighthawk. It’s not black, but is well-camouflaged and stealthy. It’s considered a common bird but is declining in numbers.

The Nighthawk— the bird AND the pens— once they’re gone, they’re gone.

That seems like a real shame.

Soft Landing: Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip Ballpoint

Thank you to JetPens for supplying this Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel Ballpoint pen for review. I was not compensated monetarily or in any other way. I am allowed to keep the pen. This review reflects my personal observations and experiences with the pen.

(Click on any image for a larger view.)

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Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel

I probably told this story before— how years ago I picked up a pack of Jetstream Sport ballpoints from one of those office supply stores, ripped open the package in my car, scribbled on some scrap paper, and heard the angels sing. THIS was the ballpoint experience I’d been looking for my whole life.

This is not hyperbole.

In junior high, I’d squirrel away lunch money to buy pens from the school’s bookstore, always to be disappointed by the tepid performance of my purchase. I scouted the aisles at Woolworth’s for new and promising offerings. For awhile Papermate pens satisfied my desire for something that wrote better than the light streaky ink in the ubiquitous BIC line of pens. The quest continued throughout college and beyond, with only fair to middling results.

Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel

And then, decades later, I found the Uni Jetstream. Hallelujah.

Uni Jetstream ballpoint

The oil-based ink in the Jetstream line hits the ballpoint pen trifecta of darkness, smoothness, and solidness. In short, pure ballpoint joy. There’s no drag, and very little white space in your writing (really, none to the naked eye). The 0.7 mm tip glides across paper and lays down a wonderfully dark, tight line. There’s nothing remotely wimpy or washed about this ink. Other very good oil-based inks have since hit the market, but my heart belongs to the Jetstream. Because—you know— angels singing. You don’t easily forget that moment.

Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip

So we’ve established that the ink in this Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip ballpoint is superb, but here’s what make this particular model so special. Two words- GEL GRIP.

Holding this pen is like coming home and putting on your comfortable clothes— broken in jeans, your favorite sandals, a soft t-shirt. Clothes that make you say, “Ahhhhhh.” Clothes that soften the hard edges of your day. The addictively squishy grip on this Jetstream provides perfect comfort, as well as traction, for your fingers. It’ll make you wonder why all pens can’t be this comfortable.

Brushed metal body

The body is made of brushed metal—black in this case—which gives the pen a polished and classy look. The knock is solid with absolutely no wiggle, and there’s not a hint of rattle from the 0.7 mm refill. It’s a very solid, well-made pen. The clip—perfectly springy and tight—complements the matte look of the pen. There’s not one misstep here.

Disassembled

Jetstream branding and clip

One thing to note— the gel grip attracts dust and tiny fibers so the pristine look of that beloved grip doesn’t last long. BUT, there is a simple solution. I periodically clean the grip on my pen with a strip or two of scotch tape. Fast and simple. Works like a charm.

Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel

The world can be a hard place. Your pen doesn’t have to be. The Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip ballpoint pen gives your fingers a soft landing while you experience the luxuriously smooth and dark Jetstream ink.

Yes— you, too, can hear the angels sing.

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The Uni Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip ballpoint is available at JetPens for $16.50. Along with the black body/black grip version reviewed here, the pen is also available with a pink or silver body. Both of those versions feature white grips. Refills are available in black, blue, and red for $1.55. JetPens offers free shipping for all orders over $25.

Everyday Carry Giveaway: Revisiting Ian Schon’s “The Pen Project”

I’ve been thinking of revisiting some of the pens I reviewed in the past to see how my original opinions and experiences have held up. Ian Schon handed me the perfect opportunity to do just that by sending along one of his aluminum “The Pen Project” pens.

Since I already own one of Ian’s pens (I backed his Kickstarter project) and it’s still going strong, THIS pen will end up in the hands of one of my readers. Yes, this is a follow-up review AND a giveaway. (Thank you, Ian.)

My EDC tools
My EDC tools. (Mmmmm…lobstah!)

When Brad Dowdy (Sir Pen Addict) recently asked for EDC pen recommendations, I tweeted “The Pen Project” without a moment’s hesitation. I reviewed this pen back in October 2012, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s been in my front pocket almost every day since I received it. And on the odd day when I forget to carry it, I feel a little bit undressed— like when I forget my watch or earrings. Shudder.

Fisher pressurized refill

I wrote the rough draft of this review in my sloppy, “just get it down” handwriting on plain old office supply cabinet paper because this is a pen primarily designed to be used on the fly— when you need to sign for a delivery, make a quick note in your pocket notebook, or jot down some directions. This pen shines in its ability to remain unobtrusive until you need it, then work without fail, thanks to the Fisher pressurized refill. I’m probably not going to sit down, pull out my best paper, and write a letter with this pen (the refill is quite good but not my hands down favorite), but for my “throughout the day” needs, it’s simply perfect.

Brass set screw

As noted in my original review, Ian’s pen is compact, but extends to a comfortable size for writing when the threaded cap is posted. It’s meant to be used, not babied. Mine is starting to pick up some fine surface scratches and dings— a bit of character— from living in my pocket with coins and keys and a tiny Leatherman tool. That said, the pen has held up extremely well considering the length of time I’ve been carrying it. (If only I looked so good.)

Posted pen

Ian now offers three versions of his pen, which he describes as follows:

  • Aluminum (DSGN #0001)– $58.00; Machined and finished in small batches with a high level of precision and care from American sourced materials. These weigh 1 ounce.
  • Black Anodized (DSGN #0001B)– $64.00; These aluminum pens are anodized by a local (MA) vendor and have a very  uniform look and smooth feel.
  • Titanium (DSGN #0001T)– $320.00; These are made from domestically sourced grade 5 titanium, which is precision machined and finished by hand. The set screws are made by one of the oldest screw manufacturers in Massachusetts and are hard gold plated. These weigh 1.8 ounce. LIMITED RUN of 200 pens. 

Take a peek into Ian’s website and workshop HERE. (I always enjoy Ian’s videos.)

My original review, which includes details for changing the refill, etc., can be found HERE.

Machined detail
Machined detail

The minimalist/timeless design, quality materials and workmanship, and perform-through-anything refill makes this my go-to EDC pen. That was true in 2012, and it’s still true now.

My pen and the giveaway pen
The well-protected giveaway pen and my well-used pen

Now for the fun part…the GIVEAWAY!! YOU can win one of Ian’s aluminum pens (DSGN #0001)!!

  • Open to US and International readers!
  • Leave ONE comment on this post—maybe tell me about YOUR favorite EDC tools.
  • The contest closes on Wednesday March 19th at 11:59 pm.
  • All names will be placed into a New England Patriots cap (these ARE Massachusetts born pens, after all), and my impartial husband will pick the winning name from the hat on Thursday March 20th.
  • The winner will be contacted by email and will have one week to respond with a mailing address. In the event that there is no response within a week, a second name will be drawn from the same hat.

May the EDC pen gods be with you!

Ian Schon graciously donated the pen for this giveaway. I was not compensated in any way, and this review reflects my own experiences with Ian’s pen. 

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EDITED TO ADD: WINNER ANNOUNCED!

A name has been pulled from the New England Patriots cap and it is……

jmreekes

“I would love to win this. My EDC pen is a Kaweco Al Sport rollerball & at work lately it’s been a Render K. Work EDC varies between a Render K & one of about 7 Retro 51 Tornadoes”

I’ve contacted the winner by email. Should I not receive an address within one week, an alternate winner will be selected.

Thanks to all who commented!

Little time, little pen: Monteverde’s Poquito

Monteverde Poquito pair
My pair of Poquitos

We’re cranking through chores (will the dusting never end?!!) and food prep for Thanksgiving, so time is at a premium, but I can’t let myself break my chain of weekly posts. It makes sense, then, to write about a little pen when I only have a little time.

Poquitos
One is a bit worn, the other’s still in tip-top shape and is in reserve.

I’ve owned the red/black version for quite awhile (thus the dings), and amazingly won a door prize at the DC Pen Show which turned out to be the metallic purple version. I’m especially glad to have two of these adorably teeny pens because it seems inevitable that I’ll eventually lose one. The Poquito is THAT tiny.

How tiny? Well, I could list the dimensions, but it’s easier to just show you. Here’s the Monteverde Poquito along with an Uniball 207 and my VW car key—

Size comparison
Itty bitty pen

For all of its smallness, the Poquito is a very handy pocket pen. Need to jot a quick note? You’re covered. The 0.7 mm D1 refill is quite nice— smooth and fairly solid. If you click on the photo below, you can see some white in the line, but it’s not very noticeable on the actual page. And let’s face it, you’re probably using this for notes and in quick bursts, not for extended writing. It’s pocketability is key.

Poquito D1 refill
The diminutive D1 refill

The stylus is a good one and has been coming in especially handy lately. Why? Well, because of the cold weather, I’m constantly slathering my hands with lotion, and lotion + iPhone/iPad screen is a messy combination. Using the stylus on the Poquito keeps my screens clean and smudge-free. I’ve also been cooking more lately (Thanksgiving!) and trying to answer texts and emails with messy hands is a pain. Again, the Poquito stylus to the rescue!

Poquito stylii

The stylus responds quite well with just a bit of pressure. In all honesty, it’s one of my favorites, and certainly the most portable. The writing tip deploys with a little twist of the pen body. It’s all very convenient.

Writing tips

As you can see from the above photo, the Poquito spends its days in my pocket (yes, that’s pocket lint), ready for action. It’s unobtrusive and a great EDC tool.

The Monteverde Poquito— a little pen that I like a lot.

P1030146

Local Fare: More Pens by Bob

Now that the holidays are approaching and we’re entering the hardcore craft show season, Fred and I are making the rounds of the area shows. A few weekends ago we stopped at a nearby firehouse in hopes that my favorite local pen people would be there— Bob and Virginia Lenhart of RJL Enterprises. You may recall that I happily stumbled upon Bob’s handmade pens back in April at the same firehouse. Those pens remain favorites—the magnetic caps are STILL fascinating to me—so I was hoping that they’d be there for the fall show. AND THEY WERE! (Were you in suspense?)

Magnetic pens
My April purchases

Why I didn’t take pictures of their table is beyond me. (Next time, I swear!) I guess I get so flustered by the pens! What’s cool is that Bob displays acrylic blanks next to some of his finished pens so that you really get to see how much the acrylic is transformed by the talents of the penmaker. While we were chatting, a woman stopped by the table and marveled at all of the choices and colors and styles. She ultimately walked away with a magnetic capped rollerball pen, much like the one I purchased last time. Good choice, wise lady!

Even though I love the magnetic pens, I wanted to pick something different this time, so a pen decision had to be made. Trying to pick out one of Bob’s pens is like going to an animal shelter and trying to pick out ONE kitten. YOU JUST WANT TO TAKE THEM ALL HOME. They’re all so colorful and polished and obviously made with great care and  love. (The pens, I mean, not the kittens.) Did I want wood? Or a colorful acrylic? Something with a stylus? Ballpoint? Rollerball Fountain pen? Hmmmmmm.

What to choose. What to choose.

Honduran Mahogany pens

I eventually settled on a rollerball and fountain pen pair made from Honduran Mahogany. The pens are identical twins when capped, and are highly polished and coated so that they look and feel like fine furniture. SMOOTH.

Chrome accents

Honduran Mahogany Rollerball and Fountain Pen

Trimmed with chrome and black accents, the look is simple but eye-catching. The grooved grip area makes the section much grippier than a plain metal section, and the clip is great-looking and wonderfully springy. The rollerball takes a Schneider Topball 850, or a Staples brand Avant gel refill, while the fountain pen takes a standard cartridge or converter. Both write like champs. Bob obviously loves what he does, and wants to share his handiwork and love of pens, so his prices are more than fair. I paid $44.95 for this pair, which is a super deal.

Acrylic ballpoint

I also walked away with a gorgeous acrylic ballpoint that takes Parker-style refills and has been to and from work with me every day since. The acrylic is a summery swirl of yellow/orange and green and is a real mood booster. As the days get colder and darker, it’s nice to have some things that bring warmth and sunshine to mind, and this pen does just that. With a Private Reserve EasyFlow 9000 refill (my favorite—thanks, Mike Dudek) installed, it lays down a smooth dark line that’s pure ballpoint joy.

Shimmery acrylic
Shimmery acrylic— even better in person

We saw a lot of really cool crafts that day—from wooden jewelry boxes to soft fleece pillows to leather belts—but my heart will always go with the pen guy. Maybe that’s because Bob puts so much heart into his pens.

The new trio
Still life with pens and Nock Co. case

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Though you may not be lucky enough to have a “Bob” in your backyard, Bob’s pens can come to you. Check out his website at pens4youonline.com. There’s free shipping within the USA!

This is not a sponsored post. I’m just a happy repeat customer.

Ballpoint Bliss: A Pair Of Ballpoints by Retro 1951

Retro 1951 ballpoints

My husband isn’t really into pens, but he was a great sport at the DC Supershow and even tracked down a great deal on some Retro 1951 pens. Pen Boutique had a 50% off deal running on all of their Retros so a purchase or two was a no-brainer. Their selection wasn’t huge (wish that they had the Ace Tornado, but alas, they did not), but I still managed to walk away with the Limited Edition Numbers Tornado as well as a pair of ballpoints- an Original Vintage Mickey Deluxe (Jubilee model) and a Harley-Davidson Hex-Pathfinder.

Retro 1951 ballpoints

I own a number of Tornado rollerballs (soooo collectible!), but no ballpoints, and while I loved the look of these pens, I had my doubts that the refill would be anything but average. A bit of scribbling at the Pen Boutique table instantly erased those doubts. The Retro 1951 branded Easy Flow 9000 refill (probably a Schmidt) is dark and super smooth. At 1.0 mm, it IS fairly broad, but it’s so crazy smooth, that I don’t mind the thicker line. In fact, THESE are the new pens that have nudged their way into my daily carry since I’m back home and back at work.

Retro 1951 Easy Flow refill

So we have a great writing refill coupled with Retro 1951’s flair for cool design. There’s so much fun and quality packed into these pens that they’re impossible to resist. While the Harley-Davidson pen is simply boxed (possibly a missed opportunity there), the Vintage Mickey tube would look at home in an antique shop. Covered with classic comics featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto, the packaging and pen can’t help but make you smile. It’s a fun mood booster. While I’m not really a Harley fan, I love the sage green hex barrel on the H-D pen, and the branding is not at all in-your-face.

Harley-Davidson Retro 1951

Vintage Mickey Retro 1951

Both pens are twist action. The tip of the Harley-Davidson pen is extended by twisting the H-D branded end cap, while the Vintage Mickey twists at the pen’s center band. Both feature distinctive clips that integrate perfectly with the look and theme of each pen.

Harley-Davidson clip

Vintage Mickey clip

It should be noted that the refills DO sometimes “click” a bit when the pens are held in a certain position. I can tone this down by making sure that the pen clip points away from my hand. Not sure why this helps, but it does. Also, the refills are so glassy smooth that I feel like my handwriting suffers a bit. It’s as if the pen gets away from me a little. The Vintage Mickey pen is quite wide and hefty, so it’s possible to feel a bit of hand fatigue during long writing sessions.

Despite these quirks, I’m very pleased with both of these pens, and I’m grateful that Fred tracked them down in the vast sea of pens at the pen show. Super deal. Super pens.

Harley-Davidson Retro 1951

Vintage Mickey Retro 1951

The end(s).

Most Improved: Lamy 2000 Ballpoint (Makrolon)

Lamy 2000 Ballpoint
Lamy 2000 Makrolon Ballpoint

The Lamy 2000 Makrolon Fountain Pen remains one of my top tier pens…solidly in my top three…so I suppose that it was inevitable that I’d take a look at the other offerings in the same line. I found this ballpoint on Amazon, for a nice price, and decided to go for it. I mean, Makrolon.

Lamy 2000 Ballpoint packaging
Presentation

Because I already own the fountain pen, I knew I’d love the spring-action clip and super subtle branding…

Knock & clip

and the imperceptible break in the body for changing the refill. The design is just stunning in its simplicity.

Imperceptible break in body
After changing the refill, twist this closed, and the break disappears

I knew I’d love the feel of the material, which is smooth, yet very finely textured, and warm to the touch.

Makrolon body

The knock, a ballpoint-specific feature, is rock-solid and offers just the right amount of resistance when pressed to extend or retract the ballpoint tip. The very end of the knock is shiny and reflective, while all of the other metal trim sports a brushed finish.

Knock
See the reflection?

That stuff’s all great (better than great), but what REALLY surprised me was the included M16 ballpoint refill. My complaints about Lamy ballpoint refills are well-documented. I’ve always found them to be washed out looking and very “draggy.” So when I ordered this pen, I was fully prepared to swap in a Monteverde Lamy-style refill. But when I tried the pen as is, WOW…what a difference! This black refill writes dark and smooth and much faster. Not “hybrid ink fast,” but sooooo much better than before. It’s so improved that I decided that the refill swap wasn’t needed. The Lamy M16 refill does the job and does it quite well. Color me shocked.

M16 ballpoint refill
Not a hint of rattle in the refill

Lamy M16 refill

But was this particular refill a fluke, I wondered? (Always the skeptic.) Yesterday another new Lamy ballpoint arrived…the Matte Black AL-Star Limited Edition (thoroughly reviewed here, by Mike Dudek). Would my refill bubble burst? Heck, no. The refill in the AL-Star wrote just as impressively as the one in the 2000. Proof enough for me.

I present Exhibit A…
Writing samples
Writing samples. [Correction: The Matte Black pen is an AL-Star, not a Safari]

Is the Lamy ballpoint refill perfect? Well, it’s no uni-ball Jetstream or Pentel Vicuna, but it’s leaps and bounds better than it used to be. I’d love to know if the actual ink formula changed or if I’ve just received fresher refills. Whatever the case, the improvement I’m seeing in the M16 refill coupled with the classic styling of the Lamy 2000 body has me reaching for this pen every day.

Fountain Pen & Ballpoint
Sibling Pens: Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen & Ballpoint

When a pen looks like a million bucks, feels this great in hand, AND lays down a solid dark line, it’s impossible to ignore, even for this fountain and gel pen lover.

Now, Lamy, how about a better refill for my Balloon Roller Ball? Please?

Moods & Options: Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus

Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus
Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (or Ti, for short)

I regularly prowl Kickstarter for interesting pen projects, and try to get in as early as possible to get an Early Backer Reward. When I saw the write-up and introductory video for the Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (clunky name, sweet pen) by Chadwick Parker & Joe Huang, a couple of details grabbed me right away. (I just accidentally typed “write away,” which, maybe, is what I SHOULD say.)

#1: Titanium. Titanium through and through- from tip to tail (as long as you don’t count the tip of the refill and the stylus end). I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about titanium when I backed this project, but I knew that this pen would be strong and a bit hefty. Which it is. It sure is.

#2: Bead-blasted finishes. I love a matte finish on a pen, so seeing this pen offered in bead-blasted matte black and matte silver, as well as highly polished chrome (potentially too fingerprinty for me), drew me in a little deeper.

#3: “Most refill friendly pen ever!” Once I read that, I knew I was a goner. The number of refills that fit into this pen is as long as your arm (so to speak), and that was truly intriguing to me. I’m a bit of a fickle pen person, and my pen mood swings wildly from day to day, and sometimes, even within a day (or an hour). Knowing that I could swap in a bunch of my favorite refills (from Pilot’s Frixion, G2, and Hi-Tec-C Cavalier gel refills, to the hybrid ink Jetstream, and even a Montblanc Fineliner) meant that one pen body would last through my many pen mood swings.

#4: Bonus–> Stylus! I’m on some sort of iDevice a million times a day and having a great stylus sounded awesome, if only as a way to cut down on smudgy, fingerprinty screens. And if I could use it to draw and jot “handwritten” digital notes on my iPhone and iPad, all the better.

So I backed the project, and waited a few months while Chadwick & Joe updated us throughout the entire pen manufacturing process. Their dedication and unwillingness to settle for anything but a superior product became evident as they documented their progress and even fessed up to the occasional hiccup. The project was delayed a bit when they noticed that caps and bodies bead-blasted in different machines were not perfectly color-matched, which caused them to refine the process to correct the problem. “Good enough” is not good enough for this team.

So the pen arrived a little bit late, but who cares? The Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus delivers, which is all that matters.

The pen came loaded with a Pilot G2 0.5 mm refill, but I swapped in a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Cavalier 0.4 mm refill and wrote away. Then I decided I wanted to try a Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill, and that fits perfectly and writes great, too.

Ti G2 0.38 mm refill writing sample
Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill in use

The clip is sturdy (titanium, too!) and just flexible enough to clip the pen to your pocket. I’ve been doing this for weeks without an issue. The branding is super-subtle- just a a small, boxed Ti on the clip.

Ti clip
Ti clip and branding

Here’s a peak at the stylus, which, by the way, is the best stylus that I’ve used to date. Not too squooshy, not too stiff, and very responsive. I love the pen almost as much for the stylus end as I do for the pen end. Should you not WANT a stylus, the stylus can be replaced with a flat end cap, but really, why would you want to do that?!

Stylus
Just right

Here are a couple of shots of the pen posted and unposted…

Posted pen

Unposted

With the cap posted, the pen is WAY too long for me, so I always use it unposted. Not an issue for me, but something to keep in mind.

The “grip” area features three grooves, but quite honestly, I can’t really feel them when I hold the barrel. Personally, I don’t find the barrel to be slippery, but, again, something to consider.

Ti grip area
Ti’s grip

It’s getting late so let’s sum up…

Pros:
Titanium
Hefty! (38 g, when loaded with refill)
Excellent stylus
Choice of finishes…matte AND polished
Wide, wide range of compatible refills
Sturdy clip

Cons:
Very long when posted
Ummm…nothing else, in my opinion.

Want one? Even though the Kickstarter campaign is over, they’re now available at bigidesign (as are the aluminum and pint-sized counterparts). This is not a sponsored post. Chadwick and Joe only know me as Backer # whatever. I’m just really impressed with this pen.

Finally a pen that has as many refill options as I have pen moods. And THAT’S saying something.