Cool: The Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint

Sincere thanks to Ron at Pen Chalet for sending along this Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint pen for review. There are no affiliate links in this post, and I was not otherwise compensated. This review reflects my experiences and observations with the pen.

When my sister and I were kids, we used to hop onto our Stingray bikes, pedal to the top of our street, then coast all the way down to the bottom, NO HANDED, while snapping our fingers and chanting, “Cool, man, cool. Cool, man, cool.” (Bike helmets weren’t even a consideration. So THAT was safe!) This WAS the 60’s after all. We said “COOL!” all the time.

Thing is, I STILL say it. And it’s the first word that popped into my head when I opened the Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint packaging. Cool, man, cool.

Pilot Ageless Present ballpoint pen

The Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint is housed in a sturdy plastic tube that’s great for protecting the pen, and also for showing it off. With the top cover removed, the pen stands at attention, looking sharp and ready for work. I’ve been using the pen at my job and I like keeping it at the ready in its pen stand. This is “keeper” packaging, for sure.

Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint

This plastic-body pen is available in eight colors. I have the white version which is a classy looking pearl white rather than plain vanilla white. As I mentioned in my review of the Palomino Pearl pencil, I love a pearl finish, and I think it looks great on this pen. The grip section is a translucent smoky grey— clear enough for you to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the pen.

Pilot Agess Present ballpoint pen

What sets this pen apart from other ballpoints— what makes it extra cool— is the two-step deploy and retract mechanism. Twist the grip section once to deploy the pen’s “nosecone,” then once more to extend the writing tip. The pen measures 4.75″ when fully retracted and 5.37″ when fully deployed.

Stage 1 deployment
Stage 1 deployment

Stage 2 deployment
Stage 2 deployment

Fully retracted, the pen is great for pocket carry as the “business end” of the pen is protected inside the pen’s grip. (It reminds me of a turtle poking its head out of its shell, then withdrawing it for safety.) The action is very smooth and, yes, very cool.

The clip end
A mirror finish on the clip end of the pen

The included refill (Pilot BRFN-10M, Blue, 1.0mm) is as smooth as that deployment mechanism. I tend to prefer black ballpoint ink (an artifact of all my years recording documentation into lab notebooks— black ink required), but this is a rich and smooth blue that could win me over. The lines are solid and the refill is not “draggy” at all. It’s a good looking and good feeling writing experience— one that rivals the Jetstream blue 1.0mm refill.

The package insert included with the pen indicates that the following refills are also compatible with the Pilot Ageless Present model:

  • Dr. Grip Center Of Gravity Medium refills (#77271 and #77272)
  • G2 Fine short refills (#77291 and #77292)

Ready for work!
Ready for work!

At $42.40, this isn’t a no-brainer purchase. But for your money you get unique and useful packaging, a sturdy, great-looking pen with a quality refill, outfitted with a fun and innovative deployment mechanism. This isn’t the same old, same old. Though the pen is plastic, it has a solid weighty feel. The pearl white color is classy and the ink is dark and smooth.

Pilot Ageless Present ballpoint pen

And that mechanism. It IS cool, man, cool.

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To see the Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint pen in action, check out THIS VIDEO, presented by Pen Chalet.

A Happy Discovery: Fisher Space Pen Cross-style Refills

Cross-style ballpoint pens

I have a few nice pens that have pretty much been dead to me because they take Cross-style ballpoint refills. I’m not a big fan of the regular Cross ballpoint refills as I find them to be too light and too draggy. SO the pens have been gathering dust, which is no life for a pen.

Cross-style ballpoint pens

I happened to be rooting around in my big box ‘o refills when I noticed a couple of Fisher Space Pen Cross-style refills (black ink, medium point). I can’t say that I have any memory of buying them, but unless there are refill fairies, I must’ve.

Cross-style ballpoint pens

I popped them into my languishing pens and – WOW – what a difference! The new refills are dark, smooth, and speedy (i.e., no drag). PLUS- I can write upside down and in extreme temperatures should my day take a turn for the dramatic.

Cross-style ballpoint pens

Fisher Space Pen Cross-style refills- a happy little discovery. So now you know.

Handwritten review

Jolly Good: The Retro 51 Tornado Touch

Many thanks to my friends at JetPens for sponsoring my purchase of the pen reviewed here. I was not compensated in any other way and this review describes my experiences and observations with the pen.

Standard Retro 51 Tornado vs Tornado Touch
Standard Retro 51 Tornado (the new “Flipper”) vs. the petite Tornado Touch

The Retro 51 Tornado Touch is both dapper and darling. It’s a teeny thing, but still packed full of Retro 51 goodness. At 4-3/8″, this isn’t a pen that you’ll want to use to write a novel, but for jotting down a grocery list, signing paperwork, or capturing on-the-fly notes, it’s ideal. Ideal AND classy.

This is a “honey, I shrunk the pen” version of the standard Retro 51 Tornado, with a couple of bonus features that add to its charm. The first is the “bowler hat” stylus on the end of the pen. As a kid, I used to religiously watch “Family Affair“— a sitcom that featured a British butler named Mr. French. Mr. French typically wore a suit and a bowler to run errands (as you do). Whenever I look at the Retro 51 Tornado Touch, I picture good old Mr. French, his smooth manners, and lovely accent.

Retro 51 Torndao Touch bowler hat and mustache

The stylus is not only stylish but works very well on both my iPad and iPhone. In fact, it’s one of my favorite styluses (stylii?). I rarely have to repeat a motion while typing or swiping through pages or dragging letters around on the Words With Friends board. Very responsive.

The second feature is not functional in the least but adds a splash of whimsical charm to this diminutive pen. A mustache. That’s right— the pen sports a tiny mustache, because why not?! The pen is available in three finishes— Lincoln Copper, Stainless, and Black (the one featured in this review). Though the copper version tugged at me, I ultimately chose the black version because it made the pen look like it was wearing a little suit. (And for some reason it was important to me that my pen be properly attired in formal wear.)

Ballpoint refill

The D1 refill that comes loaded in the pen is made by Schmidt and writes quite well for a ballpoint. What’s great, though, is that because the refill IS the D1 style/size, there are plenty of D1 refill options available should the included one not thrill you. I picked up some Uni-ball Jetstream D1 refills that I’m anxious to try when the the current one needs to be replaced. You can also swap in D1 gel refills, if that’s your favorite type of ink. There are plenty of ways to make the Retro 51 Tornado Touch your own, ink-wise.

Accessing the D1 refill
Accessing the D1 refill

Disassembled
Refill removed (refill extender still in place)

Swapping the refill is not super intuitive (I had to Google it) so here’s how that works. Grab the knurled section, just below the bowler stylus and give it a good yank until it pulls out of the body of the pen. Looking into the pen body, you’ll see the end of the refill assembly. Using a small Philips head screwdriver (or your Swiss Army knife), unscrew the refill housing until it can be pulled out of the pen. Pull the refill extender off of the D1 refill, and place it onto the new refill, then reverse the steps to install the assembly back in the pen. [Updated to add: Click HERE for a video that details the process.]

Disassembled
Refill extender removed from D1 refill

If there’s any downside to this pen, I’d say it’s the price. At $27 from JetPens, it costs a few dollars more than many of the standard size Tornado rollerballs. That said, the small premium buys you an awfully cute pen that successfully combines both novelty and panache. That’s a tricky combination, but Retro 51 pulls it off with ease.

The packaging is a scaled down version of the usual Tornado tube, and it’s as adorable as the pen inside.

Tornado Touch pen and packaging

The Retro 51 Tornado Touch is a cool little pen that oozes charm with its distinctive bowler and well-groomed mustache. It’s dapper, dashing, and debonair; both well-groomed and well-designed. If your everyday carry needs just a little more class, this is your pen. A very good writer with an excellent stylus and lots of D1 refill options, it’s another clever AND solid offering from the folks at Retro 51.

The Tornado Touch is, I can safely say, “jolly good.”

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

20140729-223046.jpg

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?

20140729-224319.jpg

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.