Back To School Giveaway Thanks To OfficeMax

The products included in this review were provided to me by OfficeMax to facilitate this review and giveaway. I was not compensated in any other way, and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Prize package
Prize package

I’m just back from the DC Fountain Pen SuperShow, and though I was quite conservative in my buying, I have a number of interesting purchases to share with you. But not this week. THIS week, I’m offering you a chance to win a fun selection of OfficeMax products. You know, the things students need as they get ready to head back to school. The basics, done right.

Here’s what’s included:

A 4-pack of retractable gel pens…
Gel Pens
Black ink, 0.7 mm tip

Probably the least distinctive product in the bunch, these pens looks very generic, but write smoothly and without any skips. The line is dark and solid with no globbing or clumping. The rubberized grip makes for a comfortable, if somewhat unexciting writing experience. There’s certainly nothing wrong with these pens. Your student will love them. It’s just that visually, they lack pizzazz. As a utilitarian gel pen, they do the job, and do it quite well.

Retractable Gel Pens
Visible ink supply means no surprises from a dry pen!

A 12-pack of mechanical pencils…
Mechanical Pencils
I’m liking the colored grips!

I gave a few of these to Laura, a student working with me this summer, and they were an instant hit! The colored grip and matching eraser are both eye-catching and functional. Laura immediately commented that the eraser worked quite well and we discussed how so often erasers either don’t work or can even make things worse by smudging what they’re supposed to be erasing. Not the case here. This eraser erases.

Pencil grips

The rubberized grip provides a nice accent as well as a comfortable writing experience. Laura and I both like the look and feel. We were also impressed with the retractable metal sleeve that protects the pencil lead. Because it DOES retract, it won’t get caught on your pocket or purse…a nice touch!

Retractable tip
Retractable tip protector

A 10-pack of liquid highlighters…
Liquid highlighters
Nice color assortment

When I offered these to Laura, she was quick to select a couple of the less typical highlighter colors…green and purple. I’m partial to the orange, but all of the colors are nicely balanced- not so dark that they drown out your writing. The chisel tip makes it possible to draw three line widths, which is nice if you prefer to underline rather than highlight.

Highlighters at work
The highlighters at work

Chisel tip & liquid ink supply
My favorite part? The sloshing ink!

Unlike highlighters with opaque barrels, these highlighters don’t keep you guessing about the ink level. The ink is visible AND sloshable. Which might not be a word, but it’s a fun feature in a pen.

Writing sample
My OfficeMax test drive

The summer is winding down. Sniff. Time to dust off those backpacks and lunch boxes, and stock up on school supplies. But before you go shopping, why not try to win the products reviewed here!

Here’s how to enter:

1) Leave a comment on this blog by 11:59 PM Sunday August 18th. One comment per person, please!
2) Each comment will be assigned a number based on the order in which it was posted.
3) A random number generator will be used to select the winner of the set of gel pens, highlighters, and pencils. The winner will be announced on this blog the evening of Monday August 19th. OfficeMax will ship the prize package to the winner directly.
4) US residents only, please.

Value Menu: Uniball Signo RT1 (0.38 mm, Blue Black)

Uniball Signo RT1

As a $2.25 pen, the Uniball Signo RT1 is definitely from the “value menu” of pens, but that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in performance. On the contrary, this 0.38 mm Signo RT1 writes first time, every time, and has one of the crispest and cleanest lines that I can recall. I’ve been a fan of the Uniball Signo DX for years, but haven’t ever tried the retractable (RT) version. According to the literature, this RT1 model is an “upgrade” from the original RT. The RT1 features an “edge-less tip” (???) and newly formulated ink for an even smoother performance. I don’t have a clue what the “edge-less tip” means, but I can vouch for the smoothness of the ink. For such a fine line, the conical tip exhibits NO dragging or snagging. Which means that the tip doesn’t pick up stray paper fibers and clog.

Tip & grip
Tip & grip (+ obligatory dust)

I love my Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.4 mm pens, but they CAN be finicky. Sometimes I have to do just a bit of scribbling to get the ink flowing from the Hi-Tec-C’s needle tip. Though not a big deal, it can be an annoyance for some. That little bugaboo goes away completely with the Signo RT1.

Integrated knock & clip
Knock & clip in one

There’s nothing fancy here, but that’s fine by me. The richly colored plastic body, with its integrated clip/knock, and rubberized grip are all you need to get the writing job done. Since the clip is molded plastic, as opposed to metal, it IS possible to snap it off, if you’re rough on clips. I find the clip a bit loose fitting in a pocket, but that’s nit-picking. The rubberized grip is smooth and makes up about one third of the pen’s body, so no matter where you grip your pen, you’ll have no trouble with slippage.

Integrated clip
No frills clip

Circling back to the “edge-less” tip thing, I MAY have discovered what this means when I cropped my photos. In the photo below, take a look at the tip of the RT1 on the left, vs the DX tips in the center and one the right.

Edge-less tip?
Left to right: RT1 (0.38 mm), DX (0.38 mm), DX (0.28 mm)

To my eye, it looks like the “ball” in the tip of the RT1 is barely visible, as opposed to the DX tips, where the ball seems to be much more visible. Maybe that’s what Uniball means? Speculating here.

RT1 vs. DXs

I’ve developed a “thing” for blue-black inks (especially for my fountain pens) and this one is particularly well-balanced. The color is rich and saturated, and spot on to my taste in blue-blacks.

RT1 vs. DXs
For your viewing, and writing, pleasure

The Signo RT1 proves that you don’t have to drop a bundle on a pen to have a great writing experience. When an ink performs this well in a pen that costs so little, that’s value. Available in both 0.28 mm and 0.38 mm tips, and a bunch of colors, the RT1 certainly deserves a spot on your gel pen roster.

NOTE: I’d like to thank jstationery.com for reaching out and providing this review pen. They’re a US-based company specializing in fine Japanese stationery. Shipping is free for orders over $20. My honest opinion was offered here. I swear. In a court of law.

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.

Kudos: Handcrafted Pen Made From Exotic Wood by David Allred

Exotic Wood Pen
Exotic Wood Pen made from Zebra Wood

David Allred’s pen was a Kickstarter first for me. While the majority of Kickstarter projects come in weeks or even months later than originally projected, David’s pen arrived EARLY…significantly early. Though I wasn’t expecting to receive my pen until January 2013, it surprisingly arrived on November 23rd, 2012. Wow!

Though David’s Kickstarter project has closed, you can read about his pens here. In short, he can create pens with a variety of exotic wood (desert iron wood, padauk, purple heart, cocobolo, goldfield burl, etc.) and metal components. The hardest part is picking a wood/metal combination because there are so many intriguing options. All pens are twist-style and take Parker-style refills.

Exotic Wood Pen

After much hemming and hawing, I chose Zebra wood and the black metal trim. (David calls this “gunmetal,” which is different than my idea of gunmetal, but I settled on this choice after a few back-and-forth emails with him to clarify the various color options.) The pen is hefty, but not unwieldy, and is very well-balanced. It arrived with a Parker-style ballpoint refill, which wasn’t bad, but I recently swapped in a Moleskine rollerball 0.5mm refill, which, I think, elevates the pen yet another notch.

Zebra wood pen
Zebra stripey

You can see a sample of the wood/metal combinations available on David’s Kickstarter page. And though, as I’ve said, his project is now closed, I encourage you to contact David if you’re interested in getting your own “exotic wood” pen.

Exotic pen w/ David's info
How to contact David

I can personally attest to his impressive workmanship and work ethic.

Kudos, David. Kudos.

New Math: The Pilot FriXion Ball 3 Metal 3 Color Gel Multi Pen in Gradation Blue

When does 1+1+1 = 1? When you’re using the new 3-color FriXion Multi Pen from Pilot.

Pilot FriXion Multi Pen

Pilot FriXion Multi Pen (0.5 mm) in Gradation Blue

I’ve reviewed the Frixion pens before. (Remember the “hot car” experiment?) Around the time I posted that review, I asked Pilot, via Twitter, if they’d ever thought about making a FriXion multi pen. So maybe I nudged them towards this latest Frixion incarnation? Or more likely, it was already in the works. In any case, it’s here, JetPens carries it, and I ordered it. I seem to be a sucker for all things FriXion.

Pilot FriXion test drive
FriXion Multi Pen vs. retractable single pens

Looking closely at the sample, it appears that the black gel ink in the multi pen is a touch lighter than the black from the retractable single pen. And that’s really my only knock on this pen. The blue is strong, the red just a little less so, and the black definitely leans towards gray. Because the ink erases so cleanly (see the previous review for details on this feature), I’m willing to concede a bit on the darkness of the black ink. But if you require a pitch black ink, you’d better pass on this pen.

The eraser uses friction (FriXion!) to create heat to “erase” the specially formulated gel ink. If you’re like me, you spend the month of December writing lists, lists, and more lists. And correcting those lists. And color-coding those lists. Now you can do it all with one erasable pen.

FriXion eraser
FriXion eraser

The grip is rubberized and firm, and makes for easy handling. No slippage! The metal body, in Gradation Blue, fades from royal blue above the grip, to teal at the eraser end. It’s a novel, eye-catching look.

The best thing, though, is that I’m carrying one pen instead of three. With the FriXion Multi Pen, 1+1+1 really does equal 1.

1+1+1 = 1
New math

That’s one equation I don’t need to erase.

Pusher: The Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Pen (0.4 mm, black ink)


Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Grip model, 0.4 mm

Thanks to THE Pen Addict (Brad Dowdy), I’ve grown to love the sharp, sharp tip of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. I recall using a fine-point Bic in junior high and hating it, so I steered clear of fine-tipped pen for decades because of that bad experience. Brad’s love of the Hi-Tec-C encouraged me to try one for myself, and wow, this is no Bic.


0.4 mm NEEDLE

I love this pen so much, either as is, or as a refill housed in another body (ala Karas Kustoms Render-K), that I regularly stock up on pens and refills at JetPens. I’ve started giving some to pen-worthy friends, especially those who I think might appreciate the super precise line of the 0.4 mm needle tip. Without fail, my friends become instant Hi-Tec-C fans. I’m now, it seems, a Pilot Hi-Tec-C pusher.


0.4 mm cap

The 0.4 mm tip is the sweet spot for me…super crisp and sharp, without being draggy or scratchy. Okay, there probably IS a hint of scratch (it is a needle, after all) but it’s a scratch I enjoy.


Grip upgrade

I prefer the “grip” model over the ultra-basic version because it gives me a little bit of rubber to…well…grip. Both versions are no nonsense and cost the same ($3.30 at JetPens) so give me the free “upgrade.”

The Pilot Hi-Tec-C. Simple, but very nice. And very addictive.

——–

But wait…there’s BONUS material…


A good read

Wishing all of my US readers a very happy Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to relaxing a bit (once the whole “cooking dinner” thing is behind me!) and curling up with a good book. A good PEN book. In a recent video, Stephen Brown mentioned that one of his favorite fountain pens books is called Fountain Pens (makes sense) by Peter Twydle. I picked up a copy via Amazon, and though I haven’t spent much time with it yet, I’m getting a kick out of the “old time” ads. There’s a lot of history, terminology, and collecting tips packed into this 160-page volume.


Onoto the Pen

Yup…I’m thinking that a comfy chair, a cup of tea, and Fountain Pens sounds better than any “door-buster” Black Friday deal.

I didn’t feel like busting a door, anyway.

Pleased To Meet You: TUL Pens by OfficeMax- A Review AND a Giveaway!


Meet the TUL family

Our local OfficeMax store closed a number of years ago, and since then, I’ve lost touch with the brand. So when a representative offered to send me a set of the latest generation of TUL pens, I jumped at the chance, especially because the offer included an additional set to give away. I’ve been test-drivingwriting them for most of the week, and can wholeheartedly endorse the TUL line.

Here are the players:


Medium point, black ink


Medium point, blue ink


Medium point, black ink


Fine tip, black ink

To be honest, in the past I’ve shied away from store-brand pens because of performance issues, but OfficeMax’s TUL line changes that. All of the pens in this line are stellar performers, and easily match the quality of comparable Uniball, Zebra, Pilot, and Sharpie pens. TUL pens ARE the real deal.


See?

I’ve been particularly taken with the smooth dark line of the retractable ballpoint, which is tricky to get right, judging by the number of so-so ballpoints that are on the market. The super-affordable TUL ballpoint is the one that I’ve been reaching for since it arrived. The ink is just that good. The smooth rubber grip makes it easy to hold, and I really like the clean and simple lines of the pen. It’s minimalist in looks, but certainly not in performance.


Marker, Ballpoint, Gel, and Rollerball

The fine-line marker pen, with its clear cap, dimpled black grip, and simple branding also appeals to me. No gimmicks, just a precise line that doesn’t feather or bleed. Very nice. The fiber tip feels quite sturdy, like it’ll easily hold up for plenty of sketching or note-taking.


Top to bottom: Marker, Ballpoint, Gel, and Rollerball

The retractable gel pen is very simple looking, with a black body matching the extra-long smooth black grip. Again, the gel ink writes great. No skipping. No smearing. No complaints. Same goes for the capped rollerball…the black liquid ink is perfect making bolder lines and bolder statements.

Lest you think all of this pen goodness comes at a premium price, check out these links to OfficeMax.com for the good news:

Ballpoint
Gel
Rollerball
Marker Pen

Superior performance AND pricing. Great looks and super smooth inks. That’s TUL, by OfficeMax. Check them out at your local OfficeMax store or online.

My only disappointment is that it doesn’t appear that the boxed set featured in this post & giveaway is available for purchase. (Hint, hint, OfficeMax!)

I know what you’re saying…yeah, yeah, yeah, but how do I WIN a set??!! It’s as simple as the design of the TUL pens:

1) Leave a comment on this blog by 11:59 PM Wednesday 10/31/12 (Halloween!). One comment per person, please!
2) Each comment will be assigned a number based on the order in which it was posted.
3) A random number generator will be used to select the winner of the set of all four TUL pens. The winner will be announced on this blog the evening of November 1st. OfficeMax will ship the pens to the winner directly.
4) US residents only, please.
5) GOOD LUCK! Hope you win this Halloween treat!

TUL pens, I AM pleased to meet you. This looks like the start of something good.

Disclaimer: I received the TUL products mentioned in this post from OfficeMax in order to facilitate my review. The items featured in this giveaway are also provided by OfficeMax and will be sent to the winner directly. Opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own. I have not been compensated for this post in any other way.