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.

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.

A Kitten Pen: The Kaweco Liliput Fountain Pen (EF nib)

This weekend, on the way home from a meeting, the friend who was giving me a ride asked if I’d mind taking a bit of a detour to see some kittens who were recently discovered under the porch of an acquaintance. (I know…world’s longest sentence.) Would I MIND?! For KITTENS?! Heck no!!

I won’t go into a lot of detail here (imagine that), but let’s just say that there was some serious cuteness going on in that yard and under that porch. There they were…four calicos and one back-and-white…skittish and clumsy and oh so tiny. 100% pure cuteness.

And THAT is what the Kaweco Liliput has in common with kittens. It is tiny and 100% adorable. And tiny. Really tiny. You have to see it to believe it.

When Brad Dowdy talked about the Liliput on a recent Pen Addict podcast, I started browsing on JetPens right during the show– and I was smitten. I THINK I’d run across it before, but hadn’t given it more than a passing glance. I had my Kaweco AL-Sport. I was happy. But then, as the days passed after that podcast, I couldn’t stop thinking about this seriously small fountain pen. (I think I even had a dream about it. Yeah. Weird.) Long story short(ish), I cracked. And I’m glad I did.


Teeny tiny Kaweco Liliput branding

I have a few fountain pens- mostly Lamys- and they’re fine, but the EF nib on this Liliput is the smoothest nib I own. Like buttah! I ordered Kaweco sepia cartridges along with the pen, rather than my typical black, and love the ink as much as the pen. They’re just the perfect combo.

What’s also unique about this pen- at least to me- is that the cap threads onto the end of the barrel, giving you enough length to hold and write comfortably.

Threaded barrel for posting the cap

Because the cap and barrel are threaded, you can’t just whip the pen out, pull the cap off and write. There’s a little bit of time involved to unscrew the cap, then thread it onto the barrel. This doesn’t take long, but it feels like a tiny ritual, and I like that. Because so much of what we do and how we work is done almost by reflex, I like having something- or I should say, using something- that feels “mindful.” In the few moments that it takes to uncap the pen, then post the cap, I feel like I settle in and settle down. I exhale. I think about my words. I am present.

That’s not to say that this pen isn’t without its drawbacks. If you have large hands, or require a grip, or have a tendency to lose things, this probably isn’t your pen.


I’m a total sucker for this packaging.

So while this Liliput fountain pen is just as adorable as those five little porch kitties, its qualities run much deeper than its good looks. For me, this pen is my soulmate. And I’m not even kidding.