OTC: The AvantNext 0.5 mm Gel Pen by Staples

[Click on any picture to enlarge it. But then, you already knew that.]

AvantNext Gel by Staples

AvantNext bullet points

Honestly, I don’t buy many pens over-the-counter (OTC) lately, having come to prefer the ever-changing selection available online. I’m pretty much a walking commercial for Jetpens, The Goulet Pen Company, and Daly’s Pen Shop. BUT, I happened to be in our local Staples store on Sunday for a quick errand, and couldn’t resist moseying around the store a bit. The pen section was full of the same, same, same been there/tried that offerings.

On my way out, I came upon one of those free-standing pen displays. You know, the kind with pens on cords and a few scribble pads. Hmmmm…something new? Really? So I scribbled, as the pads urged me to do. AND I WAS IMPRESSED. AT STAPLES.

After the inevitable “I don’t need any more pens”/”Yes I do” internal debate, I caved and picked up the AdvantNext (0.5 mm gel) model. The whole Avant line is on sale so I selected a 2-pack of pens for $4.00, as well as two 2-packs of ballpoint refills (red & black, 1.0 mm) for a buck each. Why ballpoint refills? I’ll get to that in a minute.

AvantNext…2-pack for $4.00 (normally $5.99)

Besides the AvantNext (gel/plastic body), there’s also the AvantStyle (ballpoint/plastic body), and AvantPro (ballpoint/stainless steel body). In the store, I was impressed by the performance of both the gel and ballpoint inks, and then I noticed a note on the back of the packaging that said, “Interchangeable ink system- works with any Avant ink refill.” Thus my decision to buy the gel PENS and the ballpoint REFILLS. I can mix and match as my pen mood changes. Kind of cool.

Avant SilksScribe 1.0 mm ballpoint refills…just a buck each (normally $2.99)

Here are my impressions, after three days of use…

I love the packaging, in that you can open it without cutting your fingers to bits getting to the pens. The front and back plastic pieces can simply be pulled apart. No scissors needed. It’s a little detail, but one that’s appreciated.

I have to say that I really hate the name. Avant. AvantNext. Maybe it’s me, but I can’t remember it (I keep typing ADVENT!), and it sounds clunky to my ear…more like a pharmaceutical product than a pen. Avant/Advantix. Pen/flea treatment. See what I mean?

AvantNext branding & clip. Both look cheesy.

The pen is lightweight plastic, and feels and looks like a pen you’d pick up at a trade show or from a pharmaceutical rep. It doesn’t scream, or even whisper, quality. The grip area of the pen contains a ribbed section that’s made of the same hard plastic as the rest of the body. So don’t expect anything cushy.

AvantNext grip. Nothing to write home about.

Despite all of my griping about the cheap feel of the body and the not-very-catchy name, I am happily using this pen because of the wonderfully crisp, smooth, and dark line of the 0.5 mm gel refill. It really IS superb. There’s not a hint of feathering or bleed-through. It’s wet enough, but not too wet. Just perfect. The writing experience reminds me of the Moleskine pen, but without the $14.99 price tag. It so good, that I’m willing to overlook the el cheapo body and boring branding.

0.5 mm gel refill. Very, very nice.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, but stellar, writing experience, Staples Avant line is certainly worth a look. After a test drive, my bet is that you’ll say, “Avant this pen!” (Get it? Avant? I want? Oh, never mind.)

Drop what you’re doing and get to Staples. Stat.

Both Worlds: Monteverde Invincia Stylus (F nib) in Matte Chrome

The Matte Chrome Monteverde Invincia Stylus

My handwritten thoughts

I’m a bouncer. All day long I hop between digital devices and applications (Clear, Evernote, Day One, Twitter, email) and my favorite paper products (Field Notes, Frictionless Capture Cards, Rhodia dotPads, and plain old scrap paper).

iPad and dotPad

Analog capture hub

I keep “on the fly” notes in both places…in the Clear app on my iPhone, and on paper, depending on where I am when the mood or need strikes. I love the feel of pen on paper as much as I enjoy fiddling around with iPad and iPhone apps. Evernote is, ultimately, the place where I bring all all of my lists and tasks and brainstorming together. Everything syncs and I feel calm. Calmish. I feel calmish.

Monteverde Invincia Stylus. Shiny!

So. Yeah. Like so many of us, I’m a fan of digital AND analog tools. Apps and paper. Pens and styluses (stylii?). Which is where the Monteverde Invincia Stylus comes in. Sweet fountain pen on one end, high quality stylus on the other. I can write a letter with the pen, then poke around on my iPad with the stylus. One tool for both worlds. Happy Mary.

As I mentioned in my handwritten review, the stylus works very well on my iDevices. I’ve found using a few other styluses to be frustrating. Usually they’re too mushy and I end up having to tap the screen repeatedly to get a response. At that point, I go back to using my finger. But the response from the Monteverde stylus has been great, probably because it has a “fingerlike” firmness. I’m really impressed with how well it functions. This is not a “novelty” stylus.

Stylus and matte black clip

Stellar nib

The nib is a bit oversized, which I enjoy. The dark nib and black matte accents look great against the matte chrome finish of the body. In the right light, this thing SHINES. And it writes great. No scratchiness. No drag. Filled with Private Reserve’s DC Supershow Blue, I’m finding this pen to be one that I make excuses to use. Just an all around fun package.

Bottom line? iLove.

Simple(ish): Stabilo All 8008 Pencils (Graphite)

Click on any picture to make it larger.

Life can be complicated, and sometimes we pen folk add another level of complication to our days. If you’re anything like me, there so many daily decisions to be made. What type of pen? What color pen? What color ink? What nib or tip size? Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I wear myself out with all of the pen chatter that streams through my head.

Sometimes I just want to write a quick note. Like, without belaboring it.

And here’s the perfect tool for keeping things simple(ish).

Stabilo All 8008 pencils

The backstory (because, of course, there is one): When my great aunt moved into a nursing home, I was part of the family team that packed up her belongings. Because she had to drastically pare down her belongings, we spent the last afternoon of packing divvying up what was left behind. I didn’t take much…just a lovely sweater, a stack of cookbooks, and two pencils. Two Stabilo pencils. The pencils turned out to be DIVINE, which I didn’t realize when I tucked them in my purse. The lead is creamy smooth, and the line soft and dark. (My favorite.) I’ve been milking those pencils since November 2008, partly because they were Aunt Clara’s, but also because they are SUPERB pencils. Who knew? (Apparently Aunt Clara did.)

Aunt Clara’s vintage Stabilo on top. New Stabilo on bottom. Equally wonderful.

And so the quest for a NEW stash of Stabilo pencils began, because those two originals weren’t going to last forever, no matter how sparingly I sharpened them. I eventually tracked down a box of 12 at misterart.com. Ahhhh, replenished!

Stash o’ Stabilos

You’ll notice that the pencils are missing an eraser, but I usually use a separate eraser any way, so no big deal. And in place of the eraser, you get a lovely little swan. So much better than a lousy eraser, isn’t it?

A bevy of swans

So while it would be SUPER simple of grab any old pencil, that’s not how we pen types roll. Grab a STABILO pencil to jot a note, balance a checkbook, or make a grocery list. You’ll enjoy the writing experience without having to make all of those pen-related decisions.

Choosing a Stabilo is simple(ish).

Must sharpen to perfection.

A Departure

This week’s entry may be a little late because I spent last evening (my “rough draft” night) doing this:


Bird’s eye view of the baseball diamond

There we are!

From the basket

Looking up

It was an evening without pens, but a wonderful evening nonetheless.

A balloonist’s wishes are simple:
Gentle winds
Soft landings
Friendly landowners

I wish the same to you.

Front-burnered: Lamy Safari Charcoal with Private Reserve Tanzanite Ink

Still life with Lamy Safari & Tanzanite

That’s the hand-written version up there. In a nutshell, I wasn’t as crazy about the “stealthy” Lamy Charcoal (EF nib) as I thought I’d be, but that was undoubtedly due to the fact that the first pen just wouldn’t write. I shot an evening trying to get it going before I shipped it off for an exchange. Once the second pen arrived, it wrote just fine…fine as in “good” AND fine as in “a very thin line.” But I just didn’t find myself reaching for it.

Act II: Stephen Brown did an Inkcyclopedia video on the Private Reserve Tanzanite ink, and shortly thereafter, a bottle found its way into my online shopping cart. What a great pairing…the matte finish of the Lamy coupled with the purpley-blue (or bluey-purple) pop of the ink. Okay separately. Great together.

The body isn’t what I would call a true black. To me, it looks like more of a deep espresso. This Lamy is very lightweight and sports the signature clip in black, as well as an all-black nib. Understated and pretty cool.

Iconic clip

The stealthy nib

The Tanzanite ink is a super color– very fun, but not out of place in a business setting. It can party, AND put in a full day of work. Best of both worlds. I LOVE it.

Jar of awesome

The ink bottle is very no-nonsense, with a nice wide opening so you can see what you’re doing when you’re filling your pen. I appreciate that, as do my counters.

One is subtle. One not so much.

Like lobster and butter (mmmmmm), this is a pair that was meant to be together. Where together? Why on the FRONT burner, of course.