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.

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Business Class: Pilot FriXion Biz Erasable Gel Pen

This Pilot FriXion Ball Knock Biz Gel Pen was provided by JetPens for review purposes. I was not compensated in any way other than being able to keep the pen. This review reflects my experience with the FriXion Biz.
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Pilot FriXion pens
A FriXion sampler

I’ve been purchasing Pilot FriXion erasable gel pens since the their introduction in 2008. The first model I purchased had ink that was a bit washed out and a barrel design that looked an awful lot like Mike Tyson’s face tattoo. It’s fair to say that I wasn’t exactly blown away by that pen. But despite this iffy first impression, I’ve stuck with the line, and have sampled many iterations of FriXion pens. It’s a product that keeps me coming back for more.

Pilot FriXion Biz

Over the years, the barrels have become more refined and the ink a bit richer in color. I always have a few FriXion pens stashed around my home and office. It’s one product that I’ve consistently used for the last six years, so Pilot must be doing something right.

Refill comparison: 0.5 mm vs. 0.7 mm
Refill comparison: 0.5 mm vs. 0.7 mm

When this Pilot Frixion Biz Gel Pen arrived from JetPens, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I was perfectly happy with my plastic barrel FriXion pens, but this newest version IS really good looking. The pen, as received, was loaded with a 0.5 mm black refill and I have to say that the line wasn’t as dark as I like, and even seemed a bit lighter other 0.5 mm FriXion refills I’ve used. To remedy this, I went to my treasure chest of refills and popped in a 0.7 mm black refill. What a difference. Since that swap, I’m having a hard time putting this pen down.

The 0.7 mm refill lays down a visibly wet (yet quick drying) line that’s a solid black— much better than that wimpy 2008 ink. The writing experience is super smooth. I’d even go so far as to call it “fun.”

Disassembled Pilt FriXion Biz

The metallic pen body is a gorgeous blue, and has a well-balanced heft. Weighing about 24 g (vs. 11.5 g for the plastic retractable model), the pen feels substantial— a definite upgrade from that lightweight “tattoed” first pen. I’ve been throwing the Biz in my purse for the past few weeks, and have it out on my desk all day, but the body has yet to show a nick or a scratch. It looks brand new despite the fact that I’ve been using the heck out of it AND haven’t babied it at all.

FriXion clip

To deploy the writing tip, just slide the clip down until it clicks into place. Repeat the action to retract the tip. The mechanism works without a hitch.

FriXion spring

When you unscrew the “nosecone” to replace the refill, the little spring STAYS PUT instead of popping out and falling on the floor causing that familiar “did my dog eat a spring?!?!” panic. My dogs and I appreciate that little detail.

Hidden eraser

The “eraser” on the Biz model is hidden under a small screw-on cap that gives the pen its clean look, but also means that you have to unscrew this cap to erase your mistakes, rather than quickly using an already exposed eraser.

Uncapped eraser

In my previous review of the FriXion retractable plastic body pens, I went into considerable detail about how the eraser works. You can review that post HERE. In that review I also note that you’ll want to let the ink dry completely before attempting to erase to avoid smudging. The good news is that the ink dries very fast, so this isn’t much of an issue. Erasures with any FriXion pen are quite clean— a huge leap forward from those awful Papermate “erasable” pens that rubbed away the paper rather than the ink. I use FriXion pens all the time in my planner and daily work and home logs because things are always changing and occasionally I make a mistake (ahem). It’s so satisfying to easily erase ink.

Erasing FriXion ink

That said, because the ink is temperature sensitive [see my “hot car” experiment at the end of that old post]— meaning that it will disappear in hot conditions— this is not a pen to use for official or critical documents. So feel free to use this Biz pen throughout your business day, but be mindful of where you’re using it. Like, don’t sign an important contract or a birth certificate.

You may be wondering, do I want to pay a premium price for the FriXion Biz when I can get a plastic retractable FriXion for $2.50? Well, I look at it this way. You can fly coach or you can fly business class. Both get you to your destination, but for the additonal money you get an upgraded experience. The Biz gives you that FriXion upgrade with its cool metallic colors, matte finish, concealed eraser, and nice heft.

Pilot FriXion Biz

Some days, it’s nice to travel in style.

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The Pilot FriXion Biz is available at JetPens for $33.00, where you get FREE shipping on all orders over $25.00. Thank you to my friends at JetPens for providing this pen for review.

Fun Find #1: Retro 1951 Tornado Umbra Orange Rollerball

(Click on any picture to enlarge it.)

Retro 51 Umbra Orange Rollerball

Sometimes a pen finds you more than you find the pen. That was exactly the case with this Retro 51 Tornado Umbra Orange Rollerball. I was browsing on the Pen City site, and found that they have a “Shop By Color” feature (great idea!). When I filtered for “orange,” this was one of the pens that popped up. Since I’d never seen a Retro 51 in a translucent acrylic, much less an ORANGE translucent acrylic, I had to order it.

Translucent Orange Acrylic

When the pen arrived, it looked even better in person than it did on the website. The acrylic shimmers and displays wonderful depth. I think it looks a little like jello salad, which made me love it just a little bit more. I really like how you can catch a glimpse of the branding on the refill and the internal threading through the body of the pen.

The familiar Retro 51 elements are here as well. Like that wonderful knurling…

Retro 51 Knurling

And the immediately recognizable open-design clip that’s both cool looking and functional…

Retro 51 clip

The pen body’s color is reflected in the twist mechanism’s finial for one more pop of color…

Retro 51 Orange finial

The Retro 51 REF-5P black refill that came with the pen is reliably smooth and dark. Writing my rough draft of this review on Staples Arc notebook paper was a really enjoyable experience. That paper and this refill seem to be made for each other.

I’ve since seen some other acrylics— red, blue, and white— and though they look very cool, too, my heart belongs to this orange version. Sadly, none of the acrylic versions appear to be easy to find, but the folks at Retro 1951 have hinted on Twitter that more acrylics may be introduced. Or should I say “re-introduced.”

Translucent acrylic

That would be as sweet as— well— jello salad.

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.

I [heart] you: Pelikan M205 and Levenger Shiraz Ink

(Click on any picture for a larger view.)

Pelikan M205
Rhodium trim, Steel nib

This pen purchase resulted from a recent episode of The Pen Addict podcast where both Brad and Myke sang the praises of their Pelikans. That same day, someone on Twitter mentioned a sale on the Pelikan M205 at Fountain Pen Hospital, so I called it a sign and ordered one. What can I say, my arm was twisted. By fate.

Right around the same time, I was ordering some refills from Levenger, and decided to add a bottle of their Shiraz ink to the order. Both orders arrived on the same day so the obvious choice was to fill one with the other.

Hoo boy, do I love this pair.

Just like peanut butter and chocolate (or chocolate and peanut butter), the Pelikan M205 and the Shiraz ink are two things that work perfectly together. I’m always looking for reasons to use this particular combination, even though I’m someone who leans heavily towards “traditional” ink colors— black, blue-black, blue, brown, and dusty green. The Shiraz looks exactly as I hoped it would— not pink, not red, not purple, but SHIRAZ. It’s not waterproof, for those who care. I love the way it pops on a page without being obnoxious. Simply gorgeous, with a bit of shading. This is an ink that’s kicked me out of my “conservative” rut.

Levenger Shiraz

M205 vs. Lamy 2000
An understated pair for size comparison: Lamy 2000 vs. Pelikan M205

The M205 is one of my smaller (5″ capped; 4-7/8″ uncapped; 6″ posted) and lighter (a mere 14 grams overall) pens, but is an absolute joy to hold and use. It’s a piston filler which makes filling and cleaning fast and easy. The medium steel nib (the only option on this sale pen) is smooth and juicy, but without any flex. This is a very classic looking pen— devoid of any real bling— but who needs bling when you perform this well?! It’s understated and unassuming— a real classic.

Pelikan M205 medium steel nib

Pelikan clip/beak
Pelikan clip/pelican beak

The “pelican’s beak” clip is iconic and suitably springy. The caps band simply states “PELIKAN” and “GERMANY.” I have the black body version, but there are others available— red, taupe, white. Since I’m prone to making sure the pen and ink color complement each other, black is probably the best choice for me, anyway. Everything goes with black. Well…yeah…and also with white. And taupe.

Pelikan M205 ink window

The smoke-colored ink window lets me know when my beloved Shiraz is “down a quart.” I enjoy watching the ink slosh around as the level changes.

This is, admittedly, an entry level Pelikan pen, and there are many prettier and more expensive models available, but for everyday use, the M205 suits me just fine, and it’s been a great way for me to dip my toe in the shallow end of the Pelikan pool.

Pelikan logo

I’m irrationally smitten by the Pelikan logo on the cap— a mama pelican with her chick. Such a sweet pair looking at each other with affection— exactly the way I look at my M205 filled with the Shiraz ink.

Pelikan M205

True love forever.

Shiraz heart