Four Pens I Can’t Put Down

Four favorites

I have a pretty short attention span when it comes to pens— using a favorite for awhile, then moving on to something different/newer/shinier. Later on, I re-discover the old favorite and bring it back into the pen fold. So there’s always been a pretty decent turnover rate in my day-to-day pen usage.

Four pens

Until now.

I just can’t get enough of these four favorites.

Throughout the course of a week (or day…or hour), I find opportunities to use all of these exceptionally well-made machined pens. I cart them to and from work, journal with them, fill out my datebook(s), and make grocery lists.

They’re just so good.

Ti2 Techliner Shorty

The Ti2 Techliner Shorty (Gonzodized finish) by Ti2 Design is the newest of the bunch and features neodymium magnets, as well as an unconventional nosecone, that make this pen extra fascinating. With an Uni-ball Signo UMR-85N 0.5 mm black refill installed, this has become my go-to Field Notes pen for tracking work and home to-dos.

Karas Kustoms Retrakt

This stunning and classic looking two-tone Retrakt, by Karas Kustoms, arrived in November, and I immediately outfitted it with a Pilot Juice 0.38 mm blue-black refill. The line is super sharp— perfect for jotting down appointments and making entries in my One Line A Day journal. Killer looks, killer performance. Plus knurling. Cannot resist the knurling.

Mover & Shaker

I’ve been using my TactileTurn Mover and Shaker pens since they arrived following Will Hodges’ successful Kickstarter campaign. I should’ve reviewed these long ago, but they’re so good and trouble-free that I almost take them for granted. I’m currently using a Pilot G2 0.38 mm black refill in the Mover (top/red), and a 0.5 mm black Moleskine refill in the Shaker (bottom/raw aluminum). When I’m in the mood for a ballpoint, I swap a Parker-style Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 into the Shaker. They’re rock solid, with a finely grooved grip section for interest and texture.

Four favorites

Each of these pens deserves its own review, and I promise to do so in the near future. But for now, I just wanted to heap some praise where praise is due— on Mike Bond of Ti2 Design, Dan Bishop of Karas Kustoms, and Will Hodges of TactileTurn.

They’ve all run successful and well-managed Kickstarter projects and continue to turn out pens that exemplify attention to detail and good old quality workmanship.

And they’re all really nice guys.

Four favorites

Four favorites. Four pens I just can’t put down.


I purchased all of four pens with my very own allowance.

There are no affiliate links in this post, just happy pen smiles.

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 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?!

Just right

Here are a couple of shots of the pen posted and unposted…

Posted pen


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…

Hefty! (38 g, when loaded with refill)
Excellent stylus
Choice of finishes…matte AND polished
Wide, wide range of compatible refills
Sturdy clip

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.