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.

Cool: The Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint

Sincere thanks to Ron at Pen Chalet for sending along this Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint pen for review. There are no affiliate links in this post, and I was not otherwise compensated. This review reflects my experiences and observations with the pen.

When my sister and I were kids, we used to hop onto our Stingray bikes, pedal to the top of our street, then coast all the way down to the bottom, NO HANDED, while snapping our fingers and chanting, “Cool, man, cool. Cool, man, cool.” (Bike helmets weren’t even a consideration. So THAT was safe!) This WAS the 60’s after all. We said “COOL!” all the time.

Thing is, I STILL say it. And it’s the first word that popped into my head when I opened the Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint packaging. Cool, man, cool.

Pilot Ageless Present ballpoint pen

The Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint is housed in a sturdy plastic tube that’s great for protecting the pen, and also for showing it off. With the top cover removed, the pen stands at attention, looking sharp and ready for work. I’ve been using the pen at my job and I like keeping it at the ready in its pen stand. This is “keeper” packaging, for sure.

Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint

This plastic-body pen is available in eight colors. I have the white version which is a classy looking pearl white rather than plain vanilla white. As I mentioned in my review of the Palomino Pearl pencil, I love a pearl finish, and I think it looks great on this pen. The grip section is a translucent smoky grey— clear enough for you to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the pen.

Pilot Agess Present ballpoint pen

What sets this pen apart from other ballpoints— what makes it extra cool— is the two-step deploy and retract mechanism. Twist the grip section once to deploy the pen’s “nosecone,” then once more to extend the writing tip. The pen measures 4.75″ when fully retracted and 5.37″ when fully deployed.

Stage 1 deployment
Stage 1 deployment

Stage 2 deployment
Stage 2 deployment

Fully retracted, the pen is great for pocket carry as the “business end” of the pen is protected inside the pen’s grip. (It reminds me of a turtle poking its head out of its shell, then withdrawing it for safety.) The action is very smooth and, yes, very cool.

The clip end
A mirror finish on the clip end of the pen

The included refill (Pilot BRFN-10M, Blue, 1.0mm) is as smooth as that deployment mechanism. I tend to prefer black ballpoint ink (an artifact of all my years recording documentation into lab notebooks— black ink required), but this is a rich and smooth blue that could win me over. The lines are solid and the refill is not “draggy” at all. It’s a good looking and good feeling writing experience— one that rivals the Jetstream blue 1.0mm refill.

The package insert included with the pen indicates that the following refills are also compatible with the Pilot Ageless Present model:

  • Dr. Grip Center Of Gravity Medium refills (#77271 and #77272)
  • G2 Fine short refills (#77291 and #77292)

Ready for work!
Ready for work!

At $42.40, this isn’t a no-brainer purchase. But for your money you get unique and useful packaging, a sturdy, great-looking pen with a quality refill, outfitted with a fun and innovative deployment mechanism. This isn’t the same old, same old. Though the pen is plastic, it has a solid weighty feel. The pearl white color is classy and the ink is dark and smooth.

Pilot Ageless Present ballpoint pen

And that mechanism. It IS cool, man, cool.


To see the Pilot Ageless Present Ballpoint pen in action, check out THIS VIDEO, presented by Pen Chalet.

Traveling With Pens: A Case Study (or a study of a basket case?!)

I’m attending a conference in Indianapolis, IN this week. But before I traveled here, I spent a god awful amount of time mulling over which pens to bring with me. Clothes? Easy. Pens? Not so much.

Right up until the last minute I was swapping pens in and out of my Nock Co. Brasstown case. The case, at least, was pretty much a given. Even though I schlep three or four Nock Co. Pen cases to and from work every day, I knew I only wanted to travel with one, and the Brasstown quickly made the cut. With its roll-up, multiple pen holding “tongue” and space to carry some ink cartridges and a small ruler, the case was an easy pick.

When it was time to leave for the airport, I had to STOP with the pen swaps and go with what was in the case. Here’s the final line-up:

Fountain pens
Lamy AL Star Blue-Green (fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Lamy Vista (extra-fine nib) with Lamy black cartridges
Pilot Knight (medium nib) with Namiki Blue/Black cartridges

Rollerball pen
Retro 51 Betsy Tornado Rollerball

Gel pen
Nock Co./Karas Kustoms exclusive Render K with 0.5 mm black G2 refill

Ballpoint pens
Fisher Space pen (matte black bullet model)
TactileTurn Shaker with Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 black refill


I’m a couple of days into the conference now and have a few thoughts about my choices. The Lamy Vista is great. The EF nib is perfect in my Clairefontaine notebook and I especially like being able to monitor the ink level. The fine nib on the Lamy AL Star is a little broad, while the medium nib on the Pilot Knight is wonderfully smooth and lays down a precise fine line as it’s a Japanese medium.

The Fisher Space pen has been particularly handy for filling out entry forms at today’s trade show. It’s easy to carry and completely reliable. Maybe not my favorite refill of all time, but great when you just need a pen to do its job whenever and wherever.

I haven’t used Betsy or the Shaker as yet, though both are favorites when I’m home. I think I’ll work them into tomorrow’s sessions. Could it be I have pen A.D.D.? Is that a thing?


A couple of other Nock Co. products have really performed well on this trip- the Fodderstack loaded with the DotDash 3×5 cards paired with Nock Co. x Karas Kustoms Exclusive G2 Render K. The pen looks and writes great. I love the playful trio of colors, and loaded with a 0.5 mm G2 refill, it’s been perfect for taking meeting notes AND for keeping track of action items that are popping up at work and at home. By jotting down tasks on the DotDash cards, I’m able to concentrate on what I should be concentrating on- the conference.

Someone on Twitter suggested that I should travel with only one pen as a challenge, and I considered that for a little bit. Obviously, I didn’t go that route since I have a stupid number of pens with me. But really, I’m having fun swapping pens from day to day…or even within the same day.

And, I must admit, pens are something of a security blanket for me. I feel better when they’re with me.


There…I admitted it.

Written and photographed on my iPad and iPhone with poor hotel lighting. But written nonetheless!

Too fine?! The Pilot Metropolitan/Lizard/Fine nib

I’ve been a fan of the Pilot Metropolitan since its introduction, and have a handful of the medium nibbled versions in Black/Plain, Gold/Dot, Silver/Zig-Zag, White Tiger, and Purple Leopard. (Might’ve gone a LITTLE bit overboard there, but they ARE kind of addictive in a I-must-have-one-of-each kind of way.)


As you’ve undoubtedly read in numerous other reviews, the Pilot Metropolitan really is a phenomenal value. For just $14.50-$15, you get a very solid, superbly performing pen, along with a squeeze converter and one cartridge. It’s the real deal at an amazingly low price. The metal body has a very nice heft (26g overall; 17g body, 9g cap) that is equally pleasant to write with posted or unposted. The snap-cap issues a satisfying “CLICK” when you cap the pen and posts without a hint of wishy-washiness. Rock solid, is what the Metropolitan is. Obviously, I’m a bit of a Metro groupie.

The complete package
The complete package

SOOOO, when Pilot recently introduced the Metropolitan with a FINE nib, I added the Taupe/Lizard model to a JetPens refill order to boost myself up to the $25 free shipping threshold. The pen arrived last week and I’ve been spending time with it ever since. I decided to forgo the cartridge, and instead filled the converter with Pilot’s Iroshizuku tsukushi (horsetail), which is a good match for the lizard pattern accent band. The lizardish body band is a deep brown that blends well with the taupe body. Others, you may have read, are not exactly head-over heels in love with the animal pattern models, but I think most of them are kind of cool and not too gimmicky looking.

Lizard pattern

There’s a faction of Metropolitan fans that’s been crying out for a fine-nibbed version of the Metropolitan but I wasn’t one of them. The original models, available only with Pilot’s medium nib— which is equivalent to a western fine— suited me well. But I was curious. Thus the order.

Like every Pilot fountain pen, my Lizard Metropolitan started RIGHT up, without a skip or stutter or hesitation. Pilot pens do not disappoint. The line it put down is supremely sharp and crisp, and felt even finer than the nib on my Kaküno (also fine and also from Pilot). In fact, it felt a little TOO fine, a little too sharp. Not scratchy, but sharp. VERY sharp. Hmmmm.

Fine nibbed Metro

I’ve been a fine/extra-fine person forever, and only recently branched out into broader nibs, but something in me has changed. I’ve gotten used to the buttery smoothness of those broader nibs and the way that the wetter/thicker line of a medium or broad nib brings out the shading properties of many inks. Writing with such a needle-like nib felt weird. Not bad, just weird.

I kept thinking, “It’s not you, it’s me.” “You’re a really great pen, I’m just not into you.” I did not say these things out loud because that would be weird. But I thought them. (Still weird, isn’t it?!)

BUT…that’s not the end of the story. For the past few days I’ve been using this particular pen when writing in my Field Notes (California State Fair and Night Sky editions) and my opinion took a 180-degree turn. The super-fine nib suits the Field Notes paper perfectly. Whereas a medium or broad nib would be an inky mess on Field Notes paper, with this Metro, there’s little to no feathering and just a TOUCH of bleed-through. And you know what? When I went back to writing on my Rhodia pad, I liked the way it felt on that paper, too. Very precise. Very crisp.

In Field Notes
In Field Notes, w/ Iroshizuku tsukushi

Initially, I thought the Metropolitan’s fine nib was TOO fine, but a little time and the right paper changed my mind. It’s probably not a pen I’ll use for letter writing, but for writing out my daily work and home lists, journaling, and jotting down appointments in my homemade Field Notes calendar, it’s just the ticket. It’s also another “candidate” pen for my conference later in the summer (low cost, yet still a great writer).

Metropolitan fine nib

The Pilot Metropolitan— fine pen, fine nib, fine price.

And I am, it turns out, fine with all of that.

So I picked up a broad……..nib.

Never say never. Though I thought I would forever be an extra-fine/fine woman (we’re talking nibs here), watching all of those SBREBrown pen review videos (that man loves him some B, BB, and even BBB nibs), and receiving letters from friends who swear by juicy, fat nibs, I cracked. I had to explore.

VP Raden with broad nib

Goulet Pens recently ran a “Spring Cleaning” 20% off promotion on a number of items, including the Pilot Vanishing Point nib units. What a perfect time to branch out a bit. When the broad VP nib unit arrived, I popped it into my beloved and sparkly Raden VP (thanks, Dan!), loaded it from a sample vial of Noodler’s Turquoise (thanks, Joe!), pulled out some Tomoe River paper and let it fly.

Hoo boy. VERY nice.

I kind of get it now. Maybe I MORE THAN get it now.

VP Raden with broad nib

While I won’t be using broad nibs for my everyday writing— my handwriting is just too small for that— I can totally see myself transitioning to them for letter writing, when I can use my Tomoe River or Clairfontaine Triomphe paper, and when I really like seeing how an ink shades.

Granted, the Vanishing Point broad is, since it’s Japanese, more like a European medium, but still. I’d stepped away from my comfort zone and had to admit that it felt…well…comfortable. Wonderfully smooth. Nicely juicy.

(This keeps sounding dirty and I DO NOT MEAN FOR THAT TO BE HAPPENING.)

Raden VP with broad nib

Getting back to my point (and my G-rating), all I’m trying to say is that it’s cool to take a pen body that you love, and swap in some different nibs for a completely different writing experience. The VPs are great for this, as are, of course, Lamys and TWSBIs. I see that Richard Binder offers Vanishing Point pen bodies (even the new metallics) separately, so I may go that route when I decide to spring for the cool looking green metallic. That’ll save me about $60. Since I own a range of nib units to swap in, why buy another complete pen?

VP nib unit and Lamy nib

When I ordered the broad VP nib unit, I also picked up a Lamy broad nib as these are crazy easy to swap in and out of several Lamy pen models. And when I recently purchased my Edison Nouveau Premiere Cherry Blossom with a medium nib, I tossed a fine and a 1.1 mm stub into my shopping cart, as well. One gorgeous looking pen, three different writing options.

So have fun. Experiment. With nibs, I mean.

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.

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.

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.

Embrace the Darkness: Pilot Iroshizuku take-sumi

Many thanks to the fine folks at JetPens for sending along this bottle of Iroshizuku ink. I was not otherwise compensated, and this review reflects my experiences and observations with the ink in my pen and on my paper. Your results and opinions may, of course, differ.

When a bottle of Iroshizuku take-sami (Bamboo Charcoal) showed up in my mailbox, courtesy of JetPens, I immediately knew which pen I’d fill. I recently outfitted my Matte Black Pilot Vanishing Point with a black-plated 18K nib/converter unit, so I all I needed to complete the stealthy trifecta was a superb black ink, and here it was.

Iroshizuku take-sumi

In my previous job of 14 years, I was required to write in black ink (ballpoint, but still) all day, every day. So you’d think that I’d run screaming for the hills now that I’m free of that SOP-dictated requirement. Funny thing is, I still like and use black ink, and am always on the lookout for a particularly good one.

Iroshizuku writing sample

I already have a few Iroshizuku inks (kon-peki and fuyu-gaki…both luscious colors) so I was pretty sure take-sumi would get high marks for good behavior. And it does. In this Vanishing Point with its fine nib (Japanese fine, so it’s like a western EF), take-sumi goes on wet, but dries quickly— easily within ten seconds, even on Rhodia paper. It’s smooth and consistent— a very solid black. Solid in performance AND in looks. It’s not a grey black, not a watered down black. Is it the blackest black ever? Probably not, though I haven’t jumped too far into the black ink pool. I’d consider it to be an excellent black— surely the best I own. (How many times can I say “black”? A lot, apparently.)

Smudge test

I don’t regularly expose my hand-written pages to liquid so waterproofness isn’t something I really care about, but in the name of science, I “spritzed” my page.

Spritzed Rhodia page

So, yeah, don’t do that.

"Get to work!"

I don’t have a big collection of inks (though the pull to acquire more is strong), and I’m admittedly drawn to colors that look like the a glass of fine wine or the sea or a freshly sliced persimmon, especially when I’m writing letters and have time to appreciate an ink’s shading and depth and freshness. But there are plenty of times when I just need need to get stuff done, and black ink has always been just the thing for flipping on the “get to work” switch in my brain.

Pilot Vanishing Point Black Matte

It’s easy to love ink colors that pop off the page, but loving a black ink takes a little more work. Packaged in that gorgeously iconic Iroshizuku bottle, take-sumi impresses with its lovely darkness. It’s like the night sky. Usually you take it for granted, but every now and then you look up and think “wow.”

Back of the bottle

I’m smitten.