It is the holiday season and people are thinking about what gifts they can give to people that already have too much of everything. I like to give gifts that people will actually use and that will help improve their lives in some way. One of the things that everybody uses, but rarely thinks much of, is their writing instruments – pen and pencils. I thought that I would offer up some options if you want to improve your friend’s pens and pencils. Below are my favorite pens at various price points. You can find most of these pens at Amazon and all of them at JetPens (my preferred pen purchasing location!).
I have been hearing about Retro 51 pens now for over a year on the Pen Addict podcast. Myke, one of the host, is always raving about his love for Retro 51 Tornado pens. About a week ago I finally decided to order one – Tornado Slim Electron.
It uses the Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 black ink which is kind of a mix of rollerball and ballpoint pen ink (you can learn more about it here – a great blog post about the ink). And I will say that it is a wonderful pen. The turning mechanism to get the pen ready to write is tactilely fantastic. The ink is smooth and dark, but dries quickly and writes on just about any surface.
My only issue with the pen is, do I really need a $25 rollerball pen? At the end of the day, that is what this decision comes down to. I really love this pen. It is an A+ pen. It isn’t a question of IF it is a better writing experience than the pens anyone will pick up at Office Depot. And yes that even includes my beloved Energel! It is a question of, “Am I someone who needs a $25 rollerball pen?” If you can afford one, by all means, get one. It is really a dream to write with. But if you can’t, don’t feel like you are cheating yourself. It is more an issue of do I need and will use this pen enough to purchase a $25 rollerball pen.
Listen, I get it. You have been waiting for me to write this. I have had countless friends, Tom, Jack, David, and others, hounding me wanting to know what I think the best inexpensive pen you can buy from most office supply stores. So I’m going to tell you.
The Pentel Energel Needle Tip in .5 is my go-to pen. It is cheap enough so I don’t mind giving them away or losing one, but a great writer on any paper. Surprise, surprise my favorite feature is the almost instant drying time. #leftyproblems But it isn’t just how fast it drys. Pentel’s blue ink is one of the most vibrant I have seen (apart from some Fountain Pen inks, I’m looking at you Noodlers Baystate Blue!). I have been pleased with all of the colors I have used, Black, Blue, Red, and Green. Although I have seen some bleed through on the green with some types of paper. Pentel gives you plenty of options in style, pen tip (Classic or Needle tip), and width of the line (from .38 to 1.0). You can learn more than you care to know about them at a great blog post at JetPens.
I would also add an honorable mention to the Uni-Ball Signo RT1 .38 for my favorite micro gel pen. You can’t get this style in stores in the U.S. (sorry Tennessee). I discovered both of these and more from Brad’s Pen Addict list of Top 5 Pens. It is really the place to go if you want to start exploring some other options. The Signo RT1 gives an incredibly thin line (I write small!) and looks stylish and distinct.
So to recap. Throw out your terrible Pilot G2. I know they are everywhere but so is trash and I don’t see you picking that up and writing with it! Spend $5 on a 3 pack of the Energel pens. If you don’t love them, mail them to me! I will gladly use them.
Sheaffer Skrip Red or Sheaffer Red is an ink I heard about from the Pen Addict Podcast when they had Mike Matteson from Inkdependance. He is an established and thorough ink reviewer. He knows his stuff. On the podcast, he was asked what his favorite Red ink is and he said Sheaffer Skrip Red. It is a little surprising considering how many varieties of red inks their are to settle on a relatively commonplace ink.
I got a sample from Goulet Pens and put it in my Lamy Safari with a Fine nib. I have to agree with Mike, this is a great color. It is vibrant without being so “red,” that you can’t use it in day to day use. It is just a fantastic color. The drying time is a little bit of an issue. Being a lefty stinks when it comes to most inks. That isn’t Sheaffer Red’s problem, probably more of my writing style.
I would absolutely recommend it. Again, go check out Mike’s post about it to get a fuller idea about what it looks like and how it handles on different types of paper.
When I got my first TWSBI Eco (Extra Fine) I decided that I needed to have a real bottle of ink to have a real experience of “fountain penning.” After looking around JetPens for a while, I settled on the J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche. It wasn’t because I loved the color. The truth is it was because I didn’t want to spend $10+ on an ink that I would probably never finish using! I’m a little bit of cheapskate. I settled on the smaller bottle and got to writing.
On the website the color didn’t blow me away, but it had a fast drying time which is my top priority as a lefty writer. I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by the color. It isn’t washed out like the swab on the JetPen’s website led me to believe. It is a solid and consistent turquoise blue. It handles great on my go-to notebook (Muji Notebook) and on copy paper without much feathering or show-through on the other side of the page. Here is a great review from Matt at the PenHabit. He is extremely thorough and gives you tons of visual samples of the ink on paper. If you are looking for a solid ink that is economic and will work on just about any paper I can’t say enough good things about the Bleu Pervenche.
Let me begin by saying that my habit for pens has gotten worse. After listening to and dabbing in some cheaper fountain pens, I took the plunge into the lower end the fountain pen world. Specifically, I got couple of TWSBI Ecos (Extra Fine) and a Lamy Safari (Fine). I’m a lefty and primarily use a “Side-writer” position for writing. So I am prone to smearing and smudging naturally. Almost all of my writing is done in my Muji Notebook which is my everyday carry and cheap copy paper. The Muji Notebook is a recycled paper so I’m sure that has some bearing on my results with various pens and inks.
I recently got some new ink samples from Goulet Pens to see what fit my writing style and fancy. So I’m going to take some time and let you know what I have thought about those inks. I’m not a professional anything and surely not a professional ink reviewer. I recommend Matt at Inkdependence if you want great reviews. But I’ll sure what I experience.
First up is Diamine Orange. What a great shade of orange and what a mess when it comes to drying time! I recently inked up my Twsbi Eco Extra Fine and was stoked to see how this orange ink looked. I was immediately impressed. It is a great shade of “orangey” orange. But using it has proved to be disappointing. My disappointment is all about the drying time. Jetpen’s great post on Fast Drying Fountain Pen Inks warned me about their slow drying time, but I tried it anyway and got results that corroborated their evidence. It handles the paper well, no feathering that I can see, but it drys slowly (10-15 seconds) which is a deal breaker for me. Here is the best qualified review I have found for it so maybe that will help you if you are thinking about it.
A few months ago I began listening to Rev. Chad Brooks podcast, Productive Pastor. He is always going on and on about these pens that he likes to use. One day, instead of working on what I should have been doing, I googled, “Best Pens.”
I found Brad Dowdy’s Pen Addict website. It is absolutely fantastic. After trying out a handful of pens, maybe I will talk about those later, I found this – Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen.
It is my fav! I used a Fountain pen in high school, but it was mostly just me fooling around with it trying learn how to sign my name like a doctor.
This pen is an absolute gem! It is inexpensive (around $3) and feels like I am writing something important even when I am just jotting down my grocery list. If you spend much of your day writing do yourself a favor and get this pen! It makes writing more fun. And isn’t that a good enough of a reason to spend $3?