June 13, 2014

PPF: Made in Taiwan

Happy PPF, friends! I'm not a big fan of plastic pens, but there's something about the TWSBI 580RB that grabs me. Its predecessor, the 540 ROC, was a celebration of Taiwan's 100th anniversary (ROC = Republic of China). As with the prior model, the color scheme and the symbol on the cap are from the Taiwanese flag.

It feels surprisingly substantial. It's large -- over 5.5" capped -- and features an integrated piston filler, an enormous ink capacity, and a big, smooth, shiny steel nib. TWSBI, pronounced "TWIZ-bee," had some trouble with the 540 cracking over time; I hope the enhancements made to the 580 are effective fixes. I'll be wicked sad if this one cracks.




TWSBI 580RB


June 6, 2014

PPF: Least Funky of the Funky Bunch

Happy PPF!  Folks, Italian designer PARAFERNALIA makes some funky looking pens.  The petite AL 115 is as close to mundane as they get, but it's no Bic Stic.  

It works well as a svelte pocket pen -- it's about the size of a long cigarette -- and it has a durable, anodized aluminum body.  It is a ballpoint, but it takes a Schmidt 700 refill; that's a nice, smooth, dark option as ballpoints go.  I wish they hadn't gone with the cheap plastic parts on the ends, but other than that I like this pen.  It's available in a rainbow of colors, but I went with gray because I'm prone to bad decisions.

PARAFERNALIA AL 115

May 30, 2014

PPF: Liberation Groove

Happy Pen Porn Friday! I regret my color choice (as I often do), but Tactile Turn's Mover is still my new favorite pocket pen. It works with 20+ different refills; I've used it to liberate a Pilot Juice that deserves better than the cheap plastic barrel in which it came.

Tactile Turn Mover - Desert Sand

May 16, 2014

PPF: Pencil of My Dreams Edition

Happy Pen(cil) Porn Friday!  Sometimes you need a pencil, but those need not be unpleasant experiences.  The Rotring 600 is a legend among drafting pencils, and a fine looking one at that. 

Rotring 600 (modern) 0.5 mm

November 14, 2013

PPF 48: Reward of Uniquity

Happy PPF! Turns out my Tornado costume eked out a narrow victory in the Retro 51 Halloween costume contest, so the good folks at Retro 51 let me pick a one-of-a-kind Tornado (best. prize. ever.)!  I picked the Wavy Orange Groove writer, and boy is it a looker. I thought it was going to be orange and white, but the white bits are actually a striated silver. I love it!

Retro 51 Wavy Orange Groove Writer

November 8, 2013

PPF 47: Discontinuation Blues

I don't remember where I first heard about the Pilot Explorer -- though my money's on either The Pen Addict or Good Pens -- but it was already too late.  It must have been ahead of its time: too out of step with the stick pens and questionable color pallets of the 80s and 90s.  It wasn't even that they had become so hard to find that they were going for $100 on eBay and I wouldn't do it -- they weren't on eBay.  I couldn't find one anywhere.

I pined for months before it showed up: one unopened 2-pack of Pilot Explorers.  They were in New Zealand and had to be purchased through a site I'd never heard of, but the retailer took Paypal and only wanted $7 for them -- totally worth the risk.  Eventually, they came!  I have them!  They go great with leaves.


For what were intended to be disposable office pens, these are kind of amazing.  They have fairly hefty, thick barrels and surprisingly comfortable molded grips reminiscent of the famed Lamy Safari.  Design aside, they seem to have been some of the first widely distributed fine-tipped modern pens, which earned them a permanent spot in the hearts of many.

The only thing I don't like about these is knowing there's little hope for replacing or refilling them.  As Patrick at A Pen A Day put it, "I like this one so much I don't want to use it."

November 1, 2013

PPF 46: Fountain Pen Day

Happy PPF and happy Fountain Pen Day!  The official Fountain Pen Day website describes the holiday as an occasion to "embrace, promote, and share fountain pens and the handwritten arts."  Pen Porn Friday is, I suppose, an occasion to enjoy gratuitous images of writing instruments for no higher purpose than personal enjoyment.  So, embrace your inner pen gawker!  Promote and share when you're ready.  This is a safe space.

Hey, look -- a pen!  It's the Muji Aluminum Fountain Pen, which is one a heck of a pleasant surprise at $15.50.  It looked to me like another great example of Muji's simple, beautiful, affordable designs, but it's a great writer, too.  The build quality is impressive; it feels solid overall, but certainly not heavy, and no rattly parts.  That little ridge on the bottom of the cap lets it post firmly on the end of the pen, which has a tiny round slot for it on the end of the barrel.  It uses international standard cartridges, which are easy to find.

It's a great buy if you're up for spending $15 on a pen (live a little!), but good luck getting off the Muji website without several other items jumping in your cart.

Muji Aluminum Fountain Pen

October 25, 2013

PPF 45: Campy Vacation Edition

Happy PPF!  Folks, when you tell people that you like pens, they tend to assume that you hate mediocre pens. This has always seemed curious to me since I just said that I like pens. 

Thankfully kids seem immune from whatever self-conscious impulse triggers that response. So when my nephew spotted this souvenir pen, he was excited to show it to me even through his nonchalant, "yo check this out" demeanor.  I happily purchased it despite the fact that it's a stick (heh) pen with no top. And they say kids are impressionable. 


Not an awful buy for $3.99; it's a fairly smooth ballpoint with some weight to it, BUT NO TOP. Seriously, wtf. 

Prior to this find, I'd selected another souvenir pen. This style is available roughly everywhere; the pens usually retail for $1.99 and they're awful, sub-Bic writers. This one happened to fit with the "pen porn" theme, though it might be a little too wacka-chicka for me.



October 18, 2013

PPF 44: Plus They're Cool Edition

Happy PPF!  Folks, I've made reference to Fisher Space Pens many times, but here's the real deal: two of Fisher's Bullet-style pocket pens. 



The Bullet style is only 3.75" capped and 5.25" posted with a super durable brass body. One free line of engraving if you order from SpacePen.com.  Gifting occasions are coming up!
 

The matte black one is -- I think -- the first non-disposable pen I ever bought.  My friend Kelley kindly reminds me of how many times I had to "visit" it in the store before I eventually shelled out $17 and brought it home.  The shiny one (which offers a bonus reflection of me taking the picture) was an eBay purchase.  It has the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives and came in a nifty gift box; the seller said it was a gift from his congressman.  (The seller also failed to mention in the listing that it was a Fisher Space Pen, so I think I only paid $8 for it.  Sweet deal.)



One more thing to mention: despite whatever email forward or clever anecdote you got from your wingnut neighbor or smug uncle, the U.S. government did not spend a gazillion dollars developing a space pen while the Russians sensibly used pencils.  All astronauts used pencils initially, but they weren't ideal: the tips can flake and break off, and that's problematic in zero gravity.  Plus NASA was a little shifty about having flammable crap like pencil shavings around given the potential for space shuttles to, y'know, blow up.  Tragically.

Space pens were actually developed by Paul Fisher of the Fisher Pen Co., who had had some success in the 1950s with his "Universal Refill," which could be used in most ballpoint pens of the time.  Fisher invested his own money in the project and patented his AG7 Anti-Gravity Pen in 1965.  He offered the pen to NASA; after two years of testing the agency placed an initial order of 400 Fisher Space Pens for $2.95 each.  They first flew on Apollo 7.  The Russians started using them shortly thereafter.

PLUS THEY'RE COOL.  

Truthfully, I don't end up using a space pen much.  They are especially smooth ballpoints, but I just don't love a ballpoint.  Many of the pen bodies (there are a ton of options now) are really cool, though.  Is it wrong to want a gel refill for a space pen?  It feels a little wrong.

October 11, 2013

PPF 43: Surprise Prequel Edition

Happy PPF! In some ways, the current Retro 51 Hex-o-matic is like Terminator 2. First, it's badass. It's also much more well known than its predecessor. So much so that even though The Terminator (1984) was made before T2 (1991), it kind of feels like a prequel. That could be partly due to my age -- I hadn't turned 2 yet when the original movie came out -- but T2 grossed $520 million compared to The Terminator's $38 million, so I don't think I'm alone here.

I've had and loved the current model of the Hex-o-matic for months, but I had no idea that Retro 51 had released a prior version in the early 90s (perhaps in limited numbers since the brand itself was born in the early 90s). I learned that yesterday when the nice person manning @Retro1951 responded to my tweet:




I love the internet.

One more picture:

Retro 51 Hex-o-matics (left to right: 2012 version, early 90s version)

October 4, 2013

PPF 42: Ink, Yes; Joy, No

Happy PPF!  So you know how most grocery-type stores carry dozens of laundry detergent brands, but Procter & Gamble makes all of them?  Not technically true, but they do make Cheer, Downy, Dreft, Era, Febreeze, Gain, Ivory, and 47 kinds of Tide, plus a bunch of international brands.  That sort of offering allows P&G to target different market segments with efforts tailored to each, and it crowds out competition by making it that much harder for a new brand to find a toehold.

Newell Rubbermaid (NWL) isn't the P&G of the pen world, but they do own eight major pen brands: you're likely familiar with Paper Mate, uni-ball, Parker, and Sharpie; Expo probably made the nearest whiteboard marker to you; Prismacolor is primarily targeted at artists; rOtring is a German brand of really cool technical pens and mechanical pencils; and Waterman is a luxury brand born in NY that seems to be trying to pass itself off as French these days (wouldn't that make you L'Homme d'Eau, guys?).

At the most affordable end of that spectrum is Paper Mate, which it turns out people like!  I didn't actually have any Paper Mate products on hand, but I picked some up recently at the suggestion of readers Tom and Mary.  The Profile 1.4Bs and the InkJoys I tried still look and feel cheap, but on the plus side, they are cheap: $0.75 and $1.25 respectively, versus $2.60 for the uni-ball Jetstream and $2.50 for the Pilot Acroball that I used for comparison.  (The Profile was the only true ballpoint in this fight; the InkJoy, Jetstream, and Acroball are all hybrids: they use mixed inks that aim to dry instantly like a ballpoint but flow smoothly like a rollerball.)

At 1.4 mm, the Profile's tip was considerably broader than any ballpoint I'd used before; it kind of felt like writing with a chopstick at first.  It was smoother than I expected right away, but it got considerably better after I wrote with it for a while.  At the end of the test I'd say it even wrote with a color depth comparable to the Jetstream, though it required more force (a problem for my crampy old lady hand) and couldn't match the consistency.  Still, for $0.75 it was a pleasant surprise.

As expected, the InkJoy was smoother right out of the gate, but the barrel is cheesy and slim and its greasy ink accumulated on the tip overnight and made a big globby mess the next time I used it.  Ink, yes; joy, no.
 
Right to Left: Paper Mate Profile x 2, InkJoy x 2, uni-ball Jetstream RT, Pilot Acroball

October 2, 2013

Midweek Disappointments

When I first got my TWSBI Diamond Mini (months ago), I only had Noodler's Bulletproof Black on hand, and though it's one of my favorite inks, it doesn't look particularly exciting in a demonstrator.  So yesterday when I finally finished that first fill, I was excited to try something new.  Something special.  Something like Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki.

Sadly, in the barrel...it pretty much looks like black too.