Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sheaffer Viewpoint Calligraphy Pen Review

I first tried my hand at calligraphy in elementary school, but back then I was still trying to figure out handwriting, period! So it ended up being just kind of a fun thing to try out once and that was good for me. But then more recently, as I became interested in learning how to be more expressive in my writing, I decided to snag a calligraphy fountain pen. The cheapest out there seemed to be the Sheaffer Viewpoint Calligraphy - was able to pick it up at a local store for under $5, but is also available through this Amazon vendor here for about $6. Given the price of fountain pens in general, not a bad price.

Here is the pen itself:

Looks pretty distinguished, even for an all-plastic construction (excepting the tip of course). You can make out the famous Sheaffer 'white dot' at the top of the clip.

The Viewpoint Calligraphy pen comes in three nib widths, and the one I have is a B - Broad, or 1.8mm wide.

The pen is a crisp italic, meaning sharp edges and potential risk of getting caught in the paper if one is caught unawares. Definitely it takes a little more care than a ballpoint, but it's not as bad as some people out there make it out to be, especially if you have a little coordination. Just concentrate on keeping your nib / pen in the same orientation throughout your strokes and you'll be fine =)

Here is the pen posted; it has good balance in this arrangement. You can also see the namesake of the pen, on the bottom part of the barrel - it's a large cutout in the body, that lets you see the link level in the cartridge (the pen comes with 2, of different colors - mine came in a blue and a black). Pretty neat design, which often one finds only in higher-end pens, with their view-windows and such.

Btw, the pen is a pop-cap, and not a screw-down - though of course the section and the body connect via screw threading.

On to the writing sample!

It pretty much goes without saying but I'm very amateur when it comes to calligraphic / italic writing. I love some of the stuff I see out there, and I have an old calligraphy book that I'm planning to learn from. But it definitely takes time to learn new letterforms, and training my hand to keep the nib at the typically requisite 45 degrees. Even still, it's fun to play with, and both cursive and print come out with a fun, new flair. Definitely a worthy (and some may say even necessary) addition to one's pen stable if you want to get into ornamental writing. Consider that many ancient books and Bibles for centuries were written in the same styles that calligraphers use today! Neat stuff.

A final shot of the pen in 'exploded' form:

I would check at your local art store to see if they have this italic fountain pen out, it might be cheaper than Amazon, but if not, check the link at the header of this post. Happy calligraphying (er...)!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pilot Hi-Tec C Ultramarine .3mm Gel Pen Review

One of my favorite pens of all time, and one of the earliest gel pens I ever used, was the Pilot Hi-Tec C. Known for their needle-point tips and amazingly thin lines, the design and construction of the pens themselves are simple, utilitarian, yet redolent with classic style, and full of design touches that I recognize immediately every time I pick one up, things that combine to set it apart from other gel pens. The six-panel stick design, reminiscent of wooden pencils; the clear body; the understated ring-grooved grip; the instantly recognizable metal needlepoint tip; the squared yet tapered off cap that posts as well as caps with a satisfying 'click.' It's a wonderful pen series, and if you have never tried one, it's definitely worth a look.

I've used these pens for the past ten years and so I figure it's about time I reviewed one =)  The pen under consideration today, is in a color I only recently have begun to use, 'Ultramarine.'

The 'UM' at the end of the model name signifies the color, and the little '200' in the box after that, is the price in Japan - 200 yen, or about 2 bucks. I believe ten years ago they used to be 100 yen.

Here is the famous needle tip; this is a .3mm (which differs in construction from the .4mm):

Note the precision engineering that must have gone into such a product. The stepped levels keep getting smaller and smaller, starting from the retaining cap, on down to the main body of the tip, then on to the needle-point and finally to the very tippy tip, which houses an actual tiny, stainless steel ball. Amazing stuff. Here is a quick pic of the pen posted. It's got very nice balance in this configuration:

Now, on to the writing performance. As you could imagine, writing with such a thin tip means if you're not careful - i.e., pressing too hard, using cheap paper - you could get some scratchiness, even paper rips. But for someone with a light touch (as most fountain pen users tend to be), or with some usage and attention to one's grip, this is really not a problem. One orentation that I've found helps, is to angle the body back toward oneself, almost like one would use a fountain pen. This lets the pen glide across the paper easier.

Here is a writing sample. You can write really, really small with this guy!:

And as I note in the sample above, these pens are also really nifty for sketching and doodling, especially on smaller pads like Post-it pads and Rhodias. This sample was written on a Clairefontaine 90g paper (small wire-bound pad).

As for the color itself, the ultramarine is a (to use utterly subjective terms) smooth, calming blue with a hint of green. Not as 'dark' (as in emotion) as turquoise, but not as rich as a royal or cerulean blue. It's really great.

JetPens sells these, as does TokyoPenShop (they were recently featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine for the Hi-Tec C's, actually). Both great retailers, who I've bought from and corresponded with, and excellent prices, support, and speed. The Hi-Tec C's come in other varieties than the .3mm - they also come in a .4mm as already mentioned, a .25, a multi-pen variant called the 'Coleto,' as metal-bodied upscale pens, and even a mini version in Pilot's 'Putimo' line. We'll review those in the future too. In the meanwhile, check out these classic pens and enjoy the microscopic writing pleasure =)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bazik 'Mileno' Fountain Pen Review

I'm a bargain-hound at heart, and so I from time to time visit the dollar store, especially if I'm out to get some cheap tools, wrapping paper, and other odds and ends. Some dollar stores have interesting stationery items from time to time - erasable highlighters, three-packs of Sharpies for a buck, and other ones that will be the topic of future posts.

But under consideration are these little gems:

They are the 'Bazik' branded, 'Mileno' model fountain pen. And, they were a whopping $1.29 each, including three ink cartridges apiece. What a deal! But were the fountain pens usable? Because even a $1.29 bad pen is, well, a bad pen.

Let's take a closer look at the pens (in the packaging):



They came in a dark blue and a maroon, and I picked up one of each. The packaging looked decent enough, and on the back, there's some Spencerian-ish script, directions on how to use the cartridge, and decent descriptions about the fountain pen (it got cut off in the pic but it mentions a feed, a nib, and so on - so the people who made this weren't totally clueless regarding fountain pens, thankfully!).

Here are some pics of the maroon pen, out of the package:


As you can tell from the pics, the construction seems very decent, and even though everything is plastic except for the nib and the clip (and the clip may be chromed plastic, even), it feels solid in hand, if a bit light (to be expeced), and frankly the Dollar brand pens from India don't necessarily have anything on these pens, from a construction standpoint. The cap is a pull-top one (not screw-in), and it pops open and closed with a reassuring 'click.'

Alright, by now you're wondering how it writes. Well, the long and the short of it - it writes perfectly fine, the two I have are very smooth and almost no scratchiness, and they flow well. Here is a writing sample:

 As the sample notes, the line width is about a medium-fine, and the included ink is a bit grayer than my Noodler's Heart of Darkness, but it is perfectly acceptable, though it required a bit of a good pinch on the cartridge to get the juices flowing the first time around. Another neat thing is that the third cartridge was inside the pen (the packaging looks like there's only 2 carts), upside-down - i.e., already in the standard position used to store the spare as well as help keep the installed cartridge from falling out.

One surprising thing was that the nib is slightly semi-flex! You can see it in the sample above; the nib tines actually do widen. It takes a lot of pressure, but it's neat to think that a $1.29 pen does this.

Here's another pic demonstrating the flex:

Here are a few more pics - the feed; a breakout shot; a posted pic; and the blue and red combo:

Overall verdict? A dang nice backup fountain pen, and one that you could use to load up with your less frequently used inks that you just can't bring yourself to get rid of (because we can't all have several copies of our favorite pen!), yet you'd like to use once in a while. The pens write nicely, and frankly as well as even $30~50 pens I've seen. Sure it doesn't have the cachet of a brand name (though, "Bazik" has that gourmet flair yes? ha.), or precious materials, but it flows smooth and works well, and you can afford to get a few of these for rough and ready use.

Not sure where all this pen is available, but I might just go ahead and do a couple giveaways on them soon. Keep your eyes peeled =)

One more last pic - here's a pack of refills, 12x for - you guessed it! - $1.29  =D

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TelePen Keychain Pen Review

We all have our favorite writing implements, and of course try to have that with us at all times. That neat gel pen, the medical sample ballpoint our doctor uncle gave us, perhaps a fountain pen. But, we are prone to lose things, misplace things (some more than others), and at those times, it's really convenient to have a backup.

I'd searched about a bit for a useful backup pen - there's a couple out there, but are either really pricey, or really bulky. For instance, there's a titanium keychain pen that used to be available, for almost $60. Uh, sorry, but that's incomprehensible for a bush-league player like me =)  And then there's for instance the R.S.V.P. mini's - which are fun to use but too big to feasibly put on your keychain (except maybe to use as a handle to swing your keys around like a flailing mace).

Step in, the TelePen, by "True Utility."

This pen costs only $5.99 at It comes with what you see above: bubble package, telescoping pen, split ring, and three refills.

A nice looking pen!

And as the name implies, it telescopes out, much like an old-school car antenna, or a chart-pointer thingy (pre-laser days):

After telescoping to full length (about 4.25"), pull a little harder and the tip pops out of the cap:

The ballpoint's writing quality is pretty typical; smooth and writes dark enough for everyday use. Here is a writing sample:

To refill the pen, unscrew the tippy tip tip:

Neat thing is that the manufacturer saw fit to put an o-ring in there. Nice touch. More than waterproofness, it helps provide a snug fit of the tip to the body.

As you can see here, the refill is pretty much like a snipped off piece of a standard ballpoint refill. The manufacturer even recommends doing just that, once the three extra refills are used up. However, I doubt you'll have to worry about this, since it's more of a backup/emergency use pen.

The grip is of course nothing like say a Dr. Grip or Jellfit, but is comfortable enough to write with - though by necessity being very thin at the tip.

If needed, though, you could telescope it down one section, trading overall length for a little more girth in the barrel:

Or even two sections, if you're feeling adventurous...

...but that's as far as you can get, because if you collapse the last section, it becomes a little stub that you can't hold like a regular pen.

The build is stainless steel, and feels pretty tough. Well-designed, and comes with a split ring too, so that you can add it to your keys right away. A backup pen is invaluable when you need to endorse a check, write down some important notes, scribble directions for someone, and you don't have your regular pen with you. This one definitely fits the bill and at a very affordable price point. Check it out!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stainless Steel Sharpie Review

Sharpies are a wonderful thing. Permanent ink (great for labeling your clothes in the dorm environment), wonderful design (the gray, the black, the recognizable shoulder of the tip, the integrated clip), the smell, the 'pop' sound when opening and 'click' when closing - all of these make for a unique and dare I say 'American' experience. Sanford truly hit a home run with the design and utility of this item. I keep it around for writing on CDs, for construction work, for touching up black shoes and my camera, the list can go on and on.

Well, Sanford took a classic and made it even better. Of course, there have been other Sharpie newnesses - various Sharpie pens, mini-Sharpies, double-headed Sharpies, Sharpie highlighters, and more - but this one is a particularly nice and eye-catching evolution.

We speak of course of the Stainless Steel Sharpie:

The body of this SS Sharpie, is all stainless steel. It feels very tough in the hand, and would provide a good hard poke to someone if it happened to be the only self-defense implement you had with you. The cap pops down with a reassuring 'click,' too. The 'Sharpie' logo is laser-etched on, so no paint to wear off. The finish has held up well despite banging about in my pencil case for a couple months now.

The Sharpie's writing bit is as far as I can tell, the same as the original, so probably not much need to discuss much here. Just be careful about bleed on thinner papers (probably cardstock is the way to go if bleed is a big concern), and enjoy the thick, dark line it lays down.

The neat thing about this Sharpie that is worthy of mention, is that it is refillable. The black thing you see in the picture above, is the refill. Assuming the whole barrel is filled with ink, it's got a considerable reservoir, and when its done, you can hang on to the stainless steel shell and pop in a new refill. This is especially nice since the felt tip usually degrades after a while, and then you'll get a new, sharp tip, while still retaining your old barrel. The refill screws in via square threads (nice touch), and additionally, the threading on the receiving end of the barrel is, of course, stainless steel - so they'll last pretty much forever without getting cross-threaded, etc., since the threads on the refill are plastic (much softer).

So, this is a definitely good buy, and nice upgrade on the original Sharpie - especially if you need one that will hold up to greater use and abuse. It's a little thicker than the original Sharpie but not obtrusively so. I bought mine at Walmart for a little over $5, much cheaper than at the big box stationery stores.

Btw, for ideas on how to use it, head on over to the neat Sharpie blog. Cool ideas there.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Kum "PenCut"

Browsing JetPens, I came across this neat item:

It's the "PenCut," made by Kum. Kum is a German stationery manufacturer, who has been making quality writing and art implements for a long time. This is one of their newer items: a safety set of pen-sized folding scissors! And is very cool, almost James Bond-ish.

Here are the folded blades:

And here are the neat flexible nylon fold-away handles:

And here are the scissors fully open:

Note the full tang on the scissors. The metal extends
from scissor tip all the way to the end of the handle.
Means very sturdy scissoring action!

It's basically a set of child-sized scissors, but in a pen-sized format. It's about the size, roughly, of a standard Sharpie. MUCH easier to stow with your gear than a regular set of scissors, plus they won't poke other stuff (like you!). I used to carry a small set of 'safety' scissors, which was very useful, but always poking other stuff. Woe to the sad soul upon whom such a pair of scissors opens while in their backpack...!

Now your scissor needs don't have to be scissor woes, thanks to this PenCut. The neat thing about it is that it can be configured for use ambidextrously. And it cuts well, as you can see from the following shots:


The nicely cut edge.

The PenCut is available here from JetPens. If you're going to be doing some intense scissoring sessions, sure you need that pair of Fiskars at home. But on-the-go, I haven't seen as good a solution as this one yet.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pilot Namiki Falcon Review (modified by Mottishaw)

Hello! Here is the first review for The Penny Writer! Up for consideration today is a Pilot Namiki Falcon fountain pen, but with a twist: modified to extra-extra-fine and added flex, by John Mottishaw (of

The Falcon is well-known among fountain-pen users as a 'semi-flex' or 'soft' nib - it does indeed flex, though not quite in the same way as the classic flexible fountain pens. It has what Pilot calls a 'hooded' nib (though it is not hooded in the same way as say a Parker 51). The Falcon does produce a line of variable width with increased pressure, partly due to the spread of the tines, and partly due to a wetter line put down due to lifting of the nib tip from the feed. A fine pen from the factory, but with a little added touches, it's even better. Step in John Mottishaw, one of the best nib-meisters around!

Mr. Mottishaw's handiwork took off some material from the bottom of the nib, for additional flexing, and also ground down the tip to an XXF point. Now it writes a line thinner than even my .3 Hi-Tec-C, but is able to flex to a med/med-broad.


No flex.



It took a while to get used to writing with, as this was the first flexible pen I used in a daily fashion. But after several weeks, my hand's muscles have an instinctual sense of how much to push down for non-flex writing (super-fine line, no variation - suitable for Moleskines for writing with no bleed), how much to push down and at what times for Spencerian-ish writing, and how much pressure to apply for more ad-hoc 'variable-line cursive' (that is not really any style but just my own handwriting with some flex).

The combo of the original pen plus John's work makes for a wonderful pen! I use it daily for journaling, signing checks, writing cards, and many more uses. It's very versatile since you can write with it like a super-fine pen with fixed width, yet also bust out with the flex for fancy script.

As far as ink goes - I very much like Noodler's Heart of Darkness, but I had a problem with excess flow with that ink, on this pen, and also feathering and bleed. I switched to a Pilot-brand ink, the Iroshizuku line, and then suddenly the pen rocked. No feathering, no bleed, very responsive in the think to thicks, and nice, emotive shading to boot. I'm a fan of mixing things up and getting the cheapest deals on things, but using Pilot ink on this Pilot pen seems to really be the solution. I had a hard time with the thin to thick transitions with the HoD ink.

Broken out view.


Note the fine filigree work, and the beautiful text
"Namiki" and "Japan." Hallmarks of great

Verdict: This is an awesome pen, and John Mottishaw's work is awesome as well. Great buy that I am sure I will use til I am gray and old.