Tools The Joy Vectors

The Gel Dilemma

Two years ago, I figured out my favorite pen was no longer being produced in its current form. A quick scan of my local office supply stores revealed nothing. This fact, along with the total lack of auctions on eBay featuring my now discontinued pen showed me that a) I was screwed, and b) I’d become fond of an unremarkable pen.

pens

I avoided a total pen breakdown for a few months simply by looking for this pen in my home and work environments, as I was sure I’d find remnants of the six boxes of pens that had mysteriously liberated themselves from my office over the past four years. In a week, I’d built a small stockpile of reclaimed, partially used pens, but it is a fundamental law of office supplies that a pen wants to be free. Despite my best efforts, my stockpile was slowly depleted.

The crisis arrived in the last month when a rush purchase at Office Depot resulted in a jar full of pens that demonstrated some of the worst writing utensil characteristics: cheap feel and erratic ink flow. Each time I picked this pen up I felt, “Everything I’m about to write is going to look like crap.”

It’s time for an educated change.

The Joy Vectors

Each time I pick up and use a pen, I want to feel a bit of joy. These joy vectors are:

  • The way the pen sits in my hand. I should feel I have a firm grip.
  • The way the pen applies ink to the paper. I like a thick, consistently black line on the paper. This is both a function of the ink and the construction of the tip.
  • The fact that I know the pen is readily available. I want to be able to find the pen in a nearby office supply store. I don’t want to end up high, dry, and penless any time in the near future. Yes, I think about this each time I pick up a pen.

I also have existing baggage regarding pens.

First, my assumption is that the more moving parts in a pen, the less precision I have when the pen tip touches the paper. I have not deconstructed a retractable pen, but my gut tells me I lose energy among the pen casing, the retracting mechanism, and the tip. This is one reason that I am biased against pens that click. The other reason is… they click. Over the past few weeks of my pen evaluations, I’ve noticed that when most people pick up a retractable pen, they click it, roughly five times. Not joking.

Second, and related to the moving parts issue, I’m not a fan of the cushioned grip pens. The cushioned grip reminds me of third grade when Ms. Ockerman handed out these humongous, triangular, watermelon-scented grips for our pencils. They made me feel clumsy then and they make my pens feel squishy now. People. I have finger strength. Really.

Lastly, and most important, I only use gel-based pens. I don’t know when I made the transition, but I can tell you when I’m not using one because I immediately throw it away — I despise how non-gel-based ink plays on the paper. But I don’t know why. Turns out it’s the gel. Go figure. According to Wikipedia, “What distinguishes a gel pen from a ballpoint pen is the gel ink which consists of pigment suspended in a water-based gel.” They go on to describe, “… how gel inks resist common laboratory analysis.” I’ll translate both facts: if you’re using gel-based pens, you’re going to get deep, rich lines which can not be traced by covert agencies. Bonus!

Interface Points

Using the joy vectors as a structure, I returned to Office Depot and purchased six pens all in roughly the same price range. With each of these pens, I conducted three tests:

  • The Glamour Test. How does it look? How does the pen feel in my hand, and, more importantly, can I spin it around my thumb?
  • The Line Test. How does the ink flow? The basic straight line.
  • The Writing Test. This test brings it all together. How does my writing look? Is the pen helping or hurting?

The Glamour Test

You can scroll to the bottom if you’d like to see the names of the six pens I ended up selecting, but you’ll have more fun waiting. The results of the Glamor Test were:

# Type Size Tip Casing and Grip Weight Spin
1 Retractable .7 Plastic Comfortable — not too big — boring cushioned grip Very light Hard to spin
2 Retractable .7 Metal Cheap plastic casing — large and clumsy Heavy Very spinnable
3 Capped .8 Metal Cheap casing and grip Weight is right Spins well
4 Retractable .37 Metal Solid feel — shortest of the six which leads to odd balance Weight is right Shockingly, very spinnable
5 Capped .5 Metal Perfect feel even with the leathery grip Weight is perfect Serious spinnage
6 Capped .5 Plastic Wide feel, slick casing. Meh. No issues here I can spin this pen

The Line Test

For our next test, I drew a straight line using a ruler. This brings up the sensitive issue of what paper to use. I’m going to avoid this entire debate and just use a Moleskine simply because if you’re going to have an argument about pens with anyone, chances are there’s a Moleskine nearby.

Photos of this size really don’t tell you much, so, for the next two tests, I recommend looking at the larger size. My methodology in this shot was simple: plant the pen on one end of the paper, grab the ruler, and then draw a straight line across the paper. You’ll notice an unexpected piece of data in that during the time I fumbled with ruler placement, you can see how the paper soaked in the ink. You’d think this was a function of the nib, or tip, size, but you can clearly see that #2 with a .7mm nib soaked in much quicker than the larger #3. Wonder what is going on there.

Pen Lines

The line test shot doesn’t tell much unless you’re doing the lines yourself, but:

  • The small nib size of .4mm (called “micro”) was intensely annoying. Even though this pen had the firmest feel of the retractables, gel ink being used for fine lines feels like heresy. This pen is eliminated.
  • As much as possible, I tried to use the same amount of pressure drawing each line, but, as you can see, pens with the same nib size can draw with varying line thickness.

The Writing Test

All of this pen fretting leads to the final test: how does it write? How does it perform when the last thing you want to do is think about the pen rather than what you’re writing? Here’s how they look:

Pen Writing

As with the line test, examining a much larger shot may prove more interesting. My observations and eliminations:

  • Following the elimination of #4 for thin lines, I’m eliminating #3 for fat lines, which are also a function of the huge casing.
  • While the quality of lines among #1, #2, #5, and #6 is comparable, I’m eliminating #2 and #6 because of the girth of the pen. The casing is huge and feels awkward in my hand, which results in strange penmanship.
  • Comparing the last two pens, #1 and # 5, it’s clear that #5 is the winner, but here’s the catch, #5 is my loser pen – my previous favorite that’s not available in its current form. This makes #1 the winner by default.

The Wrap Up

The pens in this competition were:

# Name Type Size Result
1 Pilot G-2 Retractable .7 Winner!
2 PenTel Energel Retractable .7 Eliminated — Unwieldy size and cheap casing
3 Pentel Hybrid Gel Roller Capped .8 Eliminated — my current replacement and it’s crap
4 Uni-ball Signo Retractable .37 Eliminated — lines are too thin
5 Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip Capped .5 Eliminated — no longer readily available. I love this pen
6 Pilot V-Ball Grip Capped .5 Eliminated — Casing is too big

Unfortunately, I’m not sold on the winner. After my contest was over, I began to use the G-2 as my go-to pen. While the flow is fine and the feel is good, I’m still not over my precision-loss-to-the-retractable-mechanism paranoia. Fortunately, actively worrying about pens for a few weeks will introduce you to an entire pen sub-culture. After asking friends about their favorite pens, I was sent off to a local Japanese paper store where there was an entire wall of gel pens sporting strange names and being sold in individual plastic wrappers. Visions of a secondary competition starting bouncing around my head.

For now, I’m editing this article in front of the fireplace using a capped G-3. It’s a little wider than I’m used to, but I swear the lack of moving parts is keeping my already messy penmanship in check. Tomorrow, I’m going to give a different Uni-ball Signo a whirl. This badass capped pen is almost an exact replica of my beloved PenTel, including the total absence of a plastic grip.

All of these exotic new pens are a violation of my readily available joy vector, but, you know, I’m prepared to be fond of a remarkable pen.

147 Responses

  1. I have a similar fondness for certain pens. Currently, I’m using Uni-ball Gel Impact 1.0mm. It’s a nice, bold-lined, capped little pen that has enough weight to write fluidly but doesn’t slow you down.

    I’ve got an old G3 that I’ve had for the past 5 years, and I’ve replaced the ink in it about 20 times, but I refuse to let it leave my desk at home anymore simply because I’m afraid that I’ll lose it. It’s not even the nicest pen in the world, I’ve just used it so long, I don’t want to break the record.

  2. I use to use the G2 exclusively when I was a waiter. It’s an excellent pen and while I agree that retractables do have a certain “squishiness” associated with them, caps have a very good tendency to get lost in the hustle of a restaurant, and the clip becomes crucial to staying in your apron and not falling in the pocket (thus getting covered in crumbs and buried).

  3. Rands,

    Have you tried the TUL pens (http://tul.com)? They seem to be exclusive to OfficeMax and their marketing is somewhat goofy, but it is my current favorite. It writes very smoothly and lays down a beautiful line. My only criticism is that the ink stays a little wet longer than other pens – at least on Moleskine paper.

    Jason

  4. I’m in the G2 05 camp myself and very happy with the writing portion. I would love to find a wood based shell with a turn mechanism that worked with the ink cartridge though!

  5. If you’re going to try out Japanese gel pens, I highly recommend the Hi-Tec C pens. It’s got a wonderfully precise line, fairly light in weight, and also fairly spinnable. Kind of expensive for a cheap pen, but it gives me an incentive not to lose them too frequently.

  6. Mike Czepiel 7 years ago

    Did you find the G-3 in a store in the bay area? I’ve ordered from Jet Pens in the past but I hate paying for shipping when they’re over in Mountain View, though I love the service they’re providing.

    Also a little tip I picked up from http://www.tradetricks.org/ that keeps people running off with my hard-earned pens: If you hand your pen to somebody to borrow for a moment, keep the cap. When they attempt to recap the pen they’ll remember it’s not theirs.

  7. wibble without a pause 7 years ago

    My personal choice at work is the Pilot Super Grip . My company buys, one at a time, them in just for me. I had a colleague that appreciated the same pen but but he left for another job.

    I like the gel ink. I like that its a retractable. I like the rubber grip at the end since it feels part of the pen and not some stupid think monstrosity that fits over a school pencil.

    The only think I don’t like is the clip. Well, I do like it but the clip will not last as long as the pen. I usually manage to kill the clip 3 months into our 9 month personal voyage together.

  8. I might have a solution for you, depending on what you don’t like about the G-2.

    You can put hacked Mont Blanc refills into your G-2 shell.

    http://www.instructables.com/id/EDH89VSMLYEP2871NN/

  9. I have a Waterman pen that fits G-2 ink cartridges perfectly. No clicking, excellent balance, and the oh-so-smooth action of gel ink.

  10. We have non-retractable (just plain capped) Pentel Energel’s here (in the UK) which are pretty good at the 0.7 nib size, although your point about the casing is valid. I have a load of Uni-ball Signo’s here (again, 0.7 nib) and I love them – be interesting to see what you make of them.

    Agree about the gel ink – would never go back to anything else and shudder everytime I grab the closest thing at hand and find it’s not a gel pen.

  11. I want to give a +1 to the Mont Blanc comment. I did it and it’s completely amazing. Never thought I would dig a cheap-o pen hack so much.

  12. Thanks for the insightful and informative review.

    My favorite used to be Uniball but it was replaced by Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Superfine this year. Maybe you should check it out.

    Spinnability is no longer of importance to me anymore after I left Hong Kong.

    Cheers,

    See-ming

  13. The Tul pens are also my new favorite, after a steamy love affair with the Pilot G2. I like retractable pens because I otherwise lose the caps, which drives me batty and makes the pen next to useless.

    Jason.

  14. I saw the headline and a brief description of the article and (without knowing the contestants) I knew which pen would win. The G2 is a fantastic pen.

  15. Andrew 7 years ago

    Instead of hacking a Mont Blanc refill just go for the real thing. The ballpoint ink flow is fantastic, it’s as smooth as a gel without any of unfortunate splatter. I don’t know how they do it but the mechanics of the twist mechanism gives you the same solid feeling of a capped pen without the disadvantage of the cap. The body has a pleasant heft without being over weighty and the black resin is the perfect grip.

  16. Like most here, I really enjoy using gel pens; never retractables because I don’t like the noise, and the click-clack makes me think “clunky” for some reason.

    I am frequently in seek of different writing utensil experiences though, and a fountain pen afficiando friend convinced me to give the inexpensive – for a fountain pen (C$50) – Lamy Safari a try.

    I enjoy writing with it a lot, to the point that I bought a Moleskine to encourage me to write more at work, and keeping the pen attached to my shirt oddly instead of in my pant pocket like I’m used to (I lost the pen once that way).

    If I were to compare it with the gel pens I’ve used, I’d say that the fountain pen (extra fine nib!) gives a more tactile feedback to writing, without compromising much on smoothness. It also doesn’t suffer from the blotting that some other pens do when I pause my writing a moment to think. The variable width that results from varying pressure is also nice, though I don’t make use of it often.

    I thought refilling it would be a pain and frequent, but a full cartridge lasts a few weeks for me, and the Safari comes with a refilliable cartridge. I open up the pen, dip the nib into an ink jar, and twist the dial to suck up ink into the cartridge. It’s oddly relaxing.

    Long comment from me, but it’s thrilling to have a passionate pen dissertation show up in my feed reader. :)

  17. Willie N 7 years ago

    Finally! My wife has been calling me crazy for years everytime I get pissed at a pen and throw it across the room, or break it in half (over the garbage can of course). Thank you for doing this valuable research, I’ll buy a couple boxes of the pilot G-2 on my next shopping trip.

    By the way, I don’t write with pencils much anymore, but when I do buy them, I insist that it’s a Dixon Ticonderoga 1388 #2… or even a #1 for extra softness. I can’t stand those reconstituted wood-pulp pencils that bend when you press them to paper. I absolutely hate any pencil that’s harder than a #2, I can’t get a dark enough line to make writing worthwhile.

  18. My favorite cheap Gel pens are the Uniball 207 (possibly the same one you tested), the Pilot G2 and V7, and the Zebra Sarasa.

    The TUL ones are also shockingly good for being a store brand, although I’ve had one of them start skipping.

    If you want a nice good-looking, solid pen, get a Parker and install one of the Parker Gel refills. They’re 90% as good as Zebra or Pilot and that way you get a much more solid pen body. Even my retractable Parker IM ($9.99 at Office Depot) feels far more solid than most pens.

    Itoya also makes gel refills that fit Parker pens. They have a slightly wetter feel and are available in different colors than the stock Parker red/blue/black.

    Whatever you do, don’t put a Mont Blanc refill in your Pilot pen… Whoever came up with that “hack” is very confused, in my opinion, because the original Pilot refill is much better than the Mont Blanc, and besides that, MB only makes traditional ballpoint ink, not gel. (They make fine pens, though. Maybe you can put a G2 refill in one.)

    Also, I’m surprised someone who can talk so long about pens isn’t into fountain pens. Get yourself a Pilot Vanishing Point and you’ll never be fully satisfied with mere gel pens again…

  19. I do love my G2. But what I actually have is the G2 Pro: http://www.pilotpen.us/products/#anchor_g2Pro

    It’s nicer!

  20. philoye 7 years ago

    I’m a big fan of Muji .05 Gel pens. Good colour range, very simple design, excellent feel.

    The downside? Not readily available in the US. When I lived in NYC, I ordered them from Muji UK and I stocked up on the rare occasions I was in London or Tokyo.

  21. After reading this post, I decided to put the 10 different gel pens I’ve collected over the years to a shootout test. In this test I drew a smiley face, and 10 free-hand “straight” lines close together.

    The idea is to see if the ink comes out smooth, and whether the end of the straights blot on a moleskine.

    My favorite (& the winner) is still the Pilot Hi-Tec 05. A close second is the Pilot Hitec V5 RT, and the third is the new Zebra Sarasa Retractable.

    *sigh* I need to go get a life….

  22. mdekkers 7 years ago

    Well THANKS for showing me about penspinning. I am now half a day into playing with pens, and am running tight for a deadline.

    I do an awesome thumbspin now though….

  23. A friend turned me on to Uniball Vision Elites and I really hate to using anything else now.

  24. Michal 7 years ago

    Someone’s recommended Pilot Hi-Tec in the comments already. I think it’s sold as Pilot Precise in the US, two sizes V5 Extra Fine Point and V7 Fine Point.

    This is definitely my favourite writing implement, far ahead of any competition. Yet I know these are not gel pens so this probably breaks the deal for you. Still I’d suggest that you try one of those because they really do stand out from the pack.

  25. One thing to note on the Pilot V Ball Grip is that it is *super* fast drying. You can write on almost any paper, and in under a second, the ink won’t smudge. These are standard issue if you want to use the line of notebook from moleskine or you are a lefty

    –Michael

    Disclosure: I own no stock in pilot, however I wish to have this pen’s children.

  26. Wilson Fowlie 7 years ago

    I obsess about pencils – mechanical – almost to the degree that you (Rands) do about pens.

    A couple of years ago, I finally a pencil that I really like. Interestingly (or not), it, like your lost favourite, is manufactured by Pentel. It’s the ‘e-Sharp’ with Lead Maximizer™.

    The thing I love about this pencil is that it doesn’t give up and spit out a lead until it’s about 2-3mm long, rather than the usual half to three-quarters of an inch that yer average mechanical pencil will refuse to use.

    Like your pen, the e-Sharp is becoming less and less available, so I’m building as large a stockpile as I can get away with.

    Sadly, I never learned how to spin a pen. It’s been a source of grief and trauma since childhood.

  27. I’ve been a G-2 devotee ever since I randomly grabbed one in the bookstore shortly after I started college. I actually like the .5 better than the .7, as it helps keep more details visible in my cramped handwriting. FWIW, I spin my G-2 constantly, but I spin with the FingerPass, which isn’t particularly sensitive to the mass distribution of the pen.

    This may come as heresy in this discussion, but I do consider ballpoint pens to have one advantage: it’s much easier to write on the back of my hand with a ballpoint than with a gel.

  28. I’ll just put in a word for the Pilot V-ball Extra Fine. It writes like the V-ball grip, but without the annoying, er, grip.

  29. Brandon 7 years ago

    Another vote for the Mont Blanc. I personally think that the fine liner refill is as good as it gets.

  30. I do have to second the person who suggested that you look at fountain pens. For one thing, most people won’t borrow them…

    I find that my favorite pen for “starter” users (the Parker Vector) isn’t available in the States anymore, but any low- to mid-range Parker is going to be a lovely pen to start with.

    Fountain pens have the same nice, even flow as gel pens (at least the good ones) and the added bonus of generally being better looking and more environmentally conscious (especially if you use a bottle-ink converter and recycle the bottles).

  31. Vyacheslav Lanovets 7 years ago

    Pilot G-3 0.38 is my favorite for last 10 years.

    It allows me to write much faster and I can fit more on a page. With this pen my handwriting looks prettier.

  32. Lee Gibson 7 years ago

    Lamy.

    Safari.

    Fountain pen.

    Try it. Seriously. I was amazed. Reasonably priced, and the action is unbelievable.

    My every day in my pocket pen is a Rotring Quattro Executive with Fisher pressurized refills. I use two ink colors all day, and I like having a pencil and a stylus available as well. If there was a two-color fountain pen, I’d be all over it.

    I must be the only person to really dislike gel pens. They always seem to dry up on me, even when I keep them capped religiously. I spend ten seconds doing the “Hey, is there any ink in there?” scribble.

    The final irony is that my penmanship is loathsome.

  33. nick s 7 years ago

    Lamy Safaris are really nice: chunky but not too heavy. You can get a range of nib widths, and there’s enough of a range of FP ink these days to find a dark, fast-drying black.

    The big problem with G2 refills is ink clumpage. The problem with Mont Blanc ballpoints is that the twist mechanism will, one day, end up breaking the pen. The problem with switching to fountain pens is that they expose how much the paper quality of Moleskines has declined since they first appeared.

  34. Charlton 7 years ago

    I became accustomed to using pencil for most things when I was in graduate school – music theory will do that. My pencil of choice is an Alvin Rapidmatic 0.9mm pencil; nothing I have used comes close.

    I used to like ordinary PaperMate ballpoint pens, but they reformulated the ink about a decade ago, and the new ink is just not the same. My current pen of choice is a Uniball Signo; Pilot produced a pen I really liked a while back but discontinued it, and I’m still annoyed, so I didn’t try the G2 despite recommendations to the contrary.

    And I have considered a fountain pen for a while; when I finally find a stationer who carries the Alvin pencils, I may see if they have some Lamy pens to test-write with.

  35. If you wind up looking again, try out some of the Foray pens (also an Office Max exclusive, I think). I like to have both an ultra-fine and a thicker line-weight pen in my bag – the ultra-fine designed for indulging my marginalia sessions. Foray’s 0.3mm offering is solid for the ultra-fine.

    For your criteria, though, try one of the “big tank” Foray pens. (Foray Precision Point 0.5mm, item number #234-352.) They have about 3 pens worth of ink in them; this has created an incentive in my head to keep better track of them, plus it seems to write smoother. (More consistent pressure, perhaps?)

    The pen might feel too large for you, but I’ve actually grown to like it – my hands don’t cramp as much, using them, even if they felt a touch too large at first. :)

  36. I exclusively use the Parker Jotter, with a Gel insert. The pen is solid enough to feel good in my hand, and traditional enough that I can feel a sense of traditional Pen-ishness about it

  37. John Rodenbiker 7 years ago

    If you are this serious about your writing instrument it is really time to move to a fountain pen.

    Pros:

    * No worries about your favorite model being discontinued.

    * You can fine tune the line you want by choosing the size of your nib.

    * They look much nicer on your desk, in your pocket, or in your hand than the generic look of yet another disposable pen.

    Cons:

    * They cost more up front.

    * You’ll have to deal with ink, whether in cartridge or liquid form.

    I’ve been using a Cross ATX with an extra fine nib for the past few years as my primary pen. I love it: I love the feel, the way it looks, and most especially the way it writes.

    Others have recommended the Lamy Safari. This is a fine, inexpensive pen. It does look a bit cheap, IMHO, but that is because it is cheap. You can pick one up for $20-$50 (remember to spring $5 for the converter and $10 for ink so you don’t have to keep buying cartridges.)

    If you’re looking for a finer pen, I’d recommend the Lamy 2000. You can find these for $100-$150.

    Mont Blanc pens are over rated in my experience. The best are the ones made back in the 40-60s, but they are also expensive and finicky.

    Joon.com has a wide selection to browse and a very navigable web site (rare amongst pen stores), but when it’s time to buy search around because they are expensive.

  38. Jeffrey Osterman 7 years ago

    I second the recommendation for the Uniball Vision Elite. My (strong) preference is for the 0.5 mm “micro” tip. Note that the difference between Vision Elite and the regular Vision pen is that the Vision Elite won’t leak on airplanes (something I learned _after_ a regular Vision leaked all over my hand).

  39. You hate that people click pens but you actually choose pens on how well you can spin them?

  40. First of all excellent article. I had no idea people were as interested in pens as I am, in fact I have been exclusively using the Pilot G-2 07 for the last nearly two years. I was extremely impressed with gel’s performance over regular fountain pens and I don’t like thin pens so much.

    I can’t tell you how enjoyable it was to read your article. I agree with one of the above comments that I could tell which pen would win and which pen it was in the pictures (which were really, really cool pictures!).

    I happen to really enjoy the retractable, because that allows me to keep them in my pocket and use them quickly. Plus I can’t deny that I am a clicker. I have noticed sometimes that if something is loose if you twice the upper portion of the pen as tight as possible you won’t get any loose feeling for a while.

    Excellent article, really great to read!

  41. Nice review! well… I love my Tombow Zoom 727, you should try that ;)

  42. Funny, I use a G2 here at work… I like it a lot.

  43. The G2 is an excellent refill. I love it, but I recently tried the Faber Castell liquid ink refills and they are nice. Smooth, easy rolling, no pressure necessary. Like a gel refill but more so. :)

    They come in some nice capped pens, as well, no clicking. But a touch pricier than regular. If you’re still looking, I’d give it a shot… I found the difference noticeable.

    Also, I like a slimmer width – I don’t like to go above .5 (I’d been using some .05 japanese pens for awhile, but they ended up being too fragile). I know the Fabers come in .5 at least, I think they may come in smaller, although I’m not sure.

  44. This is something that has been on my mind a lot recently. I went to the UK this summer, and picked up a pair of Pilot BegreeN G Knock pens. They were the most perfect pens I have ever used. I got a huge shock when I got home to the States and found that they are not available here, and it would cost me $42+ for a pack of ten to order them from the UK. I’m currently using a Pilot G-2 .7mm as a replacement, but it’s just not nearly as good… I think I need to find someone in the UK to smuggle me some G Knocks in the mail.

  45. I ran across the Mont Blanc article about a month back and tried it out with a G2 Pro. I chose the G2 Pro because I liked the weight vs the regular G2.

    What I love about the Mont Blanc idea was that I got 2 refills for the $12 price tag. I already had the G2 Pro, so all was well. So far, I am loving it.

  46. I used to be a Pilot G2 .7 man, myself. But I’ve converted to the Zebra Sarasa .7. As a technical writer, I burn through red pens like an old Ford through oil. I had a used Zebra that I stole from someone who stole it from someone else. That pen lasted months longer than four brand new G2s combined. Otherwise, the form factor is almost exactly the same.

  47. Wednesday Keller 7 years ago

    Although it might be a little different then from what you’re looking for, I use Pigma Micron pens. Although intended for artists and draftsmen they are excellent for everyday use. It’s a felt tip using micro pigment ink, which gets around the usual problems of the felt tip.

    The main thing I love about them is that, like fountain pens, the ink just comes out. You only apply the slightest pressure and you get a solid line. This matters more if you write a lot, but if you do the slight savings in how your hand feels at the end of the day compared to most other pens is worth it.

    They only come in capped models (with a solid stainless steel clip that lasts forever (I clip them on my jeans, for instance, and never have a problem), very easy to spin, and just all around a great pen.

    They have a very wide range of tip sizes, and can be found at any decent art supply store.

  48. Billy K 7 years ago

    Wow. I never knew so many people obsessed over pens the way I do until I started reading DF regularly. I love this review. It’s not obsessive at all, and I can appreciate that.

    I too recently realized my favorite pen was no longer readily available, and I’ve been putting off the inevitable…using a substitute at times to make the “good” pens last longer, searching through old boxes for “good” pens I may have forgotten about…searching office supply stores for a box of Sanford uni-ball micros*. It’s really the only pen I’ve used for the last 15 years or so, and it’s killing me to watch them drying up – literally and figuratively.

    I have to go now…

    P.S. I “Laughed Out Loud” (for reals) at the Moleskin comment. I am such a predictable tool…

    *No, not a gel pen. I don’t understand you kids and your obsession with gel, when good old regular ink and a rollerball will do.

  49. I’ll second the shout for the Muji pens. I started using them 4 years ago and now find I stock up on them buying a couple every time I go to Muji. I’m currently using the .38 but I used to use the .5. They both have a nice precise flow. These are the only pens I’ve ever run out.

  50. I’ll second Derek on the Pilot VBall Extra Fine. Excellent pens, I hope they continue making them.

    That said, I like the G2 as well and carry a few with me. I’ve found the refills to be sharp, much less comfortable to use than the ink that came with my pens.

  51. John D. 7 years ago

    I’ve been using a red retractible Paper Mate Malibu for about thirty years: blue ink, medium point. I don’t know what I’ll do if Paper Mate stops making the Jumbo refills or the plastic casings of my two Malibu pens break. They are comfortable to grip and the medium point gives a strong impression which is essential for filling out carbonless forms, work orders and things other people need to read: a thin, spidery hand is the pits.

  52. I’m surprised only one person mentioned the Zebra Sarasa. I’m a huge fan of these pens, and after a little while of using both it and the Pilot G-2, I still gotta say that I like the Sarasa a bit better—it feels better to write with, though it is not quite as smooth as the G-2.

    The version of the Sarasa available in American stores is a bit too light for my taste, which is a problem I have with the G-2 as well. The Sarasa available in Japanese stationery stores, however, is sturdier and heavier, and therefore more spinnable. The Japanese version also comes in more colors in my preferred 0.5mm width—the American version only has colors apart from the standard red, black, blue spectrum in the 0.7mm width.

  53. I’m surprised only one person mentioned the Zebra Sarasa. I’m a huge fan of these pens, and after a little while of using both it and the Pilot G-2, I still gotta say that I like the Sarasa a bit better—it feels better to write with, though it is not quite as smooth as the G-2.

    The version of the Sarasa available in American stores is a bit too light for my taste, which is a problem I have with the G-2 as well. The Sarasa available in Japanese stationery stores, however, is sturdier and heavier, and therefore more spinnable. The Japanese version also comes in more colors in my preferred 0.5mm width—the American version only has colors apart from the standard red, black, blue spectrum in the 0.7mm width.

  54. I bought a Cross Ion 5 or 6 years ago and I still have it and use it everyday.

    It is a little more expensive but the size is perfect to keep it with you on your pocket.

  55. Nelson 7 years ago

    I always end up trying a multitude of pens and I could never find the one that I really liked until I bought out of the blue a Tombow Object collection black pen. I just love the damn thing. The casing is entirely made of metal with a fine coat of black paint so it’s very heavy which I really appreciate. It’s got just the right girth for my hands and the ink recharges are a real joy to use. The flow of the ink is absolutely the best I ever experienced. There is one major downside though: availability. They don’t sell those recharges at any corner store so it’s a bit tough to find. When I do find a store that carries them, I have a definite tendency to buy a whole lot of them.

  56. Yeah! Another Pilot G2 convert. I love the Pilot G2 series. I buy these pens multiple boxes at a time, just in-case they get discontinued. I use the 07 thickness, but am interested in giving the .38 thickness a try since the Daring Fireball write-up. But generally, I’m not a fan of extra thin lines. I love the writing weight of the 07, but do use the 05 for sketching on websites, etc.

  57. I had no idea so many people still used pens. Maybe once or twice a month I need to jot something down, so I grab an old receipt and a pencil, and scribble away. The rest of my life is completely pen and paper free, I figured I was in the majority these days. I think of a pen as something my dad uses. ;)

  58. I highly recommend that Uni-ball Signo 0.5. It’s been my favorite for a while. Somewhat hard to find. Jetpens is out of the black. Japanese bookstores are a good bet.

  59. @Michael Moncur

    Thank you for the heads up about the Itoya gel refills for Parker pens. I’ve ordered some amethyst purple ones from Pendemonium.

    Earlier this year when I went to buy an ink refill for one of my Jotters (that had finally run out of ink), I sadly discovered that the very particular blue ink I’d relied on for decades changed in hue when manufacturing of ink refills was transferred from the U.S. to England at the end of the 1990s I guess. I’m very unhappy I can no longer get what used to be distinctive blue fine point refills for my Jotters. The “new” blue is very ordinary.

    Even if the Itoya gives me a fatter line, maybe I’ll be able to console myself with purple, my favorite color. (This harkens back to the day you could actually get purple ink for Jotters.)

  60. It seems to me that the Pilot P-500 (or less likely, the P-700) gel ink pens will do exactly what you’re looking for. They are basically the gel-ink equivalents of the Pilot Precise V5 & V7 pens, which had previously been my favorites.

  61. OtherBill 7 years ago

    A month or two ago, as I went to write down some receipts in our household ledger, I grabbed a random pen out of my wife’s organizer. I looked at it somewhat oddly, as I’d never seen it before. Yet as I used it, I couldn’t help but think to myself “Gee, this is a really good pen.”

    It was, of course, a G2.

    Now I look for it every time I have any writing to do at home, and invariably can’t find it. :-(

  62. Joel M 7 years ago

    Give me the G-2 Junior…

    The pack of 4 color G-2 minis is my goto pen purchase.

    bow to the pen…

  63. Take a look at the Cross stuff. I had one of the older style Compacts, it was somewhat smaller than the current iteration, and it remains the best writing pen I’ve yet to use.

    They’re relatively expensive however so don’t be like me and have it lifted by a cow-orker.

  64. Jon Hart 7 years ago

    Bic Z4 roller

    They have the spongy grip, but it is fairly dense rubber and not much thinker than the barrel, really just gives it a nice ‘matte’ texture. Its not a retractable either.

    It is a gel ink and mine are 0.7mm leaving a nice heavy line.

    Of course, all good pens have their faults, and the Z4 is hard to find, even though the bic US site claims that they are available everywhere.

    Before I moved to the US my favourite was a Pentel, similar to a roller writer, but different. It had a simpler body ( not a metal clip ) and a different ball/ink. I persisted in importing them from New Zealand for a while, but gave up for…

    and for a long time I used Sharpie Extra Fines ( they do bleed through a bit ), but they cant be bought anywhere either.

  65. A few people have recommended fountain pens. I’d try a vintage Parker “51″ from Richard Binder of richardspens.com. He posts a selection at the beginning of each month– Get in before they’re gone. If nothing he has suits you, email him and he’ll connect you with another dealer who he trusts.

    It won’t come cheap– Expect to pay around $120 depending on the condition and the model. But the darn things last forever, and write like a dream. You’ll be able to find fountain pen ink for the foreseeable future, at least online.

  66. Norman Yamada 7 years ago

    I used to obsess about gel pens; but I’d add another vote for fountain pens: I use a Namiki Vanishing Point and have never looked back.

    You can choose the nib and the ink; and with care and luck, the pen should last you your lifetime…

  67. I’ll also vote for the fountain pen.

    I used to be a big fan of the roller ball Personally, I liked the Uni-Ball Vision, which was a liquid (not gell) ink.

    The Lamy Safari (and it’s premium sibling Lamy 2000) are reviewed well, but I haven’t tried them yet.

    I do quite like the Sheaffer Javelin fountain pens that I have – it’s about $25 or so. Smooth writing, with practically no pressure needed to write to the page.

    An additional bonus to fountain pens is you can choose your color – and there is a very wide variety of brands & colors of ink; some inks are water/bleach/ammonia/alcohol proof.

  68. Let me be the third to recommend the Parker Jotter. Yes, they’re clickers, but they feel solid and work well. You can get them with gel refills if you like. They’re only about $5 each, so you can afford to get several to keep in different locations and you won’t feel too bad if you lose one. But in my workplace, at least, I’m the only one who uses them, so I can always spot my pen if someone borrows it.

  69. You’re all gonna hate me but: Gel pens…ugh!

    I am left handed and the most important consideration, by far, in my pen buying experience is how fast the ink dries. If it doesn’t dry fast enough, well, I get an outside portion of my left hand that is died the color of the ink and a paper full of smudges.

    I love the density of ink of the gel pens It’s incredibly difficult to find that kind ink at the ball-point level and so I enviously peer into your world from the sidelines, gazing with jealousy at the beauty and clarity of your lines.

    The amount of soak you experience on the paper is called “dot gain” in the printing world and is a function of the interplay between the viscosity of the ink and the density of the “printing” surface. Nib size probably has little to do with it. Given the same surface (which you provided by using the Moleskine), the size of the dot (or amount of “dot gain”) is a function of both how long you paused at that point and of how thick or thin that particular pen’s gel ink is and therefore of how readily the ink seeps into the paper fibers. The thinner the ink, the more spread.

  70. Sunny 7 years ago

    Fountain pens all the way. I use a Lamy AL Safari and also have the Lamy 2000 which is a gorgeous writer. The Safari is my carry everywhere, don’t care if its stolen pen. Lamy 2000 mostly stays home. Both are excellent without being pretentious. I have been also known to use the Uniball Signos (capped) but prefer the fountain pens.

  71. My all time favorite pen ever was a wondrous Pilot Varsity. It was a gorgeous, disposable fountain pen that was utterly spray proof (when you whip it in your hand and the fountain head would spray ink). The line weight was sort of adjustable, because you could turn it upside down and get a finer line. They have a new Varsity but the new nib is just a shadow of its former self. If I could buy a refillable with the same nib that the original Varsity had for under $50 I would buy it in a minute.

  72. Alan K 7 years ago

    I’ve tried dozens of pens, it came down to the G2 and the Hi-Tec C pens. Hi-Tec achieves a much thinner line, and that’s what I was looking for. I recommend the Hi-Tec. I purchased both at jetpens.com.

  73. I have had a pair of Uni-ball Signo’s for a couple years now and must say that they are the best pen i’ve ever written with. I got them from the company i was working for in Japan, but now sadly i’m back in Canada and can’t find them!! If anyone know where to find the black one or it’s refills, please help!

  74. You might consider a Uni-Ball “Jetstream”. It’s technically a ball-point, but writes like a gel pen without the smear factor. It stole me away from the G2.

  75. BTW, the URL for the Jetstream is:

    http://www.uniball-na.com/main.taf?p=2,3,4

  76. I’m going to second the Uni-Ball Jetstream… I was wondering if anyone would mention it. I have the Jetstream RT and it is undoubtedly the smoothest pen I’ve found for a reasonable price. They are a bit hard to find, but worth the hunt.

    PS: I love the fact that there are people out there as obsessive about pens as I am

  77. Love my Uni-Ball Signo .7 Gel Grip. Solid heft and feel, comfortable grip, stellar line. Love these pens. And because of that love, I’m sure Uni-Ball will discontinue them quickly… :(

  78. In the wafer fabrication area at my company, the cleanroom employees use exclusively G2 pens. I originally thought they were better for cleanroom purposes (they are not) or resistant to bleed when exposed to water (the red is, but not blue or black). Turns out there is no other reason besides people like them. The problem is that they spontaneously stop writing even when full of gel, or they leak all over in big gelly globs. We burn through the refills at least one a day. That can’t be good for the bottom line, but people love them still. Me? I stick with blue PaperMate ballpoint. Years ago I used to sit down with a box of them and do the writing test as you did. About two out of a box would pass my test. Recently I did the same and about 10 of them were incredibly smooth and dark blue, just the way I like them. Someone at PaperMate has been improving things.

  79. Nice post… and I was a Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip fan for a while there, but back when I was in the USA and using a pen. Not sure what happened here in Thailand, but no need for a pen really. No need to print out thousands of sheets of paper from the printer either. Why IS that? I think those things helped me keep track of life in the USA. Here, unnecessary. Thanks for bringing back fond memories of the Pentel pens… I feel your pain. Vern

  80. Lanny Heidbreder 7 years ago

    I’m but a cheap hack wannabe pen nerd, but let me second #1′s endorsement of Uniball Gel Impact 1.0 mm. I think they don’t say “Impact” on the package anymore, though; it’s only on the pen and cap themselves.

    At any rate, you probably won’t like it for the same two reasons I like it: 1) It gives a very thick line. 2) The very first stroke or two you make with it after pausing for a few seconds tends to be hollow. In my opinion, that’s almost like an automatic fancy initial cap in one of those “handtooled” typefaces. For you, that probably just means crappy ink flow. :)

  81. I second the Papermate praise. It seems like, 3 or 4 years ago when they started making the clear Write Bros., they reformulated the ink, especially the blue. It writes better than even Space Pens and Parkers (which have each also gotten nicer lately). Maybe they have benefited from being under the same parents as the likes of Faber-Castell, Parker, Waterman, etc.?

  82. Chris 7 years ago

    I just think it’s funny how every time one of these pen freak articles is posted, the links to jetpens.com kill the poor site.

  83. Craigley 7 years ago

    Delightful.

    I’m a physician and I have probably literally 2000 pens filling three different drawers in the office, none (with the possible exception of the pop-up erectile dysfunction pen-brand name withheld because really, who needs to see another comment mentioning an ED drug) of any particularly distinguished morphology. My colleagues think it’s bizarre that in this context I buy my own pens. But the problems with pharmaceutical pens are mutifold; even though there are finally some gel pens appearing in these giveaways, and there have actually been a couple of decent ones, but they fail miserably on the criteria of being replaceable.

    Anyway, I’ll ditto the votes for the Zebra Sarasa 0.7. It’s where I’ve settled as the perfect compromise between my urge for a very bold stroke on full size paper (think UniBall Gel Impact 1.0) and my realistic need to do a substantial amount of writing in a smaller form factor (index cards, or, currently, FieldNotes notebooks)

  84. Muji make good gel pens, they’re pretty cheap, come in a number of colours and tip sizes and the ink flow is fantastic.

    give em a try, they’re great fro writing and doodling.

  85. I’m a fan of the UniBall Signo, myself. Nice smooth line, I don’t have to use a lot of pressure to write (which is why I despise ball-point ink pens so much) and it feels solid. It’s my quick-draw pen when at work.

    For personal use, however, I love my Sheaffer Javelin fountain pen. I picked it up on clearance at a Franklin Covey store. Well balanced, steel casing; writes smoothly with little need for pressure–a big plus for fountain pens; and you get that ambiance of using a fancy pen, to boot.

  86. I’ve got to add another recommendation for the uni-ball vision elite. They’re not cheap, but I can’t stand using anything else since switching. It produces rich and fluid lines whether writing on glossy bond or textured linen.

    I too have had the non-elite versions leak on planes, and would only recommend the elites for this reason.

  87. +1 for the uni-ball Jetstream. So smooooth!

  88. As always. Very entertaining. I’m a gel pen fan myself. Use them for all my line drawings. I think perhaps I should start noting which pen is used in my sketchbook, because it does make a difference. xo -d

  89. Jetsream is the answer. It’s the smooth steady line of the gel ink with almost none of the smearing. Plus they give great tactile feedback in the 0.7 size. It’s a nice fountain pen-esque scratch.

    I buy the blisterpacks whenever I see them at Staples/Office Depot, which isn’t very often. The peg is almost always empty.

    I’m going to get one of those Lamys tonight and do a little work with it this weekend.

  90. I am absolutely captivated by the enthusiasm of this discussion about pens. I have no idea what my favorite pen is called, but I have lost/gone through 4 of them in a very short period of time. And I miss them.

    But I do remember what they look like:)

  91. I saw some mentions of Zebra pens, but no one suggested the Zeb-Roller 2000. It’s a thicker pen, and it feels a little bit cheap, but man does it write smoothly. My only issue is the ink smearing on slick paper, but for everything else, it’s perfect. Unfortunately I’ve had a harder time finding them in stores lately. Hoping they aren’t on their way out.

  92. cindy 7 years ago

    Pilot Precise Grip. I wrote to Pilot after I couldn’t their Precise Deluxe Extra Fine pens on the shelves. They always leaked but wrote great. Their replacement is just as good and so far no leaks!

  93. Rahul Sinha 7 years ago

    I believe the Pentel hybrid gel grip dx is available; does this differ materially from the non-dx variety?

  94. Stephen 7 years ago

    I hope you’re writing sample isn’t representative of your normal writing. You print everything, in all caps, no less? How do you sign your name?

  95. I am a fellow pen fanatic. Not into collecting them or anything, just really particular about what I write with. I love paper, drawing, writing, sketching… you need a pen that will be satisfying and predictable to use. I fell in love with MUJI Gel Ink Pens while living in London and have not been able to find a suitable replacement since returning to the States. Their black and colored inks are all fantastic and inexpensive. Even though MOMA has started carrying Muji products, they don’t carry these gel pens. I’ve resorted to ordering them online from MUJI – Good luck on your search!

  96. aureiden 7 years ago

    I found this post through NOTCOT.org. I’m also extremely picky when it comes to pens (and most other things too, actually), and my favorite black gel pen is the uni-ball VISION EXACT. The ink flow has never broken on me thus far, unlike the uni-ball SIGNO. It’s capped, too. I don’t know about spinnability, though, since I can’t do that.

    I also like Sakura’s MICRON archival ink pens. They come in many colors and line widths. Another bonus: waterproof and fade proof ink.

  97. deborah 6 years ago

    the jetstream.

    roller ball, black, smooth. a glorious gift to the world of cheap pens.

  98. ANother vote for the Uniball Vision Elites; it’s practically the only pen I use. It’s definitely the ponly pen I use for extended writing. I buy my own and keep a box at Work.

    I take a LOT of notes for the Job. Many years ago I realized that I’m not very good at “taking notes” so my best decision is simply to record the meeting, as close to verbatim as I can do. The Vision Elite is smoth, has a bold line that just flows, and (important to me) doesn’t require much pressure. (If I have to press my hand cramps).

    When it starts to run out of ink, the line gets fainter. I always carry a spare just in case. (I don’t lose pend; they run out of ink. :^)

  99. caryn 6 years ago

    Namiki Vanishing Point works in a work situation where you don’t want to be constantly uncapping and capping a pen.

    Uni-ball Vision Exact is my new idea of heaven. I bought one and went back to the store the next day to buy 10. The cushion is just the right level, I find excuses to write because of it.

    On the subject of G2, the G2 mini is my new toss-in-the-purse pocket. Yes, it’s adorable, but functional as heck. I don’t have to settle for a crappy pen any more ever again, even when I don’t have room for a ‘real’ pen.

  100. Ahhh, finally, someone posting on one of my favorite topics :). For black-ink pens — with which I do the majority of my writing — I’ve tried several pens over the past few years. My latest love is the Signo Uniball Micro (0.5mm). You can also buy these in a four-pack (black x 2, blue, red). The 0.7mm tips are a bit broad for my taste, but you can buy a nice two-pack of purple 0.7mm, and the color makes up for the over-thickness. I also have a pack of the multicolor medium point Signos, which are quite nice. (I do have a fountain pen, a discontinued Rotring model I picked up from Levenger on clearance, but I don’t use it for most everyday writing — I tend to break it out for journaling and fiction.)

    I have several multicolored pen sets. One is the Foray 0.3mm gel pens. These are just too fine for normal paper — they require a fine, heavy bond paper and a hard underlying surface. Given those conditions, though, one can have a lot of fun with them (not to mention write really, really tiny text…I’m probably not the only person who was reprimanded as a grade-school student for writing too small and with too many colors, but I imagine it’s not a huge crowd, either).

    I also have a set of porous-point Liquid Expresso pens. I enjoy using these from time to time, but the feel on paper is such that I don’t really enjoy them for long periods of time. They’re great for a change of pace, though.

    I have a set of Uniball Vision Elites, which are…interesting…but not fun enough to use too often. I occasionally break them out when I want to apply a lot of color to something, but don’t want to use up the ink in my more favored pens.

    I have an 8-pen set of G-2 Minis as well. I used to use the black G-2s for my everyday writing, but I could never get more than half their ink supply out before they died on me for one reason or another (I like the feel of the Signos better anyway). The colored G-2 Minis are fun, though, and have less waste if they end up dying early. They also make for a nice carry-in-bag set, with their small size.

    I’m featuring some pens prominently on my Christmas wish list, in hopes that someone will buy me some; mostly, this consists of the larger sets of multicolored Sharpies and similar marker pens (Foray makes some, as does Bic; I also want a set of the Flair felt-tip pens). I don’t actually use these type of pens much — mostly for labeling CDs and file folders — but I’m running out of colored pen sets I’m interested in using for writing. I do have hopes for some of the pens at http://www.jetpens.com, as they look quite interesting. (I have four sets of colored pencils as well, though I’d like a set or two of Prismacolors….)

    Yes, I have a pen problem. Mostly under control, though. Mostly.

  101. Tom Moffat 6 years ago

    Pens have always interested me and like yourself I have certain preferences in which ones I like to use. I don’t use Biros or other cheap, scratchy ballpoints as a rule which limits my disposable pen usage to gel rollerballs and felt tipped writing pens.

    For writing letters, (yes – I still write people paper letters), I like to use a Parker fountain pen that I found in a university department. It was an unclaimed lost-and-found item and eventually it was given to the finder, me, after the claiming period had expired. It must be one of the most comfortable writing implements I have ever used and the stainless steel casing is very sleek and modern looking.

  102. Kristof 6 years ago

    Pens….how quaint.

    Seriously, who still uses paper and pens? This isn’t the freaking 80s people. Get over it.

    I always get annoyed when one of you pen and paper jockeys says “oh, let me find that” and starts rifling through reams of paper stirring the cries of the souls of the very Trees.

    Make my copy digital–that goes for your book too ;-)

  103. Erik Hansen 6 years ago

    I’m in the minority as it seems I prefer ball points. But I too have suffered a tragic loss as Uni-ball stopped making my beloved 1.0mm Power Tank. It’s a pressurized ball point, like a Fisher Space pen. But the size and form is perfect for me. I think the ultimate reason for it’s demise is it’s horrible cap, which is on about 3/4″ long.

    My bag carries a Power Tank, a thin Sharpie, a standard Shrapie and my Space Pen when it’s not exploring for itself.

    - Erik

  104. Unka Eric 6 years ago

    Here is another recommendation for the Uni-Ball Vision Elite pens. Both the 0.5 and the 0.8 versions. I recently switched from the G-2. See, I like my colors. Everyone at work uses blue or black, so I love using green, or purple, even orange or red. The G-2 pens were a mixed bag as the gel didn’t flow as well when using the color versions. The Vision Elites do not have that problem. The gel flows well and the line is always consistent. I never have to doodle to get the pen to ‘start’. The weight is comfortable and the shaft is a textured plastic, which feels wonderful. I’ll have to try spinning when I get the chance.

    The hidden advantage to the Uni-Ball Vision Elites is the cap. The ‘snap’ when you place the cap back on the pen is extremely satisfying. Nothing else says “job well done” like that snap does.

  105. Some Peon 6 years ago

    Okay, as another Zebra fan, the Sarasa uses essentially the same refill as the “Jimnie Gel,” which, despite the crazy name, is a pretty standard part available from Staples and the like.

    The difference is that the Sarasa is retractable and comes in weird colors like brown, while Jimnies exist in a nicely capped form as well as some mysterious retractable version.

    The capped version rules. It’s all thick-wall polycarbonate, the grip feels like silicone rubber, doesn’t collect dust or get nasty like competing models, and it comes in the usual array of tips (.7 and maybe some others). What galls me is that refills are *not* available, so you end up tossing the beautiful thick bulletproof pen casing every time.

    So… to save some cash, we tried a box of Zebra “Orbitz,” and let me warn everyone that it’s not the same cartridge. Fat bulgy grip retractable (same crap-doesn’t-stick-to-it grip material, at least), very seriously Chinese made, and the gel is somehow thinner with less pigment yet more slow to dry. They’re “good enough,” but they feel more like a smooth rollerball than a gel pen… pretty similar to G-2s, I guess, but at least the weaker pigment makes them less blotchy/bleed-prone.

    The capped Jimnies make you feel like some sort of precise Japanese architect every time you pick one up.

  106. Ralph Hempel 6 years ago

    I’m all over the Pilot Hi-tecpoint V7 Grip as well. The biggest plus for me is that it’s available in many colours which makes it easy for me to draw my ideas.

    The biggest minus is that sometimes the clip comes off.

    One thing I did not see tested is how the pen works in an airplane. Cabin pressure is slightly below atmoshperic pressure, and I’ve had other pens where the ink literally pours out the point.

    It’s very embarassing to uncap your pen and have that hard-to-remove gel ink all over your hands and suit before you even get to the office…

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with pen issues.

    And if you must have one “good” pen, then the Montblanc Meisterstuck Traveller fountain pen in its own leather case is a must have :-)

  107. Thanks for inspiring me to dust off my Lamy Safari Vista. I had abandoned it after I returned from a long trip and found it to be dried up.

    After reading your article, I not only bought a G2 just to try out, but I also pulled the cartridge out of my Safari and trashed it, ran some purified water through the pen and gave the working end of it a short soak to get the last hint of cartridge ink out. Another reason I had abandoned it – I had several fairly important notes I had jotted on bits of paper on my desk and a tip of my water glass made them almost unreadable. I did some digging around and found a fountain pen ink that is blacker than any I’ve seen before, flows well, won’t jack my pen up over time like the “permanent black mont blanc” ink the local pen shop tried to sell me, and even scrubbing the writing with soap and water failed to remove it from my test paper.

    I’m back to carrying my Safari every day and now save my box of Uni-Ball Micros for reserve duty.

  108. SomeGuy 6 years ago

    My local shampoo manufacturer went out of business, so I purchase all the remaining stock (about 35 bottles). That should last me a pretty long time.

  109. I’m a dedicated fan of the uni-ball signo 207 (.7mm). It writes smooth, holds comfortably and looks good.

    No need for paper / art store visits. Can always find them at popular drug stores, office supply stores, and Costco sells them by the Dozen.

  110. Yreka 6 years ago

    Your results on this are the same as i’ve found. I’ve tried quite a few gel pens, and the G-2 is the best I can find redily avalible. I have not experienced the joy of having a great pen yet though since i’m still only in high school.

    As for the Japanese pens, try them out. I’ve found that they tend to out-perform and out-last a lot of the other things i’ve found. Same goes for their pencils.

  111. I went with a refillable Zebra Sharbo-X. 3 spots where you put in cartridges. I stock mine with one sensible colour (blue/black), one crazy colour (purple/green/teal), and a 0.5mm pencil cart.

    Of course the colours are all gel sorts. And the refills are cheap and plentiful. (In Japan.)

    Incredible device. http://www.sharbo-x.com/

  112. try the G2 Pro pen, I actually thought you would pick this one. It has a smoother feel on the paper than the G2.

    –tanner

  113. James 6 years ago

    I’m a lefty and my favorite pen for my Moleskine large squared notebooks and 2007 large daily planner are the Shachihata Artline Drawing System .4. Since the pens have black pigment ink, there’s no lefty ink smear whatsoever! The pens cost $3.25 USD where I live. No moving parts either.

    James

  114. Regrets if you know. http://fora.taniemilitaria.pl/phpbb/?mforum=momstr >mom strips for son No. And i said i.

  115. Luke Morton 6 years ago

    I can’t believe someone else thinks about pens like I do. In fact, I can’t believe anyone else thinks like I do – your Nerd Handbook and your N.A.D.D post were both awesome! I’m hoping your book will be just as good…

    Anyway, the Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip (not Roller!) 0.8 is my pen, and it rules. Seriously, give it a try. The only problem is that black seems to be a little hard to get.

  116. I thought I was a little weird when I went through this very same pen exercise this past summer. My # 1 choice ended up being the Pilot Better Retractable Fine Point. Yes it is retractable but it has the aura of “I’ve been here for you for years so why did it take you so long to find me?”

    Forgive any punctuation errors … I’ve been coding so many years in so many languages I can’t remember where to put the quotes anymore.

  117. Andrew 6 years ago

    I’ve used the G2 in the past — it’s definitely pretty nice and it’s more solid than it looks. The advantage of the retractable bit is that if you get really bored, you can open the pen, turn the insert around backwards, screw the pen back together loosely, and then use spring-assisted fingerpower to shoot parts of the pen at people and things. But my pen of choice for the past several years has been the Pilot Precise V5 that Michal has mentioned. I may have to have a look at that P-500.

  118. G2 fans — Pilot has come out with a METALLIC version. Unfortunately it’s been announced at their U.S. Web site but it turns out there is not a single retailer who has it in stock at this moment. I am going CRAZY.

    The Pilot G-Knocks are sold as BeGreens overseas; you can easily purchase them in Japan (in different widths) and I have to agree they actually flow better than G2s. That said, I think I have the largest G2 collection this side of the Rockies. I know at least, I’ve got every color they ever made (including the less-than-stellar metallic pastels).

  119. Banks 6 years ago

    I have always found that the Pilot ink remains much bolder over time than that of anything made by Uni brand pens. If you are looking for a more professional looking pen with the same G2 ink, try the Pilot Execugel. No clicking, but I am not sure that it will meet the proper comfort specs.

  120. Ah, yes… The utility of a good pen can’t be made enough of an issue. I’ve been through so many to find just the right one. Currently, I rather enjoy the overall function of the uniball signo. Go through boxes like crazy, because everyone around me seems to like the same ones (then they wonder how I know they stole my pen, oddly enough). Good post, definitely a good point to be made here.

  121. Chris 6 years ago

    I used the Uni-ball Signo all through middle and high school, and for a few years in college. It’s a truly remarkable pen, giving you a clean (and relatively broad) stroke and a high degree of precision. Sadly, that love affair ended like yours did – the pen stopped being readily available when we moved country. I had a few spare, but they dried up half-way through college…

    At the moment, I’m using a truly remarkable fountain pen (with real ink, not those treasonous pellets) which I received as a gift when I was in Bhutan. It’s been a trusty pen over the years, and has never let me down. Sadly, it appears to be of some kind of Chinese make which I’ve never seen outside of that country. I’m hoping it’ll last for a while…

    Its stroke is similar to a signo in breadth, and it has a high degree of control and smoothness of writing rarely found in fountain pens.

  122. Another vote for the Uniball Jetstream. Finding them in blue has been a challenge at times, but I haven’t had that problem in 6 months or so. The fear of not being able to find them in the future has driven me to buying a few each time I find them at a store.

    I prefer caps, because I don’t have a problem losing caps, and because I’d like to think it provides me with a little more protection against ink running out of the pen. Whenever I loan the pen to people, however, nobody can figure out how to work it. It is as though people haven’t seen a pen with a cap in years.

    All that said, I am in the process of giving a few of the pens mentioned here a try. So far, both the Tul and the G2 have been great to work with as well.

  123. Amanda 6 years ago

    I, too, have a freakish problem with non-gel pens. I was very happy to read that you enjoyed the G-2 so much, as that is my pen of choice also. I’ll only use that, or the Pentel EnerGel, though my choice is the G-2 because of the fatter, darker line.

    Being an engineer, I also enjoyed the analysis and optimization of pen choice. It’s good to know that other people go through that deep of a decision-making process as well.

  124. I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of Pilot V7 Rolling ball pens (the needle point ones, not the retractables). I don’t really know why, but I LOVE those things.

    For pencils, I swear by the Zebra M-301.

  125. Before I met my husband I thought I especially unique because I insisted on a preferred pen. Then our pen wars ensued, and due to the reformatting of my once favored style of pen, he won by default. I must say that in this crowd I feel a bit out of league, however, because my favorite had long been a specific papermate ballpoint. I’ll admit the inconsistent performance of ballpoints (not to mention the possibility of having my dastardly plans being uncovered by the federal government) are definite detractors from use, let alone favoritism. Be that as it may, I found my motivation to use my cheap, plastic papermate stemmed from some combination of schoolgirl nostalgia as well as a fascination with this particular product’s steady, thick (but not too thick), reddish-black line that neither leaked nor spotted over composition book after composition book. This pen commanded respect yet displayed no hubris in its simple design and packaging. Perhaps, now that I can no longer find it anywhere, it’s time for me to convert to something like a gel or fountain pen. It’s certainly a better solution than just ceasing to write.

    Just a small question for anyone who feels compelled to answer: do you use anything other than black ink for typical wiriting (i.e. highlighting/error correction do not count)?

  126. Brenden 6 years ago

    I’d have to voice my approval of the Jetstream as well. I prefer the 1.0mm (lines are similar size to other pens’ 0.7mm versions) capped version, not the RT. The retractable just doesn’t seem to write as well (aside from being click-y, which you don’t like).

  127. About a year ago I started using blue PaperMate Flair felt-tip pens. Maybe I like them because nobody else in my workplace seems to use them, and I feel original in my choice. Maybe I like them because they remind me of the Skilcraft felt-tip pens we had around the house when I was a kid (my father worked for the government, for those of you familiar with Skilcraft).

  128. Good post. Of all the gels, I find the Sakura Gelato Retractable .04mm the best. The pen is cheap, but hard to find. The gel ink cartridge fits perfectly into any Rotring Rollerball Pen which makes for a nice substantial, capped pen.

  129. This post deserves an update. How did the second Uni-ball Signo perform? And–more importantly–if you’re no longer ruling out pens that aren’t readily available, why not just go back to the original Pentel?

    I’m picking up a G-3 and Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip from jetpens, but I highly recommend the Mont Blanc (either standalone or G-2 hack). I hacked one of my G-2s with the Mont Blanc and now I can’t use anything else. The other G-2s feel clumsy compared to the ink flow of the Mont Blanc.

    Definitely worth testing. If you could hack a Mont Blanc into a non-retractable pen, that would be just about perfect.

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  131. Christine 6 years ago

    *waves arms* Fountain pen fan here. I have a three modern Pelikan fountain pens, an old Esterbrook (my main drawing pen), an old Parker 21, an old-ish Sheaffer cartridge pen from the early 90s, an old Sheaffer Snorkel that I need to fix and an ooooold Waterman from around the end of the 19th, start of the 20th century. With the exception of the needs-repair-Snorkel, I use them all and the most I paid for any of them (the Waterman) was $75 US. The Esterbrook and the Parker 21 each cost less than $30 and were both in perfect working order when I bought them off eBay. Two of the Pelikans were between $50 and $60 when I bought them, but I think the price went up in the past year or two. The third cost me about $25. I use ballpoints or gels when I have to but I use my fountain pens whenever I can.

  132. Christine 6 years ago

    Oops. Forgot my Sheaffer Agio, which I bought to replace a Levenger branded pen that cracked at the section within a month of having bought it. The Agio cost about the same as the pen it replaced, and it’s still in working order despite my having modified the nib myself to make it a stub.

  133. hoohash 6 years ago

    Anyone know if there is any other mini gel pens out there besides the G2? I would love to find something like a combination of the OfficeMax Retractable gel pen and the Mini G2. I like the size of the Mini but I also like the clip mechanism of the OfficeMax pen that keeps the pen from clicking into the open position.

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  136. oh good, people who will understand this search, and might keep an eye out. I’m looking for a discontinued pen – the Papermate Profile Slim barrel 1.0mm

    I know they are on ebay, but I also know there are some stores or distributors that still have them. It’s just a matter of finding them, since the pens aren’t advertised. If you happen to run across any, I’d love to know where.

    I’ll check back here once in a while.

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  138. Kyle Jones 6 years ago

    I have a fond interest in pens, the bic ones are my particular favourite, a good fountain pen also tickles my fancy.

  139. Kerry Humpheries 6 years ago

    I love to eat pens my granny and i love gareth bacon so

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  140. Great article and comments and I’ll totally agree with those that favour fountain pens. I used to use a propelling pencil (cheap Pentel)for most writing/scribbling then a fountain pen (Parker)for ‘proper’ writing. Then I was given a Lamy Safari (which I fitted with an italic nib) which I LOVE. More recently I was given a second Safari with a fine nib so for a while carried around 3 fountain pens (Parker, Lamy x2) plus the Pentel pencil. Then in the past couple of months a friend showed me his Rotring Quattro Data Pen – WOW! Two coloured ballpoint tips, propelling pencil AND stylus for touch screen PDA/phones all in one very ergonomic pen. So at present I carry the Rotring and the Parker on a daily basis.I’ll admit whilst I love the look and feel of the Rotring it’s not perfect – the pencil can only hold 4 or 5 leads and the black ink is patchy. In answer to Joni’s post earlier I used to write in black, black and black. Now the Lamys have black and the Parker has blue/black ink. I’m not obsessed BTW! Most of the writing I do these days is with either the fine Lamy or the Parker 25.

  141. daysleeper 6 years ago

    Huge fan of the Pentel Energel Retractable Metal Tip BL37/BL40. Beautiful in hand and on paper. I like the 1.0 but haven’t tried the 0.7 yet. I have to sign a lot of documents all day and this thing rocks. It’s a japanese work of art, in my opinion.

  142. Andrew 6 years ago

    Don’t worry Joni, you’re not insane! The original Papermate Write Bros. in blue is _the_ ballpoint pen.

  143. Chris 6 years ago

    The pen you want is called a Stylist and is available usually in art supply stores. Ever since office supplies went to major monster stores the best pens (like this one) are mostly sold online or in art supply stores. It isn’t a gel but the ink is super dense and the tip holds up for the life of the pen (which is a long time because there is so much more ink in it than gel pens). Best part? It is way under $1.50. It has been around at least 30 years that I am aware of. They have a new one called Liquid Stylist too. Try it! Let me know what you think.