Fun With Ballpoints

The little ball tip works like a bearing and is lubricated by oil based ink.

Ballpoints, they’re everywhere. They’re in banks, grocery stores, restaurants, under your car seat, there might even be one wedged in between your couch cushions. Ballpoints were invented as a cheaper, cleaner, maintenance-free alternative to fountain pens with patents dating back to 1888. For more on the history of the ballpoint, please click here. Ironically, people today are switching (entirely, if not partially) to fountain pens because they’re not ballpoints. The pressure required to get many ballpoints to write a legible line leads to hand fatigue, which is problematic if you’ve started to write on paper more. It’s also problematic for lefties who already are contorting their hands. Last year, I made a post about gel pens and how they’re a faster-drying and more convenient fountain pen alternative, which you can read here.

I avoided ballpoints for personal use for a while because I wanted a more comfortable pen. Even though gel pens, rollerballs, and fountain pens are smoother and have better flow, they can only be used on a limited range of surfaces. Ballpoints can go anywhere that a human can go (and survive the trip), and can write on many surfaces. I’ve tried using a gel pen on a tyvek mailing envelope, but the ink tends to bead on the surface and will smudge easily. The only difference between a standard rollerball and a standard ballpoint is the ink. Rollerballs have a liquid ink while ballpoints have an oil based ink. There are some hybrid liquid-oil pens, and many gel pens have a ball tip.

Starting in my early teens, I wrote with a Papermate erasable ballpoint in school because I was tired of all the smudging that came with pencils, but still wanted to be able to erase my writing. Then I started using the Bic multicolor ballpoint, and kept using it until I got a Papermate Inkjoy gel pen. I enjoyed switching colors effortlessly, and the click sound. In school my hand and wrist was used to writing and taking notes every day, so hand fatigue was less of an issue, unless there was a test. Five years out of college, I write in a journal and make to-do lists every day, but there is still much less writing output. This makes hand fatigue an issue for me, so I tend to gravitate towards comfortable pens. I like having a variety of writing instruments around, so I’ve acquired a small collection of ballpoints. Here is a list of ballpoints that I have, in no particular order:

Please ignore the Frixion for now, as it is a gel pen.

The Milan Sway Mix:

This is a purse pen for me. It’s compact and brightly colored, so it’s appropriate for people of all ages. This pen is refillable, but I haven’t looked into where the refills can be bought. The tip is 1 millimeter with blue ink. As with most pens on this list, the darkness of the line depends on the pressure you use. To get a readable line though, I was able to get away with using moderate pressure. I purchased this pen from St Louis Art Supply for $1.69 USD.

The Bic Round Stic:

The Round Stic is the ultimate Pen For The People because you could easily go through life without ever buying one. When you do buy them, they’re available in bulk for about $6 to share and share alike. Bic makes some truly iconic ballpoints, and the Cristal is on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This grey Round Stic has black ink and requires moderate pressure. This pen is the only disposable one on this list.

The Pilot Legno Ballpoint:

The Legno ballpoint is the cousin to the now discontinued Legno 89s fountain pen. The impregnated wood feels nice in the hand and looks attractive. This pen has inner brass components that adds some heft. The weight makes it easy to use this pen with minimal pressure, and it can write under its own weight. The ink flows easily and is a hybrid. I purchased this pen from Jetpens for $16.50 USD. Besides this light colored wood, the Legno also comes in red, brown and dark brown.

The Uni Jetstream Edge 0.28 mm:

My favorite ballpoint! The Jetstream Edge has a design similar to a drafting pen/pencil, with an elongated tip area that makes it easy to use this pen with a ruler or stencil. The grip section is brushed aluminum, which weights the pen towards the tip and makes it easier to write with. The Jetstream refills are great because they come in extra-fine tips and require very little pressure to lay down a dark line. I purchased this Edge from Jetpens with a 0.28 mm tip size in black, but replaced that refill with a blue 0.38 mm as the 0.28 is a bit too fine. The Edge now comes in the 0.38 size, as well as a multi-pen.

The Ohto Horizon Needlepoint:

The Ohto Horizon needlepoint ballpoint is also available in a gel version, and a Euro point. This pen came with a 0.28 mm tip as well, but I got rid of that refill because the tip got gummy and didn’t write very well for me. That original refill did write very smoothly, and this version of the Horizon was voted Best Pen by the New York Times. This pen has a side click mechanism like the Uni Boxy 100, but with a metal body. I was able to hack the 0.28 Jetstream refill to fit in this pen by adding an o-ring for the inner spring to rest on. I purchased the Horizon from Yoseka Stationery for $12 USD. Here is a writing sample with the original Horizon refill:

The jetstream refill produces a more consistent line.

The Zebra Blen:

Zebra wanted to create a clicker pen that’s as quiet as possible, and they did. The Blen is a good pen for anyone with sensory issues. The clip is also the click mechanism, and it doesn’t rattle or slide around. The tip also doesn’t wiggle as you’re writing, and is only a little noisy as it glides on the page. The grip is a soft silicone, and has two narrow indentations as well as two narrow windows. “Blen” is engraved into the plastic body of the pen and feels nice to rub your fingers on. The ink writes smoothly and consistently with a pleasant feedback, and can produce a legible line under its own weight. I purchased this pen from St Louis Art Supply for $2.99 USD.

The Fisher Space Pen Cap-O-Matic:

I’ve had this pen for about 9 years now, and it’s the first nicer pen I ever bought. It’s called cap-o-matic because the metal cap on the back of the pen is the clicker mechanism. The Fisher Space Pen is called that because it will write even after you’ve left Earth’s atmosphere. It can write upside down, on wet paper, and greasy paper. The original Space Pen refill was a black medium tip, and it was in there for roughly 8 years. Even though I didn’t use it much, that refill still wrote until I replaced it with a fine blue one. My favorite part about this version of the Space Pen is that the clip is engraved with the word Space, and a little planet. The Space Pen requires light pressure to write a light but legible line. I purchased this pen on Amazon for $16.85 USD.

The Parker Jotter:

The Parker Jotter is a classic design that’s widely imitated. The Jotter comes in many colors, and is also available in an XL version and a gel version. The standard Quink refill that this pen comes with is not pleasant to use, and requires considerable pressure to lay down a consistent line. Thankfully, there are dozens of better refills available in the Parker size. The Ohto Flash Dry gel refill is flawless and is great for lefties. Right now, I have a Monteverde Soft Roll blue-black refill in my Jotter, and that writes much smoother and requires less pressure. This Jotter is available in a three pack on Amazon for $16.50 USD.

The Caran D’Ache 849 Ballpoint:

The Caran D’Ache has a great body with a not so great refill. The body is brushed aluminum with a hexagonal shape, and comes in 6 standard colors. There have also been several special editions, including ones with N’espresso. The click mechanism on this pen is somewhat mushy with the Goliath refill. The Goliath is a thick refill that’s supposed to last a very long time, but requires moderate pressure to write. It’s also a little shorter than Parker-style refills, so you can’t add a different refill without modifying it. I really like the body of the 849, so I looked at my pile of refills and tried to find one that could fit. The Ohto Flash Dry is about 2 or 3 millimeters longer than the Goliath, but it has a plastic housing that can be sanded (or cut) down. To do this, just remove the cap off the end of the refill and sand off at least 1 mm of plastic. This would be easier with a Dremel or an X-Acto knife, but I was able to fit in the refill by using 600 grit sandpaper. Then, put the cap back on, line up the brass feet on the end of the 849 clicker with the notches in the refill cap, and screw the clicker back on. The Caran D’Ache 849 can be purchased at Yoseka Stationery for $24 USD.

Sanding the plastic refill and lining up the notches with the brass feet makes the Ohto Flash Dry just long enough to fit in the 849.

The Pilot Acroball 3+1 Multipen:

The Acroball 3+1 has red, black, and blue interchangeable tips with a mechanical pencil that’s deployed by pushing down the clip. The Acroball colors are great; the ink in these is pigmented and less viscous than regular ballpoint ink. The Acroball flows very well, and requires almost very little pressure to write. The grip is wide and comfortable to hold. I took out the mechanical pencil component though, because the lead wouldn’t stay retracted. According to Jetpens, the body of this pen is made from 80% recycled plastic. I purchased this pen from Jetpens for $8.25 USD.

Disclaimer: All the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, where if you click on them and make a purchase, I make earn a small commission. All the other links are not affiliated and not sponsored, and you should visit them.

Upturned & Downturned Nibs

Take a look at a nib of yours. Is it straight, or does it have a slight upturn or downturn? Is the tipping ball on the top or bottom? There’s an entire spectrum of nibs from an upturned fude all the way to a downturned concord or reverse fude. Fude nibs somewhat resemble a painter’s pallet knife and allow for different line widths based on your writing angle. Reverse fude allows for an extra-fine line while writing normally, and a regular fude while reverse writing. These nibs aren’t for everyone, but the spectrum in between these two poles is very diverse with a nib for any writing angle and preference. I decided to write this post after using the Midori fountain pen, which has a downturned nib. I wasn’t sure how the nib would feel when being used at a high overwriting angle, but it’s very nice. Starting with upturned nibs, lets work our way through the nib spectrum.

Fude~

These nibs are pretty easy to find on Chinese pens on amazon, or Sailor has a fude nib. You can also make one yourself or have one made by a nibmeister. Sailor offers these nibs at 40 and 50 degree angles. I’ve been using a 50 degree fude, which writes like this:

A fude takes some getting used to, and doesn’t have to have such a firm angle. On instagram there are many examples of what a fude can look like along with writing and drawing examples.

Waverly~

A Pilot Custom 912 Waverly

Waverly nibs have a gentle upturn and almost look like they’ve been dropped on the floor. Pilot offers a Waverly nib on their Custom 912 and 742 that is (in my opinion) the best writing experience a lefty overwriter can find. In the 1940’s Sheaffer made their conical triumph nibs that are Waverly nibs. With the gentle upturn, it doesn’t matter how you hold the pen or at what angle. It’s always just right, and I’ve found that my handwriting is neater while using my Pilot Waverly nib. Certain nibmeisters, like on fpnibs.com, can turn a regular nib into a Waverly.

PenBBS~

PenBBS nibs are in between a Waverly and a Kugel. They have a slight upturn with the tipping ball on top, and the very tip of the nib where it meets the paper is rounded. This nibs produce a slightly stubby line that is wider than a traditional fine. I haven’t tried a medium nib from PenBBS, but I saw that they have a rounded medium.

Kugels~

I have two nibs that can be considered kugels, which means ball tip. They’re different so I’ve listed them separately.

Montblanc Stainless Steel Medium:

A Monte Rosa.

I have a vintage Montblanc Monte Rosa with a steel nib that has the tipping ball on top and no upturn, but it’s labeled as a regular medium. The steel has some springiness and looks to have originally been gold plated. These nibs work very well for reverse writing. Even though the nib itself is not upturned, the tipping ball on top creates a wide sweet spot.

Lamy Kugel:

These nibs are not upturned like the previous examples, but the tipping material is rounded to be shaped like a ball. A kugel nib is smooth from most writing angles, and can be pushed across the page. Lamy used to make kugel nibs within the last 20 years, which can be found on eBay. Pelikan used to make kugel nibs as well, but they are harder to find. The only kugel nib that I have right now is a Lamy medium kugel, and it feels different from their regular medium nibs and even their left handed nib. It comes close to Lamy’s 14k gold nibs, but silkier.

Postings~

The following nibs can all be under the posting umbrella, but are different. Different brands manufacturing in different countries and decades have varying standards, and that is very interesting to me.

Esterbrook Ex. Fine Ex. Firm Posting:

When Esterbrook was making their “J” series of pens, they offered an exceptional range of nibs that could be easily swapped out. This made it easy to find the right nib for your purposes without buying a whole new pen. The 9450 EF Ex. Firm Posting nib has very little tipping material with the nib itself being quite thick. This nib has a slight downturn and produces a very fine line. These nibs were made to withstand a firm hand while writing on forms that required carbon copies. If you’ve never had the pleasure of making a carbon copy, you have a regular sheet of paper on top and underneath it is at least one sheet of carbon transfer paper. If you write on the top sheet with enough pressure, your writing is transferred to the bottom page. Today, you could use this nib to write out a check.

Posting:

Regular posting (PO) nibs can be hard to find nowadays, but Pilot offers one on their Custom 912 and 742. A traditional posting nib is designed for the same purpose as the Esterbrook one above, but has more of a downturn. It’s called a posting nib because it was designed for writing on postcards. The Pilot posting nib is still stiff, but has some give because it’s a gold nib. I haven’t tried one of these PO nibs myself, but reviews say that this nib writes without feathering even on copy paper.

Manifold:

A manifold nib is the German version of a posting nib. I have a vintage Pelikan manifold gold nib that is slightly obliqued and super stiff. There are two breather holes that allow for shorter tines, which helps make the nib so stiff. I have to rotate the nib a little to accommodate the left foot oblique, which feels natural. This nib feels very buttery and writes silently.

Pilot Falcon~

The Pilot Falcon is a unique bird. Pilot actually makes two “falcon” nibs: one for the Falcon, and one for their 912 and 742/743 pens called the FA. For the purposes of this post I’ll just be discussing the Falcon nib. Falcons have a small hump in the nib and feed where the tines begin to accommodate extra springiness. These nibs are labeled soft, but I’m not sure how these compare to Pilot’s soft #5 gold nibs. From the hump, the nib is angled downward and the tip remains straight. These nibs can be used while overwriting as long as you use minimal pressure. While underwriting, the springiness is extremely satisfying and you can get about one millimeter of line variation.

Midori MD “Beak”~

Midori added a downturn to the medium nib on their MD fountain pen. It’s advertised as being beak shaped and suitable for all writing angles. This nib has more of a downturn than a PO nib, and really is smooth at different writing angles. It also has more give than a posting nib.

Reverse Fude~

I’ve never written with a reverse fude nib, but I’ve watched Mark Bacas’s instagram videos that show him writing with one. Here is a link to his page.

The Pilot Deluxe Urushi

Back in March, I posted some first impressions of the Pilot Deluxe Urushi on Buy Me a Coffee. Here are some of those impressions along with the insight I’ve gained after having this pen for a few months.

The Pilot Deluxe Urushi is a slim snap cap fountain pen with an Urushi lacquered brass body. The nib is a uniquely shaped 14k gold fine. The wonderful thing about the Deluxe is that it’s an Urushi pen for under $150 USD! I ordered from Pensachi, as this pen isn’t available outside of Japan. Shipping to the United States was $20, but it came quickly even with weather delays, and was packaged with care.

This is my first Urushi pen, and I love it. The pen feels warm in my hand, even with the brass body. I wasn’t expecting the Deluxe to feel much different than my Pilot Stella, a different lacquered brass pen, but it really does. The Deluxe may not feature the breathtaking craftsmanship of a Namiki or Nakaya, but you get to try out an Urushi pen with a fantastic nib. The finial and the tail of the pen have a lovely gold jewel that catches light beautifully. While this pen is able to be posted, I haven’t posted it and don’t plan to. I suppose you could slip the cap on the back of pen very carefully, but I don’t know how the Urushi would hold up. The snap cap has a firm click. Before the pen arrived, I figured that the grip section would be blue resin to match the rest of the body, but it’s also Urushi lacquered. I’m not sure if the section will scratch over time with the snap cap, but so far there is ne’er a blemish.

The branding has a really nice texture.

I inked this pen with Pilot Iroshizuku Yu-Yake; I like orange and blue together. This ink flows very well and the nib feels silky on paper, it’s a joy to use this pen. While underwriting, the nib is pretty firm but I could get a little bit of line variation. This nib has a slight amount of feedback, but is still smooth enough that the pen can seem hard to control on smooth paper. The shape of the nib is unique for Pilot. It’s a combination between the beak shaped Falcon nib, and the inlaid E95s nib. Generally this nib looks the most like a Lamy nib, but with better quality control.

Clip designs. From Left: CH 912, E95s, Lucina, Legno, Custom 98, Falcon, Prera, Deluxe Urushi.

Something that I just realized while typing this is that Pilot has a really nice variety of clip shapes. There’s the Falcon clip, the sword shaped clip, the ball clip, and there’s the clip on the E95s. The clip on the Deluxe has a slight taper in the middle, with a facet that catches light well. Near the finial there’s a somewhat militaristic engraving. There’s no branding on the clip, the only branding is on the back of the cap. This is a really classy, understated pen that’s more than meets the eye. The Pilot Deluxe Urushi can be found on Pensachi for $135 USD.

Writing sample

Snap Cap Fountain Pens

snappy cappies

Snap cap fountain pens are great for taking quick notes, writing on the go and general convenience. Here I have compiled a list of ten snap cap pens, for beginners and experienced users alike, for any way you hold your pen. This isn’t a ranked top ten list because there are so many snap caps that I haven’t tried, and this list is Pilot heavy. You may notice that the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari/AL-Star/Vista are not on this list, and that’s because they are very popular starter pens that have been discussed a lot. The pens I have here are some alternatives at various price points, whether you’re looking for something different or something beyond a starter pen.

1. The Kaweco Perkeo

The Kaweco Perkeo is a great value at under 20 dollars. It comes in several fun color ways and is offered with fine or medium nibs. As of my writing this, Kaweco recently came out with new monochrome colors in pink, green, blue, and clear. This pen can take any standard international cartridge or converter, so there are many different ink options. The Perkeo is a great fountain pen for beginners because the semi-triangulated grip helps the user hold the pen in the correct way, but it works as a great pen for lefties because it’s still comfortable to hold with a different grip than the design intended. Smudging has not been an issue with this pen. These pens take long and short standard international cartridges and converters, and can fit Kaweco’s really nice piston converter. The cap on this pen has a quick hollow snap, and is easy to operate.

2. The TWSBI Go

The TWSBI Go is a quirky little pen with a unique spring loaded filling system. It retails for just under 20 dollars and comes in blue, grey and clear with nib options ranging from extra-fine to 1.1 mm stub. To fill the pen you just dip it in your ink bottle and press the button! Of the piston fillers in my collection, the Go is by far the easiest to take apart and put back together. The Go has a round grip with a pronounced edge that is comfortable to hold for lefties no matter their grip. The flow of this pen is moderately wet, but performs well with fast drying inks such as Robert Oster. The Go cap has a loud snap that’s quite firm, and can take some effort to uncap. I’ve splattered ink a few times while uncapping this pen.

3. The Pelikan Pelikano Jr.

I’m using this JetPens photo because I no longer have a Pelikano Junior.

The Pelikan Pelikano Jr. is one of the few pens on this list offered with a lefty specific nib. It has a left handed molded rubber grip that is quite comfortable to hold. Like the previous two pens on this list, this pen retails for about 20 dollars. The Pelikano Jr. is truly tailored for lefties learning to write with a fountain pen. The nib is a medium, and is ground in such a way that is especially smooth for lefty’s. The Jr. has a translucent colored body and comes in several neat colors. If you prefer a look that is more professional there is a regular Pelikano that also comes with a left handed nib. The Pelikano can take both long and short standard international ink cartridges and converters. The Pelikano cap snaps similarly to the Perkeo.

4. The Platinum Preppy

A clique of Preppies

With the best value at 5 dollars, the Platinum Preppy is a great pen to dip your toes in the fountain pen waters. It comes in a rainbow of translucent colors, with nib sizes in extra-fine, fine and medium. There is even the option for a highlighter and marker tip! The Preppy takes proprietary Platinum ink cartridges. The Preppy does take Platinum converters but they cost more than the pen itself. If you want to try bottled ink and are feeling adventurous, this pen can be easily converted into an eye dropper with an o-ring and some silicone grease. The inner cap has a seal mechanism that will keep the nib from drying out for a year. The fine and medium nibs are both very smooth and a pleasure to write with. The round grip is also comfortable to hold, no matter your grip style. The Preppy has two siblings: the Prefounte and the Plaisir, which are also snap caps under 20 dollars. The Platinum Preppy performs excellently with lubricated inks such as Monteverde, and have a low dry time. These caps have a softer snap than the the other plastic pens on this list, and the click is very pleasant.

5. The Pilot Kakuno

Mmmm aesthetic

The Pilot Kakuno is very kawaii. It comes in soft pastel colors in the U.S market and translucent demonstrator colors in the Japanese market. The nibs on the Kakuno have little faces on them to remind the user to keep the nib facing up. If you’re an over-writer, the little face will be looking at you upside down or sideways, but it’s still cute. The face that comes on the nib is based on tip size; the EF has a cheeky winky face. The cap on this pen has a clicky snap and is easy to uncap. Though this pen is designed for kids, people of all ages love the Pilot Kakuno. This pen retails for about $10 USD.

6. The Pilot Prera

A seriously satisfying snap of this cap, the Pilot Prera has a more professional look than the Kakuno. At around 40 dollars this pen is more of a step-up than the previous pens on this list, but is worth it for the smoothness of the nib. The Prera can be found on Amazon in solid colors such as ivory, grey, blue, yellow, and red. The Prera can also be found on most pen websites with a clear body and various transparently colored finial and tail. This version comes in colors such as clear red, clear navy, and clear grey.

7. The Lamy Studio

A bigger step up from the other pens on this list, the Lamy Studio caps with a short and sweet click. Equally (perhaps more) satisfying is how the pen clicks when being posted. This pen has a wide variety of special editions that range in price and materials. The Studio has a metal body with a unique propellor shaped clip, and has been released in several special edition colors. Most versions of the Studio come with a steel nib, but there are some that come with a 14k gold nib, at a higher price. The standard price is 80 dollars USD.

8. The Pilot E95s

The Pilot E95s is less snappy than the other pens on this list, but it’s still satisfying to cap and uncap. The cap slides on softly and clicks gently when hitting the stopper ring on the end of the section. It’s a classic design pocket pen, so the cap posts in order to transform this little guy into a full sized pen. The nib is an inlaid 14k that’s soft and smooth. In my experience, the medium nib is springier than the fine. From about the mid-1960s through the 1970s, the Japanese Big 3 (Platinum, Sailor, Pilot) had their own roughly identical version of this pen that can be easily found on ebay. Today, Pilot is the only brand that has this design available in a new pen. The Pilot E95s retails for $136 USD.

9. The Midori MD Fountain Pen

The Midori MD fountain pen is the newest on this list, having been released in the US earlier in 2021. This pen has a vintage design similar to a Parker 51 with a plastic/resin body and brushed metal cap. The body is cream colored to match your MD notebook, and the grip section is clear with a clear feed. The grip is matte plastic that’s subtly ribbed, and it feels nice to hold. The cap of the MD fountain pen snaps very firmly and feels sturdy. When capped, there’s no step between the body of the pen and the cap that makes for a sleek line. The firm medium nib has a unique downturn similar to a beak, and writes smoothly even at a high angle. The Midori MD fountain pen retails for $38 USD.

10. The Traveler’s Company Fountain Pen

The fountain pen is on the right, pencil on the left.

The Traveler’s Company, known for their high quality notebook systems, also makes writing instruments! Every iteration is pocket sized and brass. In 2020, Traveler’s Co released a special edition Factory Green line, pictured above. There’s a bullet pencil, fountain pen, rollerball, and ballpoint. I’m just going to discuss the fountain pen here, and it’s wonderful. Similar to the Pilot E95s, the cap slides on the back of the pen with some resistance in order to create a full sized pen. When you cap the pen, the snap is hearty with a satisfying click. I can’t speak to how well the snap mechanism holds up over time, but the material of the pen feels solid. The Traveler’s Co fountain pen comes in plain brass and Factory Green, and retails for around $70 USD.

Honorable Mention: Pilot’s Snap Cap Pocket Pens

It’s okay, there’s no milk in the bowl.

Several years ago Pilot made these wonderful snap cap pocket pens, but have discontinued them. The Stargazer is the US model, while the Stella and Legno are Japanese models. The Stargazer and Stella both have a subtly sparkly lacquered body while the Legno has an impregnated wood body. There is also a rare celluloid model called the Legance 89s. These pens feature the less common Pilot 14k #3 nib, and have a flat top design. If you prefer a traditional cigar shape there is also the even rarer Custom 98. The Custom 98 has the same #3 nib, and looks very similar to a Montblanc 144. I’m grouping all these models into one paragraph because they’re essentially the same pen with different bodies. Unfortunately they’re hard to find nowadays. They can be found with persistent hunting on eBay or a pen swap forum. The snap on these caps is so damn satisfying; it starts out soft and then finishes with a quick click. These pens are an honorable mention because they’re difficult to find at a reasonable price.

Yama-Budo by Pilot Iroshizuku

A planner doodle on Tomoe River paper.

Iroshizuku is Pilot’s higher end line of inks that are available in all the colors of the rainbow. The ink that I’ve chosen to write about today is Yama-Budo, a lovely burgundy color. This inks shades from fuchsia to plum, and on certain papers it’ll sheen a nice gold. In the photo above, the sheen looks almost chartreuse.

Yama-Budo is very well behaved, like most Iroshizuku inks. It flows well out of every pen that I’ve tried it in, and isn’t too wet. On this Nock Co. paper that I’m writing on it dries very fast. Also, Yama-Budo doesn’t feather or bleed-through. On absorbent papers like Leuchtturm and Nock, this ink is very lefty compatible, especially with finer nibs. On the Tomoe River paper pictured above there’s some smudging, but once this ink dries it doesn’t lift.

As far as inks on the red/purple spectrum go, Yama-Budo is right in the middle. It’s bright enough to draw attention to notations, and dark enough to use as a regular note taking ink. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it’s among the handful of Iroshizuku colors that I keep coming back to.

Yama-Budo next to Lamy Beryl and Colorverse Andromeda

Iroshizuku inks come in these nice sturdy glass bottles, with minimalist labeling and a little dip in the bottom to help get all the ink out. Yama-Budo is an old friend that you can call after a long period of time and pick up right where you left off.

If you would like to purchase this ink, please click here. This is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission from the sale. It’s a way to support this blog directly!

Fun with Gel Pens

From left to right: Pilot Hi-tec-C Maica, Zebra Sarasa, Pilot G-Tec-C4, Ohto Rays, Stabilo Bionic Worker, Pentel Energel, Pilot G2, Uni One, Pilot Juice up, Pentel Energel

Sometimes, you may feel like using a pen that isn’t a fountain pen. Situations may arise where you just want to take a note with a retractable pen. You may want a low maintenance change of pace. Sometimes, you just want the pleasant sensation of feeling a tiny gel coated ball rolling against your paper. There are times when you need:

Gel Pens

In grade school, I used Ticonderoga #2 pencils and would come home with the side of my hand a graphite blob. In middle school I discovered the Bic 4 color ballpoint, which I still cherish for its simplicity and design. In high school I started using erasable ballpoint pens. When I was in college the Paper Mate Inkjoy pens came out, and I fell in love with the blue and green ones. They were great for long stretches of note taking, and I didn’t smear. These were the first gel pens that I really enjoyed using consistently. I had some of the Uniball Vision pens, but they didn’t dry fast and tended to bleed on cheap notebook paper. The first non-disposable pen I purchased was a Fisher Space Pen, but I didn’t like how inconsistent the lines were. So, the Inkjoy got me through all 4 years of college.

When I met my partner, they sent me a Pilot Hi-tec C Maica gel pen in blue-black with a 0.4 mm point. I wasn’t used to any point finer than 0.5, so it was nice to be able to write small block letters. The second non-disposable pen I bought was the Ohto Rays. This pen has the vintage look of the space pen, but writes a nice and consistent line.

After using fountain pens almost exclusively, I recently started getting into gel pens again. I made a writing sample of some gel pens that are either recommended for lefties, or are ones that I’ve found work very well for overwriting.

I crossed out the jetstream edge because I remembered while writing that it’s an oil-based ballpoint.

About half of these pens were purchased on Jetpens, and some were found on Yoseka Stationary and St. Louis Art Supply. Jetpens even has a section of different office supplies for lefties, as well as a comprehensive guide. I’ve found this guide to be very helpful while figuring out what you want in a pen. I highly encourage anyone reading this from the United States to purchase from Yoseka Stationary and STL Art Supply, they both offer really warm customer service, and you’d be supporting a small business during a difficult time. Thank you for reading my non-affiliated ad segment.

The first writing sample is a Pentel Energel in navy blue. The Energel feels the most like a fountain pen out of all these samples. The ink is very smooth and consistent. The navy blue refill is in a retractable body with a ribbed silicone grip while the blue refill is in a slim ivory body with a matte grip and snap cap. The snap cap is very robust and satisfying. I recommend the Pentel Energel as a lefty-friendly pen.

Next is the Pilot G-Tec-C4. This is apparently the international version of the Hi-Tec-C gel pen, and unscrews at the tip to refill. If you like the design of the Bic Cristal but want a nicer writing experience, this is the pen for you. The tip writes a very fine and precise line, there’s some feedback but this pen hasn’t felt scratchy for me. The ink dries fast with no smudging or bleeding.

The Zebra Sarasa is on Jetpen’s list of lefty friendly office products, but was my least favorite out of these samples. The clip on these pens is spring loaded, which is neat, but this pen just didn’t write very smoothly for me.

The Pilot G-2 really is as nice as people say. With a 0.7 mm point, it’s the thickest line width in this sampling. This pen gives a smooth, consistent, vibrant line that stands out among the other turquoise gels in this list.

Next is the Uni One. This is a clean and sleek pen with a spring loaded wire clip. With a 0.38 mm tip the One has a slightly thinner point than the Hi-tec-C, but the gel is slightly wetter so the line appears broader and more vibrant. I enjoy writing with this pen and want to try other colors eventually.

The Pilot Juice Up is an upgrade to the regular Juice, which I have not tried. The ink in this pen is water-based pigment ink, which makes it water-resistant. The Juice Up tip is a hybrid between a needlepoint and a conical point, making it a bit more forgiving to use while holding vertically or nearly vertically. A nit-picky drawback of this pen for me is that when the tip is retracted, the clip and push button are one piece, so it tends to jiggle while writing. The grip section is slightly translucent when held up to light, which is neat. I recommend the Pilot Juice Up as a lefty-friendly pen.

The Ohto Rays writes similarly to the Energel, and is on Jetpens lefty-friendly page. The gel is named Flash Dry, and I’ve never smudged with this pen. The body has a classic design similar to a Parker Jotter, making the Rays nice for a professional setting. Personally, I like to use this pen for checks and writing on envelopes. I also carry it in my purse with a Field Notes memo book if I need to write anything down while I’m out. My Mother, who is also left handed, also enjoys using this pen.

The Pilot Hi-tec-C Maica is pretty much the same pen as the G-tec, but the body has a clip less cap and the grip section is bumped rather than ribbed. This particular pen is one that I’ve had a while, so the line starts to fade if I hold the pen a certain way. The same thing happened with the other Maica I used to have, and I wonder if this has something to do with my level of writing pressure.

The last sample in this post is the Stabilo Bionic Worker. This is my most recent gel pen acquisition, and it’s quite nice to write with. The body is covered in grippy orange rubber, and the clip is stiff and wide. The gel is liquid gel and it writes a smooth, wet line. This pen is less precise than an Energel with the same point width, but just as smooth. If you’re a lefty who works in any business requiring a sturdy pen, I recommend it.

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