Review: Stabilo Sensor, Porous Point, 0.3mm

Stabilo is an old company that has been working with porous point writing tech as far back as the 1970s (when the Stabilo Boss highlighter sales began to boom). So, with decades of design and manufacturing experience under its belt, Stabilo should have the resources to create a great porous point pen. And, as a fan of porous points, I was eager to try the popular Stabilo Sensor.

The main feature of this pen is its “sensor” tip, which retracts in slightly when pressed on paper. It sounds like an intrusive feature, but it’s hardly noticeable unless you write with a very heavy hand. The product’s webpage mentions that this feature is meant to improve smoothness and comfort, but I suspect that it has more to do with extending the pen’s life.

With porous point pens, the tip is usually the first part to break down. The Sensor adds a little ‘give’ whenever too much pressure is placed on it. As far as I can tell, this feature works as intended, but it comes with a couple drawbacks. First, it’s two to three times more expensive than a cheaper option like the Monami Plus Pen 3000. It also seems to me that the Sensor doesn’t put down a line that’s quite as clean as something like The Sharpie Pen.

For me, this pen isn’t a favorite, but it’s definitely a good choice. It writes well, and it has a dark ink with minimal smear and bleed-through. It has a nice barrel design as well – both aesthetically and functionally. It has a thicker body and longer clip than most other porous points (which, for whatever reason, tend to be thin with small clips). But for anyone with a heavy hand who likes the look and feel of a porous point, the Sensor is definitely worth a try.

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Review: Baidercor Space Shuttle Pen, Ballpoint

I don’t remember exactly where I first saw this Baidercor Space Shuttle Pen, but I’ve stumbled across it a handful of times while doing some Fisher Space Pen browsing. But the Space Shuttle Pen and the Space Pen should not be confused, as they are two totally different items. One is a pen I like to travel with, and the other is a cheapo novelty ballpoint made from molded plastic.

Baidercor seems to primarily be a toy company, which makes some sense out the Space Shuttle Pen. It isn’t much of a functional pen, but instead it’s more of a clicky toy for your desk. The big, bulky “Space Shuttle” knock makes the pen both uncomfortable to hold and difficult to keep in your pocket, and the generic black ballpoint ink comes in such a small refill that it surely won’t last long. And, no, a Fisher refill does not fit this pen – I tried.

However, the Space Shuttle Pen does look kind of cool (which is why I bought it in the first place), and I like the variety of fuel tank colors. But this pen does feel a lot cheaper than it looks. So if you find yourself impulse purchasing these pens as I did, maybe just plan to use it as an adornment for your pen cup.

Review: Classmate Octane, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

It must have been some combination of boredom and curiosity that led me to order this 5-pack of Classmate Octane gel pens (or, as it turned out, five 1-packs). The Classmate brand is entirely new to me, and I’m not sure that the company actually sells anything in the United States. But I did stumble across these Octane pens on eBay, and at a little over 50 cents per pen, I thought I’d roll the dice. Who knows? Maybe I’d discover the next great gel pen.

With it’s stealthy, black body and high-powered name, the Octane certainly seems cool on the surface. Other positives: it’s a smooth writer and produces a nice, dark ink, but the “Japanese Waterproof Ink,” as Classmate promotes it, does like to smear. And, as one might expect from the price, the all-plastic construction does feel a bit cheap. It has a flimsy clip, and the rubber grip section slides around.

Classmate, a subsidiary of the Indian conglomerate ITC Limited (formerly known as The Indian Tobacco Company), probably sells these pens for practically nothing in India. And if you live in that part of the world, it may be worth getting some of these pens for casual use. It is an adequate gel pen after all, but my verdict is that it’s not something worth importing from across the ocean.

Review: Inc Forma, Ballpoint, 1.0mm

After my bad experience with the Inc R-2 rollerball pen, I wasn’t expecting much from the Inc Forma. After all, it does look like a cheap, ballpoint version of the Pilot G-2, and it’s primarily sold at The Dollar Tree. But after using it for bit, I was quickly and pleasantly surprised.

At $1 for a 3-pack, you’re definitely not getting a premium experience with the Forma. The pen is entirely made of plastic, the clip feels very flimsy, and the rubber grip is best described as “soft-ish.” But putting pen to paper, the ballpoint ink in this pen is surprisingly smooth. It doesn’t require much pressure to use, making it a decent writing experience.

On the negative side, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and there’s a small issue with blobbing and smearing. But, really, I don’t have any criticisms that are harsh given that it’s such an inexpensive pen. I’d prefer it over a cheaper BIC ballpoint any day.

Of course, I’d never suggest that anyone go out of their way to buy a pack. The Forma is not, by any means, a great pen. But if you happen to be in need of some cheap ballpoints while at a dollar store, then this is a fine choice.

Multi-Pen Review: Skilcraft B3 Aviator

If you’ve heard of the company Skilcraft, it’s probably for two reasons. First, it’s the manufacturer of the U.S. Government Pen, a low-cost, professional-looking ballpoint that also happens to be very reliable. And second, it’s held in high regard by the National Industries for the Blind for employing scores of blind workers in their manufacturing facilities. Skilcraft is a good company, and so I was interested in trying another of the their well-known pens, the stealthy-looking B3 Aviator multi-pen.

As the pen’s name makes obvious, the B3 Aviator is marketed towards pilots. It meets the FAA’s “FOD” requirements, and it has a matte black finish to prevent glare. The multi-pen has three components: a 1.0mm black ballpoint, a 1.0mm red ballpoint, and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. The midpoint of the barrel twists in either direction to eject and retract the three tips in turn, and the end-cap also screws off to reveal an eraser.

Oddly, the design and function of the B3 Aviator is pretty much identical to the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. So, it probably goes without saying that the problems I had with the Sharbo are the same problems I have with the Aviator. In particular, there’s no indication on the barrel for which tip is selected (you have to closely examine the tip to know if you’re about to write with black ink/red ink/pencil), and the cap that covers the eraser is a small piece that’s begging to be lost. For some reason, I also had some trouble getting the Aviator’s pencil lead to eject without breaking.

But, unlike the Sharbo, the Aviator feels a lot more substantial and durable – for about $18, you don’t feel like you’re getting ripped off. But that’s all that this pen really has going for it. The refills are fine, and it generally works okay. However, I still wouldn’t recommend this multi-pen – the design just isn’t very good.