Review: Faber-Castell 1423, Ballpoint, 0.5mm

While visiting the Somjai stationery store in Thailand earlier this year, I only purchased two pens. The first was the uni-ball Laknock (you can read that review here), and the second was this, the Faber-Castell 1423 Ball Pen. At 10 Thai Baht (about $1 USD), it’s not an expensive or fancy pen, but what drew me to it was the Faber-Castell name, which is primarily known to me as a high quality pencil manufacturer. As it turns out, they do manufacture plenty of pens as well, and so I was looking forward to trying one out.

Well, the 1423 doesn’t scream “premium quality” with its looks. The design is simple, and its body is entirely plastic. Probably the first thing I noticed was that the cap secures and posts very tightly. But when I got to writing with it, the overall experience was pretty good. The ink goes down dark and smooth, and it produces a clean line. However, the ink is also quite wet and will smear if you don’t give it a few extra seconds to dry.

Oddly, the 1423 feels more like a liquid ink (rollerball) pen than a ballpoint, which traditionally use oil-based inks that don’t tend to smear very much. Regardless, I like this pen, and I’ll find some use for it. But I wouldn’t suggest going all the way to a Thai stationery store to get one. A pen like the Pilot Acroball will provide a similar writing experience.

Review: uni-ball Laknock, Ballpoint, 0.5mm

I wasn’t planning to visit any stationery stores during a recent vacation to Thailand. But one afternoon, as temperatures in Chiang Mai rose to over 100ºF, we took shelter in the MAYA Shopping Center where I spotted a storefront loaded with the good stuff. The shop, I later learned, is a Thai chain called Somjai, which is full of all sorts of cool stationery and art supplies.

Unprepared and slightly overwhelmed, I didn’t end up buying much while I was there, but one item that caught my attention was this uni-ball Laknock ballpoint. I’ve reviewed a lot of uni-ball products on this blog, but I’ve never heard of the Laknock before. And, honestly, I kind of just liked the product’s name.

The Laknock is a retractable ballpoint, and it was priced at 30 Thai Baht (about $1 USD). It has a comfortable, rubbery grip and a body that is constructed with plastic. Overall, the look is very similar to your run-of-the-mill Pilot G-2. It seems to come in multiple tip sizes, but I went for the smallest one I could find at 0.5mm. For a ballpoint, this tip size feels very fine, though I do like it. However, like most ballpoints, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and I’ve experienced the occasional blobbing and smearing.

For a dollar, the Laknok is a nice ballpoint, but there’s nothing that really sets it apart from any other ballpoint you’d find for a dollar. It’s rather generic, and there’s little to say beyond that. So, if you find yourself at a stationery shop in Thailand, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up one of these ballpoints. But, otherwise, you’re not missing too much.

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.

Extra Links

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.