Review: Muji Smooth Writing, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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Since Muji has only a handful of retail locations in the United States, I make sure to visit whenever I’m in proximity to one. So when I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, I hit up their SoHo location and picked up a few fresh Muji pens, including this $1.50 gel. If you know Muji, then you’re probably familiar with the company’s “no-brand” products. Unlike your BIC Cristals and Pilot G2s, this pen doesn’t really have a name, but it’s simply referred to as a “Smooth Writing Gel Pen.”  Though there’s a little bit more to it than that.

Unlike the standard Muji gel pen I sometimes see in the wild, this pen is retractable and has a handy spring-loaded clip. It has a good, dark gel ink that doesn’t smear too much, and as the name suggests, it is a smooth writer. It is also a reliable writer, so you wont be bothered by ink that skips out. If you’ve ever used a Zebra Sarasa Clip, this pen will feel very familiar (in fact, it’s likely that Zebra clandestinely produces this pen for Muji).

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My only complaint with Muji’s Smooth Writing pen is that I don’t really like the grip section – the rubber grip has an odd “pencil eraser” feel to it. Though, admittedly, this doesn’t bother me so much as to make me stop using the pen.

If you’re going to be at a Muji store any time soon, then maybe grab one or two of these on your way to the check-out. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a decent gel pen with a spring loaded clip, then it’ll probably be easier to find a Zebra Sarasa Clip instead. You’ll hardly notice the difference anyway.

 

Review: Sheaffer Pop (Star Wars Edition), Gel Ink, 0.7mm

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Last year Sheaffer jumped on the merchandising train and made a handful of Star Wars themed pens. Not that it’s a bad thing. While I have mixed feelings about the most recent spate of Star Wars movies, it turns out that I like these pens a lot, even though they are just a re-skinned version of the Sheaffer Pop. Luckly, the Pop is a pretty good pen by itself.

The Pop comes in ballpoint and fountain pen models and are typically found in bright, solid colors. But I’m keen on the gel pen* versions of R2-D2 and BB-8 (though they also have Darth Vader, Death Star, Kylo Ren, and Yoda designs). These barrel designs are detailed, fun, and it’d be safe to assume that any Star Wars fan will get a kick out of them. I also really love the 0.7mm gel refill for its smoothness and deep black color, though the ink will smear some.

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As for the Pop’s rubberized grip, I could do without it. Not only do they wear out over time, but they tend to feel pretty cheap. However, the pen’s thickness makes up for it by making it comfortable to write with,  and it also has a sturdy, metal clip and cap that posts pretty well.

My only real gripe with these Star Wars Pops are their cost. With a plastic body and aforementioned rubber grip, it just doesn’t seem like it should be $20+. The non-Star Wars versions can be found for around $15, which seems more reasonable – I guess Sheaffer has to recoup the expensive Star Wars licensing fees somehow. Although, if you’re willing to spend that extra money, these pens are pretty cool.

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*Sheaffer labels it as a “rollerball” pen, but according to the markings on the refill, it’s actually a gel pen similar to this one (except the model number is 0917).

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Review: Jeffbona In[k]ception, Gel Ink, 0.4mm

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The fidget toy craze has obviously crested. Sales seem to be waning, claims that they improve focus have become ever more dubious, and I haven’t seen that Fidget Spinner kiosk at the mall in a while. But sometime late last year I decided to back In[k]ception by first-time Kickster creators Jeffbona. It’s an aluminum pen that includes a fidget-spinning mechanism on the top end.

The design of the pen is actually pretty minimal. There’s no clip, no textured grip section, and no knock. To eject and retract the tip, there is a thin, metal band with a notch that twists (and digs into your finger a bit). And, above this band, you can give the top-quarter of the barrel a flick with your thumb and it will silently spin for 30 to 45 seconds.

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Despite the gimmick, there’s nothing remarkable here, and, yet, I still found myself flicking the spinner over and over. As the type of person who has the urge to click-click-click retractable pens all day, this pen grew on me. Though I take some ribbing at work over the “rose gold” (metallic pink, really) color, I’m sure my coworkers appreciate that fidgeting with this pen is practically silent.

For non-fidgeters, there’s not much to recommend in the In[k]ception. It’s a bit top heavy, the retracting mechanism is somewhat uncomfortable, and though the 0.4mm Schneider Gelion 39 (gel) ink is quite dark, it’s also surprisingly thick and smeary. Besides, the pen doesn’t seem to be available outside of Kickstarter (yet) anyway. So if you want something with a similar look – but without the fidget attachment – see the Baron Fig Squire, or if you want another pen that’s good for fidgeting, check out the Pilot Down Force.

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Squire Sub No. 04 – The Key

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The Key is latest and, also, possibly the last installment of Baron Fig’s Squire subscription service. Rumor has it that the company will continue making special edition Squire pens – they’ve already produced a bunch of new colors – but without the pressure of meeting a quarterly deadline. The Key, in fact, should have been released in Q4 of 2017, but it wasn’t shipped until early January 2018. I’m inclined to overlook the delay, however, because they managed to put out a pretty good edition this time ’round.

After my disappointment with The Insightful Spectre Squire, an edition that boiled down to a paint job with mildly interesting marketing, I am very happy to see that Baron Fig has attempted something new. Instead of the body being made from the Squire’s standard aluminum, The Key is entirely made of brass. This change is immediately noticeable, as it’s easily twice as heavy as the other Squires I own.

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It comes with Baron Fig’s standard 0.6mm refill (a rebranded Schmidt), but the refill included with mine was a dud. This happens occasionally with these refills, but it was no problem for me because I have plenty of extras. It is the same style refill used in the Retro 51 Tornado, after all, and I have a ton of those.

Overall, the pen looks minimalistic and sleek, it has a good (bottom-heavy) balance for being so heavy, and pairing it with the company’s new Lock notebook was a good marketing move. My one complaint, as always, is that this pen likes to roll away, perhaps even more so than the other Squires I own.  On multiple occasions I’ve jumped at the loud “thunk” The Key produces when it falls off my desk and hits the floor. Luckily there has been no noticeable damage (to either the pen or the floor).

If Baron Fig keeps releasing these limited-edition Squires, I can’t say for certain whether or not I would purchase them. There have been ups and downs with this subscription service, after all. So, for the moment, I’m content to take a “wait and see” approach.

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Click here to see my review of the original Baron Fig Squire Review.  Click here to see my review of the first limited edition Squire, The Alphabet. Click here for The Experiment Squire. And click here to see The Insightful Spectre,

Review: Tombow Fudenosuke, Brush Pen, Hard Tip

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Brush pens are a tools typically used by calligraphers, and since calligraphy has never been a hobby of mine, it’s fair to say that I’m inexperienced with them. However, brush pens are still fun to write with, and that is doubly true for this hard-tipped version of Tombow’s Fudenosuke. Writing with it feels similar to writing with a porous point pen (e.g. the Sharpie Pen, Bic Intensity, Sakura Pigma Micron, etc.), making it much more practical for every day use.

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Unlike porous point pens, which have needle-like tips, the Fudenosuke’s tip looks more like a very fine paintbrush. Writing with it at different angles will create lines of varying thickness. However, the Fudenosuke’s hard tip makes this line variation less extreme compared to a softer/bigger tip. Moreover, the harder tip seems to make bleed-through and smearing a lot less problematic. For basic handwriting (like I have) it adds a nice flourish, though it takes a little practice.

Anyone who prides him/herself on nice handwriting would enjoy this pen. Whereas porous point pens usually make sloppier handwriting look crisper, this hard-tip brush pen is probably better suited to those who already have nice handwriting. Using the Fudenosuke quickly/sloppily will create a mess, but if you take your time with it, this pen will reward your patience.

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