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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Review: Zebra Sarasa Grand, Gel Ink, 0.5mm

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It seems that when a gel pen reaches a certain threshold of populairty, it inevitably gets a metallic upgrade: Pentel created an “alloy” version of their Energel, Pilot turned their blockbuster G-2 into the G-2 Limited, and now Zebra has made a “Grand” version of their Sarasa. The barrel of the Sarasa Grand is made of brass, and, as you’d expect, it’s a hefty pen. It is bottom-heavy in particular, so it only takes a light touch to get the ink flowing.

Additionally, the Sarasa Grand has a spring-hinged clip that allows it to clip to thicker notebooks, and doing so more securely.  Perceptive readers might note that Zebra makes another version of the Sarasa with a spring-hinged clip called, obviously, the Sarasa Clip. But the clip isn’t the only similarity between the two pens. Both the Sarasa Grand and the Sarsa Clip include the “Zebra JF” refill, whereas the standard Sarasa uses the “Zebra JLV” refill. The “JF” refill is darker and smoother than the “JLV” refill, so including it with the Sarasa Grand was a good choice by Zebra.

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The barrel comes in four colors: black, navy, pink, or (my choice) gold. There’s also a great accent on top of the knock (a little plastic jewel), and a window underneath the clip that is supposed to allow for a view of the refill’s ink level. However, the view is so limited that we’ll just have to call it a decorative window. Additionally, there are grooves on the grip section that do a good job of increasing friction, which will help to prevent your fingers from slipping while writing.

Generally I really like the Sarasa Grand, though that comes with one major caveat: the lever of the spring-hinged clip extends way too far above the barrel. It sounds like a small complaint, but this lever gets in the way whenever I try to click the pen. Similarly, if you ever click your pen upside-down on a desk, it’s not possible here – the clip blocks you.

If this sounds like a silly complaint, then definitely get yourself a Sarasa Grand. Everything else about this pen is good. But for me, this clip issue is annoying – not enough to make me hate this pen, but enough that it’ll probably end up collecting dust in a pen cup.

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