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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Review: Muji Hex Oil, Ballpoint, 0.7mm

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Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I took a short trip to Manhattan where, completely unintentionally, we happened upon a Muji store. If you’ve never heard of Muji before, it is sort-of like the Japanese’s answer to Crate & Barrel. It’s a store full of household items, clothing, and stationery products, though all of it is unbranded.  It’s trendy and cool, and it’s difficult to walk into a Muji store without buying something. Short on time during my New York vacation, I settled on this simple Hex Oil pen, which cost about $1.50.

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The name “Hex Oil” does a pretty good job of describing the pen itself. It has an all-black, hexagonal barrel – like a cross between a pencil and a Signo RT1 – and it uses ballpoint (oil-based) ink. As you might expect, the pen itself feels very much like a pencil in hand. Even though it lacks any sort of grip, the hexagonal shape does a good job of making it fairly comfortable to hold.

The ballpoint ink, on the other hand, isn’t very good. It feels sluggish, so your hand is bound to get tired if you plan on writing a lot. Also worth noting: the ink also has a minor blobbing problem, the clip is fairly flimsy, and the refills cost a dollar each, which is way overpriced.

Perhaps a recovering pencil-addict will get enjoyment out of the barrel, but better pens exist that cost less money. Check out the Skilcraft U.S. Government Pen or the Paper Mate Inkjoy 550RT instead. They may not look as unique, but you’ll have a better writing experience.

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Review: Foray Stylemark, Porous Point, 0.5mm

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Ever since the Sharpie Pen began to grow in popularity, it seems like porous point pens have eaten up more and more shelf space. This, honestly, comes as no surprise to me; porous points, even the super cheap ones, tend to write very crisp and clean lines. They make handwriting noticeably nicer and neater.

The Foray Stylemark is definitely among the better porous points out on the market. It has a plastic barrel and cap, but comes with a sturdy clip and a rubber grip. It looks nice, but it’s nothing flashy. Still, it’s a step up from its competitors, which often have short caps, crummy clips, and no grip section to speak of.

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In fact, I think I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Stylemark has ousted the BIC Intensity to become my new favorite porous point pen. The only issue: Foray is an Office Depot house brand. So you’re unlikely to find it outside of that company’s stores. But if you are a fan of porous point pens then it might be worth making the trip.

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