Review: Baron Fig Squire, Rollerball Ink, 0.6mm

img_4019

Many might know Baron Fig best for being one of those Kickstarter success stories. In late 2013, they raised over $168,000 to create “notebooks for thinkers,” a project which was subsequently spun-off into an online business with a growing product line. And not content to rest on those laurels, Baron Fig launched another Kickstarter project late last year for a companion product to their notebooks: a pen dubbed the Squire. This second project was also successful, raising $145,249 – of which I contributed $50 so that I could have a Squire of my very own.

As a fan of the Retro 51 Tornado, the Squire immediately felt very comfortable. In fact, it’s easy to see that the Squire took much of its inspiration from the Tornado; the comparisons are obvious. Both have a twist-style retracting mechanisms at the top of the barrel, both use a branded Schmidt rollerball refill (though the Tornado uses a 0.7mm point, as opposed to the Squire’s 0.6mm point), and even their packaging is very similar.

img_4318

Sadly, I had a couple issues with the Squire right out of the box. First, the refill that came with the pen was a dud – no big deal for me, though, because I have plenty of extra refills laying around. Second, the retracting mechanism was a bit defective. When twisted, it felt as if there were gravel stuck inside the threads, and it jammed every now and again. After a couple days, however, this kink worked itself out, and it was smooth sailing.

It took a couple weeks of use, but I grew to like the Squire quite a lot. The anodized finish looks and feels great, the aluminum body has a great weight, and I love the shape of the barrel, which thickens near the bottom before contracting at the tip – it looks like the blade of a xiphos sword (the type used for the pen’s logo). And after a while, I only had one big complaint left: there’s no clip.

It’s certainly a slick design, but without a clip, the Squire is really best used as a desk-only pen. In my everyday use, this pen rolled off tables and fell out of my pocket frequently, which is probably why I eventually lost it. And take my word for it, it’s a pretty awful feeling when you’ve realized a $50 pen has gone missing. My only hope is that it’s become the prized possession of a hapless pedestrian who stumbled onto it.

Honestly, I’ve been tempted to buy another (the Squire is now available from Baron Fig’s website for $55 for those who missed the Kickstarter campaign), but I don’t know if I could handle misplacing a second one.

img_4319
The Baron Fig’s empty (bah!) packaging.

Extra Links

  • Here’s a review at The Well Appointed Desk that shows off the silver version of the pen, which apparently picks up a lot of visible dirt. I chose the charcoal version, the only other option, which I think looks cooler anyway.
  • Another review at Woodclinched. Here you can see the silver and charcoal versions side by side. I guess the silver version might be better if you’re looking to match your Apple gear. Side note: it seems like I’m not the only one who prefers to have a pocket clip attached to a pen.
  • A review at Office Supply Geek where he highly recommends the Squire. In fact, he prefers the pen without a clip! Well, to each their own.

Review: Sakura Gelly Roll, Gel Ink, 0.6mm

IMG_3237

As an elementary school student during the 1990s, I’m very nostalgic toward the Sakura Gelly Roll pen. Gel ink was a fairly new invention back then, created as an alternative to oil-based ballpoint ink and water-based rollerball ink. One advantage to this new gel ink was that it could use color pigments instead of dyes – yes, apparently there’s a difference – which allow for many more colorful ink options.

At the time, these bright and shiny new colors were hugely popular for back-to-school shopping in the U.S., but at around $1 per pen, only the luckiest of my fellow students owned more than a few.

GellyRollMegaDisplay2014
Lots of colors! (via Sakura’s website)

Today, the Gelly Roll still looks and feels exactly like the pen I remember from my childhood. In the years since, however, gel pens have become much more common, and as a standard black writing pen, the Gelly Roll is a bit out of date. The barrel, cap, and clip all feel very cheap, and though the ink has that iconic gel richness, it smears more than it should.

The price of a Sakura Gelly Roll has continued to hover around $1 per pen for decades, which isn’t bad considering inflation. Still, it’s hard to justify when higher quality gel ink pens exist for nearly the same price, such as the Pentel Energel or the uni-ball Signo 207. That isn’t to say I’d want the Gelly Roll to change – it’s a great nostalgia trip for me, even though I don’t plan on visiting it too often.
IMG_3236
Extra Links

Retro Talk: The Albert and the Schmidt P8126

IMG_3282

Since I began this blog four months ago, there’s been one pen I’ve picked up more than any other: the Retro 51 Tornado. It looks good, feels good, and writes great, and at 20 to 30 dollars, it manages to be a really nice pen without being too expensive. Retro 51 also offers the Tornado in a lot of different colors and designs that can give the pen a nice personal flair. One of these designs that stuck me immediately was the Albert.

It’s technically part of Retro 51’s Vintage Metalsmith series, but the construction of the Albert Tornado is identical to their Classic Lacquers with a special design wrapped around the barrel. It’s meant to look like a chalkboard, and written on it is a proof for the famous equation E = mc². As far as I can see, the proof is accurately depicted, and the science nerd inside of me really loves this design.

IMG_3283
The metal twist, clip, and tip of the Albert also has a more “aged” look to it, compared to the Classic Lacquer

As for the innards of the pen, it comes with the standard 0.7mm Retro 1951 rollerball refill. It’s a good refill – smooth and dark – but I tend to prefer a tip that’s a bit finer. One popular refill that fits the Retro 51 Tornado is the Schmidt P8126. From what I understand, the standard Retro 51 refill is a re-branded Schmdt, and the P8126 is the 0.6mm version of that same refill.

IMG_3285

Like the branded version, the Schmidt p8126 is a great refill, and while there is definitely a difference in line width, it is far from substantial to my eye. At the end of the day, I’ll still go for the finer 0.6mm refill, but I’d really be happy with either.

No matter what, I’m looking forward to playing around with other Retro 51 pens, and I’ll be sure to write about it when I do.

Review: SKB Click Ball, Ballpoint Pen, 0.6mm

SKB Click Ball

The most striking thing about the SKB Click Ball is how much it looks like the uni-ball Signo RT1 gel pen. The all-black design, the shape of the barrel, and even the knock/click mechanism seem nearly identical (click here for a comparison pic). It’s as if the Click Ball is the Signo RT1’s younger brother, albeit one that still has thing or two left to learn.

The Click Ball provides a great writing experience once it gets going: it’s smooth to write with, the ink doesn’t blob up, and there’s no smearing. Getting to that point, however, can be a bit of a struggle. After the pen has been sitting, it seems like the first few words drag on the page, and there are some intermittent issues with ink skipping.

SKB Click Ball Parts

Like SKB’s Soft Ink pen, I’m not overly impressed with the Click Ball. It’s not bad considering that it’s something of an economy-priced pen in Taiwan. To get it in the U.S., however, you’re probably paying more money than it would be worth. And if you just like the look of the pen, you’d be better off with the Signo RT1.

SKB Click Ball Review