Retro Talk: The Ice-O-Metric Tornado

img_9135

There may be no summertime dessert more iconic than the Bomb Pop  – or, depending on your ice-cream truck guy, maybe it’s the Firecracker Popsicle. Either way, if you live in the United States, this dessert will probably conjure up memories of picnics, parks, and purple tongues. So maybe its no accident that this new Retro 51 Tornado, the Ice-O-Metric, was released in the dead of winter, when I find myself most nostalgic for memories of warm weather.

The Ice-O-Metric design – an 8-bit depiction of the above-mentioned dessert – was created by Michael Jacobs, who wrote a fascinating blog post that details its inception and evolution (a worthwhile read for any aspiring graphic designers). Originally, the design was sold on a t-shirt, but it eventually made it to the Tornado via Brad Dowdy, who sells it on the Pen Addict website.

img_9137

Aside from the red, white, and blue ice pops wrapped diagonally along the barrel, there is a matching disc atop the twist mechanism, and, as a bonus gimmick, the pen also glows in the dark.  It’s a great design, and an excellent sophomore Tornado release from The Pen Addict – the first being a more basic orange model.

I’d say, get your hands on it if you can. It’s a limited edition of 600 pieces, and there’s apparently a risk that they’ll be run over by delivery trucks.

img_9139

Review: Muji Hex Oil, Ballpoint, 0.7mm

img_8685

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.

img_7583

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.

img_8686

Review: Uchida Reminisce, Gel Ink, 0.7mm

img_6748

Given its name and the fact that I found it in a craft store, I get the feeling that the Uchida ‘Reminisce’ is intended for scrapbookers. Though the full name, as far as I can tell, is the Marvy-Uchida Gel Excel Reminisce, and though its acid-free, archival ink could be good for scrapbooking, it can really be used just like any other gel pen. In fact, it has a rubbery, soft grip running the length of the barrel that makes it quite comfortable for general writing.

It’s a nice pen overall, though at $2.50 the cost of the Reminisce is probably on the high-end for its category. The ink flow can sometimes run a bit heavy and skips out on the rare occasion, but it works flawlessly the majority of the time. The cap posts snugly, and the clip is tight and relatively durable for being made of plastic. Additionally, large ink-windows are positioned on the side of the barrel, making it convenient to see when the ink is running low. And in case that isn’t enough, the Reminisce’s packaging also boasts of ink that is “smudge resistant when dry” (though I’m pretty sure that’s true of every pen I’ve ever used).

img_6757

The Reminisce isn’t the sort of pen I’d suggest bulk-ordering or driving across town to find. Even if you’re looking for a scrapbooking pen, almost any gel will do a similar job, and good ones like the uni-ball Signo and the Pentel Energel are likely easier to find. Still,  if you happen across one, I think the Reminisce would be worth grabbing off the shelf.  And if you don’t like it for its performance, hopefully you will still appreciate the great curly-cursive logo printed across its barrel.

img_6755

Review: Tombow Zoom 707, Ballpoint, 0.7mm

img_5964

The Tombow Zoom 707 is nothing if not distinctive. Between the accordion-like twist, the red ball at the end of the clip, and the protruding grip, it looks like no pen I’ve seen. In fact, it seems almost like a novelty pen.

That’s not to disparage it; the Zoom 707 is clearly a high-quality pen. It has a durable, metal barrel, a clip that secures snugly, and a twist mechanism that ejects the pen’s tip smoothly. It has a soft, rubber grip and comes with a ballpoint refill that’s comparatively darker and smoother than most (though some ink blobbing does occur).

tombowzoom707-features

Due to its size, however, the Zoom 707 is the kind of pen that’s best slipped inside a planner or pocket-notebook. Despite the grip section, which is noticeably thicker than the pen’s barrel, the Zoom 707’s slenderness is simply impractical for writing longer notes or letters. Writing at any length quickly becomes uncomfortable.

The Zoom 707 will likely run you anywhere from 15 to 35 dollars, depending on which color you’re after, and, to me, that seems a bit pricey given its limited practicality. If you’re in the market for a super-slim pen, I’d recommend checking out the Pilot Couleur. If you just want a unique-looking Tombow pen, I’d suggest the Airpress. The Zoom 707 is a nice pen, but it’s hard to beat these alternatives, as they typically run in the 5 to 10 dollar range.

img_5971

Review: BIC Gelocity, Gel Ink, 0.7mm

img_5875

Let’s be real; the BIC Gelocity is pretty much just a re-branding of BIC’s old Velocity Gel pen. However, there are a few differences worth noting. First and foremost, the refill inside the pen seems to have been updated. The ink flow is no longer as inconsistent, and it runs a bit smoother – and wetter – than the old Velocity Gel. But like its predecessor, the Gelocity’s ink still smears quite heavily.

There are also some minor aesthetic updates. The knock has been turned white, the trim is a lighter gray, and the grip is maybe a tiny bit softer. But beyond that, it’s hard to tell the two pens apart.

img_5874

It’s fair to say that it’s an improvement, albeit a minor one, but there’s nothing here that elevates the Gelocity above other mediocre “premium plastic” pens. It’s fine. It’ll do the job. Still, better options are available.

img_5873