While visiting the Somjai stationery store in Thailand earlier this year, I only purchased two pens. The first was the uni-ball Laknock (you can read that review here), and the second was this, the Faber-Castell 1423 Ball Pen. At 10 Thai Baht (about $1 USD), it’s not an expensive or fancy pen, but what drew me to it was the Faber-Castell name, which is primarily known to me as a high quality pencil manufacturer. As it turns out, they do manufacture plenty of pens as well, and so I was looking forward to trying one out.
Well, the 1423 doesn’t scream “premium quality” with its looks. The design is simple, and its body is entirely plastic. Probably the first thing I noticed was that the cap secures and posts very tightly. But when I got to writing with it, the overall experience was pretty good. The ink goes down dark and smooth, and it produces a clean line. However, the ink is also quite wet and will smear if you don’t give it a few extra seconds to dry.
Oddly, the 1423 feels more like a liquid ink (rollerball) pen than a ballpoint, which traditionally use oil-based inks that don’t tend to smear very much. Regardless, I like this pen, and I’ll find some use for it. But I wouldn’t suggest going all the way to a Thai stationery store to get one. A pen like the Pilot Acroball will provide a similar writing experience.
I wasn’t planning to visit any stationery stores during a recent vacation to Thailand. But one afternoon, as temperatures in Chiang Mai rose to over 100ºF, we took shelter in the MAYA Shopping Center where I spotted a storefront loaded with the good stuff. The shop, I later learned, is a Thai chain called Somjai, which is full of all sorts of cool stationery and art supplies.
Unprepared and slightly overwhelmed, I didn’t end up buying much while I was there, but one item that caught my attention was this uni-ball Laknock ballpoint. I’ve reviewed a lot of uni-ball products on this blog, but I’ve never heard of the Laknock before. And, honestly, I kind of just liked the product’s name.
The Laknock is a retractable ballpoint, and it was priced at 30 Thai Baht (about $1 USD). It has a comfortable, rubbery grip and a body that is constructed with plastic. Overall, the look is very similar to your run-of-the-mill Pilot G-2. It seems to come in multiple tip sizes, but I went for the smallest one I could find at 0.5mm. For a ballpoint, this tip size feels very fine, though I do like it. However, like most ballpoints, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and I’ve experienced the occasional blobbing and smearing.
For a dollar, the Laknok is a nice ballpoint, but there’s nothing that really sets it apart from any other ballpoint you’d find for a dollar. It’s rather generic, and there’s little to say beyond that. So, if you find yourself at a stationery shop in Thailand, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up one of these ballpoints. But, otherwise, you’re not missing too much.
I don’t remember exactly where I first saw this Baidercor Space Shuttle Pen, but I’ve stumbled across it a handful of times while doing some Fisher Space Pen browsing. But the Space Shuttle Pen and the Space Pen should not be confused, as they are two totally different items. One is a pen I like to travel with, and the other is a cheapo novelty ballpoint made from molded plastic.
Baidercor seems to primarily be a toy company, which makes some sense out the Space Shuttle Pen. It isn’t much of a functional pen, but instead it’s more of a clicky toy for your desk. The big, bulky “Space Shuttle” knock makes the pen both uncomfortable to hold and difficult to keep in your pocket, and the generic black ballpoint ink comes in such a small refill that it surely won’t last long. And, no, a Fisher refill does not fit this pen – I tried.
However, the Space Shuttle Pen does look kind of cool (which is why I bought it in the first place), and I like the variety of fuel tank colors. But this pen does feel a lot cheaper than it looks. So if you find yourself impulse purchasing these pens as I did, maybe just plan to use it as an adornment for your pen cup.
After my bad experience with the Inc R-2 rollerball pen, I wasn’t expecting much from the Inc Forma. After all, it does look like a cheap, ballpoint version of the Pilot G-2, and it’s primarily sold at The Dollar Tree. But after using it for bit, I was quickly and pleasantly surprised.
At $1 for a 3-pack, you’re definitely not getting a premium experience with the Forma. The pen is entirely made of plastic, the clip feels very flimsy, and the rubber grip is best described as “soft-ish.” But putting pen to paper, the ballpoint ink in this pen is surprisingly smooth. It doesn’t require much pressure to use, making it a decent writing experience.
On the negative side, the ink isn’t particularly dark, and there’s a small issue with blobbing and smearing. But, really, I don’t have any criticisms that are harsh given that it’s such an inexpensive pen. I’d prefer it over a cheaper BIC ballpoint any day.
Of course, I’d never suggest that anyone go out of their way to buy a pack. The Forma is not, by any means, a great pen. But if you happen to be in need of some cheap ballpoints while at a dollar store, then this is a fine choice.
If you’ve heard of the company Skilcraft, it’s probably for two reasons. First, it’s the manufacturer of the U.S. Government Pen, a low-cost, professional-looking ballpoint that also happens to be very reliable. And second, it’s held in high regard by the National Industries for the Blind for employing scores of blind workers in their manufacturing facilities. Skilcraft is a good company, and so I was interested in trying another of the their well-known pens, the stealthy-looking B3 Aviator multi-pen.
As the pen’s name makes obvious, the B3 Aviator is marketed towards pilots. It meets the FAA’s “FOD” requirements, and it has a matte black finish to prevent glare. The multi-pen has three components: a 1.0mm black ballpoint, a 1.0mm red ballpoint, and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. The midpoint of the barrel twists in either direction to eject and retract the three tips in turn, and the end-cap also screws off to reveal an eraser.
Oddly, the design and function of the B3 Aviator is pretty much identical to the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. So, it probably goes without saying that the problems I had with the Sharbo are the same problems I have with the Aviator. In particular, there’s no indication on the barrel for which tip is selected (you have to closely examine the tip to know if you’re about to write with black ink/red ink/pencil), and the cap that covers the eraser is a small piece that’s begging to be lost. For some reason, I also had some trouble getting the Aviator’s pencil lead to eject without breaking.
But, unlike the Sharbo, the Aviator feels a lot more substantial and durable – for about $18, you don’t feel like you’re getting ripped off. But that’s all that this pen really has going for it. The refills are fine, and it generally works okay. However, I still wouldn’t recommend this multi-pen – the design just isn’t very good.