Review: e+m Slim Line, Ballpoint, Medium Tip


Wood, for whatever reason, is not a material that’s typically used for pens, but the German company e+m seems to prefer it. e+m makes a handful of wood-barreled pens, one of which is this Slim Line model that comes in three finishes: black, white, and “natural.” It’s this natural look that I like the best, and my girlfriend seems to agree; after I first used it, she snatched this ballpoint off my desk and said, “ooh… pretty!”

The Slim Line is primarily made from beech wood. It’s a good choice –  it feels like a softer wood, so it’s fairly comfortable to write with. The accents are all metal (which makes a lot of sense for the clip), but this natural finish version comes with a wooden clicker that looks like a golf tee protruding from the top. I like it.


The only downside to this e+m pen is that it uses a generic, blue ballpoint refill, the kind that you might find in a promotional pen. It’s okay if you’re comfortable having a scratch-pad handy, otherwise you’ll be annoyed by ink stuttering. This e+m pen design doesn’t work well with other refills either – most are too fat to fit inside the barrel. Cult Pens recommends a Schneider Express 775 refill (they can be found for a little over a dollar a piece), but I can’t vouch for that refill myself.

Regardless, the e+m Slim Line is such a unique-looking pen that I’m still happy to pick it up from time to time. It’s not the type of thing that will fully satisfy a pen nerd, but it would make a good stocking-stuffer. And it doesn’t hurt that these can easily be found for under $10.


Retro Talk: The Tiger Shark


The Flying Tigers – officially called the 1st American Volunteer Group – were a band of Air Force squadrons sent to defend China against Japanese attacks during Word War II. They were successful and popular in their time, but they are probably best remembered for the creative paint jobs they gave to their P-40 Warhawk fighter planes. So, in August 2015, 70 years after the end of WWII, Retro 51 announced a Tornado pen in tribute to the Flying Tigers.

The Flying Tiger Tornado turned out to be a very successful product: 500 pens were made, and they sold out fast. I missed out, unfortunately – I hadn’t gotten my first Retro 51 Tornado until a couple weeks after the Flying Tiger was released, so it was long gone by the time I caught wind of it. To my delight, the design was so popular that Retro 51 decided to release two more versions of the pen earlier this year, the Tiger Shark (the one I have, pictured above) and the Fortress (pictured below).


All three pens feature a design printed on a lacquer wrap with acid-etching for detail. The acid-etching is especially cool, as it adds texture to the rivets and grooves in the paneling. To give the pen a grittier look, the metal of the nosecone, clip, and twist have been artificially weathered. All three pens look great, but I especially like the camouflage on the Tiger Shark. The “Dear Becky” insignia on the Fortress design is also pretty great, but it lacks the iconic set of shark teeth at the pen’s tip.

This has got to be one of my favorite Retro 51 Tornado pens. Like the Albert Tornado, the pen has a great design along with an interesting history. Both the Fortress and the Tiger Shark are also easy to get a hold of – unlike the Flying Tiger, the Fortress and Tiger Shark aren’t being sold in limited quantities. However, they both still have a production number stamped near the twist. I’m not sure I understand the reason for this, but if you have a higher number than mine (#180), then I think you should owe me a drink.


On a side note, Vanness threw in a blue Retro 51 refill with my order. I don’t usually use blue ink, but I decided to throw it in the Tiger Shark anyway. To my surprise, I’m actually liking it. It’s smooth and has a nice, deep hue …though I suppose a green ink might make more sense with this pen.

Update 8/29/16: Retro 51 pointed out on their Twitter account that the Fortress Tornado is actually based on the designs painted on B-17 Bombers (also known as a Flying Fortress).

Colors Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, Porous Point, 6-Color Set


As an instrument for writing, I wasn’t particularly fond of the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner’s barrel shape, a unique design that resembles a rounded-off triangle. But for drawing and coloring, this design seems to work pretty well. Almost like a grip, the flat edges allow for a little more control, whereas fully rounded and smooth barrels can sometimes slip in your hand.

This six-color set, is fairly standard in terms of color variation, so they could work well for utilitarian tasks like taking notes and editing papers. However, these pens are also very good at filling in areas and creating clean lines, so I’m inclined recommend them for more artistic purposes.


It’s also worth mentioning that Triplus Fineliners are “dry safe,” which means that you don’t have to worry too much about capping and uncapping these pens – they take days to dry out. So, if you’re working on something especially detailed, it will save you an extra step when going back and forth between colors.

But no matter what you might use them for, they are really a quality set of pens. In fact, I might have to look into adding a few more colors to my collection.


Note: that alien looks a lot more menacing than I intended.


Colors Review: Pentel R.S.V.P. Eight-Color Set, 1.0mm Ballpoint 


The Pentel R.S.V.P. is a pen that’s ubiquitous to the school-supply isle. It’s nicer than the cheapo pens you’ll find in the typical office supply cabinet, but it’s inexpensive enough – and durable enough – that you could probably throw it into a kid’s backpack without much thought. This eight-color set of Pentel R.S.V.P. ballpoints follows along those same lines; they work, but there’s little that’s noteworthy.

The colors included here all feel fairly basic. The blue, red, purple, and green lend themselves best to utilitarian tasks like grading papers or taking notes. The orange, light blue, and pink are a bit brighter, but still might be best suited to highlight or mark passages in a book. Drawing, doodling, or coloring is best treated as an after-thought.


These R.S.V.P. colors don’t provide a particularly smooth or smear-free writing/drawing experience. Color with them too long and you’re bound to find ink blobs smeared across the side of your hand. And despite the soft grip section, hand-cramps are likely to occur after only a few minutes of continual use. Like most ballpoint pens, the ink works great for shading and darkening (depending on how hard you press down on the paper), but they don’t fill in areas particularly well either.

These pens are best put to work in a calendar, textbook, or notebook – anywhere drawing, doodling, or coloring will be secondary.


Colors Review: Pilot B2P, Gel Ink, 5-Color Set (0.7mm)

The Pilot B2P gel pen has been one of the more popular reviews on this blog, and that doesn’t come a surprise. The B2P is cleverly marketed as an eco-friendly pen, and it has a unique look that is supposed to resemble a plastic (and recycled) water bottle. It’s a pen which calls to you from the store shelf, begging you to try something that’s a little different (even though it uses the same ink as the most popular gel pen on the market, the Pilot G-2).

Even though the colors in this B2P set don’t really resemble water bottles, they still have a unique look to them.The barrels of the pink and light green pens, in particular, look almost luminescent when light passes through them.

As for the ink colors, I like the light green and the blue (which is also a lighter shade), and the pink has a nice brightness to it. Overall, however, these colors come across as somewhat generic. It would have been neat to see a theme for the B2P colors, similar to what Pilot did with the G-2 Mosaic Collection. They could have done five colors of the ocean, perhaps.

Consider purchasing this pen set only if you like the look of the colorful barrels. They are surprisingly comfortable to hold, despite not having a grip, and they feel fairly sturdy for pens entirely composed of plastic. And luckily, the cartridges are easy to swap out. In fact, I might end up just throwing some standard black ink inside these pens.