Nib Novice, Part 10: The Vanishing Point

This is the tenth and final part of a blog series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For all the previous installments, click here.

When I began writing this series of blog posts over two years, I’d hoped that I would be proficient with a fountain pen by the end. But now here I am, a collection of fountain pens surrounding me, and I still feel like a novice. These are surprisingly complicated stationery tools, and I could probably write a hundred posts in this series without feeling totally comfortable. Still, I’ve managed to learn a lot along the way, and, at the very least, I don’t find fountain pens as intimidating as I once did.

So, now that I’ve literally and figuratively spilled a good deal of ink, it’s time to end this series with a fountain pen that I’ve been coveting since the very beginning: The Pilot Vanishing Point.


The Vanishing Point’s claim to fame is that it’s one of the very few retractable fountain pens on the market, and it has been ever since the product line was introduced in the 1960s. Why don’t more manufacturers make retractable fountain pens? Well, when a fountain pen nib is exposed to air for too long, ink will dry up in and around the feed, which causes clogs that are a hassle to clean. But Pilot’s engineers solved this problem with a simple “trap door” mechanism that opens when the nib is ejected and seals shut when it is retracted.

It’s a novelty – and I mean that in the best sense of the word – but it’s also expensive. So, after saving up a little, I spent the most amount of money I’ve ever spent on a pen, $134, and placed my order for a bright yellow Vanishing Point with a medium nib. When it arrived a few days later, I wasted no time before inking it up with a brown Iroshizuku (Pilot brand) ink.


While a lot of other fountain pens can come across as pretentious or gaudy, the Vanishing Point’s sleek design is like writing with a Chevy Camaro. So handing it over to people who have zero experience with fountain pens is a lot of fun, if not also a bit risky. I’ve stood frozen with terror as a co-worker attempted to write with the nib upside-down and then proceeded to shake the bejeezus out of it when the ink wouldn’t flow. But these are the risks we take to show off a cool pen.

And it is undoubtedly a cool pen. It writes smoothly, it looks good, and it’s generally just a pleasure to use. At the same time, it’s certainly not for everybody. For example, a lot has been written about this pen’s clip placement on the grip section of the barrel, and this is uncomfortable for some. Fortunately, I don’t have that problem, and if anything, I find that it helps me to hold the pen properly.

The big downside for me – and this applies to all expensive pens – is that I don’t always feel comfortable using it. If I’m at my desk, and I’m using Pilot’s approved ink, it’s fine. But if I want to take this out and about or use it at work, I’m paranoid about losing or breaking it. And, yes, I suppose this is just a personal mental block that I’ll have to get over, but the concern is real enough for me.


So, now the Nib Novice series is over, part of me wonders how much I’ll continue to use fountain pens. I have to admit that fountain pens never really clicked with me in the same way that they have for other people. Yes, I’ve learned a lot and had fun writing these posts, but I’ve also had my share of frustrating experiences. I also rarely find myself in situations where I need to sit down and write a lot, and ballpoints or gel pens tend to be much more convenient for me.

I suspect that I will, at least on occasion, use these pens. They are great for writing cards and checks, and my girlfriend uses the Pilot V Pen for all sorts of things. Time will tell, I suppose. So you’ll just have to keep an eye out for more fountain pen reviews in the future.

Review: Pilot Couleur, Ballpoint, 0.5mm

At just over 3.5″ in length and weighing less than one-third of an ounce, the Pilot Couleur is certainly a tiny fellow. But tiny can also mean mighty – the Couleur is a durable pen with metal trim, a solid clip, and vigorous clicker. It is also wrapped in a matte finish that gives the barrel a nice texture.

As the pen’s name (sort-of) indicates, there are a bunch of color options available for the barrel, but the Couleur only includes a black ballpoint refill. The ink flows out sharp and smooth, though it’s not particularly dark. The refill is slightly above average on the whole, but nowhere near Pilot’s own Acroball ink.

Due to its size, the Couleur probably shouldn’t be used for tasks that require a lot of writing. It just isn’t comfortable for anything longer than a sentence. Rather, it would work best as a datebook companion or an ‘everyday carry’ pen, as it will easily slip inside a pocket or purse.

Overall, it’s a reliable little pen that can definitely take some abuse.

Review: Spiffy Lab Carbon Fiber G2 Pen, Gel Ink, 0.5mm


Originally crowdfunded on Kickstarter to the tune of $23,181, the Carbon Fiber G2 Pen by Spiffy Lab is a monster. Its long, rotund barrel reminds me of a Maglite, and its machined-aluminum and carbon fiber body makes it look like something that ought to be stored in a tool bench. On seeing it, I was enamored, and I didn’t think twice before throwing $25 at the Kickstarter campaign so that I could secure a pen for myself.

When I received the pen a while later, I quickly discovered that the Carbon Fiber G2 Pen isn’t really an item I can use on an everyday basis. I should have known better; it’s really too large to comfortably fit in a pocket. Moreover, the cap screws on and off, requiring three full, squeaky rotations. And to make things a little more difficult, the cap doesn’t post to the end of the pen, and the clip juts out much too far for most practical purposes – though you can remove it with a hex wrench if you’d be okay with no clip at all.


On the positive side, I find the thick barrel fairly comfortable to write with, and I especially like the carbon fiber texture. If there’s one lesson I take away from this pen, it’s that carbon fiber should be used more often. And given its size, it weighs less than you might expect, though anyone with smaller hands might still have some trouble. Also, as indicated by the pen’s name, it includes a 0.5mm Pilot G-2 refill, which shouldn’t dry out if left uncapped for an extended period of time. However, the refill included with my pen seems to be a dud – it skips in and out a lot. Luckily, G-2 refills are easy to replace, as they are available nearly everywhere, in many sizes and colors.

While the Carbon Fiber G2 Pen probably isn’t sensible for most situations, I still like it. Though, honestly, I probably wont get much use from it. But for those that might be interested in this gargantuan pen, it looks like you can still order one through the Spiffy Lab website for $55. That’s a markup from the Kickstarter campaign, but it will at least feel like you’re getting something substantial for the money.

Review: Pilot Dr. Grip, Ballpoint, Medium Point


If you walk through a stationery aisle every now and again, it’s likely that you’ll have at least a passing familiarity with the Pilot Dr. Grip. At my corner store, for example, there’s always one situated alone and awkwardly, hanging between a row of BICs and a row of store-brand gels. Well, Dr. Grip, the time has come to take you off the rack and out for a spin.


Despite the small amount of shelf space it’s often given, the Dr. Grip has its fair share of fans out there. It’s a thick pen with a large and rubbery grip, which makes it quite comfortable to write with. In fact,  it is probably intentional that the pen’s name, Dr. Grip, suggests a somewhat therapeutic product.

The Dr. Grip’s ballpoint ink is surprisingly good too, darker and smoother than most – it comes close to the nice ballpoint ink of Pilot’s Acroball. Still, for a pen that is geared toward comfort,  a smoother gel or rollerball ink might have worked better. Regardless,  it’s a nice pen overall, and if writing tends to make your hand cramp up, the Dr. Grip is a pen worth considering.


Five Pens to Try – May 2016 Update

This week, Pens and Junk reaches two milestones: 100 posts and 25,000 page views. To many it may be a relatively minor accomplishment, but I thought it worth commemorating with a quick look back. After all, I wrote my original Top Five list after reviewing my first 25 pens back in October of last year, and things have changed a lot since then – keen observers will notice that only one pen has retained its spot on this list.

So, to cut the waffling short, here are the five pens that you should be checking out:

1. For Your Pen Cup: Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX

Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX

The Pentel Energel is relatively inexpensive, durable, comfortable, and it has an ink that’s both smooth and dark. This is really a great pen to have laying about in your work area, and it comes in a variety of colors and tip sizes. And if you really like this pen, you can get a stainless steel version for under $10.

2. Your “Nice” Pen: Retro 51 Tornado

Retro 1951 Tornado

It’s safe to assume that the Retro 51 Tornado is a mainstay in my collection. Since buying my first one in August of last year, I’ve gotten three more for myself and given a few more as gifts. Tons of different designs are available, and it’s a great option if you’re thinking about upgrading your writing experience. And while many nicer pens go for $100 or more, you can get a Tornado for as little as $20.

3. Your On-The-Move Pen: Fisher Cap-O-Matic Space Pen

Fisher Cap-O-Matic Space Pen

If you need a compact pen that can write in variety of situations, the Fisher Cap-O-Matic is the way to go. The pressurized Space Pen ink cartridge will write upside-down on wet paper, if you need it to. Though, I still really like my Tombow Airpress, the slim, metal body of the Cap-O-Matic makes it a bit more pocket friendly.

4. Your Everyday Writer: BIC Intensity

Bic Intensity

With its porous-point tip, the BIC Intensity produces crisp lines that will make anybody’s handwriting look better. I almost always have one of these pens at hand. If you can’t find the Intensity, the Sharpie Pen is a great alternative, though it’s slightly less durable.

5. A Pen to Fix Your Mistakes: Pilot Frixion

Pilot Frixion

Let’s face it, most erasable pens on the market are pure garbage. Pilot, on the other hand, has really broken the mould with the heat-activated ink inside the Frixion. The ink comes smooth and dark, and it erases like a dream. If you always wanted to do your math homework in pen, this is for you.

So that’s it. I hope you were able to find something interesting and something new. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me at or leave a comment below.