Multi-Pen Review: Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000

I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d gotten when I purchased the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. I’d stopped into the Kinokuniya Book Store during a recent visit to New York City, and stumbled on the store’s Japanese stationery section tucked away in its basement. The Surari Sharbo’s bright yellow barrel caught my eye, but since I couldn’t read the Japanese packaging, I had no idea that it was a multi-pen when I bought it.

The Sarari Sharbo 1000 contains two ink cartridges, 0.7mm black and red ballpoints, and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. In order to switch between red ink, black ink, and the mechanical pencil, you twist the pen in either direction around its midpoint. There are no markings on the barrel to denote which you are getting, so I frequently found myself having to examine the pen’s tip to see if I’d selected the proper one.

The red ink is smooth and doesn’t smear, and the black feels somewhat sluggish. After switching to the pencil, the top becomes clickable to eject the lead, and the the finial twists off to reveal a small eraser. The mechanical pencil lead seems fairly resilient but generally not noteworthy. Just be careful switching back to a pen tip, as the lead will snap if you forget to push it back in.

I’m not a frequent user of multi-pens – obviously, I bought this one by accident –  but I can confidently say that better ones exist than the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. Though I love the bright yellow plastic barrel, I just never got used to the twisting mechanism, specifically the lack of lead/tip indicator. Perhaps this is something I’d have gotten used to over time, but it is enough of an annoyance that I can’t be bothered to stick with it that long. And for the $20 cost, this multi-pen just doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

P.S. My fiancée insisted that I create this GIF of the multi-pen in action.

Review: Zebra Sarasa Grand, Gel Ink, 0.5mm


It seems that when a gel pen reaches a certain threshold of populairty, it inevitably gets a metallic upgrade: Pentel created an “alloy” version of their Energel, Pilot turned their blockbuster G-2 into the G-2 Limited, and now Zebra has made a “Grand” version of their Sarasa. The barrel of the Sarasa Grand is made of brass, and, as you’d expect, it’s a hefty pen. It is bottom-heavy in particular, so it only takes a light touch to get the ink flowing.

Additionally, the Sarasa Grand has a spring-hinged clip that allows it to clip to thicker notebooks, and doing so more securely.  Perceptive readers might note that Zebra makes another version of the Sarasa with a spring-hinged clip called, obviously, the Sarasa Clip. But the clip isn’t the only similarity between the two pens. Both the Sarasa Grand and the Sarsa Clip include the “Zebra JF” refill, whereas the standard Sarasa uses the “Zebra JLV” refill. The “JF” refill is darker and smoother than the “JLV” refill, so including it with the Sarasa Grand was a good choice by Zebra.


The barrel comes in four colors: black, navy, pink, or (my choice) gold. There’s also a great accent on top of the knock (a little plastic jewel), and a window underneath the clip that is supposed to allow for a view of the refill’s ink level. However, the view is so limited that we’ll just have to call it a decorative window. Additionally, there are grooves on the grip section that do a good job of increasing friction, which will help to prevent your fingers from slipping while writing.

Generally I really like the Sarasa Grand, though that comes with one major caveat: the lever of the spring-hinged clip extends way too far above the barrel. It sounds like a small complaint, but this lever gets in the way whenever I try to click the pen. Similarly, if you ever click your pen upside-down on a desk, it’s not possible here – the clip blocks you.

If this sounds like a silly complaint, then definitely get yourself a Sarasa Grand. Everything else about this pen is good. But for me, this clip issue is annoying – not enough to make me hate this pen, but enough that it’ll probably end up collecting dust in a pen cup.


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Nib Novice, Part 5 – The TWSBI Eco & a Zebra V-301 Update

This is the fifth part in a series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For the previous installments, click here.


Chalk it up to a bad experience, but I really had no desire to pick up a new fountain pen after putting down my Lamy Safari a few months ago. I’d already purchased a pen – a TWSBI Eco – but I couldn’t bring myself to ink it up. So I decided to let it sit, shrink-wrapped on my desk, for about a month. When curiosity finally drove me to break open the packaging, I realized pretty quickly that my experience with fountain pens was about to change for the better.

Just to look at it, it’s obvious that the Eco is one of the coolest pens I own. In the lingo of the fountain pen world, it’s referred to as a demonstrator pen, a style that indicates a clear-bodied pen that makes all the inner workings visible. Filled with a dark red ink, “Rouge Hematite” by J. Herbin, it’s neat to watch the fluid slosh around the pen’s innards and move through the feed toward the nib. It’s certainly eye-catching. In fact, a co-worker of mine recently mistook the Eco for an e-cigarette and erroneously scolded me for picking up the habit of smoking.


In addition to its looks, I’m very happy with the way the Eco writes. Various nib styles are available, but I decided to blindly go with a stub nib. Luckily, this turned out to be a great choice, as it seems to give a professionally stylized character to my print handwriting. This has everything to do with the shape of the nib, which looks to my eye like a narrower, rounded-off italic nib. This gives it a vertical/horizontal line variation that is a lot more subtle than what you get from a calligraphy pen.

It’s worth noting, too, that the Eco’s piston filling mechanism holds a lot of ink. A piston mechanism, I’ve learned, works almost exactly like a cartridge converter; simply dip the nib into a bottle of ink, then twist the end to suck the ink up into the reservoir. There’s really only one difference between the two filling systems: instead of the a cartridge being housed inside the pen, the pen’s barrel is the ink cartridge. Yes, I have some anxiety about the pen coming apart and ink spilling everywhere, but it’s something which – knock on wood – hasn’t happened yet.

I’m happy to report that the Eco is the first fountain pen I’ve found myself coming back to again and again. I’ve even considered buying a second one with black trim that I’d fill with a black ink to match, but that’s a little ways down the road. For now, I’m excited again about trying another new fountain pen.

In other news…

Shortly after writing about the Zebra V-301, the fountain pen that barely worked, I received an email from one of Zebra’s product managers. The V-301’s design was in the process of being updated, and I was asked if Zebra could send me one to try out. I agreed, and a few months later, the new V-301 arrived in my mailbox.


On first inspection, the new V-301 looks practically identical to the older model. Take off the cap, however, and it’s easy to tell that the nib has gone through a bit of an update. A shroud now covers the nib and feed section, and it’s likely that there are more changes underneath. Whatever the case, I can say that the V-301 now works a lot better. The new model writes much more consistently (and right side-up), and the ink flow has been reduced. I’ve also noticed that the cap of the new model posts a lot more securely than the old one did.

It’s still not a particularly smooth fountain pen, and I think the clip could use some beefing up. But for a fountain pen under $5, it’s not bad. At the very least, I’m happy that Zebra listened to their customers and made improvements.

Review: Zebra Sarasa Clip, Gel Ink, 0.5mm


The more I use pens with spring-loaded clips , the more I invariably like them. They easily slip on and off notebooks, they stay put when clipped, and the lever gives me something to fidget with during meetings, besides the noisy clicker. That’s why the Zebra Sarasa Clip has been my go-to pen for the past couple of weeks, despite being an otherwise basic gel pen.


The design of the Sarasa Clip is based on the generic-looking Zebra Sarasa gel pen, and aside from the aforementioned clip, their aesthetic differences are minimal. They both have the design of a typical premium plastic pen with a clear barrel, black trim, and a rubbery grip. Both pens are comfortable and reliable, but without the spring-loaded clip, the Sarasa does nothing to distinguish itself from its competitors.

Still, that spring-loaded clip definitely provides extra utility that may be worthwhile depending on the situation. For example, if you’re a fan of the Pilot G-2 and typically need a pen while out and about, it would probably be worth trying out the Zebra Sarasa Clip. In that case, also check out the Pilot Juice. The two pens are nearly identical, so go with whichever happens to be less expensive.


Extra Links

  • A review at The Gentleman Stationer mentions that the refill of the Sarasa Clip is better than the standard Sarasa. They do come with different refills – the Sarasa uses the “Zebra JLV” refill  and Sarasa Clip uses the “Zebra JF” refill – and, I tend to agree. The Sarasa Clip’s JF refill seems to be a little darker and smoother. Click for a comparison.
  • Review at Pen Addict. He says that below 0.4mm, the pen starts to feel scratchy (though he doesn’t consider that a bad thing).
  • A review at Daydreamers Welcome shows off different Sarasa Clip colors, but she says that the lighter colors aren’t worth the money.

Review: Zebra F-701, Ballpoint, 0.7mm


The Zebra F-701 is a stainless steel ballpoint, similar to the Zebra F-402 and based on Zebra’s popular F-301. And if you find Zebra’s numbering system as confusing as I do, here’s an easier way to think about it: the F-301 is the base-model (~$2 per pen) , the F-402 is the mid-grade (~$3 per pen), and the F-701 is Zebra’s premium pen (~$6 per pen). And while I believe the upgrade from F-301 to F-402 is definitely worth the money, the premium upgrade to the F-701 is less clear-cut.

The F-301 (top) has a hard-plastic grip, the F-402 (middle) has a rubberized grip, and the F-701 (bottom) has a stainless steel grip.

While the F-701 is a much more substantial pen than the F-301, it’s about equal to the F-402 in terms of size and weight (though all three pens share the same mediocre ballpoint refill). What distinguishes the F-701 is its knurled, stainless steel grip, which looks nice, feels extremely durable, and is surprisingly comfortable. The F-402, on the other hand, has a soft, padded grip, which is a little more comfortable but will wear down over time.

There are two other, less substantial differences as well. First, the F-402 definitely has a thicker, sturdier clip. And, second, the F-701 has a plastic retracting mechanism that makes a quieter “click” noise. Both these differences, unfortunately, make the premium F-701 feel a little cheaper and less hardy.

Still, if you feel the need a tougher pen, then the F-701, with its all-stainless steel body, is still the clear winner of the group. However, at half the price, the F-402 is a better value for people who are less hard on their pens, such as those who do most of their writing at a desk. Meanwhile, you can probably skip the F-301 altogether.


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