Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The End of the Colored Pencil

The Frixion Color-Pencil-Like Erasable Gel Ink Pen isn't a new product from Pilot, but it is one that provides a much needed update to a concept that in the future could be lucrative.

Done up in Blueprint blue, it sure looks good on you... well not exactly blueprint blue.

I have been completely surprised by the lack of advertising that has been used in attempting to sell this pen in the United States. I've seen advertisements for it on Youtube.com, but none that I know of have been aired.  Even in stores, this pen has received very little shelf space and is accompanied by very little to no fanfare, which it most definitely deserves. I know of many people who would use them if they only knew...

This pen is without a doubt, the most useful pen that I own. I have bought many, many replacements and I have tremendously enjoyed each one. I suppose, however, that I should start from the beginning:

The original Frixion, which came in a seven color series, was a useful writing instrument.  As the first of its kind to hit the market, it was unrivaled and for lack of a better term, a bit of a novelty item.  It was useful in tasks that normally would use pencil but look polished with a pen, such as math, sciences and languages.  As could be expected with the first iteration of a product, there were some problems. The most blatant was that the pen cap covered the eraser, so in order to write, the cap had to be off.  Sometimes the ink could be spotty and inconsistent and then finally, all of the colors seemed a bit washed out.  Black wasn't as much of a black as it was a heather, and dark blue was a greyish-blue.  The next pen I noticed in stores was the .4 version of this pen, which made some improvements, specifically in ink quality, but the ink color still seemed to be a bit washed out.  Finally, and to thunderous applause, the Pilot Frixion Color-Pencil-Like Eraseable Gel Ink Pen was introduced! I personally like to think of it as "Frixion v2" but, that's just me.
They're a sweet lookin' bunch..

The major problems with the previous generations have been fixed and the pen has been improved in general. The eraser has been moved to the top of the cap and the ink flow has improved greatly. The best part of the pens now is the wide array of vibrant colors which are bright and bold on any paper.  I've personally found any of the darker colors (dark green, dark blue, brown which are all above) to be fantastic on all types of documents, but even the orange is bold enough to be seen on white paper, as I am accustomed to this color in gel pens disappearing in a bright light. These pens erase just as well or even better than the previous generations and fill a much needed niche in the student's repertoire. The grip is just as comfortable as a standard pencil, and the pen writes for a long while before running out.  These pens are easily accessible on Jetpens.com and are nearly impossible to find anywhere in America, unless you have relatives to send them to you from Singapore, that is.  One of the downsides of this pen is that it is not refillable as it's predecessor was, but doesn't even matter considering how much better this pen is than other erasable pens out there.

There is still a novelty factor to this pen, as friends and coworkers will comment, "Wait, an erasable pen that actually works?!?!" And then I'll explain the heat sensitive ink and "magic" reappearance of said ink and continue to bore them with talk of aeromatic fountain pens and the bulletproof qualities of Noodler's Inks.  Despite this, people still ask me what pen I'm using for the day, even though they know that a long rant may accompany it.
Just the pens in my pocket for the day... Not pictured are Lamy Safari and eyedropper Platinum Preppy.

Recently, Uni-ball has released the Fanthom, which by all looks, appears to be an impersonator of the first generation Frixion pen.  I have not yet tried it, but will hopefully be able to at some point in the future, so I can let you know if it is even worth compare. My advice to those who can't decide which one to buy, is to buy the Frixion, because Pilot has already improved on the first generation, whereas the Fanthom is just getting started.

-The Classicist

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Dearth of Testosterone in Stationery Stores

Over the past few years, I've visited stationery stores whenever I would come upon them.  I would almost always walk out of them empty handed.  What has been most prohibitive in my potential purchases is that cards and stationery in general are always targeting women. I suppose that a woman is more likely to send a thank you note or birthday card to someone, but surely there are other men out there who want to send a greeting card not covered in glitter to someone for the holidays, or any time for that matter.  Every stationery store within reasonable reach of me or that I might happen to walk/drive by has been dominated by cards with pom-poms, glitter and bright feminine colors.
Google Image Search produced this Papyrus card, which though nice, would not be sent from a man (and maybe some women don't like them either).

What makes it even harder is that so many stores are chock-full of jewelry, soaps and other craft items, which only target women. All of the Papyrus stores that I know of in the Chicago are this way, and there's even a store in Naperville called Papier Girl.  That alone could deter a potential customer, and it nearly deterred me, because I felt like I was about to enter a Victoria's Secret.

Next, the stationery is expensive, and I am willing to buy some things after saving up for a while, but sometimes paying $20 for 10 cards is not something I want to do. I try to support the few companies that I feel do a good job, so on occasion I will suck it up and just spend the money.

Crane & Co. Paper has really been the only store that has dependably had a few stationery sets that are not specifically female-oriented. Usually I just buy plain cards before they are used by soon-to-be-married couples for whatever purpose they choose. These are usually the best, since they are plain and allow me to do with them as I please.  When I last visited New York, I filled up on plain stationery, for which there were stores all over the place! Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places in the Chicago suburbs, but the only leads I've really been able to find was listed on the Noodler's Ink website for area, but they're a bit far away from where I live in Aurora. I will make the trip to Algonquin sometime I'm sure, but I really can't know exactly when (unless it is today!)

This all brings me to wonder exactly when the demise of stationery and pen began? I know I'm younger than many enthusiasts out there, but it is sometimes disappointing to think that at one time every department store had an entire section of the store dedicated to fountain pens and stationery.  I am thankful for the internet and the online stores that continue to continue to display passion for this hobby, which sometimes feels like more than that. Who knows?  Vintage is starting to become a popular trend, so maybe, just maybe, people will write letters once more and everything will become more accessible.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pilot Envelope Address Writing Gel Ink Pen

Quite a long and relatively boring name for a pen, considering that there are pencils that go by "Mirado Black Warrior". I am not yet able to read enough Japanese to give a translation or a better name otherwise. I purchased an EF and F from Jetpens.com last year and have been using them for quite some time. It is a pen whose use is based on an interesting concept, which is detailed on the Jetpens website, which has this little blurb about them:

Though they may look different on the outside, they're basically twins!
"Often time holidays become a marathon of calligraphy writing as elders send out postcards and letters to family and associates. The older one gets in Japan, the longer the list of friends and acquaintances that require a postcard during the holidays (many times over 100 people). For such an endeavor one requires nothing but the best writing instruments to fulfill the task, for writing beautiful kanji is appreciated by others. This Pilot pen series is designed specifically for kanji writing and is available in extra fine, fine and broad points. The oil based gel ink dries super fast and produces very dark and shiny lines." (Link)

After using this pen for a while, I noticed that the tip was very similar to the Pilot Precise V-7, so I decided to compare the two.  I have to say that my results are disappointing overall:

The tips are different, but they feel similar.
While the ink in the Envelope pen does dry slightly faster, I could really find no difference in the actual line laid down by the pen.  As far as the shine of the ink goes, I was also disappointed because the V-7's ink actually had a bit more sheen to it. The ink in the Envelope pen has a distinctive odor similar to that of a Sharpie, because it is oil based.  My test on Moleskine paper was a wash between the two, with there being only a slight difference in line thickness (The Envelope pen is just a hair thicker). I could barely differentiate which pen was used for which set of lines. I found that on a smear test, that the envelope pen was much more resistant to smearing. Both pens write equally smooth on Moleskine paper, while on anything rougher, especially cardboard, the Envelope pen is a clear winner in smoothness and appearance.  Even though I wasn't able to find my envelope pen in fine (F) thickness, I can say that there aren't too many pens that lay down as thick and dark of a line. I personally prefer the smaller tips, but as far as the wider version goes, I was pleased. My overall verdict on this pen is that it is unnecessary in the extra fine version (EF), even though it may fill an interesting little niche, the difference between it and other pens already out there is for the most part negligible.

It was only after the third group of words that I started writing with the Envelope pen. ιστημι was the first group with the it, and the only difference is a slight variation in thickness.
If you write on rougher, pulpier papers quite often, then this pen will perform wonderfully for you.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Lamy Safari

Those are some nice lines...

Since it is my first official day of fall break, I decided to be productive and get a post online. My mom recently returned from Paris and brought back a fountain pen for me. This is my first real fountain pen, since before this I had only written a few lines with others' pens or just used Platinum Preppy's. I was very excited to start writing with it, yet somehow, the box managed to delay me from my goal. It is quite possibly the coolest pen container I have ever seen, because it can be flipped inside out (kinda) and the pen is just floating there before your eyes, just asking, no, begging to be touched.

As far as writing goes, I went right at it and ended up jotting down the entire set of Greek verbal accidence for the verb "λυω" in my Moleskine notebook.  The nib that came on my pen is an M, which I'm not terribly fond of, but honestly, it still puts down a great line on the paper that isn't too wet or thick.  One thing that I had to remember is that the German nib sizes are larger than the more precise Pilot nibs, probably because of the need for fine detail in writing kanji. The blue ink cartridge that comes with the Safari is more of a blue/black with a hint of purple. It really isn't that far off from Noodler's Polar Blue, which I am really loving.  The cartridge ink also takes very well to the Moleskine paper, with very little feathering if any.  The ink also did not bleed through at all, but at times it can seem a bit washed out. I've got some black cartridges, so I hope to add those to this review as soon as I get to them. Unfortunately, the ink reserve in the cartridges is so large that it is taking me forever to finish them off!  That's how it should be Pilot Petit1!

You take that top off!

One thing that immediately struck me about this pen is that the barrel has a somewhat triangular shape to it, which I assume is intended to make writing more comfortable over long periods of time, which I fully intend to test soon. The steel clip is really strong and allows me to hook this pen into my pocket, so I don't have to worry about it falling out like some of my other pens.  As far as installing a cartridge, there is an interesting little trick to getting it done, which is actually quite nice, which is to just twist the back end of the pen in place and it breaks the cartridge seal for you.  There isn't a whole lot of weight to this pen, but it does have durability going for it, and being a student, that is really the first thing I look for in a pen.

Overall, this is a very practical pen that I can see getting a lot of use for a long time.