Saturday, July 13, 2013

Five Disappointing Pens

Some pens write consistently well, from the time you first uncap them to the time you use up the last bit of ink inside them.  Other pens, however, are disappointments.  They may start out writing well, but over time, things change.  I try to use my pens for a fair amount of time before reviewing them, but I have still encountered a few pens that ended up as disappointments after my initial positive reviews.  Here's a list of my top five disappointing pens:


1. Zebra Surari 0.7mm Violet
In my review, I described this super-smooth ballpoint (which is similar to the popular Uni-ball Jetstream) as "an excellent choice".  I had some misgivings about the pale ink colour, but the pen was still usable and I spoke glowingly of how smooth it wrote.  But, in the months after that review, the ink colour actually become even paler.  I don't know how this is possible, but when I compare the ink colour now to my original writing sample, it looks like it's written with a different pen.  The ink is now simply too faint for me to use.  (I don't think it's because the pen was sitting around unused for a long time.  When the problem first developed, I was using this pen regularly.  The ink colour just gradually became lighter as I used up the ink.)  I'm very disappointed with this pen.  I would never recommend it, and, while the darker colours may be safer choices than this one, I don't really have any interest in trying out any other versions of this pen.

2. Zebra Sarasa 0.4mm Olive
When I reviewed this pen, I commented on its scratchiness.  That alone made it a pen I wouldn't recommend, but I could live with it and I still liked the ink colour.  Then, some time after writing that review, I was peacefully writing when the pen started becoming even more scratchy and then the small metal ball in the tip of the pen popped right out.  Obviously, the pen was completely unusable after that and I had to throw it out.  It was a disappointment because the 0.7mm Sarasa is one of my favourite pens, and I have never had anything like that happen to any other pen I have used before or since.  The only good part of this story is that I bought the pen in a close-out sale at JetPens, and JetPens no longer carries the standard Sarasas in this fine of a tip size.  And that is probably a good thing.


3. PaperMate Biodegradable Ballpoint
This pen's problem is similar to that of the Zebra Surari, but it's not as disappointing since I was never that crazy about this pen in the first place.  In my review, I wrote, "I need to exert considerable pressure while writing to make a mark on the page and, even then, I don't feel as though the ink is dark enough."  Still, the pen was usable.  I tried to use this pen again a while back and the ink colour had become so faint and I felt like I had to press so hard on the page while writing that, once again, the pen had become unusable.  It had changed from simply not great to absolutely atrocious.  Unlike the other pens on this list, however, this pen may be able to be saved.  I have a few spare ballpoint refills around that might fit in this pen, and since I do still like the pen body, this story should have a happy ending.

4. Stabilo Colorgel 0.4mm
I'm cheating slightly to include this pen on the list, because it actually disappointed me before I wrote the review, not after.  It wrote smoothly when I first bought it, in a nice dark shade of green, and the pen came in a rather fun-looking design.  Then it became more inconsistent and scratchy, the cap oddly became too loose to fit, and the pen finally stopped writing altogether.  Was it because the ill-fitting cap allowed the pen to dry out, or was it doomed from the start?  Who knows?  Another disappointment.

5. Sakura Gelly Rolls White and Black
I feel a bit reluctant to put these pens on this list, but when I compare them to the other Gelly Rolls pens that I have used and loved (the Stardust, Moonlight, and Gold and Silver Shadow Gelly Rolls), these ones have been a disappointment.  The problem?  The pens (especially the black, the white is still acceptable) no longer write smoothly at all, and it is impossible to get a smooth consistent line from the black without skipping.  I suspect that the fault may be partly mine for letting the pens sit too long unused, BUT I have done the same thing with the other Gelly Rolls I own and they still write perfectly.  So these ones seem to not be of the same quality as the others and they are a disappointment.  I still recommend Gelly Rolls, but not the standard versions.  (And if you're looking for a good white pen, try the Uni-ball Signo Broad, which is WAY better than the white Gelly Roll.)

~~~

So that's my list of disappointing pens!  While some of these may have been uncharacteristically bad experiences with otherwise decent pens, I wouldn't recommend any of these pens, and I doubt that I'll ever be interested enough to try any of them again, even if someone tells me that most examples of the pen are perfectly fine.  I'd rather stick with the pens that have never disappointed me.

What pens have disappointed you?

(For more disappointments, check out my list of Worst Five Pens from three years ago.)

14 comments:

  1. I hate wasting money. Anytime I purchase something that disappoints it really gets my goat. Thanks for the informative post.
    I'm having a Give-A-Way on my blog for a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Please come over and put our name in the hat. All you have to do is leave a comment and follow me back. I've been following for a long while now, and truly enjoy your work. It would be great to have you as a mutual follower.
    Have a great day, Connie :)

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Connie! Luckily all of these pens were very inexpensive so they weren't too much of a waste :)

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  2. I always wanted to test Maped Freewriter ballpoints, since it claimed to be super easy writing... I had the chance on my summer camp (borrowed it from one of our kids) and was happy that I didn't buy it for myself. It wasn't smoother than my favourite 3 CZK needlepoint ballpoint refill (the only ballpoint refill I really like).
    I wasn't too thrilled with Pilot Frixion, but the blue refill is much better than the original red, maybe I had one from some not-so-great series. I am planning to test the 0,5 version.

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    1. It's great if you can test out a pen before buying it, and it sounds like you avoided a disappointment by doing that. Not always possible to do when buying online though...

      The Pilot FriXion is one of my favourite pens, but it's not for everyone. It's a bit scratchy and the ink colour has a greyish tone to it. Luckily, I don't mind the scratchiness and I like the more muted colours!

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  3. Two fiber-tipped pens, both of which felt to me as though I were writing with a stiff sponge glued to a tin can. I have to apply noticeable pressure to overcome the inelasticity of the tip. Both pens are well-regarded, so it may be a quirk of my writing or sketching grip. Jack/Ohio

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    1. That's a good point, Jack. Variations in writing style can definitely make a difference; the pen that one person loves may be a complete disappointment to another user.

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  4. Ooo, I've had lots of pens that annoy me! They don't last long in this house though as I have little patience for bad pens!

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    1. They do tend to last long in my house... My problem is that I can't bear to throw out any pen, as long as it is somewhat usable, even if I absolutely hate using it!

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  5. Hi Heather!

    A recent disappointment was the Sharpie, Fine Point Blue Pen. Before I came to North America I heard a lot about that Brand and I was full of expectations in my first day at the stationery store so I bought a two pens package. My first try was shocking because it looked so faint. The ink was so faint that I can hardly understand what I wrote. I still have those pens at my desk and don’t know exactly what to do with them.

    In days like these, I can always rely on the Stabilo Sensor or those Staedler Pigma ;-)

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    1. That sounds like a disappointment indeed! I've had good experiences with all of my Sharpie Pens, so those might have just been a bad batch, but I can understand why you wouldn't want to try out any other Sharpie Pens.

      I did use a Stabilo Sensor years ago, before I started this blog, so I never reviewed it and I don't remember much about it, but I'm not familiar with the Staedtler Pigma. Some more pens to watch for :)

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  6. Nice informative post! Good to know what pens not to try. Also noticed that some Gelly Roll pens failed me after extended storage unused. That may be why I like graphite a tad more, pencils and leads never become unusable. Had many pens dry over long storage, so I'm careful to keep my pens in either ziploc bags or other sealed containers in ambient controlled environments.

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    1. You're right, B2-kun, that pencils have unique advantages. I used 4B Lumographs for years for writing, a legacy of early mechanical drawing training, and wondered why inexpensive ballpoints didn't deliver the same smooth, saturated line. That's roughly how I started channeling my inner writing geek again. Jack/Ohio

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    2. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who's had that problem with Gelly Rolls.

      And that's also part of the reason why I'm starting to become more interested in wooden pencils: they're dependable, simple to use, and write under any conditions. I'm still a pen person, but I think there are more pencils in my future.

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  7. I'm thinking indefinite shelf life, cold weather utility, rationalized (more or less) grading system, B through H, etc. I think the range of lead diameters for mechanical pencils runs from .2mm to 5.6mm. There's a lot to like with pencils. Jack/Ohio

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