Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pen Storage: Horizontal or Vertical?

This is a follow-up to my earlier post on pen storage.  I want to know: is it best to store pens horizontally or vertically?  And does the answer vary depending on the type of pen that is being considered (fountain pen, ballpoint, gel pen, etc.)?  And, if pens are stored vertically, should they be stored tip up or tip down?

My mom, who primarily uses ballpoints, swears by storing her pens vertically, point downwards, in a pen cup.  This practice has, on occasion, led to globs of ballpoint pen ink being deposited in the bottom of the cup.  In contrast, I've always stored my pens horizontally, thinking it was the safest option, although an acquaintance once suggested that was the reason why some of my gel pens developed air bubbles in their ink cartridges.

So now I turn to you, readers: what is the best solution?  Are pens best stored horizontally or vertically?  Or does it even matter at all for some types of pens?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pentel Superb and Wow Ballpoint Pens

I am grouping these pens into one review because, apart from differences in body design, these pens write very similarly.  In addition, both are standard ballpoint pens produced by Pentel, are made in India, and were included in the Pentel School Essentials Pack.

The Pentel Superb is the black pen, the Pentel Wow the blue.
The Pentel Superb is a 0.7mm ballpoint, with a rather long body and chunky cap.  Overall, it gives the appearance of being a slightly larger than normal pen.  Everything about it is more or less average with nothing that really stands out: clear plastic body and cap, slightly textured and unremarkable grip, and plastic clip on the lid printed with the name of the pen.  One thing that is slightly different about it is that it can be refilled by unscrewing the black piece at the base of the pen rather than by unscrewing the top, which seems to be more normal.

Pentel Superb.  Back view.
The Pentel Wow, in contrast to the Superb, is a small, slender, retractable ballpoint.  Again, it's a fairly average, unremarkable pen in most respects.  The grip on the Wow is substantially shorter than the grip on the Superb, with the result that it is almost useless for the way I hold my pens, as hardly any part of my hand comes into direct contact with the grip.  Although it is not marked on the pen, I am assuming the Wow is also 0.7mm, since it is comparable to the line width of the Superb.

It's the Pentel Wow!
The most notable thing about the Pentel Wow is the retracting mechanism.  As usual, you depress the plunger on the end to write with the pen, but to retract it again you need to press on the clip, which totally confused me the first time I used the pen since I couldn't get it to retract the normal way and I thought the pen was broken.  I am not sure what the purpose of this feature is.  I saw something similar with the clip of the Uni-ball Vision RT, but in that case you lifted the clip up, meaning that as soon as you tried to clip the pen onto something, you retracted the pen.  However, in the case of the Pentel Wow, because you need to press the clip, it is totally possible to clip onto something without the pen retracting.  So just what is it's purpose, apart from as a source of confusion?

Rants aside, the Pentel Superb and Wow ballpoint pens actually write surprisingly well, considering their otherwise average quality.  Although the lines are certainly not crisp like those of a gel pen and there is a certain amount of white streakiness when writing, the pens do not leave little blobs of ink on the page, which is a definite plus for any ballpoint, as I find ink-blobbing to be one of the most annoying things that a pen can do.  Although neither of these pens is the Uni-ball Jetstream, they also write surprisingly smoothly, and I appreciate their fine line.  Although they are 0.7mm, 0.7mm in a ballpoint is more like 0.5mm in a gel or liquid ink pen, so they are ideal for my small handwriting.  Certainly the Pentel Superb and Wow ballpoints are a step above the average Bic.

Overall, the Pentel Superb or the Pentel Wow is an acceptable choice if you're looking for a basic ballpoint and you're not too fussy about the details.  However, while they are okay pens, they're not exactly superb and they didn't make me say wow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pen Storage: How Do You Store Your Pens?

Do you store your pens in a cup, a case, a bag, a pouch, a drawer, a desk, a cupboard, a box, or a bin?  Do you organize them by type, by brand, by colour, or do you even bother to organize them at all?  Do you keep them out where you can admire them, or do you hide them away to keep them safe from errant pen thieves?  Just how do you store your pens?

A pair of homemade pen rolls.
I store most of my pens in these two cases.  These pen cases are great because they lay all of my pens out for me to see, and they keep my pens in order.  For some reason, I am absurdly fussy about keeping my pens in a particular order in the case.  Don't ask.  In the photo below, the top case contains what I consider my "everyday writing" pens - Pentel EnerGels, Sharpie Pens, Zebra Sarasas, ballpoints, etc.  The bottom case holds my super-fine-tipped gel pens (Uni-ball Signo DX, Pilot Hi-Tec-C, etc.), of which there sadly are not very many at the moment, as well as a few other odd items.

Most of the rest of my pens find a home in my other voluminous case (shown in the photos below).  This case holds pens that I consider my "art and craft" pens (and other items): Sakura Gelly Rolls, Staples mini gel pens (okay if you're looking for super-cheap gel pens, but I wouldn't recommend them generally), a Sakura Pigma Brush pen, a pair of fine paintbrushes, a pencil sharpener, and sets of paint markers, watercolour pencils, Pitt artist pens, and Staedtler triplus fineliner pens.

Of course, there are always a few pens that don't end up in any of these places.  Some linger in the top drawer of my desk.  A handful typically sit loose on the top of my desk.  These are usually the ones that I don't really like, so I suppose I am secretly hoping that someone will see them there and take them away.

So, now that you've had the chance to check out my pen storage, how do you store your pens (or not)?  Have you come up with any innovative ideas for managing your collection?  Or do you just stick to the traditional pen cups and pen cases?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Zebra Sarasa SE 07 Pink

The Zebra Sarasa SE is the upgraded sibling of the well-known and popular Zebra Sarasa.  The two pens are both about the same length, have the same basic layout, and contain the same (excellent) Sarasa ink cartridges.  But after that, the similarities end.

A family get-together.  The Sarasa SE (top) and the Sarasa (bottom).
 The Sarasa SE has an upgraded grip, which is longer than the grip on the standard Sarasa and is textured with a pattern of tiny raised dots.  The dots may not be to everyone's liking, but the grip is not squishy and the dots give the pen a firm feel when writing.  Plus, the fact that the grip is longer means that more parts of my hand actually contact it.

Here's the SE again, hanging out on its own.
The clip of the Sarasa SE is metal, compared to the plastic clip of the standard Sarasa, which probably makes it sturdier and less prone to breakage.  I rarely use the clips on my pens, but I did notice that the clip of the SE seems to have about zero flexibility, making it unlikely that it would be very useful for clipping onto more than a couple sheets of paper at a time.  (But do not despair!  The Sarasa also comes in another flavour that does have a super clip!  Check it out!)

The clip is also shiny.  Very shiny.  Makes it hard to take photos without reflections.
One small quibble I have about this pen is that on the standard pen, the clip bore the words "Zebra Sarasa 0.7", while on the SE, the clip bears only the word "Zebra", while "Sarasa SE 07" is printed on the barrel.  The problem with this is that it appears to be printed in the kind of paint that can chip and scratch easily.  Please keep in mind that mine has not actually started to chip, but I am keeping my eye on it.  It would, I think, defeat part of the purpose of having an upgraded version of a pen if the paint started chipping.  But maybe I'm just being paranoid about the whole paint thing.  Only time will tell.

The Sarasa SE boasts the same excellent writing quality as the standard Sarasa, and is perhaps even a bit smoother (although it may just be my imagination).  Smooth, crisp lines, vivid colours - what I expect from a Sarasa.  And a further note here: those of you who've been reading this blog long enough to recall my dislike of pink ink may be puzzled as to why I chose the pink version of the Sarasa SE.  Well, as it turned out, the store where I bought this pen was sold out of the other colours.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by this ink.  Although I do not particularly care for the colour pink generally, the Sarasa's pink is more of a coral or salmon than a typical pink and I actually don't mind it very much at all.  Hard-core pink fanatics may not care for it, but if you're feeling brave and want to check out some non-standard ink colours, give this one a try.

Overall, the Zebra Sarasa is a great pen and has long been one of my favourites.  The updated SE version is also great, although apart from aesthetics (primarily the grip and the clip), there are few things that really set it apart from the standard version.  Whether SE or standard, however, you can't go wrong with the Zebra Sarasa.

Related reviews: OfficeSupplyGeek, Pens 'n' Paper, David Wasting Paper.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pentel Fiesta 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

I'm not a big pencil user, but I do like to have a couple of basic mechanical pencils lying down for writing rough drafts and lists, solving sudoku puzzles, and making quick sketches.  A pencil is also a necessary item for writing in my Rite in the Rain field notebook.  As chance would have it, I was on a field trip late last fall with said notebook when I misplaced one of my mechanical pencils.  I must have dropped it, but the ground was covering with twigs and decaying wood, most of which were the same drab colour as my pencil, the light was fading, and my pencil was nowhere to be seen.  Luckily, not long before that unfortunate episode, I had received a Pentel School Essentials pack from a giveaway at Tiger Pens, which included this mechanical pencil:

The Pentel Fiesta.
Although I was glad to have received this pencil when I lost my old one, the Pentel Fiesta is a thoroughly basic mechanical pencil.  As is typical in the basic pencil, the lead is advanced by depressing the end of the pencil.  One small touch that I like is that the tip of the pencil is clear, which allows users to see the lead-advancing mechanism (surely there's a better name for it than "lead-advancing mechanism"?) in action.

Okay, it's not that exciting.
One thing that I find slightly odd is that the body of the Pentel Fiesta is made of a translucent plastic, while the end of the pencil and the clip are made of an opaque plastic.  It's not exactly a major complaint, it just seems like an odd choice, and the gap between the two sections also looks rather off.  The cap over the eraser also irritates me: it does not match the rest of the pencil at all and looks almost like an afterthought.  The eraser itself is of acceptable, though average, quality, erasing cleanly but leaving a slight shadow behind.

Erasing in action!
 Branding is minimal on the Pentel Fiesta.  The name (Pentel Fiesta 0.5) is printed on a sticker on the clip section of the pencil.  I left the sticker in place for the purpose of this review, but it is starting to peel around the edges, so I will probably end up removing it, which means that the only branding will be a tiny embossed "Pentel" near the base of the translucent section.

Peeling sticker.  It is, I think, meant to be removed.
The most notable feature of this pencil was the lead that it was pre-loaded with.  I have since used up the original lead and replaced it with my usual lead of choice, Pentel Hi-Polymer HB.  The original lead was strong, and seemed darker and softer than the Hi-Polymer, and it certainly was a pleasant switch from the pale, brittle leads that I am used to seeing pre-loaded in these basic mechanical pencils.  (I have not included a writing sample with this review since the pencil no longer contains the original lead and, of course, you can load it with whatever lead you desire.)

Overall, the Pentel Fiesta is a thoroughly average and functional, but also unremarkable, mechanical pencil.  Although it had a few details I appreciated, there was nothing that really made it stand out from the crowd.  It's not a bad choice if you're looking for a basic pencil, but I wouldn't bother to actively seek it out.

Related review: Dave's Mechanical Pencils.
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