Ted WalkerComment

Ted's Pen Cup

Ted WalkerComment
Ted's Pen Cup

Pens go hand-in-hand with notebooks, and I pay an overt amount of attention to what I'm writing with as well as upon. In this post, I will keep track of what's in my pen cup, while keeping a running archive of what I've bounced from my pen cup. With micro-reviews. I'll probably update with some frequency! - Ted

Top O' the Cup

This section represents, more or less, what I'm using most actively at the moment.

  • Ohto Horizon, white with orange accents. I was cruising Jet Pens to see if anything caught my eye, and this one caught my eye. Handsome, with nice lines and great colors, a sharp-looking tip and - gasp! - a retractable button with a little release on the side. This scratched many itches, and Jet Pens delivered it quickly. It’s got a great weight and balance, the colors pop, it’s satisfying. The refill it comes with is meh, so I’m looking forward to adding the Hi-Tec C refills I grabbed to go with it. The only downside is it’s a bit rattly, but overall this is the definition of the next level of nice pens beyond the mediocre. B+ pending further usage and new refill.

  • Uni-ball Signo UM-153, blue. This thing is huge...it leaves great schmears of beautiful blue-black ink wherever it writes. A pleasure when aesthetics are at the fore, but a hindrance for anything practical. As such, there are times when I love it and times it seems like too much. It's one of Adam's favorite, so it takes the lead in sentiment. A very well-constructed object. Grade: A-

  • Uniball Jetstream .7mm ballpoint pen, blue. This is my standby, my go-to. Reliable in every situation, sturdy, . I got the orange-bodied edition that I've used since then, refilling it as I go. I don't always want to use this pen, but I always go back to it. I like the black 1.0mm, too. Grade: A+

Pens I Have Known

  • Uni-ball Signo 207 .7 mm, blue. Solid performer. Grade: B+

  • Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen, vintage 80s model with a bold nib. A very considerate co-worker gave me this pen. It's the most interesting pen I own, because of the design, which is like a slimmer, ribbed (easy now) rendition of the Vanishing Point. It writes smoothly and leaves an ocean of ink. For that reason, it's far from a daily writer, but really fun to use. Grade: A-

  • Pilot Acroball 1.0 mm - I found this Jetstream rival at CVS of all places. I enjoy it, though it hangs a few ticks behind the Jetstream for reliability and the richness of the line. But it's a solid option and an upgrade from the standard crappy ballpoint. Grade: B

  • Kaweco Sport fountain pen, gray plastic. Spotty performance has held this pen back, while it's oddly lightweight superstructure feels too light every time. But, I like the aesthetics and when it gets going it's fun to write with. One day I'll investigate the heavier models. Grade: B-

  • Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen, fine nib. A classic and a great option. It's always there, just hanging out. It's rarely worth filling up manually, so this is a "cartridge-only" choice for me, to keep its convenience levels high. Grade: B+

  • Uni-ball signo DX .38 mm, blue. This pen is better suited for marking up individual genomes than making human writing, but it's a great performer. For me it will likely never be a daily pen quite simply because the cap comes off way too easily and it's annoying to the point of being a practical problem. Maybe one day I'll have a custom pen that takes these refills. Grade: B

  • TWSBI eco fountain pen, fine nib. Solid as a rock, always enjoyable if a little cumbersome due to it's large size. It operates like a big fancy fountain pen because of its size and the relative un-fun of posting it (ie putting the capping on the end), while the design is subtle and sharp and it's great for nice inks. Grade: A-

  • Zebra Sarasa .5 gel pen, vintage blue. The color is great. The writing experience is a bit scratchy. Generally Zebra is way down on the list for me, but this one has the appeal and just enough quality to stick around. Grade: B

  • Retro 51 Tornado, orange. This pen was a disappointment, despite much hype coming from the pen crowd. Between two refills, neither one wrote consistently (mainly skipping and just feeling a little "off" generally), then the button fell off of the top of the screw knob and the clip loosened. Affordable and nice-looking before the wheels fell off, I may well return to the brand at some point. Grade: C-

  • Pilot G-2 .5 mm, blue. A solid pen. It's a little chippy, a little dark, a little this, a little that. But at the end of the day, it's a solid choice, and the .5 is right in my wheelhouse: not so thick that things get out of hand, but not so thin that it's needle-esque. Grade: B++

  • Pilot G-2 0.7 mm, orange. Ah, the colorful pen. I enjoy this pen a lot, even if it's a bit too light to really be of daily use. The real kicker, though, was that this ink basically disappeared when it got wet in a Field Notes. That was a irksome, and put me off. But for fun stuff...sure. Grade: C+

  • Pentel Energel liquid gel ink, 0.7 mm retractable needle tip - blue - link. Solid, solid pen. Enjoyable to write with, even if it's a bit broad. I need to try the .5 version. Energel is a leader in performance, though I never really like their pen bodies. Grade: B+

  • Uni-ball Vision Elite, .7 mm, black. Great all-purpose pen, writes really well and has a reassuring construction. This is second-tier that you can lend around but still enjoyable to write with. Grade: B

  • Sharpie pen, fine, black. I don't like how finnicky this pen is regarding the writing angle. I find I regularly have to readjust the angle, and if I'm off it's like writing with a very small oar. I also don't like the poor line quality. There's no reason not to jump up to a Sakura Pigma Micron. Grade: D

  • Pilot Hi-Tec-C Maica 04, blue. One of these intense pens that can make you feel like you're writing with a narwhal's tusk. A nice objet d'writing but not an everyday bruiser. Grade: B-


Fair warning: I like a pencil what comes with an attached eraser.

  • Palomino Blackwing pencil. In the excitement that surrounds the quarterly releases, I haven't given much thought to the standard lineup of Blackwings. The straight-up Blackwing, known in some circles as the MMX, is a case in point. The matte finish on the paint job and the general absence of a theme is refreshing in a "back to basics" kind of way. The super-dark, super-soft core begs the user to get down to business, addressing big ideas in a bold fashion. Sharpening is, often, required. Grade: A-

  • Blackwing 73. It's hard to think of a pencil with more design and imagery and content. The topo map on the barrel is pleasing to the eye and the hand, the bright blue brings continual pleasure and elicits appreciation from standers by and those to whom you gift this beauty. Grade: A

  • Caran d'Ache Natura HB (347-2 if you're scoring at home). I have tried for a while to like this pencil -- it feels like I should like it. But it has a slippery varnish on it, and it's just too hard and light for my taste. I'm never quite satsified with it. Still, I've kept it around and I'm finally nearly done with it. I'll be glad to see it go but also glad that I got through it. I did upgrade it a bit by hackwinging on a silver ferrule and white eraser from the Blackwing Lake Tahoe edition. Grade: C-

  • Palomino Forest Choice #2. Of the pencils I've used (a roster that adds up, even for a non-collecting type such as myself), this one feels like the true balance point between crappy but classic yellow number twos and the heightened world of beautifully designed and crafted pencils. It's natural, so it's lovely, it's cheap, it's got a handsome green ferrule and classic pink eraser. It writes well but not too well. I love handing one of these to my kids to use and abuse. Grade: A