Sometimes, a notebook is only as good as what you write in it with. A notebook can have the best paper in the world, but it still won’t be enjoyable to use with a crappy pen. Over the years, I’ve tried many different pens, but I’ve finally narrowed my choices down to a few favorites, all gel ink rollerball pens:
This is my #1 pen for daily use, and you’ll usually see it as the first thing I try in a notebook I’m reviewing. I love the fine, smooth, opaque line and I have found these pens extremely reliable– they don’t get blobby or scratchy, they don’t skip, and though the bodies and mechanism are lightweight plastic, I’ve never had one break. The body color matches the ink, and it has a rubbery part toward the tip so it’s comfortable to hold. You can even buy refills in a few colors in order not to have to throw out the bodies when the ink is gone. They come in a great range of colors– my favorites are black, blue-black, and lavender-black. (The black and blue-black are available in refills, but for lavender-black, you have to buy a whole pen.) The refills are $1.35 and whole pens are $1.65. There’s also an 8-color set available for $13.00. There’s nothing fancy or flashy about these pens– they just do their job quietly, simply and beautifully.
I definitely have a soft spot for multi-pens. I love the idea of being able to keep multiple ink colors and a pencil with me at all times without having lots of extra pens floating around in my bag. This is probably the best all-around multi-pen I’ve used. This pen includes black and red ink in a 0.5 width, plus a pencil. The thing that really distinguishes it from other multi-pens is the mechanism– you twist the barrel to rotate between the inks. When the pencil is selected, you push down on the cap to advance the lead. There’s an eraser under the cap. I like the twist mechanism because you never have to worry about accidentally retracting the ink you’re writing with if you bump the button that selects another color– some multi-pens can have a hair trigger in this regard. The body is comfortable to write with, with a non-slip rubbery surface at the tip. Though I often prefer the 0.38 width to 0.5, the line this pen gives is also a nice weight, and I always find it writes very smoothly and evenly, with a clean, dark line. The body comes in various colors. The pens are $6.75, and refills are $1.00.
Yes, I like the minimalism of carrying one pen, but I also like to maximize my color and line weight choices, which is why I love this pen. This is the Build-a-Bear of multi-pens: you pick the empty pen body , which comes in a variety of colors, and then pick 5 refills to insert, including various ink colors and widths, and a mechanical pencil option. (A slimmer 3-color version is also available.) The first one I bought was a silver body and when I opened the package, I couldn’t help saying “OOOH!” because it looked like a sleek little rocket! About 2/3 of the body length is silver, and then the tip is a clear plastic so you can see the ink colors. (This makes it a wee bit less comfortable to use than the MF3, as you don’t have the softer rubbery surface.) The pen inserts give the same smooth, fine writing experience as the other Uni-ball pens mentioned above, with .28, .38, .5, and .7 weights available. The mechanism for this pen is 5 separate buttons to select the different inks, the clip being one of the 5. If you use the pencil insert, it has to be inserted corresponding to the clip, as an extra push a bit further is what advances the lead. The buttons are sensitive– if you hit one without pushing it down all the way, you’ll retract the ink you’re using. The body is light-weight, and the only concern I’ve had about durability is that with one of these pens, I must have tightened it a bit too much after replacing an ink, and a crack developed. (I have two– the other pen has been opened and screwed closed quite a few times with no cracks.) The empty body is $4.25, ink refills are $1.35-$1.65, the pencil component is $3.00. (There’s also a “Mystar” body for $8.25 which looks a little different, but I haven’t tried one of those… yet!)
Most of my pen faves have been Uni-ball, but I also like the Zebra Sarasa pens I’ve tried. This is another multi-pen, this time with black, blue and red inks in a .5 weight, plus a mechanical pencil. It’s very sturdy, and the inks are nice and smooth. One distinguishing feature is that the clip opens wider than most other pens. Again, the buttons are a bit sensitive, perhaps a little more so than on the Style-Fit. But it’s nice that the buttons are the color of the ink within, so it’s easier to see what you’re selecting, and the body has the comfortable soft rubber coating around the tip. The filled body is $10.00 and refills are $1.10. Various body colors are available.
I bought all of these at JetPens, where they have lots of other delectable goodies for pen and notebook lovers. For full disclosure, I have to say JetPens have given me some free pen and notebook samples to review, but I am also a frequent paying customer. Their $25 minimum for free shipping makes it pretty hard to stay away!
How about you? What are your favorite pens?