Pilot Birdie Switch Combo Pen and Zebra Mini Ballpoint

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Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news… The good news is that I have some new stuff to review (Yay!). The bad news, is that I’ve decided to take a hiatus from Pens’n’Paper (Boo!)… I know, I can already hear the hissing and “buts” on people’s lips as I write this, but there are several valid reasons for my putting a pause on my blogging endeavours. Firstly, cost… In today’s economy, with me being a poor college student working a part-time job, I am already experiencing mental angst when paying out for a tank of gasoline. It’s been over a month since I’ve bought a pen or a notebook, because I simply look at the price and can’t justify purchasing it. I have over 300 barely used pens and 100 notebooks lying around in nice orderly boxes at house, and even my obsession for pens can’t overrule my super-thin wallet… Secondly, I’m short on time… Between, church, work, girlfriend, school, and the million other things I have to do, blogging just hasn’t been a priority lately, and for that I apologize. So, after I complete two more reviews, I will be taking a sabbatical. No, Pens’n’Paper won’t be shut down. I still plan on paying for the domain name and leaving it up as a resource, and perhaps even returning to it someday.

But anyhoo, enough of my pity partying, let’s get on to today’s review…

 Up for a look today are two tiny pens which were sent to me by the amazing Andrew from over at MyMaido.com. The Pilot Birdie Switch Combo and Zebra Mini Ballpoint both are extremely small and would easily slip into the pine of your favorite high-end notebook or clip onto the rings of your spiral wound.

The Pilot Birdie Switch Combo Pen is interesting in that it’s a self-contained multi-pen with a pencil on one end and a ballpoint pen on the other. In order to switch from pencil to pen or vice-versa, you simply remove the cap (similar to most old-fashioned mechanical pencils) and place it on the opposite end. The Birdie features a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil and a 0.5mm black ballpoint and also comes with a black refill for the ballpoint.

This combo pen/pencil is a decent offering from Pilot. The mechanical pencil is mechanically sound and the supplied lead is smooth. The ballpoint is a bit scratchy, but that’s something I’ve come to expect from fine-tipped ball points, so I won’t harp on it too much. My main qualm about this combo is the fact that there’s no eraser… Having a mechanical pencil is kind of pointless if there’s no eraser available, but I guess it was sacrificed due to size.

Next up, we have the Zebra Mini 0.5mm Ballpoint. This small pen features a clip retracting mechanism, so in order to retract the tip, you have to push down on the clip, releasing the spring. The ballpoint writes relatively smooth, again a little scratchy because of the fine point, and the sleek barrel is an attention-getter. This pen also came with a refill, so that when you run out of ink you can replace it and continue on.

Both of these pens feature stainless construction and are very small (see the picture where they are compared with a dime), and would not be out-of-place on any person’s notebook. Thanks again Andrew for the awesome opportunity to review these two items from MyMaido.com!

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Zebra V-301 Stainless Steel Fountain Pen

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Zebra V-301 Stainless Steel Fountain Pen

Up for a look this time is a brand-spankin’-new fountain pen offering from Zebra, which was kindly sent to me from Canada by Halden J., a Twitter acquaintance! This pen is due out for US release some time in the Spring of this year, but I guess they had an earlier release date in Canada, where it can be found at Staples.

So, as for my opinions of the pen. I took some photos, opened the package, then took some more photos before actually loading an ink cartridge in the pen. s with all the fountain pens I use, I turned it up on its end (nib down) and left it for five minutes in order to facilitate ink flow. The ink is fed through a wick nib feed (which may present some difficulties when it comes to flushing it out and using another ink color) which, I was soon to discover, did not feed ink quickly at all.

After five minutes or so, I posted the cap only to find that the cap does not post firmly  and rotates and bounces on the end of the barrel (although this may be a fluke) and that the pen would not yet write. So, I thought the feed might be a little slower, so I left it turned upside down for another 5 minutes or so, and finally, after some furtive scratching on a piece of Rhodia paper, ink flowed from the nib.

I thought this might be the end of the problem, but I was soon to discover that this happened every single time I stopped using the pen for more thn a few moments. It was almost as if the ink was drawn back up the wick feed into the cartridge, leaving me with a dry nib each and every time.

The ink itself is decent. It’s a grey/black ink that dries very quickly (a little less than 5 seconds, which is great for lefties) and doesn’t bleed through the paper. The nib is a medium stainless steel nib, which is a bit more broad than what I’m used to and lays down a good amount of ink. The grip is a bit of a disappointment, since it’s made completely of a hard plastic with bumps and no rubber coating, which promotes the “death-grip” while writing. The barrel and cap are made of stainless steel and are actually just a copy of Zebra’s stainless highlighter range that came out last year.

So, we have a decent refillable (although only with Zebra’s cartridges. So far, converter/international cartridge attempts have failed, at least by what I’ve seen around the web) stainless steel fountain pen at a relatively decent price (I believe it was about $3.89 Canadian, which equals out to $3.94 US). Although there are several issues (ink feed problem and loose cap), and I can’t really see myself personally using it everyday, it might work well for others.

Pilot VPen Fine Nib Black Disposable Fountain Pen

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 Pilot VPen Fine Nib Black Disposable Fountain Pen

So, the pen up for review today was purchased from a brand-spankin’-new online store (I placed the fourth order they had, if that gives you any idea of how new), Maido Stationery. More on them later…

Along with several other items, I picked up this Pilot VPen. To be honest, I’ve not been all that enamoured with the performance of my Pilot Varsity medium nib fountain pens, and I wondered about the quality of the VPen. Since the nib on the VPen is fine (although Maido also carries them in medium), I was hoping that it would not suffer from the incessant ink blots and thick line that I dislike about the Varsity, and was glad to see that it did not… (I’ve come to find out that the Varsity and VPen are actually the same exact pen, just labeled/designed for different markets.)

But, that’s not to say that is my new “perfect pen”. I do have an issue with the ink drying time and the fact that it smears, even when written on the Rhodia Bloc I use for testing pens. But that’s the only problem I have. Other than that it’s an excellent fine tipped fountain pen, and I can possibly see myself refilling it with a faster drying ink (if I can figure out how to do it correctly without tearing it all to pieces, lol).

So, a little bit more info on the stationer that I ordered these from. Maido Stationery, which was started in Japan in 1963 and came to the United States in 1988 and opened a store in Japantown, San Francisco. In addition they also have three other stores, but the thing I want to focus on is their recent beginning in the online marketplace. They offer a wide range of Japanese stationery products including fountain, gel, rollerball, brush, and ballpoint pens as well as the famous Midori Traveler’s Notebooks (an interesting product which I have yet to try, mainly due to it’s high price, although it has been reviewed over at Black Cover) and many othe rinteresting products! Check ’em out for great prices and a fine stock of items with more new stationery stuff on the way!

Click here for the full “About Us” page at Maido Stationery.

Jinhao Matte Black Pocket Missile Fine Hooded Nib Fountain Pen

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Jinhao Matte Black Pocket Missile Fine Hooded Nib Fountain Pen

Well, thanks to DIYSara (http://diysara.wordpress.com), I have now been introduced to the addictive habit of browsing eBay for affordable fountain pens… Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on there looking for that $1,000 pen and trying to get it for only $500. I’m talking about cheap (and mostly Chinese) fountain pens. This Jinhao Black Missile was the first of my purchases, and for only $4.50 (shipping was free)  I got an excellent fountain pen. Sure, it may not be a Lamy, Waterman, or Montblanc, but it is a pen, it is relatively attractive, and it writes beautifully… I’m not looking for gem-encrusted beauty, I’m looking for functionality.

So, the specs… The pen, when capped is a little shy of 4″ long (closer to 3-3/4″), and when the cap is posted, it is a little under 5″. The body and cap have a matte black finish, and the clip is chrome and has the brand name, Jinhao, embossed lightly, the only branding on the pen. The nib itself is hooded, so I can’t exactly tell the material, but I’m assuming it’s stainless, much like my Sailor Recruit. The grip area is chromed plastic (I believe, no metallic clink) and features 3 oval-shaped, grooved sections, which are actually (amazingly!) located correctly considering the nib alignment and my fingers actually rest on all three grooved sections when I hold the pen in the writing position! As a left-handed person, this is a rare find indeed.

The Black Missile fills using a “squeeze-bar mechanism” (see this link over at Richard’s Pens for more info), which I had never used before, and in the end, I actually ended up taking the metal “shield” off and carefully squeezing the sac itself to draw the ink up into the pen (not sure what it was, but the bar just didn’t seem to be doing the job properly)… I’m sure I’ll get blasted for this by some fountain pen enthusiast, but I care not, because it worked…

So, I flushed the pen out with water (as you should with any new fountain pen, I’m assuming…), let it dry, and then filled it up with J.Herbin 1670 Ink. It worked fine, but I hate how the 1670 takes forever and a day to dry and is not water-fast at all, so I only put a small amount in the pen and then flushed it once more. The second fill, I put in black Parker Quink, which I got with a Parker Urban Fountain Pen Kit (yes, my list of inks basically boil down to blue-black and black Parker Quink, J. Herbin 1670, and the remains of a small vial of Noodlers Bulletproof Lexington Grey that Note Booker Esq. sent me with a pen I won), and it wrote, and dried, like a dream. I think I might’ve found my new “everyday” fountain pen…

The pen writes with a very fine line, easily comparable to in between a 0.5 and 0.7mm gel pen depending upon paper, especially for a fountain pen, and I must say that I’m very pleased with its performance. While it is a little small, even with the cap posted, I definitely think I can used to this neat little pen and easily recommend it to anyone looking for an affordable and fine fountain pen solution. Also, you can find the seller as well as some of these fine writing instruments and others at: http://stores.ebay.com/sjg1953pens

Pilot B2P Retractable Gel Pen

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Pilot B2P (Bottle-to-Pen) BeGreen 0.7mm Retractable Gel Pen

Today’s pen, much like Tuesday’s redux Sarasa SE, is just a redux of the Pilot G2 in an eco-friendly format. However, unlike the Sarasa, I can say that I actually could enjoy using the B2P. While there’s no grip to speak of, the grooves in the side of the pen (reminiscent of the grooves in a water bottle) make the pen easier to keep ahold of.

The ink refill is simply a 0.7mm Pilot G-2 Gel Refill (which is most likely why only 89% of the pen is recycled content), which writes relatively well, but is a bit bolder and smears a little too easy for my liking. As I mentioned above, most of the features of this pen revolves around the fact that it’s the first pen to be made from a recycled water bottle, not around the inventiveness of a new ink system or any other new features. While it was slightly enjoyable to write with, I’m not going to go out and purchase a 20-pack to use at school, work, or just while writing at home, since it’s basically just a Pilot G-2 in a recycled shell. But maybe I can replace the G-2 refill with something more to my liking? Hmm…

Zebra Sarasa SE Model 0.7mm Retractable Gel Pen

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Zebra Sarasa SE Model 0.7mm Retractable Gel Pen

So today, for the first time in this blog’s history (at least to my knowledge), I have managed to be one step ahead of both Dowdy of PenAddict.com as well as Brian of OfficeSupplyGeek.com. Neither of them have yet to review this fine writing instrument, so I shall claim first on it (unlike the 101, which OSG reviewed just hours before I went to post my review).

The pen we are looking at today is basically a standard Zebra Sarasa gel pen which has had several modifications (all which were wanted/decided upon by the consumer, based upon over 50,000 people who were surveyed). The new features include a textured (small raised dots and three liens) grip, engraved metal clip, and the brand and size are painted on the barrel, rather than on the clip (see side-by-side comparison of an original and an SE in the gallery below.

Other than those minor changes, it’s still a Zebra Sarasa. The only things that have truly changed are purely cosmetic. The ink is still the same, and although I like Zebra’s ink, it smears a bit too much for me (being a leftie). The new grip is relatively comfortable, although I’m not perfectly sure about long-time use. Otherwise, I’m not sure I can truly see the point of paying $6.99 for 4 souped up Sarasas. Sorry Zebra, I’m gonna have admit that I don’t really like your Special Edition Sarasas. Better luck next time…

Pentel Tradio Gel Pen Body/Back From Vacation

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So, I’m officially back from vacation (one day later than planned)! We had a great time at North Myrtle Beach, even though it was cold. We stayed in the Prince Resort, which afforded us a 3 bedroom/3 bath suite for little more than $100 a night (November – February is the slow season for the beach, and you can even rent suites by the month for as little as $500-600), and we had an awesome ocean-front view. Click here for tons of sunrise pictures.

Now, for today’s review, we have the Pentel Tradio Energel Body. While the ink refill is one that we know and have grown to love, the body is a different critter altogether. The Tradio brand is originally a fountain pen with a plastic nib, allowing you to create various line widths, but in this instance from JetPens.com, the Tradio body has been redesigned to fit the Energel refills.

The body is smooth, and while the color is listed as grey, it’s really more of a slate or grey-brown. It literally is still the same as the original Tradio body, down to the window showing what normally would be the plastic fountain tip. The grip is a semi-transparent plastic which is grooved and actually relatively comfortable to use, even though it’s hard and not gel.

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