Review – Pentel Champ 0.5mm

I haven’t touched mechanical pencils much, just because I don’t use them very much. But mechanical pencils can obviously be quite handy, and their very consistent line makes them ideal for several styles of drawing. This time I’ll be looking at one of the cheapest offerings, the Pentel Champ in 0.5mm.

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The body of the Champ is a simple, translucent plastic of various colors. It’s cylindrical, save for the cone leading to the point, and a rather large rubber grip. The back is a reversed cone with a clip that’s alright, and an eraser. Obviously, this part clicks down in quite a smooth action, though lead is not dispensed with every stroke: sometimes a few beats are missed. At the very end is an eraser, which works quite well, as much as one would expect. It’s not perfect, but it removes enough lead to be worthwhile to use. On the side of the barrel is all relevant information, though it seems that it would wear off easily. The lengthy grip is noteworthy on some models, like the one I have, in that is is made of many tiny fins, which are much more comfortable and accommodating in my opinion than standard solid rubber grips, and no less grippy. It holds better in the hand than any other gripped utensil I’ve used, but I’m not really a fan of grips anyway.

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The lead provided is HB, so standard number 2, but it feels a bit soft (my package also came with 24 lead refills). It is still quite hard and writes wonderfully. I like a mid-range pencil, maybe a bit on the hard side, and this delivers. Like I said, it feels a bit softer than I usually deal with, but that might just be the mechanical pencil thing. Writing is smooth with very few hiccups or scratches. The lead isn’t too prone to breaking but breaking is unavoidable in this type of pencil. And, as previously mentioned, sometimes the mechanism doesn’t want to function.

Overall, the Pentel Champ is quite a champ for what it is: a tiny mechanical pencil more suited for school and office work. But it performs quite well in all situations. A good starting pencil in both 0.5 and 0.7mm, though I prefer 0.5mm.

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Review – Uni-Ball Vision Elite Bold Black, Blue, and Red

When looking at the Pilot Precise two weeks ago, it occurred to me that there might be people who don’t have Pilot pens available, or don’t like them, so I looked into a different set of pens that have similar features. And I found the Uni-Ball Vision Elite Bold, in Black, Red, and Blue.

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The body and cap are simple and smooth, with a nice white-to-grey fade, a conical top, and a rounded bottom. The clip is metal with a few divots and is very tight. The top of the cap has the color of the ink and there are a few windows below to allow you to see the feed. On the barrel, the brand is stated twice and the model once, but there is no size information. Removing the cap exposes a transparent yet grip-covered feed, and the conical tip to a standard metal roller-ball point.

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The three inks aren’t too special in properties. The black is a thick, nice color. It is a warm black, fairly formal, etc. The bold line on all of these pens is enough to bleed through on cheaper copier paper, but the ink dries surprisingly fast. The blue is a dark blue, again fairly formal. It’s almost a navy or a blue-black color and it works well in most situations. I’d say it’d even work well for some artistic endeavors. The red is fairly bright and red, but it isn’t eye-hurting. It is a very deep, nice color, but it could still be considered aggressive. It is also good enough to have some artistic potential.

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The point is nice, and it writes smoothly, especially in the bold I have here. There is a lot of line variation, though, meaning drawing is a bit harder (or easier, depending on how you look at it). Like I said, there is some bleed-through, but not much. The writing is dry almost instantly from when I pick up the pen, which is amazing and leads to a much smoother writing experience.

Overall, the Uni-Ball Vision Elite is a great little roller-ball with quite a few office applications. The colors are nice without being overbearing, and the writing experience is fast and clean. Artistically they are limited, having little line consistency, but on the color side they have potential. They’re a nice set of pens.

 

Comparison – Pilot Varsity Old vs New

If you’re looking for a fountain pen but don’t want to purchase something expensive or something you have to fiddle with, then a disposable fountain pen might be the way for you to go. And If you’ve tried before with the most common disposable fountain pen, the Pilot Varsity, and are looking to get another one, you may have seen the slight changes they’ve made to the design. Are these changes that big a deal? Well, let’s find out.

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The Pilot Varsity has a simple cylindrical barrel and cap, with nice, simply rounded finials. Printed on the barrel is “Pilot Varsity” and a design, but no further information. Both pens have this printed on them. While the old design is straight lines on a tasteful silver with a tiny ink window, the newer version features a multi-tone diamond pattern with a worked in, barley visible, ink window. The cap has a cheap plastic clip with a ball on the end that does tolerably, but is far from the best. Just don’t turn yourself upside down with this pen in your pocket. Taking off the cap reveals the clear section and the plastic feed. One can see if there is ink in the feed, but not in the barrel except through quasi-ink-windows printed in the design. The feed is simple, and has a wick, which allows for better ink flow, but would not be ideal for cleaning (which you wouldn’t be doing anyway if you were just going to throw it away.)

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The nib at the end of the pen is again simple. It is stamped “Pilot <M>” (medium) and has no further ornamentation, not even a breather hole. It is stainless steel, and offers no flexibility in the tines. Now, one might think that since they’re both stamped medium, that both pens would have roughly the same line width; and this would strangely be wrong. At least on the example I have, the older Varsity has a line more akin to a fat medium, or a particularly skinny broad, while the newer example is more of a fat fine, or a sorta skinny medium. If this is indeed a purposeful change that was made, I’m guessing it was for the American market to prevent bleed-through on the extra-crappy paper here, which it does do. This size difference definitely doesn’t affect the nib performance, though. Both nibs are buttery smooth, have no startup issues, and write under no pressure. The ink is the standard Pilot black, and there is nothing different between the two pens that I can discern (and neither are at all waterproof).

So, which one should you get? Well, it really doesn’t matter. If you really want a fat medium nib disposable (well, kinda, you can look up how to refill it online) you can hunt down some of the old ones, which I personally like better due to purely aesthetic reasons. The new one is a bit more loud and silly, and a bit finer in line, but you’d be really hard-pressed to tell that unless you were looking like I was.

Review – Pilot Precise v5 Black, Blue, and Red

Times are tough if one wants to write smoothly and precisely on a budget. Technical pens wear out fast, and fountain pens cost money and time to maintain. I use both, but sometimes I just want to write easily and precisely without all of the maintenance and hassle. This is where the Pilot Precise series of pens come in. Today I’ll be looking at the v5 set in black, red, and blue.

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The cap and barrel are simple and straight. The cap has nothing on it but a simple metal clip that does its job well but can bend easily. The barrel has the necessary info about the product and an ink window so that if ink starts to run low you can get a general idea. Removing the cap shows a transparent section and feed system, which is more for being cool looking than any sort of functionality regarding ink level. At the end of the section is a series of plastic step downs that lead to a metal rolling ball tip. At the bottom of the section is a small clear plastic window that allows one to easily see if there is little or no ink left in the pen. The transparent section and barrel are both a slick plastic, but provide enough surface area that slipping off or letting go of the pen is not an issue.

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The tips of the pens write fairly smoothly. Older ones get a bit stiffer, but even on the extra-fine v5 they are never scratchy. The rolling ball delivers a nice “precise” line to the paper. Although it does have more variation than a technical pen in width, it has less than a standard ballpoint does, and it doesn’t blob. Like I said, writing is smooth: almost as smooth as a fountain pen, but not quite there. I’d say they are wonderful for writing (especially if ballpoints cramp one’s hands) but are not as good for drawing. Still better than a ballpoint, though.

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The three colors I have are Black, Blue, and Red: fairly standard colors with a fairly standard execution. The black is a warm black (this is an older pen, and Pilot may have changed formulas. The other two are brand new.) and noticeably less saturated than the thicker v7. The blue is quite dark, darker than most other Pilot inks, and quite work-appropriate. It’s almost a deep water blue, but not quite as dark as, say, Bic blue. The red is bright, bright to the point of being aggressive. Don’t grade papers with it unless you really want to say they’re wrong. It shows up almost from across the room and is quite a contrast to the deep red body of the pen. I’d say it has the fewest practical applications of the bunch. All of these inks are liquid-based and soak into the paper, meaning that they take a bit of moisture to run, but when they do they never stop. The red is the worst in this case.

In the end I’d say simply that these pens are great for writing, and all right for drawing. They aren’t the best but are great and ubiquitous for what they are.