Review – Kikkerland Retro Ballpoint and Stylus

A while ago, I reviewed the Bic Tech Ballpoint and Stylus pen. That was one of the first pen/stylus combinations I encountered that were actually purchasable for me (I live in the middle of nowhere). Recently another of the same type of pen was given to me: the Kikkerland Retro Ballpoint and Stylus. And I like these types of pens, so let’s see how this one preforms.

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The style of the pen is “retro” and it comes in three color combinations, two of which I wouldn’t consider using, while I think the third, red and grey, looks quite nice. The pen is fairly torpedo shaped, with both ends tapering down and the widest point being in the center, where there is a small center ring that divides the two body colors and metal sections. There is an almost unusably tight clip that says Kikkerland near the top, followed by a small ring with the smallish stylus point on top. Beyond that, there is no information or other markings on the pen. The paint is plain and smooth, slick enough that it almost slides out of the hand at times, but durable.

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The mechanism is a twist one. It is quite smooth, almost too smooth, as pushing too hard on the pen may reverse the action. The default refill is a Cross type in medium, I’d likely buy Cross refills myself. The pen writes rather smoothly and has little in the way of startup problems, but a bit in the way of blobbing problems. It is good for short notes, but for longer writing likes to smudge and blob. It is, like most ballpoint inks, fairly water resistant.

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Flipping the pen around gets you to the stylus which is a bit smaller and more precise than the Bic one mentioned earlier. It is still slightly mushy and I think these smaller styluses need work before I will thoroughly enjoy using one, but this is the most responsive one I’ve tried. Again, there are a few problems, but I have no difficulties using this to operate my phone, and carrying it around to jot down ideas in Adobe Ideas.

Overall, the pen is on par and the stylus is slightly above-average. I’d make sure the colors and styles work for you before getting it, and replace the cartridge with a Cross refill. After that, it should easily serve well. The metal in the body is sturdy and the paint resists chipping, though it does chip near the tip. It isn’t the greatest pen ever, and it won’t last forever, but it is certainly better than much of the competition for not a bad price.

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Review – Ticonderoga Sensematic

Have you ever been using a mechanical pencil and thought it was too much of a hassle to push the button before writing more? If so (Dixon) Ticonderoga claims to have you covered, with the Ticonderoga Sensematic self-advancing pencil.

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The body of the pencil looks like a standard pencil, but is a bit shorter. It has hexagonal sides, and a standard eraser with a metal attachment point, which screws out and contains extra lead to refill the pencil with. The tip is conical, and contains the self-advancing mechanism, from which the lead sticks out a bit.

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The lead is a standard HB (#2) and is nothing really special, so I won’t say much more other than it works. The real thing to talk about is the mechanism, which the box says one can simply “just write” with and the lead will advance automatically. And, in my experience so far, this is true. I haven’t had to change anything in my writing to make it work: it just does, making it quite a handy little thing. Now it doesn’t have a very long advance, so there isn’t much lead to work with, but for writing and some sketching that isn’t a problem at all. The mechanism works by having what is essentially a click-advance near the top of the exposed lead, and when it is pushed back more lead is exposed and then locked into place. This means that there could be instances where writing stops, but this could be easily solved by rotating the pencil.

Overall, this is a great idea with good execution. I quite like it but since the erasers aren’t replaceable and the mechanism feels a bit plastic-y I’d say they won’t last forever. But they will last at least as long as a regular pencil, with much less of a hassle, so I’d say it’s a win.

Review – Bic Atlantis Ballpoint and 0.7mm Pencil

Bic is one of the most prominent manufacturers of cheap pens and pencils (and other necessary cheap plastic things). They have several lines of pens and pencils, some as expensive as a dime and some a bit more. The Bic Atlantis is a set of pencils and pens in various colors, which happen to be called the same thing. Today I’ll be taking a look at the Blue ballpoint and the 0.7mm mechanical pencil.

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Despite sharing a name, the pen and pencil don’t share bodies. They do have similar styling that can be described in the same way, with the pencil being slightly thicker and a bit longer. Starting from the tip, there is a small cone, metal on the pencil, plastic on the pen. This is followed by a thin, hard rubber grip which is all right, but might as well not be there, in my opinion. Within the grip it is a clear plastic wave in the pen, while the wave is impressed into the grip of the pencil. The barrel is relatively smooth and has all necessary information. Neither have a way to twist open the barrel, but around the clip both can be opened and the insides removed (the pen is glued). Above that is the clip, which is quite different on each. The pen is a very firm, stiff piece of metal, while the pencil is much more loose and is wrapped over into the plastic body. On the top is a clicking mechanism. The pen is surprisingly quiet and unsatisfying. You’d never know it clicked if you closed your eyes, but it works well. The pencil has an eraser and a cap on it, the eraser can be removed to allow the pencil to be refilled, and the clicking works well. So both are quite different, but they are similar enough to be in the same category.

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The pen gives a very fine line, which is quite smooth. However like most “smooth” ballpoints it tends to blob often and pick up paper fibers. The color is also, like most ballpoints, quite waterproof, meaning it won’t run without being completely and utterly soaked. The pens can technically be refilled, but they aren’t supposed to be. The pencil is standard 0.7 and HB, meaning it is smooth but not too smooth. They also have a retractable metal tip to prevent the inside of pockets and bags from being torn, and there is a spring which prevents the lead from breaking due to excessive pressure. I honestly think that HB (#2) is a bit too soft, but for most writing and sketching purposes it does quite well.

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Overall the Bic Atlantis set is very lopsided. The pen is standard fare and not really worth much. It doesn’t do anything better than anything else in the price range, though they are quite cheap. The pencils are twice as expensive, at least, but are much more worth it. They come with extra lead and erasers, and the spring and cover mechanisms for saving the eraser and lead are almost unique for the price. It’s a great little thing that I quite enjoy using. And it might become a sketching mainstay.

Review – Pentel Quicker Clicker 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

Two weeks ago I reviewed the Pentel Champ mechanical pencil. Maybe that’s great and works for you, but let’s take a look at something a bit upgraded: the Pentel Quicker Clicker mechanical pencils.

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Starting from the back of the pencil, there is a small piece of plastic with a few breathing holes to cover the eraser, which is a fairly standard, white, mechanical pencil eraser. Following that is the metal clip, which is really clip-y and will make sure this thing stays put without ripping your shirt when you take it out. Engraved at the top of this clip is all the pen’s information. It’s a little less information than I would like, but it is all the necessary stuff. Past that is a slightly smoky tube which is quite thick, and contains all of the remaining leads and has them easily visible. The grip is next, which is a hard-type rubber with small wave-ridges, making quite a comfortable grip. Inlaid in this grip is a small side-advance lever that is made of plastic but feels very solid. The front of the pencil is a small plastic cone that is slightly smoky like the barrel, with a small, thin metal tube the lead will feed through. There is, unfortunately, no method of preventing the lead from breaking.

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The lead is 0.5mm and comes standard in HB. This hardness is the same as a No. 2 pencil. There really isn’t much to say about it: it is a high quality lead that resists breaking to some degree and goes on the paper smoothly. It is a little bit soft for me, and I feel that the line variations caused by varying pressure on the pencil happen a little too quickly for me to enjoy it as a daily writer, but as a sketcher it is great, depending on what you prefer. It definitely isn’t as soft as some would like, or quite as hard as some others (me) would like, but it gets the job done well.

Overall, the Pentel Quicker Clicker is a nice little mechanical pencil for a low-medium price. The side-advancing feed is great for not accidentally advancing the feed while erasing, and makes it more efficient to advance the lead and write faster. The lead, clip, and eraser are all serviceable, making the slim metal tip that allows lead to be easily broken the only detractor from the overall package.

Review – Sharpie Twin Tip Fine/Ultra Fine

I like permanent markers, and Sharpies are some of the best. But there are many situations where the tip of a fine Sharpie is simply much to broad. Carrying around a second sharpie in extra-fine seems like a hassle, or vise-versa depending on which size one uses more. The people at Sharpie (Sanford (Rubbermaid)) must have figured this out at some point and so they now have multiple point Sharpies. Let’s take a look at the Fine/Ultra Fine version.

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The body of the pen is quite like a regular fine-point Sharpie. The cap is slick with a flimsily little plastic clip built in. The body is made out of a similar material and has the necessary information printed on it. Where there would usually be a rounded-off end on a normal Sharpie, there is instead a tiny cap that has a set of spines, and is much easier to grip than the other end. Pulling either cap off reveals a slick section that is nearly identical to regular Sharpie Fines and Ultra Fines. These sections are not quite slippery enough to have the pen fall out of one’s hands during normal usage. The larger cap posts very easily on the smaller one, but in a very well-thought-out design choice, the larger cap has several small studs that allow the smaller cap to in effect be posted. This doesn’t hold the cap in the most secure manner possible, but is better than the alternative of nothing.

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The tips are fairly standard. The Fine is slightly larger than a Micron 08 or about 1mm, the Ultra Fine is about 1/2 mm or about the size of a Micron 05. Both of these are large for standard writing, but for writing on boxes, other large spaces, or some drawing they are superb. The ink is standard Sharpie fare: a cold, deep black (when the marker runs dry it becomes a much warmer color) that covers well, but not the best. It is permanent and run-resistant, it stains clothes and is unpleasant on the skin. It is non-toxic for normal use, but heavily sniffing or eating would be cause for concern. Just be normal with your normal usage.

Is it worth it to get a pen with two tips? Yes, if you find a need for both. I’d suggest going with the fine more often, as the ultra fine tends to dry up faster with its smaller cap. But there is still a good amount of utility there. The thing is easy to use, and works really well. Moving, signing, warehousing, and large art pieces are where these will find their homes. And really, for a nice black permanent marker, there are few that match and none that are better.