Mini Review – Zebra 1.6mm Bold (F-301)

The Zebra F-301 is my favorite pen. It might not be the best pen I’ve ever used, but it is sturdy, good-looking, and reliable. Recently I was grabbing some new ones and mistakenly picked up the Bold 1.6mm version. As some of my readers may know, I’m more of a fine-tip person, so I had to go back and get another set. But a broad tip still has its place. In many cases it can make the writing process smoother, prevent hand cramps, and make the final product more legible. So how well does this version work?

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The body is no different than the regular Zebra F-301 (save having “1.6mm” printed on the side) and it does not affect the function of the pen in that regard. The only real difference is the tip, which is considerably larger (being more than twice as big as the “fine” and half-again as big as the “medium”). The ink hasn’t been adjusted for the size, as becomes evident when the pen is left for a time and the tip dries. However, aside from minor startup problems resulting from that dry ink, the pen is remarkably smooth, especially if one has a firm hand.

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If you’ve ever found yourself frustrated with the small size or stiff writing of a standard ballpoint, but still want the general water-fastness and convenience of one, this might be the pen for you. It’s a thick-line (thicker than I personally like), smooth-writing pen in a solid shell.

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Review – Sharpie Mean Streak White

I have a pretty liberal definition of what an art supply is. Not quite as liberal as those who say everything is an art supply because (almost) everything you do is art of some kind. But I do think more qualifies as art supplies than the average person does. For instance I would say that everything meant to make a mark is an art supply. And that assumption will be tested here where I take a look at the Sharpie Mean Streak “permanent marking stick”, and see if it has any real art applications.

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The body is quite large, being about half an inch in diameter. It’s got a good amount of information on the side, but it gets a bit cluttered-looking. The back is a twist knob, like a glue stick. The cap has a slight taper with several ridges for grip. Inside is a pointy cone that can shape or dent the “marking stick” if you put it in slightly wrong. Inside around the “marking stick” (grease, wax, or whatever it is) is a sizable ridge that is quite uncommon on writing implements. There is also no grip section area.

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There are two ways I can describe this, either as a permanent (wetter) crayon, or a more slick grease pencil. Neither of those descriptions really tell you exactly what these things are. The inside substance comes in a pointy cone that is pretty useless. It’s very putty- or grease-like and when used the point becomes very flat very fast. It writes similarly to a crayon, in that it isn’t easy to control or sharpen. When the tip is flattened beyond a certain point, the base can be twisted to extend the point, but it can’t be retracted, so remember to not twist it too far out (that shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re an impatient reviewer like I am). The feeling it has is very slippery, and quite a bit of material comes off for not a lot of writing, but there seems to be quite a bit of it in the barrel, so running out should not be a major problem.

Performance is a bit disappointing. The white color doesn’t cover very well at all, meaning use in art as either correction or even to mix with other colors is very limited or would require re-application. It can be used as a covering to make things “hazy” but the coating is quite unpredictable. It likes to clump up in certain areas and barely cover others at all, meaning detail work also shouldn’t be done with it. As far a permanence goes, it is, but not wholly. I did testing (not just normal use) on metal and paper. Both were reasonably water-proof, on metal flame did nothing to it and on paper it did resist the flame but once the paper burned it did too (not that anything else would have happened). Then on the metal piece it stood up to WD-40, which has a knack for removing regular Sharpie, but was easily wiped away by isopropyl alcohol. I also suspect it could fairly easily be scraped off or crack easily on pliable surfaces. It does go on whether the surface is wet or dry as advertised and does dry in a fairly short amount of time for how tacky it is to begin with.

I would still consider this an art supply, and it can work well in mixed media, but really it is much more at home in the garage or the toolbox. The tip and lack of sharpening or controlling method means it works quite a bit better when marking large surfaces. It is “permanent” in that it’s hard to purposefully get off, but it doesn’t penetrate and won’t wear terribly well. It’s an interesting item, but certainly not a general use-one.

Review – Uni-ball Jetstream Bold

Some people search for the best of something. I never really looked at my collecting in that way. I just like using a variety of things, and for me I know that there’s no one perfect thing. But that doesn’t stop me from liking sites like TheWireCutter.com, which finds the best product in a given category for the average consumer. I was recently featured in their article about the best mechanical pencil (along with several other, well-known reviewers), and while I was talking to them, I thought I’d try out their recommendation for best ballpoint pen: the Uni-Ball Jetstream. If you read their mechanical pencil article, and my review of their pick the Uni Kuru Toga, this might seem familiar. I do understand why people like the pen, but I don’t like it so much, and here’s what I think of it.

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My particular Jetstream is the bold 1.0, and starting at the top it has a nice, beefy, chrome click button that is very satisfying to use. Down from that is the logo, size, and a solid clip that does its job. The majority of the barrel is rubberized, with the Jetstream logo in the top half in a hard-to-read, reflective plastic. There are slight divots on the section for grip, which actually flares out, instead of tapering in, making it quite large in the hand, and then an interesting-looking chrome cone that leads to the point. This cone does screw off and the pen is easily refillable.

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The ink itself is a nice, cool black that slides onto the page easily. There is an ever-so-slight amount of dry time, after which the ink is quite waterproof. While the ball does roll nicely and the ink flows smoothly, I still get blobs and stuttering, blobs being less frequent than with comparable pens, and stuttering much more frequent. This slight stuttering is hardly noticeable when writing, but is virtually the only feedback the pen gives. It is most definitely the smoothest ballpoint I’ve ever written with but I don’t feel like I’m in control of it when I’m writing. The stuttering is easy enough to overlook when the writing is done, though.

Overall it’s a well-designed, sturdy pen that I don’t want to write with. The point slides out from under me, and the thick grip cramps my hand after a while. It’s also extremely light, which makes me want to hold it tighter so as to not lose it. Still, the fit and finish are great, it’s very satisfying to hold, and if you want an “inexpensive” smooth ballpoint, it really can’t be beaten

Review – Bic Cristal Bold

Bic makes a lot of pens, and the Cristal is one that everyone knows about. It’s a staple of the modern world: an admittedly cheap pen that can be, and is, used by everyone. But most of the time you find the medium version (or a fine if you’re either lucky or unlucky). And those have many of the problems we associate with ballpoints. And when one is running a business or doing art, sometimes it’s more important that the pen write on the first try, and write smoothly, than have a thin line. That’s where the Bic Cristal Bold 1.6mm pen that we’re looking at today comes in.

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The body is a simple as can be: a translucent piece of hexagonal plastic with key info on the side. The base of the ball point is plastic, while the tip itself is metal. The cap is a single piece with an integrated clip that works, but isn’t the best. The cap’s only real function is to prevent the pen from marking things when set down.

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But the real thing here is the tip, which is much wider than usual Bic ballpoint tips. Bic says that it is an “easy glide” pen. And I’d agree that that is the case. The ink is super smooth, and requires very little pressure once it gets going. After pushing down for a little bit, the pen, in my experience, will be writing perfectly a quarter of the way into the first letter, so not perfect startup, but good for a ball pen. After that it’s smooth enough to write cursive easily. There are a few points where the ink breaks up, and those are unsightly, but with a little hand control they can be covered up nicely. Like most ballpoints it’s suitably waterproof. And while the pen and packaging say it’s 1.6mm, Id’ be much more tempted to say it’s simply 1mm.

Really, it’s a great little pen, and not very expensive. If you’re looking for a cheap way to get a smoother (and partially less globby) writing experience, I’d say this is the direction to go first. They don’t match liquid ink pens of any type, but they certainly do work quite well and are convenient, having replaced most of my other ballpoints right now.

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.

 

Review – Black Sharpie Fine Point

Do you ever want to stop drafting and just draw? Did you ever want to be bold with your marks? Did you ever want to be part of a marketing campaign doing those things? Yep, I’m talking about sharpies, black, fine point ones to be exact. Everyone knows what a sharpie or other brand of permanent marker is, so I’ll be brief.

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Sharpies are slick and fat, and unlike some other slick utensils do at times slip out of ones’ hand. They do bulge up the pockets they are stuck in, but most markers do. The body and cap are made out a surprisingly durable plastic, with a nearly useless clip attached. They are all clearly marked and it takes some time to wear off said markings.

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But on to the marker itself. “Fine point” is a bit of an exaggeration, while it is fine for a marker the tip of a sharpie is by no means “fine”. It makes a mark, I mean it really makes a mark. These things make a mark that will bleed through any type of paper and some types of cardboard (with the exception of thick water color paper). The writing is smooth and satisfying, but the point is felt and wears easily. They mark on almost anything and once a mark is made it is nearly impossible to remove, it is one of the best permanent markers in existence.

So if you want to be bold and never have that boldness forgotten or destroyed (with the exception of catastrophic flooding) The sharpie is for you.