Review – Tombow Airpress

My Tombow Airpress was presented to me in Japanese packaging, and, as such, I had no idea what it was supposed to do. Upon careful inspection of the pictograms, I came to a conclusion that was reasonably close to the correct answer of: it is a pressurized ink pen (so it can write upside down or underwater and such {think: space pen}), but it only gets pressurized when you depress the click mechanism. If or why this would be an advantage over regular pressurized systems I do not know, but the pen does come with a set of other features to make it more usable in the rugged outdoors and whatnot, so maybe you’ll get a greater value out of it. I’m probably not the target market here (my pens lead a very relaxed life), but let’s take a look anyway.

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The body of the Airpress is cigar-shaped, with a rubber coating, and quite short at less than 5”. An eye-shaped indent in the middle of the pen and six plastic flutes on the section expose the inner mechanism so that you can see a little bit of what’s going on inside. At the front, there’s a removable cone (which is where the pen gets refilled) that tapers down to where the ballpoint gets exposed. Up near the back is a plastic area, attached to which is a weird-looking wire clip (with a plastic end for extra grip), and protruding from it is the click-button. Sitting opposite the clip is a clear-plastic lanyard hole. The identifying markings are hard to find, with “Airpress” being molded into the rubber and “Tombow” “Japan” very minute in the plastic around the mechanism. Still, there is enough there for refills or replacement if you need it.

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The tip is a little finer than the average medium ballpoint and writes smoothly enough, though I do find it has a problem with blobbing or bits of dried ink on the end like many of the pressurized ink cartridges. It is indeed capable of writing upside down (or without gravity) and underwater (which also proves that the ink is waterfast) with no noticeable effects on performance. The body is rugged and tough (though I don’t put my pens through terribly destructive situations) and the rubber coating allows you to maintain a solid grip throughout use. The clip is quite grippy, with the plastic attachment having several ridges that catch as it clips, and the wire design allowing it to open to almost a 45-degree angle without deforming or breaking. (I haven’t “tested” the lanyard hole, but it seems to be fine)

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Everything about this pen is pretty solid. It’s easy to write with, easy to hold (it’s quite chunky and a little thicker than I like my pens, but some people prefer that and it’s better for the use case of this pen in particular), and well built. The clip and the click mechanism are both satisfying to use and the rubber is solid while lacking that sticky-feeling rubber can sometimes have. All of this comes in a very portable package at a decent price (cheaper than your average Fischer Space Pen), which makes it something ideal to look at for someone in one of the various “rugged” professions or as a reliable EDC (everyday carry) pen.


 

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Review – Sharpie Industrial

Sharpie makes permanent markers, but permanent never really means permanent. Of course there are ways to remove traditional Sharpie ink, especially since it, like many modern inks, is alcohol based. So, in order to keep up with their permanent image Sharpie came up with its “Industrial” version. How permanent is it compared to the regular version? Let’s see.

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The body is virtually identical to that of a regular Sharpie, except for the information printed on it, which has been changed to reflect the more permanent nature and is in red. As far as writing on regular paper goes, it is a bit warmer than standard Sharpie ink, but not really any less or more black. The difference is barely noticeable. Also, like a regular Sharpie, it will not write on wet surfaces.

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But on to the permanence. I tested the ink on a piece of galvanized steel by making a small mark, letting it dry, and then applying pretty much anything I could think of that might clean it off. It held up remarkably well, but it was mostly resistant, and not fully “anything-proof”. By the end of my test the mark was quite faded but still readable, and it had withstood: water, fire, isopropyl alcohol, bleach, WD-40, ammonia, acetone, De-Solv-It (citrus based gunk remover), Lysol, Gojo hand cleaner (for grease and tar), dry cleaning fluid (because I couldn’t throw the kitchen sink at it), lighter fluid, paint thinner (mineral spirits), and gasoline. So I checked online and in several reviews people said that in laboratory settings the alcohol used would take the marker right off. So I went and attacked it with some denatured alcohol, and sure enough it broke it down to the most pale of lines possible, but it still wasn’t gone. So I tested on some other materials and another piece of galvanized steel. On plastic, the denatured alcohol removed it with very little problem. On aluminum it was also met with little resistance. On a tuna can (which could be either tin, steel, aluminum or a mixture) it was a little tougher but almost all of it was removed eventually. But, finally, on a galvanized trashcan the alcohol met its match, reducing it to a very faded line but it was still unable to remove it entirely. So there is likely some chemical that bonds directly to or gets through the galvanization on such materials.

Barely visible mark after denatured alcohol was applied

Barely visible mark after denatured alcohol was applied

All of this stands to reason. Modern inks are mostly made from an alcohol-based dye solution. This makes them dry faster and essentially water resistant, unlike their former water-based fountain pen ink relatives. But they still fall short of pigment-based inks on permanence, especially when it comes to alcohol, which in many cases will clean up both ballpoint ink and (permanent) marker ink by reactivating it for a short amount of time. Virtually any ink (but not all) will smear, bleed, or be removed when its base is reintroduced. But that’s why we have different bases in the first place.

In specific settings where large amounts of chemicals are continuously applied to surfaces, especially alcohol, these markers won’t work. But there are specialty markers made for work like that. As a general purpose marker that is meant to be used in tasks that are more demanding than standard household ones it works quite well. It does outperform the regular Sharpie and would work sufficiently well for many workplace or “industrial” tasks, but testing may be required before using it on the job.