Review – Faber-Castell Grip 2020 Ballpoint

Sometimes the basic problems of a cheap ballpoint pen can just get to you. Many ballpoints have a round or hexagonal design that can lead to hand cramping or slipping while trying to write with thick, uncooperative ink. You see additions like silicone rubber grips occasionally as a remedy in the US, but apparently in places like Peru they have attempted to remedy these problems directly in the design of the pen. The Faber-Castell Grip 2020 boasts an ergonomic triangular design, with as studded grip and “smooth writing” ink. But how well does that improve performance?

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The body is a simple, translucent, subtly triangular-ized cylinder with 150 small rounded “studs” for grip evenly positioned on the faces. The cap is round, with an integrated clip, and it has the relatively unique feature of sliding “under” the barrel rather than over it with the required step down being about the last quarter of the cap. Underneath the lip holding the cap in place there is a slightly tapered cone, friction fit over the ink tube; this cone can be removed, allowing the ink tube to be replaced. At the back there’s a stopper that steps down near the end, forming a space between it and the body where the cap can be posted. Over this stopper, on two sides of the triangle, there is written material: stamped in silver lettering is “Faber-Castell” and printed on a label is the barcode, model number, ink (and pen) color, and “Made in Peru”. I’m a bit disappointed by that, since, even though it’s on the back, labels on writing instruments have a tendency to get damaged and if that happened you wouldn’t know the model to get a replacement.

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Functionality is quite good. The cap both caps and posts securely while maintaining the “lines” of the pen (the pen flares out ever so slightly in the back so it doesn’t match up as well there, leaving a step down instead of a {relatively} smooth transition). The clip is fine but isn’t very tight and it slips on thin material (its attachment point and the plastic it’s made of are surprisingly rock-solid, though). The ink is smooth as promised, coming out of a very medium tip (broader than I like, to be honest). For all intents and purposes it is the same as the other Faber-Castell made-in-Peru pens, maybe a little bit darker, and with blobbing being present, but not nearly as frequent as the other models I’ve looked at (counter-intuitively {usually wider tips on ballpoints leads to more blobbing}).

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It’s a very nice little pen. For my personal daily use I prefer something shorter and with a finer tip, but this pen is comfortable, easy to hold, smooth writing, and doesn’t slip. I also really like the cap and how it doesn’t expand the circumference of the pen (save for the clip) and is probably less prone to crushing or cracking. If they managed to make the clip a little better, and offered the top in a fine I would seriously be looking to import some to use all the time. So if you’re looking for a simple, relatively inexpensive, comfortable, and durable (the plastic is very solid feeling) pen, and don’t mind importing, I’d certainly give this one a try.

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.

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 – Zebra Sarasa Colors – Hunter, Fuchsia, Cobalt, Light Green, and Violet

After the first five colors in the ten-color pack of Zebra Sarasa pens, the colors get a bit less conventional and a bit more extreme. Let’s look at the Zebra colors Hunter, Fuchsia, Cobalt, Light Green, and Violet.

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First Hunter, which is a dark bluish-green, a bit more blue than usual hunter greens, which seem a bit warmer. The color is very deep, and in some places could easily be work-friendly. It is a very natural color and could easily fit an artist’s needs for a deep green. It lifts the most when exposed to water, but like the rest of the colors here, it doesn’t really budge to smear once it dries.

Next Fuchsia, which I’d call rose, but that’s just me. It sits on the fence for me between a deep pink and a light purple. I can’t really tell which it is. As far as either one goes, though, it is a very appealing color that, unlike other pinks or light purples, doesn’t hurt the eyes. It’s more of a flower color than anything else.

Third is Cobalt, which is a very grey blue, though I’m almost tempted to say it’s the other way around. It’s a dark and dim color that gives off a wintery feeling. Artists could find a use for it in many winter themes and its color is just subdued enough that it would likely be a good office companion and still let you stick out.

Fourth Light Green, which is almost lime. It hurts the eyes a little, but it isn’t terrible. I’ve certainly seen worse. It doesn’t look very natural, and it’s slightly hard to read. It might make a good color for marking mistakes, but otherwise its uses are limited.

And finally, Violet, which is bright and indisputably purple. It’s a flowery purple and that’s the only really natural parallel that I can think of. It also might not be work-appropriate because of its brightness. But it is superb in readability, not dark enough to blend in in low light, and not light enough to disappear on the paper. For casual writing, this one would be a keeper.

And that’s it for the ten pack of Zebra Sarasa Gel pens, I think they’re great little things, with an interesting color set in which some aren’t often seen, let alone this common. They’re nice inks, and I’d go for them if you like the pen.

Review – Sheaffer Calligraphy Maxi Kit Part 3 – Ink – Blue, Black, Purple, and Turquoise

Now onto the Sheaffer inks in the Sheaffer Calligraphy set, which I will do in batches as I get around to trying them out. I’ll be starting off with black, purple, blue, and turquoise.

Surprisingly Accurate Photo

Surprisingly Accurate Photo

First black, which is a plain black, really there is nothing special. It’s a cool black that is very dark, but is not as saturated as one would want a black to be most of the time. For calligraphy and drawing it is good for the most part (being non-waterproof) but I wouldn’t go painting a picture with it.

Second purple, a color that has no place in a calligraphy set (something that can be said about every color that isn’t black, in my opinion). The purple is a nice deep purple with lots of shading in wider lines, though the shading doesn’t offer a great amount of variation. I personally wouldn’t use this for calligraphy and would have a hard time finding a use for it. But it is very pleasant.

The blue, Sheaffer blue, like all pen maker blues is very simple: a dark blue without much shading that does well with writing and okay with calligraphy. It is a fairly standard blue, non-waterproof and it almost looks like a ballpoint pen. Like I said, though, it is a bit darker than some others, so you might want to look into it if you want a darker blue.

Finally turquoise, which again I don’t understand being in this set. It is a very bright, nice color. It has some shading (which I’m not too fond of) but overall is fairly bland. A nice sky or Caribbean sea color, but not one for calligraphy but for daily writing in my opinion. You wouldn’t want to color a turquoise rock with it either.

That’s it for this time, It may take a few weeks, but I’ll look at the rest of the colors sometime in the future.

Review – Papermate Inkjoy Green, Pink, Orange, and Light Blue

In a previous entry I looked at the more standard Papermate Inkjoy colors, now it’s time for the less standard colors, like light blue, pink, orange, and green.

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The light blue is a sky-colored blue. It is the hardest to read of any of the Inkjoy colors, though it is still fairly visible when not cluttered. It has a very natural feel and is very sky-like. It is very neutral anyway. It doesn’t look like a color that takes a stance, if that makes any sense. It’d make a nice color for both drawing and work.

Next pink, which thankfully isn’t a very aggressive pink. It’s definitely not hot, it’s more of a magenta color, but not quite. It is not a very natural color, though, as it doesn’t look like a rock or a flower. Might be good for a personal thing, or some corrections or something similar.

Third is orange, which I must say looks almost exactly like Pilot G-2 Orange, which I have previously reviewed. Subtle, but not very useful, perhaps flowers or the fruit, but it could be work-friendly, if you’re in a less formal office setting.

Finally green, which is a quite deep, more forest color. A very natural and neutral color. Again a fine informal office color, and a nice forest or swamp color. Though very limited in its natural colors. One of the least useful, but most usable, colors in the set.

Overall these four colors are unintrusive and subtle, with various office and home applications, but very little artistic applications save a few specific places.

Review – Papermate Inkjoy Black, Red, Blue, and Purple

In my tradition (now) of taking a look at the uses of standard office supplies in art, I’ll be looking at the Papermate Inkjoy pens and their different colors. Today will be the standard colors of black, red, blue, and purple.

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Not Entirely Representative

Papermate tends to make standard colors, and their black is no exception. One of the deeper Papermate blacks, the Inkjoy black is nice and constant, though is a bit blue-greyish. Not quite black, but very good for a ballpoint pen.

The red is also fairly standard. It’s light, but not light enough to say it’s pinkish. It is very subdued and pleasant, not as aggressive as most reds, making it a bit more natural.

The blue is very deep, but not very saturated. In low light it still looks blue, but one wouldn’t mistake it for a sky blue. Again, like the red, the low saturation makes it look less aggressive than some other hues. It’s got a very nice, watery feel to it.

And finally the purple, which again is deep but not saturated. It is unmistakably purple but not very aggressive. Unlike the others, though, this leads to a less natural look as most natural purples are deep and aggressive or light and flowery. This one is in between, which means it would be at home on your papers but not in artwork.

Overall, Papermate did a good job with these colors for the workplace. They definitely weren’t designed for art, though they could be worked in. Not superb but good enough. We’ll see what the next four have in store.