Spyderco BaliYo Pen Review

(Jeff Abbott is a regular contributor at The Pen Addict. You can find more from Jeff online at Draft Evolution and Twitter.)

I've seen some unique pens in my day, but this one takes the cake.

The Spyderco BaliYo pen is one of the strangest contraptions I've come across that also labels itself as a pen. The BaliYo borrows part of its name and most of its functionality from the Balisong knife, or the butterfly knife.

In case you haven't seen one of these knives in action, here's a video of Angelina Jolie demonstrating how it works to Conan O'Brien. If you're interested in seeing more detailed videos of how to operate these fancy knives, there is an endless source of videos on YouTube.

Basically, this pen is made of three main parts: two handle halves and the main pen section. You open it (rather, you can open it) by swinging around one handle or another to the open position. I've tried my best to master the method, but it's just difficult. I prefer the type of pens that have a screw on cap or friction-fit cap. If you're a Balisong expert, this pen is right up your alley.

So, I've covered how to open and close this pen using a series of flicks and swivels in your hand, but how does this pen write? Well, not so great. It appears to be using a fairly generic ballpoint refill that has a hard time starting, skips frequently, and is pretty light on the page. Obviously, the makers of this pen were paying attention to other details of the pen. I didn't provide a full writing sample with this pen because it ran out of ink after writing the name of the pen on the page. Prior to the ink test, I'd only written one page of notes on an A5-sized sheet of paper. The refill is small, but not that small.

The ballpoint refill is controlled by turning the grip of the pen back and forth. It actually has a nice swivel action that feels great. Apart from that, the plastic feel only goes so far.

When writing with the pen, I've never been able to find a comfortable position. If you fold both handles down, the pen is pretty thick and has awkward pieces jutting out from the handles that make it difficult to hold in a writing position. If you don't fold the handles down, they flop back and forth against your hand while you write. I think they were designed to be folded down when writing, so that just means you'll have to get used to the abnormal grip they require.

It's hard to recommend this pen to anyone as a writing instrument. It's fairly obvious when using the pen that the number one design requirement did not involve writing. That being said, if you are a fan of Spyderco or the Balisong knife genre, this could be a fantastic gift or novelty item. It's fun to play with, but just not all that great to write with. In a pinch, it definitely writes, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a writing instrument.

Posted on September 4, 2015 and filed under Pen Reviews, Spyderco.

Omas 90th Anniversary Journal Giveaway

I talk a lot about how amazing the pen community is, and this giveaway is a perfect example of that. My friend Cary from Fountain Pen Day sent me an Omas 90th Anniversary Journal to give away on the blog from the batch he received from Kenro Industries. As soon as this journal, plus a slew of FPD swag, got in the air to me, Dan Smith (also of Kenro) reached out and sent three more journals my way!

The awesomeness of my friends in this community is unparalleled, and I am passing on their graciousness to you. I have four Omas 90th Anniversary Journals, along with several Fountain Pen Day buttons and bookmarks, to give to four lucky readers. Here is how to enter:

  1. Leave one comment on this post anytime between now, and Saturday night at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. You are limited to one entry. This contest is open to US and International readers.

  2. For this contest, I will pick four winners at random from the comments section of this post. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the numbers of the winners.

  3. The contest winners will be posted on Sunday, September 6th. The winners will have one week to email me via the Contact link at the top of the page.

Good luck!

Posted on September 3, 2015 and filed under Giveaways.

Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen Review

(This is a guest post by Nick Folz. You can find more of Nick and his work on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.)

The Inkiest Pen

The Pilot Parallel is one of those pens that will turn heads. It doesn't look like any pen I have ever used and it doesn't write like anything else either. It is mainly a calligraphy pen, and I must admit my ignorance and tell you that I am not really a calligraphy person, but more of an illustrator who's a fan of handwriting.

The concept is simple, the flat blade (I am using the 6mm model) drops a super thick line when pulling it perpendicular to the blade line, and a super thin line when pulling it parallel. The result is a line that can vary wildly and makes the special lines required if you are doing calligraphy. It comes with a pocket guide for some starter calligraphy, but the most fun I had with the pen is when I was pushing it in a wildly sloppy manner and getting unreproducible results.


This pen is not for looks: plastic body, plastic cap. The cap has a bit of a fin to it, screws on tight to the tapered, brush-shaped body. The nib screws into the body and takes ink cartridges. The pen can go through a cartridge in a few sittings, to be expected when you are laying down such a thick line. The nib is flat, built out of what looks like a folded over piece of aluminum, but is actually two parallel pieces of metal that have tiny, interlocking teeth at the tip. The pack it comes in has one black cart, one red cart, one converter (for cleaning) and a cleaning sheet.

The Ink Problem

Look, no one likes buying tons of cartridges, especially if their favorite ink isn't sold that way. Even if you do like the convenience of the cartridges, you are going to be burning through them. The solution is pretty easy, just body fill the damn thing. What you'll want to do if you are body filling the pen is grab some plumbing tape and wrap the threads of the nib section (not more than twice) to make sure you get a good seal on it. It will act as a gasket and, boom, tons of ink, no leaking.

I've seen it as a detail note on several ink reviews, "I'm testing this ink with a Pilot Parallel." There is good reason, if an ink has facets revealed through different volumes drying at different times (I'm looking at you Emerald of Chivor) and you don't have any fancy dip nibs, this pen should be your go-to. The ink supply is slightly inconsistent, leading to the variation of how much ink is dropped even on one stroke. Sometimes the top of a line will be super saturated and dryer at the end, sometimes the opposite. I actually like this about it and don't consider it a drawback. It lends itself to a more interesting set of lines in the end.

Pilot makes of big deal of being able to blend inks by touching the tips of two Parallel Pens together to make gradients. That would probably be cool, but I just have the one pen and probably wouldn't do it that often even if given the chance.

Where It Fits

Look, I'm a Pilot fanboy. The pen that got me into pens in the first place was the Precise V5, which will always have a place in my heart and messenger bag. I have long been a fan of their products and have yet to find a sub par item they make. The Parallel is no exception, it works wonderfully and besides some minor issues (leaky body when body filling which, admittedly, it is not made for, and some sub-par aesthetics) I would easily recommend this product. The problem is, for what? Outside of the calligraphy enthusiast, the ink tester, and the font fanatic, this pen would be hard pressed to find an audience among the office supply crowd.

When I got this pen it was the one I was most excited about, but found myself pulling it out, doodling for a few minutes and then switching to something else fairly quickly. So I tossed it into my bag and would often grab something else when I sat down to draw. The problem seems obvious: I'm an illustrator, not a calligrapher. But here is when I started clicking with this pen. I often add some lettering to an illustration near the end. Sometimes it's as simple as a thought bubble with a "!" in it. Sometimes it is someones name or a label. I would dig this out of my bag and it can do what no other pen or brush can do. I like the smooth, block style lines it can do but I LOVE the distressed, unruly script you can get out of it. I feel like a hat's off is in order for Pilot mass producing such a niche pen, and in multiple sizes. You can find the Pilot Parallel at JetPens in four sizes from 1.5mm to 6mm.


Nothing else like it, at least that I have seen. Works well right out of the box. Comes with one black and one red cart, as well as a converter and a cleaning sheet. Also has a robust care and calligraphy tip sheet. Can be used many different ways, clean and crisp or loose and rough.


Designed for carts and have to mod for body filling. Plastic body and cap, aesthetics not a strong point. Will use all your ink.

When I think of drawing utensils I also think of what verbs they give me. My pencil's verbs are Start, Sketch, and Erase. My roller ball pen's verbs are Line, Detail, and Finish. My brush's verb is Vary. My Sharpie's verb is Fill. What the Parallel really does that makes it worthwhile for me is it gives me a verb that my other pens could do, but not as well. Letter.

(Disclaimer: This product was provided for me free of cost but I am not otherwise being compensated for this review. The opinions contained are my own.)

Posted on September 2, 2015 and filed under Pilot, Pen Reviews, Calligraphy Pens.

The Pen Addict Podcast: Episode 170 - Mykeanical Pencils

If you find me repeating myself about how much fun we have recording the podcast it is because we have so much fun recording the podcast! This was one of those wide ranging episodes where I played both sides of the fence on the sparkly ink debate, picked out what Line X Lamy character I would be, and shook my head at yet another "DEATH OF CURSIVE" article. Myke and I also learn to proper way to pronounce all of the Iroshizuku inks.

Show Notes & Download Links

This episode of The Pen Addict is sponsored by:

lynda.com: An easy and affordable way to help individuals and organizations learn. Free 10-day trial.

Pen Chalet: use the code PENADDICT to save 10% on your order or click the ‘podcast’ link at the top of the website and enter the password 'penaddict' for even more savings, as well as your 10% off.

Posted on September 1, 2015 and filed under Podcast.