Posts filed under Guest Post

Ode to a Parker Duofold

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

(This is a guest poem by Jon Bemis. You can find Jon on Twitter @jtower42.)

O to glory in something both ancient and beautiful;
To take in hand a tool wrought by craftsmen long dead, 
Polished by hands long returned to dust!
What joy is this to shake the pall of neglect
From a thing, and put it to simple use?
Seems right with the broad world to put
To its proper purpose, to fulfill its humble aim.

Orange and black as a tiger lily, with a nib of gold,
Worn by the use and disuse of four score years,
Restored by loving hands.
A common pen, for nothing more than 
Laying ink upon paper.
As if time had but skipped from then 'til now,
A line flows forth with perfect dark wetness.

Long since passed by her modern sisters
Made en masse, better but worse.
A genocide at the tip of a ball-point.
Which sad day did the drawer close,
Casting darkness and neglect in equal measure?
When did the march of progress double-quick
Past this grizzled veteran?

Once sold as chattel to the highest bidder,
Now cherished as tool and symbol
Stringing letters into words.
What great hero or mean man 
Marked his days with this pen?
Shall something good and noble now
Flow from it into a transformed world?

Posted on May 21, 2015 and filed under Guest Post, Parker.

Pen Snobbery

(This is a guest post by Jon Bemis. You can find Jon on Twitter @jtower42)

Becoming a pen snob isn’t something that happens consciously. You don’t wake up one morning and decide, “Today, I shall look down my nose at those around me who use inferior writing instruments” while wearing a monocle and an ascot.

I have always been vaguely aware that some pens were better and some pens were not as good. I knew where the Uni-ball Onyx rollerballs were stashed away in the supply cabinets at work, and I knew I liked a Bic Stic better than a PaperMate WriteBros. But as the fella says, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

As I got into pens in early 2014 and the wide world of writing instruments began to reveal itself to me, I quickly and without thinking began to sort the world into good and evil. Allowing reviews and comments to influence me unduly, I decided there were good pens (gels, rollerballs, and these fountain pen thingies) and bad pens (ballpoints, boo!) There were good tip sizes (superduperfine) and bad ones (bold, yuck!) And there were good pen brands (Pilot, Uni, Lamy) and evil pen corporations that were probably fronts for genocide and stuff (Bic, Cross, and don’t-make-‘em-like-they-used-to Parker).

With all the zealotry of the recently-converted, I was quite certain of my opinions, juvenile as they were. And I was really kind of an ass about it. Luckily, I kept most of my snarky comments (“Ugh, you’re using that? Why not just pound a rock on a cave wall to see if makes a mark?”) to myself. I was a pen jerk (mostly) within the confines of my own head.

During this time of completely unjustified certainty, I thought to myself, “Self, there is no one in this world you love more than your best friend, the mother of your children, your amazing wife. But you don’t even know what’s she’s writing with. How can you truly know her if you don’t know her pens? And what if she is having a less-than-optimal writing experience? What if she’s writing with (gasp) a BAD PEN?”

So I set out to fix what I was certain was broken. I just KNEW that Dana’s pen situation was an epic and unmitigated disaster and only I could fix it. (Seriously, I can be kind of clueless.)

Dana is also the kind of person who has always been aware of the writing implements she uses. She’s a lefty, of the dreaded “hook-hand” variety, which means that for her entire literate life, she’s dragged her hand through her freshly-written words. Also, as with many lefties, she PUSHES her pen across the paper instead of PULLS. She has always needed a pen that was both super-smooth and quick-drying, a difficult combination. Had I thought for thirty seconds about these needs, I might not have stuck my foot in my mouth quite as badly as I did, as you are about to witness.

Her pen of choice when I turned the searchlight of superciliousness on her was a PaperMate Profile 1.4B. This, of course, set off all my warning flags. A PAPERMATE? With that, ugh, ENORMOUS 1.4 tip? If she’s going to use something that crappy, why doesn’t she just write with the crayons they give away with the kids’ menu at Applebee’s?

I pulled one of these awful, smelly things (note: not actually smelly) out of the pen cup in our kitchen and tried it out for myself. It certainly wasn’t the writing experience I personally was seeking. Between the (admittedly nice) rubbery grip and large tip, writing with the Profile reminded me of driving my first car, a 1987 Buick Park Avenue that was a hand-me-down from my dad. The way Detroit built suspensions in those days, you as a driver had to take it on faith that there was, in fact, a road underneath you; because you could barely see it and you sure as heck couldn’t feel it. The PaperMate Profile was like that – it was like writing on a cloud.

So I set about trying to help my poor, lost wife out of the wilderness of terrible pens. I brought home (from my stash at work), some 0.5 Zebra Sarasas, a 0.7 Uni-ball Jetstream, and a 0.5 Pilot Acroball. I also had her try a Retro 51. Wonderful pens, all. Fine representations of the best of gel, hybrid ink and liquid rollerball pens. I was sure she would love these pens as much as I did – love them so much, in fact, that she would throw her arms around me, her eyes glistening with tears of joy, overcome with gratitude for the new world of transcendent writing I had opened up to her.

She hated them all.

“Ugh, I just feel like I’m digging into the page with these,” she said as she tried first the Jetstream, and then the Acroball. “And this one smears,” she complained, inspecting the side of her left hand after trying the Retro 51.

She didn’t COMPLETELY hate the Sarasa. “This one is a little smoother than the others, but I’m still digging in,” she said. “I really don’t like any of them better than these,” holding up her PaperMate Profile. “Sorry, honey.”

So, I don’t want to overdramatize my reaction at this point. I wasn’t “devastated” or “crushed.” I wasn’t “hurt.” It’s pens, not life or death. But I was a little bummed out, and a lot thoughtful. Why didn’t she like the pens? These were the best! I loved these pens! They were MY favorites! Shouldn’t she…

Oh.

Suddenly I had a Grinch moment; my pen heart grew three sizes that day. I had been trying to foist my preferences on her, but her writing needs were different than mine, and her “best” pen was almost certainly going to be different than mine.

I was humbled, but not daunted. I was going to share the pen love with my true love, but I was going to meet her where she was, not where I thought she needed to be. So I searched for pen reviews written by and for lefties, browsed retailers big and small, and ordered a new handful of pens for Dana.

Trying to meet the conflicting needs of smooth and dry, I ordered a broad-tipped Sakura Pigma, a Zebra Tapli 1.6, a Pilot G-2 1.0, and a Dong-A (snicker) Anyball 1.2. Also, given that the only mildly positive feedback from the first test session was for the Sarasa, I picked up the broad, 1.0 version.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a raised eyebrow when I came home one night with another fistful of pens. I could feel the skepticism emanating from Dana, but she is nothing if not a loving and tolerant friend. She tried them. God bless her, she tried every one.

And there was one she liked!

The Sarasa 1.0 got a second and then a third test sentence, and a pleased expression. “I like this. I’d use this,” she said.

I was, to be honest, giddy. I was so pleased that I had sought, and found, something she liked. I was also pleased that we had connected over this pen obsession that had, up until now, been very strange to her.

Epilogue

She never gave up the PaperMate Profiles, but she did add a rainbow of Sarasa 1.0’s to her collection. With the ice broken, I found more things she liked, including Clairefontaine bound journals, Quo Vadis planners for keeping track of the kids’ homeschooling, and Neo-Critz Transformer pen cases. In fact, she liked the Transformer so much she asked for a second one. One is filled with eyebrow tweezers and emery boards (I had NOT thought of that), and the other is home to her favorite colors of both Sarasas and Profiles.

And I, having become just a little wiser and much less opinionated, am totally okay with that.

Posted on April 14, 2015 and filed under Guest Post.

Pilot V5 Hi-Tecpoint Cartridge System Roller Ball Pen Review

Image via JetPens.com

Image via JetPens.com

(This is a guest post by Johnny McClung. Find more from Johnny at the awesomely-titled blog Johnny Anypen and on Twitter.)

The Pilot V5 Hi-Tecpoint is the latest in the Pilot V5 line of pens. I have enjoyed these pens since I bought my first capped Precise V5. I was so excited when I first saw the new Hi-Tecpoint had a cartridge! Now, I could use practically any color in my favorite pen.

The standard black that comes with the pen seems to be the same ink as I have come to know and love. It may not be exactly the same, but the performance was equal, if not better than the Precise V5 retractable.

I'd like to thank Mr. Dowdy for agreeing to send me a Pilot CON-20 converter to see if it would work with the Hi-Tecpoint. In addition to the Pilot cartridge, I put ink in the standard cartridge to see if that would work. Although I have yet to try it, this pen could be converted into an eyedropper. The O-rings available at Goulet Pens fit around the barrel of the Hi-Tecpoint. And the barrel held water. With a little Silicone grease, I think this pen would work.

I had some trouble cleaning out the black ink which may be inexperience on my part and not a reflection of the pen. I received my ink order before the converter arrived so I tested out the standard cartridge first. I did have some trouble getting the ink down the feed, but eventually, the wonderful Diamine Emerald ink shown on the paper. When the converter arrived, I transferred the ink over to the converter and used it. With this push converter, I found it much easier to get the ink down the feed.

This is an excellent $3 pen and with another $3 you can pick up a CON-20 converter and have a superb pen in any color you choose. Since Pilot's cartridges are proprietary, this converter should work in most other Pilot cartridge pens.

I have seven more sample vials of fountain pen ink that I am just dying to try out in this pen. Highly recommended.

Posted on February 5, 2015 and filed under Guest Post, Pen Reviews, Pilot, Hi-Tecpoint.

A Story Of Office Subterfuge

(This is a guest post by Jon Bemis. You can find Jon on Twitter @jtower42)

Since becoming a Junior Pen Addict a year ago, I have tried to evangelize the message of a better writing experience. As is the case in many offices, our supply closest is stocked with the cheapest paper (generic legal and steno pads) and pens (BiC “Xtra Comfort” medium points) our purchasing people can find. By sheer accident, there are some gems like PaperMate Flair plastic tip pens and Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, but mostly the shelf is a cathedral of mediocrity.

I have made some inroads with a few co-workers. I noticed one of our commodities buyers is a woodcase pencil guy, so I gave him a couple of Palomino Blackwings. I checked in with him after a few weeks, and he somewhat sheepishly told me “When you said I would feel a difference between these (Blackwings) and the pencils I normally use, I thought you were nuts. But wow, these are SMOOTH.”

A member of our graphic design team is a kindred spirit as it relates to design and typography – I have introduced her to Field Notes and Mr. Aaron Draplin, and she’s digging it. Our sales analyst admitted to me that she “really likes, you know, GOOD paper.” I gave her an extra Rhodia A5 top staple-bound notebook that I had lying around, and it blew her mind.

I’ve had failures, too. Our corporate attorney, who happens to be a friend, is a Pilot G-2 fan. That’s a great pen; I thought that might serve as a gateway into fountain pens, so I lent him first my Lamy Safari and then my Pilot Metropolitan. It hasn’t taken. He always quickly goes back to the G-2’s he loves so much.

But the effort of which I am most proud was not so overt. This office needs to know the love of writing, dammit. So I did something a little sneaky. A little underhanded. I stocked the pond, if you will.

I decided to make a contribution to the supply cabinet. I knew the Pilot Varsity was a great entry-level fountain pen, and they’re inexpensive. I bought about two dozen in blue and black from JetPens, and snuck into the supply cabinet with them on a Tuesday afternoon. I carefully reshuffled the Bics and the Flairs to make a space. Luckily, JetPens had included a Varsity box, so once I was done it looked as if the interloping pens belonged there.

The pens I snuck into the supply closet.

The pens I snuck into the supply closet.

Two weeks later, they were gone.

All twenty-four. GONE. In seven working days (not counting days the office was closed for Christmas and New Year’s.

About a hundred people share this particular supply closet, which is a lot. But for FOUNTAIN PENS to disappear that quickly? I couldn’t believe it. People had actually taken them to use. This only served to increase the audacity, the sheer madness of my next move. I didn’t plan it. I hadn’t thought about it. But in the moment, it seemed right.

I took a Post-it note, stuck it on the now-empty Pilot Varsity box and scribbled (hoping I was disguising my handwriting) “Please reorder. Thanks!” My heart was pounding. I felt like I had crossed some line, violated some rule. It was a little silly – I know some people ask for specific pens or paper from time to time, and my company generally will try to accommodate. Requests for staplers, tape dispensers, letter trays, wall calendars and white boards are generally approved without any raised eyebrows. But still, I had hacked the system! I had introduced a foreign life-form, and now I was hoping the office supply ecosystem would accept this new animal.

A week later, this.

Fresh boxes. Ordered by whoever orders office supplies.

Fresh boxes. Ordered by whoever orders office supplies.

Three fresh new boxes of Pilot Varsities. It worked. I couldn’t believe it.

What I don’t yet know is if fountain pens are on the regular re-order rotation yet. I will be monitoring the inventory to see if folks are still taking them, and I’ll be keeping a sharp eye to see if I can spot people using the pens they’ve acquired.

Basking in the glow of having pulled off my own version of a “covert op,” I find myself wondering why I did it.

I’m excited that my co-workers will have the opportunity to use a pen that’s new to them, to have an experience that maybe they’ve never had. Moreso, I’m hopeful that just a few people will enjoy using a fountain pen so much that it makes their day a little better. We have a pretty great work environment here – people treat each other with respect, we’re pretty family friendly, and people stay a long time. But work is work, and days can get frustrating or mundane. Maybe, just maybe, my little surreptitious act will add a dash of enjoyment to someone’s day.

Posted on January 15, 2015 and filed under Guest Post.