Posts filed under Pen Reviews

Pilot FriXion Ball Slim 0.38 mm

We all love to have friendly arguments over our favorite pens. The Pilot G2 is better than the Uni-ball Signo 207! The Uni-ball Jetstream is better than the Pilot Acroball! The Sharpie Liquid Pencil is better than…well, it’s better than a rock I guess. Maybe.

The basis of all of these conversations is that as individuals, we all have specific needs that need to be met with our writing instruments. A pen that may be perfect for you won’t work at all for someone else. I like to use the phrase “That’s why they make more than one pen” all the time to show it’s ok no not like the same pen as someone else.

While erasable gel ink pens are a highly specific category, they are the only category where it is not ok to like a pen besides the Pilot FriXion. It is at the top of the heap, and nothing else is close in quality or performance. You may not like or have a need for erasable gel ink pens, and that’s fine, but if you do, the Pilot FriXion is the only consideration. Arguments otherwise are not being accepted at this time.

The latest FriXion to cross my desk is the Pilot FriXion Ball Slim 0.38 mm and it is as good as ever. Writing with this pen, you wouldn’t know that the ink is any different in formulation from any standard gel ink pen. That is key. It’s a gel ink pen that happens to be erasable. By friction, no less.

If you aren’t familiar with the FriXion, the ink is thermosensitive. This means the heat caused by the friction of the firm rubber eraser removes the ink from the page. It’s also possible for the ink to disappear if your paper is left in too hot of a location, such as in a car in the summer. Your notes aren’t lost forever though. Pop your notebook in the freezer and your writing reappears. It’s like magic!

I love the slim barrel design of this model. It’s very comfortable to write with for me, and the 0.38 mm tip is right up my alley. The eraser work perfectly as well. The only negative is that the refills are smaller than the 0.5 mm Ball Knock, which uses a G2 sized refill and is only slightly more expensive.

Answering the question “What is the best erasable pen on the market” is the easiest question I get in my inbox. It’s the Pilot FriXion, and nothing else is close.

Posted on November 30, 2015 and filed under FriXion, Pilot, Pen Reviews.

The Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop: A Review

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

When I first saw the Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop pens advertised, I was excited about them. I loved the vivid colors, and I had heard good things about the Metropolitan pens before. So, as soon as I could, I ordered a turquoise Retro Pop from Goulet Pens for $15.00.

I've been using it non-stop since it arrived because, as a university professor, I have a mountain of grading this time of the semester. I figured the Retro Pop would make a great grading pen, and I was right.

The Retro Pop is a metal fountain pen, but it's not at all heavy (26 grams/0.92 oz). It comes nicely packaged in an oval clamshell box with a clear top, so you can see the colorful pen.

The metal is shiny and sparkles in the sunlight. Each pen has a different retro design on one portion of the barrel.

The only other embellishment is the clip which has a few decorative elements on the sides, but is otherwise plain. The cap is a snap on.

The grip is black plastic which is always easier for me to hold than metal since my hands get sweaty, especially while grading research papers.

The pen comes with a squeeze converter and one cartridge, but if you prefer twist converters, you can purchase one for $5.50 more, which I did. Squeeze converters are messy and I don't like the limitations of cartridges. The Con-50 holds a teeny amount of ink, though. I blew through several fills as I graded. But, it's not like the pen is difficult to refill.

The fine steel nib on my Retro Pop is smooth but hard (no bounce or flex). As with most Japanese pens, the fine writes more like an extra fine. I like this size for grading because I tend to write lots of notes all over my students' papers (which I'm sure they love). The nib has been a champ–no hard starts; no skipping. I'm very impressed since this pen is so inexpensive.

The Retro Pop is a relatively small pen. It is 5.43 inches capped; 5 inches uncapped; and 6.02 inches posted. The grip (0.33 inches) is pretty narrow, and my hand gets fatigued after long grading sessions.

The Retro Pop comes in six colors: grey, orange, purple, turquoise, red, and green. At $15.00 (plus $5.50 if you want the twist converter) from Goulet Pens, this is the perfect stocking stuffer or holiday gift for anyone interested in fountain pens. Add one of the mini bottles of Diamine or Iroshizuku ink and a Rhodia pad and you've got a terrific starter kit for someone special. If you want all the colors, you can purchase a set for $84.90.


  • A smooth-writing, steel nib fountain pen at a terrific price.
  • Lots of bright colors from which to choose.
  • Several filling options (cartridge, squeeze converter, twist converter).
  • Comes in a nice clamshell box that is perfect for gift-giving.
  • Lightweight and suitable size for most people.


  • Neither the squeeze converter nor the twist converter hold much ink. Plan on re-inking often.
  • The pen is light and thin. People with larger hands may find this pen too small for comfort.
Posted on November 27, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Metropolitan, Pen Reviews, Pilot.

Cross Century II in Royal Blue: A Review

(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)

I've never owned a Cross fountain pen. So, I was excited to try out the Cross Century II when Goulet Pens sent it to the Pen Addict for review. I love blue pens.

The Cross Century II is a small, thin pen. It is 5.35 inches capped, 6.06 inches posted, and 4.84 inches unposted. The barrel diameter is 0.38 inches and the pen weighs only 23 grams. The cap and barrel seem to be made of lightweight metal, (aluminum, perhaps?), coated with a pearlescent blue finish. The color of this pen is fantastic.

The grip is black plastic with vertical ribs that make it easier to hold than a metal grip.

I haven't had much luck lately with stainless steel nibs (see here and here), but the Century's is smooth and trouble-free. I've had no hard starts or skipping with this nib. I really like how it writes.

The pen requires Cross cartridges or the Cross screw-in converter. The converter works well.

This is a minimalistic pen design. The Cross name is engraved on the clip and on the barrel (but you have to look closely to see it there).

The cap has a chrome ring and an elegant finial.

The barrel is smooth and unadorned except for the chrome ring where the barrel meets the grip. Another ring provides a grip stop near the nib.

The cap pulls on and off and can be posted. I rarely post my pens, and when I tried writing with the Century II posted, it felt off balance. It's such a small pen, however, some may find they need to post it.

My main criticism of this pen is how thin it is. The grip is only 0.31 inches. Even though I have small hands, I like thicker grips, otherwise my hand tends to cramp while writing.

Still, I think that the Cross Century II is a great mid-priced fountain pen. You can purchase it from Goulet Pens for $110.00 (converter and two black cartridges are included). This pen would be best for people with small hands who prefer slender, lightweight pens.


  • Light, well-balanced pen (unposted).
  • Beautiful finish.
  • A reasonably inexpensive pen.
  • Excellent steel nib.


  • The pen is thin and lightweight, so it may be unsuitable for people who have larger hands or for people, like me, who need wider grips to avoid hand-cramping.
  • You need a proprietary Cross converter for this pen (or cartridges).

(Thank you to Goulet Pens for providing this pen to Pen Addict for review at no charge.)

Posted on November 20, 2015 and filed under Cross, Fountain Pens, Pen Reviews.

Pilot Custom 823 Fountain Pen Review

The Pilot Custom 823 is a pen that inspires, and for good reason. The amber colored barrel with brown end caps and gold furniture is striking, and noticeable from a distance. The vacuum filling system seemingly holds an entire bottle of ink, making it perfect for writers, even Neil Himself. The 14 karat gold nib is flawless and glides across the page, as you would expect from Pilot.

This is a grail pen for many. Deservedly so.

In the few weeks I spent with the 823 I can see why so many people love this pen. It has a feel unlike any other Pilot I own. The barrel is slightly longer and larger, and the added weight of the filling mechanism gives it that just right feel. Put it in your hand and start writing and it is magical.

Vacuum filling sytems are not that common so my experience is limited, but the way the 823 fills is incredible. Pull the plunger out, dip the nib up to the section in the ink bottle, and push the plunger back in until it snaps down. In one shot, the barrel was at least 3/4 full. It was so cool and impressive that I emptied the ink back into the bottle and plunged it again. Same result as the first time. So much ink!

Generally speaking, you cannot go wrong with a gold nib from any of the Japanese big three - Pilot, Platinum, or Sailor - but Pilot nibs are my personal favorite. I’ve never had an issue out of the box, and that was the case with the fine 14k gold nib in the 823. From the moment it touches the page it is good to go with clean, smooth lines. I used Pilot Blue Black ink exclusively with this pen and it was an excellent choice.

Looking at pictures of the pen online I somehow overlooked the fact that the end caps were brown, not black like I thought. They match the pen perfectly, and actually made a big impression on me and my perception of the pens looks.

And that is the kicker for me with the Pilot Custom 823. Aesthetically, there is no arguing its beauty. But it’s not for me. I was actually hoping to fall in love with it while it was on loan to me, and while it is an elite writer, I never bonded with it visually. For the price, around $288 which includes a gift box and a bottle of Pilot Blue ink, I need to bond with a pen.

Even though it isn’t for me, I think the 823 could be the one for a lot of fountain pen users. And by the one, I mean that this pen could conceivably be the only fountain pen you own. It does everything well, with no flaws, and no downside. It’s expensive, sure, but if you aren’t like me and NEED a ton of pens, then I’m not sure there is a better choice on the market.

(Goldspot Pens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

L to R: Pilot Custom 92, Custom 91, Custom 912, Custom 823

Posted on November 16, 2015 and filed under Fountain Pens, Pilot, Pen Reviews.