I'm a sucker for strange and unique designs. So, you can imagine my intrigue when I spotted the E+M Shaper on JetPens. It's a wood-body ballpoint pen with a very low cost of entry. It was a no-brainer purchase that I tossed into my cart along with some other things. I remember thinking, "It probably won't write like anything special, but I have to see this thing in person."
The pen came in, and I was pretty impressed by the look of it. The wood appears to be raw, and the model I got – the Zebrano – has some contrasty wood grain. It's nice to look at. The only marking on the pen is toward the back – a small brand that says "e+m Germany" in silver ink.
Picking it up was my first disappointment. It's incredibly light in a way that makes it difficult to use. But, hey, I can get used to that for a couple of minutes. So I grabbed some paper and began to write. Like any ballpoint, it took a few strokes before the ink started flowing regularly, and it was just as I expected. It writes like a ballpoint. Dry, skippy, and a little scratchy.
The real hang-up I have with this pen is the way it feels in my hand when I'm writing. I just can't find a comfortable grip. Nothing I do with my grip changes that feeling. The pen also feels a bit brittle when I'm using it. That is probably just a property of the wood, but it adds to the general bad feeling I get when writing with it. To compare it with something you're probably familiar with, this pen is lighter than a new, freshly sharpened #2 pencil.
Unlike your average Bic, this pen is not very portable. It's long and seemingly fragile. I can't imagine this pen would fare well in a bag or a pocket. My guess is that it wouldn't be long before you heard an audible snap.
Also, it's worth mentioning that this pen only has one ink color option: blue. So, you better like blue ink if you plan to use this pen because you probably won't be able to fit anything else into the body.
So, how do you refill a pen with a wooden body? It's actually pretty simple. It works just like a Bic Cristal – you just pull on the tip of the refill to remove it from the body, and slip in a new one. Like all pens with this refill method, this is easier said than done. Of course, Bic Cristals aren't made to be refillable (I was once a bored kid in class where the challenge of removing the ink cartridge was entertaining) because they're dirt cheap to begin with. The Shaper is refillable because it costs a few dollars and (here's the kicker) the refill is tiny. It's just under 2.5 inches in length. This is because the shape of the pen body becomes too narrow in the middle to accommodate a longer refill. Tiny! A Bic refill is easily twice as long, with some change.
It was a fun experiment, and I'm still glad to own the pen because it's unique. Maybe I'll meet someone that really loves the pen and I can make their day by giving it to them. Who knows. It writes like a Bic, feels awkward in my hand, but looks pretty on my desk. At this price, it's still an incredibly affordable decoration.
The model I got is $4.60 on JetPens. There are 4 other colors that are all two dimes cheaper than the Zebrano. Refills are $0.80, which strikes me as a bit expensive when you consider a pack of 12 Bic Cristals or Stics for less than two dollars.
Anyway, if they look interesting to you, try one out!