Review: Pen+Gear Gel Ink Stick Pen

Pen+Gear might be Walmart’s house brand but it has contained some surprising quality. I snagged the Pen+Gear Gel Stick Pens (GSP) n a whim from the clearance section post Back-to-School season. Cost in clearance was around 50 cents. Regular price is a few dollars. They are made in China.

In the package are eight 0.7mm pens. Each pen has a grippy rubber grip with circular divots to improve the grip. The tip at the working end is metal. The tip unscrews to reveal a pretty standard stick pen gel refill. Each refill has a different amount of ink. You can see the differences in the images of the package. The refill doesn’t last very long. It took less than a half week for me to blow through one at my day job.

The ink itself is nicely dark, doesn’t grey out in the middle, and has really nice flow. Some of my pens were perfectly wonderfully smooth, others were scratchy and felt gross on all paper. The ink seems moderately waterproof. I do not know if it is lightfast. I have not tested it.

The cap snaps closed securely and with a nice click. It posts in the same manner. All of it is nicely secure.

Please ignore the words. This was the one good pen in the package.

You might recognize the design from several sources- the design is a direct rip off of the Uniball Signo DX stick gel pen. It also looks like the Staples Stick Gel pens, which I suspect are made by Uniball. Frankly the Pen+Gear GSP looks as though Walmart passed a Signo DX and said, “Scan this, but change everything just enough so we don’t get sued.”

Honestly, while the Pen+Gear pencils and notebooks are a steal these aren’t. You have to find the pens that work smoothly and contend with scratchy tips to do so. Even if you need a cheap waterproof sketcher you can usually walk into any store (here in the US) and pick up a 2 or 3-pack of Uniball Signo in black for not much more and have almost guaranteed smoothness and success. The Pen+Gear GSP is a pass from me.

Review: Zebra Sarasa Grand

The Grand is a refillable pen body made for Zebra’s Sarasa gel ink refills. It will hold almost any gel ink refill- from Pentel to Pilot to Uniball.

The Grand is available in 5 colors, black, navy silver, copper, and gold. The clip on all colors is chrome. The lower half of the pen is metal cased in a thick layer of glossy metallic lacquer. The top half holds the clip and a translucent window. It could be argued that the window is to view the ink level but it is far too high to tell you when the ink is low, and thus useless, but looks nice.

Overall, I find the Grand quite comfortable. It’s narrower than the Pentel Alloy and heavier. The weight is toward the working end and as a result the balance feels good to me. The glossy lacquer is going to be slippery for folks with sweaty hands, but works great for me. The clip is sturdy and grabs onto my lapel and holds on. The Grand has made it as a DayJob go to pen because the clip is fabulous.

I picked up mine in the clearance section of my local Walgreens for… 75 cents. They only had the copper (aka Rose Gold?) color which is really a dull metallic orange-pink. At 75 cents it was cheaper than a regular Sarasa. Regular price is about $11 almost everywhere. IF you don’t like the Sarasa refills you can get the Sarasa Clip refills via Jetpens, ranging from about 75 cents each to $2 a refill. You can also buy boxes of Pentel or Uniball refills on Amazon. Essentially, you have options of refilling this pen body.

Review: Yoobi 3×5 Index Cards and Case

The Yoobi Back to School sale display at my local Target included a 3×5 card case with 100 index cards, dividers, and labels. The hard poly case with elastic closure is great. At $2.99 they aren’t a steal but they aren’t a bad deal either.

The cards are paper thin and floppy. There is no header space above the ruling and the ruling itself is VERY dark. Despite being thin there is no show or bleed through with anything I wrote with, fountain pens included. The paper is smooth and crisp. Fountain pens feel great on it, and the ink looks great too. No feathering at all. Pencil tends to smear a bit and there isn’t enough tooth for pencils to feel good.

The case feels sturdy and the elastic is tight and holds the contents inside. The thin poly dividers are fun colors and the labels stick well enough.

Overall, I’m not impressed with the Yoobi index cards. They are thick paper not card. The ruling is too dark. They do okay with fountain pen ink but that’s not enough to make an index card for me. I do like the case and dividers.

Review: Moonman Pocket Mini Fountain Pen

My Instagram feed has been full of pics of Moonman fountain pens for ages. I pushed down the FOMO for months, finally I found a version of the pocket mini on eBay for less than $13 and I pulled the trigger, and almost a month later it arrived.

The packaging is a simple white box with a glossy embossed image of the closed pen. Inside, the tiny pen is sheathed in a tight plastic sleeve and set into die cut foam. In the box are 2 pipettes and a package of 6 international short ink carts. The most difficult part of the packaging is getting the pen out of the snug plastic sleeve.

I always wash my new pens with some plain water to clean out any machining gunk left behind from the manufacturing process. I disassembled the pen to its bits and bobs- body, section, nib, feed and the screw in bit that holds the nib and feed into the section. Each of the parts that screws into the other has a small white o-ring for sealing. I added some silicone grease to further seal the pen as I intended to use it eyedropper.

Closed the pen is tiny. Smaller than a Kaweco Sport. It disappears into my pocket. Even filled with ink it is incredibly lightweight. The pen holds just over 2 ml  of ink when eyedroppered. Which is a ton of those short international short carts or 3 international long carts. The pen will only hold international short carts. I immediately inked my pen up with Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo.

Ink flow is good. It’s not wet nor is it dry. My nib out of the box was smooth, but not silky smooth. I ran it over a buffing stick to get it to the smoothness I prefer. I then manipulated it a bit to get some line variation, it’s not quite an architect grind but similar. The nib can be replaced with a (I think) number 5 nib from any of the standard sellers of nibs.

I really enjoy the seaglass green color with the slight frosted look inside the cap. It combines with blue inks to look really lovely. The overly thick body size is nice. I find that it feels pretty good when I write. The section is small enough that the pen doesn’t feel overly fat. The drop from body to section is steep and a tad sharp. Because it is a $13 pen I won’t feel bad if I file and sand this down to something that works better for my hand. As it is the step doesn’t sit on an awkward place in my hand.

This is not going to be a pen for everyone. If you have large hands you will probably not like this pen. If you don’t like the Kaweco Sport you probably will find this too small. It is a stubby tiny pen with a decent nib and feed.  We’ll see how it holds up over time I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks. I’ve certainly let it bang around in my pocket over these few weeks and it’s done okay. I’ve noticed a few small scratches in the plastic after keeping in a pocket with my work keys. Oops.

Review: Zebra Delguard Mechanical Pencil

Let’s start this review with this fact, the Zebra Delguard is a budget-friendly mechanical pencil. It is no way competes with great mechs like the Rotring 600 or TWSBI Precision. If you are looking for a wallet-friendly upgrade from your Bic Mechanical, this is a good choice. The pencil comes packaged with a 12-pack of HB leads.

First off in the look department, this pencil is a charcoal gray and black pencil with chrome and orange accents. The top half of the body has a pinstripe visual look that seems as if it is intended to look like carbon fiber or something a little fancier. It looks pretty nice. The grip section is molded smoke-colored translucent plastic. You can see the workings of the DelGuard mechanism inside. The nock and the point are the only external metal parts of the pencil. The nock covers a tiny niblet of an eraser, so carry a block eraser. Internally you can see springs in the DelGuard mechanism. A single click extends 0.5mm of lead every time.

A big negative for me is that there is no way to unscrew the pencil should the mechanism jam, you are in a word, screwed, should the pencil jam up. That said, it’s a $4.99 mech readily available at big box, drug, and grocery stores; most likely you won’t cry if it gets jammed you’ll have the funds to buy a new one.

In hand this is a VERY lightweight pencil. It’s a barely there feeling that I expected to hate, but I didn’t. I wrote page after page and enjoyed it far more than I expected. It felt good despite weighing so little.

As for the mechanism, it works. When the lead is extended at a typical amount the little tip pushes out and protects the lead. At a high angle or a low angle, it works. The only time it broke in regular use was when I extended the lead more than 2mm, even then you could see the tip beginning to extend to protect the lead. The key to the DelGuard mechanism working properly is extending the right amount of lead at a time. And it does work. When I wrote with a heavy hand the tip extended.

The included lead is a true HB. It’s decent on rough paper but is nothing to write home about. I did find it decently smooth, though not as smooth as NanoDia leads.

My experience with the DelGuard is positive. I’m encouraged by how well the mechanism works on their lowest end version of this mech. It makes me want to invest in a higher end version from JetPens. If I had a teenager or friend who I was attempting to get them away from disposable mechanicals this would be a fabulous cheap option.

Jetpens has a bunch of higher end options which are still south of $15.

Thinking: Washing Notebooks

A few months ago, hell maybe it was a year ago now, I washed one of my Field Notes. It was an orange Unexposed. Unexposed is one of my favorite editions. The bright colors and reticle grid make me happy.

Sadly the Unexposed covers are garbage when it comes to water resistance. The notebook was a pulpy mass when it emerged from the drier. The cover had shredded into tiny pieces of paper that glued themselves to my clothing, it was especially attracted to my black khakis I wear for work. I had to wash the entire load again.

The book lodged in my pocket and as the washing machine and drier tumbled it’s paged matted together and formed a ball inside the pocket. What was left of the cover glued itself to the interior of the pocket. I had to peel the book from the cotton pocket liner. I flattened the book the best I could, the damp pages tearing if I touched them with too much force.

I had to look, I had to see what information I had lost. Fortunately, it was a recently started work notebook. So only 3 or 4 pages had been filled. I’d lost little.

In the past, I’ve been insistent on using waterproof inks. My love of the Signo 207 and other Uniball pens is well known. Much of the reason I love these pens is that they have great waterproof ink in them. Most of the ink in the washed Unexposed was gone. It had migrated to the rest of the paper, tinting it a pale blue-gray. Here and there you could see where I had written with a waterproof ink. (I can’t show you, as it was a work notebook.)

Each time I washed a notebook I lean more towards using waterproof inks, not for their archival qualities, but because I want my books to survive the wash. I’ve washed maybe 4 notebooks in my life, and dramatically, each time I do, I feel a deep sense of loss. The sense of loss is ridiculous and a bit silly. Most of my notebooks don’t have important info in them, merely notes for blog posts, story ideas, and reading notes. Even my work notebooks don’t have important info in them, those are comprised of to-do lists and paperwork I need to fill out.

Anyway. Don’t wash your notebooks, It makes a mess.

Review: Baron Fig Dateless Confidant Planner

We all know I’m a huge fan of the Baron Fig Confidants, and if you read my review of the 2018 planner you know I love their planner too. When BF asked if I wanted to review their dateless version, I immediately responded, “YES!”

To start the Dateless features all the same goodness of their regular Confidant- fabulous paper, lovely end sheets, awesome stitching, and lay flat binding. The page marker this round is slightly longer. I heat sealed mine with a lighter and you should too. Like last year’s planner, this one features a set of planner pages with some dot grid at the back of the book. A section of the dog gridded pages are perforated for easy removal.

I’m a huge fan of undated planners. I mentioned this in my review of the Dateless Vanguard. It makes sense for companies to make dateless planners and it is easy for those of us who use them to write in the dates. The paper in the Confidant accepts rubber stamps and markers really well, so adding decorative touches is easy and looks great. If you want to use a dip pen with some of your fancy Organic Studios sheening inks? You can do that. Want to use a rubber stamp with your fancy pigment rubber stamps? Works well with that too.

The set up of the planner portion features a spread for the month followed by 5 weeks of weekly spreads. It makes sense to have them all be the same length because folks could be starting the Dateless today and not on January 1st. I really like the flexibility. I wrote in each month’s spread then stamped out the dates for each weekly spread until I reached the week where the months overlapped. If I had extra spreads, I skipped those. I figure having a few empty spreads will give me some space to make notes for phone calls and other things.

The exterior of the Dateless is nice too. It features debossing of the same images on the Dateless Vanguard. The Dateless is a darker shade of gray than the dated version.

Anyway, the Dateless Confidant is a darn near perfect planner for folks who don’t want to be tied into a dated version or who work projects over the course of a month or two and find that the rest of the planner is wasted. The dateless fixes that problem, date the parts you’ll use and then date some more. You can’t go wrong with this paper- it is lovely with pens and pencils.

Review : Baron Fig Dateless Pocket Vanguard Planner

We all know that I love Baron Fig’s paper and dot grid ruling. I’ve used their dated 2018 planner as my go-to for the last year and I love that too. I’ll tell you about their Dateless Confidant in another review.

The Dateless Vanguard is available in pocket size only with the Confidant available in flagship size.  The Dateless Vanguard (DV) arrives in a belly banded and shrinkwrapped 4-pack. The books are meant to be seasonal. Each book has 15 weekly spreads, 2 blank spreads, and  14 pages of dot grid. The pages at the back are not perforated. Each season is designated with a simple and beautiful graphic in shades of the color of that season- red, yellow, green and blue. The exterior design is lovely.

Inside the pages are set up with 8 blocks for each week, 4 on each page. The top bar is grayed slightly and has lines for writing the date. Each block but the 8th has a small line for writing (or in my case rubber stamping) the date. The 8th block is grayed out with a very light printing of ink. I prefer an 8 block set up to 6 with the 6th being cut in half. Weekends are main working days for those of us with side hustles. (When do you think I work on this blog!?!)

Let’s face it, for many folks a pocket-sized planner isn’t going to cut it, but for many others- with occasional appointments and regular work schedules the pocket-sized is perfect. The bright colors can easily be found in the depths of an overstuffed bag while the small size can fit into the passport size Traveler’s covers. The 15-week length is almost perfect for a semester’s worth of planning. (You could just draw a few lines into those blank pages… ) Or it is perfect for planning out some sort of side hustle project.
I won’t use this for my main planner, we’ll get to that with the Dateless Confidant, but this is a go-to for planning smaller projects- marketing for self-publishing books, podcasts, or blogs. You could have one for each project and plan it out to the day.

Review: Yoobi Mini Gel Pen 12-pack

The Yoobi display filled up with loads of different gel pen packages. The full sized multicolor package was outside of my budget, so I picked up the 12-pack of mini pens for $4.99, which is still way over priced. While back-to-school sales can net us some great deals this is not one of them. For 2018, the multicolor packs of gel pens seem to be the thing that is WAY expensive compared to other items that are on discount.

This 12-pack of color has an odd rainbow mix of neon and glitter inks. The mix is odd and most of them I won’t use- primarily the glitter inks. While I like glittery sheen in my fountain pen inks I don’t like it in gel. It doesn’t make sense. I know. Don’t @ me.

The tips are bold and have great flow. I didn’t notice any scratchiness, just smooth ink flow. The pens are totally uncomfortable. When they say mini, they mean it. The length of the pen is far to short even for my small hands. They would only be comfortable for children. Even posted they are too short. Speaking of posting, they don’t post well at all.

Overall, the Yoobi gel minis have wonderful ink flow, would be great for coloring pages or highlighting, but their diminutive size and poor posting mean they’ll be a pain in the arse in use for anything but children, and kids are likely to lose the caps. I’d give the full-size Yoobi gel pens a chance but not the mini pens.