February 13, 2013

Pen Mods: How to make a long-lasting refillable highlighter pen

Today’s blog post will teach you how to make your own long-lasting highlighter pen that can be refilled with ink and reused many many times. We will talk about two ways to do this, both methods using pen parts from Platinum Pens.

You may wonder why we are doing this since the Platinum Preppy highlighter pen is designed to be refilled and reused and the felt tip can even be replaced when it wears out. Preppy pens are very economical, but they are not meant to last a life time. Sooner or later, the cap and/or the body of the pen will crack making the pen useful only for parts. In contrast, both the cap and the body of the Platinum Plaisir fountain pen are made of durable anodized aluminum that will not crack. As a bonus, the Plasir has an attractive pearlized finish that comes in seven different colors.

(1) The first pen mod is the easiest, most foolproof way to create your highlighter. You will need both a Platinum Preppy highlighter pen and a Platinum Plaisir fountain pen.

Take both of the pens apart by removing the caps and unscrewing the grip section from the pen barrel.

Take the grip section of the Preppy highlighter, screw it into the barrel of the Plaisir fountain pen, add your ink cartridge and you’re done!

(2) For the second pen mod you will need a Platinum Plaisir fountain pen, a Preppy highlighter replacement tip and something rubbery and soft that gives you a good grip. Preppy replacement tips can be purchased separately, or if you buy Platinum highlighter ink cartridges you get a replacement tip along with them in the same package. For this demo I used a wide rubber band to give me a good grip, but other things can be used such as that rubbery drawer liner stuff etc.

First remove the pen cap. Using the wide rubber band or rubber drawer liner, get a good grip on the base of the fountain pen nib and carefully pull it out of the grip section along with the skinny plastic piece that it is attached to. A couple of notes about this: the amount of effort it takes to remove the nib seems to vary from pen to pen, and be warned that this may or may not remove some of the color coating that is on top of the Plaisir fountain pen nib.

Firmly insert the highlighter replacement tip into the Plaisir grip section, add your ink cartridge and you’re good to go. Voila! A good looking, durable and refillable highlighter pen. The felt tip can be easily replaced if it wears out using Preppy highlighter replacement tips.

What kind of ink should you use to refill this pen? Highlighting ink that is designed for use in fountain pens would be an excellent choice. A very light color of fountain pen ink would work as well.

What kind of ink refills does it take? You can use the Platinum brand of ink cartridges or you can use a Platinum ink converter if you would like to use bottled ink. Another idea is to rinse out your empty Platinum ink cartridges and use a blunt-tip needle bottle to refill them using bottled ink. This pen is not suitable to be eyedropper filled since the barrel of the pen is metal and may cause a negative reaction when it is in constant contact with ink.

What kind of refillable highlighters do you use? Do you have any highlighter pen mods you’d like to share with us?

August 15, 2012

Protect Your Precious Pens!

Do you own at least one or two high-end writing instruments such as fountain pens? Have you been bitten by the pen collectors bug? (As far as I know there is no simple cure for this.) Or are you just particular about being organized and keeping your pens in perfect condition? If you usually only use one or two pens at a time, what do you do with the rest when they are not in use? What’s an effective way to carry the pens you want to use? Thankfully, previous generations of pen collectors have designed attractive and practical solutions for writers who adore pens.

Besides being attractive, many pen cases are specially designed to keep objects, including other pens, from bumping, scraping and scratching your writing tools. Pen cases help to keep your pens safe if they should fall from a desk. Leather pen cases are much classier (and less nerdy) than a plastic pocket protector for carrying pens in a shirt or jacket pocket. They can keep your pens organized at home or in your purse or briefcase. Pen cases give you the satisfaction of knowing that your writing instruments are being given the greatest of care.

(Aston Leather Single Pen Slip Case)

If you like to carry around a single writing instrument there are several styles of cases designed for a solitary pen. A very simple case for a single pen is a basic, unlined leather pouch. This kind of pen pouch is an affordable way to experience the benefits of protecting your pens. These simple pouches also come in a larger size for carrying two pens, but they do not prevent the pens from touching each other.

(Aston Leather Quad Pen Case)

Another style of pen case is the type that has individual pockets for each pen, kind of like the fingers in a glove. These cases often close with a flap that slides under a strap. As each pen is placed in its own pocket, the clip is often placed outside of the pocket to clip the pen securely inside. These pen cases come in different sizes to hold different numbers of pens – typically they hold anywhere from one to four pens.

(Aston Leather Double Pen Hard Case)

A similar kind of case is the leather pen box or firm case. This type of case has slots that the entire pen, clip and all, slides in and out of. They often have a flap that tucks into a pocket or under a strap to keep the case closed. Aston Leather makes it easy to get the pens in and out by allowing the top part of the hard case to open up. These cases often hold from one to four pens total.

(PlePle Candy Wrap Pen Case)

Wrap pen cases, when open, are a flat rectangular piece of cloth or leather that on one side has pockets to slip your pens into. To secure your pens into this case it is best to clip them to the edge of the pockets if possible. Some of these cases have pockets for individual pens, other have larger pockets that hold 2 or 3 pens each. There is a flap that goes over the top of your pens once they are inside. Then the case is rolled up or folded and secured with a tie or strap. Depending on the number of pens in the case, the case size and materials, some of these wrap cases can get a bit bulky when rolled. Often these cases can hold approximately 5 to 10 or more pens.

(Zippered Case to hold 10 pens)

If you have a collection of 10 or more pens there are large storage solutions available. Leather cases that open like a book and have a zipper closure are popular. Inside there are elastics that secure the top and bottom of each individual pen. A piece of protective material that prevents the pens on one side of the case from touching the pens on the other side of the case is placed between the two covers before you zip the case closed. You can get this type of case in different sizes ranging from a small case that holds 2 or 3 pens, to a large case that holds 40 pens.

There is also special furniture available for pen collectors to carefully store their pens. Some of this furniture is in the style of a display case with a glass top so that you can see your beautiful pens. Other furniture has slim drawers for storage purposes. There is quite a variety of pen storage furniture!

This is not a complete list of pen storage solutions, instead we wanted to introduce you to several stylish and practical ways to protect your beloved writing tools. What methods do you use to protect your fountain pens and other writing instruments?

April 25, 2012

J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball Pen Review

The J. Herbin refillable rollerball pen is a welcome addition to Exaclair’s new products for 2012. The feature that distinguishes this rollerball pen from most other rollerball pens is that J. Herbin’s pen can be filled with colorful fountain pen ink!

With its transparent body and simple design, the J. Herbin refillable rollerball has a modern minimalist appearance. It is accented with a chrome clip and trim and has “J. Herbin” printed in red on the snap-on cap. The pen has a “soft touch” feel to it – kind of similar to the “soft touch” feel of the R by Rhodia notebook covers. No doubt this helps to keep the cap securely posted while you are writing. The clear barrel comes in handy to keep track of how much ink is left in your pen.

(J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball Pen alongside an R by Rhodia Bloc No. 12)

Without its cap on this pen is a very compact 3.88”! It has been cleverly designed to be 5.5” when posted, a comfortable length for writing. With it’s cap on it’s about 4.75” in length which is a good size for carrying in a purse or pocket.

(J. Herbin Rollerball and Exacompta's Forum Journal with a Club cover)

The J. Herbin rollerball writes in a medium line and is refillable with short international ink cartridges. J. Herbin ink cartridges are a great choice since they are available in 20 different colors! Most ink converters will be too long to fit inside this pen, but at only 2.25” long the Monteverde Mini Converter seems as if it could be adjusted to fit. I haven’t tried it personally, so if anyone gets an opportunity to check it out let us know. There are small holes on the end of the barrel so this pen is not suitable for conversion into eye-dropper fill.

(J. Herbin Rollerball alongside a previous version of the J. Herbin Rollerball)

We’re having a great time using the J. Herbin refillable rollerball pen! Do you like the idea of using fountain pen ink in a rollerball pen? What refillable rollerball pens do you like to use?

(J. Herbin Refillable Rollerball Pen Writing Test - with a Rhodia Webnotebook & custom mixed green ink)


February 15, 2012

STAEDTLER Mars Draft 924 Technical Ballpoint Pen Review

According to the STAEDTLER website the purpose of the STAEDTLER Mars Draft 924 Technical Ballpoint Pen is for “professional use with rulers, triangles and templates.” However, you don’t need to be an engineer or draftsman to appreciate this pen.

The super-fine 0.2mm needle tip is much smaller than what you would normally find on most pens available in the USA. I wasn’t surprised to discover that the super-fine tip ink refills for this pen are made in Japan where good quality fine tip pens can readily be found. The waterproof oil-based ink is available in black only and the refills come in packs of two.

Since the needle tip on the STAEDTLER 924 is so fine I wondered if the ink flow could keep up with rapid note taking and I found that it didn’t skip a beat while I took notes. After four months of use I have not had any trouble with dry-starts or ink skipping, but it does occasionally leave little ink blobs behind as is typical of most ballpoint pens.

The light-weight body is slender and is made from a grey plastic that is somewhat metallic looking. The grip is non-slip and made with a comfortable grooved grey rubber. It has a stainless steel pocket clip and tip. This pen is retractable and is about 5 5/8” long with the tip extended. If you like large or heavy pens this pen probably isn’t for you. My hands are rather small so I find that it’s quite comfortable to write with.

What’s your favorite super-fine tip pen?

(Staedtler Mars Draft 924 Technical Ballpoint Pen Writing Test on Leuchtturm1917 Paper)


September 14, 2011

Introducing Fabrica

The Benetton Group, which is well-known for their popular clothing line United Colors of Benetton, is responsible for the existence of the “creativity laboratory” called Fabrica. This communication research center was created in 1994 for the purpose of offering young people from around the world an opportunity for creative growth and multicultural interchange.

As explained on the Benetton Group website, young artists are offered this opportunity:

Fabrica invites young artists/designers to its centre, offering them a one-year study grant and providing them with a professional training opportunity and a wealth of resources and relations. The young resident artists develop cultural and social communication projects in the areas of design, visual communication, photography, interaction, video, music and publishing under the guidance of experts.

If this doesn’t sound exciting enough, the Fabrica “studio” artists use to develop their innovative projects at is located in Italy, near Venice, in Villa Pastega Manera. Tadao Ando is responsible for restoring and enlarging the ancient villa that was built in the seventeenth century. I think I would be quite inspired if my office looked like this:

(Fabrica’s ancient villa – restored by Tadao Ando. Photo by Francesco Radino)

The design of the library at Fabrica is also noteworthy – it resembles a spiral driven into the ground and is illuminated from above. It holds over 5,000 volumes on graphic design, photography, industrial design, art, topics related to visual communication and much more. I would like to do all my research in such a library! Take a look at this library on the Fabrica website.

Writer’s Bloc now has a selection of Fabrica products related to writing that were created by artists in this beautiful Italian laboratory. It’ll be interesting to see what these inspired Fabrica artists create in the future!

April 13, 2011

We Love Pencil Pouches!

How many times has this happened to you, you're at a business meeting or getting ready to take a test, you reach into your pocket or backpack and find that you’ve forgotten your pen or pencil. The feeling of panic rushes over you and you frantically search around the room hoping that someone has an extra pen or pencil for you to borrow. Eventually you resort to using a half broken pencil, an almost dried out pen, and if worse comes to worst, a crayon. Been there. Done that. Fortunately I have found the perfect solution to prevent the pre-meeting/pre-test “oh my goodness I forgot my pencil” panic - pencil pouches! Pencil pouches are a fantastic way to organize your writing instruments and keep them all in one place. No more searching through the depths of your backpack or briefcase, simply whip out your trusty pencil case and get to writing! Just remember to bring your pencil pouch!

Small pencil cases are great for throwing into purses, backpacks, and briefcases. They are easy to find and sized to fit the essentials. The Clairefontaine Basic Leather Pen Case is perfect for everyday use. This pencil case from the Clairefontaine Basics line, also known as "Age Bag" in Europe, is made of soft sheep leather (or “cuir mouton” if you're fancy) and is available in three different styles and colors. The square case holds about 15 pens, the trapezoid case holds about 12 pens, and the oval holds about 10.

Some may think that pencil pouches are a bit feminine, but the acclaimed Aston Leather company has created a pencil case for even the manliest of men. Aston Leather pencil pouches are dark in color and are made of thick cow leather. Waterproof and scratch resistant, these pencil pouches will withstand all the elements and last a lifetime. The Rhodia ePURE pencil case is another manly case made of black leather embossed with the Rhodia logo. Its slim, flat shape makes it easy to slip into a briefcase.

Large pencil cases are ideal for elementary school children. The Atomic Soda Minilabo pencil pouches are perfect for large pencils, colored pencils and are also large enough to fit erasers and pencil sharpeners.

Let us know what you keep your pencils in!

February 23, 2011

D.I.Y. Highlighter Recharging

Here’s a list of what you’ll need to recharge your dried-up highlighters:

  • One dried-up felt-tip highlighter with a felt ink reservoir (not the liquid ink tank kind)
  • One bottle of highlighter ink (such as Noodler’s or Pelikan M205)
  • One shot glass

Add a small amount of highlighter ink to the shot glass. Put the felt tip of the highlighter into the ink in the glass. Wait for at least an hour or more. If the ink in the glass runs dry, add more ink until the highlighter stops absorbing ink. Finished! A simple way to get more life out of your highlighters.

A few notes:

This method is not spill-proof like the Tombow Coat rechargers or Staedtler refill stations, so be careful! Make sure your cat does not tip the glass over.

Your highlighter will take on the characteristics of the new ink. This could be good or bad, depending on if you have any special highlighting needs such as quick drying, inkjet safe, non-bleed through, etc. There is a small chance of some kind of negative interaction between your highlighter and the new ink.

This method works great if the felt tip on your highlighter is still in good condition. After awhile the felt tip wears down and gets mushy and shapeless.

This method of refilling a highlighter works with highlighters that store ink in a cylindrical piece of absorbent material. It does not work with highlighters that have a liquid ink storage tank.

January 26, 2011

Using Fountain Pens and Calligraphy Pens as Highlighters

The ultimate in environmentally friendly highlighting tools are fountain pens or calligraphy pens that can be used for years and years without ever wearing out. The felt tips on regular highlighters wear out quickly compared to a steel or gold fountain pen nib that can last a lifetime. I decided to give a few pens and inks a try to see what the experience was like and found that all of them were quite different.

First of all, I tried out the Pilot Parallel Pen with the 3.8mm nib and Noodler's regular yellow ink. This nib was the widest nib that I tried and could produce a line that entirely covered words from top to bottom. The corners of the nib have defined 90 degree angles so my highlights had nice crisp edges. However, this feature plus the width of the nib slowed down my writing since the pen needs to be held properly in order to function well. The nib had a nice wet flow and words could be seen clearly through the Noodler's yellow ink. This pen worked well as a highlighter, but I prefer a highlighter with a narrower tip.

Next I tried a couple of Pelikan Script calligraphy pens with 2.0mm nibs, Noodler's Sunrise ink and Edelstein Mandarin ink. The nib on the Script pen had noticeably more flex to it than the other nibs I tried and I liked this feature, but one of the nibs also seemed to be a bit fussy because of the flex. The other nib was like butter. The corners of the nib are slightly less defined than the Pilot Parallel pen and produce a line with crisp edges. I really like the width of the 2.0mm nib for highlighting. The Sunrise ink worked well as highlighting ink, but depending on the paper the Mandarin ink was a bit dark for my taste.

Finally, I put a 1.9mm nib on my LAMY Safari and filled it with J. Herbin Bouton D'or. The corners of this nib are slightly more rounded than the corners of all the calligraphy nibs I used in this experiment, it was the most forgiving as to writing position and I could write the fastest with this nib. It also produced the narrowest line of all the nibs in this experiment. I felt that this line width could be used either for underlining or for highlighting if you don’t mind a thinner line. The Bouton D’or was probably my favorite of the inks discussed in this blog post.

The new Pelikan M205 Duo highlighter fountain pen takes another approach to highlighting and it is the topic of last week's blog post. It has a BB nib, different than the other pens discussed here with calligraphy nibs. Pelikan has come out with a yellow highlighter ink to complement this pen.

I found that the biggest drawback to using fountain pens as highlighters is that most of the time I am not highlighting on premium quality paper such as Clairefontaine DCP or Trophee paper. As a result, the ink used to highlight can sometimes bleed through the paper or feather. There are times when this isn’t much of an issue, but in other instances it was rather messy looking and annoying. At least the ink dried quickly on the cheap copier paper and other paper that I used.

Overall, I enjoyed using fountain pens and calligraphy pens as highlighters and will continue to do so. As far as what pen would be the very best for highlighting, I would say since everyone’s needs and preferences are so different to just experiment until you find something you like. Do you have any experience using fountain pens as highlighters? What works best for you?

The following test was done on cheap photocopier paper and the font size is an 11 point Calibri:

January 19, 2011

Introducing the Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter Fountain Pen

Recently, Pelikan released the M205 Duo Highlighter, a fountain pen specifically made for use as a highlighter pen. What can you expect from this welcome addition to the Pelikan pen family?

The M205 Duo Highlighter has the usual desirable qualities common to Pelikan fountain pens. It has a reliably good piston filling system and a high quality, smooth-writing stainless steel nib. The transparent yellow resin body is nicely accented with chrome trim and the distinguished Pelikan pocket clip. When you reach for this pen, the bright yellow color won’t let you forget its primary purpose – to be used as a highlighter! The pen weighs 0.5 oz (12g) empty, and is 5” long when capped, 5 7/8” when posted and 4 3/4” without the cap.

The nib is a BB size, or in other words broad-broad or extra broad. This is a rounded nib with an iridium tip. The line it produces is meant to be used for underlining, marking, editing and proofing your documents. As illustrated on the special box it comes in, if you want to highlight an entire word you’ll need to scribble back and forth over the word a few times. It does not produce a line a few millimeters in width like a calligraphy pen or a felt chisel-tip highlighter. In addition to using this pen as a highlighter, the BB nib makes this pen suitable for everyday writing in the ink color of your choice.

Pelikan includes a 30ml bottle of bright fluorescent yellow M205 Duo Highlighter Ink along with the purchase of your pen. The ink can also be purchased separately when you need a refill. Interestingly, the ink box states "Attention! The highlighter ink is only suited for the M205 Duo fountain pen. Do not use with other writing utensils!" From my own past experience I’ve seen yellow ink stain plastics – perhaps this is the reason for the warning and the reason that the pen itself is bright yellow. Does anyone know for sure? If so, please tell us!

The packaging of the M205 is quite fun. The outside of the white box is accented with grey print that appears as though it has already been highlighted with the pen. The box opens to reveal fluorescent yellow panels printed with care instructions in 10 different languages. Some of the text on the box states that the M205 Duo “combines two functions that, together, form one entity. It is a highlighter and a fountain pen, it marks and paraphrases. A well-functioning and perfectly balanced team whose members complement one another while also being able to stand alone.”

Here is an M205 Duo writing sample using Noodler's Sunrise highlighting ink:

Here is a sample of the M205 highlighting ink on Clairefontaine French rule paper using both a cotton swab and a Brause Steno nib:

Have you had the chance to use the Pelikan M205 Duo Highlighter yet? If so, what do you think? Have you ever used fountain pens as highlighters?

January 05, 2011

Refillable Felt-Tip Highlighters

Refillable felt-tip highlighters are designed to help reduce the amount of plastic waste in our environment. Just think - if everyone were able to refill their felt-tip highlighters five times, this would eliminate the need to throw away four out of five plastic highlighters as they become dried-up. Obviously this isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but it’s nice to see the selection of refillable felt-tip highlighters is increasing. We’ll talk about three of them in this blog post.

The Platinum Preppy Highlighter Pen can easily be refilled by inserting a new ink cartridge or by using a converter and bottled fountain pen ink. Noodler’s bottled ink comes in regular highlighter and long-lasting highlighter colors such as Year of the Golden Pig and Dragon Catfish pink, green and orange.   When the felt tip on this highlighter starts to break down you can even replace it with a brand new felt tip! The body and cap of this pen are made from recycled polycarbonate. Preppy Highlighters are available in the colors green, orange, pink, yellow and blue.

Tombow Twin highlighters can easily be refilled using the Tombow Coat Highlighter Charger. All you need to do is set the open recharger on a level surface, gently put the pen’s felt tip into the ink, and 10 minutes later your highlighter is fully recharged! If you can’t wait 10 minutes you can use it sooner - after one minute the highlighter is 20% recharged, in five minutes 70% recharged. There is enough ink in the recharger for 10 refills and each highlighter pen can be refilled about 5 times. At first, the Tombow Coat recharger bottle design seems rather curious since the ink full level is near the bottom of the bottle. However, if you happen to accidentally knock the bottle over while a pen is recharging you’ll discover that the ink won’t spill out. I’m thinking someone has done this before… Tombow Coat Highlighter Chargers are available in ten different colors: brown, red, orange, golden yellow, yellow, yellow green, sky blue, blue, purple and pink. I have not tested to see whether or not this ink is compatible with other highlighters (yet).

The STAEDTLER Textsurfer Classic Ink-Jet Safe Highlighter is another good example of a refillable highlighter. It’s clean and easy to recharge by firmly inserting the felt tip into the top of the open refill station. After three or four hours it is completely refilled, but it can be used after spending just a few minutes in the refill station. It’s impossible to overfill the highlighter since it draws out only as much ink as needed to fill it to capacity. The refill station is specially designed not to spill ink if it is tipped over. Be sure to match the Textsurfer Classic Ink-Jet Safe Highlighter to the STAEDTLER refill station with ink-jet safe ink or you’ll lose the ink-jet safe property. STAEDTLER Textsurfer Classic Refill Stations come in yellow, blue, green and pink.

Do you have a favorite refillable felt-tip highlighter? Please tell us about it!

December 22, 2010

STAEDTLER Pens Dry-Safe Feature Test

We decided to put STAEDTLER pens DRY-SAFE feature to the test to see whether or not it is really possible to leave pens with this feature sitting uncapped for days at a time without the ink drying up. For this experiment I used two brand new pens – a STAEDTLER triplus fineliner with blue ink and a STAEDTLER triplus gel-liner with purple ink. In order to keep my compulsive re-capping urges in check, I placed both pen caps in a sealed snack bag for the duration of the test. After 29 days both pens still wrote beautifully! You can see the results of the experiment in this scanned image:

Of course, results will probably vary depending on the age and type of STAEDTLER pen as well as the ink color. We’re happy to see that STAEDTLER’s DRY-SAFE feature passed our test with flying colors! What’s your favorite STAEDTLER pen? Do you have any experiences to tell about the DRY-SAFE feature?

November 17, 2010

Gel Highlighters

With all of the highlighting that I do on a regular basis I was very curious to give STAEDTLER Textsurfer Gel and Y & C Hi-Glider Gel Stick highlighters a try.

Using these highlighters is somewhat like using a crayon that softly and smooooothly glides over the paper. The lead is made from translucent wax that is advanced by twisting the end of the highlighter barrel. It is not possible to post the cap on these pens so you need to be careful not to lose it.

Gel highlighters dry instantly and do not smudge. The STAEDTLER Textsurfer was developed especially for use with pigmented inkjet inks so it does not smear the printouts. It also has STAEDTLER’s DRY SAFE feature so it can be left uncapped for days without drying up. The Y & C Hi-Glider is very similar to the Textsurfer, so it may also have these same features.

If you like a highlighter that has a consistent line width with defined edges, gel highlighters are not for you. The gel highlighter lead is approximately 3/8” in diameter and writes in a soft line about 1/16” to 1/4” wide. Sometimes tiny bits of excess wax are left on the paper as you write, but I do not find this to be bothersome.

The most outstanding feature of these highlighters is that you can use them on paper that is of extremely poor quality or on very thin paper and the wax does not bleed through! The photo below attempts to demonstrate that a highlighter with regular ink bleeds through the thin paper of a dictionary, whereas the gel highlighter does not bleed through this thin paper at all.

STAEDTLER Textsurfer Gel highlighters are available in yellow, orange and pink. Y & C Hi-Glider Gel Stick highlighters come in yellow, orange, pink, green and blue.

Have you ever used a gel highlighter? What do you think of it?

November 03, 2010

Zebra Optex Care and Tombow Twin Highlighters

Some of our favorite highlighters include Zebra Optex Care and Tombow Twin highlighters. What makes these highlighters different and why do we like them so much?

One of the first things you’ll notice about these highlighters is that each end of the highlighter has a different size tip – a broad chisel tip for highlighting words & phrases and a fine tip for taking notes, doodling or underlining. It gives you the flexibility of having two pens in one! Both highlighters can be capped no matter which end you are using.

Have you ever purchased a highlighter whose felt tip turned into mush within the first few weeks of use? You shouldn’t experience that problem with these highlighters since both of them have been designed with high quality felt tips that hold their shape well. The Zebra Optex Care has a tip similar to a regular highlighter. The Tombow Twin highlighter takes a different approach, using plastic polymer to make a little jacket or coat for the tip to help it keep its shape.

Both Zebra Optex Care and Tombow Twin highlighters come in a nice variety of colors including some out-of-the-ordinary colors such as tea brown, red, golden yellow and coral. The colors are pleasingly soft and not so screaming-bright that they are hard on the eyes. Zebra Optex Care and Tombow Twin sell their highlighters in sets of 10 different colors as well as individually.

Their slim design with the clip on one cap makes it so that I can use them in the pen-holder of my study portfolio – a bonus for me! Another bonus - if your Tombow highlighters are running dry you can use Tombow Coat Highlighter Chargers to refill them with ink.

How about you? What are your favorite highlighters?

Here is what the colors look like when photocopied:

October 13, 2010

The Forgotten Pen Collection

While on a hunt for a certain type of pen, I remembered that I had a basket of pens in the bottom of a drawer that I hadn’t looked at for a long, long time. Pulling out the basket and rummaging through it was like going on a journey back through time. There were pens in there that are over 25 years old! Sheaffer pens that I gave to my husband while we were still dating, mechanical pencils that I used while learning Mandarin over 10 years ago, 3 pens that light up, 2 pens with aliens on them, a fish pen, a wooden pen painted to look like a Russian doll, metallic contour pens with toxic xylene in them and the list goes on. I don’t even remember where many of these came from.

After sitting inactive for so long, I wondered which pens would still write. Most of the old BIC and Paper Mate ballpoints, Pentel Hybrids, random highlighters, rollerball and alien pens were pretty much dried up and dead. Interestingly, the edding 751 metallic contour pens worked like they were fresh out of the package (thanks to the toxic xylene perhaps?). A group of BIC Brite Liners were still nice and bright and useable. A few color Sharpie markers still had some oomph. A couple of Paper Mate ballpoints worked with some coaxing, and some not-too-ancient Pilot BP-S ballpoints worked just fine.

The one old pen that stood out above them all was the STAEDTLER Liquid Point 415 in black, made in Germany. I definitely expected this pen to be all dry and crusty, but it worked like a dream with a nice, consistent, wet black line. This makes me feel confident that the unique DRY SAFE feature found in other STAEDTLER pens will actually enable the pens to be left uncapped for days at a time without drying up, and perhaps even to sit in a drawer untouched for 10 years and still be usable. (I think I’m going to experiment with some other STAEDTLER pens to see what happens.) It does say something for the enduring quality of the STAEDTLER brand.

Do you ever discover old pens hidden around your house? What’s your most interesting or favorite discovery?

September 01, 2010

Uni-ball Jetstream Color Ballpoint Pen Review

The Uni-ball Jetstream Color is an oil-based ballpoint pen made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Co. Ltd. Mitsubishi describes this pen this way: it requires only light pressure while writing, it writes fast, dries fast and is a smooth writer.

The Uni-ball Jetstream Color pen is 5 9/16” long, the diameter of the barrel is a bit more than 3/8” wide and it is a light-weight 0.3 oz. The body and clip are both made of plastic. The grip area and clip are an opaque off-white with a design of subtle, small off-white squares.

The top section is a transparent color that indicates the ink color of the pen. The ink colors include at least black, blue-black, light-blue, red, pink and orange. Last time I checked refills are not yet available for this pen.

This Jetstream model comes with a 0.5 mm fine tip.

So what is my experience with this pen? I have the orange color and find that it is just as Mitsubishi describes it. The fact that my pen writes so smoothly, is light-weight and only requires a light touch means it causes minimal writing fatigue. Since I am a lefty, I am especially pleased that it dries fast and I don’t smear the ink!!

The ink flow is good so my pen never skips, however, there are a few little “ink blobs” once in awhile as is typical of ballpoint pens. I got orange since it is one of my favorite colors, and found that the orange ink color is very similar to Pilot’s Hi-Tec-C orange ink color. Orange is not a very dark ink color, but it’s a happy color and works great for my purposes. I got it because the 0.5 mm fine tip makes it a great pen for making small notes in page margins. Take a look at the scanned writing sample on Myndology paper.

Every pen performs differently, even pens that are the exact same model, and my experience with the Uni-ball Jetstream Color has definitely been a good one. I’m planning on adding a few more colors to my daily arsenal of pens.

What do you think of Uni-ball Jetstream Color pens? What is your favorite Jetstream model of pen?

July 07, 2010

Introduction to the LAMY 2000

Testifying to the timelessness of its design, the LAMY 2000 has been in production since its introduction in 1966. Gerd A. Müller, a man who was one of the ad­vo­cates of the Bauhaus move­ment, is the designer of the LAMY 2000. The Bauhaus prin­ci­ple of func­tion­al design: ‘form follows func­tion’ is clearly seen in the stylish simplicity of this writing instrument.

The LAMY 2000 is made of a special fiberglass resin called Makrolon that is resistant to impact and weathering, and withstands high and low temperatures. The large capacity piston-filling system of the fountain pen is designed to be used with bottled ink. It has a 14k gold nib plated with platinum to match the color scheme of black with stainless steel accents . The nib is hooded, or mostly covered, by the section or grip area of the pen.

The LAMY 2000 is available as a fountain pen, ballpoint pen, multi-color ballpoint pen, rollerball pen and mechanical pencil. There have been a few variations to the original design, including the Edition 2000 fountain pen, made of brushed stainless steel with a single band of Makrolon; the LAMY 2000 taxus, a ball­point pen made of gold­en-yel­low yew wood; LAMY 2000 black­wood, a ball­point pen made of grenadil­la, or African black­wood; and in 2009 a ballpoint made of solid ti­ta­ni­um with a con­trast­ing shiny plat­inum trim.

LAMY USA warranties its writing instruments for the life of the product, so there are no worries if any repairs are required during normal use of their pen or pencils.

Check out a few reviews of the LAMY 2000:

Julie at “Whatever” wishes she would have bought a LAMY 2000 fountain pen sooner!
Doug at D*I*Y Planner notes this fountain pen “writes incredibly smooth on almost all the types of paper.”
The review by Pigpogm mentions something to keep in mind if you decide to purchase this fountain pen: “The Extra Fine is much closer to what most people would describe as a fine, and even what some would probably call medium. Whatever nib width you usually prefer, go one finer with a Lamy 2000.”
Dave’s Mechanical Pencils gives us some insights on what it’s like to use the pencil version of the LAMY 2000.

Have you used a LAMY 2000 fountain pen, pen or pencil? Feel free to share your thoughts with us about your LAMY 2000 writing experience!

June 02, 2010

What is the Pelikan Super Pirat Ink Eradicator?

Pelikan makes a great tool for fountain pen users called the Super Pirat ink eradicator. This is not an erasable pen, rather, it is a correction pen. The Super Pirat ink eradicator pen is designed with students in mind since it can be used to correct mistakes when you are writing with a fountain pen filled with washable or erasable blue ink. Let me demonstrate…

I’m writing with my LAMY Safari filled with a LAMY blue ink cartridge and I make a mistake!

The white end of the Pelikan Super Pirat ink eradicator neutralizes the blue color of the fountain pen ink and makes it seem invisible. This neutralizing effect continues long after the Super Pirat pen dries on the page so you cannot use blue fountain pen ink to make your correction.

Conveniently, the Super Pirat’s other end has a blue ink pen that is unaffected by the ink neutralizer so it can be used to write in your correction. The Super Pirat’s blue pen is not meant to be used for taking notes, it is only to be used for making corrections.

There are several kinds of readily available, erasable blue fountain pen inks including: LAMY Blue, Pelikan Royal Blue, Aurora Blue, J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis and many many more. Pelikan even makes ink eradicators for pink and purple Pelikan inks, but we have never seen these in the USA. What kind of erasable blue ink do you use?

March 31, 2010

Glass Nibbed Pens

J. Herbin's hand blown glass pens are beautiful and elegant works of art as well as treasured writing instruments. Although they are new to Writer’s Bloc, glass nibbed pens have been in use for many, many years.

There is a lot to like about glass nibbed pens. The dipping pens are easy to clean so they are great for trying out new inks or for when you are experimenting and mixing your own custom ink colors.  When the nib becomes slightly blunt, super-fine sandpaper can be used to renew the surface of the nib.  Hand-made glass pens are often beautiful works of art, with no two pens being exactly alike.  And, the nib reminds me of a soft-serve ice cream cone. Who doesn’t like ice cream?

Blogger Leigh Reyes has a glass nibbed Spors fountain pen that she uses to create beautiful works of art. She mentions that these pens were popular during war time because most metal was used for the war effort. If you want to watch her in action, YouTube features a video of her creating art with “a glass nib and the wanton use of ink.”

Natalie Perkins has a review of a glass dipping pen hand-made in Australia at Her drawing is lovely! She reminds us that these pens are also good for the environment.

A guide to old fountain pens by Olle Hjort has a feature article about HARO, the pens with a tip of glass that were first manufactured in Germany in 1926. An advertisement from 1944 points out that glass nibs wear more evenly than metal fountain pen nibs because they can be held however the writer likes. These nibs were also cheap and could easily be changed.

If you’re adventurous and want to try making your own glass pens, Arrow Springs provides some instructions on their website.

February 03, 2010

A Lefty's Favorite Gel Pens

After trying and rejecting (due to left-handed smearing issues) many types of gel pens over the years, I've finally found two kinds of gel pens that I absolutely love!

At the top of my list would have to be the Pentel Energel liquid ink gel pen. Even when I use this pen with a 0.7mm needle tip I do not smear the ink! The Pentel Energel pens I've been using have lasted several years without running out of ink and I love that you can get refills in the color violet (I have them in all colors). Another great thing about the Pentel Energel pen is that it comes in other styles besides the basic pen. The Energel refills work with the Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip DX pen and the Pentel Tradio is available in colors ranging from a subdued a matte brown to a zingy metallic watermelon red. I find the grip on these Pentel pens to be very comfortable in my hand and they are nice smooth writers.

The other gel pen that I love also happens to be made by Pentel - the Pentel Slicci gel pen with a 0.25mm tip. This pen comes in an array of colors and I prefer it when I need to write small or when I'm doing detailed drawings. This is another gel pen I can use without smearing ink all over the place. I'm still working on my collection of pen colors... perhaps I should just break down and buy the set of 8 pens. We've heard from Pentel that a metallic version of this pen is coming soon!

If any of you know of other good gel pens to recommend for left-handed writers or have thoughts about Pentel Energel liquid gel pens we would love to hear your comments!

January 27, 2010

Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen Gradation Function

We love the Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen and its ability to produce gradated lettering! For those of you unfamiliar with this function we are providing a simple explanation along with some samples.

We found this definition of "gradated" on "(Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Colours) to change or cause to change imperceptibly, as from one colour, tone, or degree to another." In other words, as you are writing with the Pilot Parallel Pen you can make your lettering gradually change from one color to another.

To do this, you will need 2 Parallel Pens filled with different ink colors. Suppose you are writing with a Parallel Pen filled with violet ink and you would like to create lettering that slowly changes in color from green back to violet again. Hold your Parallel pen filled with violet ink so that the nib is pointing up. Hold another Parallel pen filled with green ink so that the nib is pointing down. Touch the nib of the green pen to the nib of the violet pen and hold the nibs together for several seconds. Some of the green ink will have transferred to the nib of the pen with the violet ink. 

When you resume writing with your Parallel pen filled with violet ink, you will find that the lettering begins as a green color and as you continue to write your letters will gradually become violet again. This technique produces beautiful gradated lettering that can add an extra special touch to your calligraphy creations. Have fun and email us your results! We'd love to see your designs and feature some of them on our blog.

Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pens are available with 1.5mm, 2.4mm, 3.8mm and 6.0mm nibs and at Writer's Bloc you can also get them in a set of four. If you're planning to give the gradated lettering a try, there is a convenient box of 12 ink cartridges in assorted colors. (Just a note: Pilot recommends using only Pilot Mixable Color IC-P3 ink cartridges with this pen.)

January 06, 2010

Calligraphy Pens

Calligraphy is an art form that almost anyone can enjoy. If you've said "I don't have a artistic bone in my body", you may be surprised that with the right pen in hand, you could have a hidden artistic flare you never knew you had. Recently here at Writer's Bloc I was able to "play" with some great Calligraphy Pens.  
The Pilot Parallel Calligraphy Pen 3.8mm has a wide nib that makes crisp, large letters. This pen, as well as the 6.0mm nib Parallel Pen, work well for projects that call for large lettering. Great for personalizing blank cards or to make signs that need to be easy to read. For smaller lettering, the Parallel Pen is also available in 2.4mm and 1.5mm nib sizes. This pen has a special gradation function which allows you to change your writing gradually from one color to another color.

The Pelikan Script Calligraphy Pen with the 1.5mm nib was my favorite because the nib size made what I thought was the just right stroke width for calligraphy writing in my personal letters and cards. The angle and nib are given to making clean calligraphy letters. A must have for the calligraphy writers among us. You can get the Pelikan Script Calligraphy Pen with 1.0mm and 2.0mm nibs as well.
The LAMY Joy Calligraphy Pen with the 1.1mm nib makes a finer line that is very appealing to those of us who write a little smaller. A great Pen!! It glides smoothly across the paper, almost making writing effortless. The LAMY Joy Calligraphy Pen makes beautiful writing fun. This pen also comes in 1.5mm and 1.9mm nib sizes.
All three of these Calligraphy Pens are well made fountain pens. They feel great in the hand and flow smoothly and evenly. They truly make for unique and stylish lettering that gives individuality to any writing endeavor.  
Discover the artist in you and have fun doing it!!
Lorraine at Writer's Bloc

July 21, 2009

Platinum Pen Company

Platinum President Fountain Pen

2009 marks the 90th anniversary of the Platinum Pen Company, one of Japan's leading manufacturers of fine writing instruments. Platinum Pens is well known especially for the high quality of their fountain pen nibs.

In the 1930's the Platinum Pen Company began to manufacture maki-e pens including lacquer carving and pearl inlay. Maki-e is an art that has been around for hundreds of years and is created by sprinkling silver or gold powder onto urushi lacquer. These hand-crafted pens are popular among collectors both in Japan and in the West.

Platinum Pens launched the first water-based ballpoint pen in 1948 and began to manufacture fountain pens that used ink cartridges in 1958. In 1978 they introduced the model 3776 fountain pen, named after the height of Mount Fuji, which is 3776 meters tall.

The Platinum Pen Company combines high quality materials with traditional Japanese artistic craftsmanship. Their pens range in style from amazing works of art, to the flagship Platinum President fountain pen which balances the best in fine writing with an every day practicality, to the perky and popular Preppy fountain pens that are affordable for almost anyone.

New to the Writer's Bloc store is a selection of Platinum Pens from the flagship President Series and the 3776 Series. If you're craving a high quality extra-fine nib these are definitely worth a try since the size of Japanese-made nibs runs on the fine side. A fine Japanese nib is most often comparable to an extra-fine European-made nib. For those that like a nib that writes as "smooth as silk" with good ink flow and nice variation in stroke width then you may enjoy Platinum's extraordinary music nib.

April 14, 2009

Solving Ink Flow Issues in Refillable Rollerball Pens

Kaweco Sport Rollerball Pen

We've heard feedback from some of you that your refillable rollerball pens for every day use are sometimes "dry", skip, or are hard to get started when you begin to write. What can be done to solve this problem?

Alan had this experience with a "dry" Kaweco rollerball pen. The ink that came with the pen just did not flow very well. First, he tried cleaning the feed of the pen to see if that would improve it, but it did not.

After this Alan tried using several different types of ink in the pen. Noodler's Eel Ink improved the situtation a bit, but it still did not solve the problem. Then, by accident he discovered that Noodler's Aircorp Blue-Black ink provided the "wet" ink flow that this pen needed. Since then this rollerball pen has been working much, much better.

Do any of you have this kind of experience with a "dry" refillable rollerball pen? If so, what did you do to solve the problem? We're giving away a Kaweco Rollerball Pen along with a bottle of Noodler's Aircorp Blue-Black (or another comparable ink if we have it) to whomever can provide the best solution to the problem!


Your comment must include the specific type of rollerball pen that you use as well as the brand & color of ink that you find works the best.

Deadline for comments to qualify for the giveaway: May 31, 2009. Winner will be announced by June 15, 2009.

Open to residents of the USA only. Must be 18 years or older to qualify for the prize.

February 24, 2009

Pelikano Pen Cartridge Tips

Occasionally we hear from some of you that short universal ink cartridges come loose inside your Pelikano rollerball or Pelikano fountain pens. There is an easy solution, and it is to place 2 universal cartridges in the pen barrel instead of just one. The trick is that the extra cartridge that is not attached to the feed or main part of the pen needs to be placed in the barrel "upside down", or in other words with the narrow end pointing away from the nib. This extra cartridge prevents the cartridge that is attached to the pen from coming off. You can rinse the ink out of a used universal cartridge and use this for the extra cartridge, or you can use a new full ink cartridge and this way you'll have spare ink in case you need it.

Another solution is to use Pelikan 4001 Giant Ink Cartridges or Pelikan GRP/5 Roller Pen Ink Cartridges since their much longer size helps to keep them in place.

This trick can also be used with J. Herbin's refillable rollerball pens. Hope this helps!

January 06, 2009

Calligraphy Pens

Calligraphy is an art form that almost anyone can enjoy. If you've said "I don't have a artistic bone in my body", you may be surprised, that with the right pen in hand, you could have a hidden artistic flare you never knew you had. Recently here at Writer's Bloc I was able to "play" with some great Calligraphy Pens.  
The Pilot Parallel Pen 3.8mm has a wide nib that makes wide, large letters. This pen, as well as the 6.0mm nib Parallel Pen, would work well with projects that call for large lettering. Great for personalizing blank cards or to make signs that need to be easy to read. For smaller lettering, the Parallel Pen also comes in 1.5mm and 2.4mm nib sizes. This pen has an interesting gradation function that allows you to gradually change your writing from one color to another color.

The Pelikan Script Calligraphy Pen with a 1.5mm nib was my favorite because the nib size made what I thought was the just right stroke width for calligraphy writing in my personal letters and cards.  The angle and nib is given to making clean calligraphy letters.  A must have for the calligraphy writers among us. It is available with 1.0mm and 2.0mm nibs as well.
The Lamy Joy Calligraphy Pen with a 1.1mm nib makes a fine line that is very appealing to those of us who write a little smaller. A great Pen!! It glides smoothly across the paper, almost making writing effortless. This pen makes beautiful writing fun. You can also get this pen with a 1.5mm or 1.9mm nib.
All three of these Calligraphy Pens are well made fountain pens. They feel great in the hand and flow smoothly and evenly. They truly make for unique and stylish lettering that gives individuality to any writing endeavor.  
Discover the artist in you and have fun doing it!!
Lorraine at Writer's Bloc

October 21, 2008

Platinum Preppy Highlighter Pen


I am so happy to finally find the Preppy Highlighter from Platinum Pens!

Liquid ink highlighters have always been my favorite, but I use them up quickly and was tossing multitudes of plastic pens into the trash. I could picture the creation of a small landfill with my name on it, mounded up with dried up highlighter pens... but not any more! Preppy highlighters are refillable with ink cartridges that come with fresh replacement nibs when mine starts to wear out. I can also use a converter to easily refill the pen with whatever ink I choose.

The cartridge that comes with the Preppy Highlighter lasted me about one month, or roughly 275 lines of highlighting text printed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper. I chose to refill my pen with Noodler's Firefly Highlighting Ink. After using 3 cartridges full of ink, the tip of the pen had become softer than I prefer so it was time to replace it with a Platinum Preppy Highlighter Replacement Tip.

The ink I have my eye on next is Noodler's Ink Year of the Golden Pig. This highlighting ink will not fade and comes with a free eyedropper fill Preppy Highlighter Pen to save money and help the environment.

July 08, 2008

Staedtler Aquarell Pencils & Clairefontaine Sketch Pad

Ever since I heard about Staedtler's Ergosoft Aquarell Coloured Pencils I have been wanting to give them a try. These pencils have watercolor lead for dry and wet blending, providing a wide range of creative possibilities when coloring, drawing or watercoloring with water and brush. I'm not an artist, but this sounded like fun! Even though Clairefontaine makes watercolor pads, I decided to pair the pencils up with a Clairefontaine Sketch Pad because the paper has a smoother finish. For my first experiment I doodled a picture of my cat, Mulder. Here is what the picture looked like before using a wet paintbrush:

Here is what the picture looked like after using a wet paintbrush:

This was created simply by making a pencil sketch first, and then applying a small wet paintbrush. As soon as the colors got wet they seemed to "melt" and became brighter and more intense. Different color shades could easily be blended. The paper did wrinkle a bit, so the heavier weight watercolor paper might have been better, but I felt the smoother sketch pad paper might be easier for making fine pencil lines. This was a fun project and I'm looking forward to trying some different techniques. Which picture looks better? I'll let you decide....

If any of you have artwork created by Staedtler Aquarell pencils you would like to share, please email it to us at We'll share our favorites in a future blog post!