The Pen Hunt

My friends know that I don’t really like change. In my dorm years in college, I lived in the same building and the same room position for two straight years. To increase comfort and efficiency, I moved down one floor so that when the elevator broke down, I didn’t have to take as many stairs to get to my room. When my earphones break, I have bought the same pair–sometimes in the same color, sometimes in a different, cheaper color. I have bought the same pair of sneakers three times, because I knew them and trusted them and found them comfortable. Why take a risk on things I might not enjoy as much? I live by the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Which is why I am on a pen hunt. When I was in Korea last summer, I tried out and enjoyed the Staedtler Triplus Ball ballpoint pen. (In Korea, stationary stores have long strips of paper along the pen displays so that you can test out the ink. Having enjoyed the pen, I naturally bought two of them so I could use the second when the first ran out.) I found that I enjoyed its ergonomics–not outstanding, but quite good–and most importantly, the ink didn’t clump up. Ballpoint pens have a terrible tendency to suffer from what I call “clumping,” which is when the pen leaves a glob or a clump of ink at the apex of curves. It’s unsightly, and I find it visually distracting. I can’t stand it when this happens in my pens. The Pentel RSVP is particularly bad at it. Surprisingly, a Papermate Write Bros is not.

IMG_20130829_120630 - ballpoint pens

Well, one year later, I have gone through the ink in both of my Staedtler ballpoints, and I am now in the search of a ballpoint pen that I can use for a long time. I’ve been making do with a Papermate Write Bros, but it’s not particularly pleasant to write with. As someone who is change averse, it’s always a rather sad event for me when a pen runs out of ink. I have to look for a new pen that is ergonomic and non-clumping, and I have to spend time getting used to how it feels when I write. (As a college student, I use my pen every day. I insist on having a pen that I like to hold and to use.) This time I’ve been fortunate to discover that some pens have common refills. (The Staedtler, sadly, does not.) Many pens take a Parker or Parker-style refill, and I’m hoping to find a pen that accepts one of these–else has a cheap and purchasable refill–so that when it runs out of ink I can simply stick in the refill in the body and not have to worry about looking for a new pen. To me, consistency in having the same pen body is a big deal.

The criteria for my next pen:

  • ballpoint: I depend on the pressure required to use a ballpoint pen, and my handwriting suffers if I use ink
  • blue ink: because black is too plain; shouldn’t be a problem as blue is widely available
  • comfortable to hold: the Staedtler had a triangular barrel with a rubberized texture, which was great
  • no clumping: this is not negotiable

And “good looking” is always a plus. In case anyone else suffers from this–although I highly doubt it–I’ll be chronicling my search in a few upcoming posts. The kind folks at the JetPens store have agreed to send me pens to review. There’s one that I have my eye on that I haven’t yet been able to receive, and I’m hoping they’ll oblige, as I like the looks of it. Hopefully I’ll be able to hone in on one or two pens that I will find suitable for years of work. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, this is my white whale. Has been for years. And I am quite looking forward to ending the hunt.


3 responses to “The Pen Hunt

  1. I have a few ideas. I will be replying to your email shortly.


  2. Haha, you write very meticulous (but cool) reviews. This is a really good idea! I really can’t seem to find a good ballpoint pen. I absolutely hate “clumping” too… I’m pretty OCD about clumping and end up smoothing those parts out by bolding the whole entire word :D I really like Sakura Micron pens, although they’re quite expensive, and more commonly used for art–but I notice that my handwriting is better when I write with it! You should test one out sometime, even though it’s not ballpoint. Anyway, good luck with the hunt!

  3. Hey, Grace! :) Yeah, every time a pen dies it’s a rather pressing concern, since I have to scramble to find a new one. Hopefully by finding one that has commonly available refills, I can stop having this problem. I prefer ballpoint because I find them neater to write with–no smudging–but I do hate the clumping problem. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a good blue ballpoint pen and put this problem to rest. I’ve heard of Sakura Microns, because I’ve heard they’re good for writing in Bibles with, but I’ve never used one myself. I think they might have them in the UCLA store, so I’ll try to check them out!

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