Pen Review

Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen Review

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Inventery’s Pocket Fountain Pen is a sleek and stylish modular pen that can be customized with a variety of caps and tips. At first glance, there’s a lot to love about this little beauty. The slim design has a smaller footprint than the Kaweco Sport, yet the sturdy brass body gives the pen a nice heft.

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The pen extends to full size by posting the threaded cap, and the cap posts and caps securely. I have large hands, and the posted pen rests comfortably in the web of my fingers.

Pocket Fountain Pen with optional extender (top), Lamy 2000 (middle), Pocket Fountain Pen without optional extender (bottom).

Pocket Fountain Pen with optional extender (top), Lamy 2000 (middle), Pocket Fountain Pen without optional extender (bottom).

Attention to detail is key in taking on the established fountain pen brands and Inventery delivers. The body finishes and coatings are flawless, and the modular components screw smoothly into place and hold together firmly. The pen clip even aligns perfectly with the nib when posted.

I have to take a moment to point out the pen’s modular cap system. It comes with four interchangeable cap tips: clip, keychain loop, stylus, and clip-less. My favorite tip is the simple clip-less, which gives the pen a stunning minimalist look. It’s simply one of the sleekest looking pocket fountain pens that I’ve ever seen.

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Speaking of clips, Inventery’s Pocket Fountain Pen clip is sturdy, although there’s an intentional gap between the clip and the cap body. I like the appearance, but it certainly won’t hold the pen in place like some of the tighter clips on the market. Personally, I have no problem carrying the little guy in my pocket without the clip attachment. Since it caps so securely and looks stunning without the clip, I find it worth the risk and have had zero issues.

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Okay, okay—design is great, but how about the nib? The pen comes with a Schmidt Iridium tipped nib (more geeky info on “Iridium tips” here). Overall, the nib is adequate, with a nice amount of flex for a steel nib, but some scratchiness on side strokes. Although the nib isn’t quite as special as the pen itself, it works well, and its few idiosyncrasies shouldn’t scare you away. Yes, a gold nib would be nicer, but I’d also feel much less comfortable carrying around a gold-nibbed pen loose in my pocket. Steel nibs are just so inexpensive to replace.

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I have to admit, the ballpoint tip sat in the pen box for several days. I tend to use fountain pens by default, but I swapped out the fountain pen tip for the ballpoint tip and was pleasantly surprised. It’s also a consistent writer and sits in the middle of wet and dry. When I’m not writing with a fountain pen, I’m writing with a Retro 51. This tip isn’t quite as nice as a Retro 51 Easy Flow refill, but for a pen that offers so much versatility, it writes nicely. The fact that the pen comes with both fountain pen and ballpoint tips makes it an easy recommendation for someone wanting to dip their toe into the fountain pen world.

Even the packaging is stunning (shown with optional metal extender).

Even the packaging is stunning (shown with optional metal extender).

All in all, the folks at Inventery have produced an extremely well-designed and customizable pocket pen that clearly succeeds in its attempt to be both sleek and functional. The price point is the only detail that gives me pause; however, I think that it’s a fair price when considering all of the included customizable components, excellent design, and the overall obsessive level of manufacturing quality. It even comes with nine ink cartridges to get you started. The nib is nothing to write home about, but the pen makes up for the standard nib in almost every other aspect of its design.

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The Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen is available in three styles: onyx, brass, and brushed chrome, and all three finishes are stunners. There’s also an optional pen extender, which extends the length of the pens body by a cap-length or so, but I personally found it unnecessary, especially for $30. For full details on the Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen, check out the product page.

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The Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen was provided free of charge for the purposes of this review.

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Retro 51 Tornado Dr. Gray Pen Review

I have to admit that I’ve avoided the Retro 51 Tornados for years. They always seemed overpriced, gimmicky, and large to me. During an occupational pilgrimage to Apple in California, I stopped by the Apple Store on campus and couldn’t resist the Apple edition of the Retro 51 Tornado Slim. The pen was made with the same finish as the MacBook Pro’s at the time, and the slim design was much more comfortable to hold than its thicker counterparts.

Goodbye, my sweet prince.

Goodbye, my sweet prince.

I loved the pen, using it daily for a year or two, until it mysteriously vanished (ok, I likely left it somewhere). I was heartbroken and immediately began searching for a replacement.

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I wasn’t thrilled with the limited choices in the Tornado Slim line, so I decided to give the full-sized pens a try. I stumbled upon the Retro 51 Torando Dr. Gray, a part of the Vintage Metalsmith line. While its stonewashed metal trim gives it a beautiful antique finish, the real star of the show is the pen’s barrel. A representation of the skeletal system, complete with labels, wraps around the white barrel. Dr. Gray references the well-known Henry Gray, author of the Gray’s Anatomy textbook (and yes, the show Grey’s Anatomy also references that actual Dr. Gray). The barrel also glows in the dark, and the effect is pretty slick when combined with the intricate skeletal system.

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The Retro 51 Tornado uses a twist mechanism to expose the pen tip. The knurled design provides a grippy surface to twist, and the design visibly sets the Retro 51s apart from other pens. The writing experience is superb and, although I’m not an expert on rollerball or ballpoint pens, the Tornado refills are easily the best that I’ve ever used.

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If there’s one complaint that I have with the pen, it’s that it comes with the rollerball refill - REF5P-B. Although it’s a great refill, I much prefer the Easy Flow 9000 ballpoint refill - REF71-B, but it’s very easy to swap them. There’s just something about the ballpoint refill that ticks all of the right boxes for me and makes me miss my long lost Apple Tornado Slim. That said, the rollerball refill is still incredibly smooth but it tends to be a bit wetter and scratchier—counterintuitive, I know—than the Easy Flow 9000.

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The Retro 51 Torando Dr. Gray is my favorite non-fountain pen, and it’s easily the most-used pen in my pen case. Even when I don’t have my case with me, Dr. Gray is always in my pocket or on my desk. The design is whimsical, and the pen itself is incredibly sturdy and a consistent writer. Unfortunately, as of this writing, it looks like the Vintage Metalsmith Tornados are in short supply. Both Pen Chalet and Amazon have them in stock, but I’m not sure for how much longer. I wanted to post this review before they go out of stock, so if you’re at all interested, take a look soon!

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Pilot Metropolitan Animal Print Fountain Pen Review

It's hard to believe that it's been more than two years since I published my original review of the Pilot Metropolitan. The pen regularly makes the short list of recommended starter pens and is one of the few fountain pens that you'll find in non-specialty stores. I thought that it would be fun to revisit the Metropolitan, and what better way to do it than with the Animal Print edition?

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The Metropolitan doesn't feel like an inexpensive pen. Its metal body provides a nice heft, and the cigar-shaped sleek design really is stunning to look at. The clip has some give but still grips material firmly, so you won't have to worry about the pen sliding around or coming loose in a bag or pocket.

Compared to pens like the Lamy Safari or Pilot Kakuno, the Metropolitan has an understated design that will fit right into an office environment. In my original review, I mentioned that the pen was a bit boring on the surface, and the Animal Print edition, although a step up in flare, still holds true to this. Compared to my black Metropolitan though, the Gold Lizard is a nice change of pace. I actually didn't realize that the pen was gold until looking at the product details. It seems to be a gold/silver blend, of which I'm a huge fan. If you're looking for a more colorful version of the Metropolitan, there's also the Retro Pop edition.

Nope, the pens aren't different sizes. It's just the photo perspective.

Nope, the pens aren't different sizes. It's just the photo perspective.

The Metropolitan has my favorite clip cap of all the entry level pens that I've encountered. The cap seems almost magnetic when it clicks into place, and I would feel comfortable carrying the pen loose in my pocket, with no fear of leaks. It also posts nicely, with just a little bit of friction to lock the cap into place.

The Pilot Metropolitan's grip is made of smooth plastic and tapers towards the nib of the pen. Personally, I prefer the shaped grip of the Lamy Safari, or Lamy Vista, which reduces my hand fatigue during longer writing sessions, but the Metropolitan's thin grip still works nicely.

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The nib is one of the Pilot Metropolitan's best features. Sometimes inexpensive fountain pen nibs can be scratchy or suffer from skips or hard starts, but this isn't the case with the Metropolitan. The ink flows steadily for long periods of time, and the nib is very smooth for its price point.

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For $15 or so, the Pilot Metropolitan offers a fantastic experience for those looking for a starter fountain pen, and the Animal Print edition adds a creative touch to the pen's classic design. It comes with everything you need to get started, including both an ink cartridge and a converter for bottled inks. The squeeze converter is less efficient than twist converters that come with pens like the Lamy Safari, but it still gets the job done.

Will the Animal Print edition change your mind about the Pilot Metropolitan? Probably not, but it's still a damn fine pen for the price.

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This pen was provided at no cost by For My Desk, for the purposes of this review. If you're interest in the Pilot Metropolitan Animal Print Fountain Pen, check it out on their site!

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Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen Review

Interested in fountain pens but not sure where to start? There are plenty of pens that can be had for less than $20, but what about those ultra-affordable sub-$5 pens. The Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen is one such pen. How does it hold up against the likes of its low-price counterparts? Read on to find out.

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Those who use Zebra V-301 Series pens and pencils will be right at home with the fountain pen version. Aesthetically, the pen shares a similar design style, including black plastic grip. The ridges on the grip make the Zebra V-301 comfortable to hold for longer writing sessions, although the matte plastic is less appealing to the eye than the smooth plastic grips on pens like the Pilot Metropolitan. Still, it's a worthy tradeoff for sweaty fingers and cramped hands. For those looking to try an ultra-affordable fountain pen in the office, it's hard to recommend the Platinum Preppy, which looks as if it belongs in a high schooler's backpack, rather than a briefcase. The Zebra V-301, on the other hand, has a professional look that would fit right in, in an office environment.

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Two critical pieces of a fountain pen cap design are the way that the cap fits securely on the pen body and how the cap posts for writing. Overall, the Zebra V-301 posts nicely, with a solid click, but its capping experience leaves something to be desired. It does cap securely, so there's no need to fear a dry nib or ink-stained pants, but I found the Zebra V-301 occasionally difficult to cap. This seemed to get better with time, perhaps as the cap and plastic grip became worn in.

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One of the most interesting features of the Zebra V-301 is its hooded nib. One of the downsides of some ultra-affordable pens, such as the Platinum Preppy, is their flexible nibs, which can be easily damaged by heavy-handed fountain pen novices. The Zebra V-301, on the other hand, has a plastic hood that reinforces the back of the steel nib. The nib itself is hard-as-nails and offers very little flex. This might be a turnoff to some but offers great protection from accidental damage.

The logo should be face-up, which is a small design flaw.

The logo should be face-up, which is a small design flaw.

The writing experience with the Zebra V-301 was surprisingly pleasant for a pen at its price point. The nib does run on the dry/scratchy side, and some online reviews did mention skips and clogs, but I used the pen as my daily driver for a week and didn't experience any major issues. Like the hood on the Lamy 2000, the hood on the Zebra 301 can obsure the view of the nib, making it more difficult to tell when the pen is at the appropriate writing angle. My guess is that this is somewhat responsible for the reviews that mention skips. I did notice a few skips after using the pen for extended periods, but I experience the same issues when using more expensive starter pens, like the Lamy Vista.

It's impossible to ignore price when considering the quality of a fountain pen. The Zebra V-301 is far from perfect, but for an average price of $3, it performs substantially well, even when compared to the Platinum Preppy. The reinforced nib makes it an excellent choice for fountain pen beginners, and the generous double ink refill will ensure that you'll have plenty of ink to put it through its paces.

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This pen was provided at no cost by For My Desk, for the purposes of this review. If you're interest in the Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen, check it out on their site!

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Bock Titanium Nib Review

Last week, I took a look at the Tactile Turn Gist fountain pen, an excellent Kickstarter pen that's now available to the general public. The Gist comes with Bock nib material options, steel, titanium, and gold, and I thought that it would be fun to try a titanium nib. This is my first titanium nib, and I chose the fine version. Unlike the shiny stainless steel nibs, the titanium has a darker, tarnished color. This pairs well with certain pens and compliments the distressed look of my Gist's copper grip and finial. Bock nibs are etched with the Bock logo and intricate spiral designs. These are beautiful on their own, but the designs really shine when ink smears on the nib and fills them in.

The Bock titanium nib has significantly more flex than a steel nib, resulting in a moderate amount of line variation with different writing pressure. The fine-nib version still functions well as an everyday writer, even though it can be pushed to offer a significant amount of flex. The flex does cause the nib to burn through ink very quickly, which doesn't pair well with smaller-capacity converter-fill pens, such as the Gist. Expect to fill the converter every few days or so, even with only a moderate amount of use.

The titanium nib glides smoothly across the paper, with minimal resistance. Although the nib is smooth, I occasionally experience skipping and hard starts, after longer writing periods. There were several occasions where I even had to unscrew the barrel to push ink through the converter and prime the nib. The issues were frequent enough to break my writing flow and cause annoyance, which makes it difficult to recommend the nib without reservations. This can be alleviated, somewhat, by choosing an ink that flows easily.

The Bock titanium nib is fun for short bursts of stationary writing. Its flex is enough to leave moderate line variation without gushing ink onto the page. The nib falters during long writing sessions, and the soft titanium material makes it a poor choice for an everyday carry pen that may see unstable environments or even the occasional drop. Although I don't plan to fill my pen arsenal with titanium nibs, I'm glad to have one in rotation. Most don't choose fountain pens because they're incredibly convenient and versatile, and there's something to be said for the titanium nib's unique performance and aged appearance. It's certainly worth a try, even if it isn't destined to travel with you on a daily basis.

So this is all well and good, but how do I buy one? Here are a few links to pens that offer Bock titanium nib options. Most offer separate nib purchases, in case you already own the pen itself. This isn't all inclusive, since many pen manufacturers use Bock nibs.

Don't forget to check out my original review of the Tactile Turn Gist.

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