Getting Write to the Heart of the Matter – Part 2

I’ve been asked to put up more posts about pens, so I figured I’d start that by continuing my tale from a while back about an outing Staples. If you remember, I mentioned here that I had been looking for pens with a nib size under .5 mm. That search was successful, but before I get into that, I think I should probably explain what I’m actually talking about here.

Now, I know that most people — probably around 98% of the population — really don’t care at all about pens. As long as they write, that’s fine with them. But there are some of us, a small selection, who actually care an awful lot. You might remember me saying I hated BIC Stick pens, for instance. And this is very true. I loathe every aspect of them with every fiber of my being (although I had to use one relatively recently to fill out my timesheet at work, and I was very surprised to find that it felt like I was writing with a hybrid-type ink, like in the Uniball Jetstream… but I still hate the pen). As I grew up I started to take notice of the different properties of pens; I can actually pinpoint my epiphany to a specific day, though I don’t actually remember the date. Anyway, I needed a pen and a notepad, and I stumbled across the Pilot V5. That was my first foray into the broader world of pens, and from the moment it touched the paper, I was hooked.

But I digress. As I was saying, most people don’t really care about pens, so they probably don’t know or don’t care that there are a variety of different nib sizes — that’s the tip that does the writing, by the way — and some are more suited to certain people or tasks or inks than others. For instance, the most common nib size for a ballpoint pen — from your garden variety BIC Sticks to that snazzy Fisher Space Pen you may remember from Seinfeld — is 1.0 mm. That doesn’t sound very big at all. For context for those of you who might not have a concept of how the metric system scales up to the American system, there are ten millimeters (mm) in a centimeter. There are roughly thirty centimeters in a foot. So yeah, it’s tiny. But for pens, that’s pretty big. If you use a 1.o mm tip with gel or liquid ink, you’ll get a very thick, dark line; if you’re using particularly absorbent or low-quality paper, you’re going to get a lot of feathering (when the ink from the line spreads out into a thicker line as it soaks into the page) and bleed-through (when the ink is visible on or soaks through to the back of the page — think Sharpie on tissue paper). So when I say I was looking for a pen with a nib smaller than 0.5 mm, I’m looking for something really tiny — less than half the size of your average pen, in fact.

Previously I’d had a couple of different options that just weren’t working for me. I’ve used the Pilot G-Tec-C/Hi-Tec-C (depending on what country you live in the name may be different) in 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm sizes, and while the line is incredibly thin and sharp, the tips are fragile and the ink flow is actually not as smooth as I would expect from a Pilot gel pen, especially one as beloved as the G-Tec-C/Hi-Tec-C (for pen collectors/aficionados, it’s an entry level pen and a staple of any gel collection; it’s also the basis of the beautifully crafted and prohibitively expensive Pen Type-A). The constricted ink flow and the scratchiness of the needle-point just didn’t work for me.

I later stumbled upon the Kuretake Zig, a pen system with a remarkable modular design. The minimal barrel comes in multiple colors, and the ink refills come in a wide variety as well, in addition to multiple tip styles. The end of the refill protrudes from the end of the barrel, so you can always tell what color the pen is, even if you choose not to match barrel color to ink color. I chose a black barrel with black ink, with a porous point tip (like the Sharpie pen). It wrote incredibly small lines and was overall just a joy to write with; I found it particularly helpful when annotating, as I could write very tiny but still legible notes with it, leaving more space for more notes. Unfortunately the tip eventually dried out, and I haven’t been able to get it working again; moreover, when I bought a refill, I accidentally bought a brush tip, which is useless to me as I don’t have the faintest idea how to do calligraphy or Japanese/Chinese characters. Last time I was at my favorite place to shop for imported pens, they didn’t have the refill I needed.

After that, I found the Pilot Penmanship. It’s a low-end fountain pen, similar to the Plumix, but not sold in American markets; in addition, the design is more streamlined, and more importantly, it has an Extra Fine nib. I might even lean towards calling it Extra Extra Fine — the lines it puts forth are amazingly thin. As of late, however, I have been having trouble writing with it. It scratches on the paper which makes it drag a bit, making writing rather tedious. I think the tines may have become slightly misaligned, but I haven’t had time to check on that. Anyway, I was in dire need of a new super-fine-line pen, which brought me to…

The Pilot G2 in 0.38 mm. I remember seeing these on shelves, but before I’d had a chance to pick some up, they’d disappeared. So imagine my elation when I found that Staples finally had them in stock! This is the pen I’d been hunting for. Which surprised me, actually, because while I do like the G2 a lot, I’ve very often found their cartridges to be inconsistent, and, let’s face it, it’s the absolute lowest end of the pen collecting world. Sure, it’s a staple of any collection, but it’s also a staple of any schoolkid’s pencil case. I remember seeing these all over the place in grade school, and sort of developed an aversion to them (I’m a bit of a hipster when it comes to pens). But once I finally started using G2’s, I found I really do like them. It helps that I never use them in their original barrels, I suppose — I use a G2 Pro and a Doctor Grip Gel, and just fill them up with the G2 cartridges. Which sometimes means buying packs of pens so that I can open them up and steal away their precious ink supplies.

I’m a bit of a pen murderer, I guess.

Anyway, I found that the 0.38 mm G2 was perfect for me. It’s wet enough that the lines are dark and smooth and the nib doesn’t feel like it’s dragging on the page, but it dries very quickly, with no feathering or bleed-through, that I’ve noticed. The lines are incredibly thin, just like I wanted them — surprisingly, they’re a bit thicker than the G-Tec-C in 0.4 mm, but I think that’s due to a slightly wetter ink and a considerably better flow. I’m quite happy with it, so if you’re looking for a thinner pen or just want to try something new, I’d recommend giving it a try.

That’s it for now, I guess, but I’m thinking that I’ve probably got more than enough material to make posts about pens a regular topic. While you’re here, leave a comment about your favorite pen, if you’ve got one, or something you’d like to see on the site. You can also do those things over on our Facebook page, where you should go if you enjoy our blog, so you can click “Like” and get our posts in your newsfeed.


2 thoughts on “Getting Write to the Heart of the Matter – Part 2

  1. This is the only kind of murder I can get behind. Well written and interesting to read. It’s great to have what’s practically a comprehensive list of fairly expensive pens and their advantages and disadvantages, even as far as being a this-feels-good-while-writing enthusiast. Thanks ^-^


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