Pens?! Pens?!
March 1, 2005 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Recently I've been writing in a notebook and finding it less distracting more productive than a computer. Problem is: pens. My hands always cramp. Writers: what are your favorite pens? I fancy me a fine point as well.
posted by xmutex to Writing & Language (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The Dr. Grip Gel pen is very comfortable and relatively inexpensive.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:43 PM on March 1, 2005

I have an Aurora Ipsilon Satin rollerball pen that I really like. It's heayv, it's thick, there aren't any annoying gel thingies that slip and slide and shift on me, and the ink flow with the Aurora fills are amazing.
posted by SpecialK at 12:48 PM on March 1, 2005

I adore these pens. They're Sakura Pigma Microns. I'm left handed and they don't bleed at all. They have a great staying power (I've used one for 4 months now); they come in all sizes of tips and colors, and dry instantly. I highly recommend them.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:54 PM on March 1, 2005

I've always had problems with hand cramping: ballpoint pens and left-handedness aren't a good match, apparently. For years I used fountain pens, which were nice, but they invariably leaked. Lately, though, I've been using Zebra Sarasa gel pens. I love these.
posted by mcwetboy at 1:24 PM on March 1, 2005

I know your dilemma. I've struggled with finding the ideal pen for many years, and have never been entirely successful. Currently, I use Pilot G2s most of the time, of which I prefer the finer (0.05 tip).

However, I'm most comfortable with a plain old wooden lead pencil. I always have at least one nearby, and switch between a 3B and a 3H and a plain yellow Dixon Ticonderoga 2/HB. They're cheap, you can write in any direction, and are virtually maintenance free. They never leak, and you can very how dark you write just by pressing harder.

I can sometimes get more work done in a hour with a pencil and a yellow pad than I do on a computer all day.

All pencils are inexpensive, but cheap pencils are a constant frustration. The Dixon's have reasonably good erasers (sure, they're not artist quality, but they get the job done without major smearing), the wood is hard and rarely splinters, and the leads are nicely centered.

I carry the smallest sharpener I can in my little leather pen case, and keep nicer (manual) sharpeners at my desks. And, I always have a pocket knife just in case the urge strikes to get really old school.

There are few things more satisfying than sitting in a planning meeting for some new vaporware and start sharpening your pencil with a knife, leaving a little pile of shavings on the conference table to play with when the VP of Marketing starts to drone...
posted by terceiro at 1:48 PM on March 1, 2005 [1 favorite]

I write with a lump of coal.

Seriously, I am a pen fanatic and vary which pen I use depending on what I'm writing.

The pen I'm using at the moment is a Pilot Razor Point.

For a good, all purpose pen with a beautiful blue/black ink, I use the Uniball Vision Elite (beware, it's a bold point!).
posted by ColdChef at 2:04 PM on March 1, 2005

Pigma Micron INDEED, Mr BlueTrain! Those squeaky, scratchy ink misers? It's like writing/drawing with a broken twig. Bah. A pox on Pigma Microns I say (ptui).

If you want to live, xmutex, and allow your hand to flow with wild abandon and have the pen keep up with you, I suggest a Pilot Vball Extra Fine, though they seem to be hard to find these days. Right now I'm trying out a Papermate Liquid Expresso Fine. It's not a perfect substitute, but it delivers a pretty smooth, clean line.
posted by picea at 2:12 PM on March 1, 2005

Another vote for the Sarasa. Puts down lots of ink, but dries quickly. Awesome for lefties (and righties, too!) It comes in 0.7mm medium and 0.5mm fine point, but the 0.5s are hard to come by in typical office stores.
posted by zsazsa at 2:16 PM on March 1, 2005

Do what most of the proofreaders and editors of my acquaintance do and use the Pilot Vball Extra Fine, just like picea says. They have seamless barrels and slim fine points, and that's what will make a pen feel good in your hand and give your writing a beautiful flowing line. For those marathon writing sessions, any variance in barrel size or texture is an irritant, as is a fat, dragging point or stuttering ink. The Pilot Extra Fines avoid all those pitfalls and are affordable too.
posted by melissa may at 2:32 PM on March 1, 2005

I've found that hand cramping improves with time as the muscles in your hands become stronger. I used to have lovely clear handwriting, but now, after a decade of working primarily on a keyboard, even I can barely read it; and I used to be able to write twenty pages longhand without tiring. Like any other muscle, the ones in your hand and wrist will strengthen with use and weaken with disuse. For cramping, don't forget to take breaks and stretch your fingers, and, if necessary, use ice for inflamation. And yes, I would also recommend extra fine points, and something which moves easily across the page; a nice rubbery grip is good too.
posted by jokeefe at 2:50 PM on March 1, 2005

Yeah, the VBall extra fine was my go to pen in school, when I was taking lots of notes. I'm currently using the bluePilot Precise Gel.

And I find it very satisfying to use all the ink in whatever pen I'm using.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 2:56 PM on March 1, 2005

After 10+ years of jumping from pen to pen in my quest for the perfect pen I finally ended up with the Cross Classic Century Classic Black/Chrome ballpoint pen. They're thin, always write the first time, and never leak, smear, or run. I write very small, and it's the best fine point pen I could find.

On sale you can get a two pack at most American office supply stores for about $20 - which is affordable enough for me but expensive enough to force me to not misplace it. I always have two of them (1 black ink, 1 red) with me and haven't had to replace them after over a year of use (just had to get a new refill for one).

I still use markers for cartooning and drawing, but I finally gave up on them and gel pens for day to day writing. They often run and/or smear and don't travel well (tops coming off, drying up in cold Chicago winters, etc). You can find some more pen love in the Moleskine MeFi post from a few years ago.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 2:57 PM on March 1, 2005

In the past, I've been really partial to a Sensa pen ($80), but I got tired of having to hunt for refills, and the the gel ink bleeds horrifically.
At our local Asian "department store" (Uwajimaya) I found the most fantastic pen I've ever used. It's the Itoya Xenon Aqua Roller. At $3.50 it's a fabulous bargain, it has a large padded grip (a la Dr. Grip) and a very fine point with non-bleeding, non-smearing, smooth-writing gel ink. Everything my easily cramping hands could ask for.
posted by dbmcd at 3:04 PM on March 1, 2005

Another happy Pilot G2 user here. Oversized, comfortable grip; smooth-flowing gel ink.

After an abortive attempt to get the local orderer-of-office-supplies to stock these for the office, I now buy them by the box, in various colors, myself. Extra-fine, please.
posted by enrevanche at 3:07 PM on March 1, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the responses everyone. I've got some pen testing to do.

There does seem to be a general issue with finding fine or extra fine points in your standard office supply stores.
posted by xmutex at 3:39 PM on March 1, 2005
posted by Cosine at 3:44 PM on March 1, 2005

posted by Cosine at 3:46 PM on March 1, 2005

Just have to throw in this old-school classic series of posts on Cheap Pens.
posted by fionab at 3:55 PM on March 1, 2005

My faves (and I can see they're popular among discerning pen users): Pilot P-700 Fine, Pilot Precise V Ball, and Uniball Micro Fine. Yes, I'm a pen junkie, too. I think a lot of what makes a pen good is not the feel of the barrel grip, but the contact of the point on paper. A silky smooth ink can make all the difference, allowing the pen to fairly glide across the paper without having to exert a lot of hand pressure. I think the pushing is what really tires out the hand.

I think, as you continue, you'll also notice your handwriting naturally modifying to create more efficiency.
posted by Miko at 5:51 PM on March 1, 2005

Fountain pens, fountain pens, fountain pens.

I used the three non-calligraphic pens in the Rotring Artpen series for years, abandoning them only when I recieved a Waterman as a best-man gift. The Waterman is still the pen I use the most.

I also have a wide variety of kooky vintage fountain pens that I use occasionally. They leak and blob and stain your fingers and you have to clean them and inevitably this leads to losing parts or breaking parts especially on older pens. That's actually part of what I like about the pens.

I also went even more retro for a while and while you can't possibly travel with them or use them in more or less any professional setting unless you are a cartoonist, fine Speedball drawing nibs with india ink produce an unquestionably superior pen-use experience. The smoothness of the nib on the paper and the even, responsive density of the line is not paralelled, in my experience. Which is pretty remarkable, considering that they cost, like, 79 cents.
posted by mwhybark at 6:04 PM on March 1, 2005

I recently lost a hand-me-down Parker Vector fountain pen, and have been crying inside every time I've used a ballpoint since.
Seriously, once you go fountain you can never go back. You don't have to press as hard and your writing looks really cool all the time.
The Vectors in particular are good because they're cheap, they're slim (none of that giant rubber grippy crap) and, if you can find a converter ($5 Canadian), then you can refill them forever.
posted by SoftRain at 6:53 PM on March 1, 2005

Not really a fine point but when it comes to cramp free writing, I haven't found anything that beats Zebra's Jimnie Gel Rollerball pens.
posted by the_W at 7:12 PM on March 1, 2005

I've been using the Pilot G2s extensively for a few weeks, partly in combo with Moleskines, otherwise in logbooks kept at work. The 0.5 (fine) is working nicely; a little scratchy which adds to the tactile experience.

On the fountain pen tip, I've been intrigued for some time by the disappearing points Namiki... Anyone have hands on experience?
posted by esinclai at 8:11 PM on March 1, 2005

Odinsdream's suggestion (Pilot Precise V) and mwhybark's suggestion (fountain pens!) are my favorites too. I love the blue Pilot pens, fine point. I have a Montblanc fountain pen and I LOVE it. If you have small hands, investigate small pens. (I have an abnormal writing-grip, too, so most of those pens with a gel cushion in one tiny spot are useless to me). Other people swear that big chunky pens are easier to grasp, better for arthritis, etc. I get cramps in my hand from the grip around the pen.

Oh! One more advantage to the fountain pens: you can switch ink-colors. I have navy blue, turquoise, and brilliant-red ink at the ready.
posted by oldtimey at 9:16 PM on March 1, 2005

Lamy Safari fountain pen. I wrote my comps with this pen. 4 hours of straight writing and no cramping. Around $35. Black ink (Omas or Parker Quink).
posted by mrendon at 7:48 AM on March 3, 2005

Another vote for Pilot Precise Rolling Ball 0.5 mm, black. The ink is water-based and takes a few seconds to dry, but it is the most nearly-frictionless pen you'll ever use. I have spent 36-hour work 'days' on call in the hospital, writing admit notes and orders for maybe 18 of those 36 hours, and these are the only pens that don't leave my hand feeling like it was flattened by a bulldozer.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:27 PM on March 3, 2005

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