WTF, gel pen?
April 10, 2007 12:43 AM   Subscribe

Gel pens: Help me learn to make them perform consistently.

I have a problem writing with gel pens (and fountain pens, I think) where they appear to be working just fine, but then a couple letters don't come out at all. It frustrates the hell out of me, and I think it must be a problem with me, because I've seen other people write just fine with them. When a letter doesn't come out, I can retrace it over and over with nothing appearing on the page. But if I move an inch away, the pen will resume producing ink just fine. Then I can go back and that letter will come out normally (or, often, a little heavier than it should have come out).

How are you supposed to hold one? When I hold a pen naturally, it's at about a 15 degree angle off of vertical. Should it be more vertical, or more angled? Am I pressing too hard? Something else I haven't thought of?

I can write just fine with a ball-point pen or a pencil, it's just these "nice" pens that fail me. The non-performing strokes occur once every 5 to 10 words. Writing surface doesn't seem to matter, most recently it's a brand new, high quality notebook.
posted by knave to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Are you left handed, perhaps? I've always had the same problem with gel pens. (I was going to say, except for Uniball Jetstreams, but it turns out that they only feel like gel pens.)
posted by zamboni at 1:54 AM on April 10, 2007


Nope, right handed!
posted by knave at 2:23 AM on April 10, 2007


Gel pens are very sensitive to oil on the paper. If you use a lot of hand lotion, or have moist skin, you could be leaving a trace of oil that interferes with the gel pen working right.

The closer to vertical, the better.

Try a fresh gel pen on a fresh clean piece of paper, using an index card between your hand and the paper.
posted by yesster at 4:35 AM on April 10, 2007


The closer to vertical, the better.

I know this is my problem with gel pens. They work best when held nearly perpendicular to the page, so that the gel ink can flow smoothly. I tend to hold my pens at a very low angle, so I gave up on gel pens.

Part of the reason it doesn't work even when you go over the same letter multiple times is that each time you're deepening the impression in the paper so that a) the pen can't grip as well and b) when you finally get the ink to flow, it fills in the impression leaving a darker mark.
posted by miagaille at 5:14 AM on April 10, 2007


I have exactly the same problem with gel pens. Maybe some kind soul will post a gel pen alternative that gives the same silky smooth feeling without aggravatingly deciding not to lay down ink every so often.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:48 AM on April 10, 2007


I had that problem with gel pens too. It was especially bad if I hadn't used the pen in a while and then tried to write with it.

I gave up and now use regular rolling ball pens like these.
posted by slenderloris at 10:03 AM on April 10, 2007


I believe someone posted here once on using a Mont Blanc refill in a cheap standard pen shell. I've not tried it but I'm intrigued since the only modification needed was slightly shortening the refill.

Here is the link. It's a Mont Blanc refill in a Pilot G-2 shell.

I realize this isn't getting gels to work for you but it's a possibility for having a nice writing pen, at a price much less than a Mont Blanc.
posted by 6550 at 12:22 PM on April 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Wikipedia article on gel pens has a section devoted to their disadvantages. Your problem, it seems, is a common one (I've noticed it too).

I'm a big fan of the Uni-Ball Micro. They're not gel pens, and they don't come in any sexy colors, but I swear by those pens.
posted by jayder at 3:19 PM on April 10, 2007


I believe someone posted here once on using a Mont Blanc refill in a cheap standard pen shell. I've not tried it but I'm intrigued since the only modification needed was slightly shortening the refill.

I've tried this. Worked like a charm... sort of. To be honest, I think the G-2 writes better than the Mont Blanc--especially in the area of 'skipping'. At first I thought that maybe I had just gotten a bad refill, so I tried a refill pack from a different store. Same result. I wasn't about to drop another $12 on a third attempt!

I've never had a problem with a G-2 skipping.
posted by jknecht at 8:14 PM on April 10, 2007


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