Pens and Pencils

Update: Just found a review of the Kerry, via the Revolution.

I’ve mentioned recently that I’m using paper more these days, and liking it a lot. I’m actually working on a simple paper planner solution that I think a lot of people are going to like, which should be coming up soon, and I’m using my little Moleskine notebook (the old PigPogPDA) for most of my thinking and planning stuff. The Filofax that I bought recently hasn’t quite worked out, as I’ve just found it to be a bit too bulky and awkward to write in. The flexibility lost with the Moleskine is made up for in the smaller size.

I’ve been using my Cross Ion pen, and I do love it. The line it makes is just so black – no other gel pen I’ve used comes close, and I can barely tell the difference between marks the Ion has made and marks made by the .5mm Rotring Isograph. Since the Isographs take a bit of work to get the best out of them, whilst the Cross Ion just needs a new refill every now and then, I’ve stuck with the Cross. Also, the ink from the Isographs leaks right through Moleskine paper to the next sheet, never mind the other side of the sheet you’re writing on.

Anyway, I was facing a couple of minor problems with the little Ion that were starting to bug me…

  • Refill Cost – they’re around £2.50 or so each, which gets expensive if you’re using it a lot. Each refill is more expensive than most disposable gel ink pens.
  • Writing Upside-Down – it doesn’t. Well, to be fair, it does for a while, but then starts to get feint – better than a lot of pens, but still a problem. I do too much of my note-taking when lying on my back, and sometimes even when I’m just slouched, my pen can end up pointing upwards when I’m writing in a notebook held in my hands.

I considered a couple of possible answers. A Fisher Space Pen would do the upside-down writing bit, and they’re really nice looking pens. The refils still aren’t very cheap, but they’re not too expensive either. However, the pens themselves are relatively expensive. The Uni-ball PowerTank seemed like another option – they’re cheap to buy, disposable, and use a pressurised ink tank, like the Space Pens. They’re not so nice looking, but good for a disposable pen.

Then the idea hit me – pencil.

Don’t know why it took so long to hit me (appologies to our comrades, but you’ve been out of mind since you changed your RSS feed URL without telling anyone – I’ve got some catching up to do) – I’ve used pencil before a lot – the first PigPogPDA was done entirely with my Staedtler Mars 780 Leadholder, which I love. The only thing that put me off it is the thickness of the lead – although I’ve always found .5mm to be too thin, the 2mm lead in the Mars 780 is just a bit too thick. It’s good for drawing and sketching, but you do need to sharpen it, and with the soft (4B) lead I prefer, it needs sharpening fairly often.

So, I decided to go looking for an automatic pencil somewhere between the two. I knew already that there’s .5mm and .7mm available many places, but I was thinking that maybe .9mm would be better, which is a bit more specialist.

Off to our friends at Cult Pens, then. After a bit of browsing around the pencils, I decided that the Faber-Castell Grip 2011 looked a bit cheap – I’ve tried them before, and they’re very light – I wanted something with a bit more weight to it, and preferably a bit thicker.

The thing that surprised me was the make of the one I really did like – Pentel. I’ve always thought of Pentel as making nasty cheap plastic ballpoint pens, and the rather odd Fountain Pentel. But the GraphGear 1000 is a much nicer looking bit of kit. Chunky, metal, and slightly ugly looking, but in an oddly good way. Somewhere between some sort of medical equipment and an alien weapon. Available in .3mm, .5mm, .7mm, and .9mm, though, so I could have whatever size I wanted.

So I had to think about what thickness I actually did want. I grabbed a .5mm pencil, and had a play with that, and found it surprisingly nice to use. With decent lead, and a nice pencil, it would probably be fine. A look at the lead grades available confirmed it. The .9mm is harder to get hold of anywhere else, and isn’t available from Cult Pens in anything other than HB and B. .5mm is available in more choices than any other size – from 2B to 3H.

I got the pencil, some B and 2B leads (we already have drawers full of HB .5mm leads), and some spare erasers all in my basket, and figured I’d have one more look around before checking out.

Then I saw it.

Wow. That’s a pretty pencil. It’s only available in one size, but it’s the .5mm that I’d already settled on anyway. (Actually, Pentel make them in .7mm, but Cult Pens don’t have them.) It takes the same leads and the same erasers, so I just swapped the pencils in my order, and will soon have a black Pentel Kerry.

I placed the order late last night (after 10:00), and got an email confirming that it had been shipped at 08:05 this morning – thanks, Simon!

So, all being well, tomorrow or soon after, we’ll have a review of it up here. Is it wrong to be excited about getting a new pencil?


Disclosure: We get a small discount on our orders at Cult Pens, in return for mentioning them when we review things we’ve bought there. It’s not in any way related to saying nice things about them or the products, though, and we shopped there and mentioned them here before they offered. I just think we should be open about it.