Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quirky Miriam: Pen Requirements

I am a pen snob. Any sort of writing, from simply filling out a check to making an entry in my journal, the writing implement I use must meet certain criteria.

First, if it is a ballpoint pen (original pen design using liquid ink), it must allow for smooth writing capabilities. Yes, smooth, just like a baby's bottom. To be specific, it must literally glide across the paper with ease requiring very little effort on my part. If I run into any resistance between pen and paper, the pen becomes dead to me and will promptly be replaced.

Second, if the pen is a rollerball pen (ballpoint-based more common with water-based liquid or gelled ink), the pen must not leak, blot or clump. This type of pen, too, must be smooth. If I can hear the pen making it's way across a piece of paper, it too is dead to me.

Third, the pen must make continuous lines unless picked up from the paper to indicate a space or otherwise necessary blankness. When the ball of the point does not roll without ease or the ink fails to flow, such breaks in writing will occur and will then be deemed unacceptable pen performance.

Fourth, the pen must commence writing upon immediate contact to the paper. You would be surprised how many of both ballpoint and rollerball pens stall at the point of touch down and the disbursement of ink does not occur until well into the first letter. It is unbecoming of a pen and totally annoying.

Fifth, the pen must have a manageable grip. For me, I prefer a barrel with a small-to-medium diameter. I am impartial to rubber gripping, but do appreciate a soft hold.

Sixth, spinnability. I like to twirl my pen in my fingers. The pen must have just the right balance at the end and the tip to facilitate swift twirling in the fingers with minimal probability of dropping. Note: It's no longer just an Asian thing. Lots of people do it. I just happen to be Asian and I always spin my pen. It is otherwise very common.

Below are examples of my favorite pens both past and present:

Paper Mate - Stick Ballpoint Pen
Through grade school, this was my pen of choice. It met all of the above requirements and just seemed to hug my lined school paper that I fancied so much.

uni-ball® Roller Pens
Later in high school I discovered the uni-ball. Excellent for spinning though I found the pen's writing performance would deteriorate any time I dropped the pen on its tip. But overall, smooth and near-perfect for writing.

Pentel R.S.V.P. Ballpoint Pens

Best twirling pen on the market and near-flawless writing capability. I feel free when I use this pen. In college it was my pen of choice along with the uni-ball.

Pilot® G-2 Retractable Gel-Ink Pens

For quite some time, I resisted this pen. I had seen it in the hands of so many that I didn't want to believe it could perform to my standards. It just seemed so cliche. But, one day, in a pinch, I reached for the pen and never really put it down. While it has very poor spinnability and will blot and bleed if the tip is ever damaged, it is comfortable in the hand and offers a smooth motion. Also, replacement ink is easily accommodated.

Honorable Mention

Yasutomo Niji Grip 500 Mechanical Pencil
Since we're talking about writing implements, I believe that there is a pencil worthy of mentioning. All should bow to this mechanical pencil. The Niji Grip 500 retractable pencil was a gem of its day. I remember yearning for one but feeling the disappointment at the $7 price tag, a high price to pay for a pencil. The one major downfall of this pencil is the poorly constructed rubber grip, which over time, stretches out and becomes loose on the barrel. But other than that, it is mechanical pencil engineering at its finest.

I shun all other pens that do not meet the above criteria. I am always pleasantly surprised when I pick up a pen, free, borrowed or otherwise, that makes the act of pen to paper so enjoyable. Among good pens and bad pens, there is a difference and we have a choice.