Pilot Juice 0.38mm Blue Pen Review

I have to admit, there was a time when I couldn't stand using an ultra fine gel pen.  Every time I picked one up I felt like I was writing with a pin dipped in ink.  Although, I've found over the last few years that I have grown to really enjoy them for specific purposes like note taking or when drawing more "technical" sketches.  For writing out a birthday card or signing a check?  Nope.

Now, I'm sure you might have heard of the Pilot Juice pen over the last year as there are many people on the bandwagon with these.  It has taken me up until now to try some, but in my last JetPens order I stocked up a bit...

The Pilot Juice I'd probably put in the category of the G2, 207, and Energel type pens, but the options available are literally insane.  Pilot knows how to do it right people.  There are at least 24 colors available (that I know of) and three sizes in a .38, .5, and .7mm.  If we do the math, that is ALOT of options for not only one pen brand, but one pen model.

Upon writing with the Juice I've found it to be excellent.  Even the .38 I'm using lays down a nice crisp and dark line with each stroke.  At only $1.65 apiece, these will definitely be making their way into my regular writing.

The barrel on the Juice isn't really anything to write home about.  Granted, it is a cheap pen but the barrel doesn't feel nearly as sturdy as a G2 and all the innards have kind of that low cost feel.  I'm glad the writing experience is top notch!  

The beauty of the refill is that it is the same size as the G2 so it will fit a variety of your favorite pens like the Karas Kustoms Retrakt, BIGiDESIGN Ti-Click Classic, or the upcoming Tactile Turn Mover.

I also bought some blue black and grey versions, but will likely be trying out more.  Seriously, for $1.65, toss a couple colors into your cart through JetPens to try as these are fantastic.

Palomino Golden Bear #2 Wood Cased Pencil

Alright folks... after nearly a year of Clicky Posting, I have yet to review a wood cased pencil mostly due to the fact that I don't use them and don't really know much about them.  What makes them good?  What makes them poor?  All of this is still a mystery to me, so for my inaugural wood cased post you'll just have to bear (golden?) with my ignorance as I am way out of my league here.

First and foremost I'd like to give a big thanks to my friend Tim from The Writing Arsenal for setting me up not only with this pencil, but nearly a dozen of what I would consider "fancy" pencils like the Palomino Blackwing 602, Pearl, and many others.  I think he is trying to convert me... I've been sitting on this stash of pencils for a little while now waiting for the right time to dig in.

Instagram Shot of Tim's Stash

Instagram Shot of Tim's Stash

What has prompted my desire to break out these pencils is listening to the Erasable Podcast put on by Tim, Johnny, and Andy (all of whom are pencil addicts) that is centered around the wood cased pencil scene.  Pretty legit, and these guys definitely know their stuff.  The podcast is still in its infancy, but is gaining traction so make sure to give them a listen if you want to be "schooled".  Tim is a teacher too, so he knows what he is doing in that arena... 

Honestly, this review may not be entirely technical when it comes to what is good or bad about the pencil (because I don't really know...yet), but may more so be about how I felt while using a pencil again.

Why did I choose the Palomino Golden Bear for starters?  Well it has an orange eraser which I thought was pretty slick, and it is a Palomino so it has to be good, right?  You see?  Ignorant, but learning.  

I'm not used to erasing what I write since using ink is a bit more permanent, but I did give the Golden Bear's eraser a whirl and it seemed to do alright.  It still left a pretty good outline of the words on the page, but it could be that the Doane Paper Idea Journal paper is a bit porous and traps more of the graphite. 

One thing I really enjoyed about the using a wood cased pencil was the smell while sharpening and while writing.  Really, what I think is a lot of the draw to wood cased pencils is the way we feel when we use them.  Although pens are tactile, a wood cased pencil feels more raw and more organic; they are simpler it seems.  They are light weight, but still sturdy to hold and everything we do with them seems more temporary.  Personal perhaps?  There is definitely some nostalgia to the experience as it takes me back to days in grade school when using these was a daily occurrence.  With pens things seem a bit more "business".   

The Golden Bear is a #2 style which is usually the equivalent of an HB on the lead hardness scale.  I generally prefer leads that run a bit softer in the 2B range because they put down a darker line.  I'm excited to do some comparisons as I move through the set that Tim gave me.

I have perhaps an embarrassing confession to make... as I hadn't used wood cased pencils for literally over a decade, I did not have a decent sharpener about.  Not sure if I picked up a good one, but I decided to buy one that looked to be of quality so that I would give the pencils the best experience possible.  I'll have to peruse JetPens to see if they have other sharpeners that people like.  Any suggestions?

This review was a lot of fun and I need to take a pencil with me more often or have some at work to use.  Thanks again, Tim!

For the wood cased pencil experts, visit these blogs:

The Writing Arsenal


Pencil Revolution

Ti2 TechLiner Prototype Pen by Mike Bond - Kickstarter

Back again and off to a great start is Mike Bond of Ti2 Design with his newest offering to the pen world, the Ti2 TechLiner.  Mike was kind enough to send me a sample prototype of the TechLiner and, I must admit, I'm definitely a fan.

You may recall Mike's previous and successful Ti2 Pen, which was launched and funded back in 2012.  Has it been that long?  If you are familiar with the experience of the original Ti2, you'll be in for a treat with the TechLiner.

The TechLiner I can best describe as an industrial, yet minimal pen that looks sleek but a bit tough.  Refined, but a bit rugged.  There are obvious design cues that connect the new offering with its predecessor, but it definitely holds it's own.

One of the main shifts for the pen is the movement away from the Pilot Hi-Tec-C as the refill of choice to a more readily and easily available gel pen, the Uni-ball Signo 207.  Mike has made mention that they may also consider making the Pilot G2 a possibility, but it isn't certain.  The 207 is a fantastic refill that touts Uni's unique "Super Ink" that is fadeproof/waterproof and is one that I use almost daily in my writing arsenal.  I think this is a wise choice by Mike as the Hi-Tec-C is not for everyone.

The all titanium barrel has an excellent heft to it that feels fantastic.  Mike sent me the tumbled version which I really enjoy the look of, but if you're wanting something a bit different he is also offering a special "Gonzodized" version in conjunction with Brad Martin (creator of the TiPen)and also a "Black Edition" that looks pretty slick.  For added grip, the design also incorporates some unique machined grooves.  Not traditional knurling, but subtle and cool looking.

For the sake of simplicity and more efficient manufacturing, Mike opted to design the pen with only three machined parts: the cap, barrel, and end sections (which are identical parts).  This is down from five machined parts for the original Ti2 Pen.  

The geek factor that sets this pen apart from others is its use of magnets to hold the cap on either the tip or tail.  Honestly, this feature is pretty killer and works incredibly well.  The magnets are strong enough to pull the cap tightly in place, but not too strong where it takes effort to get it on or off.  I assure you, if people see you using this pen they will want to play with it...

Now, referencing back to the limited number of unique parts, this seems to put a small dilemma in the aesthetic, or more so, people's perception of the aesthetic.  With both ends being identical parts and there not being a conical "tip", Mike engineered the magnets themselves to hold the refill in place.

The results is a more sharp looking writing tip that seems to spear out of the pen which is very different than people are used to.  In showing it around, there have been a few people that said they didn't enjoy it, but others weren't bothered by it in the least.  In Mike's initial email introducing me to the pen and project, he even made mention of this that the design may not be for all.  Personally, I think it kind of adds to the industrial look of the pen and does make it unique.  I haven't found that the writing experience is hindered in the least because of how snuggly the refill is housed in barrel.   

Both the Ti2 Pen and TechLiner don't come standard with a clip, but the option is there to get one for an extra $10.  The clip is actually the exact same one as the Ti2 Pen and is held into place by the threaded tail section.   It actually is a super solid clip, and no worries about bending it or it not performing well.  Against the tumbled barrel, the clip fits right in and the overall matching color is appealing.

One small thing that could become an annoyance (under the right circumstances) is that on the tail of the pen the magnet is exposed and attracts small shavings of metal.  The magnet is held in place by a slight lip which creates a recess that could collect little shavings.  Have you ever drug a magnet through the dirt?  Small bits of iron will stick to it like little prickly hairs.  I could definitely see this happening as mine had a few small shavings (not sure where they came from?) collecting at the end.  I wouldn't say it is a design flaw, but an observation.

Overall, I'm stoked about the Ti2 TechLiner.  The issue of the tip aesthetic might throw some people off, but give his campaign a look if it may be up your alley.

Thanks, Mike! 

Also, Mike has a cool line of other products under the Ti2 umbrella that are available.

Caran d'Ache 849 Ballpoint

I've been sitting on the Caran d'Ache 849 ballpoint for quite awhile now.  When I originally saw this pen I was extremely excited as the design and style instantly stood out to me, and while on a visit to see my friend Jay at Scottsdale Pen (my local pen guy) I decided to pick up a black version.

Now, I have to admit, I'm not entirely impressed.  Man!  I just gave the rest of the review away... shame on me.

Actually, it's not all completely bad.  I really enjoy the metal barrel that transitions from a hexagon to a point (yeah, love hexagons) and the way the clip is attached to the pen.  Design wise, the pen does it for me.

Performance wise, I'm a bit disappointed.  Granted, these are my opinions, but for the price of $20-30 I just expected a bit more I guess.  The refill in particular is your typical ballpoint refill that doesn't perform anything special.  The lines are very inconsistent and there is quite a bit of page showing through the letters.  

***UPDATE: So apparently this pen does take a Parker style refill (which I never tried) and I will be swapping in the Schmidt EasyFlow.  Thanks everyone for the feedback! 

The second piece that I'm not entirely impressed with is the knock section.  It is more of a "squish" style rather than a "click".  I'm not opposed to a silent mechanism as I really enjoy the knock that Karas Kustoms uses on their Retrakt, but the difference is that it feels substantial and is all metal.  

When the knock is unscrewed (which is also the way to replace the refill), you'll find exposed that much of it is actually plastic with some very thin presses steel to shape the button section.  To rescrew it back in is even tricky as it doesn't catch every time which is kind of a pain.

The pen feels good in the hand and I really want to love it, but the pleasure of using it just isn't there.  I think with some slight investment into better components that were a bit more weighty, durable, and felt of higher quality that it could be great.  It is an ok pen, but not a great pen...of course, in my opinion.

Caran d'Ache does make some higher end models of the design, but I wonder if the experience would be different?  Based on this one, I won't be investing into any further 849s.