Pilot Vanishing Point Ballpoint Pen - Gunmetal

I love the Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen a lot. It is the type of pen that seems to get a hit or miss type of response from people, but generally not a lot of "meh" type of folks out there. Either you love it, or hate it. Kind of like Marmite.

I've known about the ballpoint version of this pen for quite some time and was always anxious to try one out. Pen Chalet started carrying them and was kind enough to send me one to for review on the blog, so special thanks to them for providing it.

If you are familiar with the fountain pen version, the size of the ballpoint is about the same, but also feels a bit different. The barrel is definitely slimmer in diameter by about a good mm or so which, in pen diameters can feel like a lot. Pilot does make a smaller version of the Vanishing Point called the Decimo, but I've never used one so can't say for sure if this is closer to that in size.

The model I received is the chrome and gunmetal, which is a metallic grey, lacquered finish. It is glossy and picks up the gleams of light in the room. The chrome section is, well, chrome and is one of those fingerprint magnet surfaces. The finish on everything is excellent which is what I always come to expect from Pilot products.

One thing about the fountain pen version is that it comes in about a zillion color schemes, and Pilot is always releasing more. Not the ballpoint version though. From what I can tell it comes in only a few color variations, generally in the more "businessy" palette of black, white, grey (gunmetal), and silver, all with the chrome accents. I was hoping for a matte black version.

And, the chrome is so shiny that one can also make cameo appearances in their own reviews...

The tip of the pen where the refill extends is a rounded, dome shaped feature that cuts off sharply. Now, being so familiar with the wider fountain nib opening (which I think has a bit of an aquatic vibe), this looks weird to me, but only due to the fact of familiarity. If I'd never before seen the fountain pen version it would be fine, but my brain is telling me it is off...but it isn't.

What makes the Vanishing Point series different than most retractable pens is that the opening faces UP when in your pocket, versus down with the knock mechanism visible. This is for the obvious practical purposes of not leaving an open (so to speak) fountain pen upside down in your pocket to let gravity have its fun with your nice oxford shirt. This is also true with the ballpoint version as they are in essence the same pen, just with different insides.

The ballpoint version is considerably lighter than its fountain pen cousin coming in at around 0.6 oz. Compared to 1.0 oz inked fountain pen version, this is extremely noticeable in the hand if the Vanishing Point is one of your regulars. It doesn't feel cheap, but doesn't have quite the same substance to it. It almost feels like they are made from slightly different materials.

To extend the tip the knock has quite a bit of spring movement before it kicks in and the refill appears. It easily takes about 0.5 - 0.75" of push before you see the tip of the pen show up. There is also an audible "crrrrriiiiiing" type of noise (best I can muster phonetically) from the inside spring which is also different. Kind of like a tinny metal noise then followed by a loud "click" when the refill snaps into place. This, of course, doesn't impact utility at all, just a noticeable difference in the experience worth noting.

The refill inside is the Pilot BRFN-30-M (M for medium), which is compatible with other ballpoint barrels like the Ageless and Dr. Grip to name a couple. It is a very smooth and enjoyable ballpoint refill that lays down a dark and consistent line (no rollerball or gel mind you). It is available in either black, blue, or red in fine or medium line widths.

While writing there is literally no movement in the tip which is always a good thing. 

Going back to the thing that those that adamantly dislike the pen call out most, is the clip placement. For some, depending on your writing grip, the clip is in your hand while writing which I could see being uncomfortable for people. I have what I'd consider a sort of stereotypical pen grip or, the "three point" placement of thumb and index finger at the 10 and 2 o-clock positions with the pen resting at 6 o-clock on the side of the middle finger, so the clip doesn't impose on me in the least.

I like this pen, probably since I enjoy the fountain pen so much, but am not certain I'd put this one in the daily use category for me. When using a ballpoint, I just seem to have a variety of pens that I gravitate towards more, but I'm sure it will see use from time to time. I actually think for a pen person in your life these could make a great unique gift of a pen that they've likely not seen before.

Retail on these babies is pretty high (in my opinion) at $136, but the street price is much less. Pen Chalet actually has them for a steal at $68 if you were itching to add one to your collection, but not sure how long that will last as it says "limited quantities" on the site. 

Thanks again to Pen Chalet for sending this one my way!


Appelboom Pens and Stationery (sponsor)

Appelboom is a pen retailer that has been serving the Netherlands for over 20 years and has a fantastic reputation for customer care and value. I've made several purchases from them myself and I always receive my pens promptly and well packaged (gift wrapped actually!).

They carry an extensive variety of pens from our favorite brands like Sailor, LAMY, Kaweco, and others and are even a distributor for Montblanc. I've personally found several unique models that I've not seen carried by other retailers, so definitely take a look at their lineup.

For buyers outside of the EU, the pricing removes the included 21% VAT (value added tax) which can often translate into big savings for more expensive pens with Appelboom's competitive pricing.

Also, when placing an order use the promo code FRIEND for 10% off of your purchase* for more savings.

Thanks so much to Appelboom for sponsoring The Clicky Post! 

(*The promo code is not applicable for Montblanc pens due to their non-discount policies, but is available for all other brands.)

DUO Pen and Stylus by 529 Studio

A new pen to the Kickstarter scene is the DUO minimal ballpoint and stylus pen by 529 Studio in the UK. They were kind enough to send me a sample prototype for review, so many thanks to them for providing it to share here on the blog.

The DUO is a pen machined from aluminum (aluminium...this is a British pen...) and the model I received is in a bright anodized (anodised?... ok, enough) Electric Blue finish. The machining is nice, simple, and didn't appear to have any noticeable blemishes or issues. Etched in the top section of the pen is the 529 Studio logo, a crescent style moon which is tasteful and not overly distracting.

It is manufactured and assembled locally in the UK where 529 Studio resides which is a huge plus for me. Not that getting things manufactured elsewhere is "bad", but I always enjoy seeing companies strive to support their local economies and businesses when they can. 

It is a very skinny pen at about just over 1/4" in diameter. Think about the size of a normal woodcased pencil and is fairly light weight coming in at 0.6oz.

The grip area of the pen (and the rest of it) is completely smooth, and being so narrow I did find it a slight bit difficult to be comfortable and hard to get a good grip on it. At least I felt I was constantly moving it around in my fingers to get a better handle on the pen. Not sure there is a lot to be done here without losing some of the "minimal" design like adding some machined rings, etc. 

The pen is built upon the Cross-style twist mechanism and takes the threaded, screw-in style refills. A lot of people love these ballpoint refills and there are quite a few varieties of these to choose from, but if you're hoping to swap in a gel or rollerball there aren't really options for it.  

With the barrel being a bit on the slick side, getting a hold of the two pieces to twist the mechanism doesn't seem to be the most comfortable and actually took a bit of conscious effort each time opening and closing. Also, when twisting, the two pieces seem to "flex" out of alignment a little creating a small (like, really small) stair stepping effect between the seam. With a little wiggling they go back into alignment, but seemed a bit odd.

Granted, these are prototypes and I'm not certain how the actual mechanism is fastened to the lower, grip barrel section, but there seems to be some slight fluidity or give in there that would be nice to get tightened down in final production.

If you are familiar with the Cross Century (of course you are...) which I think everyone's parent or grandparent used in their Franklin-Covey or checkbook (usually gold), then you can get a sense of the size and overall feel of this pen. Normally, the Cross pens have a clip and I think this is where some of the "twist" problems come in as you usually have something extra to hang onto when extending the refill which the DUO does not.

If I can be blunt, the stair stepping thing did bother me quite a lot as it feels a bit wobbly and set a tone for the overall feel of things. 

The stylus tip is on the smaller side which is a plus and works well. I don't really use a stylus often, but it was responsive when I did some tests on my iPhone. If you use a stylus tip often, this one works well.

I find this pen to fit a pretty unique taste: the Cross refill and mechanism, stylus, really skinny... It is definitely unlike other pens hitting Kickstarter these days, but at the same time doesn't offer much in uniqueness or novelty in my opinion. And, in functionality it is similar to a Cross Century or Tech2 pen, just sans a clip for the more minimal style, but I'm still not super clear on how it stands out in a crowd of similar pens. It is machined and not quite as "flashy" as similar pens, I'll definitely say that.

Overall the DUO is a nice pen that has a lot of visual appeal when you see it. There are things I think they can refine a bit more like the flex in the barrel (if possible), but I know they are looking to make an excellent pen and hope my feedback/thoughts are seen as constructive or helpful.

Thanks again to 529 Studio for sending the DUO my way! Check out their Kickstarter campaign for more details on the options and pricing for the pen.