Category Archives: Pens

Sheaffer VFM

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Sheaffer. I wanted to make sure I got a review of one of their pens this year, and I’m glad I did!

Sheaffer VFM Fountain Pen

I first saw the Sheaffer VFM while browsing my favorite local store, If Only…, looking for something else. I check the pen cabinets every time I go, and this time this little pen came home with me.

Now, when I say little pen, I mean visually. It is a very simple design that appears unobtrusive; a basic tapered cylinder for barrel and cap, and clip. Not a lot to it, yet even in its simplicity it has a rather elegant style. The barrel comes in a number of different colors.

Details

This is a metal bodied pen with a weight you would expect from a metal pen of this size. The pen body comes in a number of colors to match any preference. I picked up a Maximum Orange body, which suited the Fall mood. The store did not have Shaeffer refills in the Universal cartridge that this pen takes. I filled it with a J. Herbin Universal refill in Bleu Nuit.

The nib is steel and can be found in Fine and Medium. The medium nib I chose writes with about the same width as Lamy’s fine tips.

Sheaffer VFM Nib

The Sheaffer VFM with ink cartridge weighs in at 20.4 grams. Closed, it’s just shy of 5.5″ long. Open and posted, it is a tad over 6″. Don’t post your pens? Open without the cap, it is 4.75″.

In Use

Before I open my mouth and reveal myself as the new-found Sheaffer fan-boy that I am, let me state that I bought this pen purely out of curiosity. I liked its clean looks, but that was all I knew about the pen. That said, this pen has become my daily use pen, pushing aside my Lamy Al-Star at home and my Parker Jotter at work. Let me tell you why…

First and likely foremost, this is one durable pen. The body has a nice, solid feel to it. There are few edges, and no sharp corners that could catch on anything, and this includes the clip. Its edges are all rounded, so nothing to poke. Why is this important to me? It makes it comfortable to carry in pants pockets. This means it is with me where ever I go.

While it took a bit to get the ink to flow the first time I inserted a cartridge, it has never skipped since. Lines are clean and react nicely to differing pressures, laying down a clean line. With the J. Herbin ink, this means you can shade letters and drawings.

Sheaffer VFM writing sample

Pros

Among many, it is an inexpensive pen. I see them on Amazon for between $15 and $17. I paid a bit over $16 locally, which puts it right in that range. Not a fan of fountain pens? The Sheaffer VFM can also be found in ballpoint and roller-ball versions. This is also one tough pen, a thick metal body making up the bulk of the pen. I throw mine in my pocket with loose change and it has yet to scratch the surface.

Cons

I’ve only found two items I would consider cons. First, the cap, when posted, seems a bit loose. I can wobble it around. The cap has a plastic inner liner that should hold it snug against the pen barrel, but even if I press it as tightly as I can, after a while it works loose and begins to wobble again. Not really that big a deal for me as I can write fine, posted or not. Usually, I simply don’t post the cap.

The second may be primarily an issue with local availability. Since this pen takes Universal cartridges, I’ve found myself oddly limited with the local shops. I can only find Universal cartridge ink by J. Herbin locally. While they do have an excellent selection of colors, I’d like to try other brands before settling on an ink. I’ll likely have to shop online to either find other Universal cartridges, or a piston/plunger converter.

Final Word

As noted above, this has become my work-horse pen. I carry it everywhere. If the style fits yours, it is definitely worth picking up. At less than $20, it certainly won’t break the bank.

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Zebra Telescopic

A bit of back-story. I was going through some boxes that I’d long ago stashed in a closet when I found a little blue pen. I don’t recall when I purchased it, though it must have been at least 10 years ago. The pen was a blue-bodied Zebra Telescopic, and it still worked. Surprised by this, I went out to see if the pen was still in production. Sure enough, I found them at Office Max.

Zebra Telescopic

Now, I can’t for the life of me think of any situation where having a pen that can make itself two inches shorter would ever be of utmost priority. In fact, it seems really gimmicky to me. That said, it is a nifty little pen.

Details

Zebra Telescopic TipsThe Zebra Telescopic is a steel bodied pen that has a retraction mechanism that both makes the pen about an inch and a half shorter and covers the pen tip for protection. At full length, the pen is 5.25 inches while retracted it is 3.75 inches. Not a horribly big difference, and you can’t write when it is retracted, making me wonder what the point is.

The pen can be refilled, though finding new cartridges can prove difficult if shopping locally. The Zebra Telescopic has a sturdy steel clip. The tip is a 1mm ballpoint. It can be found in blue, black and red ink, though, locally, I have only seen it in black.

 

In Use

Zebra Telescopic Writing SampleThe Zebra Telescopic is a smooth writing ballpoint pen. Lines are clean, though it took a bit to get the ink flowing in the new pen. The Telescopic has a textured metal grip which makes it easy to hold on to. It’s a pretty light pen for being made of stainless steel.

The black ink of the newer pen does appear to be slightly lighter than the old pen. Not sure if that is just a result of the prolonged storage of the old pen, or a difference in ink formulation between the two. The older pen did have some skipping. The newer pen showed some, but considerably less than the older one.

Pros

What can you say for a pen that sits for a decade but still performs well? This pen certainly has longevity on its side. I guess in a way the ability to retract to a smaller size is a pro. It’s certainly not a con, but does seem a bit like a useless gimmick. This pen can be refilled, which is a nice plus.

Cons

Probably the biggest con is the limited number of color options: Black, Blue and Red are your only choices. I’ll add the difficulty in finding refills to that list. I can’t find them locally. You can, however, find them on Amazon.com.

Final Word

The Zebra Telescopic is a fine pen, but I find the ability to “telescope” a pen a useless feature. You can certainly find comparable ballpoints without this feature in the same price range. I’ll admit to finding a pen that still writes like new after sitting for a decade rather cool, though. The stainless steel pen body is quite robust and can take some abuse.

 

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TUL GL1 Retractable

I make no secret of my dislike for gel pens. I find the ink dries to slowly making it easy to smear. I have had several that leaked, or often needed the tip cleaned before use. In general, I avoid them.

TUL GL1

There is one, however, that I use often; the TUL GL1. This is my go to pen for editing. When I’m writing on my computer, I will occasionally print out my work and go at it with a red pen. You know, like your teacher used to do to your term papers. A red pen just seems natural for editing.

So, let’s have a look at this pen and why I think of all the gel pens I’ve used, I find it a keeper.

Details

The TUL GL1 is a plastic bodied pen with a rubber grip. It comes in a number of colors and tip sizes, so finding one to match your writing style should be fairly easy. The GL1 is a fairly light pen.

In Use

TUL GL1 writing sample

I use the GL1 primarily in red for editing. I have done some note taking with it, and find that unlike most gel pens I’ve used, the ink dries quickly and does not smear. Ink flows smoothly with no skips. The red ink is vibrant, which is why I use it for edits – they are very easy to spot!

The pen feels good in the hand and has a textured rubberized grip. The retraction mechanism is smooth and I have had no issues with it. Unlike many pens I have used, the clip is extremely sturdy. It is a wide strip of stainless steel with excellent tension. I don’t tend to clip my pens to things, but if I did, I would expect this one to not break or lose tension unless seriously abused.

Pros

Speaking for the red ink, it is bright and clean. This pen does not skip. Lines are smooth and uniform. The ink also dries very fast. The pen, itself, is sturdy. While this is marketed as a disposable pen, refills can be found.

Cons

Refills are only in black, as far as I’ve been able to find. No good for my red pen! Compared to other disposable gel pens, the TUL GL1 is a bit pricy. I could find single pens for just under $2.00. A pack of four different color pens cost me a tad over $6.00.

Final Word

Would I recommend this pen? If you like gel pens, but hate the smearing often associated with them, then definitely yes. This is the only gel pen I currently use, and, admittedly, my use is pretty limited. I typically only use the red pen from the four-pen set I purchased, but the other colors are equally vivid and quick drying. If TUL’s gel pens had been the first gel pens I had ever used, I might not have such a bad opinion of gel pens in general.

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Lamy Joy

As its name implies, the Lamy Joy is a fun pen. The Joy’s unique design brings to my mind a modern take on old quill pens. And while it is an all plastic pen, the body is very resistant to scratches. The black body of the pen is offset by red accents in the clip and tail end of the pen.

Lamy Joy

This is a very comfortable pen, having the same ergonomic grip as the Lamy Al-star. It sits well in the hand and is quite light. Like many Lamy fountain pens, a small view-port gives you a visual indicator of ink levels remaining in the pen.

You can get the Joy in three different tip widths. I have it in both the 1.1mm and 1.9mm, but there is a middle size at 1.5mm. The fine tip produces a nice, flowing script that I find perfect for letter writing. The broader tips, as one would expect, are excellent for calligraphy, a skill, I’m sad to say, I do not excel at to put it mildly. I will keep trying, though. No fault of the pen, this is one you can chalk up to user error.

The Lamy Joy uses the same T10 refills as the Lamy Al-star. Lamy also sells a piston refill converter, allowing you to use other brand inks. A nice feature if you enjoy colors beyond the standard colors offered by Lamy.

This is definitely a pen I would put on any Top 10 list for pens. The Lamy Joy is an affordable, stylish fountain pen designed to bring out your best writing.

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Cross Classic Century

Much like the Parker Jotter, the Cross Classic Century is a timeless design. First released in the 1940s, the pen has retained a solid feel. Coming in several design patterns, choices are quite varied, including a model that comes in at over $2,500. My budget will keep me to the lower end! The model you see in the pictures is the Cross Classic Century Satin Chrome, which does not appear on the Cross website. My assumption is that this version of the pen is no longer in production, which would be a shame, as I really like its styling.

Cross Classic Century

This pen can definitely be a workhorse. The metal body gives it a nice weight. This is a very thin pen with a width of less than 8mm. That may prove to be uncomfortable for those who prefer a thicker pen. Overall, though, despite its size, the Cross Classic Century is a very durable pen.

Cross Century Classic writing endThis is a swivel action pen, so there is no button mechanism to worry about breaking. Turning the top of the pen is smooth and the tip comes out cleanly. I have read a number of reviews of this model that suggest that the pens of Chinese manufacture have issues here. Checking the original packaging, I see that I, too, have a Chinese pen. Perhaps I got lucky, but it does not exhibit the problems these reviews suggest. You can read those reviews by clicking the affiliate link at the bottom of this review.

Cross Classic Century - The Gap

The dreaded (though easily fixed) gap!

One of the issues pointed out was that after placing an ink refill, the two halves of the pen did not come completely together, and thus exhibited a gap. I can reproduce that, but it’s also easily corrected by twisting the top half as you press it back on. Some may find that annoying, but it’s so easy to do, that I have a hard time seeing it as a problem. I have to admit, though, that I have not owned an older, American made Cross, so I have no real basis to compare the two. They do come with a lifetime guarantee, so if you do have issues with one, it should be relatively painless to get fixed.

Overall, I like this pen. While a little narrow in diameter, the weight is excellent and ink flow seems perfect. I get no smudged lines from still wet ink as I move down lines. Nor do I see gaps in writing. Just nice, smooth writing – well, as smooth as my handwriting can be!

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