Tag Archives: ballpoint

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.


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.


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.


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.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Pens, Telescopic, Zebra

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!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Classic Century, Cross, Pens

Bic Cristal

The ubiquitous Bic Cristal. The pen that instantly pops into your head when you hear the name Bic. If you asked a dozen people to describe a pen, this is the pen they would likely detail for you. Millions of students diligently take notes with these pens every year. Well, either that, or if they were like me in school, the pen was put to less academic uses.

Bic CristalThe Cristal was the first pen produced by Bic and at this point has likely been produced in the billions. For a simple, long lasting and inexpensive pen, it is hard to beat. You can get a bag of these pens for only a few dollars.

That cheapness does come at a cost, so to speak, and in several ways. The polystyrene plastic is brittle, and it is a rare pen, in my experience, that survives until the ink is all used up. If you, like me, tend to throw your pens into a backpack haphazardly, the Bic Cristal can, and likely will, break. It’s usually not catastrophic. I do not recall the last time I had a Bic pen leak. But even under the best of circumstances, the plastic is easily scratched.

Of course, if you are using a Bic Cristal, odds are style was not your first consideration. If a cracked or scratched pen barrel is not an issue, they do live up to their reputation for longevity. The slogan on the bag, “Writes the first time, every time!” does ring true. And the second time… And the third time…

I am not a fan of disposable pens, by any means. It astonishes me every time I read in the media just how much plastic gets thrown away in the average year. However, Bic’s webpage for the Bic Cristal does note the following:

French ecolabel NF Environnement (NF 400) for the refillable model (in 50-box, sold on catalogue or at stationers)

This suggests that refillable Bic Cristals are out there, I just have never seen one. Which is unfortunate since, while I’m not a fan of the actual pen barrel, the reliability of the ball point and ink cartridge are excellent. So if you do like the simplicity of the pen, and have managed to keep it intact, be aware that somewhere out there you should be able to find refills. If you find a source, I would love to know.

So is this a pen worth purchasing? The costs say yes. They are very inexpensive and reliable. But if you are rough on pens, be glad they come in bags of 10, as you will likely break a few of them.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Bic, Cristal, Pens

Parker Jotter

Parker JotterThe Parker Jotter is my work horse pen, I use one nearly every day. So, I guess it makes sense that it should be my first review on this site.

You know there is something good to be said about a pen when it has its own Wikipedia page. The Jotter seems to have a large following, with nearly one billion pens being produced since the introduction of the Jotter in 1954. The Jotter comes in a number of different styles and price ranges, likely helping to boost its popularity.

While the Jotter does come in a number of different styles, they all follow the basic design – a long, narrow barreled, easy to grip pen, with the trademark arrow clip. Barrels come in plastic and metal, with metal barrels tending to command higher prices. Plastic barrels come in a number of colors, with blue, black and red seeming the most common, but also available in green and pink.

Through the end of 2012, sales of Pink Ribbon Jotters contributed toward City of Hope breast cancer research. I’m uncertain if this has been extended into 2013, and while I can still find these pens for sale online, I haven’t seen one in a local store for some time.

Overall, Parker Jotters are probably best known for their reliability and ruggedness. My use of them has borne this out. I’m pretty hard on pens, chucking them into backpacks, taking them out camping or on photo shoots in all kinds of weather, and so far, I have not managed to kill a single one I’ve used, regardless of barrel material. This has surprised me, honestly, as I’ve killed many, many other plastic barreled pens this way.

The mechanism of the pen is smooth, with a satisfying click. Like the barrel, it is reliable and I’ve never had one fail on me.

The weight of the pen is squarely in my “just right” area. This is subjective, of course, and different people with different writing styles may feel different. However, I find the width and weight perfect for what I do. And I have to say, this is one area I’m particularly picky. The barrel size was one of the reasons I first picked up one of these pens.

Parker Jotter Top StylesThere are a few cons to this pen that are worth mentioning. As with many pens with metal clips, I find the one on the Jotter has a tendency to bend. This isn’t that big a deal to me, as I have habit of just tossing the pen into a backpack or pocket. However, people who clip their pens to notepads or other items may find that if they clip it to something thick (a bunch of papers, for example) that the clip may bend. I’ve never had it break completely, but I do now have a few that seem loose.

Another item that may just be local is that I’m now having a hard time finding refills. I can’t find the Jotter (or any Parker pen, for that matter) at our local Fred Meyer, which is where I originally purchased my first one. Office Max carries them, but seems to have a limited stock of refills. Again, this may just be a local thing, and refills are easy to find online at e-retailers such as Amazon.com.

Overall, I love my Parker Jotter. I actually own several at this point and use them both at home and at work. It’s easily my favorite workaday pen. It’s dependable, rugged and even stylish. This is a pen I would definitely recommend to people.


1 Comment

Filed under Jotter, Parker, Pens