Tag Archives: pen

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.


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Filed under Pens, Telescopic, Zebra

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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Filed under GL1, Pens, TUL

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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Filed under Joy, Lamy, Pens

Handwritten Letters are Better Letters

[Note: This is an article I wrote eight years ago that I felt fit this site well. I have updated it to bring it current.]

In this age of instant messaging, email, and cell phones, we often think of communication as an immediate priority. We lose some of the finesse of the writers of years gone by. Messages tend to be choppy, full of acronyms and misspellings. There is no grace to our correspondence anymore.

After my wife and I separated, my children wound up two-thousand miles away. At that time, too young for email and cell phones, I began learning the art of letter writing. In my town, and I would hope most others, there is a shop specializing in all things writing related. There I found the book Writing Letters with Pen & Ink (which, unfortunately, now appears to be out of print).

The book is filled with wonderful tips and history. It is not a long book, by any stretch of the imagination, at only 29 pages. The pages are packed with artwork, memorable quotes from famous writers, but most important of all, inspiration to put away that keyboard and let the words flow from your hand to ink.

A typed letter can never provide the entire picture. Each letter, a laser copy of each other letter, so perfect in form, can not convey the emotional warmth that comes from imperfect handwriting, where a difference in style could signal uplifting feeling, or deepest despair.

This book inspired me to write, but there was another problem. I have never had the best of handwriting, and I was diagnosed with the neurological disorder essential tremor. This causes a person’s extremities to shake, in my case making my handwriting all that much worse.

Another book, Write Now came to my aid.

This book is filled with everything you need to learn to write in italic, a simple, yet elegant and legible writing style. There are exercises that run you through each letter, both capital and lowercase, organized in such a way that you are learning similar shapes and motions.

Italic puts an emphasis on least number of strokes per letter. The result is a system that lets you write neat, clean letters quickly. While I can not claim that italic cursive is the easiest thing to learn, it does look very nice.

Within a few days, I noticed that my writing was much more legible. The book is not a miracle worker, you do need to practice to get better. Writing letters, or keeping a journal are both excellent ways of practicing.

So get out there and write someone. Everyone loves finding a letter from a friend or loved one amidst the stack of bills.

Update: I first wrote this article eight years ago. Since then, both of the books mentioned appear to have become hard to find. I’ve provided a link for Write Now to the author’s web site. In theory, you can order from there, but when I tried the link was broken. A new edition has come out since I wrote this.

I’ve found no source for Writing Letters with Pen & Ink. I suggest trying a local library, or searching online for a used copy.

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Filed under General Ideas, Handwriting, Letter Writing

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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Filed under Classic Century, Cross, Pens