Pen Review: Monteverde One Touch Stylus

Ron at Pen Chalet asked me to review a pen, and I chose the Monteverde One Touch Stylus. I’m into ballpoint these days, I like click pens because they’re so easy to deploy. They also give me a good outlet for fidgeting by letting me click them repeatedly.

The pen arrived quickly in fine condition and upon opening the box I was greeted by a pen quite a bit fatter than I was expecting. This pen is pretty girthy compared to an Ecridor, Jotter or Fisher AG-7.

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The click mechanism is fairly smooth, reasonably quiet, and seems to be positive. The pen has a fair bit of reveal – about an inch – with the clicker having a shape that makes for very easy pen extraction from whatever pocket or sleeve you put it in. This is good especially because the pen is fat is likely to be a snug fit in sleeves.

The clip has a big ball on the end so it should be easy to get it over most pocket hems. The clip has enough clearance for a suit-coat pocket for sure, probaby enough for most winter coat pockets. It grabbed a shirt pocket hem just fine.

The Monteverde Soft Touch refill is black, and in extra broad. In actual practice it’s not that broad unless you press fairly firmly but it is a very smooth and easy rolling experience.

To replace the refill you have to unscrew the cone of the pen, and there you see an exposed spring. The spring is retained by a bit of friction and it didn’t fall out for me, but I get a bit worried about changing cartridges in places where it’s not easy to retrieve any pieces that go missing, like when sitting on an airplane in coach. The cone is also small and can’t be put down in a way where it doesn’t roll. These are pretty minor complaints.

I ordered the pen in carbon fiber finish, with a yellow accent on the clip. The yellow is more like gold – it’s just not bright enough in my opinion. The carbon fiber looks good, although I can’t be certain if it’s really carbon fiber or some kind of effect. There is a seam in the weave that runs the length of the pen that suggests it’s not a printed wrap but the real deal. It shimmers when the pen is rotated, something my CF Namiki Vanishing point does not do. The finish on the body is matte while the furniture is gloss. This is the right combination for a pen that should look manly without looking tactical.

Last but not least is the stylus. On the clicker is a small rubber hemisphere that can be used on touch screens. It worked fine on my iOS devices, and it was part of the reason I chose this pen. I do a lot of writing on my iPad these days, and some of the controls in Ulysses are small. I’d also like to keep the screen cleaner. Time will tell if this a feature I use or not.

Overall I like the pen. It’s more than fancy enough for the office, takes parker-style refills, and feels good in the hand. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble taking it with me since it’s about the same price as an AG-7 and the shape makes it easier to grab out of the pen sleeves in most of my bags.

Monteverde One Touch Stylus at Pen Chalet.

Disclosure: The pen was provided at no cost to me. The words and opinions are my own.

Pen review: The Parker Jotter

I’ve written about this pen in the past I think, but not an actual review. It deserves one. It’s not flashy, not new, not born of a kickstarter project and it’s name has zero European cache.

Sure, some disposable ballpoints will write as well, perhaps a smidge better than a cartridge pen, depending on your tastes. But a pen is also a bit a of a talisman. It’s hard to build a long-lasting relationship with a disposable pen. The Jotter occupies the slot right above disposable, but I suspect one could outlive its owner very easily.

IMG_2239It’s the quintessential pushbutton ballpoint pen. Nearly indestructible. simple, foolproof. Made since the 50’s. The Parker cartridges are pretty good, but there’s probably no other cartridge format that is made by as many companies, in as many varieties as the Parker format. My experience is that freshness, even for the Fisher refills, makes a huge difference in writing quality, and Parker-style refills are likely to be the freshest in the store. Not to mention what’s available on the Monteverde site. And Easyflow. And Schmidt. And Schneider. And the Fisher refills, of course. Ballpoint and Gel are available, with the Easyflow 9000 being sort of in between.

The pen is slender and the barrel is smooth. The clip is strong and stiff, optimized for grabbing a shirt pocket, rather than a jacket pocket. Almost no reveal. Getting one of these out of a pen sleeve might just take a pair of pliers. The satin stainless finish is easy to hold, grips fairly easily. The refill will sometimes fit loose enough to click when writing, but that’s not unusual outside of Cross pens.

The clicky mechanism isn’t as precise and smooth as the Fisher AG7, but that’s ok. For you compulsive clickers, like me, it’s got a steam-punky satisfying click-clack. Your coworkers may not be as pleased.

A worthy companion in the ballpoint world. The eminently loanable pen – no chance of someone breaking it – if it wasn’t likely to be kept.

Sometimes I just want something I know will write, and usually that means the Fisher AG7, but the Jotter is lighter. A lot lighter. It’s also a smaller investment – $12 on Amazon (affiliate link) – and you can buy one almost anywhere.

When I think of a pen to leave in the car, or in a little-used portfolio, I think of the Jotter. When I think of a pen I need to rely on, and I’m not quite comfortable taking the $45 AG7 along, it’s the Jotter.

Space pens: AG7 vs. Shuttle

I’ve written a few times about how I like the Fisher refill, and while other pens hold this cartridge, some very versatile pens, I usually ended up back with the AG7(affiliate link) or the Shuttle (bottom). It’s hard to find a ballpoint made as nicely as these.


Both are fundamentally brass pens. A push-button design with a side button release. Both unscrew into two halves to replace the cartridge, and both have retained springs and no loose parts when disassembled.

So it might seem that they are interchangeable, but they aren’t.


The Shuttle (bottom) has a narrower body, but a profile that makes the grip thicker in the writing position. The AG7 has a thicker body, but it narrows further from the point, so it’s a more slender pen to write with. The AG7 is also heavier and more expensive, and has a clip that has more capacity than the Shuttle. It also has less reveal, which can make the pen difficult to remove from pen sleeves. I had a clip break on an AG7 from fatigue. It was about 9 years old and was my daily pen for most of those years. Fisher replaced the pen free of charge, no hassles.

The Shuttle’s clip has a tighter grip, but it’s not a design that will recover from being pushed very far – like over the hem of some jacket pockets. It’s a better clip for a shirt pocket though, where the AG7’s clip sometimes doesn’t grab very well.

The mechanism on both is very solid, and both pens feel good in the hand.

The Shuttle is available in several finishes, and the G4 Gold Grid(affiliate link) is the one I prefer. I bought a CH4 chrome one thinking it would be similar to the AG7, but the spiral knurl isn’t sharp like on the AG7, it’s dull and pretty much useless. The CH4 is also profiled more like the AG7 in the grip area, instead of being thicker. The AG7 is available only in the spiral groove grip, but it’s quite sharp and provides a firm grip.

I use them both, but the AG7 continues to the one I favor, even though I think the CH4 is a bit more comfy.

Most ballpoint pens are pretty darned reliable. The Fisher cartridge adds the ability to write at angles, and I think they are exceptionally smooth when used often. When used infrequently they tend to gum up a bit faster than regular ballpoints. While the cartidge will fit anything that takes the universal Parker refill, these solid body pens have a nice mechanism, feel sturdy, and absorb real world treatment without complaint.

Pen Review: Caran d’Ache Fountain Pen

The Caran d’Ache Ecridor is a nice ballpoint. It’s very similar to the 849, and I received on as a gift from Muller Martini a long time ago. I liked it enough that I wanted a fountain pen to go with it, and bought an Ecridor fountain pen.
I’ve shown it above in a tarnished state – it seems to get that way pretty fast in storage. The discoloration around the grip is a side effect of poor tarn-x usage. Below is is shown with the ballpoint (different pattern) with both in reasonably good polish. Strangely, both keep their polish well and don’t tarnish in use. Only in storage. Current Ecridor pens in silver are touted to be tarnish free.
The build quality is very good. It’s a heavy metal body and cap plated in sterling silver. It’s not easy to keep it polished, but it’s worth the (sometimes substantial) effort to shine it up if storage leaves it gray. The nib is extra fine, and that is a smidge finer than a Namiki fine and definitely finer than most European extra-fine nibs. The pen takes cartridges or a converter. I’ve never tried their cartridges, and the converter is the ubiquitous screw-type. Doesn’t hold as much ink as a Pelikan piston filler, but the pen writes fine enough that it’s not much of an issue.

The interesting thing is that the cap does not post. It also doesn’t have any mechanism to align itself with the body – they’re both hexagonal, so if you’re prone to a little OCD having them misaligned you may find yourself nudging them into alignment. The funny thing for me is that while I rarely post a cap, for some reason I notice it a lot more with this one. Maybe I post more often than I think.

The nib is not super smooth, but is more than competent. If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d put some chromium oxide on some leather make it sing. The grip is slim, like a Rotring 600 ballpoint.

The clip is a strong spring type. I’ve been surprised at the durability of the clip on my Ecridor ball pen – I’ve been convinced it was sprung a few times but it is still in perfect order. The reveal is maybe 5mm. If you carry pens in pen sleeves, this one is likely to be difficult to pull out.

The Ecridor is a minimal design. Slim, thin, short, and sturdy, all while being very well made and very high quality. It’s worth it’s price. Whether or not it’s a good pen is up to you.

Pen Review: Parker Duofold

I remember when I first saw the Parker Duofold in black and white pearl. I thought it was such a classic looking pen. I bought one long ago in the 90’s, and it’s been a somewhat bittersweet experience. I would expect a modern production model to be very much like this one, but of course things may have changed.

It was one of the first pens I really lusted after, and buying it was no impulse purchase.

The pen is large without being gigantic, mine is the international size. I would call it full size, and it’s got just the right amount of heft without being heavy. The overall construction seems fairly solid, but not as well done as a Pelikan or Lamy.

There are pens I can chuck into a drawer and count on them writing in a month or so. Pelikans, Namiki’s, Lamy’s can be counted on. Parker has vents in their caps. I’ve read that this is to comply with some law designed to protect children who swallow caps and get them stuck in their throats. Regardless, it makes for a very unforgiving pen in storage. Perhaps a day or two, but beyond that you’d better be ready to wet the nib before it will write.

The two-toned nib is nicely designed, and has a classic look to it that I like. There are no ribs on the bottom of the nib feed to hold extra ink, which is good for filling, if not for dipping. The nib is stiff but expressive. I don’t know how this can be since the nib isn’t flexible, but it writes much less like a rollerball than many stiff-nibbed pens. A lot like the Lamy 2000 FP in this regard. One of the things I really like about this pen is that I can tweak the ink flow easily. By pinching or spreading the sides of the nib I can get a fairly dry writer for most note taking, or a nice wet writer suitable for heavy cotton paper. The pen does have a ‘rust ring’, a ring at the bottom of the grip, and true to its name mine has begun to corrode

The reveal is short, but the pen is large enough that it may not fit in the sleeves where a short reveal is a problem. The clip is a simple spring clip, rather than hinged. Why can Lamy put a hinged clip on a pen that costs half as much as this one? The top of the cap has nice medallion on it – most other pen companies these days don’t do much here. I don’t know if it’s the medallion or that the cap posts quite high, but the pen is less pleasant to write with when the cap is posted. I usually just hold it in the other hand.

The Duofold is a converter pen, so it doesn’t hold much ink but the cartridges can be nice for travel.

I used to feel dignified when I carried and wrote with this pen, but now it usually feels a bit over the top. I don’t think that is the fault of the pen, as it’s a classic, timeless design. Now I tend to use it for writing letters, or the like, but I do go through phases where I’ll carry it in a pen case and use it at work.

Parker is a brand that is hard for me. Part of me wants to use a pen with American heritage, but the Parkers I’ve owned have been mostly unremarkable. The seem constructed more like kit pens than the offerings of a real pen company should be. If I spend a lot of money on a pen I want real, functional advantages. Nice resin isn’t quite enough.

Pen Review: Cross Townsend

I bought this Cross Townsend quite a while ago, probably in ’99, on one of those trips to the pen store where discipline and good sense went for a walk around the mall while I was in the pen store. I don’t know what I was thinking, as I already owned both a Parker Doufold and a Pelikan M800, but there it is. I must have been thinking I wanted a more formal pen for business situations, that was a little more common than the Parker or Pelikan.

The pen is long. It’s about a centimeter longer than a Lamy Safari, and perhaps 2cm longer than my Pelikan M200’s. It is also heavy, at 44g vs. 16g for the Safari and 14g for the M200. Even the Pelikan M800 is only 29g. Writing with the cap posted qualifies as a forearm workout. I suspect many people associate weight with quality. I know I did for a time. But for real writing comfort I find a lighter instrument is much nicer.

The design is Cross, kind of like a Pillsbury Doughboy version of the Century. The reveal is large at 2.5cm. If you’re looking for something that’s going to really show in a pocket, this is the pen for you. They got the finish right – this one is in green pin stripe, and the finish is rich and flawless. The threads and overall construction are solid, and the pen is well made.

It has a 14k gold nib, which writes very much like most of the steel nib pens I have. The grip is a bit narrow, but comfortable and the pen can be held close to the paper, which I like. The ink system is cartridge/converter, with the same twist-piston converter I see on most pens.

20120217-110223.jpgThe cap is a friction fit, but it’s a tight fit, and while it stays on very securely it is hard to pull off. Unlike the Lamy 2000 which has a nice, crisp, positive feel, the Cross is more like shoving a rubber stopper in a bottle, and removing the cap as the same unpredictable feeling as removing a cork from a bottle of champagne. I find myself flinching when I take the cap off, which is the biggest reason I hate this pen. I do not want to use a pen that punishes me for using it.

Overall Cross Townsend is a competent pen, if unremarkable in the way it writes. It’s a pen for people looking more for pocket jewelry and conference room bling than writing performance, and it delivers that along with a very sturdy feel.

Disappearing details and the illusion of line width

When I started using pencils I found myself wanting to sharpen them all the time. If it wasn’t a fresh-from-the-sharpener needle point, it felt like writing with a crayon after only a few words.

Then laziness took over and I got used to writing with a pretty blunt point, and found I got the knack of maintaining a reasonable line width – wider of course, but not too wide. The funny part is that I was convinced that I writing a much wider line, butt when I look at the writing later I can’t see the difference.

It seems like while I’m writing I notice details that seem to disappear over time. While I’m writing I might think a particular word was written perfectly, each letter exactly as it should be. Five minutes later I can’t tell the difference between that word and the ones next to it. I’ll sketch something, and everything looks off and terrible. 5 minutes later I look at it again, and I’m astonished because it looks too good to have been drawn by me. While I’m writing, a wider nib or a blunter pencil point feels like I’m writing with a broom. Characters with loops like a’s, e’s and l’s seem closed up. But later, I don’t even notice the change in line thickness, or if I do, the wider line is actually easier to read.

Anyone else run into these kinds of disappearing details? Does what you write or draw change for you?