I have never been a fan of non-gel ballpoints; the ink is generally inconsistent and not particularly vivid. I have received ballpoints as gifts on a number of occasions and on a pen blog it would be wrong to ignore them.
The S.T. Dupont Liberté ballpoint is made from a brass barrel finished in black lacquer (not the more expensive Chinese lacquer S.T. Dupont is famous for) with palladium accents. The tapered design is elegant and the top of the cap its faceted with “D” in metal. Even though this is a lower end model for S.T. Dupont it still costs a whopping $480 retail. The Liberté is a fingerprint magnet and that drives me nuts but the fit and finish is exceptional.
The Liberté weighs in at 1.16oz which makes it a heavier pen but in my hand it is incredibly well balanced. The body of the pen attaches to the cap with threading on the INSIDE of the barrel (see below). To deploy and retract the ballpoint you simply twist the pen. The twist mechanism is both very smooth and very crisp.
The ballpoint is an S.T. Dupont branded EasyFLOW Schmidt refill that is unusually smooth. It is so smooth in fact that I felt inclined to write in my normal cursive-esque hand. Unfortunately the look of the ink is unusually hideous. The easyFLOW refill always starts up without delay which is nice but when the ink looks this washed out and faint who really cares?
With a better refill The S.T. Dupont Liberté would be a great ballpoint pen that quality-wise is superior to many pens in the same price-range (the modern version of the Montblanc Meisterstück and the Cartier Diabolo come to mind).
The Parker 51 (P51 for short) is one of the most famous and most revered fountain pens ever made. The P51 was produced for 30+ years starting in the 1941 and as a result there are all sorts of variations (you can even buy these pens with new bespoke bodies for $400+). I am not going to get into the history and different types of Parker 51s I am only going to talk about my Parker 51 which has been my favorite fountain pen for several years now.
My P51 is an “Aerometric” version and therefor produced in 1949 or later. “Aerometric” refers to the pens filling system which uses a clear sack impervious to the chemical effects of ink. The pen is filled by depressing the pressure bar four times. An aerometric P51 holds more ink than many larger piston filled fountain pens thanks to the efficiency of the filling system.
I purchased my P51 on a famous auction site for around $40 in original condition. The pen was thoroughly cleaned and when filled with ink wrote beautifully. The body is a nice dark green and the cap has a pinstripe design and is 12ct gold filed; I am not sure the cap is original to this pen. The nice thing about the standard size P51 is that most of the caps are interchangeable. I bought a nice silver cap as an extra for my P51.
Thanks to the hooded nib the pen can be left uncapped for a very long time and write straight away without missing a beat. I am not certain what width my nib is but I suspect its a medium. I have also dropped mine a couple of times on hard surfaces without any damage to report. The gold nib puts down a nice wet line with just the right amount of feedback, no flex to speak of.
The styling of this pen is very clean and streamlined. It doesn’t scream “fountain pen” which is nice when you are in a meeting and don’t want to draw attention to yourself. This pen is 6″ posted, 5.5″ capped and 0.5″ at its widest point. The weight of my P51 is 20.4 grams which is light weight for a fountain pen but not so light as to feel cheap.
For durability, every day usability, and writing quality nothing in my collection beats the Parker 51 fountain pen. This is a great pen and every fountain pen collector should have at least one. At some point I am going to want to buy one with a custom body from Torelli Pen (no affiliation).
The Zebra Arbez Eo Ballpoint Pen 0.7 mm has an unusual body that is inspired by various modes of transport in London. The Arbez series from Zebra (arbreZ…the name is Zebra spelled backwards) is the company’s designer series which features pens designed by winners of a competition aimed at young new designers.
The body of the pen has a toy-like look to it and has a weird half oval shape (one size is flat and the rest of the pen is rounded; think of an elongated “D”) which has been suggested is to resemble a Tube tunnel. I have a normal grip but I generally don’t care pens that dictate how I should hold them. Based on the design of the pen and where the branding is, this pen should be held with your index finger resting on the flat portion of the barrel. I don’t find the barrel to be uncomfortable but I don’t want to waste brain cycles thinking about how to hold a ballpoint pen.
The ballpoint writes smoothly but is not as nice as some other less expensive ballpoints like the Pilot Acroball. Also I don’t like that this pen has a cap. Ballpoints don’t need a cap and I would prefer not to deal with one if I don’t have to.
If you love the design or simply want a conversation piece then it may be worth shelling out the $3.30 the Zebra Arbez Eo Ballpoint.
Here are a couple other reviews of the Zebra Arbez Eo Ballpoint Pen:
The Uni Live Pigment Sign Pen is a decent porous tip pen with a simple black plastic body and a metal clip on the cap. The pen puts down a nice bold black line, darker than that of the Stabilo Sensor I reviewed yesterday. This pen writes relatively smooth but does not glide across the paper as easily as other porous tip pens like the Staedtler Triplus fineliner (review to come) and the Stabilo mentioned earlier. At $1.65 this pen is affordable but only comes in black, blue and red. I like the Uni Live but I don’t think it is a pen I will be rushing out to buy more of them any time soon.
I want to start off this post by saying that I love fineliners. Fountain pens are my favorite but fineliners are a close second for their lovely feel, portability, and ease of use. Now on to the review:
The Stabilo Sensor features a micro-cushioning “sensor” technology that is supposed to make long writing sessions more comfortable. The fineliner tip retracts into the metal casing when pressure is applied. For me it feels a bit weird. The pen feels bouncy on the paper and I don’t feel quite as in control as I do with other fineliners. The tip is smooth and glides along the paper nicely. I am not really sure I care for the looks of this pen. The “aluminum look” doesn’t look back but I don’t care for all of the big bold branding; to me it doesn’t have a professional look, it looks like a marker. The Sensor comes in black, blue, red, and green. For $1.60 this isn’t a bad pen but I can’t say I will be rushing out to buy another one.
The tip being cased in metal is durable and works well with a ruler
No ink bleed on to the paper
The black isn’t as dark as other fineliners like the Ohto Graphic Liner (review to come)
Ink is non-archival
Springy tip feels odd
Here are some great reviews of the Stabilo Sensor:
(I have no affiliation with any of the sites below)
The Optima is one of Aurora’s higher-end pens with a piston fill system and a 14k gold nib. My Optima has a factory oblique-double-broad (OBB) nib and a burgundy “Auroloide” (celluloid) body. The nib can be unscrewed for easy swapping. Being a piston filler this pen holds a lot of ink and even has a “reserve tank”. When the pen becomes low you simply twist the piston knob as far as it will go and this activates the special reserve tank which gives you another page or so of ink. The Optima has the smoothest piston of all the pens in my collection, it is a real joy to use.
Aurora makes all of its nibs in house and the Optima’s nib is large and beautifully decorated. This is my only OBB nib and I was surprised by how much I like it. The nib glides effortlessly across the paper without being overly toothy like my other stub and oblique pens tend to be. Aurora is famous for having nail-like nibs and the Optima’s is no exception. If you are looking for some flex this definitely isn’t for you. The nib features and ebonite feed with lots of fins. This pen has been very reliable; it doesn’t skip and starts right away even after being uncapped for 15+ minutes.
The Optima has a very nice weight and size. It’s a shorter pen at 5.9 inches capped but is thicker than normal at slightly over half an inch at the widest point making it very comfortable to hold. The Optima’s dimensions suit me very well. The celluloid body is beautiful. The flat cap and engraving on the barrel which reads “AURORA ITALIA” and “FABBRICA ITALIANA DI PENNE A SERBATOIO” gives this pen a nice vintage feel. The embellishments on the cap are nice quality but I am not in love with them. The Greek keys to my eye are not as tasteful as those found pens by OMAS and Montegrappa.
I have had this pen for about six months and it has been in my regular rotation since purchase. It’s a great workhorse. The quality and attention to detail set this pen apart.
Here are some great reviews on the Optima:
(I have no affiliation to any of the sites linked below)