I like my analog tools, such as notebooks and, yes, pens. As I’ll discuss in another post (or possibly more than one), after long history with Moleskine notebooks, I recently started trying out Leuchturm notebooks (specifically the 1917 medium and pocket models).
Back during a recent flirtation with fountain pens, I ordered my first Leuchturm when I saw it recommended as more fountain-pen friendly than Moleskines. Indeed, that was my experience. But I think I’m done with fountain pens for the time being, for various reasons: the fussiness, the need to have the right paper, the mess of refilling (especially with the essentially indelible Noodler’s Bay State Blue, gorgeous though it may be on the page).
So, I’m back to disposables, with the following main use cases:
- Notes on Tops legal pads at meetings, etc.
- Free-writing/essay beginnings in a Leuchturm 1917 medium hard-cover notebook
- Field notes, observations, and other on-the-go jottings in a Leuchturm 1917 pocket-sized softcover notebook
(Point 3, above, refers to the fact that, after a hiatus of about 5 years, I am trying to get back into keeping a pocket notebook; the results of my earlier pocket-notebook habit, 2002-2010, are pictured to the right.)
As it turns out, these are pretty distinct needs. A pen that works well in a small notebook (relatively fine point, to save space; dries quickly, so as not to smear after fast jottings) is less pleasant on a sheet of Tops paper, which, although better than many cheaper legal pads, is still not the smoothest writing surface in the world.
My go-to disposable pens have for a long time been various sizes of Pilot G-2 (I know, I’m such an iconoclast). Although I once preferred the 05 (.05mm) size for my pocket notebooks, these eventually came to feel too “scratchy” to me, especially on a sheet of Tops paper.
But the “10” size (1mm), while great at slapping satisfying thick lines of ink onto cheaper papers, is no good for a pocket notebook: you write too large because of said thick line, and it takes too long to dry, leading to smears when you close your notebook.
If I had to use Pilot G2s, the 07 would be my choice for pocket notebook use, a decent compromise between the 05 and 10 (which makes sense, I guess).
It was starting to seem as though I would need to keep a supply of both the 10s and the 07s on hand, the former for work-related note-taking on legal pads, the latter for my personal notebooks. But that would have been a pain, because they look identical (other than the place on the pocket clip where one says “10” and one says “07”). This makes it difficult to know which one you are grabbing when headed out the door. I was starting to consider ordering some kind of colored electrical tape so that I could distinguish them at a glance.
One day recently, I was revisiting the now-closed (but still darn useful!) website 43Folders when I came across an old comment recommending Sakura Pigma Micron pens as good for pocket carry and/or, in that case, Moleskines—but the main takeaways were, (1) pleasant to write with (i.e., not scratchy) and (2) dries fast. Bonus: archival quality ink, which probably doesn’t matter but feels nice to say.
So, I ordered a few Microns, and I had a similarly positive experience. Very pleasant glide over the paper, and I discovered that I don’t dislike fine lines at all, it’s just that fine-line pens are usually scratchy. These are not scratchy in the slightest. I love that I can now easily distinguish between “work pens” and my “pocket carry” pen. I also like having a pen with a cap. One worry—especially with the really heavy, wet ink of the PIlot G-2 10s, is that the clicker button could get activated in a pocket (or the pen could get put away with the point out accidentally), staining the article of clothing.
My only slight complaint about the Micron: I generally prefer blue ink, but the blue Micron looks a little “faded” or light to me, as shown to the right. (It’s certainly no Bay State Blue!) The top entry is a black Micron 03; the second is a blue Micron 03. If I hadn’t decided to buy 20 of the damn things in blue, I might have moved back to black. As it is, the lightness of the blue is not enough to be a dealbreaker, so I’ll keep using them for now.
Among other nice outcomes, as we use up the household’s existing 05s and 07s, we can gradually transition to a point where the 10s are our only general household pens (again, very nice on the cheap paper one uses for everyday tasks, like shopping lists, etc.) and we aren’t always grabbing different sizes. I have already pretty much thrown away most of the cheap ballpoints one seems to endlessly accumulate; soon we will have one uniform writing experience to be expected whenever anyone grabs a pen anywhere in the house.
Life is short. Why endure crappy pens?