I have found that all my writing utensils are woefully inadequate, and I’ll tell you why.
My favorite four writing tools:
- Staedtler Multi 4: This is a great writing tool: four different writing instruments. It came with black, red, and orange (“highlighter”) ball point pens and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil installed; I’ve removed the red pen and replaced it with a stylus cannibalized from the 4-in-1 below. I really like the (not rubber) grip on the Staedtler, and having four different points is pretty awesome, even if I almost never use the orange pen (even though orange is my favorite color). How could they make it better? Well, a laser pointer (and flashlight) would be cool to have built in, but my main gripe is the cheap, loose feel of the tip selection. It’s “gravity-based,” according to the website, and that just seems to mean that it rattles like the Texas Giant.
- Promotional 4-in-1: Lasers are cool, of course, but only when they work. This would have been a great pen if it had included a pencil; with a ballpoint pen, (now removed) stylus, (weak and now dead) laser pointer, and (very weak) flashlight all in one slim metal cylinder, what’s not to love? The convenience of having all the tools in one was great, but once the laser died (less than two months after I got it free with my OpenMoko FreeRunner), the lack of a pencil made it less than cool.
- A. T. Cross ATX Rolling-Ball Pen and Pencil: This matching set was one of the best gifts I received at high school graduation, until I lost the pen. However, I do have a few gripes… mostly that the pen and pencil were separate. And no stylus (or laser). And having a cap on the pen (rather than a retractable) means one more piece of which to keep track. Less importantly, the design of the tools was just a little too wide.
- Pilot G2 05 Pen and G2 05 Pencil: These are like a cheap version of the ATX set above - a joy to use, well made and solid feeling; smooth flowing ink and extra-fine soft lead. The same criticisms apply - two separate instruments, and the rubber grip makes it them just slightly too wide. One note about the pencil - the eraser is awesome! Best design I’ve seen in a mechanical pencil. Big enough to be useful, doesn’t fall out all the time….
I always preferred pencils (they’re erasable! what’s not to like?!) until I had Mr. Sam Wilds in sophomore and senior history in high school. His feeling was quite the opposite - and I quote,
Pencils are for communists.
During his courses, I found that I despise ball points. The ink comes out without any semblance of homogeneity, in lines marred by striations and inconsistencies. Since then, I’ve been a roller-ball or gel fan, although some applications (design drawings and map navigation primarily) demand the flexibility of pencil. Mr. Wilds required black or blue ink, but I could never figure out why someone would use blue ink anyway. My father-in-law uses it exclusively to prevent photocopies being passed off as his original work, but with the advent of the color copier (in 1973)….
So, what have we learned today? Here’s what I’m looking for.
- Must-have functions, all in one instrument:
- Pen (black roller ball or gel, extra fine point (0.5mm or better).
- Pencil with eraser (0.5mm or better, and please, make the eraser usable!).
- Value-added functions (still all in the same instrument):
- Laser pointer (bright enough to see in daylight and will last more than a few months).
- Size: Thin enough to fit into a pencil slot in a padfolio or briefcase.
- Pocket clip: Gotta be there, and gotta be strong enough to use (I’m looking at you, Pilot Precise V).
- Grip: Take cues from the Staedtler Mutli-4 and lose the rubber. Texture the case instead.
- Retractability: I hate pen caps.
- Color: Black or steel/aluminum, and matte - no need to be blinded by the chrome finish of my pencil.
I’ve been through the two recent (I say recent as in the last several months) articles (and relevant comments) at Lifehacker about writing utensils, and very few people noted multifunction implements as highly valued. So, anyone who’s got a multifunction they love, leave a comment and let me know. Also, I’ve been oogling the A. T. Cross Tech3 multifunction - anyone have one? Would you recommend it? Anyone know of a gel refill that will fit it?