Drehgriffel Nr. 1: A Review of the Leuchtturm1917 Gel Ink Pen

London Graphic Centre is one of my favourite stores in London. It’s tucked away in the corner of a street off of Neal street in Covent Garden, and it’s a real haven for artists, designers, architects and anyone who loves stationery and art supplies. I visit it several times whenever I’m in London, and I never fail to find something new and interesting there to try out. This time was no different, and one of the first things that caught my eye while I was there was this:

Rectangular box, Leuchtturm1917 logo, aquamarine colour, unusual pen design – of course I had to check it out.

It was just above the Leuchtturm1917 notebook display, and there were just three or four colours available, but it was obvious that this pen was designed to match the colours on offer in the Leuchtturm notebook lineup. I assumed at first that it was a ballpoint, in which case I wasn’t really interested in it, until I saw that it was prominently labeled as a gel ink pen. Now that was intriguing.

Rectangular cardboard box, with Nr. 1 and “Gel” clearly marked on it, plus the aquamarine colour.

The box was a bit confusingly marked as both “Gel” and “Gel ballpoint”. Checking out the Leuchtturm site clarified that this pen (we’ll get to the name in a minute) is indeed a gel ink pen, with a Japanese refill and a “Ceramic Ball” tip. The refill itself looks very much like the Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel ink refill. My guess would be that this is the same refill, but more on that later.

Several things of interest here: the “Designed in Germany, Made in Taiwan” that is reminiscent of Apple’s packaging. The prominent “Gel” marking and then the confusing “Gel ballpoint” designation. And the “Ceramic Ball” notation.

Somebody really took the time to design this box, but really didn’t consider how illegible the pen’s name is:

I was sure that the pen was called orehgriffel or ovehgriffel.

The pen is called Drehgriffel Nr. 1, a bit of a mouthful. Apparently Drehgriffel means “rotary stylus”, which probably refers to the pen’s twist mechanism.

The pen has an aluminum body, a white twist nob at the end and brass pen tip. It’s well balanced, heavier than a plastic pen but lighter than a Retro 51 or a machined pen. It’s slightly heavier than a metal bodied Caran d’Ache 849, but if they were put in a boxing ring they’d both be in the same weight category.

The Drehgriffel has a very 60’s look, which I happen to like, but other people may find to be dated. Also, the Nr. 1 is a weird designation when you don’t have any other pen on offer. Will there be a Nr. 2? A Nr. 3?

Here’s the pen’s refill and parts. It’s weighted slightly towards the tip because the tip is brass (and, of course, the pen tip will tarnish with time).

The Drehgriffel taken apart.

Here’s the Drehgriffel refill side by side with a Monteverde Capless Ceramic Gel refill, and they are exactly the same. Good to know if you’re looking to replace refills, although I suspect that it will take a while to write this pen dry.

Monteverde refill on the top, Leuchtturm refill on the bottom.

The Drehgriffel is similar in size and weight (and price) to the Caran d’Ache 849 metal barrelled pens. It’s a smidge wider and heavier than the 849, but they are very much in the same ballpark. Here they are side by side:

Leuchtturm1917 Drehgriffel on the left, Caran d’Ache 849 on the right.

Here’s a writing sample of the Drehgriffel against a few other gel refills. It’s noticeably wider than Japanese 0.5 gel in pens, and is closer to 0.7 gel ink refills. I tested it on a Moleskine squared notebook (and further down you can see it on a Leuchtturm1917 notebook).

Writing samples.

Here’s the reverse side of the Moleskine page. The Drehgriffel bled a bit more than its counterparts:

The reverse of the page.

Here’s a writing test on a Leuchtturm1917 80gsm blank notebook:

Leuchtturm1917 writing sample.

Here too there was visible show through an some bleed through, although there was less bleed through than the Moleskine.

The reverse side of the Leuchtturm1917 page.

The Drehgriffel writes smoothly, but there’s nothing in the pen’s smoothness that justifies the advertising. It’s a nice pen, that comes in a variety of colours and that has an interesting design and good refill. In my opinion it would have been more popular if it came with a click mechanism and was a little cheaper, but I still appreciate the fact that Leuchtturm chose to come out with a gel ink pen first and not the more obvious choice of a ballpoint. I like the look and feel of my Drehgriffel, although I would have liked it better if it would have been a little bit wider. As it is if I use it for more than a page or so without pause it causes my hand to ache and cramp up.

Now I’m wondering if there’s going to be a Drehgriffel Nr.2 with a click mechanism perhaps?

Karas Kustoms Machined Pens Grip Section Review

Karas Kustoms makes some of my favourite machined pens, and even with all the great new machined pens in the market I still think that a Kara’s Kustoms Retrakt, Render K or Bolt are the best first machined pens to buy. They are well made, well designed, tough, and well priced. In the past year or so they’ve added a lot of new grip options to the lineup, so I thought that I’d go through the various options and review them, to help those wondering which grip option to try.

Grip options from left to right: shiny anodized fluted, matte anodized fluted, anodized rings, Cerakote “plain”, anodized speed groove, anodized MK II, Cerakote dragonskin.

Not all of the grip options nor all of the finishes are offered in all of Karas Kustoms’ pens, however, if there is a particular combination you are looking for and it isn’t currently available there’s a good chance that it will show up in a limited edition at some point. Kara’s is always experimenting with their pens, so even though you may not be able to purchase any of the specific pens shown here, you’ll likely be able to find something else just as good.

Grip options from left to right: shiny anodized fluted, matte anodized fluted, anodized rings, Cerakote “plain”, anodized speed groove, anodized MK II, Cerakote dragonskin.

The newest of Kara’s grip options are the speed grooves, the MK II and the Dragonskin. Of the three, Karas seem to be issuing more MK II and Dragonskin lately, and these two grip options are the “grippiest” of them all. If you find machined pens problematic to grip because they tend to be slippery, the Dragonskin or the MK II grip options are made for you.

From left to right: speed groove, MK II and dragonskin.

Of the older grip options, the rings seems to be offered only on the EDK, while the fluted options are available on the Bolt and the Retrakt. The fluted options provide decent enough grip, but depending on how tightly how grip the pen you may find them uncomfortable for long writing sessions. They don’t dig into your fingers, they just feel a little “off” if you use the grip of death. The rings on the EDK provide little additional grip beyond what you get from the plain anodized options. I see the rings as more of an aesthetic statement here than something that provides more traction.

From left to right: fluted with shiny anodization, fluted with matte anodization, rings, plain Cerakote and anodized speed groove grip sections.

Karas has started creating more Cerakote (a kind of durable ceramic finish) pens lately, and in general they provide a little more grip than their anodized counterparts. In terms of finish, the shiny anodization and matte anodization are almost the same in terms of grippiness, and the Cerakote is slightly better than them, but not by much. If your hands tend to sweat a lot, these aren’t the best options for you.

Plain Cerakote Bolt V2

The rings on the EDK’s grip are honestly more for aesthetics than for added grip. I like the look and it suits the EDK very much, but don’t expect it to add functionality to the pen.

EDK with a ringed grip.

The fluted grip works, although it works better on the matte finished pens than the super shiny ones. The pen won’t slip from your hand, but it may not be the most comfortable thing to write with over time (depending on your grip). It is one of the more attractive and classy grip options, particularly suited for the longer pens.

Retrakt V2 with matte anodization and a fluted grip.
Bolt V2 with shiny anodization and a fluted grip.

The Speed-Groove grip option looks very slick and is pretty slick. Buy it for the looks, not out of any expectation that it will add to the grippiness of the pen. It’s comfortable, and a bit better than the plain and ring options in term of the traction it offers, but if you have sweaty hands, this is not the grip for you.

Bolt V2 with a Speed-Groove grip

The MK II will speak to those with a penchant for militaria (the grip design is based on the US MK II grenade) and to those looking for a robust grip option. It provides the most grip and has a traditional and understated profile. For a “wilder” option with the same amount of grip, see the Dragonskin below.

Retrakt V2 with an MK II grip.

The newest grip option that Karas offer is the Dragonskin. It’s dramatic, it calls attention to itself, but it’s also comfortable to hold and provides plenty of added grip. I like the look and love using this grip, but if you want the same functionality with a more traditional look, the MK II will probably be the best option for you.

Bolt V2 Cerakote finished pen with a Dragonskin grip.

Ti Click EDC Pen Orange Cerakote Review

I’m a big fan of BigIDesigns pens. I’ve supported many of their kickstarters, I have all of their pens (except for the Ti Ultra), and I enjoy seeing their takes on EDC pens and tools. They have recently started issuing some of their pens with Cerakote coating, so I thought that I’d do a quick review of the Ti Click EDC pen in orange Cerakote, which they made for the Fall (i.e. Halloween).

I’m not a packaging sort of person, but the new packaging the BigIDesign pens come in is clever enough to warrant a note.

Ti Click EDC Pen outer box

The thick cardboard box comes with two compartments, the large one with a slip cover and the other one with a magnetic clasp mechanism.

Large compartment on the left, with the instructions for changing refills. Small compartment on the right. You can see the instructions for the pocket clip removal tool and the logo sticker that came with the pen.

The large compartment houses the pen and part of the clip removal tool, in foam inserts that protect them. The small compartment houses a bag with spare parts (a spring and two o-rings, a very thoughtful addition), and a key ring to be used with the clip removal tool, to add torque to it.

On the left from top to bottom: clip removal tool, Ti Click EDC pen. On the right you can see the key ring and the bag with the spring and the o-rings.

The pen comes in a golden orange Cerakote finish over a titanium body, with the clip and knock in stonewashed titanium. It arrived with a Schneider Gelion 0.7mm gel ink refill which I haven’t tried out. I swapped in my favourite refill instead – the Uni-ball UMR-85N gel ink refill.

Ti Click EDC with its original refill.

The texture on the Cerakote refill is amazing. It’s matte and yet it sparkles, and its grippy without being abrasive. The result is an attractive pen that is comfortable to hold and use, because of the combination of a wide grip section, the textured coating and the grooves on the grip section.

Cerakote finish glowing.

The grip section is also where all the cleverness of this pen design resides: this is what allows you to customize the Ti Click EDC to accept practically every pen refill on the planet.

Grip section closeup.

The clip and knock mechanism are in stonewashed titanium, which suits this finish very well, but not all the new Cerakote finished pens offered come with this finish – some come with raw titanium clips and knocks, so read the description on the pen’s page to make sure you know what you’re getting and that you’re happy with it.

Clip and click.

I love the design on the end of this pen:

Closeup on the knock area.

This is a beautiful pen that is no longer available, but I still recommend buying a BigIDesign pen in Cerakote (green or bronze are now on offer. Navy and orange were on offer in the past) because they are such good EDC pens and the Cerakote finish only adds to their appeal in terms of form and function.

Ti Click EDC

Here’s a size comparison of the Ti Click EDC against a Caran d’Ache Fixpencil and a Sharpie. You can see just how wide the grip section is.

From top to bottom: Fixpencil, Ti Click EDC and Sharpie.

The “weak” spot on the Ti Click EDC is still the click mechanism. It engages successfully every time, but is quiet and gives very little feedback as it engages, making it feel “mushy”. This doesn’t affect its utility (it works every time, unlike in the earlier iterations of this pen), but it does make it an unsatisfying fidget tool. If that’s what you’re looking for in a pen, the Ti Bolt may be a better choice for you. Otherwise, the Cerakote finish just made a great machined pen even better.

Weekly Update: Winter Cats and Yayoi Kusama

We’re still not getting a real winter yet, but I did get some new Rumpl blankets in this week and that was enough to get my cats into full winter mode. Hopefully there will be some rain next week to justify their need for winter cuddles.

The gentleman.
The lady.

I dared to venture out on the day before my Chemo session, because I really wanted to see the Yayoi Kusama retrospective in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. I arrived when the place was relatively empty, and wore a mask the entire time (as did almost all of the other visitors). The curation of the exhibit was phenomenal, and I enjoyed it very much. I loved seeing Kusama’s early sketches in her sketchbook, as well as her later sculptors and rooms. There was a new room, created specifically for this exhibit, the “Galaxy” room, which was my favourite:

Inside the Galaxy room.

Walking through the museum became a very colourful and oftentimes surreal experience. There’s nothing like being dwarfed by pink tentacles:

Pink tentacles in the atrium.

The penultimate room was phenomenal, with a steel ball exhibit on the floor that toyed with people’s need to view themselves (so many people lay down on the floor to take selfies), and two mosaics of Kusama’s paintings: one colourful and one in black and white, on opposite walls. It was very striking.

With my treatments getting progressively harder, flu season (yes, I’m vaccinated, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that I won’t get sick), and a new Covid variant on the rise I doubt that I’ll be going out much for the next few months. That just makes my visit to this colourful, interesting and joyful exhibition even more precious to me.

Health

I had my 10th Chemo treatment (the second treatment of the fifth cycle) on Tuesday, and this time I asked to get less steroids. So instead of a really, really, really, really, really large amount of steroids, I was given a really, really large amount of steroids. It was a risk (the steroids serve as anti-emetics and general boosters to help me get through the treatment), but so far it has paid off. I could sleep better and longer after the treatment, which helped me feel a little better. The treatments are getting harder, and as I suspected I now no longer have a break in my neuropathy. As I’m typing this, I feel about four out of ten fingers. The secret to typing like this is to be like Wile E. Coyote and not look down or think about typing as I type 🙂

Reading

I got less reading done than I expected this week, and I’m only about a third of the way through James S.A. Corey’s “Cibola Burn” (the Expanse #4). I also need to dedicate some time to update my Goodreads reviews. I have a few notes on books that I’ve read that I’ve yet to publish there. Luckily my reading journal is still around to help me keep track of things.

I’m enjoying the way that the Expanse novels unfold, with 3-4 viewpoints in each one, and large systems of government, military and industry are made human without being overly simplified.

Writing

I journaled a lot this week, but other than that I didn’t get any writing done. My neuropathy meant that holding a pen has become virtually impossible since Thursday evening. I really miss holding and using my pens.

Currently Inked

I’ve been focusing on my standard pens this week (while I could still hold them). The Retro 51 Typewriters have Monteverde gel ink refills installed, and I’m really enjoying them (I don’t like the standard Schmitt refill). The Karas Kustoms Periwinkle Bolt V2 has a dragonskin grip and a cerakote finish and is gorgeous. The other Bolt is the steampunk one, which I love and use regularly. The Tactile Turn Nautilus is the most unique and gorgeous of my standard pens, and the click mechanism is a lot of fun to fidget with. The Uni Jetstream Edge was a pen that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy very much, but I ended up writing the most journal pages with it this week. I can’t explain why I love writing with this pen so much, but I just do. The same can be said of the Pilot Hi-Tec-C next to it, which I’m about to run dry (a pen achievement, if ever there was one). The barrel is cracked, of course, but somehow the tip has remained intact and the gel ink refill hasn’t yet inexplicably stopped flowing.

From left to right: Pilot Hi-Tec-C, Uni Jetstream Edge, Tactile Turn Nautilus, Karas Kustoms Steampunk Bolt V2, Karas Kustoms Periwinkle Bolt V2, Retro 51 Typewriter green, Retro 51 Typewriter copper.

Other Things

I’m hoping that my neuropathy improves next week, so that I can get back to journalling. I’ve started working on some long term projects and with the encouragement of my therapist I may actually get back to planning more than two weeks ahead.

The seeds in my garden have started germinating, which is always a joy to see. Monday is going to be very dry and warm so I’ll have to keep a look out for their health and mine then.

As is usual for a Chemo week, a lot of my time was spent trying to fall asleep and failing, so productivity wise it’s not the best. Hopefully next week will be better.

Tactile Turn Nautilus Quick Review

This is a super quick review because the Tactile Turn Nautilus is available only until the 8th of September, and I can’t write a more detailed review in my current circumstances (more on that in a later update).

This is the Tactile Turn Nautilus (the standard version), a limited edition Tactile Turn side click pen. Photographs do not do this pen justice. It’s stunning in person:

The Tactile Turn Nautilus

It’s a titanium bodied pen with a metallic, colour shifting Cerakote finish, and it’s that finish that transforms this pen from a good machined pen into a triumph of craftsmanship and design.

It’s impossible to photograph the colour shifting of the finish.

There are gold undertones to the finish that, coupled with the grooves on the pen body, the glittering gold clip and the Cerakote finish texture on everything, make this pen mesmerising.

The clip.

The clip has a gold Cerakote finish that evokes the golden undertones of the blue metallic Cerakote finish on the pen body. The gold is muted, and helps make the pen classy not flashy 🙂

The finish adds texture to an already textured pen (due to the Tactile Turn rings that are engraved on all the body). This makes the pen easy to grip, as it has an almost sandy feel to it.

The Tactile Turn Nautilus isn’t a light pen and is top heavy, but it’s still a pen that’s a joy to write with. If you’re considering a Tactile Turn pen, or any machined pen for that matter, I recommend giving the Nautilus a try.

In lieu of a longer review, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments and I’ll be glad to answer.

Karas Kustoms Bolt V2

I am a huge fan of Karas Kustoms machined pens, and I have their Render K, Ink, EDK, and Retrakt but I only recently purchased a Bolt v2. Why? For one thing, I was waiting for an interesting colour combination to come along. For another, I have the Bolt v1 one and have found it practically unusable, so I was hesitant to give the v2 a try. But then Karas Kustoms created a bluish-grey and orange Bolt v2, and the colour combination made me decide to give the Bolt a second chance.

I’m glad that I did.

Bolt v1 on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

The Bolt v2 that I bought has a bluish-grey and orange anodization and fluted grooves in the grip. My Bolt v1 is raw aluminium, has no grooves in the grip section, and as you can see, is very, very long. This is the main reason that I couldn’t use the Bolt v1, as I have small hands and the pen is about 15cm long, which makes it unwieldy. The Bolt v2 is about 2cm shorter, and so about standard size of a pen.

Bolt v1 on the left, Bolt v2 on the right, refills extended.

The v1 and v2 Bolt have a similar design, but the Bolt v1 is a much more impressive pen, even with no anodization. Every time I pulled it out, people asked what it was, and said that it looked like a surgical tool. The Bolt v2 is more practical, and while it’s an attractive pen, it (so far) hasn’t been one to draw too much attention to itself. That may be a good thing, because someone did make an attempt to steal my Bolt v1 when I brought it to the office, which is why I stopped bringing it with me.

Bolt v1 mechanism on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

The bolt mechanism on the v1 and v2 are very similar, but the v2’s mechanism has been streamlined and rounded (see the bottom of the cutout) which means that it’s much easier to engage than the v1. It makes the v2 much nicer to use, and as an added bonus, it turns the pen into a great fidget tool.

Bolt v1 on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

I know that the seam between the grip and the body of the Bolt v1 looks tighter and better fitting than the Bolt v2’s but those looks are misleading. Like the rest of Karas Kustoms v1 pens, the threads that connect the pen grip and pen body were the weakest point on the pen. The threads kept unscrewing themselves, at times while I was writing with the pen. It’s no wonder that they have been redesigned from scratch in the v2, as you can see below:

Bolt v2 parts.

The threads start in a shoulder, are much tighter, and there’s an added o-ring at the bottom. All these together prevent the pen from unscrewing itself unless you deliberately want to unscrew it.

Bolt v1 threads on the left, Bolt v2 on the right.

If you have an interest in machined pens, and specifically in bolt action machined pens, then a Karas Kustoms Bolt v2 should be high up on your list. It’s been my daily pen for a few weeks, and I don’t see it leaving my rotation any time soon. I would recommend checking out Karas’s special projects, since the colourways there are often more striking than in their regular line.

Finished a Pilot-Hi-Tech-C Refill

For the first time ever I managed to write a Pilot High-Tech-C (also known as G-Tech-C) refill dry. The tip didn’t bend to death because someone breathed on it wrong, the refill didn’t have strange bubbles that meant that it just decided not to write any more, and the ball in the tip didn’t break off (thus rendering the pen into a particularly terrible rapidograph). This feels like an achievement and I am going to celebrate — by picking up a brand new High-Tech-C of course.

Empty pen refill.
Just a single crack on the cap from a fall early on, that’s all the damage this pen took.
Empty refill. Didn’t believe that it could be done.

Uni-ball Signo Needle 0.38 Review

I am a huge fan of the Uni-ball Signo line, and the Signo RT 0.5 is my favourite gel pen body and my favourite gel ink refill (UMR-85N). In second place is the Uni-ball Signo DX (UMR-1 refill) and its less common brother: the Uni-ball Signo Needle, which is basically a Signo DX with a needle tip instead of a cone tip.

I don’t have a white gel ink fine enough for the branding on the cap, so image that it’s there.

Like the Uni-ball Signo DX the Uni-ball Signo Needle isn’t as commonly found in the wild of stationery stores as the Pilot G2 or Pilot Hi-Tech-C. It does, however, come in a wide variety of colours, and unlike the Pilot G2 doesn’t blob and smear like crazy. It also has a needle tip that doesn’t wither the moment you look at it, unlike the Pilot Hi-Tech-C. It’s a workhorse needle tip gel pen with an excellent refill that doesn’t dry out even after spending years on your desk, and allows you to use it without worrying about babying its fragile needle tip.

Comfy, reliable workhorse needle point gel pens.

I love the Pilot Hi-Tec-C but I’m well aware that I have thrown more of them away than I have been able to use (the tip bends, the ink dries up and the pen no longer writes, there are “bubbles” in the refills of the even more delicate multi-pen variants of this pen). I’ve yet to have thrown a Uni-ball Signo pen away, needle point pens included. The magic happens in the tip design, which isn’t a two part deal like in the Hi-Tech-C but rather is a DX tip that has been shaped into a needle point, as if someone had taken it between two fingers and squeezed it to form a needle tip. The result is a tip that is stronger with no weak points that are prone to bending.

The smarts are all in this pen’s tip design.

You can see the difference between the Signo Needle tip on the top, and Signo DX tip in my Spoke pen on the bottom. It’s basically the same tip just tapered more acutely.

Needle tip on the top, DX tip on the bottom.

In terms of refills, the Signo Needle uses a UMR-1ND refill, which is the same as the Signo DX’s UMR-1 refill just with a different tip attached. This means that there are very few machined pens on the market that will fit the UMR-1ND refill because of the way the front of the refill is designed. However…

UMR-1 refill on the top, UMR-1ND refill on the bottom.

The Signo Needle refill does fit the Spoke pen! This is a fun bonus of them having the same refill design as the DX (minus the tip). So now not only can you have a reliable needle point gel ink pen with a variety of refills, it will also fit one of the best machined pens on the market (at least in my opinion).

Spoke pen orange crush with the UMR-1ND refill.

I will point out that there is a tiny gap between the pen tip and the grip if you do use a UMR-1ND refill in the Spoke pen, however, the refill doesn’t wiggle in the pen and the gap doesn’t extend into the pen body – it’s just an aesthetic thing.

Tiny gap between the pen tip and the Spoke grip.

Here’s a writing sample with the Signo Needle 0.38. As you can see the lines are crisp and consistent even though I’ve had some of these pens lying around my desk for years. They are a tiny bit wider than the Hi-Tech-C 0.38 lines (just as the Signo DX 0.38 lines are wider than the Hi-Tech-C but thinner than the Pilot G2 0.38).

If you’re looking for a needle tip gel ink pen and are tired of throwing out broken Hi-Tech-Cs (or don’t like their somewhat spartan pen body), give the Signo Needle 0.38 a chance. It may be slightly more expensive than a Hi-Tech-C, but it will ultimately turn out to be cheaper because you’ll have a pen that you can actually use from start to finish.

Spoke Roady Gecko Pen Review

The Spoke Design Roady Gecko pen about a week ago, and I’ve been using it constantly since then. The Roady is an EDC pocket pen made of machined aluminum that is built around the Uni-ball Jetstream SXR-600 refill. Unlike its predecessor, the excellent Signo DX compatible Spoke Pen, the Roady is capable of accepting a wide variety of Parker style refills, including the Fisher Space Pen refill, much beloved in EDC circles.

I don’t usually go for flashy pens, but something about the design of the Roady and the colour options offered made me grab the Gecko. This charmingly named colourway has a lime green cap, an orange barrel and finial, and rainbow coloured grip and clip. The result is even better in person than it is in photos – a pen that makes you smile and is bound to draw attention to itself.

Capped the Spoke Roady is tiny, and ought to fit comfortably in your pockets, if you have some.

There are a few other colourways with similar rainbow patterns on their grip and clip. The result is gorgeous, and I’m glad that Spoke Design haven’t offered these only as limited edition pens, or charged an additional markup for them. That is commendable and impressive, particularly in today’s machined pen market.

Rainbow clip.

Trying to write with the Spoke Roady unposted is asking for trouble, as it’s verging on golf pencil short in its body length. This is a pen clearly designed with posting in mind.

Too short for comfort unposted.

When posted the Spoke Roady becomes a viable EDC pen, although it’s still on the short side. This means that it’s great for short notes on the go, which is what it’s intended for, and not the best for long note taking sessions. The Roady posts using magnets, making a satisfying click when posted. It’s not as great a fidget toy as the Spoke Pen is, not that this should ever dissuade you from purchasing it.

Capped and ready for work.

For some reason the refill came shipped in a separate sleeve and not inside the pen. This is a peculiar choice since the refill came in a Uni-ball refill bag, but with the spring and o-ring already installed, and for some reason a bit of tubing meant to be used as a spacer of some kind? It’s not really clear. Also, while you get a cool sticker and generally nice packaging with the Roady, you don’t get an explanation of any kind with the pen. That’s a shame because it assumes that everyone will know how to handle the refill when it comes to changing the pen’s refill. It feels like a missed opportunity for Spoke.

The refill, Jetstream SXR-600

Here’s the Spoke Roady next to the Spoke Pen. If you can only afford one pen and you’re out and about a lot and like wild colours, then I’d recommend getting the Roady. Otherwise, get the Spoke pen, especially if you like writing in fine lines. Both are good pens, just each one is suited for a different use case.

Roady on the left, Spoke Pen on the right.

Writing sample on Rhodia paper. The Jetstream SXR-600 in 0.7 is an excellent refill choice in the Parker refill category, and the Parker style refill itself is a great choice for an EDC type of pen.

The Roady is a great little pen to have handy, and it’s reasonably priced for a machined pen. I won’t be surprised if I end up buying one or even two more.

A Pen Hack, a Field Notes and the Hi-Tech C

I had an issue with my Ti2 Techliner where my favourite gel ink refill (the Uni-ball UMR-85) and basically all gel ink refills dried out and stopped writing a few words after I uncapped the pen. While ballpoint refills like the Jetstream faired better, they also would “fade out” after a few lines, and then, after some coaxing, return to normal. It couldn’t be that the refill was drying out, as after capping the pen, it wrote well enough again for a few words. It was a refill problem, as the same refill wrote perfectly fine in a different pen.

I tried searching for answers and asked around in the Pen Addict slack but got no answers. It was frustrating, since I liked the pen, but couldn’t use it because it wouldn’t work with my preferred refills. I had a feeling that the magnet at the tip of the pen was what was causing the ink flow issue, but it only yesterday did I figure out how to bypass the very thing that was holding the pen together.

What I did was change the order of the parts in the front section of the pen. The original order was refill, plastic spacer, red o-ring, magnet and then the section screwed over that. What I did was reverse the o-ring and the magnet so now it’s: refill, plastic spacer, magnet, red o-ring, and then the section. The result is kind of pleasing to the eye, and more importantly it fixed the flow problem completely, and now I can actually use this fetching pen.

You can see the red o-ring around the tip of the pen.

I tend not to review Field Notes because they arrive so late to me (due to postal issues, not Field Notes issues) that it seems irrelevant to review last quarter’s edition when everyone already has the new one at hand. Covid-19 has made the postal problems even worse, and so only now, and after contacting the wonderful Field Notes people and getting a reshipment, have my Vignette notebooks arrived.

What also arrived were my Field Notes Rooster 2020 notebooks, which are part of Field Notes’ yearly sponsorship of the Morning News and the Tournament of Books. I read all of the books in the Tournament of Books shortlist this year, for the second year in a row. I didn’t post reviews of them all in this site as I didn’t enjoy the last 3-4 books, and I didn’t feel like posting negative review after negative review.

I did, however, love this year’s Field Notes Rooster special edition notebook, and it is by far my favourite Rooster special edition notebook that Field Notes ever issued. It is a squared notebook, and not lined, for the first time ever, and the bold red and black print on the cover is much more striking than their usual craft or cream choices for this series.

Bold, bright colours on the cover.

The fact that these notebooks (sold as singles, with the proceeds going to literacy related charities) arrived so late means that I have a had a few months to think about the Tournament of Books 2020 reading list.

Squared notebook.

I enjoyed the 2019 reading list more, but the 2020 list was overall a good, interesting list of contemporary writing that I for the most part would not have read otherwise. There were a few mediocre books on it, and a few that I really disliked, but as a whole it wasn’t a bad list. I may try reading next year’s list too.

The list. There are 18 books on the list, 4 books that I though weren’t worth reading, of them two were a silly, bloated waste of time and two were infuriatingly bad. There were 7 books that I thought were real gems.

I wrote a few weeks back that I was struggling with my notebook setup, and things have changed since then. I’ve settled on using a blank large Moleskine hardcover in Reef Blue and a Pilot Hi-Tech C 0.4 for a running list of work projects and related notes.

I’ve customized the cover with a Star Wars decal to make it pop and let me easily identify it.

I use the right hand side for a running tasks per project (I still manage major project points in the Things app), and the left hand side for related points, reminders and ideas. Each project has at least one spread, and I drop in pages with ideas and things to remember in between the project pages.

The Pilot Hi-Tec-C (also known as the G-Tec-C4) is not a pen that I would recommend because it’s so very delicate and unreliable, but I used to be a fan years ago, and in a burst of nostalgia (and against my better judgement) I’ve gone back to using these pens. There’s something about the barrel design of this pen, combined with it’s needle tip that makes me enjoy writing with it. Again, I wouldn’t recommend it, as you’ll rarely see a refill through (the tip will bend, or it will become to scratchy to use, or it will dry out and become unusable) and in general the Uni-ball Signo DX are much better 0.4 tipped gel ink pens. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and this is what I prefer for daily work use right now.