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Category — Pens & Paper

Japantown Pens

Recently I visited San Francisco’s Japantown, and couldn’t resist picking up even more Japanese pens…so here’s what I bought along with some brief commentary (pens described in order from left to right).

All of these pens were made in Japan, although some of the Sailor 0.38 pens (in colors I didn’t buy) were made in Thailand.

Pens from Kinokuniya (Maido) Stationery

Pens from Kinokuniya (Maido) Stationery

Pens from Kinokuniya Stationery (operated by Maido Stationery)

  • Uni-ball Signo DX 0.38 Light Blue gel pen.  I love my burgandy red Signo DX, so I had to pick up another DX.  This one is also very sweet.
  • Zebra Surari 0.5 Blue emulsion ink pen.  In the past, I haven’t been impressed with Zebra’s pens, but the Surari’s are sweet; I think I like them better than the Uni Jetstream or Pentel Energel.  The 0.5 color range is restricted, but I do like this shade of blue.
  • Zebra Surari 0.7 Purple emulsion ink pen.  Zebra has an interesting range of colors for their 0.7 mm Surari’s, so I went for purple.  I like this pen.
  • Pilot Petit 1 fountain pen.  I’ve been wanting to try a cheap fountain pen, and after extensive testing at Maido, I decided that the Petit 1 is substantially smoother than the Platinum Preppy.  I like the older style better than the new Petit 1.
  • Pilot Petit ink (black and red).
  • Pilot Petit 3 brush pen (solid tip).  I bought this because it’s cheap, cute, refillable, and uses the same refills as the Petit 1.
  • Mitsubishi (Uni-ball) PFK-206 brush pen (solid tip).  It has a fine tip and broad tip.
Pens from Ichiban Kan

Pens from Ichiban Kan

Pens from Ichiban Kan

  • Kuretake brush pen (bristle tip).  I love this playing with this pen, even though I’m not artistic; it’s a steal at $1.75, and I should’ve bought more.
  • Uni-ball PIN 01 pen.  I’m not a big fan of felt tip / marker style pens for writing, but I’m interesting in comparing it to the Sakura Pigma Micron.
  • Uni-ball Noble Metal Gold pen.  I wanted to check out the Sakura Gelly Roll competition.
Pens from Daiso Japan

Pens from Daiso Japan

Pens from Daiso Japan

  • Sailor 0.38 Light Blue gel pen.  It writes well, color is similar to the Signo DX, automatically retracts when put into shirt pocket, but it’s kind of ugly.  Even though I like retractable pens, I think I’d take the Signo DX over this pen.
  • Zebra brush pen (solid tip).

May 10, 2011   2 Comments

Rhodia Deals at Target

Clearance-priced Rhodia Notebooks

Clearance-priced Rhodia Notebooks

I noticed my local Target started carrying Rhodia notebooks a couple months ago.  They were a little pricey for my budget, so I didn’t get any (I’m not  addicted (at least not yet) to pricey notebooks or fountain pens).

Then they disappeared.  Where did they go?  I saw the solution at another Target: they are now on clearance.  I couldn’t resist the clearance prices ($1.31 for the lined notebook, $2.54 for the Reverse square book),  so I bought a bunch.

I’m not sure why the Targets here (Silicon Valley) are dropping Rhodia.  My impression is that my local Target has reduced the size of the paper (notebook, notepad, etc) section by 50% or more, with a corresponding reduction in selection.

Update: I checked another Target, and they have the same clearance deal.  So if you’re interested in these Rhodia notebooks at firesale prices, check your local Target before they’re gone.

March 16, 2011   No Comments

I hope Staple’s G-Tec-C’s are only the start

After watching the PenAddict’s recent Staples buying spree, it was time for me to visit Staples.  My haul was a bit different:

  1. A Pilot G-Tec-C 0.4mm color 5-pack (black, blue, red, green, and purple).  So far I really like these pens.  The black 2-pack was sold out my first visit, but they had a couple on my second visit.
  2. I also noticed some Pilot G2 0.38mm packs, which is good (in the past, I’ve only seen these at OfficeMax).
  3. I couldn’t resist 5 pads of graph paper for $3.  I haven’t used graph paper in ages (since high school, mainly) so I’m going to see how I like it now.
  4. I did get some odds and ends (like a pencil sharpener for $2 for my kids), but nothing else exciting.
  5. I passed on the Sharpies; I’ve got a 3 pack of Sharpie pens, but so far don’t like them enough to buy more.

I’m hoping that more fine-line Japanese gel pens make it to the “standard” US stores — G-Tec-Cs and 0.38mm G2’s are a nice start.

Update Feb 2011: at least one local Target has Rhodia pads (graph and lined).  Rhodia might be great, but I’m not ready yet to spend $10 for a notebook (I guess I like pens much more than I like paper).

January 15, 2011   No Comments

My Quest For Sakura Pens

My Sakura Gelly Roll Gelato Pen

My Sakura Gelly Roll Gelato Pen

I still haven’t found another Sakura Gelly Roll Gelato pen.  I spent more time and money than I intended on my quest — but I learned a bit, too.

Why do I like the Gelato?  Because it’s at least a bit better than other good pens (e.g. Pilot, Uniball) with a very fine line (Sakura claims 0.26mm line width for the 04 model I have), wonderfully smooth ink flow, comfortable grip, and retractable design.

A Gelly Roll Bonanza

My Gelly Roll Bonanza (L->R: Pigma Micron, Regular, Metallic, Gold Shadow, Stardust, Moonlight)

Basically, what’s available at retail are the “artsy” Sakura pens, such as the metallic Gelly Roll models.  The Gelly Rolls are nice pens, but they  are best for fun; for writing, I prefer the feel, thinner line, and retractable design of the Gelato.  My results:

  • Michael’s had a few packages of various Gelly Roll types and Pigma Micron pens.  They did not have any individual pens.
  • Jo-ann Fabrics had a similar, but larger, selection of Sakura Gelly Roll and Pigma Micron packages.  They did not have any individual pens.
    • Jo-ann does have a much wider range available on-line, including individual pens.
    • Jo-ann’s web and retail selection is much better than Michael’s.
  • Aaron Brothers is changing: they had individual Gelly Roll and Pigma pens, but were closing them out.  You can see in the picture that I went a little crazy buying Gelly Rolls.  (It’s for my kids, of course.)
    • Aaron Brothers did not have any multi-pen packages.  It appears they are closing out their more technical and artistic products (e.g. Sakura pens, Faber Castell pencils) in favor of a greatly expanded children’s selection.  The children’s area is pretty nice; I’ll check it out again when it’s close to my kids’ birthdays.

I haven’t had a chance to visit the stationery stores in San Jose or Palo Alto.  But I did find a very nice (but pricey) stationery store while having fun in San Francisco: Maido Stationery.  Actually, the Japantown store is called Kinokuniya Stationery, but it’s run by Maido.  Their other stores are in downtown San Francisco, Santana Row in San Jose, Los Angeles (with Kinokuniya) and New York (with Kinokuniya)

Pilot HI-TEC-C 0.3mm Pen

Pilot HI-TEC-C 0.3mm Pen

Basically, Maido is a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) store — everything is direct from Japan.  They have good selection of Sakura products, including individual pens, along with Pilot, Mitsubishi (Uniball), and such.

If you like pens, you should definitely visit sometime.  They have a wide variety of pens I’ve never seen before, down to 0.25mm width, in all kinds of cool colors.  I ended up buying the finest-line pen that I felt wrote well, a 0.3mm blue Pilot HI-TEC-C (and was lucky I didn’t spend a lot more).  Maido has the hard to find 0.3mm and 0.4mm mechanical pencils — and leads.  I was intrigued by them (I had a Staedtler 0.3mm pencil many years ago), but they were quite pricey, the  real world results weren’t much finer than a 0.5mm pencil, and it’s very easy to break the leads.

But Maido doesn’t have the Sakura Gelato.  The saleslady said it looked like an export model meant for Western countries.  The Sakura America web site says the entire Gelly Roll line was originally intended for export to the US.  In Japan Sakura sells a lot of normal writing pens, but Sakura decided it would be very hard to compete with the US market leaders, so they created a new market with the Gelly Rolls.

Apparently, Sakura was right; in 2003, they introduced the Gelato, and in 2004 some additional models, but it looks like all Gelatos have been discontinued, which is a shame.  The Gelato 04 model has a claimed line width (0.26mm) almost as fine as anything in Maido (0.25mm, 0.28mm) but it writes much more smoothly than any of the super-fine models I tried; I’d say it even writes better than my 0.3mm Hi-Tec-C.  Also, I prefer the retractable pen design; however, if Maido’s selection is any indication, I’d say Japanese prefer pens with caps over retractable models.

So it looks like I won’t get any more Gelatos.  Oh, well, I had fun — and ended up with a lot of cool pens.

May 18, 2010   2 Comments