Having An Absolute Rollerball

Clockwise from top: Baron Fig Squire, P8126 & Retro 51 refills, Karas Kustoms EDK, Retro 51 Stealth Tornado, Kaweco Classic Sport
Clockwise from top: Baron Fig Squire, P8126 & Retro 51 refills, Karas Kustoms EDK, Retro 51 Stealth Tornado, Kaweco Classic Sport

The nature of intermittent pen-related posts appearing on this blog would lead you to believe my pen-life is mostly fountain and little else. Inherently there would be nothing wrong with that, however in reality it’s not all nibs and pistons. There is quite some variety in the writing instruments I use on a day-to-day basis, and on that score I’m sure I’m not alone.

Retro 51 or 8127 refill - 0.7mm
Retro 51 or P8127 refill – 0.7mm

A big part of that variety is the rollerball, or if you prefer — liquid ink pen (for consistency and convenience we’ll go with the term rollerball from here on in). Although the specifics of my rollerball history are varied in themselves (more on this below), in recent times my usage has largely revolved around the “capless” rollerball refills of both the Retro 51 (at times stamped with the P8127 designation), and Schmidt P8126 variety.

The refills

The Schmidt P8126 refill - 0.6mm
The Schmidt P8126 refill – 0.6mm

Like many before me, and no doubt many after — my initiation into said refills came through The Pen Addict podcast, although the exact episode number is not known to me. I’m sure there is an enthusiast or two out there able to pinpoint the actual number, however given Retro 51 pens are mentioned at least every few episodes, specifics are probably not relevant. With a little trepidation (the hype surely couldn’t be matched by reality) I ordered a Retro 51 Tornado pen (the all black Stealth model), and upon receipt was pleasantly surprised. This was a fine-looking and equally stellar-performing pen, and that refill? Yes – it’s a beauty, and has been a regular purchase of mine ever since.

The 0.6mm P8126 refill (l); and 0.7mm Retro 51 (r)
The 0.6mm P8126 refill (left); and 0.7mm Retro 51 (right)

Although you may find interchanging use of the Retro 51/P8127 and Schmidt P8126 designations when searching online, they definitely are different beasts when talking line widths. If I had to pick my favourite? Probably the ever so slightly thinner line of the 0.6mm P8126, however to be honest I’m happy with either, and my local pen store (Brisbane’s Pen and Paper) which I often visit when refills are required, stock the Retro 51 branded P8127 (0.7mm) version.

A description of the P8126 refill from Jet Pens tells us the following:

  • the refills use a ceramic ball in the tip
  • they are available in black, blue, green and red (the Retro 51 refills in black and blue only)
  • “capless” means a one year cap off time without drying out
  • the P8126 refill is 3.9″ (10 cm) long. It is not the same as the Schmidt 8126 refill, which is 4.3″ (11 cm) long.

Probably worth noting that last point as far as ordering the correct refill size when the time comes. Speaking of which, when it comes to refills and options for them, you could do no better than to consult an epic guide on such matters, aptly titled The Epic Refill Reference Guide: Rollerball, Gel and Ballpoints by Ana Reinert of The Well-Appointed Desk.

Once you’ve taken a look at Ana’s post, the realisation dawns of the multitude of options out there — many of which I have yet to explore myself. Just prior to finalising this post today, I came across Joe’s review of the Steel and Flint Kickstarter pen on The Gentleman Stationer, which contained the following:

For some reason, I’ve never had the opportunity to use the Schmidt Easyflow 9000 ballpoint refill, and that’s a shame. After using this pen for a few days, I ordered a pack of six, and have since swapped out all my Retro 51 / Schmidt liquid ink rollerball refills for the EasyFlow. It’s that good…

Stay tuned for my future ”Having an absolute ballpoint” post perhaps…

Some current pens

Anyway, the rollerball refills in question are known to many within the pen enthusiast world, and are accommodated by an array of pen housings, with Kickstarter often fertile ground for additions to the list. There are quite a few pen options to choose from really, a couple of which I have previously written about (links below), and the others in the list I’ll no doubt look at in future posts as well.

Again, certainly not an exhaustive list, however the pens I commonly rotate these refills through, provide a good example of the variety at your disposal in terms of overall design, weight and feel in the hand. The writing experience however is of course consistent and familiar.

My pens themselves, in no particular order:

The Nova Minimal pen by Namisu - a recent Kickstarter arrival
The Nova Minimal pen by Namisu – a recent Kickstarter arrival

Rollerballs past

As with many in this hobby, the memories of where specific points of interest or phases began are quite vivid. I distinctly remember dabbling in a few different types of pens through high school, and in my university years beyond that (student budget permitting). There were no fountain pens to be seen at that time, with the first to come almost a decade later, however you would definitely have found a rollerball or two on my desk.

Although it’s a bit of a stretch to remember exactly what they all were, I do recall sampling a good few of your disposable varieties, like the Uni-Ball Eye Rollerball, and I believe some Pentel variants of whatever specific moniker they carried at the time. In attempting to become a little classier (I guess), the Parker Vector made an appearance, along with a Diplomat (the model escapes me), creating my most distinctive memory of them all — it ran out so quickly I was driven back to ballpoints for a while.

Clearly unfazed, over the next two decades (yes, its been that long) I dabbled here and there, however in recent years with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm for writing instruments in general, the rollerball has made a somewhat triumphant return.

Why the attraction?

There are probably two main reasons I attribute my fondness for rollerballs: my writing style primarily; and the saturation and vibrancy of the liquid ink a rollerball produces.

My writing style does not lend itself well to ballpoints or gel inks below about 0.5mm in tip size. At times depending on what I’m specifically doing, even 0.5mm is a stretch. Of course your average ballpoint or gel ink pen will typically write drier than say an EF fountain pen nib. The angle and stroke of my natural writing provides a very scratchy experience with finer non-fountain pens (and certain very fine fountain pen nibs as well), however a rollerball in the usual 0.7mm or 0.6mm is just about perfect.

As for the saturation and vibrancy of the ink, this speaks for itself really. A good rollerball will often provide output (once on the page at least) not dissimilar to what you might see with a fountain pen. The blues are deep, saturated and hold their colour over time, the reds and blacks are generally the same.

Quite a vibrant blue on the page (Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad)
Quite a vibrant blue on the page (Rhodia No. 16 Dot Pad)

Of course it goes without saying that your colour choices are generally somewhat limited, unless you look further afield to something like the J. Herbin rollerball pen, which I’ve not personally tried, and accepts standard international ink cartridges. Personally, for the uses mine see, I’ve no real need for a vast selection of ink colours, and the basics do just fine.

Typical usage

Here the immediate thought of: “well for lots of things where fountain pens dare not tread” is probably not 100% accurate. As you probably know, rollerballs — while perhaps more versatile in some ways than fountain pens — still do not have the ubiquitous acceptance a ballpoint might.

On very glossy paper or card stock, they can be just as bad if not worse than a fountain pen. In addition, poor quality standard paper will see feathering typically less than fountain pens, however the ghosting and/or bleed through can actually be worse. If you are anything like me, and unintentionally take a rollerball as a ticket to writing with a firmer hand — this effect can be exaggerated significantly.

That said, there is a pretty decent range of paper types that will provide a fantastic writing experience with one of these capless rollerball refills. Personally, I’ve found some of the best to be on slightly toothier paper, such as Baron Fig’s Confidant, or your typical Field Notes for example. Even the standard copy paper we use at the office is a pretty good match, upon which I print out an Emergent Task Planner for the day’s tasks and scheduled activities, and a Cornell notes formatted printout for general note taking.

Although I find the writing performance of these capless refills quite an enjoyable experience, longer form writing is not something I choose to use them for. For various reasons, the pens are either a little thin, fairly heavy, or a combination of both. I say that not in a negative way, simply to point out I’d probably choose one of my fountain pen options were I to sit and churn out a few thousand hand-written words.

That being the case — where do they excel? As short form note takers. That is, for meeting notes, recording phone calls, daily planning and brainstorming, or outlining blog posts. They are hardy enough to withstand a drop, or lend to others without the need for undue concern. Perfect office pens really, which as I’ve mentioned, is mostly where you’ll find mine. I’ve also been known to have them rolling around on the shed workbench while recording coffee roasting data — a task for which they are more than hardy enough.

Signing off

The benefit of having so many choices available for these great refills is just that — the choices. The variety of pens available should see something suitable for just about any particular preference — all the while retaining the same great writing experience between refill tip and page.

Of course there are other great rollerball or gel based refills around, and I’m not suggesting the Retro 51/Schmidt’s are the be-all and end-all in this category, however are a standard and favourite for me, seeing some form of use pretty much every day. With the newly arrived Nova Minimal pen, I now have five options — perhaps a ready-made Monday to Friday rotation! More likely though is that I will simply continue what I’ve done for some time — use one for a while, and switch when the desire to do so hits me.

One thing remains a certainty — although the housing may differ, the smooth, rich, and vibrant writing experience certainly won’t.

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My Lamy Safaris: Fountain Pen and Rollerball

Although discussed here together, these two Lamy Safari pens have been in my collection for vastly different lengths of time. Similarly, on the like/dislike spectrum they tend to be placed fairly widely apart.

Top: Lamy Safari Fountain Pen - Blue; Bottom: Lamy Safari Rollerball - Matt Charcoal
Top: Lamy Safari Fountain Pen – Blue; Bottom: Lamy Safari Rollerball – Matt Charcoal

The rollerball was purchased about 2 years ago, with the fountain pen becoming part of the collection last October. Which do I prefer? I could say “read on and find out”, however to cut a long story short – though not one of my favourites, the fountain pen I do enjoy using, whereas the rollerball I have never really taken to.

Over and above the most obvious difference between the two, the reason for the disparity ironically lies in the grip section – a part of the pen which is very similar (though not identical) on both pens. However again if we cut to the chase – the grip section will rule me out of buying another of either type – it’s just not suited to my writing style.

Look and Feel

I’d have to say the Lamy Safari (or AL Star) range would surely have to be one of the most widely recognised pen designs around. The brand has enjoyed pride of place in the pen and stationery section of many Australian department stores for some time. I tend to find if a retailer stocks Moleskine, you will invariably find the Lamy stand not too far away.

Personally, as far as the design of these pens is concerned, I again have mixed feelings. I wouldn’t say I don’t like the design – but I don’t love it either. Although similar in size to many of my other pens – to me – they look bigger, which I expect is mostly to do with the circumference of the cap, and size of the metal clip.

On the official Lamy website, the Safari range is listed in the Young Writer section, and a handy timeline listing all of the Lamy pens indicates the Safari was introduced in 1980. Although the Safari is popular these days in the entry-level market segment across all ages, Lamy were clearly aiming at the younger demographic1:

The new LAMY safari is a school fountain pen like no other. It is in a class of its own. At the beginning of the 1980s this is the message which quickly spreads in the new, young Lamy target group: the ten to fifteen-year-olds.

On reading the above excerpt from Lamy, I now realise this probably best describes my own thoughts.

IMG_4047Overall, I feel the design lacks some of the more classic touches demonstrated in other pens, and is somewhat reminiscent of a learners pen – that is, the size; contoured grip to encourage correct technique; large clip which won’t catch or snag; and a variety of colours to appeal to many different tastes. I honestly do not mean this in a negative sense, as my opinion here probably is more an overall feeling than an objective list of facts. You would also be correct in suggesting my design credentials are a bit thin on the ground!

None of this of course detracts from the overall writing performance, and the Safari is not an ugly pen by any stretch. The design was clearly very well thought out and aimed at a specific market, and continues to be very successful today – it is simply not a favourite of mine.

Specifications

Courtesy of NoteMaker:

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

  • LENGTH: 13.8cm
  • REFILL: LAMY T 10 giant ink cartridge or a Z 24 LAMY converter and bottled ink.
  • MATERIALS: Stainless steel, sturdy plastic & chrome
  • SOURCE: Made in Germany. Designed by Wolfgang Fabian.
  • PRICE: $AU49.00

Lamy Safari Rollerball

  • LENGTH: 13.8cm
  • TIP: Medium 1mm
  • REFILL: M 63 LAMY rollerball refill
  • MATERIALS: Stainless steel, sturdy plastic & chrome
  • SOURCE: Made in Germany. Designed by Wolfgang Fabian
  • PRICE: $AU35.00

Writing Performance

As I’ve already mentioned, of course any discussion on the Lamy Safari range would be nothing without addressing the triangular contour of the grip section. Widely – it is either loved or loathed – generally with not much in between.

Somewhat surprising to me was the difference in opinion I have about the rollerball and the fountain pen versions of what is almost the same grip section. The rollerball? Loathe it. The fountain pen? Here is where I land somewhere in the middle. Generally I have no real problem picking up the fountain pen and writing – in fact, I do enjoy it.

I say the grip sections are almost the same in the paragraph above, for there is a key difference if we compare the rollerball and fountain pen. True, both have flattened areas in this section of the pen, however the rollerball contains three (thumb, finger and underside); whereas the fountain pen has two only (thumb and finger), which assists in orienting the nib correctly if held at these points. The underside of the fountain pen remains curved, in the natural contour of what would be a round barrel. This ultimately results in a slightly larger overall circumference at the point of your grip when compared with the rollerball.

So, after putting the fountain pen to good use over the past couple of months, I again tried very hard to like the rollerball grip, but alas – not so. On thinking about this, I put it down to a couple of things.

One, and I expect the main difference, is the fairly major variation in the dynamics of my grip and downward pressure when writing with rollerballs (or anything other than fountain pens really). Although I have made efforts to ease up on the pressure I apply, I generally begin to drift into old habits when the pen allows, and it is with this increased pressure I find myself wanting to adjust my grip ever so slightly, and the triangular nature of the Safari prevents this.

Perhaps I am wrong, however the two (fountain) versus three (rollerball) flattened sections did not feel as though it were the difference here.

Round underside of fountain pen grip section (R)
Round underside of fountain pen grip section (R)

To a lesser degree, the subtle differences between the finishes on the two pens is also quite noticeable to me. The gloss finish on the fountain pen seems to provide a crisper edge and a nicer feel. The matt finish of the rollerball is a little softer on the edges – and for want of a better description – seems to encourage me to feel for a different grip constantly. This is obviously dependent on which particular model and finish of the pen you may be using.

I realise these are quirks perhaps unique to me, however is probably the best I can come up with to explain my feelings on the differences in the grip between these two particular models.

To sum up this point though, what I really need to be asking myself is – if, given the grip – I would buy another (of either) in future, particularly with the many enticing Limited Edition colours rolling through the line up periodically. In all honesty, the answer is no. Don’t get me wrong – I am not suggesting these aren’t great pens – they simply aren’t great pens for me.

The fountain pen itself is a very smooth writer, and although the medium stainless steel nib is fairly stiff, it performs well with no skips or false starts – generally. However on the odd occasion it can take a little “warming up” for want of a better term, with the uniformity in ink laid down a little inconsistently.

Rollbahn Writing
Comparisons on Delfonics Rollbahn notebook

 

This was certainly apparent as the paper absorbency increased (e.g. Baron Fig Confidant), though as expected, was far less evident on Clairefontaine notebooks or Rhodia note pads.

Fountain pen example in Baron Fig Confidant
Example in Baron Fig Confidant

The rollerball, with its 1.0mm M63 refill writes as well as any refill I’ve used (note here I have not used them all of course) – with the only notable exception being the Schmidt Retro 51 (P8127) which I believe is the medium 0.7mm (I have not tried the finer 8126, which many have high praise for).

Retro 51 and Lamy Safari Rollerball comparison
Retro 51 and Lamy Safari Rollerball comparison

On comparing the two in consecutive writing tests, I expect this is due to the Retro 51 laying down a little more ink for the size of the tip – so by extrapolation the M63 should probably serve you a little longer before needing to refill. Head to head – the Retro 51 provided a far smoother writing experience, with much more feedback from the paper felt through the Safari.

Both are quite light and well-balanced in the hand, with my preference to use both unposted. Depending on what you are used to, the rollerball perhaps might feel a little too light for some, however I did not necessarily find this to be the case.

In summary then, I enjoy writing with both of these pens from the perspective of the tip or nib – though as I have already said, my main issues are with what lies above – and write well they might, however this will not overcome the lack of suitability in the grip for my particular style.

Use Case

As you’d expect – the answer here will vary for each of these two pens, however the distinction is perhaps not as wide as I might have expected.

The Safari fountain pen worked well during the time I tested it as a journaling pen when on a beachside holiday in January; as an EDC type pen to jot down notes in a Field Notes pocket notebook or similarly sized Baron Fig Apprentice, and also as a meeting notetaker on a couple of occasions in the office.

The Safari rollerball – well – was much the same, seeing use in all of the above situations, with the added advantage of not having to worry about what paper I might encounter, which might need a signature or markup of notes (mainly with reference to meetings here).

Overall, both pens performed just about equally well in all of the above situations. The construction and stainless steel nib of the fountain pen in particular certainly gives an air of robustness that makes it equally useable as an EDC type pen, providing the paper you use is suitable – and of course I am mindful of the size if you were planning to carry one on a daily basis for this purpose.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, then it is pretty clear I do believe both the Lamy Safari Fountain Pen, and Rollerball, are two fine pens – particularly for the price points at which they are sold.

"What's your point?' | "That's just how I roll"
“What’s your point?’ | “That’s just how I roll”

Did the grip section make or break them for me? Of course it did – as it has for many others. I certainly find the fountain pen more forgiving here, however if given the choice of other pens at similar price points, I would pick up my Retro 51 before the rollerball, and my Kaweco Ice Sport before the fountain pen.

That said, these pens are a great entry point into a more stylish and better quality rollerball or fountain pen for many, and I expect this will stay that way for some time to come. For those more experienced who either love or at the very least have no issue with the grip? They will simply continue to buy a high quality, well performing pen – and the impressive Limited Edition Colour releases continue to sweeten the deal.

Overall, I’d happily recommend either of these pens for beginners or the more experienced fountain pen user (though I probably wouldn’t have to), safe in the knowledge they would perform well with little trouble. My advice – try them first or at least be prepared the grip might not quite be to your liking – though for many – it clearly is.

  1. A reasonable aim, given the fact certain European countries (I believe) use fountain pens in the early stages of students learning to handwrite.

 

Retro 1951 Tornado Stealth – My Workhorse Pen

As is the case with more than a few owners of the Retro 1951 pen in it’s various forms, mine was picked up after hearing the brand mentioned (often) in the relatively early episodes of the Pen Addict podcast. The enthusiasm with which hosts Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley talked about these pens was enough to send me searching for them online soon after. The pen in question is now almost two years old.

FullSizeRender 4My choice at the time, a Tornado Stealth model, was ordered from Cyber Space Pens, for at that time I did not have a bookmark folder full of pen shops by the names of Goulet, Jet, Chalet and the like. Although in saying that, I see Cyber Space currently stock the Retro 51 Stealth at a very competitive $US24.00.

I do not recall the exact price I paid at the time, however it was essentially half the cost of purchasing locally through one of the brick and mortar stores in town. I find this both incredibly convenient and somewhat saddening at the same time, given I enjoy nothing better than stopping by and supporting one of the local pen stores, however it becomes increasingly difficult when the cost is often one and a half to two times what can be found online.

Look and Feel

Overall I would say I am fairly conservative in my pen barrel colour choices, so of course I was drawn to the Tornado Stealth model, a sleek, all black, mysterious looking pen. The smooth glossy finish is a joy to both look at and hold.

Now, as the title of this post and some of the images suggest, it has been somewhat of a workhorse pen over the past 18 plus months or so, and developed some nice brass looking highlights on some of the edges, given most of this use occurred prior to the relative luxury it now enjoys in a Nock. Co Sassafras pen case.

FullSizeRender 6

The band with the “Tornado by Retro 1951” branding adjacent to the clip, the clip itself, some of the knurling on the knock twist mechanism, and parts of the barrel have all worn, not quite to the Kaweco AL Sport washed look, however heading that way. That said, I couldn’t be happier. My pens are for using, with a little care, but heavily. They are some of the tools I enjoy using the most, and if that shows, all the better.

FullSizeRender 5FullSizeRender 3

FullSizeRender 7Apart from the slowly evolving outer finish, probably what I like most about this pen is the overall size and weight distribution. For my writing style, it has perfect balance, with the length of 13cm a perfect size for my hand. While the weight is on the heavy side at 28g, the stature and weight distribution ensure this pen is a joy to hold and use, either for a few notes or longer writing sessions. Although my Lamy Safari Rollerball is a light 18.5g, I do prefer the Retro 51 out of the two.

Although the barrel is a smooth glossy finish, I have never had any grip problems, and my preference for a mild taper towards the tip is well catered for by the Retro 51 shape. At the other end of the pen, the knurling on the twist mechanism provides a nice texture, and the knock mechanism itself is one of the most solid you will encounter.

Performance

Once again, you probably need to go no further than the Pen Addict Podcast to hear mention of the Retro 51 and/or Schmidt P8126 refills as being one of, if not the best liquid ink or rollerball refill going around – and I’d have to agree. I am currently using the standard Retro 51 branded refill in the pen, and as you can see from the writing samples, the line could not be smoother, broader, or more vibrant.

FullSizeRender 8

The only time I have had the need to swap out the liquid ink refill was in recent weeks when I decided to try out the Field Notes Expedition edition, and needed an appropriate tip for the indestructible Yupo paper of that particular notebook. In this instance, a minor trim of a Uni Jetstream ballpoint allowed it to fit in nicely, which took me through to the and of the Expedition. Mind you, once the last page was written, out came the Jetstream and back in went the Retro 51 refill to an “ah…that’s better” moment.

The majority of use this pen sees involves day-to-day writing at my office job, which is often intermittent signatures, notes, marking up document revisions, or comments/feedback on team members work. I do not have cause (sadly) in a “paperless” office for extended periods of writing, and when I do, I tend to seek out a fountain pen from my desk drawer, though on occasion, will continue with the Retro 51 which does not disappoint.

Conclusion

Thinking back, when I first started searching for this pen based on a podcast recommendation (granted – not just any podcast), I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind I would not necessarily like it. You know the scenario, something is spoken of so highly, upon finally obtaining the item in question, the expectation and excitement exceeds the experience and performance of the real thing. Definitely not the case here – the Retro 1951 Tornado Stealth is a great pen, has a great refill, and serves equally well as an everyday “workhorse” or as a writing instrument of great pleasure.

I really have no excuse not to add to my collection of these great pens – though I may have a hard time choosing colours. Perhaps a Retro 51 “Unexposed” release may absolve me of making that decision.

Pens: A Tale of Two Kaweco Sports – Classic and Ice

After planning to write a post on each of these pens separately, I came to the conclusion it would probably be best to combine the two. Although each was purchased for slightly different reasons, I often use them interchangeably, despite one being a rollerball and the other a fountain pen.

Classic Sport Rollerball (L) and Ice Sport Fountain Pen (R)
Classic Sport Rollerball (L) and Ice Sport Fountain Pen (R)

As you will see from the images, I am talking about the Kaweco Classic Sport Rollerball (Black), and the Kaweco Ice Sport Fountain Pen (Green; M Nib). I’ve had both of these pens in regular use for quite some time, with the Classic Sport approximately 12 months old, and the Ice Sport around half that, after a kind member of my family made good on one of my Wish List items last Christmas.

Both pens were purchased (or wish-listed) because they represent great value for money, and German manufacturer Kaweco has quite a good name in pen circles.

My purchase of the Classic Sport Rollerball was made after hearing the Kaweco name mentioned on The Pen Addict podcast, when the episode numbers were still in their 30’s (and orange T-shirts with episode 100 hashtags were unheard of). I believe at the time my intended use suited the Classic Sport rollerball a little more closely, being a compact, easy to carry pen which would write on most paper types without any problems.

My interest in the Ice Sport soon followed after seeing the attractiveness of the Kaweco AL Sport fountain pen line, which in my opinion is even more impressive after the introduction of the new stone washed models. This of course warranted a test run of the Kaweco nib, conveniently achievable at a far lower price point with an Ice Sport model.

After writing many thousands of words with each, I still love both these pens. Here’s why.

Look and feel

If you have not seen a Kaweco pen of this type before, the compact (read short) design is immediately apparent. I was at work when the Classic Sport arrived by post, and still remember my wife calling me and advising it was “very small”, and checking “are you sure that is what you ordered?” Having never had one in my hand at that point either, I was a little concerned, however once I posted the cap and gave it a test run, it was clearly perfect for its intended use.

I love the design of the Kaweco range, and although these lower end models (currently AUD$37.95 for the Sport Classic and AUD$39.95 for the Ice Sport; see links above) have bodies manufactured of plastic, they do not feel cheap in any way. The octagonal shape of the cap and resulting ridges prevent the pen rolling off a desk if used without the clip, which is exactly how I use the Classic Sport (as you can see by the accompanying photos, with the exception of one to demonstrate how it looks with the clip). When capped, these pens measure 10.5cm in length, however when the cap is posted (as intended for writing), the length is a much more writing friendly 13.3cm. Both pens are also quite light at around 10 grams, as you’d expect given the size and construction material. A nice touch on both is the screw-on cap, which in my opinion adds a little more quality to the overall feel.

Kaweco_Ice_crossKaweco_Sport_wclip

The Ice Sport has a transparent plastic body with the grip available in a variety of colours, matching the transparent, coloured cap (mine being green). A silver metal clip, markings, cap inlay and stainless steel iridium tipped nib complete the picture. The Classic Sport, is available in basic solid colour bodies with matching cap, gold coloured clip, cap inlay and markings.

Kaweco_cap_inlayKaweco_nibs

My preference for an EDC (Everyday Carry) type pen is probably the silver (see also the recently introduced Skyline series), as gold in my mind represents a more conservative, classic accessory rather than a rough and tumble “in my pocket” type of one. Perhaps a little silly, however I would feel strange mowing the lawn in a gold watch too. Just me I guess.

Performance and Use

Both pens perform extremely well for their intended purpose. As mentioned above, each was purchased for slightly different reasons, though are often used in much the same circumstances.

Interestingly, both have turned into equally useful EDC type pens, and if I am entirely honest, the Ice Sport gets a little more use, despite it being a fountain pen. More often than not I carry a single pen on my lunch break, usually in conjunction with a Field Notes or some other form of notebook, and it is here a pen of this size really fits the bill. Although the pen goes equally well in my shirt or side pocket, I often find myself turning over the pen in my hand while walking. I simply like the feel of these pens in my hand. There is something comforting in having the familiar feel of the ridges and shape of either Kaweco in my palm. Again, just me I expect, and again, perhaps a little silly. When carried with other pens, it is generally in a Nock Co Hightower, along with two Field Notes, some index cards and more often than not few other folded notes.

Kaweco_side_by_sideAs far as writing performance goes, I have no complaints with either pen. The Classic Sport rollerball has seen many refills, and currently contains a Retro 51 rollerball refill, providing a lovely, consistent deep blue line. The standard Kaweco rollerball that ships inside the pen also performed extremely well from what I recall, and I believe fitted a little more snugly, as there is a small amount of play in the current set-up. Not irritating enough to discourage me from using it however something to be mindful of if you are considering one of these models. It is only through ease of access to a pen store near my office that I have migrated to a Retro 51 refill.

The medium nib of the Ice Sport is fantastic. Having heard and read opinions that the medium nib is probably the least impressive compared with the B or F, I am obviously looking forward to trying out those sizes in the future. As far as the current stainless steel M nib is concerned, ink is laid down well, with no skipping or drag, and if kept capped, will start on the first stroke just about every time. Although probably at its best on my Rhodia Dot Pad, this pen sees most of its use in my Field Notes, and does almost as well there. Admittedly with the seasonal releases of the Field Notes colours editions this will not always be the case, however in the County Fair edition I am currently using there are no problems, and from what I have read, should be safe with the Shelterwood I have coming up next.

Refills for the Ice Sport are standard international cartridges, with Montblanc Irish Green in my current model (yes, matching the green cap and grip). The clear body is a nice touch, keeping the ink visible through the barrel for a nice effect, while providing a visual reference as to the amount of ink remaining. A squeeze converter is available for use with bottled inks at a very reasonable AUD$3.95 from Paper Trader, though for my use case, leaving it as a cartridge refill currently suits my needs.

Conclusion

As you can probably tell, I really enjoy using both of these pens, and using them often. The Classic Sport fits into my day to day office desk pen rotation, however both make the cut equally well as the pen I carry when out and about. If I had to choose between them, I’d probably go with the Ice Sport, simply because I do enjoy writing with a fountain pen, however depending upon what and where you will be writing, a fountain pen may not always be the best choice. If that is the case, the Classic Sport makes a compelling case as the pen you pick up or carry with you.

For a quality, well designed, functional pen that writes really well and is fantastic value for money, either (or both) of these offerings from Kaweco will fit the bill nicely.

~ PD.