Normally I tend to be a fountain pen guy, but from time to time I go through a ball point phase. What usually triggers it is travel – writing notes on shiny business cards is a great motivator to carry a ball point, as is fretting over ways to carry ink while traveling and worrying what will happen when I take the cap off a fountain pen on an airplane.
So as I was preparing for a trip I discovered my old Parker jotter in my rarely-used portfolio and got intrigued. I put some heat shrink tubing on it to make it a bit thicker and more comfy, and reminded myself that it’s really a pretty useful little pen. The ballpoint refill is pretty good. But I prefer gels to ballpoints, so I decided to see what refills were available. That’s when I discovered that Parker makes a gel refill that is the same form factor as their ball point refill.
To me gel pens are a really good compromise between the all-terrain aspects of a ball pen but the ease of writing of a fountain pen, but more paper-tolerant than a rollerball. The line quality and contrast so much better. If I could get a gel refill for the Fisher AG7 I’d be in heaven, but the Jotter is pretty good in terms of durability without serious investment.
So I went out and got a 2-pack of gel refills for the Jotter to check them out. All I could find was medium, and I was tempted to drive to Daly’s and get a fine but fortunately learned online that they only make a medium. Oh well.
The refill writes pretty roughly straight out of the box, but after a bit of writing it seems to have gotten better. I noticed that while on a plane the pen got very unreliable. The paper was Moleskine notebook paper, and it was clean, but the pen skipped like crazy and was not smooth. I suspect the change in air pressure put too much force on the ball. Regardless, once on the ground the pen wrote reliably.
The drying time is fast enough that I didn’t find my hands tattooed with ink. It also wrote fairly well on a coated business card I received, but it doesn’t write on the really shiny ones. The AG7 writes a bit better on those. Line width is typical for a .7mm, and line quality was pretty consistent. I’m still on the first cartridge, so I hesitate to make too much of the roughness I first experienced. It could be that this cartridge had a defect. The cartridges come with a ball of plastic sealing the point, so I’m curious what affect long periods of disuse will have on them once the seal’s been broken.
The net result is a $10 all-metal clicker style ball pen that writes nearly as well as a Pilot G2, but in a nicer body. At about $6 a pair for the cartridges, versus $3 for G2 refills, they’re twice the price. They’re also available only in .7 where alternatives are typically available in .5 as well, if not also 1.0 and wider. I’m not sure if I will keep putting gels in this pen or just go back to ballpoint cartridges (I have a few extras) when the gels run dry.