Joseph Hallenbeck
May 11, 2017

Pen Obsessed

Filed under: Journal

Pen Haul

Lately, I have been thinking a little too much about my writing implements. You see, I have always been slightly picky about my writing tools and a little to amused by nice paper and inks. The stationary aisle in any store is my treat. As such, I have collected far too much odd-and-end pens and pencils over the years. An assortment of half-filled notebooks before I moved on with anticipation to a fresh clean notebook. So for several years now, I have resisted the temptation towards new notebooks and now, as I open my paper drawer and see only a handful of fresh graph and memo pads, it is time to venture out in search of fresh supply.

Concerning Pens

Fountain Pens

From top to bottom: Lamy 2000 Makrolon EF, Lamy Al-Star Italic 1.1mm, Lamy Al-Star EF

My writing implements, I am most particular. Namely, I like a pen or pencil to have some heft or volume to them so I can feel them in hand. My daily writing pen needs a fine nib. Scratchy is alright, but really my vowels tend to mush into the same loopy shape, so extra fine is a must. On a pencil, I judge them by how frequently the lead breaks and how consistent the line.

In college, I switched from roller-ball pens to fountain pens. My first, was a Lamy Al-Star that I unfortunately lost at Jewel Cave. Since then, I’ve followed up with two more Al-Star pens, each with their extra fine nibs. The lines on the Lamys seem equal in fineness to my old roller-balls, run smoothly, and create a consistent line.

Two unfortunate side steps in pen purchasing. First, I got a very nice Parker Sonnet when I graduated. The Parker, despite costing five times as much, was vastly inferior to my cheaper Lamy pens. The pen looks beautiful, but the nib struggled to provide consistent flow. Eventually, I gave up on it. It remains a desk-drawer bound pen. The later mistake was to purchase a Noddler Ahab. I thought the tinkering would be fun. Yet, again. The nib either flowed too much or too little. In to the desk drawer it went and I back to my Lamys.

Recently, I stepped up to a Lamy 2000 Makolon EF. At it’s price point, it probably will never leave my desk while the Al-Stars remain my field pen. I feared that, like my experience with the Parker, that the additional cost would be wasted. Yet, the extra price on the 2000 was quite worth it. The EF is finer than the Al-Star EF, yet just as smooth. The built in pump vastly less messy. The uniform, line-less body beautiful. The heft, and volume of the pen comparable to the Al-Star.


From left to right: Noodler’s Black, Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black, Waterman Black

Ink wise, I would shy away from the Waterman inks. They seem to bleed and are rather lustless. Yet, for years I switched between Waterman and Pelikan based on the price at hand. Pelikan, was vastly the preferred ink. I could always tell a piece that had been inked by one or the later as it always seemed darker and more refined on the page. That said, I am venturing into other inks. Noodler black seems to be highly recommended, although I have not tried it.

Concerning Pencils


From top to bottom: Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Gunmetal Black, Uni Kuru Toga Starter, Pentel Clic eraser, Palomino Blackwing 602, Tombow Mono

Concerning mechanical pencils, I always write in nothing wider than 0.5mm. I once carried a GraphGear 500 by Pentel. The pencil feels very solid, but the tip of the lead is often crushed. By chance, Research Square gave me a very nice mechanical pencil when I started. A Uni Kuru Toga, starter. The Kuru Toga writes very consistently, and I rarely break my lead with it. The only downside is that for the longest time I could only find the flimsy plastic version in stores. It lacked the heft that I wanted in a writing utensil. Fortunately, I found a metal version for sale on Jet Pens, and am now very pleased.

A last note on mechanical pencils. I have given up on using their erasers which must be changed out too frequently and whose replacements are hard to find. Rather, I carry Pentel click eraser which is just is just a handling tube containing a four-inch long extendable eraser.

Wooden drawing pencils are another matter. In my art courses, I favored Tombow’s wood drawing pencils. They feel better than what could be found at Hobby Lobby. Yet, they do not match up with the Palomino Blackwing 602. Once I purchased those, I was completely sold on ever wanting another drawing pencil. Honestly, I still have a lot of Tombows around, and do use them on the rare occasion that I’m not inking a drawing. At this juncture, if I want to draw with a pencil, I reach for the 602s.

Concerning Brushes


From top to bottom: Winsor and Newton Series 7 Size 0, Winsor and Newton Series 7 Size 1

Last, there are brushes. In these, I use for inking drawings, ink washes, and watercolors. Oil painting always seemed like too much of a production and the aesthetic of oils unappealing. A great deal of texts recommended the Winsor & Newton Series 7 as an excellent brush. Yet, a lot of reviews online are mixed suggesting that the quality for Series 7 can be rather variable. That, and they’re nearly impossible to find in a local store. I stumbled upon them in Seattle’s university district when I was unemployed and shouldn’t have been spending such money. Yet, I walked out with a number of the brushes. The quality, in comparison to your run-of-the-mill Hobby Lobby brush does show. Whether they are better than other Kolinksy Sable brushes out there, I wouldn’t know.

Concerning Everything Else

Then there are those instruments that fill my drawing drawers: erasers of various sizes and types, Copic markers, colored pencils, charcoal, vine charcoal, acrylic paints and brushes, highlighters, permanent markers, watercolor paints, brush pens, and dip pens. Only the last item do I have any kind of opinion on and that being that I have longed used whatever nib holders were available and favored the extremely finest speed ball nibs. Yet, I have long suspected that better nibs and holders could be found if I put a mind to it.

The Breakdown

Solid Writing/Drawing Implement Recommendations

You simply cannot go wrong with the following tools.

Writing/Drawing Implement Suggestions

These items I like, yet am not completely certain on.

I have heard nice things about the Japanese Pilot fountain pen series. Namely, that they are even finer than the Lamy EF nibs. Yet, their prices have kept me at bay.

Implements Under Exploration

These items, I have yet to really explore or have any kind of solid favorite, or even a vague notion of likes and dislikes, but would like to get a more solid foundation with:

  • Dip pens (inks, holder and nibs)
  • Brush pens
  • Watercolor paints
  • Colored pencils
  • Charcoal
"Pen Obsessed" by Joseph Hallenbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.