It’s been many, many solar cycles since I found myself embarking upon the analog writing path. During these cycles I have managed to dial in my preferences and have found many supplies I may not like much but are great recommendations for others. I’ve also encountered some odd supplies that are worth calling attention towards.
Without further adoo, time to explore some of the most noteworthy oddities I’ve found to date.
Pilot G2 Fun
One of the most common rollerball pen types you’ll see is the Pilot G2 family. You’ll even find some very expensive pens that take the G2 refills.
What I discovered was some companies sell refills compatible with the pens that use the Pilot G2 refills. There are a few options with one stand out in particular.
The Ohto refill (link).
Available as 0.7mm, 0.5mm, and 0.4mm tip sizes these are the best rollerball refills I’ve ever used.
The 0.4mm tip size in particular is a great extra fine size and they use a ball in the tip that glides over paper. The ink barely feathers, even on paper prone to heavy feathering. The ink is also quite water resistant when dry, perfect for an EDC pen.
My only complain is the ink WILL wick out of the cartridge. If you keep a pen in your pocket make sure it’s a capped pen with this refill. I’ve definitely had my ‘click pen’ open in my pocket and the Ohto refill wick into my pocket and down the front of my pants. I’m ok with this but it does bear mentioning.
This refill is the only one I use in my EDC pens. Cheap, quality and if someone borrows my pen they can’t damage it like they can with a fountain pen.
Pencils Without Sharpeners
As a child I used standard, wood, #2 pencils. These pencils always annoyed me and by the time I was 12 I had ‘graduated’ to a 0.5mm mechanical pencil and ‘click’ erasers. It wasn’t long after that I started to use pens. Once I got to writing in pen, pencils basically fell off my radar with certain exceptions, namely math homework.
I’m still a ‘pen first’ kind of human but this post would be incomplete if I didn’t point out I found a form of pencil I get along with. A type of pencil I wish I had when I was younger and still needed pencils with any frequency.
Soon after I got into analog writing I actually needed a pencil for some things. Remembering my mechanical pencil preferences from school I ordered a 0.5mm ‘forever’ pencil and… Disappointment and frustration sum up the results nicely.
Shortly after I was complaining about pencils (non reusable, dirty, pain to use as they get sharpened down) and mechanical pencils (only HB lead easily bought, brittle leads) to a friend. They shared in my complaints and asked if I had any experience with ’lead holders’. Nope! Time to research!
Lo, ’lead holders’ are basically mechanical pencils that use a single, 2mm lead. The 2mm lead is equivalent to the interior of a wood pencil without the hassles they bring. These are the only reason I’m willing to write in pencil. The leads can be found in 4H through 4B hardness with relative ease. Even better is HB is super easy to come by and is the same general hardness of a #2 pencil. Take that bubble filling tests!
I now have 3 lead holders with 2H, HB and 2B leads loaded and ready to go. I also keep a click eraser and mini lead sharpener handy. If you’re not fond of wood pencils or typical mechanical pencils, check out 2mm lead holders. Staedtler (link) has some cheaper, quality holders and their Mars Carbon leads aren’t bad (cheap too). I have 2 Staedtler holders and use their Mars Carbon leads exclusively.
Whiteboard Waste Be Gone
I’ve always had a great dislike of whiteboard markers and their wasteful nature. It got far worse once I dug deeper into analog writing and found all the great options for inks and refillable pens.
Shockingly there aren’t any obvious sources of markers (see below for a marker idea) or whiteboard friendly inks. After awhile in the fountain pen world I discovered you can get a refillable marker and Noodler’s had a whiteboard friendly ink at the time, I’m not sure if it’s still for sale. I tried the Noodler’s ink and a marker that shall not be named (cough*Platinum*cough) but the results weren’t great. The marker tip got crapped up easily and even with 80% isopropyl alcohol the Noodler’s inks were prone to staining if left on the board for more than a week or two. Very disappointing. [Editors note: we are NOT going to share links or further details regarding the original tested marker or Noodler’s ink. They cause nothing but problems and will piss you off, use the ones below that are quality and won’t make you scream in agony.]
Enter AusPen (link).
They specialize in whiteboard markers that can be refilled and their inks don’t stain boards easily. You can use water or isopropyl alcohol to erase the inks. I could write a lot of words gushing about how much I adore their inks and how they prevent massive amounts of waste. Instead I’ll just say I’ve had 4 Copic Sketch markers over 2 years old that have only used the AusPen inks on my whiteboards. No crapped up tips, no waste, easy to refill and just great. They are so great some of my coworkers bought full AusPen whiteboard marker sets and never looked back. I may prefer the Copic Sketch as a whiteboard marker but the AusPen markers are top notch as well.
Historically I’ve never been fond of felt tip pens. Like I really, really loathe the way they feel. Especially when printing instead of using cursive.
Given my distaste, imagine my surprise when I tried the Sakura Micron line of felt tip pens. They are smooth and have archive grade inks. Too bad they are disposable and plastic. Not what I like in my writing supplies. I also have very specific ink requirements and preferences. For these reasons I went digging for other options and managed to find a pair. Yay!
Option 1 : Yookers
The first option I found comes from Yookers (link). They sell a few different felt tip pens designed to use fountain pen inks. By default they use cartridges (bummer) but one of the old fountain pen piston adapters I had laying around worked (it’s a mini piston is all I can tell you about the adapter) with their Bamboo pens.
The pens are light and simple. They are even able to have the nib assembly swapped. The writing feel isn’t bad (remember I don’t like this style pen tip, this is high praise from me) and they won’t break the bank. I even had 0 issues with a variety of fountain pen inks.
Definitely look into the Yookers options if you’re fond of felt tip pens or use them with any frequency. Pilot Carbon Black pairs nicely and is an archive grade ink that won’t smear (water or alcohol) once dry.
Option 2 : Koh-i-Noor
Koh-i-Noor (link) sells a number of technical pens. They aren’t felt tip but I’ve found myself using their technical pens over felt tip pens when a felt tip would normally be used.
Their technical pens are high quality (high enough where you won’t need or want a rOtring in my opinion), work with fountain pen inks (Platinum pigment inks are good choices) and won’t break the bank.
I use these heavily when doing Zentangle work and they displaced any desire I have to buy another Sakura Micron.
If you’re OK investigating a quality alternative to felt tips or want a non-felt tip. Check out the Koh-i-Noor technical pens.
One thing to note: sizing isn’t 1:1 with Sakura Micron. The Sakuras feather and bleed differently. Step up a size if using a ‘dry ink’ and step down a size if using a ‘wet’ ink. The Sakura ink is different than fountain pen inks in my experience and the highly accurate nature of the Koh-i-Noor technical pens has further implications. I’ve found a 0.35mm Koh-i-Noor paired with Platinum Carbon Black ink to be my go to setup with these pens.
Roller Balling Fountain Pen Ink
One of the more mind blowing discoveries I’ve made in the analog writing world is truly refillable rollerball pens that use fountain pen inks. The ones I’ve seen and used are really nice, don’t have waste like 99.999% of rollerball pens and these are just fun to use.
These pens are 100% ceramic roller balls that use your favorite fountain pen inks. If you’re creative you can even turn the J. Herbin into an eye dropper pen (do this at your own risk, I’m not responsible for the resulting messes, stains and other errors made making adjustments to pens). I highly recommend starting with the J. Herbin ahead of any of the Monteverde’s. If you like the feel of the rolleball in the J. Herbin, only then consider a Monteverde upgrade.
Please note I really like these pens but found refills and ink swaps downright annoying. This caused me to give up on them in general. I now favor a Karas Kustoms Retrakt and Ohto 0.4mm refills as my go to rollerball pen setup (this is my EDC setup by the way). This is my preference and by no means a reflection of quality.
Fountain Pen Markers
Kind of! This discovery can easily result in a giant mess of fountain pen ink. Consider this your warning. Seriously, I made massive messes figuring this out. The stains will exist on my counter tops until they are replaced.
The Copic Sketch empty markers (link) can work with some fountain pen inks (that’s a double qualifier for those not paying proper attention, fair fucking warning). Basically you can turn some fountain pen inks into markers! It’s a fun discovery but some inks (Noodler’s!) just leak straight through the markers making a massive mess. Others won’t flow right (Platinum pigment inks) and others are close to perfect (De Atramentis document inks, AusPen inks).
I have a marker roll of Copic Sketch markers filled with De Atramentis Document inks and more under my whiteboards with AusPen inks.
This is a great thing but comes with a massive side of ‘fair fucking warning’ and pain figuring out which inks work well.
Try this at your own risk.
Yep, We’re Done Here
With that I’m out of interesting, if not odd, discoveries I’ve made in the world of analog writing. If I find more I’ll try to remember to post about them.
For now I hope these things can be helpful to others and inspire them to look past the most common options and information in the world of analog writing.
One More thing…
A List Of Links
In no particular order
- Monteverde Inkballs
- J. Herbin Mini Rolleball
- Ohto Rollerball Refills
- Staedtler 2mm Lead Holders
- Copic Sketch (empty)
- Koh-i-Noor Technical Pens
- De Atramentis Document Inks