If Not a Fountain Pen, Then What…?
I carry and use a fountain pen almost all the time. At home, at work, out and about, it’s a fountain pen in my pocket ~90% of the time. What about that other ~10% of the time? I take a rollerball. As mentioned here, I am a big fan of one particular rollerball.
That’s a blue Pilot V5 rollerball refill. There are several good rollerball points out there but the Pilot Precise is the best I’ve used. Once I tried a Precise as a kid it has been the standard that was never beaten. So smooth and easy in all situations. But aren’t all rollerballs smooth? Many are but I find that some will get scratchy at lower angles to the page. The edge of the tip cutout that holds the ball can scrape on paper. I have a Parker IM rollerball that’s a beautiful pen with a nice refill, but the fine point gets scratchy when you drop below a certain writing angle. At higher angles it’s fine, but I encounter the scratch enough with my writing that it means the IM isn’t my #1 rollerball choice.
What’s #1? Let’s talk about that.
It took a long time to get to a place where I could say there was a clear-cut choice. The Parker Jotter is a great pen but I could never get a refill for it that hit all the right notes. Parker’s ballpoint/gel refills are a different format than their rollerballs and, while the popularity of Parker style refills on the market gives many options, they just don’t offer the same experience as a real liquid ink rollerball.
I went through many refills and bodies trying to find an optimum combination. I love a click pen for convenience when writing on the go but rollers are traditionally capped pens. So that meant looking for snap caps rather than threaded, and caps that posted well without killing the balance. This narrowed the field quite a bit. If I did find a pen that worked on these counts, I was often unsatisfied with the refill.
Since I love the Precise tip so much, you’re wondering why I didn’t just go with Pilot’s retractable version, the RT. I did for a little while but I don’t care for the body. It’s fine for a mass market item but it wasn’t what I wanted to have in my pocket. Sitting in the pen cup at home or by the computer to jot down quick notes, sure. As an EDC item the RT body wasn’t good enough. I wanted something solid, a very well-made object. Back to searching.
With the proliferation of machined pens there was a cycle of seeing some that looked cool and then being derailed by one of many factors. The price was too high, or it was coming from makers that I could not get a good read on for their quality. The overall design seemed good but details like the grip or clip wouldn’t work for me. The price and design were good but the refill was not right. The closest I got to a winner was the Tactile Turn Glider but it was ultimately too heavy for writing very much. I swung into fountain pens and left the rollerball search on the bench.
How picky can I be for a type of pen that, by my own estimation, I’m using 1 out of every 10 times? Pretty damn picky.
Last year I decided to venture into the rollerball waters again. I didn’t need one but I wanted to see what else had come around in the several years since I had been in the market.
One name that kept appearing was BIGiDESIGN. They make a lot of EDC items and their pen range offered some interesting choices. What really caught me was their pens that can take many different refills. How many? Close to 100 different refills were said to be compatible with the pen I was considering. How can that be? In the picture above you’ll see a piece sitting inside the end of the tip. That’s a collet. Collets are used in all manner of tools and applications to hold various things with adjustable tension. BIGiDESIGN put a collet in the tip of their pen so it could reliably hold different refills. With all the length, diameter, and taper variance among pen refills that’s no mean feat. Among the refills that fit this pen was none other than the Pilot Precise RT. Now you have my full attention.
I was looking at a pen made of titanium with a clean design, that took my favorite rollerball refill, and had a top button click mechanism. This is where I expected the same derailment of years past. The price would be insane or the quality reviews would be garbage. No and no. The price was a quite reasonable $100 and the reviews were very good. I had to get one and see if it was what it seemed to be.
Enter the Ti Click EDC pen. The installation and adjustment of my refill was easy. The mechanism is reliable but it took getting used to. Where a Parker Jotter is crisp and snappy when you activate it, the Ti Click is soft and somewhat mushy. You won’t annoy those around you by clicking it constantly but you will have the point ready when you want it with no delay.
The size and balance are very good for my hand. The grip has enough texture to be secure but still match the smooth stonewashed overall aesthetic. The clip is easy to get over a pocket and has good tension. The bend at the end of the clip is low enough not to be a real snag hazard.
I think the best thing I can say about the Ti Click EDC is that it hit a Goldilocks note. Everything else was not quite there in one way or another but this is just right.
You have a favorite rollerball? Tell me about it. linevariation at gmail