Welcome To My Thoughts On Pens And Pencils

I will respect your right to disagree with what I have to say about Pens and Pencils as long as you respect the fact that I am an Old Geezer.




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The Old Geezer
Please Excuse My Absence

I have not blogged since July of 2015 due to the fact that my Lovely Wife was diagnosed with 2 types of cancer. A new case of breast cancer which has metastasized and gone to her bones, mainly her back. She had a mastectomy of her left breast which showed the type of cancer that was in her bones. She has been taking an oral med. every day and she has a port under her skin to receive a liquid med. She has gone through one round of radiation treatments to stop some pain in her back. That gave her GERD and the med for that was nasty tasting. The bone cancer has caused the vertebra in her lower back to pinch her left sciatic nerve causing her pain, numbness and foot drag. She also has skin cancer that has only been partly addressed.

I have been busy taking care of her as the treatments have left her weak and sickly. She can not drive so I have to drive her to her appointments and treatments. I also have to do all the cooking and most of what cleaning we do. So I do not have a lot of time for blogging. However the installment of the review of the Schaeffer Ultrafine 0.3mm pencil marks what I hope will be a new review every month. However some of my future reviews may seem familiar as they may be a review of a pencil or pen that I have reviewed before just in another size due to my limited collection of writing instruments and the economic state of our nation.

I am grateful to George Fox for wanting me to do a review of another one of his pencils. I think that as a reader of my humble blog, may fine of interest as the Schaeffer Ultra Fine is a very unusual pencil.

So please excuse my absence and as a reader of my humble blog I hope that you enjoy the review of this unique pencil.

Coming Soon...

Thank you,

The Old Geezer.




Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Herd of Zebras

The Zebra F Series is renowned for it's smoothness and sub 0.7 mm line but for the longest time I was only aware of the Zebra F-301 ballpoint pen and it's companion 0.5 mm pencil. Only recently did I discover that there has grown up an entire series of ballpoint pens based on the F-Refill. I am not a fan of ballpoint pens, preferring rollerballs or gel pens over ballpoints. But every now and again I'll come across a ballpoint pen, or rather it's refill, that I am impressed with. One is the Parker Jotter refill which has become a standard in the industry. Another is the Papermate refill, and not least of all the Zebra F-Refill. I like it so much that I have adapted other pens to accept the F-Refill!

I was first introduced to the Zebra F series in the form of a blue pen and pencil set while I was in high school. While I liked the set I was not fond of the thinness of either device. However that did not stop me from buying 2 more black pens and a replacement pen and pencil set, in of all colors light turquoise-green, when I lost the pencil to the blue set and later the pen as well. It is interesting to note that the turquoise-green set was made in Japan while the current Zebra line is made in Indonesia. The little Zebras were always my "go-to" pens whenever I needed a ballpoint for any reason. Then they sort of fell by the wayside when I was introduced to good gel pens! But lately I've rediscovered the F-301 and it's bigger brothers, the F-402 and the F-701.

All three pens incorporate stainless steel in some amount in their construction. The F-301 the least and the F-701 the most with the F-402 somewhere in between. The only thing that keeps the F-701 from being completely stainless, at least on the outside, is a black plastic ring that keeps the pocket clip in place. This is a little odd because the F-402 has an identical ring but it's made from stainless steel! To me both pens would have looked better had the stainless ring been on the F-701 and the black plastic ring on the F-402. But then no one consulted me on the designs! The 2 pens closest in appearance of the three are the F402 and the F701. While they may look similar they are entirely 2 different pens. And both differ considerably from their elder brother the F-301.

Some stats: The F-301 is approximately 8.5 mm in diameter and approximately 131.4 mm long. The F-402 is approximately 9.7 mm in diameter and approximately 133.1 mm long. The F-701 is approximately 9.7 mm in diameter and approximately 133.7 mm long. Unfortunately I could not find a reliable weight for the pens, not even on the Zebra web site and I do not have a gram scale. I can say that the lightest pen is the F-301, and the heaviest is the F-701 with the F-402 a close second to the F-701. The F-301 sports a plastic grip while the F-402 a rubber one. They both are removable. The metal grip on the F-701 is an integral part of the pen. The texture on the F-301 is a square cut pattern while that of the F-701 is a diamond cut pattern. There is no texture on the rubber grip on the F-402. The F-701 features a quiet "soft clicking mechanism" while the mechanism of the F-402 is a bit louder and has a hollow or metallic sound. The Mechanism of the F-301 has a solid "click".























All 3 pens take the Standard F-Refill yet the only one to come with it is the F-301. A slimmer plastic refill came in both the F-402 and F-701. It has the same 0.7 mm ball stainless steel tip thus the line it makes is the same as the F-Refill and the feel of the refill when writing is the same. Refills come in both black and blue. Black is the standard refill for the F-402 and F-701 while the F-301 has an accent color to match the refill ink color, so the pens come in both black and blue.

The pens all disassemble/assemble in different ways. The F-301 has a stainless steel tip with internal threads. The removable grip has external threads at both ends. The threads are slightly different so the grip can not be turned around. The weakness here is that you have metal nut on a hollow plastic bolt. If the tip or grip is over torqued guess which one loses!

The better design is the external threads of the F-402's tip. But here you have a metal bolt and a plastic nut! But because the threads of the nut are internal and deeper there is a far lesser chance of stripping the threads. The same design is used on the F-701 only here you have a metal bolt and a metal nut! A much better execution of the design!

As mentioned above the F-Refill is known for being a smooth writer. Traditionally ballpoint pens are considered the least smooth of all the pens. It has the thickest ink and to get a smooth writing ballpoint the ball has to be fairly large. This is why "medium*" ballpoint refills abound and "fine*" and "extra fine*" refills do not, though available for some pens. Normally a refill to write as fine as the F-Refill the ball would have to be smaller. But the smaller the ball the harder it seems to me to write with and it gets scratcher! The thick ink of the ballpoint just doesn't like the finer tips. But I think that the ink has a lot to do with the Zebras smooth writing. It appears to my eyes that the ink is a tad thinner than normal ballpoint pen ink. This would allow for the use of larger ball in the tip. The Zebra F-Refill writes as fine as A Pentel R.S.V.P Fine, but does so with less effort and a smoother feel because it has a slightly larger ball in the tip and I'm guessing slightly thinner ink as well.

Of all three pens I prefer the F-701 for a few reasons. One, it's almost all metal and is metal where it counts, in the grip. The grip is finely knurled in a diamond pattern, very much like a drafting pencil. It offers the user a nice griping surface even if slightly damp or moist. It's the heaviest of all 3 pens. I like the heft of it and the feel of it in my hand. It's also larger in diameter than the F-301 thus fits my griping style a lot better. Aside from the tip being removable the barrel is of one piece. It is also the longest of the 3 pens but the one with the worst balance point! It's top heavy and likes to rock back into the web of the hand. It's not a real problem for me and for someone with largr hands it probably won't be noticeable. All-in-all a very nice pen.

My second choice is the F-402. I'm not as fond of this pen as I am the F-701 mainly because of the rubber grip although it does have a better balance to it, just a skosh top heavy, almost neutral. The rubber grip is firm, not squishy, I dislike a squishy rubber grip! It is also a thicker pen than the F-301 being the same diameter as the F-701 and just a tad shorter.

Lastly, and least of all, the F-301. It's just a tad to thin for my taste although the plastic grip is quite serviceable. The balance of the F-301 is comparable to that of the F-402. I also dislike the fact that the plastic grip screws into 2 metal parts of the pen, the body and the tip. The plastic is thinest here and when it breaks the pen is useless.

Last words: Over all I'd give the F-Series pens a 4 out of 5 rating. None of the pen bodies are perfect but the F-Refill is very nice. I like the way it feels and the thin sub 0.7 mm line it makes. Once again my "go-to" ballpoint pen is a Zebra!

* Medium = 0.7 mm, Fine = 0.5 mm, Extra Fine = 0.38 mm. With many manufacturers medium =0.9 mm, fine = 0.7 mm, extra fine = 0.5 mm and ultra fine = 0.38 mm.

Update: 5/3/09. This is exactly what I was writing about! Although this did not happen due to over tightening, it fell off the kitchen counter, it does illustrate the fact that in a tug of war between metal and plastic, metal wins!

I was able to super glue it back together but from now on that will be the weakest part of the entire pen.

Also I'd like to point out something that for some reason never crossed my mind before. If you'll take a look at the three refills you'll notice that 2 are plastic and one is metal and plastic. Well after further examination I discovered that the metal casing is just a shell! The plastic refills fit inside it! It is easily removed and fitted to a new plastic refill! So why supply the more expensive pens with refills that are just the plastic insert? I have no clue unless it's to save on weight. The plastic refill with spring weighs in at 1.4 grams. The metal clad refill with spring weighs in at 3.0 grams! The metal shell weighs as much as the refill alone! But can you really tell the difference of 1.5 grams? Let me know what you think!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

That note about the refills is interesting. If that's the case, then what is the point of having the metal casing over the refill? To add weight?

I always thought that the plastic refill has less ink than the metal one. Is this still true?

The Old Geezer said...

Anon,

As far as I can see the metal case was put on to add weight to the refill and the pen. I base this on the fact that the heavier all metal F402 and F701 pens have only the plastic refills. Since the plastic refills inside the metal caseand the ones not in the metal case are the same refill, yes, they contain the same amount of ink.

Lisa of Longbourn said...

I can't get my dad's Zebra F-402 pen apart to insert a refill. Any suggestions?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Lisa of Longbourn said...

need to subscribe in case there's an answer!

Anonymous said...

This is a great writeup, thanks. I've been using F-301s for about 20 years and love them. I have preference for the metal case refills. I think the ink flow I get out of them is slightly better, but it could be all psychological.

Question: is the "02.10 Indonesia" on the refill in your F-301 picture the manufacturing year and month? I suspect it is but I wanted another pen nerd's opinion.

Anonymous said...

A comment on your question of whether you can tell a difference in weight of 1.5 g. I say, absolutely yes. If you compare a zinc penny (after 1982 or so) with a copper one the weight difference is obvious to your hands, and that diff is about 2.5 g to 3.1.

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed a difference in the Zebra F-402 series between the ones made in japan and the ones made in Indonesia?? I have an "older" one made in Japan and it seems that the grip is better (more rubber, less plastic like) then the "new" one made in Indonesia.

Anonymous said...

Are there any gel refills that can fit into the F-701?

Anonymous said...

I find that my refills don't often write - they spot! The ink will stop during writing, and I have to go back and re-write! Do you have any fixes for this? These are new refill cartridges that at times stop working.

The Old Geezer said...

The only suggestions that I have is to shake the pen very hard with a sharp downward sweep several times to try to move the ink downward towards the tip. You can shake a cotton ball or a cotton swab with 91% Isopropyl alcohol and use it to clean the tip making sure that you get the entire ball. You can also heat the entire refill with a hair dryer on high for 30 seconds (NEVER use an open flame on a pen refill. Too much heat can burn the ink which will stop the refill from ever writing again. Hope that this helps.

Luis Urbina said...

Hi. I really like the F-301. I am looking for a non-zebra pen that will accept the F-301 refills. This is because I am turning my own pens, but can't find a kit that will accept these refills. I want to think there is more than one, but no one seems to know. I wish there was a "list of pens that will accept the F-301 Zebra refills" Any ideas?
Thanks
Luis