Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Pick-a-Pen Series: What's in my Pocket by Jack Labusch

Jack Labusch, a "reviving penman", has kindly shared with Palimpsest his writing instrument arsenal.

Here’s my pocket rig, those pens and pencils that in recent years I habitually stuff in my shirt pocket. 

Pilot Precise V7 (Fine) Roller Ball, Black Ink – Among liquid ink roller ball pens, the Pilot Precise seems a popular success, and a critical success, too, within the writing gear community.

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen .3mm (Fine), Green Ink – According to what I’ve read, the designation “fine” for Asian pens generally equals “extra fine” for European and American fountain pens.  I’ve been using the Preppy with the proprietary cartridges, green ink just for underscoring, circling, etc.

Papermate Flair Fiber-Tip, Black Ink –When first introduced in the States in the 1960s, the fiber tip was fairly quickly deformed with use.  But, a plastic collar and possibly other manufacturing changes since then have remedied that problem. I’ve read the tip diameter of this long-lived brand is 1.3mm.  If you want bold, the Flair is bold.

Alvin Draftmatic Mechanical Pencil .9mm, 2B Lead – I’m a longtime mechanical pencil user, but a relative newcomer to premium MPs, which are startlingly inexpensive.  For about $8-$25 (maybe £5-£16 if UK pricing is proportional), you may get knurled metal grips, lead grade indicators, adjustability, unusual mechanisms that rotate the lead for point maintenance, and all-metal construction.  My Japanese-made Alvin has been a workhorse, although I’ve been cautioned by a few Amazon (US) reviewers that Chinese-made Alvins exist and are of noticeably lesser quality.

Pilot Vpen – This very likeable and startlingly well-made fountain pen is marketed as a throwaway pen.  As so many in the writing community do, I’ll convert mine into an eyedropper after its factory charge of ink is exhausted. Several Web sites show how to do that.  In a nutshell: carefully remove the nib section, add ink with eyedropper, daub the section with a little silicone grease as a sealant, and replace the nib section.
 So that’s my current pocket rig, modestly priced, but, I think, fairly well-selected.  I’ll change up once in a while with a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil and a black .5mm 4B lead, a stick pen (biro) or promotional pen I’ve found somewhere, maybe a Hero 330 (a Chinese-made Parker 51 knock-off), or a Sailor Hi Ace, an econopen with a startlingly well-made nib that feels as though you’re writing with air.  Found pens offer the secret luxury of pitching them on a whim without loss. 

          Norman Haase at HisNibs and Jet Pens are two U. S.-based online retailers that I know have European purchasers.  Norman specializes in higher-end Chinese-made fountain pens, and he promises an examination of every nib prior to shipping.  Jet Pens offers Japanese and other Asian-made writing products, some of which reportedly are unavailable outside their domestic markets.  Overseas shipping may be costly, so you may want to bundle your purchases.

Jack Labusch

Read also Jack's pieces on the Jinhao Evening Stripes Fountain Pen at Pocket Blonde and "Why Fountain Pens" at HisNibs.


  1. Thanks, Lito, and thanks to photographer Tom Darland. Jack/Ohio

  2. One quick note on availability. You'd think a modestly priced pocket stash could be easily assembled. Well, yes and no. The Pilot Precise and Papermate Flair are ubiquitous in the States. The Alvin I bought at a local draftsman and architect's supply shop that's little known to the general public. The Pilot V-Pen and Platinum Preppy (and converters) were online purchases.

    I live equidistant from Cleveland and Pittsburgh, about 60 miles from both. The closest "full-stock" stationer is Paradise Pens in Columbus (Ohio), about 180 miles. I'm a semi-retired technical writer and advertising man, reasonably hip to the working of markets, but I guess I can't really explain why I can't go to a local stationer and find a reasonably good selection of writing gear.

    Thanks again, Lito--very nice blog. Jack/Ohio