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Ask Slashdot: The Search For the Ultimate Engineer's Pen 712

First time accepted submitter Laser Dan writes "I'm an engineer (robotics) who can't seem to find a pen that satisfies me. Most of my writing is just temporary "thinking notes" on random bits of paper, like diagrams, flowcharts, equations etc, but pens always seem to have one or more of the following issues:

1. They write too thickly — I write very small, and when I start adding extra details to diagrams it gets even smaller. A line width of about 0.2-0.4mm would be good.

2. The ink bleeds, making the lines thick and unclear.

3. The ink is slow to dry or the tip grows blobs of ink, causing smudges everywhere.

4. The first line drawn is not fully dark, as the ink takes a short distance to get going.

5. The lines drawn are faint unless you press hard (I don't).

I have been given several fancy pens (Parker etc) over the years but they all suffered from problems 1, 3 (blobs), 4 and 5. I'm considering trying a Fisher space pen, but it looks like even the fine cartridge writes rather thickly. Have any fellow Slashdotters found their ultimate pen?"
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Ask Slashdot: The Search For the Ultimate Engineer's Pen

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  • G-tec = answer (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:25PM (#41837837)

  • Consider a pencil (Score:3, Informative)

    by Deltaspectre ( 796409 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:25PM (#41837841)
    My mechanical pencil of choice is the Pentel Graph Gear 1000. Well worth the money, the one I have now has lasted me over 3 years, which is not bad compared to other pencils/pens that would have clips snap off or otherwise get lost within a year.
  • Pilot Hi-Tec Pens (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:26PM (#41837845)

    Try these, thank me later: Pilot Hi-Tec-C Pens []

  • Space Pen (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:28PM (#41837867)

    I like the look of a gel pen better, but the space pen has too many advantages, for direction, temperature, durability, and good design (I have one of the 'bullet' ones that when capped is half size. You can run them through wash *and dry* cycles and they still work and don't ruin your clothes.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by gagol ( 583737 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:33PM (#41837939)
    I agree, but if ink is a requirement : []
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by 3dr ( 169908 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:03PM (#41838185)

    Yes, these are the pens I was trying to remember.

    The terms the OP should google are "technical pens" or "drafting pens".

    Other pens are the Rapidograph pens, but I think the Mars pens have more sizes.

    Maybe actually try a space pen. I like mine. It looks about 0.3mm wide, and has "instant on".

  • Kuru Toga (Score:5, Informative)

    by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:04PM (#41838187)

    I bought one for fun thinking it was a gimmick. Nope it works. What it does is each time you lift the pencil off the page it rotates the lead a tiny bit to prevent a chisel tip. This keeps the line width from changing. Very nice.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by djl4570 ( 801529 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:19PM (#41838313) Journal

    ... a sharpie ultra point would meet his needs of being thin, not having to press hard, dries instantly, and doesn't blob.

    I use the Sharpie Ultra for these same reasons. The ink does bleed some. This does not bother me but might bother someone who is OCD about their pens. I like the retractable Pentel 0.5 and 0.7 mm pencils for the same reason.

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:21PM (#41838331)

    I prefer a KOH-I-Moor Rapidograph but they dry up easy and are a pain to clean out.
    The Staedtler 924 Mars draft ballpoint - 0.2mm doesn't dry up even if not used for months. I found them at Office Depot. Around $15.00

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:22PM (#41838337)

    I know what you're talking about, and you should be able to buy those at Michael's or other fine arts and crafts stores. If you have a heavy hand, though, they're probably not for you.

    I like currently Pilot G2 pens. You should be able to buy the 0.5mm ones reasonably at retail, but the 0.38 ones are a bit harder to find, especially in color != black. Refills for both you'll probably need to order on-line.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:25PM (#41838359) Homepage

    Sorry but those technical pens are as fussy as all hell, go a bit hard a burr the needle and the pen is dead, definitely not the optimum. Definitely go for the mechanical pencil and not a disposable one. Make sure it has a sprung tip, to take the extra load without snapping the lead when you are stressed, something like Paper Mate Flexgrip Elite. Of course if you can get used to the odd sharpening and used to rolling the pen when using it nothing beats the flexibility of [] lead holder, being able to very line thickness on the fly and shading make it ideal for the skilled user. Have an eraser handy and you'll see why a pencil is better than ink every time. I carry a mechanical pencil and a lead holder as well as a disposable biro but given the choice of one only it was the lead holder but then I have experience using it and can make use of the flexibility it provides, second choice is mechanical pencil. For exams et al two mechanical pencils and an eraser, when it counts the most. When it can only be ink, seriously who is kidding who, type it and print it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:30PM (#41838381)

    I have handwritten with Staedtler technical pens for years. The 0.5 mm size is my preferred compromise since it gives a thin writing line, but is easier to maintain than their thinest-diameter pens are.

    My use is for writing notes, really small, in the margin of a Bible. The ink from a technical pen never bleeds through the thin paper, and the writing still looks fresh after 40 years.

    A technical pen also makes fine works of art (pen sketching), if you have the talent for that.

    To make such a pen last longer between cleanings, store it tip upwards. Mine resides on my desk in a shot glass.

  • by God of Lemmings ( 455435 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @12:21AM (#41838669)
    This here sir, is the pen you are looking for. Anything else is just common garbage.

    google search for Pilot G-Tec-C4 []
    It comes in both 0.2mm and 0.4mm, although I would recommend 0.4mm on thinner paper.
    It is a steel tip gel rollerball pen, and the ink dries fairly quick and writes evenly unless the tip is dirty,
    which is a little difficult to clean. It can a fair amount of pressure while writing as well.

    It somewhat recently became available in America and is available in multiple colors as well,
    although I have been using them for years by importing them from other countries.
  • by mbessey ( 304651 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @12:38AM (#41838779) Homepage Journal

    Buy them here []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2012 @12:49AM (#41838837)

    It looks like unless you're stealing the pens from the post office, embezzling government funds to pay for them, or something of the sort, 18 USC Â 641 won't be a problem. Government agencies MUST buy from Skillcraft, but it seems you can buy them with your own money.

    A quick search shows that Skillcraft's official online store at sells them under their office supplies section. You could contact their customer service if you really think it might be illegal.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @05:36AM (#41839959) Homepage
    We have a winner! The 0.5 Pilot G2 pens are all I use nowadays. Sometimes on some reports I use the finer one, but they are harder to write with when you're in a hurry.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Thursday November 01, 2012 @08:01AM (#41840587) Homepage Journal

    They pretty much are never going to wear out under normal use. If you get a refillable pen, be sure to buy the special ink intended to go in them. Regular india ink will make a huge mess if you try to use it in them.

    If you use quality india ink, it works fine. My mom is a graphic artist who has spent probably collectively years working with those pens (classic rapidographs) and that's all she uses. Her work has won numerous awards. Also, the pens may not wear out, but under normal use, the tips go quick. That's why statistically nobody uses them for writing letters &c.

  • by Card Zero ( 1126075 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @12:46PM (#41843457)

    I used a cartridge-refillable Rotring ArtPen for years and considered it the Holy Grail of pens, but eventually I ran into problems replacing the ink cartridges. I'd order direct from the manufacturer (for some reason even the big art stores never kept the cartridges in stock) and invariably the ink would be low-quality, diluted, and prone to leaking right out of the pen. I had the same problem with the Rapidographs. Cleaning the pens didn't help. Replacing the pens/nibs didn't help. Storing them nibside-up didn't help. About $100 later in cartridges and new pens, I finally gave up. Now I use Sakura Micron disposable drawing/drafting pens (they come in .8, .5, .3, .1, and .05 mm thickness) and they work fine--no bleeding or blobbing, but I still pine for the smoothness of the Rotring pens (the Microns "feel" just a bit too dry to me, but I'd be willing to bet most people aren't so picky about their pens as I am). Maybe I've just had bad luck, though. Certainly a number of commenters seem to be having great experiences with the Rapidogaphs, so perhaps it's time to try again.

    There do exist models (the Koh-I-Noor, I think) that connect the pen to an inkwell with a miniature hose, but I've never had a chance to try them.

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp