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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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  • COPIC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:26PM (#41837853)

    Try Copic Multiliners, they come in very small nib sizes, and they've always performed well for me. They're designed for inking illustrations(ie, comic books) so they're fairly high-quality. Available at your local art store.

  • Inkless Metal Pen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:26PM (#41837857)

    This should satisfy your needs: Inkless Metal Pen []. I have one..... Somewhere in the mess of my desk. It works really well! I haven't had any long term results yet, seeing as I don't know exactly where it is, but I love(d) it!

  • Papermate (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xacid ( 560407 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:28PM (#41837873) Journal

    No joke - I've settled for those cheap papermates. They rarely clog, don't bleed, and don't give me any guff. The line thickness might be tricky but worth checking out.

    My wife is an artist and is crazy particular about her tools. She also swears by them and was who got me into using them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:29PM (#41837881)

    Try using a Kuru Toga 0.3mm or 0.5mm --- the lead rotates so it is always sharp. Uni-Ball just released them in the U.S. (or you can buy imports from Japan).

  • Pentel RSVP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by adonoman ( 624929 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:31PM (#41837903)
    Pentel RSVP - fine, very smooth, and very fast. I've never used a pen that glides like these do - plus they're fairly cheap.
  • start looking here. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:36PM (#41837971) Journal

    if you can't find it in this or another search of the same site, i think you're out of luck: []

    i don't know exactly what the difference is between a fiber-tip pen and a "pigment ink liner," but the latter go down to 0.05mm (that's not a typo, i really mean 1/20th of a millimeter). they are fiber pens, so they don't have a ball feed, which should be good news for your other requirements.

    i stole a 0.1mm a few months ago and apparently destroyed the tip just by writing delicately (and i do have some experience with extremely fine pens), so you'll have plenty of use for that light touch of yours.

    if you want something more artistic in your off-time, i've heard that experienced chinese calligraphers can control their brush pens to where they can write essentially with a single hair. might be a fun hobby.

  • Pen Connoisseur (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:37PM (#41837979)

    I've tried nearly every pen out there, including the technical pens for Koh-I-Noor. I've found that the pricier pens are usually just better looking, but few if any are more reliable than the cheapest Bic pens. I believe this is due to R&D and manufacturing capabilities.

    That said, I prefer fine line pens as well. Since i find refillable pens too messy (ink blots, clogs, cleaning between refills, etc.) my favorite pens for the last several years have been the felt tip pens, the Sakura Microns 005 for fine lines, and 05 for a hearty thick line. They have archival ink and it's very dark, about as black as possible and dries instantly. All my engineering undergrad notes are on white archival paper and written in this ink, looks very nice and doesn't fade. The tip is something like a specialized felt tip but it never spreads, and I've yet to have one dry out before I lose it. Best of all they're relatively cheap at around $3 each and available at any art store.

    I've searched for the perfect technical pen since I was a kid, and since I've found these I've used them consistently for several years now.

  • That was easy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by narcc ( 412956 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:39PM (#41837991) Journal

    A quick google search turns up this:

    Sakura Pigma Micron 005 Marker Pen - 0.2 mm - Black

    It's not a pencil, it's crazy thin, and (being a marker pen) should have none of the problems listed. The comments suggest that it's not good for people who write with "a heavy hand" which suggests that you won't need to press down very hard.

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Telecommando ( 513768 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:54PM (#41838107)

    A Pentel 0.3mm mechanical pencil with an HB lead is my personal favorite writing instrument.
    For pens, I buy either a Pentel Energel 0.5mm or a Pilot V5 series.

    I bought a box of Japanese-made 0.3mm gel ink pens about 10 years back at an office supply store that was closing down but can't remember the brand name to save my life. When they ran out I never could find them again. They were some of the best I've ever used, but if you dropped one (even capped) you might as well throw it away. The tips (I think they were ceramic) were that fragile. Beautiful lines, though.

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:58PM (#41838141)

    But not just any pencil. []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:06PM (#41838211)

    I'd suggest the sharpie liquid pencil. Seems to address the short comings of pencils and doesn't smear or run like a pen.

  • Re:It's Halloween (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:14PM (#41838283)

    Doesn't work for the line thickness requested. Has all of the cited problems with finepoint raven nib. Runs dry quickly.

    The reasons are quite simple: blood coagulates shortly after being exposed to air. This causes it to gel up and plug the vein on the quill/nib, resulting in irregular line width, globs on the sheet, dry tip, etc.

    Blood is a horrible pigment for penning. You need at least a goose quill size nib just for flow properties, and will have to discourage clotting with something like alcohol. Even still, it doesn't really fix that great.

    Not to mention the obvious: it being gross, unhygenic, and bad for the quill/nib and paper.

    India ink is superior in every capacity.

    If you are looking for a substitute for india ink in a stick pen, (india has several noteworthy problems, especially for teensy weensy text) try using some McCall's black food coloring. (Really just a mixture of FD&C Red #40, Blue #2, Yellow #5, and propylene glycol.) Other than spotting on contact with moisture, it has very good lettering properties. It dries on the page almost instantly, even with a heavy line pressure. Kinda pricey though.

    Being halloween, it should be in stock at your grocier's.

    And it isn't as nasty, gross, and weird as using blood. :D

  • by mbstone ( 457308 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @11:43PM (#41838481)

    Unless you are a U.S. Government employee using a Skilcraft U.S. Government Pen for official purposes, or you are otherwise authorized to possess or use one, for example while transacting business at the counter of a post office, you are violating 18 USC Â 641, a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or one year's imprisonment.

  • Get it from work (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Thursday November 01, 2012 @02:14AM (#41839145) Homepage Journal

    What kind of engineer needs to ask hundreds, or thousands, about what type of pen to get?

    Yeesh... yeah. You're an engineer, not a teacher. Just take whatever they stock in the supply cabinet at work and be happy with it! And if it sucks, well, it's their loss in quality of your work output :P

    But seriously, I would ask what Samuel Silva uses for : []

    Personally, I would just find some cheap mass manufactured pen that was comfortable to hold and get good at controlling it. If one started having problems with globing or irregular coverage, I'd just pitch it. But I remember doing lots of ballpoint pen drawing/shading as a kid and rarely running into problems.

  • Fisher Space Pen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AdamTheTech ( 1623441 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @03:08AM (#41839321)
    For a quick comparison, I can write as small as the date that appears on a penny with a Fisher Space Pen. [] However, you will have issues with its ink smearing like any other pen.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday November 01, 2012 @06:58AM (#41840297) Journal

    As a seasoned engineer, I heartily endorse the pencil as a proper tool. However, I suggest that a 0.9mm line is a better choice for nearly all of your work. The key is that must write larger, write more confidently, and make your work legible at a distance.

    I too once wrote with fine-tipped pens and pencils, finding joy in compressing my work onto individual lines of 5 lpi graph paper. I have learned, however, that writing large allows more scrutiny of one's work, and enhances the ability to communicate more effectively.

    Get a pencil and start writing larger. For $4, the Pentel Twist-erase III, 0.9mm, is my weapon of choice.

You are in a maze of little twisting passages, all different.