Pilot Better Retractable Pen

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While shopping at Bob Slate in Cambridge, MA about a month ago, I came across a pen that I have not used in about two decades: The Pilot Better Retractable Pen. I have fond memories of using this pen in grade school as it check all the boxes I required: click pen, sharp hex barrel, smooth ink, and a good grip surface. I immediately bought one in each color (blue, black, red). I was pretty skeptical about how these would perform against today’s offerings, but I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s break it down into two categories: aesthetics/build and performance.

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Aesthetics/Build Quality: I love the look of this pen. I always will. There is something so elegant yet simplistic about the Better Retractable. The barrel of this pen is a lot thinner than one may be used to when it comes to pens— think pencil barrel thinness. This diameter is great for me as I have very small hands and like to press hard when writing. I also like the translucent, hard plastic and ribbed grip area on the barrel. As tight as my grip is and as sweaty as my hand gets, there is little to no slippage during a marathon writing session. The pen has a metal tip and clip which are nice touches. The clip while VERY durable is problematic at times. I like to clip my pens in my notebooks after use and the edges of the clip on this pen are so sharp that it rips the paper almost every time I use it. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is something to consider.

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Performance: This pen writes super SMOOTH. On top of its velvety smoothness, it is consistent— it doesn’t clog up or leave blobs of ink when writing. The tungsten carbide ball point does not catch on the paper no matter how hard or at what angle I press. The pen is quite rugged and the hard translucent plastic really holds up. I also like the tactile feel to this pen— most pens have a rubberized grip that eventually gets dirty or wears away— the Pilot Better Retractable does not have this and instead has decided to go with a simple, raised plastic grip that is part of the barrel itself. This lack of extra rubber or grip makes the pen very lightweight which helps me with hand fatigue since I am a tight gripper.

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Overall, these pens are at the very top of my favorites list. Super cheap (so you don’t feel bad when someone inevitably steals one from you), durable, and obtainable. You can find these pens at your local Stapes/office supply store or you can order them here on Amazon for around $12 a dozen.

Baron Fig Limited Edition Squire: The Editor

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It’s not very often that I am blessed with a limited edition product that resonates so deeply with me, but I think I have finally found one that has— the latest Baron Fig limited edition Squire. When I first heard that it was called The Editor I didn’t even have to know what it looked like— I just knew that I needed it. My job is exactly that— I work in a college writing center and edit student papers. Recently, I have been looking for the “perfect” pen for marking up student papers and here comes the Editor. The pen is great as it performs like all other Squires, but it is the theme that really makes this pen stand out. The pen is a nice deep red color. As my stationery pal Less put it, “it’s like a dried blood color and the ink is a nice contrast of a fresh blood color.” Less is right— the ink refill is the PERFECT color red for editing. Aside from the great ink, the aesthetic of the pen is great.

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Engraved in a crisp, bright white on the barrel of the pen are the different symbols used by editors. The tube the pen comes in has a key for those not familiar with what all the symbols mean— I even learned about some stuff I was unaware of myself. I really like this pen as it fulfills two purposes: first, the joy of a limited edition and two, it has actual utility by reminding the user of editing markup language. It makes me think of those multiplication table pencils I used in grade school. I’d say out of all the limited edition pens Baron Fig have released in the past few years, this is easily in my top 3 (the Experiment and the Mysterium are the other two). I’d jump on this one quick because it’s a limited edition that plays right into a lot of what members of the stationery community are involved in: teaching, writing, editing, academia, or really any other venture that involves words. You can find the Editor here for $60 US (and save $10!) while they last!

***I was provided this pen free of charge for the purposes of a review. Free stuff in no way influences how I review or feel about a product. That would be gross.***

Baron Fig Squire Click

I feel like it has been an eternity since I have posted a review (actually it has, my last post was in January). As some of you know, I've been working on a thesis and a jam-packed semester, so that is the reason I have been away. I have good news though: I passed my thesis, I am graduating with a Bachelors in psychology, and the best news is that I can focus on this blog again!!  I have had quite a few things I've wanted to blog about, so expect weekly releases for a while. First on my review list is the new Baron Fig Squire Click pen. Full disclosure: I received a pen free of charge from Baron Fig, but it in no way influenced my review or opinion of the pen.

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Okay. So as a "mostly pencil user" pens aren't really my thing. When I write in my journal I use a pen and have been using the Baron Fig "Key" Squire (which is now sold out). I love that pen and am surprised that I do since it is so damn heavy (it's brass). On the entire opposite side of the spectrum re: weight, is the Squire Click. At a mere  .7 ounces, the Squire Click feels great in hand and lessens the fatigue I usually feel with heavier pens. I also like the brushed aluminum finish of the pen-- it offers the right amount of grip, without being intrusive. Baron Fig touts four main "features" of the Squire click: it has a click top, it's ultra minimal, it has a versatile size, and it's made to last. I am going to address these four selling points and base my overall review on this framework. 

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Click Top: sure, the Squire Click has a click top that Baron Fig states is an "easy to use click top with a smooth motion and satisfying feel." I agree on the "easy to use" part, but to me it does not feel smooth or satisfying. First, the pen does not offer a satisfying "click" when engaging the mechanism. On top of that, it makes this scrape-like sound when pushing down the click mechanism. There is nothing wrong with the quality of the pen in this regard, but subjectively speaking, I don't like the feel of how this pen clicks. Most of us buy pens for their function and performance on paper, so this is not a deal-breaker for me. And hey, maybe my idea of satisfaction is different than yours, so there's that.

Ultra Minimal: Baron Fig nailed in on this point. Unlike other pens where there is a lot "going on" the Squire Click gets out of its own way and is sleek and simple. I would have liked to see a very small, minimalist clip, but I can always add one on myself via Tofty Design.

Versatile Size: again, kudos to Baron Fig on this one. Many, many times when I am using a pen it is either too long or too short for my liking. This is the Goldilocks of the pens I have-- it's just right. Also, the diameter of the pen is great for my small hands. It's sort of pencil-sized and I feel like I have better control while writing with the Squire Click.

Made to Last: I can't really comment on this yet since I have only had the pen for about a month. If it is in line with other Baron Fig products, I don't suspect that this statement is false.  Their regular Squires have held up beautifully and have resisted many drops and other rough treatment. 

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Overall, if you are a pen user, the Squire Click is a purchase. The major selling point for me was the design. Its barrel is perfect for my smaller hands and the smooth, yet not too slippery feel of the barrel works well. The fig wine color I have is beautiful and goes well with my other Baron Fig products. To make this the perfect pen, I'd recommend getting a plastic clip from Tofty Design as metal would probably scrape the barrel. Thanks to the crew over at Baron Fig for providing a Squire Click for review. Again, free stuff does not influence my review whatsoever.