In the course of our day-to-day, keeping tabs in our coding journal, writing letters to friends and family and, more recently, trying out some hand lettering techniques, we have come across a variety of pens and pencils that we think would make mighty fine gifts for someone who also enjoys putting pen to paper. From the strictly practical, to the workhorses of our work day, to the whimsical and fun (harking back to arts and crafts time in school!), all of these are pens and pencils we have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) using:
- uni-ball Micro Point (0.5mm) Roller Pens - We have ordered these by the boatload (only a slight hyperbole) in both blue and black for years. They are the pens with which we write letters, the pens we use to write our numerous ‘to do’ lists, the pens we trot out when we need to take notes in a meeting, and they are the pens we use to update the Little Birdie Me progress journal. They are extremely reliable - in our experience, they only start failing when they run out of ink - and, unlike ballpoints, don’t require that whole “scribble until you get the ink flowing” business. In fact, the only task at which they underperform in comparison to ballpoints, is writing on laminated paper - you know the kind that postcards are often made of today. You CAN write on them with these uni-balls, but you just have to wait ages for the ink to dry. We’re not usually patient enough, and invariably end up smudging things so have conceded that task to ballpoints - but only that task. Otherwise, these uni-balls offer a wonderfully smooth, precise, reliable writing experience at a very good price point. Call us crazy, but we’ve even had an impromptu (but very enthusiastic) praise fest about these pens when we ran into an old acquaintance on a train who, in the course of conversation, identified himself as a fellow fan! Made in Japan.
Stabilo’s 68 Pens - We love Stabilo’s 68 pens for several reasons. First up, they remind us of the special, treat-them-carefully pens we had when little, the ne plus ultra of coloring. Our childhood memories though are not why we are recommending them to you. Rather, it’s their high quality, long-lastingness (we’re working on making that a word), and gorgeous range of colors that get them on this list. Whether they are to accompany an adult coloring book, are destined for the ultimate crafter, or someone who enjoys illustrating cards, letters and/or journals, these pens are easily a strong gift contender. Made in Germany.
Stabilo’s Fineliner 88 Pens - Some months ago, we attended a one-off hand lettering class and were introduced to Stabilo’s Fineliner 88 pens. Whereas Stabilo’s 68 pens are what coloring dreams are made of, their 88s may be the colorer’s secret weapon. They are so finely tipped you can really get into the tiniest of blank spaces with precision, adding color to small doodles and drawings - or, as we did in the class, using them to lend colorful polish and finesse to our first attempts at hand lettering. Immediately after class, we were online ordering the 30-color wallet, including not just a selection of jewel-like tones but also neons too. Made in Germany.
Pentel Sign Pen Brush - We were introduced to these beauts in the same hand lettering class where we first encountered the Stabilo Fineliners - and, they arrived on our doorstep (along with the Fineliners) in the order we placed immediately after class. Pentel’s Sign Pens with brush tips make writing beautifully very accessible. For one thing, while the tips are flexible, allowing for strokes ranging in thickness, they are not as flexible as some where, with a minute shift in pressure, you find you’ve made a muck of what you’re working on. Remember the cursive you learned when you were still a tot? Try writing like that with these pens and we have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be mighty impressed. Of course, with practice, you can get ever fancier, yielding consistent results every time. In the meantime, even the less-than-perfect efforts tend to look great with these lovely pens. Side note: they are designed for drawing or sketching, behaving like watercolors, so are not just great gifts for budding calligraphers and hand letterers - but are an idea for illustrators and artists too! Made in Japan.
Uni-ball 1.0mm Signo Gel Impact Pens - You won’t get as much writing out of a true gel pen as you will out of, say, a regular roller pen. We mention this, not to dis gel pens, but to highlight that they tend to be used for particular applications. One such application is writing on dark surfaces, a task at which they excel, due to their opaque pigmentation. Fancy using navy envelopes? Not a problem. Doing some doodling on a gift wrapped with black paper? Easy peasy! For these tasks, we have found uni-ball’s Signo to be a great option. Just to give you an idea of our enthusiasm level, we ordered not just a multi-pack containing silver, gold and white, but a 3-pack each of blue-black and black. We think they would make a marvelous gift for anybody who sends holiday cards, enjoys crafting, and/or likes to hand decorate their wrapping paper. Made in Japan.
Sakura’s Gelly Roll Pens - Like uni-ball’s Signos, these are marvelous gel pens. We decided to highlight both brands on this list because they have noticeable differences. For example, Sakura’s Gelly Rolls are a bit thinner and feel lighter in hand than uni-ball’s Signos. As well, some of the Gelly Rolls have a roller ball that’s a tad smaller than the 1.0mm uni-ball gel pens we own - our white Gelly Roll 08, for example, has a 0.8mm as compared to our Signos - yielding a marginally thinner line. In terms of color, there are also differences - Sakura’s gold Metallic Gelly Roll is a bit less yellow in our opinion than uni-ball’s Signo, perhaps more akin to a rose gold. As well, it seems to have a stronger shimmer when the light catches it. Our white Sakura Gelly Roll yields a slightly less opaque white than the Signo. To our (admittedly) untrained eyes, that’s seemingly because it disburses a bit less ink with each stroke. There are pros and cons to this - more subtlety, nuance and ink economy on the one hand, slightly less contrast on the other. Any disparity in opacity was hardly noticeable though in comparing the Sakura and uni-ball gold pens - with these two, the difference was really just one of color tone. Our conclusion: the Gelly Roll excels at lending a nuanced, delicate stroke - and we’d like to give a special shout out for that hint-of-rose-gold color and its extra shimmer - very elegant, wethinks. Made in Japan.
Kuretake No. 22 Brush Pen - This pen is a fairly recent find for us. We happened upon the Kuretake No. 22 Brush Pen in a craft supply store and were intrigued enough to purchase one. Honestly, we’re still getting a handle on working with it, partly because when we heard the term “brush pen,” this is exactly what we envisioned - more of a brush than a pen. As such, it’s very responsive to even the slightest pressure and we’ll need more practice to get consistent results. That said, on the occasions when we DO get what we’re aiming for, boy does it feel great and look lovely! In addition to offering a path to calligraphic glory, however, this pen is also great for lending flourishes on other projects. If you’ve been following along on either our Facebook or Instagram feeds, you may already have seen the brush pen wrapping paper we made a little while back (and is pictured above). Well, this is the pen we used to create the black part of the design - Stabilo 68 pens (#2 on this list) were then used to add some color. This is truly a pen of much potential and we vote that it be gifted to someone who has the passion to tap that potential! Made in Japan.
Palomino Blackwing Pencils - Although we had passively acknowledged good pencils versus bad over the years, we had never been particularly proactive about seeking out quality pencils. That changed when a very dear friend gave us a set of vol. 211 Blackwing pencils and rocked our world. Our eyes were opened as to the great range of pencils out there - both in terms of look, but also in terms of quality and feel. We may be latecomers to that realization, but we have been acting on it ever since. We still have a few 211s left and they retain pride of place in our pencil holder - they write so smoothly, never seem to snap at the point, feel lovely in hand, and have a nifty eraser at the end that works beautifully (no smudging here!). And, should your eraser ever get worn down to a nub, or dry out, it is possible to purchase replacement erasers in black, white or pink. Impressive, no? The superior writability of these pencils is likely thanks to the fact that clay is incorporated into the graphite to lend strength, and wax is added too to give that silky glide across the page. Those details, as well as the graphite’s 100% cedar casing is presumably why these are a bit more costly than other pencils on the market. But, if you are looking to spoil that artist, letter writer, or list maker in your life, Blackwings are a solid choice! Side note: the 211s were a natural-finish, limited edition run and are no longer being made, but we recommend checking out the Blackwing 602, their iconic pencil and one that was used by writers such as John Steinbeck (#favoriteauthor). Like the 211, it has a firm graphite core encased by cedar. The only difference so far as we can make out is the coloring - a classy gray finish with a sleek black eraser. Made in Japan.
General Pencil Co.’s Cedar Pointe #333 2HB - After our pencil epiphany (see #8), we were more attuned to the pencils we encountered. We happened upon General Pencil Co.’s Cedar Pointe pencils on Amazon.com while doing a spot of online shopping. They looked similar to our Blackwing 211s with their natural finish, but had a much lower price point and hundreds of five star reviews. For the price, we thought it would be hard to go wrong, so added them to our basket. And, as you have likely already deduced, the fact that they made this list means we would give them a five star rating too. The ferrule (the metal bit at the end of the pencil that usually holds an eraser on) is not quite as finely manufactured as the Blackwings, and the text on the side is a bit less precisely printed. However, for the price point that’s absolutely acceptable. Another difference: the Cedar Pointes are unfinished pencils so feel a little rougher in hand in comparison to our Blackwings, but we actually like that on occasion - as well, it means that over time, the pencils tend to acquire a personal patina of use which we find rather lovely. Last but not least, we should touch on both the erasers and the leads. As far as we’re concerned, the erasers are pretty grand - we’ve had no smudging to date, and they do their job brilliantly, erasing all sorts of mess-ups on our part. Lead-wise, the Cedar Pointes write slightly rougher than the Blackwings, but, again, as with the rougher feel of the pencil itself, sometimes we like this. Call us crazy, but it’s as though the pencil is having its own little conversation with the paper as you write, rather than passing it over with nary a glance. This is not to pooh-pooh our Blackwings by any means. They are arguably the luxury standard of pencils, but we find it’s a bit like music - sometimes you want to listen to Brahms’ Lullaby and sometimes you’re in the mood for Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 which builds on the lullaby, taking it to new heights. Same goes for pencils, wethinks. In our pencil holders, there’s room for both the Blackwing and the Cedar Pointe. And, on that note, we heartily endorse the Cedar Pointes as a fantastic, eminently affordable pencil to gift to any budding writer or habitual scribbler. Made in the USA.
Well, as Looney Tunes always conclude, that’s all folks! We hope our various forays into the world of writing implements helps you find something that’s just perfect for the budding author, artist and/or crafter in your life.
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