Tag Archives: Needle

M&G Totoma (0.5mm)

1 Apr

I am not afraid to admit it: I buy pens and pencils on the spot because they make me laugh.  I really don’t need more of a reason than that to justify a pen purchase.  The totoma, though, didn’t just make me giggle; it brought joy to my heart and warmed my soul.  Calling the pen silly would be a gross understatement.  I dare you to show me a sillier pen (and please do show me if you can think of one).

Totoma the plastic tomato, ruling kindly over his paper domain.

For starters, it has a tomato for a cap.  Doesn’t it look smug?  Maybe its because it wears its stem-crown very casually like a tipped hat.  I’ve named him totoma the tomato, and let me tell you, he’s the best damn plastic-tomato-cap there is.  Then there is this guy:

What the f@#%....


I’m not even sure where to begin with this thing.  It seems to be a human…wearing an eggplant costume…with a long tail…looking awfully embarrassed and blushing.  I wonder which is more embarrassing: being in an eggplant costume or being in an eggplant costume with a tail?  I almost feel bad for the thing.  I’m sure he’s (or she’s or it’s) a good eggplant-man once you get to know him.  It gets better:

Simply amazing.

At the bottom of the pen are two little bottles…with animal faces…and leaves sprouting from their caps (!?).  Um, yes.  Don’t ask why, just accept it.  Maybe they are the hybrid offspring of totoma and eggplant-man, maybe they aren’t.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

The slogan ties it all together.  “Nutrition is abundant”.  All this time I thought nutrition wasn’t abundant–thankfully totoma cleared up this misconception.  I’m not exactly sure how an embarrassed man in an eggplant costume relates to the abundance of nutrition.  I hope the implication is not that we eat him.  Maybe thats why he looks so scared…  I think the more important question to ask is “what does this have to do with pens or writing?”  I do not have the slightest idea.  I prefer not to question such things when I get so much brilliance for just one dollar!  What I do know, however, is that this pen writes surprisingly well.

Pop off totoma and a sharp looking 0.5mm needle unsheathes itself.  Jotting a few lines down proves to be a very smooth experience for such a tip.  The ink is dark and dries quickly without bleeding or skipping, and the line is consistant.

One of these is the totoma, the other is a 0.5mm Hi-Tec-C.

I did a little comparison to see how similar the totoma is to a Pilot Hi-Tec-C.  Looking at the picture above, can you tell which pen drew which line?  Both are dark, smooth, consistant lines.  The top is the Pilot and yes, if you look very very hard you will notice that the ink is a smidgen darker than the M&G’s.

Hi-tec the serious versus totoma the silly.

Both tips are a very similar design.  The ball is mounted to three crimps pressed into the needle to reduce friction.  Here is a little diagram (taken from JetPens here) showing what this looks like up close:

The ball only has to make contact with three small points rather than the entire rim of the needle.

Alas, the totoma’s tip is not on par with its primary competitor from across the eastern sea.  It looks a little underdeveloped with no protective sleeve to keep it from bending.  I am not a tip bender so it doesn’t worry me but I know many of you have tip-bending issues.  The totoma is no Hi-Tec-C, but then again, the Hi-Tec-C is no totoma.  Sure the Pilot will slightly out-perform (ok maybe slightly more than slightly) the totoma, but does it have a man in a eggplant suit, or a tomato cap, or jolly looking bottle/plant/creatures?  I didn’t think so.  Plus, it only costs a dollar–chump change for such a masterpiece.  If you don’t yet own a single Hi-Tec or G-Tec then you should probably get that purchase out of the way before treading into totoma territory.  Perhaps, though, you Hi-Tec virgins out there would not be jaded by extreme Japanese precision and find even more joy in the totoma.  Either way, this is the sort of pen that some people look at and they know they must have it.  Others cannot handle the awesomeness that is TOTOMA!

Can you handle such greatness? That is for you to decide.

If anyone knows where to get this pen online, please let me know.  I found it randomly at a little stall in Koreatown.  One day I will go back and get the other version they had with a bottle for a cap instead of a tomato.


MUJI Hexagonal Needle-tipped Gel (0.4mm), with a brief comparison to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C

31 Mar

I found a small slice of heaven when I stumbled upon the MUJI store near Bryant Park some time ago.  With a huge Kinokuniya bookstore just around the corner I thought the area couldn’t get any better but I was oh so very wrong.  Part of the store is dedicated to stationary, with shelves and shelves of paper products surrounding a giant array of MUJI-only writing utensils.  I had never even seen a MUJI pen or pencil in my life before that day.  Now I practically own an example of everything in the stationary section. I love each and every MUJI product in my collection and I have yet to find a dud in their lineup.  I promise you that there is no evil pen-pushing marketing team behind my excitement.

She's a looker alright.

Their hexagonal needle-tipped gel pen series was among the first of their products that I purchased (another was their incredibly sexy all-metal fountain pen which is one of my all-time favorites–I will surely review it soon).  I will state this right off the bat: the hexagonal gel needle-tip series is a fantastic line of pens.  They are simple, inexpensive, good looking, and reliable.  This green 0.4mm version is my favorite yet.  The ink is a vibrant lime green that matches the color of the barrel perfectly.  The entire hexagonal-cut barrel is coated in a soft, non-stick rubber material that adds plenty of traction when your hands are heating up.  Because of its shape and lightness, the pen feels much like a wooden pencil to hold–except much better.  These are all good qualities but they are not why I think this pen is so great.  Its the tip that makes the pen special.  I shall explain:

Left: Hi-Tec-C, Right: MUJI needle-tip gel

This is no Hi-Tec-C needle tip.  If you look closely at both the Hi-Tec’s and the MUJI’s roller tip, you will notice that these are two very different designs.  The Hi-Tec’s tip is reinforced with a sleeve about half-way up the needle, leaving the rest of the tip (made out of very thin metal) fully exposed.  Also, the Hi-Tec’s ball is held in place by crimping the barrel.  There are advantages to this design: the ball can spin more freely because it only creates friction at the crimped contact points rather than the entire socket, and ink can flow through the tip faster because it finds an easy path through these crimps.  There are, however, a number of disadvantages: the tip is weak and prone to bending, the ink can fall through the crimps at an inconsistant rate, and the pen loses feedback which would otherwise help improve overall precision.

Notice how thin the Hi-Tec needle is, even at 0.1mm larger of a tip size.

MUJI’s tip solves many of these problems and does so without damaging the overall writing experience.  The entire needle is reenforced and feels vastly stronger than the Hi-Tec’s weak structure.  Instead of stepping down in barrel sizes as the tip moves towards the ball, MUJI kept the tip thicker until the very end and essentially created a miniature arrow-point.  It is a fantastic compromise between the strong arrow-points of Uni Signos and the precise, free-flowing needles of Hi-Tecs.  It is not quite as effortless as a Hi-Tec and not quite as strong as a Signo, but it comes very close.  If you are one of those people that find yourself bending tips, you will find solace in such a sturdy design.

That archery-slit looking thing above the pen's nose is a little window to check if the ink is running low!

I own the same pen with a 0.3mm tip but I lose some of the MUJI’s effortless writing experience at the cost of precision.  Honestly, 0.4mm is already small enough for any type of writing or drawing that I find myself doing.  If you have experience with 0.4mm and 0.3mm Hi-Tec-Cs, you will notice that a similar feeling is lost (or gained, depending on preference) when the tip steps down 1/10th of a millimeter.

Only lettering on the entire pen.

The MUJI is only marked with a small number at the top of the cap to designate its size.  The rest of the pen is completely devoid of logos, branding, graphics, or anything else unnecessary for the pure experience of writing.  There isn’t even a MUJI logo in sight!  I love the minimalism of this utilitarian design.  The only thing that somewhat bothers me is that the cap is not completely secure when posted, but this has not become a problem in the many months I have used these pens.  I highly recommend the MUJI hex needle-tip gel pen to any fan of needle-tipped writing utensils.  MUJI had done a bang-up job of offering a simple, unique, and inexpensive product that performs exceptionally well.

You can get the pen online at MUJI’s site: GEL INK BALLPOINT HEXAGONAL 0.4MM 

OHTO Graphic Liner 005

29 Mar

The OHTO Graphic Liner is a very interesting pen.  I have yet to come across the G.L. for sale in the USA online but I saw this one at a Japanese bookstore and had to have it.  It is a pigment-ink graphic pen with a rollerball at the tip instead of the usual felt or plastic.  I’m really not sure why this pen doesn’t get much attention because it is truly a top-notch instrument.  If  a super-fine rollerball was crossed with a Sakura Pigma Micron, the end result would resemble something like the Graphic Liner.

Some of the finer points in life

I love the concept of a rollerball pigment-ink pen.  I get the same advantages that I would have with a Micron (near-instantaneous drying, no bleed, dark black, waterproof) but without the drag causes by a felt or plastic tip striking the surface of paper like a wooden match.  The tip moves freely in all directions, at many different angles, and has yet to skip on me.  005 here is the same as it would be on another pigment liner and the OHTO puts out an extremely consistant 005 line with minimal spreading–even with a slow writing speed.  Another pigment roller, the Pentel Hybrid Technica series, comes to mind when using this pen.  If you have ever used one of these Pentels, however, you know that they have a hybrid gel ink system and can take literally HOURS to fully dry.

Never do I ask myself "what size is this pen again?"

I personally think the body is a looker but I have a weird affinity for 70’s and 80’s retro designs (probably because I wasn’t around then).  The blaze orange on jet black pops and draws attention to the size clearly printed on the cap.  I can almost hear cheesy sound effects when I look at the white logo with its gradient lines that run underneath the text.

The barrel has no grip, just smooth plastic running all the way down the length of the pen.  If you have ever written with this sort of design (think Pilot Precise), you know what to expect.  The plastic, while smooth, isn’t slippery and actually adds a good bit of friction when your hand heats up.  While the cap doesn’t snap onto the back audibly when posted, it also doesn’t feel like its going anywhere on its own accord.  No need to worry about flying caps for you nervous pen-flickers out there.

The only drawback I can think of with the OHTO Graphic Liner (and I had to think hard) was the lack of a viewing window to see the ink levels of the pen.  Really though, what graphic pigment-ink pen has this feature anyway?  This is an inexpensive, highly efficient, enjoyable pen to use and I highly recommend it.  I can’t really speak for the larger tip sizes but I did try some of them briefly in the store and they performed very well.  Does anybody have experience with these pens?

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Grip (0.5mm)

24 Mar

Many people consider the Pilot Hi-Tec-C to be one of the best (or in many cases THE best) pens on the market today.  Online reviewers rave about the pen and they quickly sell out at my local shop.  But what makes this simple writing tool so special?

First of all, the ink is fantastic.  I forgot to mention in my written review that it dries almost instantly and does not bleed through any paper I have tested it on.  The black is dark-as-night and flows onto the page with buttery-smooth ease.  The barrel of the pen, while simple, looks quite nice to me and makes me feel like some kind of Japanese scientist.  This version has a hard-rubber grip akin to the Pilot G-2 and allows me to write comfortably through the longest of marathon note-taking sessions.  The cap snaps securely onto the front and back of the pen with a very satisfying *CLICK*, whereas many similar pens have caps that sit precariously on the end and fly off when I nervously spin the thing while I think (or worse, take an exam).

Simple but effective

The inking system is what really sets the Hi-Tec-C apart.  The needle tip is extremely precise: lays a consistant and skip-free line very smoothly, but not so smooth that it eliminates feedback (*cough* fat ballpoints *cough*).  I have heard about people bending the tips but I have thankfully never run into this problem, nor have I met anybody in person who has complained about this phenomenon.  My guess is that some people are just pushing way too hard when they write.  Sometimes the ball does need to be primed a little to get the ink flowing but the 0.5mm tip eliminates this problem entirely.

Destructive paper-wasting menace of a tip

So, does the Hi-Tec-C live up to its immense reputation?  Yes, without a doubt.  I own this pen in many sizes, barrel variations, and ink colors which I will definitely review in the future.  The only drawback to the Hi-Tec series is the pen’s disappearing ink supply which goes so fast that it baffles the mind, and the refills are hard to come by.  Here in the USA, however, the same pen (grip-less version) is sold as the ‘G-Tec-C’ and these can be a little easier to find if you aren’t looking for colors besides the standard blue, black, or red.

Great pen, and the standard which many other pens are judged.