Hi All! Most of us who are pen, pencil and paper junkies know what we like, but sometimes we don’t necessarily understand why. Here are some observations I’ve made over the decades since I realized I’d reached rock-bottom and had to go to a 12 step program for my writing instrument and paper addiction (JK!). Seriously though, I was an old school draftsman back before the days of CAD, when everything used to be done with paper, velum, sepias and mylars, as well as pencils, ink and eradicator fluids. You see a new pen in the store or on-line and you want to try it. You get it home and you either hate it or you love it, but do you know why? Some things are probably intuitive, but others may not be. So here’s a collection of thoughts/observations. Regardless of whether we’re talking about a pencil or an ink pen, some of the following are notable things to look for (and some of these are not easy to find): Grip diameter – The grip diameter is something we know, ergonomically, but we might not think about it when purchasing. Grip diameter is not intuitive. Often it is the exact opposite of what you would expect. People with large hands tend to prefer smaller grip diameters. And, people with smaller hands tend to prefer large grip diameters. (Odd, huh?) Grip diameters generally run from about 6mm – 12mm. I have large hands, so I generally prefer a 9mm or smaller. But here’s the thing…very few companies specify their grip diameters, and unless you’ve got a really good eye it can be hard to tell. However, there are websites you can go to which measure all these things so you can know for sure. I can provide some resources if interested. Barrel diameter – This measurement is often given out by manufacturers, but it really doesn’t mean much, certainly not in how you hold the pen. Barrel diameter has more to do with the balance of the pen than much else. A small grip with a large barrel will be an unbalanced pen, which feels awkward (to me anyway). Barrel length – Now this dimension is important, and again it comes down to hand size. Larger handed people prefer longer barrels, whereas smaller handed people prefer shorter. So this one is intuitive, BUT there are limits. Too long and a pen becomes top heavy. Too short and the pen can’t be supported properly. As an example, people rave about space pens. Great pen, no doubt, but I can’t use them; my hands are just too big, even when the pen is posted. Retractable vs. Capped – There are pros and cons to both, but here are some technical considerations you may not have thought of. A capped pen has a fixed tip. A retractable pen has a retractable tip, and what this means is; the tip retracts into, and out of, an opening which is larger than the tip. If you look at a retractable pen under a microscope, the opening for the pen tip is considerably larger than the tip itself. This leads to some (what I call) “slop”. If you’re writing, the pen tip is in one place with respect to the pen, but when you pick the pen up the tip moves, ever so slightly. Now to a non-perfectionist this might not mean much, but to someone like me it means a lot. Why? Because when I put the pen tip back down it’s not in the exact same place it was when I picked it up. A capped pen doesn’t have this issue. The tip or nib always stays in the exact same place, both on and off the writing surface. A minor difference like this can make a sloppy letter or character. On the other side of the fence, retractable pens don’t lose their caps, and they’re faster for jotting things down. (They can also be annoying as heck when people repeatedly click their pens in meetings, but that’s another post). Disposable vs. refillable – As a general rule, disposable pens are just that…when they’re empty, toss them in the trash. Also, refillable pens tend to be more expensive, mostly because you’re buying the pen body and not the ink inside. Which is better? Well, it really depends on application. If you’re working at 7-11 then the cheapest pen you can find is best. If you’re an executive, you’re probably going to want to go with a high-end rollerball or fountain pen…both capped pens. What ink? – I made another post about inks, but my personal preference for inks is gel first, rollerball ink next and then ballpoint. How about pencils? – Well, I’m a nut, and when it comes to pencils I love wooden cedar pencils. I could write a whole post on wood pencils, and maybe I will, but they need to be around 6-7mm, generally hexagonal and relatively soft lead grade (like HB, or 2H) for general writing (technical drawing is a different story. So that’s about it. Just trying to provide some content for those interested. Cheers!