Thursday, March 11, 2010

Disappearing Ink

Usually, ballpoint pens, even gel ink pens don’t do much for me. Granted, I don’t try every new design or model that comes out, especially in Tokyo, where new pens are released often enough to keep your head spinning. And that’s probably why some stationers plan regular research and buying trips to this stationery Mecca. But I do like to browse in the tiny stationery shop nearby just to get an idea of what’s popular, and what new stuff Pilot and Mitsubishi have come up with.

The resident stationery lady, Mrs Mima, told me this morning that their big seller these days is the Pilot Frixion erasable gel ink pen. This is not really a new pen, and there are reviews of it going back as far as 2008, but after looking at some of those reviews I can only think that Pilot has upgraded this design recently, since some of the complaints I read about are no longer an issue.

Right off the bat, the feeling is that, here is a pen from a highly ranked company with vast experience, offered at only $2.50, in a choice of three sizes and 24 colors of creamy smooth gel ink, that is also erasable. The price is a big selling point for this pen, and adding that to the options of size and ink colors, well…let us not be too quick to bite the hand.

The Frixion gel pen comes in 0.4, 0.5 and 0.7. I’d say that is a generous choice of sizes for the asking price. Many of us like a thin line, but I find the 0.4 line to be a smidgen too thin. Still, I imagine there are many who will find this thinness just right. The 0.7 produces more the kind of line I am comfortable with.

Three years ago, there was some disappointment with the way the Frixion pen eraser worked. Some complained that it dented the paper or didn’t erase cleanly. I never tried the earlier model, but if there was a problem, it appears to have been corrected. The first thing you must understand is that erasure is not the result of vigorous rubbing, but a matter of heat generated by friction of the ‘eraser’ rubbing against the paper; it is the heat that removes the ink. The video embedded below shows precisely how the heat factor works. Others remarked that the eraser did not work well on textured paper. Smooth, un-textured paper is probably the best bet with the Frixion pen, but still I was able to get a clean erasure on high-quality textured Crane stationery. Easier on smooth paper, but not too bad on textured paper. Again, it must be related to light friction (heat) rather than pressure.

There was another complaint that the eraser was inconveniently placed on the Frixion pen, that removing the cap to get at the eraser is bothersome. There are now Frixion pens with the eraser situated at the top of the cap, which takes care of that problem. I have two types here in front of me: One is the Frixion Ball LFB-20F-Black, and if posted, the cap must be removed to use the eraser. The second is a Frixion Iro-enpitsu LFP-13F-F10, with the eraser set at the top of the cap. Both pens are 0.7 gel ink pens, but for some reason Pilot attached the name Iro-enpitsu (color pencil) to the LFP model. In any case, Pilot has at least put out one model with a conveniently placed eraser.

The odd thing about the Pilot Frixion erasable gel ink pen is that the ‘eraser’ will never wear away, will always be the same size, but the ink will definitely run out in time. One comment criticized the pen for coming with too little ink, but I cannot add my experience to that since I have used mine for only one day.

For those who enjoy gel pens, and like to have a variety of them in a wide range of colors, then the Pilot Frixion erasable gel ink pen is one you will want to try. And as Bob Barker used to say, “The price is right!”

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America