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Inkless Metal Pen makes a permanent mark

Have you been seeing the ads on YouTube and elsewhere for this new Inkless Metal Pen? The claim is that it's a writing instrument that puts tiny particles of metal, rather than ink or graphite, down on your paper.

Count us intrigued.

The pen is sold by Vat19.com, which describes itself as "purveyors of curiously awesome products." Vat19 claims the Inkless Metal Pen is tipped with a "patented metal alloy" that transfers trace amounts to the surface as you write, leaving a smudge-proof mark that will adhere to many surfaces that ink typically won't.

OK, first, that's just very cool. Remember trying to write with coins as a kid (some of us weren't as attentive during class as we should have been)? This is a pen that does the same thing, only better.

Obviously, since you are leaving little bits of the tip on the paper when you write, that means the tip is going to get smaller and smaller. Vat19 claims that the amount transferred is so small, the Inkless Metal Pen will last a lifetime. Well, we've heard claims like that before, haven't we? The reality is probably that the pen lasts a while, but eventually will have to be replaced.

Until it runs out, though, the "pen" can be sharpened with a piece of fine sandpaper.

One of the big concerns with these pens is that the alloy tip contains trace amounts of lead. VAt19's response to that concern?

Yes, lead is dangerous if you eat copious amounts of it. The same is true of hamburgers. However, because of this danger, we strongly warn against allowing children to use the Inkless Metal Pen (despite the fact that the amount of lead in the Inkless Metal Pen is miniscule). A child could put the tip in their mouths. They may also drive too fast after they get their driver's license...but we don't have much control over that.

Those of you who are parents know what it's like trying to keep anything small and bite-able away from children. If you have any in the house, this might not be the pen for you.

As for performance, VAT19 says the pen writes with a bit more friction than a pencil (meaning it's not going to have anywhere near the smooth flow of a good gel or rollerball). However, it will write in the extreme cold and when it's wet, and works on most surfaces. The pen will not write on skin, clothing, plastic or stainless steel, and, while it will write on newspaper and cardboard, it is difficult to see on those mediums, according to Vat19.

The Pen Addict reviewed a similar inkless pen from another maker last year and found it to be an interesting writing experience.

If you decide to use an Inkless Metal Pen, be careful what you write, however. It is not erasable, not even with a magnet, as one curious buyer asked.

As for the design itself, it does not appear to be a pen made for comfort. The barrel is thin and made from anodized aluminum, with no grip. Overall, it looks more like a stylus than a pen. The barrel is available in black or silver, although the pen only writes in one silvery-gray colour.

Vat19 also sells a tiny keychain model, in case you don't already have something better (like, say, a mini Sharpie on a keychain).

The Inkless Metal Pens go for about US$28.

What do you think, readers, are you curious enough to pay that much to try it out?

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