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Tiger Pens Blog

  • The Uni-ball Power Tank: Better than the Fisher Space Pen?

    Tank vs Fisher

    OK, credit where it’s due: The Fisher Space Pen was one of those brilliant little byproducts of the American space program like Tang and cordless drills. With its pressurized ink cartridge that could write on any surface from any angle, it did for ballpoint pens what the iPhone did for cell phones.

    But that was more than 40 years ago.

    The Fisher Space Pen is no longer the only ballpoint capable of functioning under less-than-ideal conditions. A number of other pens also can make that claim, chief among them the handy Uni-ball Power Tank that writes a neat, clean .4mm line.

    Is it a better choice than the Fisher? We think so.

    First, a little background for those who aren’t familiar with the Fisher.

    NASA was trying to find a reliable writing instrument for astronauts in the early ’60s. Ballpoint pens would not work because they relied on gravity to feed ink to the ball and then onto paper. Pencils were encased in wood, which was flammable, a dangerous potential in space. NASA tried buying mechanical pencils, but ended up paying $142 each, which did not sit well with the public.

    Paul Fisher already had succeeded in inventing a universal ballpoint pen refill that fit most of the popular brands then on the market. He went to work on a pen that would perform in the unique conditions of space. That meant it had to function by some means other than gravity and had to withstand extremes of heat and cold.

    His company reportedly spent $1 million on research, and the result was the Space Pen. By adding gas pressure to the cartridge and using low-viscosity ink, Fisher created a pen that could write underwater, in zero gravity, and in temperature ranges from -45C to 204C.

    NASA scientists put the pens through testing and, in 1967, agreed to buy 100 of them for the Apollo space mission.

    With that purchase, Fisher pens became famous. He began selling them to the public, and they were immensely popular. The pens were the first product ever sold from space – via QVC – and became the subject of a Seinfeld episode. Although Fisher died in 2006, his company continues and offers a whole range of space pens.

    And no doubt about it, they’re neat pens. Take a look at this video of a reviewer using it to write underwater.

    But the Power Tank by Uni-ball also has a pressurized ink cartridge and is capable of writing on wet or dry surfaces and from any angle, including upside down. It, too, is resistant to temperature extremes and perform well under adverse conditions. This pen, as well, uses low-viscosity Uni Super Ink (which is waterproof and fade- and tamper-resistant.) And, while Uni-ball makes no claim the pens can write underwater, there doesn’t seem to be any reason they shouldn’t.

    The OfficeSupplyGeek wrote an outstanding review of the Power Tank last year. He found that the pen wrote equally well right-side up, upside down and at low temperatures. He even conducted an experiment that involved putting the pen in a tube of water, freezing it and then seeing how well it would write. Frozen, the pen managed to write about as well as it had at room temperature.

    Reviewers on also give the pen high marks for performance, including this one:

    These are great all-weather pens. I use them at home and work, but I initially got them for geocaching. I needed something that could withstand cold temperatures as well as wet conditions. The old "space" pens came to mind, but they had lots of problems and were clunky. These seemed to have fixed all those problems. My pen works when other pens, and even pencils, have failed. Oh, yeah, they do write upside down and for long periods when writing on a pad against a wall (i.e., vertically).

    Of course, the Power Tanks don’t have sleek metal bodies and aren’t precision machined like the Fishers. Instead, the retractable pens are made of tough plastic, have comfortable rubber grips and are translucent so you can gauge when you need a refill.

    But you want to know the main difference in the pens? Cost.

    You’ll spend almost £20 for a Fisher Space Pen. A Power Tank will cost you less than £2.

    There may be something to owning a pen with the storied history of the Fisher. And the pens do look good, especially the original astronaut pen and the bullet pen, which fits as neatly into a pants pocket as any pen could. Is that worth the extra money, though?

    Not really, especially given how often people lose their pens. Most of us just want a good, reliable pen that fits well in our hands and will do its job even in difficult conditions. If it’s got a little style, all the better. The Power Tank does everything we want it to do, for about a tenth of the price.

    You just can’t beat that.

    What do you think, readers?

  • 7 Steps to Better Handwriting

    Handwriting is not a skill we practice much past school, especially now that most of our writing is done by keyboard. But, in certain circumstances, we still get judged by the quality of our handwriting.


    Unless you’re a doctor, it’s important that your handwriting be at least legible enough that other people can read it. If yours needs a little care, try these tips to keep your lettering from looking as if it was done by a drunken monkey.


    How you hold your pen affects how you shape the words on your paper. The tighter you grip the pen, the shakier your handwriting will become. The letters will take on a tight, cramped appearance. Hold the pen loosely and naturally between your forefinger and thumb, with the pen resting on your middle finger – not pressed into it hard enough to leave a mark. Hold the pen at a low enough angle that you don’t have to hunch to see what you’re right.


    You should do your writing sitting straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor a comfortable distance apart. Relax your shoulders and arms so that your writing arm can move smoothly and freely as your pen flows across the paper. Remember that writing involves your entire lower arm, not just your fingers.


    This should be a pen that has the right barrel size to allow you to maintain the proper hold and should have a comfortable grip where you can rest your finger and thumb. The ink should flow easily so that you don’t have to force the pen over the writing surface. Check out our article on selecting the right pen here.


    There’s no rush when you are writing by hand. That’s sort of the point of writing that way. You don’t get a reward for being the first person to the end of the sentence. Take the time to carefully form each letter before moving on to the next one. Focus on setting a slow, smooth pace that allows each letter to flow into the next without hesitation. Remember to close all letters.


    One of the keys to neatness is uniformity. If you’ve ever served in the military, you might remember some instructor saying it doesn’t matter if everyone in the unit is wearing their boots on the wrong feet, as long as everyone is wearing them the same. Odd, yes, but the point is that consistency just looks better. Make sure all of your letters slant in the same direction, at the same angle and that there is a consistent amount of space between each letter.


    Researchers in the UK found that children improved their handwriting by playing games that increased their hand-eye coordination. Practice tying knots, shuffling cards, pen spinning or anything else that strengthens fine motor control. Even video games can help – according to a US study, surgeons who play video games are less prone to make errors. If it can help them with something that delicate, it certainly can improve your handwriting.


    Yes, it will make you feel as if you are back in school, but the only way to improve at anything is by doing it. You don’t have to sit down with a textbook and some lined paper like a schoolboy, though. Just make it a habit to handwrite grocery lists, notes to co-workers and family members, bills, whatever will give you the practice you need. You might even start writing in a journal. As you practise, remember to follow all the tips above.

    For more about good handwriting, we always recommend the handwriting guide at

  • Is STABILO the Best Pen for Children?

    A good pen for children needs to be comfortable for their small hands, be designed to encourage proper finger placement and hold and be fun to look at and use. There’s no doubt that the ‘move easy’ range from STABILO is all of those things.

    The ’s move easy rollerball pen is curved to fit neatly over a child’s hands. The pen also is made with finger grooves that automatically place the fingers in a natural, comfortable hold that helps prevent cramping while still allowing maximum control overn the writing tip.

    Stabilo Move Easy

    The range is available in several bright colours that children like (we’re partial to the orange and black model). And, with options like blue erasable ink, black ink and red ink for the pens, they’re suited for just about any type of schoolwork.

    The ‘move easy’ writes smoothly and evenly, so it takes little pressure to move it over the writing surface, making it, as the name says, easy for a child to use. In fact, we recommend the left-handed version for both children and adults alike.

    With all that, it’s easy to believe that the pen, as STABLIO boasts on its website, is “praised by teachers, approved by parents, loved by children.”

    So is it the best pen you can buy for your child?

    We certainly think it is an excellent choice, and since we carry the STABILO range, we would, of course, like for you to buy the ‘move easy.’ It wouldn’t make sense for us to sell pens that we didn’t believe were of the highest quality and performance.

    But there are a few other brands that also make excellent pens for children.

    German pen company Lamy produces the ABC, a cartridge fountain pen for children with a rounded, comfortable body made of maple wood and a non-slip rubberized grip. The pens are recommended for their smooth nibs and sturdy construction, capable of withstanding plenty of abuse from schoolkids.

    Another German product, Faber-Castell’s Schulfüller und Tintenroller – translates as School Filler and Ink Scooter, according to Babel Fish – is also aimed at children. This is a fountain pen with a contoured “grip zone” that encourages proper finger placement. It uses ink cartridges filled with erasable ink and has “windows” in the barrel to monitor the ink level.

    Schulfuller und Tintenroller

    Pelikan, yet another German company ( how did the Germans come to so dominate the children’s pen market?), offers what is probably the most serious competition for STABILO.

    Pelikan Griffix Fountain Pen

    The pen maker markets its writing instruments for children as the griffix learning system. It starts with a wax marker in pre-school, steps up to a mechanical pencil, then to an ink pen and finally to a “state of the art” fountain pen.

    According to Pelikan, each of them has:

    …a constant distance of the grip area to the tip of the pen, a unified size in diameter and the same length ratio of all writing instruments within the system. Therefore, learning a new holding position when switching to the next step of the system is unnecessary.

    The pens are designed, like the STABILO, with indentations in the grip area so that the fingers automatically go to proper positions. They also have a smiley face that points toward the child when the pen is held properly.

    Accessories include “fun buttons” that can be affixed to the shaft to customize the pens.

    With so much choice, what it comes down to is that it is extremely difficult to name one pen the “best” for children. As you try to decide what kind of pen is best suited to help your child learn to write, it’s important to remember that no single pen works for every child.

    The right pen is the one that provides your individual child with the most comfortable writing experience.

  • Pilot BeGreeN – The First Full Range of Recycled Pens

    Looking for simple ways to reduce your environmental footprint? They don’t get much easier than this: buying recycled ink pens from the Pilot BeGreeN line.

    Pilot Super Gel Ink Pen

    The BeGreeN range (no, we don’t know why the “n” is capitalized) is made from recycled plastics, but look and function just like standard Pilot pens and mechanical pencils. According to the company, the percentage of recycled materials in the pens is calculated by the weight, excluding replaceable parts such as ink cartridges or pencil lead.

    There are 20 products in the BeGreeN range, and the amount of recycled material in each varies by product. For example:

    • The Super Gel disposable stick rollerball contains 93.3 percent recyclables.
    • The Rexgrip retractable ballpoints contains 77.7 percent.
    • The Rexgrip mechanical pencil contains 71.9 percent.

    OfficeSupplyGeek applied his usual scientific method to a review of the Precise V5 BeGreeN. He dug up an old standard V5 so that he could see if the green model would perform as well as the non-recycled pen. Aside from noting a slightly broader tip on the BeGreeN, they functioned the same.

    He wrote:

    To my surprise there was absolutely no difference in the way that these pens write, they are both incredibly smooth, especially for a pen with such a fine point.

    While the pens get good reviews, some mention has been made of the fact that Pilot could do a better job of making it easier to get refills for its pens.

    OfficeSupplyGeek suggested packaging new pens and refills together, and a commenter on the Green Gear blog pointed out that the per-unit price of Pilot pen packs make it cheaper to buy new pens than to buy refills for them.

    But offering pens made from recycled materials is a great start. And, since they cost the same as standard Pilot pens, there’s no reason not to buy them instead.

  • Hands Hurting? Give These Ergonomic Pens a Try

    Sure, this is the computer age, but we all still use pens for just about every day for everything from taking customer orders to jotting down the grocery list. That can be painful sometimes for people with arthritis or repetitive stress injuries and those in professions that require a lot of writing by hand. Using ergonomic pens can help ease the discomfort.

    There’s no firm definition of exactly what an ergonomic pen is supposed to be or how it should look. The general idea seems to be that a good ergonomic design for a pen is one that allows the user to hold it in the gentlest possible grip and apply the least amount of pressure possible in order to write.

    That typically means a large body with a padded grip of some kind, using a rollerball or gel ink. Some are simply standard pens made larger, while others, as you’ll see, go in quite another direction.

    We haven’t tried every one of these pens, but these are some ergonomic designs that have consistently earned good reviews from pen users.

    • Pilot Dr. Grip: This retractable gel ink pen shows up near the top of just about every ergonomic pen list, probably because it is endorsed by the Arthritis Foundation for Ease-of-Use. And that’s for good reason. The soft rubber grip is a joy to hold, and the gel ink flows freely so that it takes minimum effort to move the pen across paper. This is a pen you can use comfortably for long writing sessions. Not a bad-looking pen, either. However, grime tends to stick to the cushion.
    • Dr Grip

    • EzGrip: This is another one that makes most of the lists. Designed by Dexter Technologies, the pen features a unique grip with a wide shelf of sorts – what the company calls a “comfort ledge” – where the tip of the index finger rests on top of the pen. Writing is accomplished by pushing gently on the pen to guide it. According to Dexter, a study by the Cleveland Clinic found that compared to other pens, the EzGrip takes far less pressure to use and is significantly more controllable. Arthritis experts Carol and Richard Eustice at give the pen top marks. Uses Parker refills.

    (Note: While the company claims, in hyperbolic fashion, that the pen is the end of writer’s cramp, medical researchers have actually discovered that writer’s cramp is linked to brain abnormalities.)

    Update: We received a response from the makers of the EzGrip.

    Wanted to mention the author is referring to Dystonia, also known as Focal Dystonia, in which de Quervain's Disease is included as well. Our well founded claim - The End of Writer's Cramp - Guaranteed - still stands. We refer to the everyday cramping writer's get from holding on too tight -- an overuse or repetitive stress injury. A human frailty - not a brain abnormality. (just in case you may have it)

    • Paper Mate Phd: The plus for this retractable ballpoint is that it has a wide body, which always makes for a comfortable pen. However, the triangular rubber grip is slightly awkward, even though the edges are rounded so they don’t press too hard against your fingers. Paper Mate’s Lubriglide Ink makes for a smooth writing experience, ensuring that it doesn’t take much pressure to move the pen.
    • Paper Mate PHD

    • Bic XXL: This is one of the widest-bodied retractable ballpoints on the market. The fat, round barrel and foam grip make the pen incredibly comfortable to use. These are typical ballpoints, so they aren’t exceptionally smooth writers, although their performance is perfectly acceptable. Takes a standard Bic refill. Downside is that the foam cushion tends to dry out and get scratchy. Unfortunately, these pens are difficult to find in US and almost impossible to get outside the US.
    • Ergosof PenAgain: One of the oddest-looking ergonomic pens you’ll find, but that almost seems to be a requirement for ergonomically designed products. Instead of holding the pen in a triangle between thumb, forefinger and middle finger, you slip your index finger into the U-shaped opening and rest it on top of the pen. Depending on the model, the body is made of soft rubber or molded plastic. Most reviews seem to focus on how comfortable it is without going into much detail about how it writes, although there have been complaints about ink not flowing smoothly enough. The pen is refillable.
    • Ergosof PenAgain

    • Yoropen: Another ergonomic pen with a unique shape. The Yoropen has an adjustable tripod grip that is designed to keep your index finger from sliding down the pen into the classic – and wrong – pinch hold. Because the grip rotates, you can position wherever it’s most comfortable for you. (We also recommend this pen as a possible option for lefties.) Available in both standard ballpoint and gel ink. One word of caution: Be careful not to grip the pen too tightly, as that might cause hyperextension of your index finger.

    As you can see, we didn’t explore ergonomic fountain pens in this article, but you might want to check out “Voodoo Ergonomics” over at the Fountain Pen Network, where Jon does a pretty fair round-up of the most comfortable pens.

  • Uni-Ball - Kuru Toga

    The World’s First Self-Sharpening Pencil

    Kuru Toga

    The trouble with using a mechanical pencil is that the tip of the lead changes shape as you write, thickening from a fine point to a chisel edge. Words lose their crisp shape and lines get thicker, which is particularly problematic for engineers and others that need uniform lines. The Kuru Toga by Uni-ball is the first mechanical pencil to offer a solution.

    The Kuru Toga is designed to rotate the pencil’s lead by about 9 degrees each time it is pressed to paper. This wears the edges off the “chisel” as they try to form and instead rounds the lead into a cone shape, always presenting a sharpened writing point.

    The way it works is that the .5mm lead is held by  a toothed two-piece clutch. When the lead is pressed against the paper, the top portion of the clutch disengages from the lower piece and is pushed up. When the lead is lifted from the paper, the clutch twists and re-engages the lower piece. As the clutch twists, the lead rotates.

    You can see a brief cartoon of how the pencil works at the Uni/Mitsubishi Pencil website. It’s in Japanese, but you’ll still get the idea.

    Reviewers have been uniformly positive about the Kuru Toga since it’s release last year. OfficeSupplyGeek wrote that the pencil produced “the finest line I’ve ever experienced when writing with a pencil.”

    The always-brilliant Dave’s Mechanical Pencils blog shows some examples of writing done with the Kuru Toga that illustrate just how well it keeps its fine point, in most cases.

    One problem with the pencil seems to be the need to press down firmly and frequently lift the pencil off the paper when writing. For some users with a light touch who tend to write in uninterrupted lines, the lead may not rotate frequently enough, still resulting in chisel tips.

    Still, the Kuru Toga is an improvement over traditional mechanical pencils, and it would be worth your while to give it a try. You may find that it’s the best £5 you ever spent on a pencil.

  • The Pentel Breast Cancer Campaign

    A Good Cause: The Pentel/Breast Cancer Campaign Partnership

    Breast Cancer Campaign

    Pentel is up to something good involving breast cancer research, and we want to take a minute to tell you about it.

    Did you know that female breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the UK? As many as 44,000 women learn they have breast cancer each year, and more than 12,000 die from the disease, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics.

    While the mortality rate has fallen over the last 15 years, the rate at which women are being diagnosed continues to rise. That’s why researchers in the UK are trying to learn why certain treatments work, why others fail, and what they can do to increase the survivability.

    What’s this got to do with you? Well, dear pen wielder, you can satisfy your craving for stylish, useful writing instruments and contribute to the cause at the same time.

    Pentel offers a range of specially designed pink pens that benefit the Breast Cancer Campaign, an organization that funds breast cancer research across the UK. Every time you buy one of these pens, a little of that money goes to help scientists gain a better understanding of the cellular and genetic underpinnings of breast cancer and the possible cures.

    Pentel’s initial goal for Breast Cancer Campaign was £250,000 but so far the company has raised £312,000 – and Pentel isn’t done! The company is now aiming to hit £350,000 by the end of 2009.

    So, check out these pens and see if maybe there’s one you like.

    Pink Line Style ballpoint: Low viscosity ink for smooth writing with a .8mm tip. You can choose pink or the limited-edition violet model. Available with pink or black ink. For every one sold, 20p is donated to Breast Cancer Campaign.

    Line Stlye Pen

    StarGrip ballpoint: Comfortable rubber grip, .7mm tip, and a translucent pink barrel, so you can keep an eye on your pen ink level. Comes with black ink. Costs less than a pound, and 10p from each one goes to breast cancer research.

    Line Stlye Pen

    Mini RSVP ballpoint: Compact enough to slip easily into your purse, a pocket or a fold of your planner, and also has an eyelet so that you can clip it anywhere you want. Rubber grip makes it comfortable to use. For each one of these, 10p is donated.

    Line Stlye Pen

    Rollerball and Mini ballpoint set: The Rollerball lets you make a statement about your support for breast cancer research by writing it in pink ink. The Mini comes with black ink and is perfect for attaching to your keychain so you always have a pen handy. Buy the set and Breast Cancer Campaign gets 25p.

    Line Stlye Pen

    Mini Micro Correct: Everyone makes little errors. The Micro Correct helps you erase them neatly with its fine metal tip for precision correction. Of course, the limited-edition Breast Cancer Campaign models have pink barrels. Each one earns 25p for the campaign.

    Micro Correct

  • Do Fountain Pens Improve Childrens’ Handwriting?

    In the right hands, fountain pens produce some beautiful lettering, so it stands to reason that giving your child a fountain pen might be the right way to neaten the little one’s Ps and Qs.

    And it very well might. Then again, you might end up spending money on an expensive pen for naught.

    Continue reading

  • Pentel Clic Eraser

    Pentel Clic Eraser – The Eraser that Looks Like a Pen

    Pentel Clic Eraser

    The Clic Eraser from Pentel is a cool gadget that belongs in the desk of every person who does any sort of writing at all.

    Continue reading

  • How to Get Ink Stains out of Clothes

    It’s inevitable that, if you use pens, ink is going to end up on your clothing somewhere. If you get ink stains on your clothes, it’s not the end of the world. That favourite shirt or top probably can still be salvaged.

    The key is to treat the stain immediately before you wash it. Do not throw a stained item of any sort straight into the laundry. Once it’s been through the wash and the dryer, the stain is set into the fabric and is much more difficult to remove.

    Continue reading

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