Saturday, September 4, 2021

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 250

"Back to School" Pens ~ Part 4 

In our final "back to school pens" blog post, we're featuring a very inexpensive disposable Chinese-made Japanese fountain pen model being sold as the Zebra fountain pen or the Zebra 'Zensations' (and prior to that, the Zebra 'Fuente' fountain pen; "Fuente", incidentally, translates to "source" or "spring" or "fountain"-- very apropos). This pen is not to be confused with the refillable Zebra 'V-301' fountain pen, which no longer appears on Zebra's official website (Side note: the original V-301 was a horrible open-nibbed fountain pen. It was later re-designed to be a hooded-nibbed pen, but I don't know if they improved the flow or not).

A quick word about recycling writing instruments in Canada:
On their website, Staples writes: "Staples Canada is partnered with TerraCycle to offer free recycling for used writing instruments at over 300 locations across Canada — any brand of pens and pen caps, mechanical pencils, markers and marker caps, highlighters and highlighter caps, permanent markers and permanent marker caps are included!" 

I'm trying to be more environmentally-conscious these days, so I balked at buying another disposable fountain pen (despite knowing I could bring it to Staples for recycling); I got a couple of disposable Pilot Varsity fountain pens a few years ago, but I didn't want to buy yet another throw-away pen. The Zebra fountain pens, however, were in a large, eye-catching in-store display at my local Staples, and they came in a multitude of colours, so I finally caved in and bought one of each colour (I know, I know...) for $3.29 CAD each:

(please click on photos to enlarge)

Pink, red, green, teal, blue, purple/violet and black---(nearly) a full rainbow of colours to choose from! The cap colours and colour splashes on the barrel indicate the colour of the fountain pen ink inside the pen. Although it's not a bright colour, I'd love for Zebra to add a rich brown ink to the lineup...and perhaps a nice dark orange, too....

Staples also sells a two-pack of the black fountain pens and sells packs with 4 pens (black, blue, pink and purple) and packs with 7 pens (one of each of the seven available colours). Buying the pens in multi-packs not only saves you a bit of money, but you also have the reassurance that your pens were not tested by someone else; the Zebra pens I bought at Staples were sold "loose" (ie. with no packaging) and were part of a display with writing paper for customers to use (which means there's a very good chance some folks tried my pens before I bought them).

(my Zebra fountain pens with a Hilroy "Heritage Notebook" I found at my local Walmart).

The pens are entirely made of light plastic (aside from their nibs, of course) which makes them comfortable to use for long writing sessions in the classroom (or office).

The pen measures approximately 14.8 cm in length when posted, and about 13.7 cm capped. Uncapped (from nib tip to barrel end), mine is around 12.3 cm long. At 13 grams (when empty), it's the same weight as a Platinum 'Preppy' fountain. For comparison: a Kaweco 'Sport' fountain pen is 10 grams in weight and a Pelikan M205 fountain pen comes in at 14 grams.

Some users have found workarounds to the pens' non-refillable design and managed to refill them with the ink(s) of their choice. These workarounds include: (a) nib & feed removal--they're friction-fit--- followed by refilling the barrel directly with bottled fountain pen ink or (b) the vacuum-filling method shown in this blogger's post for refilling a Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen. I haven't tried either method yet because there is a fair amount of ink left in my Zebra pens, but I plan to try the vacuum method as there's little to no chance of damaging the nib or feed using it vs. using method (a). 

The pen has a handy ink level indicator on the barrel, which you can't see in the photo above (sorry!), but if you remove the cap, the ink window is just above the words "INK LEVEL" (see photo above - click image for enlarged view). This little window is very handy if you want to check how much ink is left in a "loose" (unpackaged) pen before you buy it; the last thing you want to do is buy a disposable fountain pen that has nearly no ink left in it because it's been "test-driven" a lot in the store :/

I'm glad that the cap's inner liner isn't opaque as it would ruin the beautiful clarity of the plastic used to make the pen. The plastic is highly polished and has a very smooth surface that's really nice to the touch. The cap snaps on securely and does a good job of preventing the nib from drying out; my particular pens will write after several days of (capped) non-use. The clip (like the rest of the pen's body) is made of plastic, but it clips securely to paper and shirt pockets.

(You can see just how intricate the feed system is, in the above photo)

The pens only come with a Fine stainless steel nib (0.6mm, according to Zebra's website) that has virtually no flex. The nibs on my pens wrote smoothly and I didn't have any start-up issues with them; your experience, however, may vary. 

Of the seven ink colours, the purple/violet, blue and teal were my favourites. I found the red rather anemic, and the black uninteresting. The green was a cheery light green colour, but I'd have preferred a darker shade. Pink isn't an ink colour I really use, but if I used the pens to draw with (like this artist), it would be a nice option to have. The great thing about having so many ink choices for this fountain pen model is that there's sure to be a colour to suit almost anyone :)

Thanks for reading this super-long review. Best of luck to all students, educators and their support staff this academic year!

~Photos & review by Maja ~

P.S. For an excellent review of this Zebra disposable fountain pen, check out this YouTube video by VPC's own Nathan/"Doodlebud" - "Great Design Low Cost Pen" . The video came out a couple of weeks after this blog post and it does a great job of explaining some clever design aspects of the pen (including why the cap does such a great job of preventing the pen from drying out). Well done, Nathan!

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