Uniball Signo UM-151 For Sketching

I’m a fountain pen guy but I’m a sucker for a new pointy device regardless of type.  Pete Scully, a well-known urban sketcher swears by Uniball Signo UM-151 pens and uses them regularly.  I’ve never found any of the fine tip versions in the stores around here but I finally decided to order a couple from Jet Pens.

And I’m glad I did!!  I’m a fan of Pilot’s Hitec-C3 and C4 pens as they’ve got very fine points, don’t wear down like the nylon-tip pens, and they have replacable cartridges.  Unfortunately, they’re not waterproof so I can’t use them when I want to use watercolors with my pen/ink sketches.

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The Uniball Signo UM-151 pens, in .28 and .38 mm sizes solve that problem as their inks are pigment-based and thus are waterproof.  I bought mine in ‘brown-black’ as I wanted a dark brown pen and haven’t been able to find a brown/waterproof fountain pen ink that makes me happy.  I should say, up front, that I don’t understand Uniball’s tip dimensions except to say that the line width is less than the size of the tip, which is fine but it’s hard for me to report the actual line width for comparison to other pens.

Mitsubishi, manufacturers of Uniball pens says that their .7mm pens produce a .4mm line.  I couldn’t find a similar description of the .28 and .38mm pens.  What I can say is that the .28mm line is significantly finer than that from a Micron 005, which is claimed to be .20mm.  In any case, it’s fine…and when hatching a small sketch, it’s just dandy…or ‘peachy’ as my dad used to say.

I’ve only had the pens a couple days so I can’t say much about long-term performance except to say that the rollerball should hold up better than the fine nylon tip pens, which I find wear down annoying fast.  As replacement cartridges cost only $1.65 from Jet Pens, ink capacity isn’t much of a problem either.

2013-07-05SignoTestHere’s my first test drive of the pen.  I used the .28mm on this tiny Rhodia pad (3×4).  The pen doesn’t skip a beat.  Stippling works better than I expected from a ball-tip pen, though if you stipple a lot, you need to roll it occasionally on a piece of scrap if the ball goes dry.  Otherwise it’s a point-and-shoot device.

I was sitting on my porch, waiting to head out for a day of sketching in the country, and I used the Pilot Signo to draw this Impatiens flower in a Strathmore Series 400 “Drawing” sketchbook.  Notice that even with the pink, there’s not bleed from the brown-black ink.  Makes me very happy.

2013-07-06Flower

These pens come in a bunch of colors and after seeing a couple sketched by Pete where he used the dark green, I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those.  For myself, the .38mm is a better pen for sketching 5×8 or larger but the .28mm is a treat for details, hatching, and when you’re working small (eg – 3×5).

The best part of these pens is that they’re CHEAP!!!  From Jet Pens they’re only $2.50 and replacement cartridges only $1.65.  The bad news is that individual cartridges are only available in blue, black, red and, blue-black.  I’m hoping they make brown-black available ‘real soon.’

2013-07-07Apartment

Today I went out for an early morning walk along the river.  I sat down on a bench to watch a family of ducks and before you could say ‘fanatical sketcher’ I had my little Strathmore doodle book in hand and I was scribbling out this sketch with the Uniball UM-151-28 pen.  It’s about 3×5 in size and all I had was a small waterbrush to add color.  Given the small amount of time consumed on this quick sketch, I like the result and my new UM-151 pen.

Quick Sketching: Trying Out The Platinum Carbon Pen

I just bought a Platinum Carbon Pen from Jet Pens.  I’m a fan of Platinum Carbon Black ink and this pen is supposed to have a feed sized specifically for this pigmented ink.  Most people say that it has a very fine nib.  Giving away the punch line, I think both of these things are true.

The pen comes from Jet Pens looking like this.  I carry my pens everywhere and this one is just way too long.  It’s designed to look and feel like a dip pen.PCarbonPenAnd so I “fixed” mine.  I cut it off long enough to allow the ink cartridge but short enough that I could post the cap while it was in use.  For anyone wanting to follow this approach, that’s 6.5mm from the gold ring around the pen body.

Once cut, I mixed up some epoxy and dabbed the pen up and down in the puddle of epoxy, filling the hole in the end of the pen.  Once dry I simply sanded everything smooth and the result looks like this:

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Cut down like this, it makes a very comfortable sketching pen.  When capped it’s nearly as short as a Kaweco Classic Sport and when posted it’s nearly the length of my Pilot Prera.  The balance works out well also.

The pen really shines, though, because of its fine line, which is actually finer than my Pilot Prera (F), which is already finer than a Lamy (XF).  The Platinum Carbon lays down a line nearly as fine as a Gillot 303, if you’re familiar with dip pen nibs.  Hatching is a dream with this pen.2012_12-quick_sketch0

The Platinum Carbon Black ink cartridge that comes with it is nothing short of spectacular.  This ink is the definition of a true black and it’s absolutely waterproof.  You can buy this ink in cartridges or in a bottle.  I’ve always been a fan of Platinum cartridges because they have a small metal ball that keeps the ink mixed and so I just fill them from a bottle using a pen syringe.

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So I sat down and took the pen for a test drive.  I did some tonal hatching practice and several small sketches, just to get used to the feel of it.  I’ve included a few of those sketches here, all done in a Stillman & Birn Alpha (4×6).

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I like this pen a lot.  It’s a great compliment to my Pilot Prera and Metropolitan pens and may become my ‘go to’ pen for quick sketching due to its super-fine nib.2012_12-quick_sketch5

 

 

 

Kum Long-Point Pencil Sharpener

KumSharpenerThis is my new toy and it is quickly becoming a favorite.  The Kum “long-point” sharpener is just plain KEWL!  It solves so many problems for those of us who like to use pencils and need a portable solution to sharpening them.

While there are many portable sharpeners on the market, most of them produce a really stubby point that I don’t find satisfactory for sketching.  I like nice, long points, like I get from my old ‘school’ sharpener that’s attached to the wall of my office.

 

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The Kum sharpener provides a long point by using a two-step process.  There is one ‘sharpener’ that removes only the wood, exposing a length of lead (graphite/clay).  Then, you stuff the pencil into a second sharpener that sharpens the lead to a nice, long point.  It’s almost magical.

2step

Isn’t that great?  If that’s all it did it would be the best $5.60 I’ve ever spent, but this is like the TV commercials….there’s more.

2mmThis sharpener will sharpen 2mm and 3.2mm leads.  I’d nearly abandoned my collection of 2mm pencils simply because I couldn’t find a solid, portable sharpening solution for them.  They used to make really tiny versions of the standard sharpener that would sharpen them but I haven’t found anyone selling those anymore, probably because all draftsmen have long ago moved on to using AutoCAD or SolidWorks.  But the Kum sharpener does a great job on my 2mm pencils.  I don’t have any 3.2mm pencils but I assume they’d work as well as there are nearly identical sharpeners on opposite sides of the device.

If you need to sharpen pencils on location, take a serious look at the Kum sharpener.  It may be the best $5.60 you ever spent too.  If you don’t need to sharpen 2mm or 3.2mm leads, you can even get one without those features for $4.10.  Both of these prices are from Jet Pens, which is where I got my sharpener.  BTW, the pencils in the photos are Blackwing 602s, my favorite wooden pencil.

My New Favorite Sketching Pen: The Pilot Prera

I’ve been married for 23 years.  Aside from my winning personality and my wife’s infinite patience and tolerance, there is one reason why this is so.  I’m not nearly as fickle about women as I am about fountain pens.  Once I found a wife that would tolerate me, even my cooking, I held on for dear life.  Not so my choice of fountain pens.

I’m new to journal sketching but not to fountain pens.  I’ve been using the later since high school, long enough ago that events of the time are showing up in history books.  But I’ve only been sketching for three months.  When I started my favorite pen for sketching was the Lamy Safari.  Inexpensive, more reliable than any other, and you can get it in a variety of colors for color-coding the inks you’re using.

Since October, however, I’ve purchased a Kaweco All-Sport, a really fine, tiny (short word for great portable sketch kit pen) reliable line-producer.  Not quite as fine a line as the Lamy but still a great pen.

Then I chased the notion of a “flex pen.”  I had nothing but trouble with my standard Noodler’s flex and while I’ve also had a few glitches with my Noodler’s Ahab, it’s a pretty nice sketching pen as well.  I have a hard time getting as thin a line as I’d like, however.

And so my quest continued.  At each of these junctures I returned to my Lamy but I was determined to find a fountain pen that would draw as fine a line as a Pigma Micron 01.  I avoid disposable pens; there are simply too many billions of them floating in the Atlantic for me to want to add to the pile.

And so it was when I sent off a paltry sum for a Pilot 78G.  In fact, I bought two of them because they were so cheap.  When they arrived I was impressed.  The 78G  produces a very fine line – just what I was after.  Using either Noodler’s Lexington Gray (my favorite waterproof sketching ink) or Platinum Carbon Black, the Pilot 78G writes very dry.  I wouldn’t say it skips on me as that wouldn’t be true, but it sure feels like it’s about to when I use it, particularly if I start cross-hatching.  The 78G is also an opaque body pen so I can’t see how much ink you’ve got which is a problem for me as I want to take itto do field sketching.  It doesn’t come with a converter so you have to add $6-7 to the price to get one (The Con-50 fits it).  I found the cap threads to be sloppy and some have reported the cap coming off.  Mine have certainly loosened on their own.

And so it was that I decided to bite the bullet and send my $50+ to Goulet Pens for a Pilot Prelude.  Of the pens I’ve mentioned, this is the most expensive.  And now that I’ve had it for a couple days I feel it’s worth the price.  Most say that the nib on the 78G and the Prera are the same.  I sure can’t see a visible difference except that the 78G is gold-plated.  But when I put them to paper, my Prera is much smoother than my 78Gs.  I leave it to pen experts to debate such things, though.

The Prera is much more solid in my hand than the 78G, which feels like the ultra-cheap pen that it is.  Some say the Prera is ‘too small’ but I’m a pretty big guy and find that with the cap posted, it feels very good in my hands.  I bought one of the “demonstrator” models to get a clear pen body, though Pilot is wise in coloring both ends of these pens so some ability to color-code multiple pens is still a possibility.  The Prera comes with a converter so there’s no extra purchase necessary.  At this point I’ve only put Noodler’s Lexington Gray through it and the Prera likes it just fine, whether I’m writing on Clairfontaine paper or drawing on watercolor paper.  It’s my new favorite pen.

So if you’re looking for a truly ‘fine’ line you could do worse than to look at Pilot pens.  A price comparison between the Prera and 78G favors the 78G  but the price you pay for cheap is significant in my opinion.

78G:  $14 + $7 for converter = $21 from Jet Pens

Prera:   $55 (clear models) from Goulet Pens and doing business with Rachel and Brian is priceless.