Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Fastest note taking way

Writing with a pen and on a piece of paper is an ability learned at a young age, even though nowadays I think most kids know how to type on a phone before they learn to write by hand.

I do enjoy the speed with which I type, the legibility remains constant even if I type faster, and not to mention the autocorrect feature, which is truly amazing. But writing with a pen is very satisfying. Choosing beautiful writing instruments, is another perk of writing by hand. I am not saying that there are no nice keyboards, custom-made or prebuilt, because there are a lot of them, but that is a subject for another time.

If you have a bit of proficiency using a computer, you will be able to write a lot faster compared to a pen. For starters, you just have to press a key for the computer to register the letter and second you can use all your fingers to press keys really fast, while when you write with a pen you have to create each letter one after the other. There is a caveat though, if for example you are taking notes, and they are graphs or drawings / sketches involved you will probably be able to make them faster the old-fashioned way (or you can use a tablet and a stylus and a keyboard for the plain text)

The most common question among typists is, how fast can you type?  There are dedicated sites where you can practice typing, and also you can compete. 

Starting from this idea, I am curious to know: How fast can I write?. And not only this, but also how will the writing instrument influence the speed with which I am writing by hand.

For this test I took a small text sample as I didn't want to get hand cramps and RSI from all the writing needed. I started with typing to have a reference, as I imagine it will be a lot faster than writing by hand. First time typing, I got 71 words per minute, a total of 14 seconds to type the sentence.

Then I started testing writing instruments. For the test I chose a: fountain pen, pencil, ball point, ink roller, gel pen. I want to see if some writing instruments are slower than others. For example, ball points usually feel slow. I feel each time that they are "sticky", I definitely feel slowed down by the majority of ball points. But that is just a feeling, I wanted to quantify the feeling in seconds. Will a smooth fountain pen be faster?

First thing I noticed is the big difference when I compare typing to writing. If typing the text took me 14 seconds, the writing took me double the time. For a longer text, the difference will be notable.

On the first run, the fountain pen was the slowest but, it was the first time writing the text by hand. So obviously, practice makes perfect. I wrote the text several times with each of the instruments alternating them, and the best results and the worst were very close together.

After a little practice with the text, you can see the differences started to shrink, to just a couple of seconds between the fastest time and the worst time.

To reduce the influence of the order in which I use the pens and pencils and to reduce the impact of mistakes or brain freezes, I wrote the text 3 times and measured the total time needed to complete. Also, to keep the sample size down I did this with 2 different pens

So the fountain pens represented by Faber Castell Loom F nib and Jinhao 51A F nib. Three runs took me 1 min 27:48 seconds using the Faber Castell Loom while the Jinhao 51A took me 1 min 29:71 sec


After completing the runs with all the writing instruments, I came back to the Faber Castell Loom and managed a much better time of 1 min 22.94 seconds

This tells me that more testing and practice is needed to reach maximum efficiency writing the sentence down, but for the purpose of the test I think this is good enough. I will take in consideration the last run of the Faber Castell Loom as the reference for the fountain pen.

The second head-to-head testing included 2 popular ball points. To be honest, I expected the ballpoints to be the worst in this test. They feel slow, and offer a dragging / sticky sensation when writing. But they felt much better than I imagined, and the times were very, very good and consistent. 1 min 22 seconds for both the Bic Round Stick M and the Parker Urban Premium. I am not saying that Parker Urban is a very popular ball point, but rather that Parker refills are very popular and used by a lot of people.


Next were the rollers (ink/gel pens). For this category I chose a Staedtler cool roller with red ink and a generic gel pen Forster. Both were admirable in the speed event, and also they offered very nice feedback, especially the Staedtler cool roller. The Staedtler completed the writing sample in 1 min 15:45 sec while the Forster needed 1 min 18:97 seconds.


The last category included 2 mechanical pencils, a Rotring 500 0,7 mm and a Kuru Toga 0,7 mm. Both pencils offered very nice feedback with a great smooth writing. The Rotring completed the run in 1 min 20:79 seconds, while the Kuru Toga needed 1 min 22:38 seconds.

Even though the times between all the writing instruments were very close, they still offered some surprises to me. I expected the pencils and fountain pens to battle for the first place, but instead the ink roller was the fastest in this small sample pool.
From the bunch, I expected the ball point to be the worst performer, feel wise and speed wise. The parker refills are great, smooth and with good flow, but then again so was the Bic Round Stic M which performed admirably for such an inexpensive pen.

The winners of the speed test are, (individual results)

Staedtler roller cool                      1 min 15 sec  (1st place)    - 25 sec/sentence
Forster gel pen                              1 min 18 sec (2nd place)    - 26 sec/sentence
Rotring 500 mechanical pencil     1 min 20 sec  (3rd place)    - 26.7 sec/sentence


The winners of the speed test are, (team results)

Rollers                                            1 min 16.5 sec (1st place)  - 25.5 sec/sentence
Pencils                                            1 min 21.6 sec (2nd place) - 27.2 sec/sentence
Ball Point Pens                               1 min 22.5 sec (3rd place) - 27.5 sec/sentence
Fountain pen                                   1 min 22.9 sec (4th place) - 27.6 sec/sentence

I took the best time of the fountain pen 1:22:9 because after a few more runs I managed to get under 1:20 sec with both fountain pens managing a 1:13 time with the Faber Castell and a 1:18 sec with Jinhao, without sacrificing much legibility. I didn't take these times in the consideration, as I think I offered more practice to the fountain pen compared to the rest of the pens and pencils.


The instrument used doesn't offer a significant speed benefit (except the computer), but all the instruments offer very different writing experiences. Which one you chose is up to you.

Practice and what you regularly use for writing will influence the speed of your writing more than anything else.

If you need to write fast, like note-taking during a class, use a pen, pencil or fountain pen that offers good feedback. Too smooth, and you will lose a lot of legibility, too rough, and it will not be pleasant to use. The Goldilocks is a combination between the paper and pen used, but I find mechanical pencils too be quite good at offering the best of both. Their performance is offered by the lead, which is not specific to the pencil you use. In contrast, the fountain pen's nib will influence the writing experience much more than the ink that is in it.

And if you need to write really fast and keep legibility just use a computer, it is going to be twice as fast as the more traditional way of writing, at least. Of course this is valid for general writing, because if you need to add graphs, drawings, mathematical equations the traditional way of taking notes will probably outpace the computer and keyboard.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Bad pens

A pen set, is a good and considerate gift, but can also be a bad gift if you do not buy a good one, especially the bad quality of a fountain pen is going to ruin the hole experience of such a gift. These sets (fountain pen +  boll point) are popular among people with not a lot of knowledge about fountain pens. Shoppers gravitate towards these kinds of sets because they usually come in a nice box, this fact alone makes it a nice gift, and also the set will offer the best of both worlds, a "sophisticated" fountain pen and a "high quality" ball point (when I say high quality I mean it is not the generic plastic disposable pen). Be aware and don't judge a pen by the box it came in.

In the previous post, I said that even unknown brands can have a decent offering with quality products, but this is not always the case. Many times, getting a brand name guarantees a certain level of quality.

I have to apologize about the quality of the photos, I only realized now that the white balance is everywhere, but I will consider my in existent photography skills the icing on the cake when it comes down to these pens.

I am starting the year with cleaning and decluttering, so without any further ado the first spot in bad pen sets gifts is going to Alfa branded set consisting of a fountain pen and a ball point. The pen and fountain pen come in an interesting looking case, made out of metal that opens to revile the pens inside.

The set is kind of old, but it hasn't been used. The metal bodies don't look that good. The finish that was supposed to protect the metal didn't do a good job, and the gray finish is now doted with dark spots of oxidation (I think).

The clip works great, and this is the only thing great about the fountain pen. The nib and feed didn't work properly, and after a few letters the nib was starved of ink, skipping every other line.

Don't pay attention to the current condition of the nib, it was mangled in frustration a long time ago. The cap is a screw cap with 2 and 1/2 turns to take it off. The grip section is metal, same as the rest of the pen.

Not much else to tell, except the ball point pen works as intended. But the body has the same problem as the fountain pen regarding the corrosion.

All I can say about this writing set is, case closed.

Moving on to the next gem, which comes in an impressive wood box. This writing set was a corporate set. The box is branded with the name of a company. I deleted the name from the photo, as the idea here is not to point fingers.

The box is padded on the inside with a foam covered in a green soft material. The contrast between the shade of the lacquered wood and the green velvet like material looks very nice. The set has a fountain pen, a ball point and a letter opener?!? It was intended for someone classier than me, that is a fact.

The fountain pen and ballpoint are made out of the same wood as the box, and have nice gold looking trims. I usually don't like gold color, but in this combination I am convinced that it looks better than silver would.

The cap is a snap cap that fits securely on the body. When you take it off, it will reveal the section which is on the thin size, made out of black plastic. At the end it has a gold collar and a golden nib. The wooden barrel has a metal threaded insert that screws on the nib section. The fountain pen takes standard cartridges.

Unfortunately, the fountain pen doesn't write, the nib has a severe baby's bottom.

The packaging is interesting and this is why this kind of products are gifted. It is obvious the money went in the packaging rather than in offering decent writing experience. Gifting a pen in a plastic bag might look underwhelming, but make sure when you choose a gift, the products actually works and is not just a decor piece.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

MSI Pen 2, a stylus that can write on paper


Recently MSI has announced the stylus MSI Pen 2 which apparently has a graphite tip that can write on paper. The MSI Pen 2 uses the same graphite tip on the screen as well. This is quite an innovative technology. Not quite sure how well it will do on paper, but it is very interesting.

From the pictures released by MSI, it seems the tips are "refills" and you would have to replace them once used. I don't think you can sharpen them. Because of this, after a little use they will lay down a thick line. But it would be interesting to see how exactly they perform in real life.

For the moment, I do not think it will replace the traditional pencil. The presentation is focused on the digital abilities of the pen, while the writing tip, is the latest and greatest gimmick. I think for now the pencil tip is intended for a few scribbles here and there, in case you really need to jot something on a piece of paper.

On the website it is specified it comes with two tips, one is the graphite lead and another which is a sharp point similar to a fountain pen.

Link to MSI Pen 2 website

Monday, January 2, 2023

2022 year in review

King Charles got ink on his finger from a leaky pen, probably from a Montblanc Meisterst├╝ck Le Grand Solieteir Silver. Frustrated that this happens "every stinking time". It is not clear from the images and video the exact make of the pen, but what is visible is that it is a silver / metal body with a plastic grip and screw on cap.

In a picture of the desk, posted by the Daily Record, mentioning an ink well received as a gift from his sons, the finial of the pen seems to look a lot like a Montblanc.

I assume that the queen was a far more practical person, using a Parker 51, a workhorse of a pen, built to last a lifetime and more. I bet she also had far fewer problems with her pen.

Anyway, it is reliving to find out that this is not a struggle just for me.

I had a fair share of funny accidents with inks. One of them took place during university almost in the morning, after I worked all night at a project, I was ready to print it with my ink jet printer. The project was due in just a few hours, and of course everything that can go wrong will... So I ran out of ink in the printer and I tried to refill the cartridge at 4 a clock in the morning with a syringe. The only sensible thing I did, was that I tried doing it in the bathroom. Because I have seen too many doctor movies, I wanted to get the air out of the syringe before refilling the cartridge. Why? Don't ask! I had a sticky syringe that wasn't moving, so I did the obvious and pushed harder. The ink splashed my face and head. Of course, it didn't come out completely, but the important thing was that I managed to print the project.


Lamy 2000 gets competition from Chinese pen companies, Moonman (Mahjon) Ti500 a titanium piston filler similar looking fountain pen, and maybe from Jinhao that came up with a plastic model 80, that takes a lot of design features from the very popular and appreciated Lamy 2000.

Apparently, Moonman (Mahjon) was not impressed by the efforts of German pen makers (Kaweco) and continued borrowing design elements from iconic writing instruments.

The all body titanium pen comes has two body options, brushed or shiny. The body seems in pictures to be well machined and transitions are very smooth looking.

It has a partially hooded nib. The cap clips on the top part of the pen instead of having the ears that Lamy 2000 has.

Lamy Safari special color edition for 2022, strawberry (a lighter red compared to the standard red color) and cream colors.

On a more personal note, the writing instrument that I used the most in 2022, is the Koh-I-Noor 2 mm clutch pencil Versatil 5216. All metal pencil inspired by the traditional Versatil line but now comes in more colors.

I like the pencil quite a lot, it is comfortable to hold, sturdy and reliable, and the color is very nice. I like the dark purple combined with the vintage aspect of the pencil.