I don’t hate and detest ballpoint pens. I just don’t like using them and I avoid them. When I was employed, ballpoints were issued by my employer. The assumption clearly was that all written work should be done with them. The pens they issued were clear BICs or the yellow ones that had a finer point.

Why didn’t I like them? For one thing, they required an unnaturally vertical hold. The crystal BICs gave out a little too much ink so that a sticky blob would gather at the tip. Sooner or later it would be transferred to the page. I did a lot of handwriting, taking notes and minutes and those pens seemed to require some pressure. Not much, just enough to induce pain and even cramp in the fingers during an extended period of writing.

I fell back on pencils which seemed to be acceptable for all but permanent work. Pencils are much better writing instruments and don’t suffer from any of those problems I have outlined for ballpoints. I even found a BHR mechanical pencil, an Eversharp, and I used that without drawing adverse attention.

Why didn’t I just use my fountain pens? Mostly because I valued my old pens and some of the goons I worked with were perfectly capable of lifting one off my desk and “neglecting” to return it.

One way or another I managed to avoid using any ballpoints during the years of my employment. Of course there were times that material had to be written in something more permanent than pencil. I had nylon-tipped pens which were quite pleasant to use, and later Pilot gel pens came along. I really like them. If there has to be a successor to the fountain pen, the gel pen is it.

I don’t think there is a single ballpoint in the house, except for ones in sets that I have for sale. Most of the inks I use in my fountain pens are not permanent or especially water resistant, so addresses on envelopes are written with my trusty Pilot G2.


6 thoughts on “Ballpoints

  1. You’re probably in the company of most serious f.p. folk in not taking an interest in them, Deborah. For my money the line they produce lacks any variation or character, so they’re not something I would choose to write with. But – outside of emails and phone text messages, I’d imagine they remain the instrument of choice for most of the population – though possibly the roller ball may well have superseded them in popularity – they don’t suffer from dry starts, neither do they require you buy bottles of ink, and they work at any altitude.
    I try not to collect ball pens – though they arrive often as part of a set, and I’ve bought the odd few in my charity shop visits if they’ve been inexpensive, and perhaps unsurprisingly I seem now to have in excess of seventy. I try to give them out around the family – whether they want one or not:-)
    I have three examples of the original Miles Martin ‘Biro’, and some cracking silver examples from Caran D’Ache and Cross – loads from Parker and Sheaffer, some from Jostens, Waterman, and acres of Papermates that seem to turn up everywhere I go.
    There’s a German Edding 1700 – about which I know nothing – which has an ink cartridge that alone is bigger than an entire Pilot ball pen I have – the Pilot is so thin it reminds me of those very slender pencils made especially to fit down the spine of diaries. Also one or two of the 1950s gimmicky biros that contain refills of different inks, which could be chosen by pressing a small lever on the cap depending on whether you wanted green, black, blue or red etc. But it seems you can’t accuse them of lacking variation, even if you don’t want to use one.

    Anyone want to buy a good collection of ball pens?:-)

    1. I do take an interest in some of the older ones. I have one or two that I would like to restore but the difficulty lies in finding a refill to fit. I’m awaiting delivery of a German retractable with a cone point that looks early – perhaps 1950 or so. I sold one of those multipens – with various different colours – quite recently. Those Miles Martin pens are absolute classics!

  2. Deb hi.
    So sayeth Humphrey Lyttleton….” The people who say that they make them scrawl are absolutely right .
    It is hard to do your nicest handwriting .It is comparable to doing figure-skating on ice with roller skates.
    It gives a feeling of insecurity. You can’t get that lovely even movement with uprights parallel to each other; they lean to the back and front.”

  3. The recent hybrid refills for ballpoint pens are much more smoother and the ink darker then they were 15-20 years ago. I do have and use fountain pens, but also I do have and use ballpoint and gel pens, especially at work. For a good gel pen I truly recommend Pentel Energel, probably the best gel pen out there. For ballpoint refills I recommend Schimdt easyFlow, Jetstream and Acroball.

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