Repost: oftponder.com – The Great Space Pen Experiment

oftponder.com – The Great Space Pen Experiment

I like having a pen on me throughout the day and generally that pen is a Fisher “Bullet” Space Pen.  It is small, but sturdy and has a nice weight to it.  When the cap is placed on the back of the body, it is a nice size to write with too.

There is a problem though: the ink kind of sucks.  It requires a fair amount of pressure to write and it is far too lightly colored for my taste.  Yes, the ink is pressurized, which allows you to write upside down or underwater… but these are not capabilities I generally need to be concerned about.  I would much rather have a pen that just writes nicely.

I did a little searching around on the web and couldn’t find any good suggestions for alternative ink refills for the Space Pen body, so I decided to investigate the matter myself.

A trip to the local Staples yielded quite a few potential ink cartridges:

I looked through them all and bought every single one that I thought might fit the Space Pen.  Total cost for the trip was about $25 and I had quite a few contenders to try out:

Here’s how they stacked up:

PaperMate PhD MULTI refill (medium point)

Does it fit?  Yes… with some modification.  The stock ink refill by itself is too long to fit in the Space Pen body, but I used a paperclip to push the little white stopper in the back of the ink refill further into the body of the refill and then clipped off the excess plastic off the back.  Very quick and easy and the refill fits perfectly inside the Space Pen body afterwards.

(the stock PaperMate refill is pictured at the top, the Fisher cartridge in the middle and then the modified PaperMate refill is at the bottom)

How does it write?  Surprisingly, pretty nicely.  Clean, even ink flow with very little force required.  Seems to dry almost instantly as well… I can immediately run my finger over the paper after writing something and it doesn’t produce a single smear or smudge.

Cost? The 2-pack was $.99 at my local Staples.  As of this writing, about $4 on Amazon.

Dr. Grip refill (medium point)

Does it fit?  Yes… also with some modification.  The stock ink refill is just a little too long to fit in the Space Pen body, but I used a pair of scissors to clip off the back of the refill.  Requires a little push to get it into the body, due to the width of the sides of the refill, but it works.

(the stock Dr. Grip refill is pictured at the top, then the modified Dr. Grip below that and then the Fisher cartridge at the bottom)

How does it write?  Also very nice.  Clean, even ink flow with very little force required.  Just a little bit of smearing/smudging of the ink if you touch it immediately after writing, but it dries pretty quickly.

Cost? The 2-pack was $1.79 at my local Staples.  As of this writing, about $3.50 on Amazon.

Uni-Ball Jetstream RT refill (medium point)

Does it fit?  Nope.  Too long and too thick and I don’t see an easy way to modify it.

Cross Mini Ball-Point Pen refill (medium point)

Does it fit?  Nope.  Too short and too thin!  Literally slides right through the body of the Space Pen and out through the tip.  I never thought “too small” would be a problem I would come across, but there ya go…

Zebra F refill (fine point)

Does it fit?  Nope.  Really looks like it should, but the barrel of the refill is just a little too wide to fit into the body of the Space Pen.

Zebra JK refill (medium point)

Does it fit?  With some modification, it does.  Clip just a little off the back of the refill and it fits wonderfully.

How does it write?  I’m not a fan of gel inks, generally and this one doesn’t change my feelings on the matter.  It has a nice, deep color… but the ink flow is inconsistent and it smudges/smears easily.  If you are already a fan of gel inks though, this will do the trick for you.

Cost?  The 2-pack was $3.49 at my local Staples.  As of this writing, about $4 on Amazon.

Zebra F-701 pen (fine point)

This is a little bit of a cheat, because it isn’t a pen refill per se… but the F-701 is one of my favorite pens and I wanted to see if I could shove its guts into the smaller body of the Space Pen.

Does it fit?  Surprisingly… yes!  Perfectly!  And with zero modification.  Just take the F-701’s spring off and it slides into the Space Pen body like a charm.

How does it write?  Beautifully.  Extremely even ink flow with almost no pressure required.  It does smear/smudge just a bit immediately after writing, but it dries very quickly.  Of all the pens tested, this one writes the nicest in my opinion.

Cost?  The pen was $6.79 at my local Staples.  As of this writing, about $8 on Amazon.  Neither Staples nor Amazon seems to sell this exact refill for this pen by itself… instead, you can buy the F refill that I tried above.  The F refill does fit into the F-701 body but does not fit into the Space Pen.  As far as I can tell, there is no way to buy the ink refill that comes with the F-701 body by itself.

Conclusions:

Without question, the F-701 ink cartridge is my favorite of the bunch and will be what I write with in my Space Pen for the immediate future.  After this ink runs out though, I have a tough time spending $7 for one ink refill (especially since it seems so wasteful to throw out a perfectly good pen body in the process).  After this F-701 runs out, I will probably just buy some PaperMate PhD MULTI refills… they are incredible cheap and write perfectly fine.

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