In Search of the Perfect Writing Instrument Redux – The G-Blanc!

In a previous post, I laid bare my lust for pens for all to see. I dubbed the Uniball Gel Grip .7 my favorite pen… but everything has changed.

They know what to call them at Office Max

After I wrote that career path post, I had a few minutes to kill so I typed “best pen in the world” into Google. I found a pen mod at that results in the perfect writing instrument. I’m going to re-do it here because there it’s so laden with ads that it takes a while to get through. The basic idea is that you take a $6 Mont Blanc rollerball refill and cut it down so it fits in a Pilot G2. Check it!

Mont Blanc rollerball refills in black ink

You can pick up the Mont Blanc rollerball refills at any big box office supply store, but I found them cheapest at Office Max. $12 for two! Make sure to get the color you want because even though they make black and blue, the packaging is the same for both.







The G2 Limited. Elegance in a cheap pen.

While I was at Target, I grabbed a G2 Limited for $9.99 in smooth, rich person, charcoal design. And a three dollar rebate to boot! This pen takes the standard G2 refills which means it will also fit the modded Mont Blancs, but if you have a G2 lying around then you don’t need the Limited version for this mod. It’s just better suited for signing those seven figure deals. The crappy plastic body of the regular G2 has a smaller circumference, which I like. The Ltd is a little heaver, which I could get used to, but the Mont Blanc refill adds the perfect amount of weight to the cheap plastic G2. So I gotta say even though the G2 Ltd looks so much nicer, I prefer the weight and balance of the plastic body with the MB refill.

So here’s the trick. See the picture below? The top is the out-of-the-package Mont Blanc rollerball refill. The middle is the standard G2 refill. The bottom is the MB with about an 1/8th inch of plastic shaved off the end. That’s it. Just take an Exacto or a utility knife and cut the MB down to match the length of the G2 cartridge. Put it in your G2 body and BAM! The finest writing tool in the universe, in my opinion. The Ltd cost me a total of $16 (minus 3 with the rebate!) and since a pack of 5 G2’s is like 4 bucks, the regular cost under $7.

unmodded MB, G2, and modded MB

I’m really really psyched about this discovery (props to the guy who figured this out, but weaksauce to all the ridiculous ads on instructables). I’ve tried Mont Blanc pens before and while they write amazingly, I never liked the weight and girth of those pens. Too heavy and too fat. No good for long hours of writing. Not to mention they start at around $250! The refills are pricey, but unlike my old fave, the Uniball Gel Grip .7, they last a long time. The ink comes out so smoothly and evenly it looks like a laser printer. The drag is exactly the way I like it, and like I said, the MB with the plastic G2 has a fantastic hand feel. And I rock it a little more mod-supreme since you can see the Mont Blanc label through the clear plastic G2. I’m sold for life. I’ve dubbed it: The G-Blanc!

top: G-Blanc Limited. bottom: G-Blanc.

In Search of the Perfect Writing Instrument

You know that show Hoarders on A&E where people attach memories to every scrap of paper or they see value in bits of wire to the point where they experience deep physical and emotional pain when they are forced to throw anything out?

Yeah. That’s me.

With pens.

Every time I drive by an Office Depot or art supplies store, I think about the pens inside… waiting for me. It’s like there’s ideas in those pens that won’t come out unless I buy them. When I find a pen I like to write with, I buy a dozen. Just in case. Then a company like Uniball will discontinue one of my favorites like the Vision Exact Micro and I will run out and buy as many as I can find. I have drawers full of my go-to pens. The Uniball Signo .7 Gel Grip and Vision Exact Micro .5 for example. I have 10 VEM’s new in the packaging and over 50 Gel Grips. I also occasionally treat myself to a pricier option like the Retro 51 Tornado or a Lamy. With extra refills, of course.

Uniball Vision Exact Micro, aka VEM

Here’s where the pain comes in: if I lose one of these select models of pen before it’s out of ink, I lose sleep. I’m unsettled for a couple days. It’s like I won’t get those ideas back. Crazy? Yeah. I won’t even lend them out. I have a pile of junk pens to let people borrow. Rodeo clown pens to keep the brutish bulls away from the special pens. If I give you a VEM or Gel Grip or Tornado, you have no idea what a significant gift that is. Even if I specifically bought that gift for your birthday, I still wrestle with the notion of keeping it for myself. I might just as well have given you a pound of flesh. The VEM’s are discontinued! Don’t you get it?! You think I’m sweating because I’m chunky and Irish? That may be! But the stress of giving up a coveted pen started it! (footnote: you can still get VEM’s online)

The Gel Grip .7

Side note: How did I end up with 50 Gel Grips? An Office Max closed in some distant suburb and they were fire-selling everything. A box of 12 was $3! These pens are usually $2 something EACH! Oh man. Maybe the greatest day of my life. I bought the last five boxes. I also bought a box of 1.0 Impact Gel Grips for my friend Courtney. Because even though she’s not a pen freak, she knows I have a problem and appreciated the gift (I didn’t tell her they were rodeo clowns to keep her away from my .7’s).

Here’s the thing, I’m left-handed. Worse yet, I’m left-handed, but I don’t hook (left-handers know what I’m talking about) so as I write, I smear everything I just wrote with the side of my hand. Smear-proof, fast-drying ink is important. I write pretty small so a smooth-rolling, low-drag ball tip is important. It has to be a ball tip because I push the pen across in the paper unlike a right-hander or a left-handed hooker (yuk, yuk) and the little felt tips get all bent and ragged when I try to write with them. I like gel ink because it writes and looks better than that pasty ball point ink. I found the perfect combination of these things in the Uniball .7 Gel Grip. It’s a .7, but it writes closer to a .5 with angle I hold it. It’s almost perfection in a sub $5 pen.

Lamy Studio Rollerball

Two problems with the Gel Grip. It’s a little too light as in not heavy enough. The Lamy I have cost 70 bucks and is the perfect weight and balance, but the ink bleeds on the Moleskin paper that I use, and the ridge where the cap meets the body is right where I put my hand when writing. Doesn’t bug me that much, but if I’m writing for more than an hour, it starts to bother my hand. The other problem with the Gel Grip is that they don’t last long. That is to say, the ink runs out after a couple full days of writing. Not a huge deal, but even with a bargain pen, the number I go through adds up. The Retro 51 lays down twice as much ink (which isn’t ideal except for

Retro 51 Tornado

disorganized notes) but the cartridges last forever. I would use this pen every day, except it’s too heavy. So for now, I write with the Uniball Gel Grip as my standard, high output tool.

I guess the underlying question is why don’t I just type? Actually, I do a lot of typing for my job and it’s fast and easy to make changes and I’m pretty good at it. That’s the problem. It’s too fast and I spend too much time fussing with fixes. When I write longhand, it forces me to slow down and think clearly. And since I can’t change whole chunks with a keystroke, I keep moving forward. In the long run, I get more done. Then when I type all the hand-written stuff into Google Docs or whatever, I’m actually going through my first revision. It’s a system I’ve been using since I was a kid in the 80’s, and I like it. Maybe now is a good time to mention that I’m also a little obsessive about keyboards.