Friday, August 06, 2010

Graphgear 1000 VS. SKB-1000 "James Jean Pen"

First let me say that comparing these two pens is like comparing a Mercedes to a...Volga. The only reason I'm comparing the two is because they are both .5 mm ballpoints, which aren't easy to come by and the fact that the SKB-1000 has been riding the coattails of James Jean's popularity.

The SKB-1000 is basically a cheap Chinese made stationary pen. When you order a box from their, rather innocuous, website, what you get is a nondescript box of plastic pens. For some odd reason the barrel on the SKB-1000 can be unscrewed. My only reasoning for this is simply ease of assembly, since they are not refillable, technically. The SKB-1000's body is flimsy, lightweight and the pocket clip breaks off easily.

But, the true test of a pen is in the writing. This is where everything breaks down. I don't know how James Jean does it, or perhaps I got a bad batch of pens, but pen after pen had follow through problems. If I was sketching in my moleskine, eventually the pen found some random point on the page to simply just stop working. I tried multiple pens from the pack and experienced the exact same quirk with all of them. The line is rather nice, when it works, but the unreliability forced me to stop using them entirely. I do not recommend the SKB-1000's unless you want to give them away...

The Pentel Graphgear 1000 is a completely different story. I love my stainless steel Parker Jotter pen, I've always thought it looked like a prop James Bond would have in his breast pocket, like it doubled as a laser maybe. The Graphgear is even better, it's like something out of 'Ghost In The Shell' or 'Gundam'.

The first thing that you notice when you get this pen in your hand is the weight. This pen is SOLID. It has a brushed metal body and an etched metal grip. There are little ovals on the grip made of translucent rubber which makes it very pleasurable to hold. This is truly a pen geek's pen. After engaging the "clicker" on the back end of the pen, in order to write, you must push the pocket clip in order to retract the tip. So wicked! It's a dummy safety so you can't put the pen in your pocket with the tip out! Basically, I LOVE this pen.

The line, which is the most important thing, is smooth. The ink is dark. I have so far had no chokes like the SKB-1000's. Sure, there are ink bombs, but this is kind of typical for ballpoints, in general, and I haven't experienced any really bad ones. This pen is a dream to draw with.

The SKB-1000's were $14 for a pack of 12. The Graphgear 1000 is $15 for one with $2 refills. The Graphgear is worth every penny, whereas I felt totally gouged by the SKB's.

If you like drawing with ballpoints or simply want a pen that will make other people go "Holy Shit!", do yourself a favor and get a Graphgear. Better yet, if you want to give someone a totally unexpected gift get them the Graphgear, it is just that cool. Period.

The Graphgear 1000 can be purchased at JetPens, an awesome site specializing in Japanese made writing/drawing tools.


Johan said...

Interesting read. Thanks for that. But I must still say that 14 bucks is pretty steep.

Anyways, my friend has a Graphgear mechanical pencil, and the grip feels weird to me.

Allison Alexander Westbrook IV said...

14 bucks seems like a lot and I suppose it is for a writing instrument, but for drawing it isn't so bad. This thing is built to last.

I suppose the grip isn't for everyone, but I really appreciate it considering the heft of the pen.

Thanks for reading!