Bic Steel Review

No, this is not a review of a disposable razor, but the Bic Steel pen. This is a pen that I’ve had for a few years now. I picked it up from a locally owned office supply store in a town I used to live in. This is the only store where I was able to find it so it seems to be a rare pen. I think I paid around $8 or so it for back in 2005 or 2006.

As the name implies this is a metal bodied pen, but whether it is really steel or another metal I’m not sure. The pen is very similar in size to the Bic Widebody series of pens. In fact, the Bic Steel looks like a metal version of the Bic Widebody so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Steel is based on the Bic Widebody. The nock (the clicky part) is kinda loud and isn’t the most solid nock I’ve used but I would say it’s average and has the same feel as any retractable Bic. The clip does its job keeping the pen clipped to a shirt pocket or notebook but due to its shape, I find myself having to pull it away from the body a little bit to get it to clip to a short pocket. The name appears to be silk-screened (or something very similar) onto the clip and will wear off with use. The grip on the pen is a triangular shaped piece of rubber and is probably the biggest shortcoming of the pen. The grip attracts some dust which is somewhat annoying but the biggest negative about the grip is the fact that it rotates around the barrel of the pen. The grip will move as you put it and pull it out of a pocket and unless you don’t mind having the clip press into your hand as you write, you have to twist the grip to a comfortable position before you start writing. Having a basic rubber cylinder or no grip at all (which I think would have added to the looks of the pen) would alleviate this problem.

The pen is nicely balanced and adds to the overall writing experience. Writing with the stock refill in the Bic Steel is like writing with any other ballpoint pen with some skipping and a lot of pressure needed. Opening the pen up presents the biggest surprise about this pen. The Bic Steel uses a Bic-branded Parker style ballpoint refill so the refill possibilities are nearly endless with this pen.

While I don’t use the pen anymore, I thought it would be fun to review. For $8 the Bic Steel is a steal (sorry. I had to at some point) for a well-balanced metal bodied pen that accepts Parker style refills. If you come across one, I would recommend picking it up.

Aircraft De-Icing

 

It’s been a little while since I’ve done an aviation related post and thought that aircraft de-icing would be an approriate topic given the time of year.

We have all seen pictures of airplanes being de-iced during the winter months and unless you only fly in warm climates, there’s a good chance you have been on a plane while it was being de-iced. Having to de-ice can be just as frustrating for the pilots as it is for the passengers in the back, especially if we’re delayed, but it’s something that has to be done to ensure the safety of the aircraft and everybody on board. The majority of the time one of the pilots will make an announcement saying the plane has to be de-iced and approximately how long the process will take but may not include any information as to why. While it’s not uncommon to hear complaints about the delay the deicing process can cause, passengers understand that it is for safety but not necessarily why it has to be done. I hope this article will help you understand the why.

Before getting into the details, I want to give you a brief description of lift and how ice can affect the amount of lift a wing produces. Lift is developed by the faster airflow over the top of the wing creating a lower pressure than the slower moving beneath the wing. Pressure always travels from high to low, so the higher pressure air beneath the wing pushes up on the wing trying to get to the lower pressure air on top creating lift. The main threat with ice, frost, of snow is the reduction in lift that they can cause. They reduce the amount of a lift a wing produces in two ways, they create a rough surface on the wing slowing down the air moving over the top of the wing  and by also changing the shape of the wing in a way that could disrupt the airflow over the top of the wing, thereby reducing lift. Quick sidebar: yes, the slats and flaps (the portions of a wing that lower during takeoff and landing) do change the shape of wing, but they are designed to do that and change the shape of the wing in a uniform way. Airlines use a clean aircraft concept which means the aircraft has to be free of all ice, snow, and frost before taking off and is where the de-icing and anti-icing  process comes in. What do we mean by de-ice and anti-ice? It’s simple, de-ice is removing ice, snow, or frost, and anti-ice is preventing it from forming.

The first, and sometimes only, step in the process is applying de-ice fluid to the aircraft to remove any ice, snow, or frost that is present on the aircraft. We use a heated propylene-glycol mixture, known as Type I fluid which is typically orange in color, to do this. It is applied heated to help melt the ice, snow, or frost off the aircraft. If frost, ice, or snow already on the aircraft is the only concern or if there is no precipitation falling and sticking to the aircraft, Type I fluid is all that is necessary. This step creates a clean surface on the aircraft but also preps the aircraft for the next step, if necessary.

The next step is preventing any more snow sticking or ice forming on the airplane. We use a different propylene-glycol mixture, known as Type III or Type IV, to do this. The only difference between Type III (typically light yellow in color) and Type I V fluids (typically green in color) is the holdover time which will be discussed shortly. (There is a Type II fluid but it’s not used for reasons I don’t know.) The Type III or Type IV fluid is applied cold and is designed to adhere to the surface of the aircraft to form a barrier that prevents snow from sticking and ice from forming. As the aircraft accelerates down the runway and rotates, the fluid slides off the aircraft.

Where the frustration comes in for us pilots, beyond the obvious delay, is making sure we don’t exceed our holdover time. This holdover time is the length of time that the Type I, Type III, and Type IV fluid is effective for. The length of the holdover time depends on the outside air temperature, type and intensity of precipitation that is falling, the type of fluid used, and even the brand of fluid (some brands of Type IV have longer holdover times than others) and we have charts that determine the holdover time.  Type I has the shortest holdover time, around 15 minutes, but typically isn’t an issue.  This is because we can exceed Type I holdover times if there is no active precipitation or if there is no chance of ice forming or snow sticking to the aircraft. Examples of this would be removing  frost on a clear morning or removing ice or snow already present on the aircraft on a clear day.  Type IV has the longest holdover time and is the primary type of anti-ice fluid used. Unlike with the Type I fluid, we cannot exceed the holdover time for Type IV fluid, even if the precipitation has stopped. This means that if we get sprayed with Type IV fluid and do not takeoff within our holdover time, we have to get the aircraft re-sprayed with Type I and possibly Type IV depending on the conditions.  If at any point after getting sprayed we notice snow sticking to the aircraft, ice starting to form, or any other indication that the fluid is no longer doing its job or is losing its effectiveness, even if we are still inside our holdover time, we have to get the aircraft resprayed and the process starts over agian. Occasionally the outside conditions are so bad that fluid starts losing its effectiveness even before the entire aircraft has been sprayed. When this happens our options are pretty much limited to waiting for the conditions to improve or delaying and possibly canceling the flight.

Once we takeoff, we use the aircraft’s de-icing and anti-icing systems to keep the aircraft clean. These systems typically use either electrical power or hot engine bleed air (excess air) to do their job. The pitot tubes (the probes that measure airspeed) are electrically heated to provide anti-ice protection and the windshield is typically electrically heated as well, again providing anti-ice protection, propeller driven aircraft use electrical power to protect the propellers. To protect the wings, vertical stabilizer (the vertical tail surface), and horizontal stabilizer (the horizontal tail surface), and engine inlets, hot engine bleed air is typically used to either heat these areas (anti-ice) to prevent ice from forming or to inflate de-ice boots which inflate rapidly to pop off any ice that has formed on these surfaces. Some smaller jets and the Boeing 787 use electrical power to protect these surfaces. The systems are more complicated than this but this is the basic concept of how aircraft are protected from ice in flight and I wanted to briefly explain it.

So next time you see some orange or green slime on an aircraft during the winter time, you hopefully know what it is. I hope this post was easy to understand and gives you a good idea as to what is actually happening during the de-ice process on the ground and a basic idea of how aircraft are protected from ice in flight.

I debated whether to bring this up as I don’t want to add unnecessary fear for something that is completely safe but with recent events I thought would try to calm these fears.  With the recent crash of AirAsia 8501, the media is trying to draw similarities to the 2009 crash of Air France 447 where icing was a CONTRIBUTING factor to the crash, not the SOLE cause of the crash as much media portrays it. It is too early in the investigation and there is simply not enough information yet to determine the cause of AirAsia 8501 and I’m not going to speculate on the cause. Flying in icing conditions is safe, airplanes do it all the time.The only reason I even brought it up was because of the media attention on the role that icing MAY have played in the crash and to hopefully alleviate and calm any fears created by this.

 

Pen Hacks

This is a list of pen and refill hacks that I know of. If there are any that you are aware of that are not listed feel free to let me know. Most will require a spacer to fill in the backspace. I use plastic tubing that I’ve gotten with some of my Karas Kustoms pens, but the extra plastic on the back of a standard ballpoint refill (like a Bic Stic) will work just as good and the length of the spacer will vary depending on the refill, just measure enough to lengthen the non-stock refill to the stock refill. I’ve included some pictures to give an idea of the lengths of the spacers needed for the Lamy rollerball pens.

Lamy Safari and Al Star rollerballs:

The Schmidt P8126/P8127, any Pilot G2 sizes, Pilot FriXion, Uni-Ball Signo 207, Uni-Ball Jetstream, Zebra Sarasa Clip, Pentel OH! Gel, and Pentel EnerGel refills will work, though a spacer will be required. The Signo 207 and Jetstream tip will extend a little farther out than the others but shouldn’t affect how it writes. If this bothers you, just trim a little bit of plastic off the back of the refill. Mont Blanc rollerball and FineLiner refills will work with a small spacer. The tip of the Mont Blanc refills won’t stick out as far as some other refills, and I think this is due to the threading on the Mont Blanc refills, but this shouldn’t affect the usability of the refills. Pilot Precise V5/V7 RT, and Pilot V-Ball RT (Pilot Greenball) refills with a spacer should also work though I haven’t tried them. (Pilot FriXion and Uni-Ball Jetstream hacks submitted by Michael Green)

Lamy 2000 rollerball:

Any Pilot G2 size, Pilot FriXion, Uni-Ball Signo 207, Uni-Ball Jetstream, Zebra Sarasa Clip, Pentel OH! Gel, and Pentel EnerGel refills will work with a spacer. The Signo 207 and Jetstream tip will extend a little farther out than the others but shouldn’t affect how it writes. If this bothers you, just trim a little bit of plastic off the back of the refill. Mont Blanc rollerball and FineLiner refills will work with a small spacer. The tip of the Mont Blanc refills won’t stick out as far as some other refills, and I think this is due to the threading on the Mont Blanc refills, but this shouldn’t affect the usability of the refills. Pilot Precise V5/V7 RT, and Pilot V-Ball RT (Pilot Greenball) refills with a spacer should also work though I haven’t tried them. The Schmidt P8126/8127 refills will NOT fit. The P8126 refill is wider than the stock refill and the tip won’t come through the nose cone of the pen. I think the P8126 hits the metal tension ring inside the barrel and that this is what stops it. (Pilot FriXion and Uni-Ball Jetstream hacks submitted by Michael Green)

Lamy Studio rollerball:

The Schmidt P8126/P8127, any Pilot G2 sizes, Pilot FriXion, Uni-Ball Signo 207, Uni-Ball Jetstream, Zebra Sarasa Clip, Pentel OH! Gel, and Pentel EnerGel refills will work, though a spacer will be required. The Signo 207 and Jetstream tip will extend a little farther out than the others but shouldn’t affect how it writes. If this bothers you, just trim a little bit of plastic off the back of the refill.  Mont Blanc rollerball and FineLiner refills will work with a small spacer. The tip of the Mont Blanc refills won’t stick out as far as some other refills, and I think this is due to the threading on the Mont Blanc refills, but this shouldn’t affect the usability of the refills. Pilot Precise V5/V7 RT, and Pilot V-Ball RT (Pilot Greenball) refills with a spacer should also work though I haven’t tried them. (Pilot FriXion and Uni-Ball Jetstream hacks submitted by Michael Green)

Lamy Tipo

Any Pilot G2 size, Pilot FriXion, Pilot V-Ball RT (Pilot Greenball), Uni-Ball Signo 207, Uni-Ball Jetstream, Zebra Sarasa Clip, Pentel OH! Gel, and Pentel EnerGel, refills will work with a spacer. The Jetstream refill will need to be trimmed some in order for the nock to lock in place. Mont Blanc refills, and Pilot Precise V5/V7 RT refills with a spacer should also work though I haven’t tried them. I don’t own a Tipo so at this point I’m not sure if the Schmidt P8126/P8127 refills will work or not. (Submitted by Michael Green)

Karas Kustoms Render K:

The Uni-Ball Signo DX (UM-151) refill will fit, it just needs to be trimmed to the same length as the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. This hack is for the regular Render K, not the Render K G2 model.
The Uni-Ball Jetstream refill can be hacked to fit the regular Render K. To do this, the collar on the Jetstream refill needs to be sanded down to fit into the Render K body and a spacer will be needed to fill in the backspace. Cutting the collar can achieve the same result as sanding it down but for some reason cutting the collar off seems to affect how the refill writes so it is better to sand it down. (Jetstream hack submitted by Aaron Stanley)

Karas Kustoms Render K G2:

The Uni-Ball Signo 207, and Pentel Energel refills will fit. The tip on the Signo 207 will extend a little further than the tip of the Pilot G2 tip but shouldn’t affect how it writes. If this bothers you, just trim a little bit of plastic off the back of the refill. The EngerGel refill fits a little more snugly in the body of the Render K G2 so you may have to twist the refill a little bit as you insert it into the body of the Render K G2 but it will fit. The tip may extend a little further as well, but again shouldn’t affect how it writes.

Karas Kustoms Retrakt

The Uni-Ball Signo 207, Pentel Energel, Zebra Saras Clip, and Pilot Precise V5/V7 RT refills will fit. There are a couple of different ways to get the refills to fit. All of these refills have a large hole at the back of the refill instead of a plug (the Precise V5/V7 RT has a plug but it’s shaped differently than the G2 plug so it has the same issues as the other refills listed.) which causes the clicky mechanism to go into the hole and not extend the refill. One way to solve this problem is to fill in the hole with glue, a plug from a Pilot G2, pieces of tape, etc. all of which can still cause issues getting the refill to extend. The simple solution is to trim the aforementioned refills to the length of a Parker Ballpoint style refill and use the black plastic spacer that Karas Customs includes for use with Parker Ballpoint style refills. (You still use the spring for the Pilot G2 refill.) (Hacks submitted by various people but I can’t remember the names, sorry.)

Bic Clic:

Yes, the lowly Bic Clic can be hacked with a better refill, in this case the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock refill. The Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock refill is shorter than the Bic Clic refill so a spacer will be needed to fill in the backspace and the tubing of the Bic Clic refill is perfect for this. Simply cut enough tubing to lengthen the Slim Knock refill and tape the two pieces together. Due to the clicky action of the pen, taping the two pieces together ensures everything works as it should. (Submitted by Chase Nordengren)

Karas Kustoms ReBolt

This isn’t a refill hack per se, but more of hacking two pens, the Karas Kustom Retrakt and Karas Kustoms Bolt, together. I believe I first saw this on Instagram but can’t remember. There are a few simple steps to make a ReBolt and the guys over at Nock Co have done a blog post on it, so instead of posting everything here, I’m simply going to link to their post.

Ti2 Design TechLiner

The Pentel EnerGel refill will fit the TechLiner. Simply trim the collar on the refill a small bit so the magnet seats fully onto the refill. (Submitted by Jeffrey Bruckwicki)

The Uni-Ball Jetstream will fit without any modification but I have heard of ink flow problems attributed to the magnet not playing nicely with the hybrid ink. (I’ve seen a few people mention this hack but the only person I can think of now is Ian Hedley so sorry to those of you whose name I can’t remember)

Retro 51 Tornado rollerball

The Uni-Ball Signo 207, Uni-Ball Jetstream, Pilot G2, and Pentel EnerGel refills will fit. Simply trim them to the same length as the Schmidt P8126/8127 refills. (Pentel EnerGel hacked borrowed from Mike Rohde. Other hacks submitted by various people but I can’t remember the names, sorry.)

Fisher Space Pen

There are a couple of different hacks that I am aware for the Fisher Space Pen. Both hacks were done with the Fisher Bullet but I don’t see a reason why they wouldn’t work with the entire line of Fisher pens.

The first hack uses the Uni-ball Style Fit refill. Ana at The Well-Appointed Desk did a post about this hack so I’m going to link to her postThe other hack uses the Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock refill. For this hack, you leave the Fisher spring in place, add the Slim Knock spring into the barrel (yes, two springs) and toss the Hi Tec C Slim Knock refill in and you’re done. If you notice any wiggling of the tip when writing, you can add some washi or scotch tape to the end of the refill just above the tip. (Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock hack and photos submitted by Aaron Stanley)

Lamy Swift Rollerball


Lamy Swift Schmidt P8126/8127 Hack

TOP: Lamy M66

BOTTOM: Modified Schmidt 8126

RED ARROW: the Schmidt refill was modified by cutting down the ferrule of the point as shown. The remaining “flange” is about the same thickness as the Lamy cartridge. A razor knife or razor blade works well with patience.

BLUE ARROW: the end caps have been switched. The Schmidt refill now holds the Lamy’s original cap. A small pair of needle nose pliers removes the caps easily. I did not put a micrometer to them, but they seemingly fit perfectly.

GREEN ARROW: That adapter is made from the shipping protective cover/seal that comes on each Schmidt 8126. Cut off approximately 4mm and slip it over the Lamy end cap.

The outer edge of the end of the gray plastic adapter (furthest from the tip of the cartridge) needs to be chamfered (the edge rounded off) to work properly and some minor sanding need to be done the get the correct length for the adapter. Too short and the tip does not protrude past the nose of the pen enough, and if too long the cartridge will not lock in the extended position.


Schmidt P8126 with spacer for Lamy Safari, Al-Star, and Studio


 Pilot Juice with spacer for Lamy Safari, Al-Star, Studio, and 2000


 Pentel Energel in Lamy 2000


 Uniball Signo 207 in Lamy 2000


 Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock hacked for Bic Clic (submitted by Chase Nordengren)


 Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock refill hacked for Fisher Space Pen


 Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock refill hacked for Fisher Space Pen


 Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock refill hacked for Fisher Space Pen


 Fisher Space Pen with Pilot Hi-Tec-C Slim Knock


 Lamy 2000 with Mont Blanc refill


 Lamy 2000 with Mont Blanc Fineliner refill


 Lamy Al-Star with Mont Blanc rollerball refill. You can see in this picture how the tip doesn’t stick out as far