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Makerset Field Pen Compact Review

Makerset is a new company from the folks at Machine Era Co. According to their site, the purpose is to focus on their passion for writing tools.

I remember when Makerset launched the Kickstarter campaign for the Field Pen Compact in early 2018. I thought the pen looked nice but thought it was too small, so I didn’t back it. I am a big fan of the original Machine Era Co. pen, so I couldn’t resist when Makerset reached out asking if I wanted to check out their latest offerings. Even though I was sent these pens for free, that didn’t affect my thoughts on the pen.

Top to Bottom: Brass Field Pen Compact, Field Pen, Stainless Steel Field Pen Compact, Fisher Bullet, Machine Era Co Pen, Schon DSGN PenTop to Bottom: Brass Field Pen Compact, Field Pen, Stainless Steel Field Pen Compact, Fisher Bullet, Machine Era Co Pen, Schon DSGN Pen

There is no doubt this thing is small. How small? Kaweco Lilliput small. The Field Pen Compact is 4.12 inches/10.4 cm long, the Lilliput is 3.8 inches/9.7 cm capped and 5.0 inches/12.6 cm posted. The Field Pen Compact is not much longer than a capped Fisher Bullet, as you can see in the comparison photo above. This makes it a perfect size for clipping to a notebook or notebook/pen case combo, or throwing in a bag for jotting down quick notes. Surprisingly, I don’t have any issues holding the Field Pen Compact. The top of the pen rests in the webbing/area between my thumb and index finger, and I have found it very comfortable to hold. I know this will not be the case for those with larger hands.

The Field Pen Compact is available in brass and stainless steel. Both the brass and stainless versions are nicely balanced, with the majority of the weight being at the center of the pen. Unlike with some other metal pens, the brass and stainless pens weigh pretty much the same. The brass is 1.3 oz, and the stainless is 1.1 oz. The weight gives the Field Pen Compact some heft, but I think that’s a good thing with a pen this small.

The Field Pen Compact ships with a D1 ballpoint refill and the weight of the pen means you don’t have to apply as much pressure to write with the stock ballpoint refill. The stock refill is a Schmidt-Mine 635 refill, the refill in my brass pen has been more finicky than the one in the stainless pen, with hard starts being the most common problem I’ve had. The refill writes fairly smoothly for a ballpoint refill, and lays down a dark, consistent line. The fact the pen takes a D1 refill means there are plenty of refill options available.

Top to Bottom: Brass Field Pen Compact, Field Pen, Stainless Field Pen Compact, Machine Era Co Pen, Schon DSGN Pen, Fisher BulletTop to Bottom: Brass Field Pen Compact, Field Pen, Stainless Field Pen Compact, Machine Era Co Pen, Schon DSGN Pen, Fisher Bullet

The click mechanism is one of the smoothest, and quietest mechanisms I’ve used. It is as smooth as the Schmidt mechanisms used in many machined pens, and just as quiet, that also means it very easy to deploy the refill. The size of the pen is perfect for throwing in your pants pocket, but I would do so with caution because of how easily the mechanism moves. The mechanism is partially made of plastic, and Makerset guarantees the mechanism for life. This was mentioned in the Kickstarter campaign but isn’t listed on the product page, so before writing the review I reached out to Makerset and they confirmed the lifetime guarantee.

The click mechanismThe click mechanism

The Field Pen Compact is a pen that I think is hard to categorize. It is the perfect size for a pocket pen, but the mechanism is so smooth and quiet that it would be easy to unknowingly deploy the refill and possibly ruin a pair of pants or shorts. Because of this, I have been using the pen as I would a regular size pen. For me, this means clipped to my shirt pocket at work or in a pen sleeve in my pocket at home. The small size makes it perfect for quick notes, but the pen is so well balanced that I think it could be used for longer writing sessions, especially if the stock ballpoint refill was swapped with a gel refill.

As I said earlier, I didn’t back the pen on Kickstarter because I thought it was too small but was excited to try it out. I thought using the pen would confirm my thoughts on it being too small. I never expected to enjoy this pen as much as I have. This pen is going to be small for a lot of people, but if you have smaller hands, don’t overlook this pen just because of it’s size. Thanks again to Makerset Co for sending these pens for me to review.

2 August 2018 · Review · Makerset · Field Pen

Fisher AG7 Review

When somebody mentions space pen, what pops into your mind? I bet it’s either the fact you can write in very hot or cold temperatures, upside down, and, yes, in space1, or you picture the Fisher Bullet pocket pen, as it is pretty much the only model sold in big-box stores. I have a Fisher Bullet, but it is not my favorite space or pocket pen2. My favorite Fisher pen is the AG7, or as Fisher markets it, The Original Astronaut Space Pen”.

The Fisher AG7The Fisher AG7

The design of the pen isn’t out of this world3, but it is a timeless, and classic design. I think it could safely be called a retro design at this point, because the design hasn’t changed much, if at all, over the years. The pen is wider at the top and tapers towards the grip section, which has a circular groove to provide extra grip. The pen is made from brass, but doesn’t have the weight of most of the solid machined brass pens available on the market today and is lighter than some of the machined aluminum pens I have. The brass is chrome plated, which gives it a nice and shiny finish, but the chrome finish means the pen is a fingerprint magnet. The chrome finish means the pen can be a little more slippery to hold, but the grooves grip area mentioned above does a really good job of counteracting the slipperiness of the finish.

The clip has a nice angle at the bottom which makes it easy to fit over the lip of a shirt pocket, notebook cover, pen case, etc. but the clip still rests against the barrel to provide a nice hold on whatever you decide to clip it to. The clip is mounted to the very top of the barrel which allows the pen to sit very low in a shirt pocket.

Compared to the minimal or no branding on many pens today, the branding could be considered a giant flashing billboard. Fisher AG7 is engraved into the clip, and the engraving takes up pretty much clip. AG7 Space Pen by Fisher..USA..” is engraved around the circumference of the barrel, though the font size is a lot smaller and less noticeable than that on the clip. Even though the branding on the clip is very noticeable, I really like it and think it fits will the overall design of the pen.

The click mechanism is one of my favorite things about the AG7. Instead of using the top button to deploy and retract the refill, the AG7 uses the top button to deploy the refill and a side button to retract the refill. The mechanism makes a nice, satisfying click each time. Did I mention that this setup is really fun to play with and fidget with? The buttons are close enough that you can press the top button with the tip of your thumb and press the side button with the knuckle of your thumb fairly quickly to your satisfaction and to the annoyance of those around you.4

I found the AG7 to be slightly top heavy when I first got it, but after using it for a while, and especially after using some machined pens, I don’t notice the slight top-heaviness like I used. The opening of the barrel is a little wider than the refill which means there is some tip wiggle, which means clicky writing due to the refill hitting the side of the barrel. I solved this by unscrewing the barrel and rotating it before screwing it back on, so that the refill was always resting against the side of barrel.

Top to Bottom: Tactile Turn Mover, Fisher AG7, TiScribe Bolt, Fisher CH4, Karas Pen Co. RetraktTop to Bottom: Tactile Turn Mover, Fisher AG7, TiScribe Bolt, Fisher CH4, Karas Pen Co. Retrakt

As much as I love the AG7, I know it is not a pen for everybody. The main, possibly only, driving factor in whether the AG7 is a pen for you is how feel you about the Fisher space pen refill, because that’s the only refill that fits.5 If you like, or can tolerate, the space pen refill, I think you will the AG7. If you despise the space pen refill, I doubt the AG7 will change your feelings.


  1. It wouldn’t be a space pen if you couldn’t write with it in space, now would it?

  2. That’s a tie between the SCHON DSGN pen, and the Machine Era Co. pen.

  3. Sorry. I had to. I’ll stop with the jokes now.

  4. I warned you, so don’t blame me for any dirty looks or threats you may get.

  5. I’m pretty sure the Rite in the Rain refill will fit and I believe Schmidt makes a space pen type refill, but neither are that different than the space pen refill.

10 May 2018

Refreshed in the Wind

This is a post from my other blog Thoughts Aloft. I was re-reading it the other day and decided to post it here as well.

I have always enjoyed watching airplanes take off and land, and fly overhead. As a kid, whenever we drove past an airport I remember looking as hard as I could in the hopes I would see an airplane, even if I knew I wouldn’t see one.1 I can remember my dad stopping on the side of the road to let me watch a plane take off or land. My son is the same way I was as a kid, and yes, I have stopped the car to let him watch an airplane. Why do we do this? I was reminded earlier of a quote from one of my favorite books that I think perfectly describes why.

”…Here, refreshed in the wind, I rediscover what I had previously held to be certain truths. I again become aware that no pilot alive can resist watching a plane take off or land. He may pass a motionless airplane without noticing it, but the moment his ears detect the first burst of power from a plane, however distant, he will turn his head regardless of everything else around him and watch it. He will also rudely break off in the middle of a conversation to watch a plane landing, though there may be a constant flow of them. From observance of such activity he enjoys an abiding satisfaction, as basic and everlasting as that found by a deep-sea sailor on his obligatory pilgrimage to the nearest harbor…“” — Ernest Gann in Fate Is The Hunter

The refreshed in the wind” line has always stuck with me, because of a feeling I sometimes get at airports when the wind is just right. It is a feeling of calm and peace, and it is in those times that I’m even more grateful that I am able to do what I love. I don’t know why I get this feeling when the wind is a certain way, I just do. I get this feeling the strongest on clear days, when the temperature is around 75 to 80°F, and the wind is about 5 to 10 knots. When I get this feeling all I want to do is stop and watch the airplanes take off and land, and simply take in the sights, sounds, smells, and as crazy as it may sound to some, the beauty of the airport. As stressful as my job can get, it is in these times that I am refreshed in the wind, and that I can’t imagine doing anything else.


  1. Who am I kidding, I still do it as an adult.

15 April 2018

Switching to Blot.im

I have moved Pens and Planes to Blot.im. I tried to keep the RSS feed should the same but I wasn’t able to, so here is the new RSS feed just in case.

For those who aren’t familiar with Blot, it’s a static-site generator that uses it’s own folder in Dropbox to store everything related to your blog and then creates the site on Blot’s servers. Creating a new post is as simple as placing a file, whether it’s a .txt file, .md file, Word document, bookmark or image in Blot’s folder. Editing a post is as simple as editing the file in Dropbox, using your app of choice that can access Dropbox files.

That simplicity, especially editing a post, is the biggest reason I decided to move the site over to Blot. Publishing to WordPress from iOS is easy enough (all my posts are written on my iPhone and/or iPad), but since I like to keep a copy of all my posts, editing or updating a post meant editing it through the WordPress app as well as the copy I kept in Ulysses. With Blot, I just have to edit the Dropbox file, which makes the editing and updating process quicker and easier.

The only downside I’ve seen with the move to Blot, is that post comments use Disqus, which I have never been a fan of. There is something about the Disqus service that I’ve never liked the feel of, though I’ve never been able to exactly pinpoint what that something is. I have disabled comments for now, partially due to my personal preference against Disqus and partially due to not getting a lot of post comments. If you would prefer to have the ability to comment on posts, I will gladly put my personal feelings aside and enable commenting with Disqus. I would love to hear your thoughts on Disqus, so please let me know via email or Twitter.

The lack of posts here is something I plan on changing. Moving to Blot isn’t going to magically write more blog posts for this site, but I hope that the simplicity of posting and editing with Blot helps remove some of the friction with my previous setup and thus encourage me to write more.

Many thanks to David Merfield and Thomas Hall for their help with figuring things out, running scripts on my WordPress Export, and getting the site up and running.

30 March 2018

Papermate InkJoy Gel Review

I know I’m not alone in doing this, but I have a habit of walking down the pen aisle whenever I go to a big-box store in the hopes that they have something new. I do this knowing that I am setting myself up for disappointment because nothing new or interesting will be found. I had seen the Papermate InkJoy Gel in (insert name here) big-box retailer many times and my initial thought was pretty much That pen is going to suck.” My thoughts were based on Papermate including the pen in their InkJoy line of pens and previous bad experience with the other pens in the InkJoy line. A few weeks after the InkJoy Gel started appearing in stores, I started to hear that the pens were actually pretty nice, so I decided to pick up a pack up and give them a shot.

The design of the pen is nothing special. It’s a basic design that has office supply room pen written all over it. The body of the pen is mostly colored rubberized-plastic with a colored transparent clip and plastic portion where the name of the pen is. Like most pens found in big-box stores, the exterior of the pen is colored to match the ink color, though the click-mechanism is silver colored plastic on all the InkJoy Gel pens. The barrel is a straight cylinder except with no taper, except for the nose of the pen where the refill tip extends.

The clip, if you can it a clip, is nothing more than a stiff, rounded piece of plastic that sticks up from the barrel like a design afterthought. There is a noticeable gap between the clip and the barrel which really affects the functionality of the clip.It is near worthless when clipped to the average shirt pocket, and isn’t much better when clipped to a pair of shorts or jeans. There’s no resistance at all either clipping to or removing from the shirt pocket, nor does it make the snapping sound of the clip hitting the barrel that is common when removing clipped pens from pockets. It does prevent the pen from falling to one side of your shirt pocket and it serves as a roller stopper, so I guess it does do the job but it’s still think it’s a poor design.

Here's the gap between the clip and barrel.Here's the gap between the clip and barrel.

What makes the InkJoy Gel really shine is the refill. The refill is one of the smoothest and wettest gel refills I have used. I would say the refill feels and behaves more like a rollerball than a typical gel pen, especially the .7mm version. The .7mm lays down a thick line and feels more like a Schmidt P8127 than a .7mm Pilot G2 or Signo 207/307. The .5mm is definitely my favorite and lays down a noticeably thinner line than the .7mm refill. I have not experienced any hard starts, skips, or blobbing with either the .5 or the .7mm version. The best thing about the InkJoy Gel refill is that it is the same size as the Pentel EnerGel refill, which means that it can be used in a number of different pens.

InkJoy Gel on the left, EnerGel on the right.InkJoy Gel on the left, EnerGel on the right.

The InkJoy Gel is a good pen but leaves a lot to be desired in the looks department. Looks aren’t everything though, and the way the pen writes more than makes up for it’s basic looks. The refill being the same size as the Pentel EnerGel means it can be used in other pens, I’ve got a .5mm Slate (blue black) refill my in Big i Design Ti Arto. Don’t make the mistake I did in ignoring the InkJoy Gel based on who it was made by and by the way it looked, pick up a pack and give them a shot.

15 May 2017 · inkjoy · papermate · Posts · review




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