Saturday, December 17, 2011

When the Pen is Mightier: Pilot Hi-Tec-C Cavalier Review

I admit it: I'm a pen addict.  If it's a tool for writing or drawing, it's already captured my attention.  As I write this post, all I need to do is look up to see an acrylic pen holder with twelve slots - all of them taken, naturally - filled with fountain pens, drafting pencils, and a fine-point multi-pen.  And those aren't even the tip of the iceberg - they're just my go-to implements, which also happen to look the best on display.  Of the twelve chosen implements, all but one of them are from the Japanese domestic market.

Like many ill-gotten habits, this one began in college.  My school was within reasonable driving distance of a Kinokuniya bookstore, where I got my fix of manga and anime artbooks.  Kinokuniya's stationary section featured rare treasures from the Land of the Rising Sun like drafting pencils in .3mm and .4mm sizes, corresponding leads in softer grades than I'd ever seen in U.S. stationary stores (.3mm 2B lead, anyone?), and fine-point rollerballs with tips so fine that, when a philosophy prof gave us our final exam question ahead of time and allowed us a single 3x5" notecard's worth of notes, I pre-wrote my essay on the card and simply copied it into a bluebook on test day.  My A-earning effort had been made possible by a .25mm Hi-Tec-C pen and the magnifying-glass vision of my nearsighted eyes.

Naturally, when the opportunity to visit Japan arose several years later, I budgeted a significant portion of my trip money for raiding stationary stores and departments like Ito-ya, Tokyu Hands, and - of course - Kinokuniya.  My efforts yielded several pencils and notebooks that I have yet to see available outside Japan, and cemented my belief that consumers in Japan have access to a treasure trove of goods that others elsewhere in the world can only dream of.

More than any other online store, Jet Pens has done the most to bring these cloistered treasures of the Far East to the internet masses.  Seven of my twelve implements on display were purchased from Jet Pens, and it remains my primary source for replenishing supplies like the aforementioned .3mm 2B pencil lead.

I used to make purchases from Jet Pens on a nearly weekly basis, but have managed to wean myself down to once every few months.  My most recent purchase was influenced by a series of illustration tutorials I've been reviewing.  In one, design artist Feng Zhu expressed his preference for Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens for inking and pen sketching, noting the evenness of the lines produced and the general indelibility of the ink used.  With my test-taking (and micro-transcribing) days long over, my own supply of Hi-Tecs has dwindled to one black and one red in .25mm, which is too fine for my drawing purposes.  I opted to try the Hi-Tec-C Cavalier - essentially a heavier, classier metal body for the standard Hi-Tec-C pen cartridge - in part because I have a preference for heaftier implements, and in part because the pen plus several refills would satisfy the criteria for Jet Pens' free shipping on all orders $25 and up.

The Hi-Tec-C Cavalier is a slim body pen with classical styling that looks more suited to the boardroom than the clear plastic of regular Hi-Tecs.  The core of the pen is made of brass, giving it substance and formidable balance.

It comes with a .4mm cartridge, which is the perfect size for sketching, line art, and even note taking, as I find it strikes a balance between the thinness of the line drawn and ink flow.  The slim body might be a bit less comfortable in larger hands, but for those with smaller mitts (like me) it provides excellent control and is far more portable to boot.  The cap posts securely, extending the length of the body and rebalancing the pen for those who prefer the center of gravity to be closer to the back of the pen.

Though a bit pricey at $16.50, the Hi-Tec-C Cavalier is a great pen and an excellent example of the fine writing implements with which Japanese domestic consumers are blessed.  Jet Pens is doing their best to even the score in that respect, and for that they have my eternal gratitude . . . and patronage!

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