Right writers

We may be inching toward a paperless society, but pens remain the most stolen items on the planet.

There are ways to make pens more repulsive to potential thieves. Dipping half a pen in honey, having pens with obscene messages or possibly switching to fountain pens may thwart thieves according to some experts.

Our suggestion: Have enough pens you like on hand. Even better, buy pens your customers like and hand them out. Your customers will no longer feel guilty about stealing a pen and they will thank you with unparalleled allegiance.

You can judge a pen by its barrel

Pen barrels can be made of exotic woods and minerals. They can have inlays of precious stones and plating in precious metals. They can have costly machining and engraving features.

An expensive barrel won’t make a pen write any better. Still, if you put a lot of money into the barrel, chances are more money has gone into other aspects of the pen.

The bulk of work-a-day pens have barrels made of brass, aluminum or plastic. Brass has the heftiest, most solid feel. Aluminum is strong and light. Current technology allows plastic to look like metal. These common working pens may have rubber or textured grips. A tech world variant includes having a stylus for use on touchscreens.

The criteria for judging these features:

  • Do you like the looks?
  • How does it feel in your hand?
  • Is your target group likely to use the stylus?

Other potential considerations include availability in company colors, a look that underscores the image a company is seeking to project and ecological considerations (using recycled paper, recycled plastic or bio-plastic barrels).

Now let’s get to the point

Have any of you ever stared at the point of a pen and wondered, “doesn’t this look just like the rollerball point I was staring at a few minutes ago?”

It is not your imagination. The difference between a rollerball and a ballpoint isn’t really in the point at all, both use the same basic technology.

A ballpoint uses a petroleum-based ink and a rollerball uses a water-based ink. Gel pens use an emulsified water-base ink.

This leads us to the answer to the question, why are ballpoints often retractable and rollerballs usually have caps?  Water-based ink is thinner (technically it has lower viscosity), so the ink ball’s tolerance and roundness need to be as perfect as possible. If a ball flattens a bit, pits, corrodes or the holder is slightly damaged, ink will come out and damage your $595 Kiton dress shirt. The cap is a safety measure.

Ballpoint inks have the advantage of drying quickly. Rollerball inks lay down smoothly with less pressure as it meets precision requirements. Its problem, rollerball ink dries more slowly. Gel ink is opaque and that leads to bold colors in a wide range of hues. If your career is as a spy, gel ink should be your choice because chromatography can’t determine the manufacturer or year of manufacture.

Regardless of being water or oil based, high quality inks must meet critical requirements to work well. The ink needs to flow without clogging. Inks need to resist fading and smearing. Some inks also need to penetrate the surface of the paper so it can’t be erased, making it fraud resistant.

Traditionally the best of these inks have been made in Germany. Many inks are also made in China. Please note: The very best inks cost hundreds of dollars per gallon.

Pick your pen

There are a lot of choices out there. Staples Promotional Products alone offers over 1,000 choices. That’s not to mention all the color choices in barrel or ink color.

Our advice is to set a budget and then come up with the best pen available to meet that budget. Is your interest in providing a pen with replaceable ink cartridges that will be kept by the recipient or is it a pen that will be disposed of when the ink runs dry? You’ll also want to consider pen color, hand feel and image requirements. It’s a lot to consider, but fortunately Staples Promotional Products has teams of advisors who can provide wise guidance.