Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Duet of Zebras

Zebra Pen Corp. and recently sent me some of their products to review, and I want to thank them for the chance to try out some things I know I'd overlook. The Zebra Sarasa is one of my favorite gel ink pens, particularly the Eco Clip, and I'm also fond of their G-301 Gel Ink.  I've been asked to honestly review the ZmulsionEX Ballpoint and M-301 Mechanical Pencil, so here goes.

Update:  Just an FYI, there's a Zebra Pen giveaway going on at right now for the Zmulsion pen (and a chance to win a gift card).  You may want to check it out and get one.

First, the ZmulstionEX.  Well, it is a ballpoint, not a gel ink, so I was worried about the usual ink-smearing problem. But the more I used this pen, the more I got to like the way it felt as I wrote on the paper. The ZmulsionEx features an emulsion ink, a combination of oil, water and pigment, that really was smooth.  What seemed strange was that I could almost feel a waxy coating being laid down on the paper, yet when I touched the ink it didn't seem any different than other ballpoints I've used.

That emulsion is likely why there wasn't as much smearing on the paper, and drying time was relatively fast.  I've used ballpoints where the ink seemed to take forever to dry, and wound up with a lot of stains on my hands.  The ZmulsionEX didn't skip or scratch, the ink blobs weren't noticeable, and I like the way this pen feels in my hand.

The pen design is, as always, fun.  I like the way the blue and orange work on this pen, and the other color choices are just as goo.  Also, I was impressed with the very bright orange color of the ink. I don't know what I expected, but this ink looks clean and has a beautiful clarity to it.  If you're looking for some ballpoints, give the ZmulsionEX a try.

Second in the duet is the M-301 Mechanical Pencil.  I'm not a big pencil user, and may not have been the best choice of reviewer for the M-301.  There wasn't anything I disliked about it, I just don't use pencils so I can't really say if some feature is good or bad.  I like the hard rubber and steel design, and the grip felt good and gave my finger much-needed support, since I tend to press down hard on my writing instruments, leading to a finger ache.  After taking the pencil apart I realized the small rubber piece at the end was the eraser, once more proving that my talent for noticing the obvious is, perhaps, truly unequaled.

A few quibbles.  The lead was a touch too hard for me (it comes with HB lead), but that's easily solved.  What I couldn't quite figure out was how to retract the lead, which is one of the touted features of this pencil to prevent breakage. As it is probably on the packaging, which I didn't get, I'll play around a little more and see if I can do it.

If you like, and use, mechanical pencils, this may be a good option for you but I honestly can't tell.  So if you are a pencil lover and would like to try a Zebra M-301 Mechanical Pencil, leave a comment by Sunday, 7 pm, and I'll do a random drawing and send it on to the winner.  A mini-review sometime in the future would be appreciated.


  1. Long time mechanical pencil lover / scribbler; I never have been neat enough to warrant a pen. I still have a Faber Castell which is going strong after 20 plus years!


  2. I'm a pencil user, both mechanical and wood-cased. Jet Pens has lead refills as black as 4B, maybe darker in some diameters. Jack/OH

  3. DaveP, the pencil is yours. Send me an email at and we'll discuss.

    Jack, got something else for you to try out and I'll be in touch.

  4. Thanks, Diane. BTW-I'm using a General's #595 carbon sketch pencil for occasional doodling. It lays the blackest pencil line I've seen, and its blister pack does promise "smooth like graphite, dark like charcoal". Jack/Youngstown