Buy my Books!

The Sketchnote Workbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, showing how to use sketchnotes in new ways, along with advanced tips and techniques.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →
Watch a FREE video sample →

The Sketchnote Handbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, designed to teach regular people how to create sketchnotes.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →

Mike Rohde (Color - Square)

ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
Read more about Mike →

SIGN UP! Get the Rohdesign Newsletter.

Entries in Pens (2)


The Uniball Signo RT Gel mini Hack

In my creating a custom Moleskine planner post, I mentioned a Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm pen, for both creating the planner and writing agenda and task items.

Initially I'd purchased a 4-pack of Pilot G2 mini 0.5mm pens for pocket-ability, but found the ink bled a bit too much through the thin Moleskine pages, so I picked up a 4 pack of Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm pens. The thinner 0.38mm gel pens work well with Moleskine paper because the line is thin and quick drying.

This weekend I was looking at the Uniball Signo and G2 Mini, when I wondered if I could hack the Uniball 0.38mm refill to work in a G2 mini pen body. When I took the two pens apart, I realized it could be done, with a flick of a utility knife to trim the Signo's cartridge down to size.

In the spirit of DIY, I gave it a try. The G2 mini to Uniball Signo mini conversion worked so well, I've decided to to share the easy conversion process with other Uniball Signo fans out there, complete with photos:

Uniball vs G2 mini

1. Here you can see how the G2 mini and Uniballl Signo compare side by side. The G2 mini is about 4.5 inches long, compared to 5.5 inches for the Uniball Signo. For pocket-ability, that reduction of an inch means quite a bit — making the G2 mini well-suited for pockets.

Uniball vs G2 mini - Exploded

2. Next, I opened up the two pens to compare the length of the cartridges, and as you can see, the Uniball Signo is about 1 inch longer, but has room for trimming. I've noticed that new Uniball Signo cartridges have ink at or above the location you need to cut them down without creating a mess. The easiest way to remedy this is by drawing with the cartridge until the ink level drops enough that a slice is reasonable.


3. Using a utility knife , x-acto knife or other sharp instrument, trim the Uniball cartridge down to the same length as the G2 mini cartridge as shown in the photo above (see the dotted line). I've that the Uniball Signo cartridge uses a much thicker outer wall compared to the G2 mini, so the G2 may actually have close to the same volume of ink even though it looks like less.

Chopped Uniball Cartridge

4. Here you see the nicely sliced Uniball cartridge, ready for insertion into the G2 mini pen body. If you want to be non-wasteful, you can keep the G2 mini cartridges for backups, or use clear tape to adhere the chunk of Uniball cartridge you've sliced off to the top of the G2 mini cartridge, and use this in a standard G2 pen. The G2 plus clipped cartridge combo doesn't work in empty Uniball Signo pen bodies, because of the G2's nib.

The Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm mini

5. Use your new Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm mini pen, and enjoy! :-)

Related Links:
Moleskinerie by Armand Frasco
Recording Thoughts by Steve Duncan


Pen Freak

NijiStylist.gifYes, I'm a pen freak. I'm that guy at the pen section, mumbling about pen tip sizes, gel inks and barrel design. It's been an addiction of mine since grade school days, when Parker Jotter retractable ball pens were all the rage.

In high school, I became a fan of Flair pens for drawing and writing. I used to eat through those pens, drawing, writing reports and for everyday use. I read somewhere that Quentin Tarantino uses Flairs to write his scripts.

In my college days, when I was introduced to fountain pens. My design and drawing instructor, Mr. Bonifay, was a total sketch freak, toting his huge 12 x 14 bound black sketchbook with hundreds of drawings in it. Odd thing was, he religiously used a simple, black Sheaffer fountain pen (something like this one, but black plastic) for sketching, which further blew me away.

I bought one of those fountain pens myself and sketched with it, and you know what? It wasn't bad at all. I adapted to the quirks of a fountain pen for sketching. The old pen is now broken (pocket clip broke) and is in need of a trip back to the factory in Iowa for lifetime warranty repairs. (Note to self: send that Sheaffer pen in!)

When I began getting back into sketching and journaling with Moleskines a few years ago, I found my interest in pens reviving. I tried the ol' Sheaffer, but the Moleskine's paper couldn't handle the scratching of a fountain pen tip, nor the ink liquidity.

Next I bought some Pilot G2s on 0.5 and 0.7 widths, as these were so often mentioned by Moleskine users. I loved the gel ink — its density and the pen shape. However, after several months of use, I began to experience some issues with the G2. I disliked that the flow was not totally smooth on my Moleskine pages. The ink would flow nicely and then abruptly, thin out on me.

I put up with this for a while, until my most recent trip to Office Max, where I bought several pens for home and work use (I do a quite bit of sketching at work). One of the pens I took a liking to was the Sanford Uniball Signo 207 gel pen. It looked and felt very much like the Pilot G2, but the ink flow was much better. I bought one and have now switched over to the Uniball.

But the story goes on — my pen freak revival brought to mind yet another über-favorite pen: the Niji Stylist 100. This unassuming black plastic pen had a smoothest tip for sketching, never skipping on me. Apparently it has a unique plastic tip construction which makes it durable. All I know is, these things rock.

This weekend I hit the local art store and found the Niji Stylist 100, and immediately appreciated the smooth flow of ink it provided. I've been enjoying it so much, I've started carrying the Stylist around everywhere, using it for work and personal sketching, notes, my diaries and more.

So what are your favorite pens? Any suggestions for this pen freak? Please feel free to leave a comment — I'm always on the lookout for great new pens to feel my addiction. :-)