Pen Shopping and the Uniball Signo DX 0.38mm

I stepped into a Popular bookstore the other day to shop for a few new pens. As a student in the recent past with no disposable income apart from a weekly/ monthly stipend, shopping for pens became a guilty pleasure when I was procrastinating and finding new motivation to do work.

Over the years, I’ve stuck to the same few models. There wasn’t much choice to begin with–only black or blue (or blue-black, if you wanted the best of both worlds)–but it was also about finding a reliable model that will not fail you during examinations.

The first ever pen that I remember using was a Uniball Laknock FINE pen that looked like this. I used it throughout most of my middle primary days (remember: we could only use pencils in Primary 1 and 2!)

Then, I ‘graduated’ into using the ubiquitous Pilot G2 pen, which was arguably the king of all pens back in the day. Except it would sometimes run out of ink mysteriously… So I switched to the Pilot G-tecmatic, which I used for a few years before settling on the Hi-Tecpoint V5RT, the first ever retractable liquid ink pen.

While the V5RT had the tendency to seep through the other side of my foolscap paper, it never failed me. I used it exclusively when sitting for my examinations as well as my GCE O Levels.

Rise of the 0.38mm Pens


For a long time, 0.5mm was about the best we could get. The Pilot Hi-Tec-C4 offered a 0.4mm tip, but it wasn’t reliable enough for everyday use (drop it on the floor while the cap is off and you’re likely to bend the tip) and offered no finger grip.

Then, the Uniball Signo DX 0.38mm and 0.28mm variants came along and changed everything. I found the 0.28mm to be too thin for everyday use, and thus settled on the 0.38mm. For a while, I was handing in assignments and completing examinations exclusively in delicious blue-black ink. Once you go thin, 0.5mm felt really thick.

One thing I disliked about the Signo DX was its non-retractable design. It was impractical in a study environment; having to cap and recap the pen every so often. The pen would roll off the table easily if you uncapped it, which was a major problem in lecture theatres.

The Pilot G2 0.38mm

Then the retractable 0.38mm Pilot G2 came along, and I was fully back in the G2 camp after ten odd years, long after everyone else moved along because the G2 was deemed a kiddish pen. I used it during my A Levels, and throughout my university life. It served me well, despite its flaws–every so often, the ball would just drop out of the pen, rendering it useless immediately.

While I was experimenting with other pens, including a retractable variant of the Signo, a Zebra Sarasa and some of Muji’s pens, I always came back to the G2.

Breaking the Monotony

The Signo DX still offers the most comprehensive colour selection amongst 0.38mm pens
The Signo DX still offers the most comprehensive colour selection amongst 0.38mm pens

As I entered the workforce, my priorities changed. My job still requires the use of pen and paper, but we’re no longer restricted to the same few colours. In fact, using black and blue did nothing more but add to the monotony of work life. Having a unique colour also helps people identify who you are.

So I looked around, and realised that the Signo DX is still the best choice for now. I’ve been writing with purple-black for a few days now, and I’ve settled on it as my unique colour. It’s dark enough to look professional, while it looks nothing like blue or black. Maroon is a close second, followed by brown-black. It flows well, is comfortable in the hand… now if only I could transplant it into a retractable body.


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