Editor’s Note: This post is an updated version of the post titled “Solutions for Leaking Sakura Micron Pens and Other Damage” that was published on The Pensive Penner on September 20, 2016. This version addresses a number of updates recommended by the advisor for this project including a clearer preview of the direction the post is headed in and more imagery to help understand the issues with some of the pens.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably like me and you love your pens. If you like your pens, there’s a good chance that you use them a fair amount, and that use might not always be on par with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Manufacturer’s recommendations you might ask? That’s right, some pen companies specify how exactly you should be using their products.
One of my favorite brands, Sakura, the company behind Pigma Micron pens, says, “Microns are designed to be used at a 90 degree angle,” because they are a cheap, disposable alternative to more expensive high-end pens. While they do retail for around $3.00, that small price can add up, especially when they’re not used in accordance with the exact recommendations.
This post will examine what exactly goes wrong with Sakura’s Pigma Micron pens when the recommendations aren’t explicitly followed, some alternative pen solutions, and a nifty way to use Pigma Micron pens while following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
I first ran into a problem with my Pigma Micron pens when I brought them across the country with me in early 2016. Upon my arrival, I found that several of my pens were leaking ink everywhere, making them nearly impossible to use. Wiping up the ink was only a temporary solution as the flow continued no matter what I tried.
Investigations on many other pen review websites, as well as Sakura’s, revealed that leaking Pigma Micron pens is an existing issue for many consumers. The Sakura website says the following in response to the question “Why is my Pigma Micron pen leaking?”
“Based on photos we’ve seen and descriptions we’ve heard regarding a leaking Pigma Micron pen, the source is the air vent collar located just below the silver tip of the pen. Under normal use, the air flows into the barrel through the vent area. The equalized pressure allows the ink to flow through the microscopic nib structure via capillary action. However, when the pen is unconsciously waved, tapped or spun in your hand while capped, the centrifugal force can cause the ink to come out of the air vent, which is the path of least resistance. Most people are unaware that they have used the pen as an outlet for nervous energy. We’ve seen people use their pen as a drum stick, wave it in their hand or use it as a pointer while talking, tap the pen on their desk while on the phone, unconsciously spin it in their hand, and swing it in their purses and backpacks. Centrifugal force can also be applied to the pen during shipping…” (more here).
If the above was a little too much text, it says that any excessive force can cause a leak in the pen coming from the air vent. This force can be from something as simple as rolling the pen in your fingers as you use it to waving it as a drumstick to the shipping of the pens (excuse me?).
The solution that Sakura gives is to wipe the ink clean from both the pen and the cap, upon which the pen should continue to work fine. Of my many Pigma Micron pens that have leaked, wiping them clean has done nothing, so I took things into my own hands.
Back in June I sent an email to Sakura customer service and they told me that I could “carefully ship” my defective pens to them and they would inspect them and award replacements. They even promised to throw in a few extras to cover my shipping expenses (wow!). Being the lazy penthusiast (credits to a friend) that I am, I still haven’t gotten around to taking Sakura up on their offer.
Instead of mailing my pens in for replacement, I began searching for new options. While I still stand by Sakura and the Pigma Micron pen (especially with their excellent customer service), below are a few options for those of you looking for a new pen.
The Graphik Line Maker is an excellent and cheap alternative to Pigma Microns from the Derwent Pencil Company, retailing at about $3.00 a pen. While only available in three shades (black, grey, and sepia), the Line Maker is a sophisticated technical pen with nibs very similar to those of Pigma Micron pens.
A slightly less affordable yet higher quality pen is the Copic Multiliner SPwhich retails at about $10 a pen. The ink cartridges are replaceable for only a few dollars, making the light, metal casing of the pen a valuable accessory. The Multiliner SP writes a little more smoothly than the Pigma Micron and has excellent ink flow.
A third option can be found in the Superior Micro-Line pen which retails at under $3.00. While available in fewer nib sizes than the other pens mentioned, it offers excellent control and strong quality.
Each of the three solution pens mentioned above all share on distinct feature that Pigma Micron pens lack, no air filter. Sakura admits that the air filter is the cause of their leaking pens, something that becomes a non-issue with the other three options, as seen below.
Despite finding suitable alternatives, I was determined to make my Pigma Micron pens work. With the advice from the FAQ section on the Sakura website, I decided that the only way to use their pens was to keep them at the aforementioned 90 degree angle and to not apply more force than the pen does on its own to the paper (a tip also mentioned in the FAQ section). Doing this was a challenge, but I eventually found a foolproof solution that only takes a little effort on the user’s end.
First, I obtained a clothespin and vigorously taped it to the edge of a table. Next, I inserted my desired Pigma Micron pen into the opening with the cap off and nib facing down. As seen in the picture at right, the setup is fairly simple and very doable.
Once setup, the application of the new clothespin/pen combo, the “clothespen,” is all that is left. To use the clothespen, I simply took my notebook in both hands, held it against the downward-facing nib of the pen, and applied enough pressure to the nib from the paper to produce writing. See the below GIF if you need any additional clarification.
If you have any questions about my recommendations of Pigma Micron pen replacements, or how to properly use the clothespen, please feel free to comment here, or reach out to me on Twitter, @pensivepenner, or Instagram, @thepensivepenner. My Pinterest board can also be found under ThePensivePenner.