The beta pen.

Presenting the ultimate non-disposable writing instrument: the beta pen. With a tip made from a special alloy (that includes lead), it makes marks on paper with metal, the way people used to before graphite and pencils. In the past, artists used wire clamped in a stylus or even bare. You can try that technique today – I know I will, when I find the time.

The beta pen looks like a fancy pencil. It’s heavy. I chose the black finish. @dowdyism featured the pocket version on his blog and on Flickr.


It comes with an explanatory leaflet. I share it with you because I am lazy and do not wish to paraphrase.


It’s not just a novelty item to whip out at dull meetings.


Writing with metal isn’t like writing with graphite. What it feels like is dry-writing with an extra-fine nib. It’s toothy but not irritatingly so. The strokes don’t get too dark, even when layered. When I was taking a shot of my first experiment with the beta pen and watercolor, I noticed that the metal marks caught the light and almost seemed to sparkle.


So I decided to take a shot of metalpoint side-by-side with graphite. Held away from the light, the two are difficult to tell apart.


I see the sparkles when I hold the paper at another angle.


On a yellow Post-It the sheen was even more obvious.


I don’t think it will replace a regular pencil (for one, it’s not erasable). There are also those who prefer darker marks, like the ones made by 2B lead, and this is closer to an HB or even an H. I like the weight of history the beta pen carries, for all its modern styling. I’ll keep it.