Schneider. In their words, 'the right refill for each pen'. But they're so much more than refills! So where do I start?? '…at the beginning,' I suppose, as the King said in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Well then. The beginning, I suppose, would be in Germany's Black Forest in 1938, which is when Christian Schneider started out by making screws. But at the end of WWII - following news from America of revolutionary technology in which ink could be transferred to paper via a small rolling ball - he decided to make ballpoint refills instead. It was a good move, because now, over 70 years later, Schneider make some of the best refills you can get.
During the 1950s, 'Schneider' became synonymous with quality and precision, and the company played a pioneering part in standardisation, contributing to the establishment in 1958 of nine standard refill sizes. They also branched out into manufacturing ballpoint pens as well as refills; by the end of the decade they were turning out an astonishing one billion products and practically every desk in Germany had a Schneider on it, in one form or another! 1974 saw the introduction of rollerballs and fineliners, which were followed in 1980 by highlighters. In 1991, two years after the demise of the Berlin Wall, Schneider bought the pen company Heiko, which had been East Germany's biggest producer of fountain pens. And so a more traditional writing instrument was added to Schneider's already impressive portfolio.
These days, Schneider is still family-run, with (another) Christian Schneider at the helm. They are proud of the fact that the 'Made in Germany' stamp that adorns all their products means exactly that: all development and manufacturing is carried out exclusively in Germany. And 'made in Germany' means it's about as good as you can get. What's more, they're constantly innovating: their Viscoglide technology, Liquid-Ink and hybrid tips made of stainless steel or fantastic elastic plastic (sorry, couldn't resist) all make for a smooth and pleasant ride when writing with a Schneider. It should come as no surprise, then, that they won the German Design Council's 2017 German Brand Award.
So how does all this translate to the man (or woman) in the street? Well, top of my list is that smooooothness. Regardless of whether it's a ballpoint, rollerball or fountain pen, they're so smooth you just want to keep writing, and writing, and writing, and… sorry, got a bit carried away there. They feel good in the hand, too. They're not so light that they’re likely to fly out of your fingers when you really get going, and they're not so heavy that you get cramp. They're grippy: when you finish a writing session, your fingers will be where they were when you started, rather than having slipped very close to the tip of the pen, which sometimes happens with certain writing instruments. Also, your hand will feel as spry at the end as it did at the start because 'fatigue' is not in Schneider's vocabulary. The way it feels when you write with a Schneider makes you think that they must be really expensive pens. But they're not. And that brings me to the next item on the list: they're reasonably-priced. They range from under a pound to under twenty, and the vast majority of them are well under a tenner, so you can't get much better than that.
Or can you? Well, yes you can, actually, because most of their pens are refillable (of course! Where would a company that originally made refills be without, well, refillable pens?) which makes them even better value. And that leads me on to the fact that refillable pens have less of an impact on the environment, and Schneider take their environmental responsibilities extremely seriously. They've worked very hard to reduce their carbon footprint, and use biodegradable materials wherever possible, from 80% recycled cardboard in their packaging to 85% bio-based plastic in the Line Up range. What's more, they've been certified with the world's strictest environmental regulation - the EU Eco Audit EMAS - for twenty years. That deserves a definite thumbs-up.
What else? Not only do their refills have large ink capacities for longer life, their ink is formulated in such a way as to withstand long periods of storage, so your pen will still work if it's been left at the back of a drawer for a while. Even better, many refills have been designed so that they'll fit other makes of pen, such as the Slider 755 or the Express 735, which fit all pens that take a Parker-style refill. This just keeps getting better and better.
So is that it? No - there's more. Bonkers about ballpoints? Take your pick: spend not very much and get a perfectly serviceable, refillable K15. Or shell out a little more and get a fat, chunky iD. If rollerballs are more your jam, there's a huge choice: cone-tipped and needle-tipped, some with waterproof ink and one that uses standard ink cartridges. Are you a fountain pen fan? Stylish designs, ergonomic grips equally suitable for left- and right-handers, and all of them take standard converters and standard ink cartridges.
So is there anything we don't like about them? Well that would be a no. So, as I began at the beginning, I will now, as Alice's King advised, stop.
26 January 2018