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Contractor Tool Space Pen

The Fisher Space Pen is well known for its ability to write in zero-g environments as well underwater and on nearly any surface.  But Fisher also offers a pressurized pen with the handyman in mind: the Multi-Purpose Contractor Tool Space Pen.  It’s a rugged multitasker that does a lot more than that pencil nub you carry ‘round in your pocket.

As with all of Fisher’s “space pens,” its most impressive feature is the gas-charged pen cartridge which provides a constant flow of ink to its tungsten carbide writing ball.  It doesn’t even use normal ink, instead containing “thixotropic ink” which has a consistency similar to that of thick rubber cement.  The shearing action between the ink and writing ball briefly liquefies the ink allowing it to adhere to hard-to-write-on surfaces like metal and plastic — or even wet surfaces.

You can remove the pen from its tough ABS plastic case, but the case is useful, too: it features handy level and plumb vials, reference angle and measurement marks, and a magnetic base that keeps it from rolling away.

Street pricing starts at a very reasonable $25.00.

Contractor Tool Space Pen [Fisher Space Pen]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This]


14 Responses to A Space Pen for the Handyman

  1. nrChris says:

    This reminds me of a story that I always get a kick out of–NASA spent a million dollars developing a pen that would write in zero gravity. Russians used a pencil. Politics aside, and without knowing if there is any truth to that statement–I think it is a telling missive on the fact that there is typically an easier and cheaper way to achieve your goal.

  2. Zathrus says:

    The story is untrue. Additionally regular ball point pens work just fine in micro gravity (or even zero gravity) environments, because the ink relies on capillary action, not gravity, to feed ink to the ball.

    NASA (and the Russians) do use the Fisher Space Pen now, but they buy them for about $3 each. Prior to that (1967, Apollo missions) they used — you guessed it — a lead pencil.

    See numerous debunkings online for more details, if you’re that bored.

    As for this — looks exceptionally uncomfortable. And there are pens that write on just-about-anything for a whole lot less money.

  3. John Laur says:

    Well said, Zathrus. I was about to chime in with a confirmation of untruth, but I don’t think I would have put it as well.

    AFAIK the reason that you actually really do need a pressurized pen in spaceflight is twofold:

    The first and most important reason is that graphite is conductive and with lots of tiny bits of it chipping off and floating around inside your spacecraft when you use a simple pencil, you risk all kinds of things like short circuits, particularly when you are talking about reusable vehicles and long-term missions. Conductive dust is even a big problem here on Earth — Google for “Zinc whiskers” if you want some interesting reading.

    The second is that while normal pens work fine in space, they don’t last all that long. Sure, capillary action is what moves the ink around, but the same capillary action will happily move the ink the wrong way through the ink tube as easily as it will move it the right way in the absence of any counteracting force. Ever left a cheap ballpoint upside down for a few months? How are you going to find a pen that writes when your replacement is $400 million away?

  4. Zathrus says:

    John, regarding normal ball point pens in space — I’d guess they work just fine since the Russians apparently use them extensively, as did this one astronaut for a week in space: http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/duque_soyuz_diary.html

    Note that, in a microgravity environment, there’s nothing that’s going to cause the ink to flow out of the pen if held “upside down”; capillary action will win every time.

    The concerns over graphite, however, are very true.

  5. jeff says:

    Um, I just tried writing sideways with a couple different pens and it worked for a little bit and then they stopped writing. I did it with an expensive metal pen and also a normal cheap bic pen. Both stopped writing after a few scribbles while oriented horizontally. Click my name for a picture. So gravity keeps a pen from writing on earth but capillary action works just fine in space?

  6. Fred says:

    OK, now we need to organize Toolmongers in Space and maybe a field trip to test some tools in space.

  7. JaFi says:

    The other aspect to the Russian pencil story is – it’s not a good solution. Thinks float in microgravity. Which means that any broken pencil lead floats around and might lodge somewhere it can do damage or stop something from functioning properly. NASA wanted pens that would work in micro-gravity environments in order to avoid the floating detritus issue.

    Nice apocryphal story about design, but misses the point (sic) entirely:-)

  8. PutnamEco says:

    Boy, I don’t think I would want to walk around with that thing behind my ear!

  9. Mike says:

    IM a contractor and i use a Fisher Bullet space pen. I love it It compact easy to clean reliable and indestructable. Its always on me. I also have a rite in the rain notebook in my pocket. at all times. You can get cheaper plastic pressurized pens too now if your the type who loses pens too fast. I also carry a retractable sharpie on me at work. I replaced the medium cartridge in my space pen with a fine since their medium is too big for my tastes.

  10. F451 says:

    I roll with Mike on this one. I have, with no exaggeration, about twenty or so Fisher Bullets in various places of my vehicles, house, checkbook, and I assure my wife carries one in her purse, and computer bag. I also own some very expensive pens (some well over $1,000), but the Fisher is without a doubt the most reliable—bar none. I always have a Montblanc, or two, in my suit pocket and attache, but I still prefer the Fisher Bullet that is always tucked away ready to use.

  11. Zathrus says:

    jeff, yes, for those of us on the ground you cannot write upside down (or even at a slight upward incline) for very long because gravity is vastly stronger than the capillary action on a standard ball point pen. In space, that’s not an issue (and no, I have no idea at exactly what gravity point it would change, nor do I really care).

    And again, NASA did not pay for the design of the Fisher Space Pen. And it wasn’t until several years after it was completed that it was even used on a spaceflight.

  12. Timothy says:

    Hi Everybody,

    I work in the Sales and Marketing Department here at Fisher Space Pen. One of our code jockeys discovered this site, and I’ve enjoyed reading the comments. Naturally, I especially liked what Mike and F451 had to say; it’s always nice to read unsolicited endorsements – thanks!

    Just as a means of explanation. the Contractor Tool Space Pen® isn’t meant to be held in a typical handwriting position; it can be “grabbed” to mark lines and such. Need to hold it in a conventional manner? No problem – the pen barrel portion pulls right out.

    A couple of other points: The Space Pen was invented in ’65, at no cost to the government, and after 18 months of testing by NASA, was issued to astronauts on Apollo 7. We make not only the pressurized cartridge, but we make our own ink and pen ball points, too. So, while there are a couple of other companies out there who make a pressurized pen, well, suffice it to say we’re different. And, Jeff, when you’re ready to take the pressurized plunge, may I suggest you investigate the trekker? It’s our newest Space Pen and fits right on your keychain – doesn’t matter that it hangs upside down, it’s pressurized!

    Okay, I’m starting to sound like a commercial, and I was going to try to avoid that. Thanks everybody, for an interesting read!

  13. Eric Dykstra says:

    Hey Tim!

    Thanks for dropping by. I love the whole line of space pens.

    I hope you don’t mind but here’s a request. I’d really like to see a one piece Space Pen with an integral carabiner or a sturdy loop built in for putting on a chain or the like. I love my flat black bullet but i always worry about losing the cap or the clip. I’d love something a little bigger that i can just clip to my belt loop or key chain and not have to worry about.

    thanks again!

  14. adam says:

    hi, i am looking for a stihl chainsaw pen , i had one in the mid 1970s and it was very unique. and i would like to purchase another one. if you know, have one or a pictice let me know thanks again, adam smith

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