How Far Will A Ballpoint Pen Write?

This is awesome: Researchers at the University of Reading are studying a wide assortment of ballpoint pens available in the UK to determine how they perform and why.the interesting part is how far will a ballpoint pen write and it produced some surprising results.

The style of a ballpoint pen varies from the utilitarian to a fashion or style statement with an accompanying large variation in price. In this work, we look beyond the external shape and style to the key elements of the pen. We want to know how these components relate to the writing life of a pen and how they influence the use of a ballpoint pen.

University of Reading

Some preliminary results of the study, being conducted by the Centre for Advanced Microscopy and partially funded by Bic, have been posted to the university’s website.

Average Ballpoint Pen – 900M Writing Length

When reading the research into how far will a ballpoint pen write for one of the most interesting bits is that the average writing length of a ballpoint pen is 900 meters (the longest was 2,000).

For some brands the contour length was almost half this length whilst for others the contour length was 50% more than the average. The consistency of contour length was quite varied for some brands and very consistent for others.

To determine the writing lengths of the pens, researchers used machines that approximated the writing strokes, speed and downward pressure of an average person and wrote until the pens were exhausted.

The researchers also measured the length of some common writing tasks to help put those numbers in perspective. According to them, a 900 meter ballpoint pen would write:

  • 6207 signatures
  • 5114 phone numbers
  • 971 Christmas cards
  • 169 letters

BIC Cristal Ballpoint Pen- 2.5KM Writing Length

Now, what we don’t have yet is the specific brands involved in the testing and how long each specific pen lasted, although we have to assume that at least some were Bics. It would be interesting to know because Bic claims its ballpoint pens will write for 2 to 3 kilometers.

Bic Pen 2km Writing

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Selter 7 Year Pen – 4 to 5 KM Writing Length

However, BIC ballpoint pens are not the longest writing pens out there as the eco-friendly company Seltzer makes their “7-year pen”. Knowing that there is a huge amount of disposable pens that are produced every year and end up in landfill they decided to make a pen that is more sustainable.

Seltzer 7 Year Pens

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Here are the maths of how they arrive at a figure of seven years before needing to buy a refill for one of their pens.

Each pen contains enough ink to write a continuous line 4 to 5 kilometers long. Assuming that on average someone uses 1 to 2 meters of ink to write with each day for 365 days. Then the pen will last seven years.

This is pretty impressive and the refills are very reasonably priced should you need to buy one. Not only are they long-lasting but the pens have really cool designs with catchy logos.

Fisher Infinium Space Pen – Lifetime Writing Guarantee

The Seltzer 7 Year Pens are not the longest-lasting pen there is though. This title is held by the Fisher Space Pen Infinium with a lifetime writing guarantee.

Fisher Infinium Space Pens

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Yes, that’s right Fisher makes the bold claim that the “Infinium pen will write so long in fact that the average user won’t run out of ink in their lifetime. Although Fisher doesn’t publish any figures on their U.S. website they do give us some clues as to how they work this out.

They say that that a standard Fisher Space pen writes three times longer than a ballpoint pen. According to the Fisher Space Pen UK, a Space Pen will write up to 3 miles which is 4.8 kilometers. states that the Fisher Infinium Space Pen writes far longer than a standard space pen. Unfortunately, they don’t say how much longer but it is going to be substantially higher than the 4.8KM that their standard pens write.

The Infinium Space pens are a premium pen so the price tag reflects this my personal favorite is the black titanium nitride which wouldn’t look out of place in a star wars movie.

Don’t worry, we’ve contacted the university to see what more we can find out.

If you want to really find out how much writing you can do with a pen before it runs out of ink, then you can’t beat trying it out for yourself.

That s exactly what Milan Djukic did when he spent more than 6 hours writing on 11 Sheets of A3 Paper with a $1 gel pen before it ran out of ink. You can see the results of his handiwork in the following video. You have to admire his dedication and perseverance.

Editors Update it looks like the video is no longer available.

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Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

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