Rotring Core: a pen review.

The Rotring Core occupies a hallowed spot near the top of the list of the most hideous fountain pens of all time.

This pen could go head-to-head with the Montegrappa Chaos and honestly, be reduced to a cinder. Chaos is way worse.

But the Rotring is different. It’s not an attempt at over-the-top ostentation and macho imagery. It looks like a battle pen from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It looks like a pen the guys from Kraftwerk would glance at and look away from without a thought.

It looks like a pen you’d find under the seat of a Dodge Neon.

It looks like the pen Pee Wee Herman’s robot would use to write a child-support check one minute, and sign autographs with the next.

It looks like a pen you’d find in a spaceship from an Australian’s nightmare.

I got this one from An Tran at the 2018 DC pen show. It was in a jumbled pile of mostly junk pens. I think I gave An $40 for it; I’m sure he made out OK on the deal.

According to this place, the Core debuted in the year 2000, a year in which I owned just a few pens, my first Waterman and whatever Tim Hofmann- emblazoned Pilot Varsities I had left from high school.

I got my first Core in 02 or 03, and I don’t remember where it came from. I don’t remember thinking it was cool or ugly, but of course it was both.

The Core has an interesting ergonomic grip that guides you to hold the thing very low, and I don’t mean close to the nib. I mean that your fingers seem to grasp the pen low on the section. Whereas on most pens, the nib is a tad lower than your fingers when you look at it from the side, thus:

Well, check out the grip section and nib position of the Core. When you grasp it, the nib is actually level with or a touch higher than where your fingers rest on the pen. It’s incredibly strange, but not at all uncomfortable.

So that’s out of the way. Let’s examine some of the other bizarre design touches the Core has to offer.

The cap alone is home to some serious strangeness. It’s full of textural, graphic and structural strangeness. It’s made primarily of a ribbed plastic that matches the ink window housing. The Rotring logo is debossed into the ribs. There’s a rubber coating that wraps all the way around the bottom and top of the cap, with four scalloped protrusions on each side in between, encroaching menacingly on the aforementioned ribbed plastic. There are two humps that rise to meet the clip, which is a very stiff bent wire affair that’s bolted to the top of the cap with a serious looking hex bolt. Between the tightly-tensioned clip and the grippy rubber coating, you’d better be careful what you clip this thing to, cause you may not get it off.

I suspect if you had an olympic-style clip strength competition the Core would absolutely medal if it didn’t run away with the gold. This clip is fookin’ serious.

Am I done talking about the cap? No. There are graphics on the rubber part, they look like spaceship graphics. I don’t know what they mean, but I do not believe this is cause for panic. Calm down.

Let’s not forget perhaps the strangest feature of the Core, which only pops into view when you’re taking the section out of the barrel to change the cartridge or hide the microfilm.

These orange-colored fin things pop out. Then they get pressed back in when you replace the section. I believe they are there to hold the cartridge in place. This will no doubt turn out to be useful when subjected to the unnatural G forces prevalent during space travel. Even if you black out getting a little too close to Jupiter as you slingshot your way out of the solar system, the Rotring Core will maintain its grasp on the ink cartridge long after the ink boils away in the endless vacuum of space.

trash photo. I’ll replace it later.

A quick note about the nib and feed. The nib looks similar in size to a #6 nib, at least the part that protrudes from the section. The shape of the nib remindes me of the dome of a Mosque or the front pert of a zeppelin. The sides, or wings, of the nib fold down over the sides of the feed. The feed is radically ribbed.

Garbage Photo. Replace.

This review is dragging on, I agree, but there’s still more to talk about. The ink windows. These resemble a series of portholes more than any kind of terrestrial ink window you may see elsewhere. They’re not particularly useful for determining the actual ink level, as they don’t show much except the end of a short international cartridge. The ink window consists of an inset plastic piece, made of contrasting plastic, scalloped, with four inset portholes. Behind this piece is a piece of clear plastic. There are two of these things, on opposite sides of the pen. The clear plastic is probably a sleeve on the interior of the pen.

I’ve got to stop. If you’re still reading you might want to keep an eye out for one of these. It’s a bizarre piece of fountain pen history, and a relic from a future that isn’t coming.

I Like:

  • the utterly bizarre aesthetic
  • it does a good job writing also

I Don’t Care For

  • the screenprinted graphics wear away with use

Bang for the buck: inconsequential

Special out of the box: Ugly out of the box for sure.

Looks: like something from a future we sheared off from and thus will never see.

Writes: indeed.


  1. Linda Coble on March 15, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    I think I have seen this pen on one of Randy’s favorite tv programs, ‘Ancient Aliens’! It could be much older than you think and perhaps made of materials not available on the planet earth.

  2. Martin on December 26, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Shame they are not manufacturing them anymore. Great pen, own two of those (and thinking about buying another one on eBay as a spare).

    • KY on March 18, 2021 at 7:06 am

      I have six of them and I ain’t selling!! I sometimes clip two of them opposite each other (red ink and blue ink) like the special forces guys use magazines in films or Darth Maul’s light sabre when I am marking up documents. It allows very quick access to the two pens. The size of the two caps means you can hold them comfortably while writing with one of the pens.

      • Tim Hofmann on March 18, 2021 at 9:07 am

        nice! they really are built to last.
        ever try getting through TSA with all 6 of them?

  3. David Deep on January 9, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Great review! I just bought one on eBay that appeared to never have been inked. Mine does not have the orange cartridge-retaining tabs in the section. Are they missing, or were some Cores made without them?

    • Tim Hofmann on January 12, 2021 at 8:53 am

      I don’t know!

  4. Sailor Kenshin on January 12, 2021 at 8:38 am

    Oh, swell. I own two. Now I want one in every color.

  5. Zoltan-CT on January 19, 2021 at 6:49 am

    Pretty accurate. I do love writing with it though. tons of fun!

    • Tim Hofmann on March 18, 2021 at 9:07 am

      Thanks Zoltan!

  6. Greg Dee on April 24, 2023 at 2:10 am

    Hi Tim, I just came across your review looking for some info about Core and I must say it is, IMHO, the best texts ever written about it. Definitely my favourite.

    I am the guy who likes this pen a lot actually and I am finding your descriptions very entertaining and humorous, but in the same time tidely focused on the subject. It doesn’t happen too often and it is easy to make it boring. You never did.

    I just wanted to say that your review is too good to co-exist with a shabby snaps of the pen. Get them done let all looks finished. And once again, congratulations! I would like to see texts like yours about the pens, more often. I know that Core is not like an ordinary pen, it shakes a sensitive human to the… Core, but…

    • Tim Hofmann on April 24, 2023 at 8:30 am

      thanks for the feedback, too bad you don’t care for my photography skills.
      Haven’t reviewed a pen in a while and I sold the Core a couple years back.
      mainly writing in blood these days.

  7. SK on April 24, 2023 at 9:21 am

    Nothing wrong with the photos at all.

Whaddya think?