The Space Zebra F-7401
As my username implies, I am always looking for the ultimate pen. I’ve found many that I’ve liked and a few I’ve hated, but I’ve thus far relied on the varying pen manufacturers to build me something and then I like it or don’t.
That changes today!
I was doing some reading in pen-related message boards and on Reddit, and in passing I heard a few people mention how great the Zebra F-701 is. I was skeptical because I had mixed experience with Zebras- some of them have been real duds but some have been quite exceptional. I looked it up: it had decent reviews, and I liked the all-stainless steel body and knurled grip. So I ordered one.
As soon as I got it, I was a little disappointed. As with some other Zebra ballpoints, the body of the pen was nice but the ink left a lot to be desired. It was too fine-tipped for me. It took too much pressure to write and scratched more delicate paper. A little dejected and let down, I put it back on my shelf for a later review on Penthusiast.
But then I caught a thread somewhere where they got talking about how well the Zebras take to mods- and the F-7401 mod. Intrigued and willing to experiment on a pen I wasn’t crazy about, I read on: evidently the plastic clicker on the F-701 has a penchant for breakage, but the Zebra F-402 had a stainless steel mechanism that was significantly more durable. Since the body of the 701 with the knurled grip far beats the rubber grip of the 402, all one needed to do was to pull them apart and put them together. Simple enough.
But that left the ink…. and as nice as an F-7401 was going to look, I still wasn’t going to write with it. But then someone tried a Fisher Space Pen refill- and it fit! Having recently lost my first Space Pen, I knew I had to do this. So I ordered a Fisher refill right away, and they all arrived today.
So if you’d like to make your own F-7401 Space Zebra pen, here is my step-by-step instructions on how to do it:
The F-701 comes apart pretty easily. Unscrew the tip and take out the ink, but make sure to keep the spring. The clicker on the back should also unscrew easily and come right out. Keep all the parts though- you’re going to need them.
Step 2: Taking out the… little plastic… thingie
A paperclip works fine here. I bent one side up and poked it in the front to remove the little plastic bit that’s in the front. This is the part that keeps the ink solidly in place so it won’t click when you write. Unfortunately, the Fisher ink cartridge is just a little bit bigger than the stock Zebra ones, so you need to stretch that out.
When you pop it out it looks like this:
Step 3: Stretching the thingie
If you take the Zebra ink and push it all the way up through it, it will stretch it out well enough to be able to fit the Fisher through. Pop it back in where it was in the tip when you’re done.
Step 4: Freezing the F-402
Unscrew the tip of the F-402 and take the ink out. You’re not going to need these parts and this pen is about to get a little banged up so you can put it aside.
You may have tried to unscrew the clicker on the 402, but couldn’t. I hope you didn’t try to use pliers, because all you’re going to do is scratch the stainless steel parts that you’re working so hard on getting out of this thing. No, unfortunately it’s not that easy- Zebra seems to seal this pen with some kind of plastic or glue that keeps the threads locked very tightly into place. Trying to force it is going to just break and destroy it, so don’t.
Step 5: Burninate
Now that the steel has gotten nice and contracted from the cold, it’s time to shock it a little bit.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE WORK GLOVES OR YOU WILL BURN YOUR FINGERS! Ask me how I know.
This picture is actually a poor representation of how you do it, but the best I could do while still taking a photo. It works best if you hold the pen right in the blue part of the lighter flame and just let it sit.
What’s happening is that the metal is contracted inside and out, but when you heat up the outside so quickly it expands much faster than the interior. This gives you a brief window to easily break the seal. So as soon as those 15-20 seconds are up, quickly unscrew the clicker (using work gloves because again, it’s REALLY HOT!)
When I did this it took a little force, but I was honestly surprised that it wasn’t too difficult to pop out. Once you get it out you can actually see the sealer they use in the threads- and it’s this stuff, unfortunately, that prevents the 701 parts from fitting into the 402 and making the pen usable again.
- Put the spring around the Fisher refill
- Fit it through the tip
- Put the clicker assembly on the back
- Screw it all together
Step 7: You’re Done!
Here it is, all finished! The clicker is a little stiff but that seems to stem entirely from the plastic thingie and is getting better the more I use it. It feels great in my hand and it writes great.
Pen Modification: Success!