Over the holidays, my husband and I finally decided to overhaul our communal workspace using the Ikea Kallax worktable hack I posted about a few months ago. The room is a medium-sized, guest bedroom that is used as an office/studio/catch-all in our small 2-bedroom house. We replaced a small wall shelf with the largest Kallax wall unit book shelf with a row of cupboard and a row of drawer units in an effort to try to clear away a bunch of small, assorted rolling cabinets. Then we replaced a thrifted oval conference table with the Kallax worktable-on-wheels which also includes several drawer units and usable storage space underneath.
The horror was what the studio looked like before. So here it is:
I always forget what a pain it is to assemble Ikea furniture but its such a sense of accomplishment once its done. And it really is quite sturdy. The key with this Kallax shelf unit was to build it in the room. I’m not sure we could have gotten it into the room assembled as its basically 6 feet square and rigid and would not have fit around the corners of our tiny hallways. So if you are planning a similar project, plan accordingly.
We still need to get a couple good, adjustable stools to use with the table but overall the workspace looks so much better. Its brighter, more organized and so much more usable.
Assembly in progress above.
See how clean and perfectly stained the table top is? Took me less than a week to get an ink stain on it.
Bob used the instructions from the Kallax hack and mitered the trim perfectly. So professional!
No, I do not have a book problem. And those drawers are not full of pens and ink. Nope. Okay, that is a stack of typewriters.
Most of my childhood memories of using pencils are dismal at best. I recall many papers looking messy as my left hand smudged across the page, even with standard-issue No. 2 pencils. As soon as I was allowed, I switched to any kind of fast-drying pen available back in the Dark Ages of the ‘70s and never looked back at pencils.
Fast-forward several decades to when I started sketching, and even then I went almost immediately to ink. It was my love for colored pencils in recent years that finally helped make graphite pencils friendly to me. In fact, now I love graphite pencils – for both writing and drawing.
I thought I’d preface my review of JetPens’ 2B Wooden Pencil Sampler with that background so you’d understand why I chose the 2B set. JetPens offers pencil samplers in a range of firmer grades that might be better suited to writing, but I tend to favor softer grades for drawing as well as writing. I was hoping 2B would be a grade that could serve as an all-purpose pencil.
Before I get to the writing experience, a couple things are worth noting about appearance and material quality. Right about the time I had gotten this sampler, I was reading David Rees’ partly practical, mostly satirical book, How to Sharpen Pencils, to improve my hand sharpening technique. The Staedtler Mars Lumographwas the only pencil in the pack that came pre-sharpened, so I was delighted to have four fresh pencils to refine my sharpening skills. The wood casing on both the Uni Mitsubishi 9800 and Uni Mitsubishi 9000felt harder to cut through than either the Tombow Mono 100 or the Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni. At times the wood splintered. What’s more, the exposed graphite cores in the 9800 and 9000 broke when I cut away a bit too much of the wood, so I had to start over. The wood casing on the Hi-Uni was noticeably easier to carve, never splintered, and the core remains unbroken even with the same exposure. I’m not sure if this experience says more about my hand-sharpening skills or about the wood or core quality, but since pencil reviewers rarely mention hard sharpening, I thought I would.
All five pencils are attractive and smoothly lacquered. All but the 9800 have painted caps (I tend to look askance at pencils with exposed ends; they look unfinished to me). The Hi-Uni has a pretty divoted yellow dot in its cap. I give bonus points, though, to the Mono 100, which has a distinctive white band wrapping over the cap – an elegant touch that makes it the most visually appealing of the five. (A practical reason why I appreciate distinctive caps is that I can identify them quickly in my bag, where all my sketching and writing implements stand upright, point down.)
My scribbling, writing and erasing tests and sketches were all done in a Baron Fig notebook, which has just the right amount of tooth for my liking. All five pencils in the 2B sampler are pleasant writers. The Staedtler Mars Lumograph feels the roughest of the five, especially when I shade large areas, but when writing, the roughness gives way to a nice feedback.
The Tombow Mono 100, Uni Mitsubishi 9800 and Uni Mitsubishi 9000 all feel equally smooth when writing. In fact, blindfolded, I’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart. Since I’m familiar with sketching and writing with the Palomino Blackwing, I used it as sort of a “control” factor so I’d have something to compare with. While not quite as soft as the Blackwing (which seems closer to a 3B or 4B), the Hi-Uni and the 9800 feel just as smooth.
Although I don’t usually use an eraser when drawing (or even when writing – I simply strikeout, an old habit from my years of ink use, I guess!), I put a Tombow Mono Zero eraser through my scribble tests to see how they erased. They all erased cleanly, though the four Japanese pencils erased slightly more completely than the Staedtler.
Despite the mild smudging I experienced (unavoidable in the lefty world), I decided that 2B is not too soft for writing in my planner and jotting notes (though I probably wouldn’t choose it for longer drafts). The softness just feels pleasant gliding across the page.
Incidentally, I was a fan of the Tombow Mono (not Mono 100) line and have almost all the grades, so just for fun, I compared a 2B Mono to the 2B Mono 100. I closed my eyes to see if I could tell the difference. Nada. (Maybe their cores are identical and only the branding is different?)
As mentioned previously, the Mars Lumograph has a bit of scratchiness that I notice when writing and when using the side to shade large areas. Although the Mono 100 appears just slightly darker and the Hi-Uni is slightly lighter, the four Japanese pencils are equally smooth as silk in just about any sketching application – the point and the side. In softness, however, the Hi-Uni has them all beat. Not by much, but there’s a certain velvetiness to it that makes it nearly silent. (Nothing annoys me more than a noisy, scratchy pencil when I’m trying to sketch stealthily in public!)
In all my sketches shown here, I started with one of the 2Bs and tried to get as wide a range of tones as possible with only that pencil. I found that with a 2B alone, I couldn’t get quite as dark a tone as I wanted for shadows, so I tended to reach for a softer grade to put in the final dark touches. In other words, a 2B is not a standalone grade for my sketching needs. (I wish JetPens had a 4B sampler – I’d have fun testing that to find the ideal standalone sketching pencil.)
Although I’d be happy with any of the five 2Bs for writing, my top pick for both writing and drawing is the Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni. It seems to skim effortlessly and nearly silently across the page; I feel like I could write or sketch with it all day. Since writing this review, I’ve treated myself to the full Hi-Uni range, and the line has surpassed the Tombow Mono as my all-around favorite.
It’s worth noting that my fave is one of the most expensive in the sampler – nearly three times the cost of the 9800. (Only the Mono 100 with its fancy banded cap costs a dime more.) So maybe, I have expensive pencil tastes. But here’s how I look at it: Ranging from $0.85 to $2.60, the sampler pencils average out to $1.70 each. In my mind, the sampler is an excellent value. I got to compare five pencils at a price, per pencil, that’s a lot lower than the two pricey ones – and the cheaper ones turned out to be great pencils, too.
She showed me her large wall calendar $26 and I said it would be an awesome piece to have here on The Desk and then time got away from us and here it is the end of January! So, we decided, since not everyone is as prompt about getting organized for the new year, we could host a giveaway so the next 11 months could be beautiful and organized.
Maiko has kindly offered to giveaway one of her 2017 Wall Calendars. It is a simple, functional calendar that features large dates that can be read from across the room.
Full moon stickers and a large bulldog clips are optional. Calendar starts from October 2016 to December 2017.
• Size 11×17
• Large dates visible from afar (Date height 1.37″)
• Plenty of space underneath the dates to jot down important dates ( 1 inch height)
• Ships flat
• Printed on 70lb text weight paper – same as copy paper weight
• 100% post consumer waste paper
• The paper color is slightly off white
• 15 full moon stickers (full moon dates included)
• 3 inch chrome bull dog clip
If you don’t want to wait to see if you win the giveaway, you can order one today. I did because I still have a sorry-looking free calendar hanging on my wall from LAST YEAR and I needed to remedy the situation ASAP. While you’re there, you might want to consider one of her amazing clocks. I’m partial to the Cuckoo Style A because it has squirrels on it. One of the most popular items is the DIY Western Auto sign which is a beacon on our downtown skyline that Decoylab turned into a desktop 3D bamboo kit you can assemble, paint and build yourself.
TO ENTER: Leave a message in the comments and tell me what New Year’s task you’ve procrastinated or if you are hyper-organized what Decoy Lab item you’re dreaming of owning. One entry per person.
FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Saturday, January 28, 2017. All entries must be submitted at wellappointeddesk.com, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Saturday. Winner will be selected by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. If winner does not respond within 10 days, I will draw a new giveaway winner. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money. US Residents Only.
The Pilot Custom 912 Waverly ($224) is a most unusual fountain pen. And its not unsual for its exterior. From the outside, it looks like what the Brits might call a “saloon car”. Not in a bad way. It’s an upscale 4-door black sedan in the nicest possible way but no one would look at the outside of this pen and ogle. It’s understated and refined. It has simple silver hardware withe very little ornamentation or flash. It’s not fancy.
When the cap is removed, you see beautiful etching on the 14K gold nib, a razor fine point and the letter “WA” etched on the nib. “WA”?
When turned to the side is when you see, this is not ordinary nib. Did it get dropped? Nope. It is meant to be bent at an angle like this with the tip flared up ever so slightly. According to Pen-Info.jp, it is designed this way to allow any writer to write at any angle. For a left-hander, this means that some of the issues that can sometimes confound a left handed writer with softer gold nibs, extra fine nibs or writing overhanded or at odd angles, can be avoided with a nib like this.
So, do my writing results prove it? Indeed they do. I have been writing consistently with the 912 since before Christmas (Merry Christmas to me!) and the pen performs flawlessly. My previous experience with a Pilot Custom 74 F was not as successful partially because of the softness of the nib and the angle of my writing. This is clearly a vast improvement. Do I wish I could put the beautiful nib in a sports car package? Yes. But I’m okay driving around in the saloon car sometimes too.
I spent two days this week marbling paper for a project for work so I am in the “marbling zone”. It’s definitely a trend right now and fountain pens have always utilized marbled resins and plastics so this was an easy crossover. Hope you enjoy your own Marble Madness this week.
Genuine Ingenuity Sleeveless Top in Indigo Swirl $49.99 (via Modcloth)
Franklin-Christoph Model 03 Anderson Pens Special Edition $165 (via Anderson Pens)
Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun Ink (Old Man Winter) – 15 ml Bottle $13 (via JetPens)
Kaweco AL Sport fountain pen in Grey / Gunmetal aluminum € 65 (via Fontoplumo)
Hand marbled original artwork marble case – iPhone 7 PLUS – Aqueous Orbit in Silver & Turquoise – by Roo Bannister $57.14 (via Marbleous Roo on Etsy)
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