Posts Tagged ‘pencil’

Ka-Week-o! Review: Kaweco Skyline Clutch Pencil 3.2mm in Mint

Kaweco Clutch Pencil 3.2mm Mint

Everyone knows how much I love my Kaweco Skyline Fountain Pen in Mint so you can imagine how tickled I was to see the 3.2mm clutch pencil in the same gorgeous mint color. I’ve got a matched set!

Kaweco Clutch Pencil 3.2mm Mint

This is my first experience with a large diameter graphite pencil and it was a pleasant surprise. I was worried that the point would wear down too quickly but it stayed sharp through a page or more of writing. I will definitely need to look into a graphite point sharpener because this pencil will definitely be getting a lot of use.

The wide lead was smooth and easy-to-use. I think it will be great for writing and sketching.

Kaweco Clutch Pencil 3.2mm Mint

These two beauties snuggle up beautifully together in my leather soft case. Now I’m thinking all my Kaweco pens need pencil pals.


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Kaweco for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Faber-Castell Neon Pink Pencil Set

Faber Castell Neon Pink Pencil Set

The last time I was in my local pen shop, The Pen Place, I saw this box set of Faber-Castell Grip pens in neon pink sitting on a high shelf. I made the clerks pull the box down for me and I insisted on taking them home. The box set included three neon pink triangular-shaped Grip pencils with laser foil dots along the body, a pink fold-out sharpener and a matching pink fold out wedge eraser. I paid $30 for the set which was probably more than I should have but the Faber-Castell Grip pencils are some of my favorite pencils ever so I had to try this version.

I did find a two-pencil set on Amazon in pink and black for about $15 with the sharpener and eraser. I also found a set that looked more purple-y than pink but did include the three pencils for about the same price on Amazon as well.

Faber Castell Neon Pink Pencil Set

In my testing of this version of the Grip pencils, I realized that I much prefer an eraserless pencil. Sorry, Palomino Blackwings! I love the look of those wedge erasers but I find myself reaching for the pencils without the eraser caps more than the ones with the erasers.

Faber Castell Neon Pink Pencil Set writing sample

The pencils aren’t labelled with the hardness but I’d guess these were a HB or #2. Because the dots on the grip area of theses pencils are actually hot foil, they are slightly debossed compared to the raised rubber dots on the standard grey Grip 2001 pencils. This makes them a little less comfortable out of the box. I do like the triangular shape a lot and I have a feeling that, with use, the grip area will feel a little smoother and I’ll notice the foil debossed areas a little less. That said, I’m more inclined to stock up on the classic 2001 pencils with the grippy rubber dots, even though they melt in the heat. The pink pencils can be my “extreme weather” 2001s.

The sharpener worked well and created a short but sharp point. The blade was not labelled but since Faber-Castell is a German company, I wouldn’t be surprised if the blade was from KUM. I didn’t test to see if I could swap it out or not but there was a screw holding the blade in place so I hold out hope that it can be replaced when needed. The closing mechanism covers the sharpener hole so that shavings and graphite chips are less likely to coat the inside of my bag. It won’t hold a ton of shavings but its suitable for on-the-go sharpening needs.

The eraser is a great wedge shape that folds into the plastic carrier to keep it from picking up dirt and lint. The wedge shape also gives it a sharp edge that’s easy to use on a single word or line of writing. I’m sure it will blunt over time but this is definitely one of the most pleasing travel eraser configurations I’ve come across. It works pretty well. The Staedtler Mars Plastic still outperformed it but it is more the adequate for most purposes and the shape and plastic travel cover help make it an eraser that will get a lot of use in my collection.

This unique neon set makes me smile everytime I pick them up.  I love Faber-Castell Grip pencils so I’m glad I bought this. I’d recommend seeking out the less expensive sets which are probably a better value though.

From The Archive: Retro 51 Tornado Mini Crossword Pencil

Mini Retro 51 crossword pencil

The Retro 51 Tornado Mini Crossword pencil is a 1.15mm pencil lead twist in a miniature version of the larger classic pencil.

As a crossword puzzle (and other paper puzzles) enthusiast, I received this pencil as a gift so I am not sure how expensive it was originally and I was unable to find a price for this particular model but plain Retro 51 mini pencils pop up on Amazon for around $20.

Mini Retro 51 pencil size comparison

Compared to a full-sized Retro 51, the mini is tiny! Even the Kaweco Sport and Liliput look large next to it. That said, this is not a pencil I would use for long writing sessions because the clip did end up digging into my hand. However, for twiddling while filling in a crossword puzzle at lunch or jotting quick notes like a phone number or grocery list, it’s totally fine for me. But its just at 3.5″ long — without the eraser which I lost sometime ago.

Mini Retro 51 crossword pencil writing sample

The thick lead is surprisingly easy to write with and its added width makes it unliekly to break easily.  Because of its small size, it often gets tucked into a pocket in my purse so I always have a pencil with me should the need arise.

I like using this pencil enough to strongly consider getting a full-sized Retro 51 Tornado pencil. I could even get a matching Crossword pencil in the full sized model for $33 (Also available in Sudoku or Stealth Black).

Japanese Pencil Comparison: Mitsubishi and Tombow

Japanese pencil comparison: Mitsubishi, Hi-Uni and Tombow

I recently purchased several of the more popular Japanese wood-cased pencils from Jet Pens. I got the Tombow 2558 ($1 each) and three Misubishis: the 9800 ($0.70 each), the Hi-Uni ($2.35 each) and the 9850 ($1 each). All of the pencils are the standard HB/#2 hardness.

Japanese pencils end caps

As far as I can tell, the only difference between the Mistubishi 9800 and 9850 is the color and the 9850 has an eraser top while the 9800 has an unfinished end.

Japanese pencil comparison points

This means that the Tombow 2558 and the Mistubishi 9850 are basically a head-to-head comparison with the same price point, metal ferrule and eraser top. The 9850 is finished in a burgundy, deep red lacquer and stamped in silver with coordinating silver ferrule and white eraser. On one side it is stamped “For Office Use”. The Tombow 2558 is painted in a bright yellow gold, comparable to classic American Ticonderogas. The ferrule is a bronze color rather than silver but it is topped with a classic pink rubber eraser. The 2558 is stamped on “For General Writing”.

Despite the fact that the Mitsubishi 9800 and 9850 should essentially be the same pencil at the core, the 9850 seemed smoother on paper than the 9800. Maybe it was just my perception. I like the looks and I do like pencils without eraser caps because I almost never use them.

Japanese pencil comparison writing sample

All four pencils wrote really well. They performed light years better than the cheap, no-name pencils found at drugstores or big box stores. When compared to each other though, I found the Mitsubishi 9850 to be my favorite. It just wrote silky smooth, the finish on the pencil was good and it looked good. The Tombow 2558 was an equally good performer and had the classic yellow pencil looks to recommend it. These two performed so similarly it was hard to say if one was better than the other beyond a preference for red over yellow pencils.

I was least impressed with the Hi-Uni if only that it performed quite similarly to the other three pencils but at twice the price. I realize I’m splitting hairs when comparing $1 versus $2.35 pencils. Yes, the lacquer finish is smoother and the end is dipped in black for a smooth cap. There are other design details in the finishing of the Hi-Uni like the white dot, gold foil ring and extra glossy finish, but in actual writing performance, the Hi-Uni was quite similar to the other pencils though maybe a little bit harder and therefore a little lighter on paper.

Japanese pencil comparison writing sample

I forgot to test the erasers but since only two of the four have erasers it is an unfair comparison, right? Besides, I use a hand eraser like a Black Pearl or a Staedtler Mars anyway.

All-in-all, the Japanese sure know how to make good pencils. There really isn’t a dud in this bunch but rather just personal preferences. They all sharpened easily and cleanly with my Lefty hand sharpener and retained their points well (the photos were taken after doing the writing tests).


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Erasable Podcast Sticker

Erasable podcast sticker

Do you have your Erasable podcast sticker proudly displayed? I do.Thanks to Andy for sending me a couple before they sold out. If you want one, put in a request, I’m sure they’ll do a reprint soon.

I guess it’s about time that I made some Well-Appointed Desk stickers. Would anyone be interested?

Pencil Tourism: Crystal Bridges Edition

Crystal Bridges Museum Paintbrush Pencil

My husband drove down to Bentonville, AR to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum and meet up with his parents. The museum focuses on American art and was founded by ALice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, founder of the Wal-Mart empire. The museum is actually pretty amazing. It sits on 120 acres with lots of nature trails as well as the museum which is housed in a building designed by Moshe Safdie. Not at all what you’d expect to find in Arkansas, is it?

Crystal Bridges Museum Paintbrush Pencil

So, how does this relate to the blog? Because I acquired a unique pencil for my Pencil Tourism collection. Its a paintbrush mounted onto a round pencil. So I can sharpen the other end and have a paint brush and a pencil. Pretty cool, huh?

Crystal Bridges Museum Paintbrush Pencil

Rite in the Rain #99 Mechanical Pencil

Rite in the Rain just launched its own line of super-durable mechanical pencils. The resin barrel holds sturdy, durable 1.1mm lead and capped with a gray rubber eraser.  The barrel can hold an extra 6 leads so you’ll always have graphite when you need it.  Each pencil ships with a couple extra erasers as well so you won’t run out. Additional leads in red or graphite are available for purchase.

The Rite in the Rain pencils look like Autopoint All-American jumbo pencils with custom branding which is a good fit with the Rite in the Rain brand. They are both classic and known for their quality so its a good fit. If you’d prefer this style pencil without he branding, you can order directly from Autopoint.

$10.95 each in black or yellow resin, red barrel ships with red lead.

Rite in the Rain 1.1mm mechanical pencil

Review: Perfetto Pencil

Perfetto Pencil box lid

When I first saw the Perfetto Pencils, I was smitten. The whole project was designed by well-known designer Louise Fili. I’ve been familiar with her design work for years so I would, of course, be interested in any pencil project she might create. The box alone is a work of art. The packaging is beautiful and sturdy and vintage-inspired.

Perfetto Pencil Box

Inside the box is a dozen, beautiful two-colored pencils. It’s graphite on one end and red colored lead on the other. The pencils come pre-sharpened with a decent point, usable for those too impatient to sharpen it properly.

Perfetto Pencil

The pencils inside are just as stunning. The pencils are round and the paint is glossy and even. The silver foil is stamped perfectly and centered evenly.

Perfetto Pencil writing sample

The best news is that they write really well. The graphite is smooth and dark. I’d almost compare it to a Palomino Blackwing. And the red lead is soft like a good quality, artist’s grade colored pencil.

The first pencil I pulled out must have been dropped because the red lead kept breaking. The graphite was fine though. I pulled out another pencil and the red lead sharpened fine so the first must have been a fluke. I used a good quality Staedtler two-hole hand sharpener and got a good, sharp point on both ends. With the soft colored lead, I recommend sharpening with a hand sharpener rather than a desktop or electric sharpener because they’ll just eat through the pencils.

When erasing, the red lead leaves visible ghosting which is good if you want to use the pencil for grading or other indelible uses. The graphite erases cleanly with a the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser, the Cadillac of erasers.

Perfetto Pencil box notes

The whole package was produced by the Princeton Architectural Press and boxes come marked with a $13.95 retail price. According to the box, the pencils are made in Taiwan. I purchased mine through Amazon for about $11.50.

 

House Industries Official Stationery Supplies

House Industries Stationery

House Industries makes some of the most amazing fonts, typography and design. Thankfully, you can now use the same tools as the staff at House Industries uses. Sketch like Andy Cruz with a 6-pack of House Industries branded pencils in a House Industries mini journal. Use an official “House Industries Letter Sharpie” like Ken Barber. And post it all up on the wall with House Industries Carnival masking tape.

House Industries Pencils House Industries Sharpies

 

(This announcement written with tongue firmly in cheek. But I do love the guys at House Industries and who wouldn’t want one of their fabulous pencils? Or a cycling jersey?)

House Industries Alphabet Masking Tape

Neatography: Paper Good Subscription Service

Neatography Paper Goods

Neatography offers a monthly or quarterly subscription packages filled with paper, letter-writing and office goodies. I received the May kit entitled “The Good Ol’ Days” which included an assortment of pencils, a His & Hers list notepad that is perforated down the middle to split up the tasks, a Rifle Paper Co. Thank You card, Telegram-style postcards, postcard stamps, a calling card, a sharpener and a self-addressed stamped postcard to send back to Neatography letting them know if you liked the latest kit.

Its a lovely package and a great way to discover new paper goods brands and receive a lovely little pick-me-up in your mail box. A monthly package with cards and stamps is $17 per month or on a quarterly schedule, and a paper good subscription is $27 per month or on a quarterly schedule. Shipping costs for the US are included in the costs but international subscriptions require an additional shipping fee.

I like that there’s an option to receive a package every three months. I acquire a lot of other office supplies, cards and writing tools that if a package came every month, I don’t think I’d ever get a chance to use everything and it might accumulate.

I love that the kit includes some stamps so that I can immediately write out a few cards and pop them in the mail.

Neatography package unwrapped

Once I unwrapped the His & Hers notepad, I was able to see the perforation and started to really like it. There is a magnet on the back of the pad to attach to the refrigerator making it easy to make lists of tasks that each person can tackle. I’d also love one that was “groceries” on one side and “everything else” on the other since our trips to Costco, Target, and the hardware store usually happen separately from the grocery buying but its still a clever pad and will probably get a lot of use at our house.

NEatography Pencil Close-Up

The pencils in the kit were a Palomino Blackwing 602, Golden Bear #2, Ticonderoga EnviroStik #2 and a Ticonderoga Laddie #2. I look forward to trying a few of these new-to-me pencils like the Laddie and the Envirostik. More about those in the coming weeks. But, yeah! Pencils!

The apple Thank You card from Rifle Paper features a gold foil apple on the cover on soft ivory paper. Its lovely and general enough to be sent to anyone though it would be perfect to give to a teacher.

Sharpener & stamps close-up from Neatography

The sharpener is a brushed aluminum from Maped and looks like a decent little sharpener with a reomveable/replaceable blade. The postage stamps are the new hummingbird design postcard stamps that will go perfectly with the Telegram postcards from Girl of All Work. I’ve used these before and I quite like them. The paper has a bit of tooth to it but ink stands up nicely to it and the look is classic postcard/telegram.

All-in-all I think a subscription with Neatography would be a great opportunity to explore some new paper goods. Looking through the Lookbook at past offerings, each paper goods kit looks to include at least one small-press card, a notepad or other larger item (one kit included Rifle Paper Co mail stickers), some postage stamps,  and a small selection of office supplies (pencils, thumbtacks, washi tape, etc.). They value of the items seems to add up to the asking price pretty closely and includes domestic shipping so it is a good value. Everything is packaged beautifully too so it feels like a little gift.

I wrote a previous review of products in October of 2013.

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Neatography for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Eco-Essential Pen & Pencil Set

Eco-essentials Pen & Pencil Set

Felt Flex Carry Wrap is sold separately for $15

The Eco-Essential Pen and Pencil set is a beautifully packaged product. I don’t usually swoon about packaging because I mostly want to throw it away but the Eco-Essential set came in a black, paperboard box with a white paper sleeve wrap. Simple, elegant and perfect for a gift. And because the packaging is all paperboard, it can easily be recycled.

Inside the swank packaging is not only the matching pen and pencil set but two pen refills (Pilot Hi Tec C 0.5mm in black and red), an array of colored aluminum rings to personalize your pen and pencil set and end caps to swap out with the touch-sensitive tips that come pre-installed on both tools. (The felt wrap shown in the photo is not included.)

Eco-essentials Pen & Pencil Set

I love that I was able to decide which tool, if any, had the touch sensitive tip. When swapped out, there is a stylized embossed “U” on the end. There are four ring colors to choose from: green, orange, blue and red, plus the simple black that come installed.

The Eco-Essential Pen Set started its life as Kickstarter project but it is now available directly from the Now N Then shop.

Both the pen and the pencil are aluminum cap, hardware and shell with a bamboo outer casing. It makes for a very lightweight but durable tool. The pencil is a tiny bit longer than the pen due to the click mechanism at the end. Otherwise they are virtually identical so I could see using the colored rings to make it easy to recognize one from the other.

Eco-essentials Pen & Pencil Set

Once I found the rings and cap in the box, I immediately customized my set to have matching lime green rings and flat caps. I love how the bamboo looks with the green and silver. I love the looks of these! And the bamboo feels warm in the hand. Its finished to a smooth lacquered finish but not shiny. I can feel the undulation of the wood but no burrs or roughness. I just like spinning these in my hands.

Eco-essentials Pen & Pencil Set

A nice touch is the threads on the end of the tools to attach the caps. It makes for a fairly light, long tool. I don’t think even the largest hands would find this awkward. The lightness makes it easy for longer writing sessions. The only issue is that the threaded cap hides the click mechanism on the pencil. To advance the lead, you will need to remove the cap.

Alternately, when not in use, the delicate tip of the pencil mechanism is protected by the cap so it will not poke out of bag or pocket.

Eco-essentials Pen & Pencil Set

Since both the leads (0.5mm) and the pen refill can be replaced with your favorite color, width or grade, the writing tests were mostly to get a feel for the weight and balance. I found it comfortable overall.

I did notice the absence of a clip which comes in handy for me more in keeping my pens from rolling away than actually clipping to a pocket. But its such a nice feel to have a perfectly smooth, cylindrical barrel that I can see why the design was not sullied with the addition of a clip.

Customized: Well-Appointed Desk-style!

Customized: Well-Appointed Desk-style!

The pen is available in a Pilot G2-compatible size as well as the Pilot Hi-Tec C size I received. There is also a dark finish called Incognito. A pen unit with rings, flat cap, stylus and a refill is $55 in either finish or refill size. The pencil includes the rings, flat cap and stylus tip and is preloaded with leads for $50 for either finish. A pen & pencil gift set includes two sets of rings, styli, flat caps and refills for $95. I like these so much I think I’ll be ordering the G2 model as well for more refill options*. Shipping rates are super reasonable, and quick too. I got my set in less than two weeks.

Overall, I am hugely impressed with this set. I like how flexible the options are and how well thought out the development was. I know I will noodle around with the rings and caps until the end of days because I can.

(*I’m working on a giant list of Pilot Hi-Tec C- and Pilot G2-compatible refills that I should have ready soon.)

DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Spectrum Artists Show Off Their Tools (AGAIN)

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

Once again, I attended the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live event here in KC this weekend. Its a convention of fantasy and science fiction artists working in comics, fiction, storyboarding, sculpture and more. There are Q&A sessions and artists doing live demos of painting, sculpting and digital techniques. Its an amazing show with A-list artists from all over the world.

A couple years ago, a few artists were kind enough to show me the tools they use to sketch and draw. This year, I was able to talk to a few more artists about their favorite tools.

tom-kelly

Tom Kelly showed off his favorite tools to my husband. And was enthusiastic about his Uni Ball Signo Broad opaque white gel pen, the Kuretake No. 13 brush pen, and the Pentel Presto! Correction Pen as a drawing tool. He also kept an arsenal of Sakura Pigma Microns, Sharpie markers and a Pentel Graphgear 0.5 mm drafting pencil.

And he makes stuff like this:

Harley Quinn by Tom Kelly

I met Hector Casanova who is not only an illustrator and comic book artist but also an illustration professor at KCAI. We bonded over our unending love for the Sanford NoBlot pencil. I just write and doodle with my NoBlots but Hector sketches and draws with his hoarded collection. Then he adds water to create a washy blue effect on his drawings like these figure sketches he did at an event at Spectrum this year ( may be NSFW).

Hector Casanova NoBlot pencil sketches

Aren’t they amazing?

Hecotr Casanova Drawing Tools

Hector also uses a full army of Japanese brush pens. I recognize the Pentel Pocket Brush pen and the Pilot Futayaku Double-Sided Brush Pens.

And with these tools are the start of artwork like this:

Hector Casanova Headphones

Pretty amazing, huh?

Review: Dixon Tri-Conderoga Pencil

Dixon Tri-Conderoga

I’ve always been a fan of the classic Ticonderoga  pencils from Dixon. Where the Ticonderoga is a classic hexagonal wood-cased pencil, the Tri-Conderoga is a triangular pencil. The Tri-Conderoga has a rubberized coating with a matte black finish.

Dixon Tri-Conderoga

What most surprised me is that the Tri-Conderoga is wider in diameter than the regular Ticonderoga or other triangular pencils. The Faber-Castell Grip 2001 is a similar shape but smaller, more comparable to a regular hexagonal or round pencil.

Dixon Tri-Conderoga

The matte coating on the Tri-Conderoga reminds me of the finish on the WOPEX pencils. Love it or hate it but I think more and more pencil manufacturers might embrace this soft-touch finish. It feels pleasant to touch and may make writing more comfortable but I kept feeling like my hand was sliding down the pencil as I wrote.

Dixon Tri-Conderoga

I did need to use a large diameter sharpener to sharpen the Tri-Conderoga. I used the KUM “Special Diameter” sharpener which worked well. This explains why Tri-Conderoga sells the pencil in a blister pack with a sharpener because a regular diameter sharpener will not work. Of course, a pen knife or an adjustable sharpener (like the Classroom Friendly or the classic wall-mounted Boston) would work as well.

The pencil performed well in writing. The lead did not crumble or flake while I wrote and the darkness was a little on the light side on the smooth Rhodia test paper. I suspect office paper or standard notebook paper which is a bit toothier would cause the line to look a little darker and probably require more frequent sharpening.

Dixon Tri-Conderoga

Since the pencil is a bit larger than an average pencils, the eraser is also a bit larger. Its a black rubber compound eraser and it ended up working better than I had anticipated. But for ease of use, I recommend using a plastic eraser like the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser if you’ll be using any pencil.

Dixon Tri-Conderoga

I found the overall size of the Tri-Conderoga a little large for me but I can definitely see where younger folks and anyone with larger hands would find it comfortable to use. I do love the triangular shape for comfort and the lowered likelihood of rolling away when you set it down.

Thanks to RJ for sending me the Tri-Conderoga.

Review: Staedtler WOPEX Pencil Review v.2

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

When I was in Hong Kong a couple years ago, I picked up a Staedtler WOPEX pencil. The pencil I picked up did not have a ferrule or eraser on it and the paint color is a little lighter than the WOPEX pencils currently available in the US. Johnny from Pencil Revolution was kind enough to send me a couple. First, to satisfy my curiosity about any performance differences and second, because they are a lovely shade of green.

Besides being a bit brighter color (more granny smith green now), the new WOPEX pencils do not have the slight metallic flake in the paint that the older model does.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

Both versions of the WOPEX are hexagonal, with a soft-touch rubber paint, made from the composite wood material. The cool thing about the composite material is that it makes perfect sharpening roses. As mentioned by Johnny in his review, I don’t recommend using an electric sharpener since the rubbery coating can confuse the auto-stop mechanism and chew up a whole pencil. I used a relatively new KUM handheld sharpener which worked fine.

The new pencils feature a silver ferrule and a white, rubber compound eraser on the end.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

In writing, the leads seem to perform identically to the previous version. Its a smooth writer and I had no issues with the lead performance.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

In the hand, the newer WOPEX pencils are not as sticky to hold. The paint/coating feels like a lighter touch was used in applying it. Its smoother in the hand and feels more like a matte finish than a squishy rubbery coating.

Staedtler WOPEX pencil

The fact that WOPEX is Staedtler’s attempt to make a more ecologically-responsible pencil is a big plus to using the WOPEX. Oddly I prefer the feel of the earlier rubber-y WOPEX but it might also be that as lovely as the new ferrule and eraser make the WOPEX look, I don’t tend to use them and they just make the pencil longer and a little unwieldy until its been sharpened a half a dozen times.

All-in-all, I think its a good pencil option and one that is readily available in your local big box or office supply store.

Link Love: Four P’s and some I’s

Link Love Link Mascot

Inks:

Pens:

Paper & Notebooks:

Pencils:

Penmanship:

How Green is my Mailbox?

How green is my office?

My mailbox has been overflowing with green bounty. A handmade leather envelope for storing pens and pencils from my Australian pen pal (she made it herself!), an assortment of awesome green pencils from Johnny at Pencil Revolution and, of course, the beautiful but hotly-debated Field Notes Shelterwood. Reviews will be coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy the spring greens!

What the F is that?

2B, B, 2, HB, F?

I was thinking about pencil grades the other day, as a pencil geek is wont to do on occasion, and it occurred to me that I didn’t know where, in the pencil grading spectrum, the F grade went. What the F?

(image via Jet Pens)

(image via Jet Pens)

So I did a little digging, including Wikipedia where there was a chart placing the F grade between H and HB.  The article also noted that “H” means “hardness”, “B” means blackness and “F” is for “fine.”

So, then what about the whole #2 pencil for Scantronic tests? This was believed to be created by Conté (a name well-known to artists) and adopted by US pencil manufacturer John Thoreau (father of Henry David Thoreau) in the 19th century. This system utilizes just the five core hardnesses and breaks down like this:

Pencil Grade

Comparable #

B

#1

HB

#2

F

#21/2

H

#3

2H

#4

The F grade is supposed to be that sweet spot between hard and soft pencils, just a little harder than those pesky #2 pencils we all relied upon to get us through primary school.

Also, HB and #2 are the same thing. If you are considering venturing into European or Asian pencil brands but want to purchase an all-around good hardness, HB or F may be a good place to start.

Now you know.

Ask The Desk: Less Smudgy Pencils

Ask The Desk Header

Ian asked:

As a student, I frequently have to go back and reference older papers and essays (stored in binders) I have written. Though work in pen poses no problem, work in pencil, especially that older then a month, often becomes an unreadable gray smear due to pages sliding across each other. I use standard HB pencils (both mechanical and woodcase), but have often wondered if a harder grade would help mitigate this issue. Also, I have recently fallen in love with the FC 9000 pencils and am wondering how they are on the smudging issue, especially the HB grade ones.

I called in the pencil experts, the cast of the Erasable podcast to help get you the best answers. Here’s what the boys had to say:

Johnny from Pencil Revolution definitely supports your enthusiasm for the Castell 9000. He says its “definitely smear-resistant, even through some numbered B grades. On binder/office paper, I would not go softer than the B, though, which brings me to what I suspect the problem might be.
Office papers have so much tooth that they take ‘extra’ graphite from the pencil, and it doesn’t stay put, causing it to smear. Certainly some harder pencils will help. But I think a certain amount of smearing on looseleaf and printer paper is unavoidable. Plus, the loose nature of a binder causing more rubbing than a bound book.
Maybe a composition book, where the pages aren’t moving against one another so much, might help?”
Andy from Woodclinched suggested trying a Mars Lumograph in HB or a General’s testing pencil.
Tim from The Writing Arsenal concurred with both Johnny and Andy so there’s a lot of pencil authority there.
My final recommendations are, if you want to stick with loose leaf papers, is to try Hi-Polymer pencil leads, used in mechanical pencils. They tend to be less smudgy than standard woodcase pencil leads available from your local office supply store. Upgrading to the higher quality Faber-Castell 9000 or Hi-Uni pencils might also reduce smudging. You could also try some of Rhodia’s 3-hole punched paper which is not quite as toothy as standard loose leaf paper.
Best of luck and if you try any of this, let us know how it works for you.

Link Love: Official Mascot and more catch-up

Link Love Link MascotFirst, I’d like you to all admire my new and fully customized Link mascot thanks to my pal and co-worker Adan who, clearly, is a fabulous illustrator. I think I need Link on a t-shirt!

Now, on to the links:

Paper:

Pens:

Inks:

Pencils:

Misc:

 

What’s The Big Deal About Vintage Pencils?

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I realized I’d never really talked about what I like about vintage pencils, beyond the obvious that they look cool and are old and are often relics of domestic factories of companies still in business. So I thought I’d take a moment to show you some vintage pencils in action.

Vintage Pencils

One of the great things about vintage pencils is that, no matter how old they are, they are going to write if you sharpen them. If it has an eraser, avoid it completely though. The erasers will dry out in a matter of a year or two so trust me when I tell you that a 40 year old eraser will either do nothing at all or leave a dark smudge on your paper. So don’t bother with it. But the lead? Its all good.

Vintage Pencils

Some pencils will have unusual grading as opposed to the modern B (for black or soft leads) and H (for hard and therefore lighter leads). Some vintage pencils may simply say HARD or VERY HARD like the ones shown above or a combination of text.

In the past, pencils were used for lots of purposes beyond just Scantronic tests and math homework. Remember, the pencil had its heyday in the world before computers and the power of the undo.

I have a few “film lead” pencils that were designed to write on plastic film for printing or photography. Hard lead pencils were favored by draftsmen and artists and soft leads could be used to write on wood. Pencils allowed folks to apply pressure to their writing in order to easily and cheaply use carbon copies like a store receipt or invoice.

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This is a writing sample of several of my vintage pencils. There were three stand-outs in writing quality: the Futura Medium F, the Eagle Chemi*Sealed Mirado 174 and the USA Black Flyer 4500. I was stunned at how smoothly they wrote.

I also loved writing with the Press 260 Jet Black. It reminded me of the Faber-Castell Design Ebony pencil and the General’s Layout Extra Black but when I compared them, The Press 260 was light years darker and smoother. If you like either of those modern pencils, its worth it to seek out the Press 260 Jet Black.

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On the second page, I wanted to also include some modern pencils so you could have a point of reference for how dark or light the writing is.

I would say that the USA Black Flyer is comparable to the Blackwing 602 but the Flyer is a smooth round barrel while the Blackwing is a hexagonal. The Flyer is unfinished on the end. Potentially, you could sharpen it from both ends or add an eraser cap were you to find one of these at a yard sale. The Faber-Castell Grip 2001 has a similar feel, graphite-wise, to the vintage Mirado but the barrel shapes are different, not to mention the overall appearance.

I love modern and vintage pencils with equal enthusiasm. Would I give up my stash of modern Blackwing 602s for another vintage Mirado? No way. I like having the chance to sample old pencils like rare, fine wines. I enjoy them while I can and save the little, stumpy ends like corks. And modern pencils provide me with a steady stream of writing enjoyment.

Writing sample was done on Rhodia blank pad and all erasing was done with a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser.

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