Tag: pencil

Building a Better Penxo

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

I have had my Penxo 2.0mm Leadholder in green since sometime in October when the Kickstarter orders shipped but I’ve been sitting on it. The color is beautiful and the pencil itself is beautiful – even the packaging was lovely –  but I was a little disappointed. The pencil shipped with free lead which was complete crap and that probably tainted my experience. The lead pointer that shipped was also not worthy of such a fine looking tool either.

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

So, my first order of business was to upgrade the accessories. I ordered a Uni pocket lead pointer ($10) which is the tiniest, most portable lead pointer I’ve ever seen and it makes the most wickedly stiletto point. Then I ordered a packet of Koh-i-noor 2.0mm colored leads ($7.90) and another of Uni Field 2.0mm red leads ($4.95).

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

Now, the Penxo is loaded with Uni Field red lead with a wicked sharp point and looks a bit like a martini. Much better.

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder writing samples

Once I was using the Uni Field red lead which was a soft waxy lead that absolutely glided on the paper, I could focus on the actual experience of using the Penxo rather than my initial reaction to the pencil when it arrived which was all about the crappy graphite. The Uni Field lead did dull very quickly which allowed me to test the Uni Pocket Lead Pointer at regular intervals and it is smooth and efficient. It also meant I had to finagle the mechanics of the Penxo for extracting the lead far enough to insert it into the lead pointer and then pull the metal apart again to re-insert the lead back into the housing without stabbing myself, catching the lead in the pencil framework or breaking the lead. This is not as seamless as it should be which is sad.

As I continued to play with the various lead colors from the Koh-i-noor set, I was given more opportunity to practice threading lead into the Penxo housing, sharpening and aligning the lead. I found it awkward to try to pry the pencil apart to slide the lead down. I confess, the clutch mechanism in standard leadholders are easier to control with a greater degree of accuracy. They aren’t as aesthetically appealing but I feel more confident that I’m not going to impale myself with the lead either.

In the end, I found the Koh-i-noor leads to be more scratchy and graphite-like overall but I liked the bright yellow color a lot and all the colored leads looked good with the green Penxo body.

The Penxo really is a beautiful design but its not as functional as I’d like it to be and it saddens me since this is probably most people’s first (and probably last) experience with a lead holder. Generally artists, architects and draftsmen gravitate towards lead holders and they are looking for a level of control with the point length and the lead hardness and the Penxo just makes that really challenging.

Penxo 2.0mm lead holder

I’m not giving up on the Penxo but I think it will be more of a conversation piece than a daily writer. The Uni Field leads and Pocket Lead Pointer however are new staples!


DISCLAIMER: The Uni Field Leads and Uni Pocket Lead Pointer were sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. All other items in this review wee purchased. Please see the About page for more details.

Pencil Review: Craft Design Technology HB Pencils Set of 3

CDT HB Pencils

Pretty much if you paint something a lovely shade of mint green and sell it in an online stationery store, I’m probably going to buy it. So it was inevitable that I was going to have to have the Craft Design Technology HB Pencil set ($6.50). This set of three hexagonal mint green pencils are perfectly perfectly Japanese. The finish on the pencils is immaculate. The paint is silky smooth and the silver foil stamping is the finest I’ve seen with no imperfections even in the tiniest type. The white cap, which I initially mistook as a painted end cap is actually a rubber eraser that works like a dream.

CDT HB Pencils

The pencils sharpened nicely with my 2-step Palomino hand sharpener and wrote like silk. The lead was a little smudgy on the smooth Rhodia paper I test on but overall, the pencils required almost no pressure to write making the process of writing effortless and incredibly enjoyable.

CDT HB Pencils

Overall, these pencils were an impulse purchase based purely on aesthetics but have ended up being a great find. The smooth writing experience and the eraser-that-actually-works makes them worth purchasing by the gross.

I bought these pencils from our fine sponsor Fresh Stock Japan. While they are a sponsor, I did purchase them. Just so its all clear.

Review: Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone Colored Pencils

Koh-i-noor tri-tone colored pencils

After going off the deep end last year about Magic Pencils, I pretty much bought every variation I could find of the multicolor lead pencils. I’m just fascinated with this sort of pencil. One of the items I purchased was the 24-Color set of Koh-I-Noor Tri-Tone Colored Pencils ($29.47 on Amazon). Each of 23 pencils in the set features three different colors of colored pencil “lead” to create a tonal effect and then there is one blender pencil in the set to help blend the colors into a more subtle tonal variation, should you prefer to do that.

Koh-i-noor tri-tone colored pencils sample

The set comes in a nice tin though I tend to put all my pencils into jars immediately and either recycle the tins or store them because I find that art supplies that stay in tins don’t ever get used.

I thought this pencil set would be particularly appealing for coloring and sketching as it would provide a lot of color variation in a small set.

The pencils included a nice array of colors with a few shades of blues, greens, reds, yellows, oranges and some unusual ones with names like “ember,” “summer storm,” and “volcano.”

Koh-i-noor tri-tone colored pencils drawing sample

The pencils are not as soft and blendable as my go-to Prismacolor Premier but if you’re looking for a fun little set to travel with or to share with your kids, this might make a good addition to your collection. We keep ours on the kitchen table for doodling, notes and random scribbles.

Pencil Review: Pencil Factory Nashville Assortment Set of 6

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set close-up

Ever since I saw The Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set, I’ve wanted to pick it up but I never did it. My husband, sweetheart that he is, bought them for me for Christmas this year. In the box is an assortment of six different pencils and a small scratchpad of paper. The paper pad seems like a filler but I appreciate that they tried to make it feel like a little “kit”. What I was interested in was the pencils!

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set

The packaging and branding is top-notch and everything suggests that the pencils are actually manufactured in the US, in Nashville, TN which, as a former resident of the state, is a bonus.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set

All the pencils are painted with a warm ivory enamel and stamped in gold with the pencil name and the “THE PENCIL FACTORY”. The ferrules and/or caps are a soft gold, not as shiny as they look in photos which give them a more refined appearance in person. The erasers, where present, are a bright raspberry pink and are a pleasing contrast in color to the warm ivory paint. Aesthetically, these are lovely pencils and the paint is smooth in the hand.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set

Because of the variety of sizes of pencils, I had to get a little creative when I sharpened them.  The Sweetbriar was a standard width pencil and I could use my 2-step Palomino long point sharpener. The Bridge pencil, because it was so slender, I could use just the long point side of the 2-step sharpener and it sharpened beautifully. The Midtown, which is the hexagonal white wax pencil, was sharpened using my Prismacolor sharpener which is designed to sharpen softer leads. The jumbo-sized West End and Hester were sharpened using an old school wall-mount hand crank sharpener as it was the only thing I had with an opening large enough to accommodate these chubby, big-grip pencils. And finally, the carpenter pencil was ineffectually hand sharpened with an X-acto. Somewhere, I own a carpenter pencil sharpener but I could not find it.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set White Wax Pencil

The Midtown ended up being a pleasant surprise. I tested it on kraft paper and it was opaque enough to work just fine so this is a good pencil for marking on any stocks that are not white, I suspect. Fun with colored paper, for sure!

I was expecting something a bit chalky and hard but it turned out to be a surprisingly soft, waxy white crayon in pencil form. It was so soft, in fact, that I had to resharpen the tip to write the word “FUN” at the end of my sample as the tip had already gone soft as you can see in the word “lead”. The one thing I did notice is it is a very hexagonal pencil, so much so that it actually dug into my hands a bit. I guess a lot of manufacturers now soften those points giving most hex pencils a rounder, softer feel. The Midtown writes soft but feels a little sharp.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set Writing Sample

I tested the other pencils on standard Rhodia paper and started with the most traditional, the Sweetbriar. Normally, I don’t favor smooth round barrels as they tend to feel a little wide in my hand but overall the Sweetbriar wrote very smoothly. Then I picked up the Bridge pencil which is the same smooth barrel but in a much narrower width and I liked it much better. I don’t think I’ve ever really used bridge pencils much before nor do I know why they were designed more slender than standard pencils but I really like the size of the the Bridge and it has the same smooth lead as the Sweetbriar. Of the set, the Bridge is the pencil I set aside immediately as my favorite of the lot.

The West End and the Hester are both jumbo pencils. The West End is a smooth, round barrel and the Hester is a hexagonal barrel. I know there are a lot of folks who actually prefer the size of jumbo pencils in the hand but would rather they didn’t look like they were designed for children. If you fall into this camp, than the Pencil Factory jumbo pencils are made for you. Aesthetically, they are upscale and understated. They perform well too. Smooth, though I found the Hester to be softer than the West End even though all the graphite pencils are labelled No. 2. You’ll see I smudged around the Hester writing sample and how much darker the writing appears. Curious.

The Old Hickory is not your average carpenter pencil. It is a double-ended carpenter pencil with graphite on one end and red colored lead on the other. I love that the Pencil Factory created this unique carpenter pencil but I very seldom have need for this type of pencil. When actually marking wood, I have often just used a Prismacolor. Shhh, don’t tell. That said, its a clever design though the red lead is a little harder than I would have expected, especially after using the soft, white wax of the Midtown.

Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set Eraser Test

My last test was to see if the pink erasers were useful. They do an adequate job on everything except the red from the carpenter pencil thought I’m still inclined to recommend keeping a Mars Staedtler plastic eraser with you if you really want to erase something. Pink eraser are cute but not all that useful.

All in all, the Pencil Factory Nashville Pencil Set was a treat and I’m glad I got a chance to try these out. Keep in mind that if you purchase these, be prepared to figure out how to sharpen all the various widths. Otherwise, its a fun little set with fabulous design aesthetics.

I suspect I’ll be buying a dozen of the Bridge pencils soon. New obsession!

Pencil Review: Mitsubishi No. 850 Colored Pencils (Set of 24)

mitsubishi colored pencils

Several months ago, I purchased a set of Mitsubishi No. 850 Colored Pencils from Fresh Stock Japan. It was the 24 color set which is reasonably priced at $22 for the pack. The set includes gold and silver metallic as well as an opaque white plus an array of standard colors. The barrels are smooth round and fit into a standard sharpener. The barrels are beautifully foil stamped and the paint on each pencil is stunning. The set is in a plastic case, slid into a paperboard sleeve. The packaging is perfectly Japanese.

The Mitsubishi pencil leads are soft but not quite as soft as Prismacolor Premier pencils. The Mitsubishi pencils seem to be a standard wax pencil that blends pretty nicely on smooth stock for the price point but are not quite “artist quality”. I’d qualify them as a good starter set — more like a student-grade. Most of the colors are opaque enough to show over dark paper. I tested the colors over black gesso to test this range which is a nice added feature.

The color range is pretty broad for a 24-color set though I would have liked an additional bright pink/fuchsia and a true violet or purple in the set instead of one of the blues which are quite similar or one of the reds which are also quite similar. Overall though, with some blending, I was able to get a good range of color from the set for less than $25.

mitsubishi colored pencils

I tested the pencils in drawing on Strathmore Series 500 Mixed Media sketchbook paper which is quite toothy, 100% cotton and the Mitsubishi pencils did not blend as well as Prismacolor Premier or Derwent Artists. I was able to layer Sharpie Pen and Platinum Carbon Pen over the pencil for mixed media doodles so I think on smoother paper, the pencils really do perform nicely. But they don’t soften into the tooth of paper as easily as softer Prismacolors.

mitsubishi colored pencils

Alternately, in a smooth adult coloring book like my new Posh Coloring Book: Happy Doodles for Fun & Relaxation by Flora Chang, the Mitsubishi Colored Pencils were perfect! The smooth paper let the pencils easily blend and mix and the colors really popped. If you’re looking for pencils to pair with a coloring book, the Mitsubishi are a good set to combine and Flora’s coloring book is full of such fun drawings (and I’m only a little bit biased because she works with me!).

mitsubishi colored pencils

So, for doodling, light sketching and coloring, the Mitsubishi colored pencils are a good starter set. For mixed media art-making where you will be doing a lot of textural blending, I’d hold out for a slightly pricier set like Prismacolor Premier or Derwent Coloursoft.

Pencil Review: Koh-i-noor Special “Magic” Color Pencil

 

Kohn-i-noor Special MAGIC Colored Pencil

After the article several weeks ago from the NY Times about the tools used by famous artists, I fell under the spell of the multi-colored colored pencil used by Milton Glaser. My friend Kirsten confirmed that Mr. Glaser really does use these pencils. He taught one of her graduate classes at the School of Visual Arts so she confirmed the story with some degree of authority. To say I’m jealous she saw his pencil handiwork in person would be understating things a bit.

It took awhile to find a dozen of these gems. I ended up buying them from a vendor on Amazon who was in Europe. The listing officially calls these pencils “Koh-i-noor Aristochrom Magic – 12 Pencils with Special Multicoloured Lead“. For the sake of ease, I refer to them as Koh-i-noor Magic Pencils. The box of one dozen was $14.50 plus $8 shipping which makes these pencils more expensive than Palomino Blackwings. But needs must, right?

The pencils came in a slightly mangled yellow box with the Koh-i-noor/Hardtmuth logos on the box. They had been shipped in nothing more than a kraft envelope so the mangling was a result of the postal system. The box isn’t anything special so the fact that all the pre-sharpened pencils were safe meant the box served its purpose.

Kohn-i-noor Special MAGIC Colored Pencil writing sample
This pencil was freshly sharpened using the KUM 2-step long point sharpener. Beautiful!

Inside were the dozen pencils I most coveted. The pencils are hexagonal with gold metallic paint and the only branding is ink jet onto one facet in black. The text includes “060”, a lengthy stock number and bar code, “Koh-i-noor” and “3400”. I wish the branding had been foil stamped onto the pencil instead of the super-cheap looking ink jet but these pencils are probably not very popular or produced in extremely large quantities so they don’t get as much attention as a traditional graphite or single color pencil.

The end of the pencil is shaped into a low profile cone shape and is not dipped. Its exposed natural wood. Its a weird detail that I’m not crazy about but the simple gold paint on the rest of the pencil makes up for the unusual treatment of the end. I’d love it if the end were dipped in a glossy black to give it a truly regal feel but there aren’t a lot of options for “magic” pencils so I’ll take what I can get.

The real reason I love these pencils is the three-color lead. Red, blue and yellow pigments are blended into the lead in small chunks so that, as the pencil is used, the color changes. The blue is a deep indigo blue and the red and yellow are pretty much primary colors. What I discovered over the last few weeks of using these pencils is that by turning the pencil a little bit as I’m using it, I can force lighter or darker colors to appear as I need them.

Kohn-i-noor Special MAGIC Colored Pencil writing sample

The composition of the pencil lead is definitely wax- or oil-based as it is not water soluble. This makes it easy to add other materials like watercolor paint, water-based markers, ink, or pen without blurring your linework. It also means that the marks don’t smudge, which is quite pleasant.

On regular paper (like my Rhodia test paper) the Magic pencil does not erase well. I suspect that on a primed surface like gesso, it might be easier to erase but for doodling and sketching, be prepared to leave the lines where they are. Loose-y and goose-y is the best way to enjoy these Magic pencils.

I know these pencils won’t appeal to everyone but I they are such wonderfully unique tools that I couldn’t resist sharing them.

News: Creative Types on Their Favorite Tools

Illustration by Kulapat Yantrasast
Illustration by Kulapat Yantrasast

There’s a great article on the NYTimes about Creative Types From Manolo Blahnik to Milton Glaser on Their Favorite Writing and Drawing Instruments. Thanks to Milton Glaser, I really want my own Koh-I-Noor multi-colored Magic Pencil.

While we’re on the topic of the NYTimes and its love of articles about pens and pencils, here’s a couple others to check out:

Pencil Review: Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood 348 HB

Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood Pencil HB

What can I say about the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood 348 HB pencil? Its beautiful. It also costs $5.45 per pencil. Who pays $5.45 for a pencil? I do. Why? Curiosity. And its pretty.

Aside: Caran d’Ache is known for producing some of the best colored pencils and watercolor pencils in the world that can also cost upwards of $5 per pencil and I’m considering investing in those too. Does that make me crazy? Maybe.

The Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood pencil is a beautiful beech wood pencil, stained dark with no additional shellac. It smells like a campfire. (Yes, I sniffed the pencil). The end is dip-sealed with glossy red enamel and the white Swiss cross is printed on the end. The lettering is printed in a crisp white foil along one fact of this hexagonal pencil.

Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood Pencil HB

I love hex pencils and the Swiss Wood is slightly wider than a standard hex pencil. It may be too wide to fit some standard sharpeners but it fit fine in my  Palomino/KUM two-step long point sharpener.

Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood Pencil HB

Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood Pencil HB

The experience writing with this pencil seemed to be “oh, this is how a pencil should feel.” It was smooth and silent on the paper. When scratching back and forth, I got a good dense color. The Swiss Wood just coasted along on the paper and kept a good point in the process. With some effort, I could smudge it but while writing I did not notice any graphite on the heel of my hand which is a true test for any lefty.

It erased with almost no trace of the previous scribblings with my “oops!” eraser that lives on my desk.

When compared to the Field Notes pencil, it was so apparent how much grittier the FN pencil was than the Swiss Wood. Of course, the FN pencil is a freebie but I assume most of my fine readers own at least one of these pencils so when I say the Swiss Wood is leaps and bounds better to write with than most pencils, you have basis for comparison. I also compared the Swiss Wodd to my favorite go-to pencil, the Faber-Castell Grip 2001 HB. The Grip 2001 was definitely a lighter graphite and scratchier than the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood. Am I going to have to throw it over for a gross of Swiss Woods? Maybe!

Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood Pencil HB

I’m inclined to think that, if you’re a bit of a pencil snob, its worth it to add a few of these Swiss Wood pencils to your collection. I think I might like the writing experience better than the Palomino Blackwings (blasphemous, I know.) but the Blackwings actually look like a bargain-priced pencil next to the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood.

But, even at $5.45 (comparable to the cost of your average Venti Vanilla Latte), the Swiss Wood is worth trying. Just skip the latte today.

Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood Pencil HB

Review: New TUL Serious Ink Pens from Office Depot/Max

TUL Chest

The folks over at Office Max/Office Depot kindly sent me a new sample pack of the new and improved TUL Serious Ink products to try out. When they contacted me, I was expecting some blister packs of pens in a padded envelope. Instead I received this industrial-tough lunchbox with lock and key. Clearly, they are serious about this launch.

Pens in the TUL chest

Inside the aluminum box, in foam cutaways, were four sample tools (TULs?), one for each of the product types: a rollerball, a gel pen, a ballpoint and a mechanical pencil. They also sent along some rub-on tattoos that I forgot to photograph. It was quite the package!

The rollerball is the only capped pen that was included in the kit. The gel and ballpoint pens are both retractable and the mechanical pencil can retract not only the lead but the lead tube as well making it easier to transport and protect the lead tube from damage.

All the pens feature simple, clean design. The overall color schemes are black, silver and clear plastics. The barrels of the pens are plastic, painted with metallic silver and black paint. The cones that hold the pen tips and the mechanical pencil are metal expect in the rollerball.

The logos and graphics are minimal and minimal branding is really quite an appealing feature to me in pens. I find a lot of modern “big box store” pens have way too much text, graphics and branding on them. The TUL series is a nice antidote to this.

All the TULs feature silicone grips, or in the case of the mechanical pencil, the whole body is a soft matte rubber.  The rubber make all the TULs comfortable to hold but prone to collecting dust particles and pocket lint.

TUL Serious Ink writing samples

In writing tests, I was pleasantly surprised with all the TULs. Usually rollerballs choke on me and stop writing a few words into writing but I had no trouble using the TUL rollerball in medium (0.7). The black ink was dark and dried pretty quickly. The gel pen in medium (0.7) was also dark black and quick drying but a little bolder line than the rollerball. Both of these are also available in fine point (0.5) which I would probably love as both the gel and rollerball in medium were a little bold for my daily writing style. But otherwise, they are good “big box” pen options.

The medium (1.0) ballpoint was notably slippery on the Rhodia paper. On standard office stock, this feature would probably be a bonus but on super smooth paper, it felt like the pen moved faster than my brain. It didn’t skip as much as a standard office ballpoints which is a plus. I suspect the ink is closer to a hybrid ink than the traditional oily ballpoint ink. If you favor ballpoints, this would be a good option. A fine (0.7) tip version is also available.

The mechanical pencil writes comfortably with its fully rubberized body and features a retractable eraser on the end. I was curious as to exactly how long the eraser was and untwisted the whole thing. There’s a good inch or more of eraser that is twisted inside the pencil barrel. Very clever design! Spare erasers can be purchased online too. To be honest, the mechanical pencil was my favorite TUL. I even liked the thicker 0.7mm leads though I am inclined to try the thinner 0.5mm lead version as well, just to see. Pencils rock. Pencils with long retractable erasers rock even harder.

I forgot to photograph the water tests! The ballpoint is waterproof. The pencil showed no ill effects from the water but a softer lead might show a little blurring. The rollerball pen is considerably less water resistant than the gel pen. It surprised me a bit that the gel pen is more water resistant since gel ink is not often very water resistant but a wipe with a wet paint brush left a light grey halo but the lines I drew are still visible. The rollerball lines survived my wet paintburush but a lot more of the ink reactivated creating a much darker grey halo.  So if wet conditions are an issue for you, stick to the gel, ballpoint or pencil.

TUL Serious Ink Pens

I’m quite pleased with the overall quality of the TUL line. The writing quality and build quality was much better than I anticipated. Each of the TULs seems to be a house brand competitor to a brand name and I feel like I should probably do a  side-by-side comparison of the TUL version against the name brand versions, particularly the gel pen.  I suspect its supposed to directly compete with the Pilot G2 and the Pentel Energel. I think the TUL version is comparable but without doing a true side-by-side I can’t say for certain if the performance is exactly the same.  As for the rollerball, ballpoint and mechanical pencil, the TUL brand versions are on par with other products in the same category. I think the mechanical pencils is particularly appealing with its retractable, extra-long eraser and rubberized barrel.

I will say that, aesthetically, I prefer the TUL pens and the prices are comparable to similar products. If I were stocking my company supply cabinet, I might purchase the TULs over name brands just for the minimal branding and visual simplicity.


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

Kickstarter: Penxo 2mm Lead Holder

There’s just 12 hours left to back the Penxo 2mm drafting pencil. There are several backing options at just $29 US for a lead holder and a pack of 12 leads and sharpener. This is a beautiful design and I hope it works as well as proposed. I backed it. I’m looking forward to filling the silver model with non-photo blue leads.

News: Pelle Notebooks and Blackwing Subscriptions

Yafa Monteverde Pelle Journals

Did you know Yafa is listing a Monteverde Pelle refillable journal listed on their site now? Does this mean that Pelle is back in business and working with Monteverde? Exciting news if, like me, you really liked the Pelle version of this popular leather notebook system.

Blackwing Volumes is a new collectible subscription service that provides subscribers with a dozen limited-edition, custom-designed Blackwing pencils, four times a year. Subscribers will receive an additional collector’s pencil, sealed and labeled for archiving, with each set and a guarantee to receive each release, even if they sell out to non-subscribers.

Subscriptions are $99 per year, plus shipping and can be purchased at Pencils.com.

 

Pencil Review: Papermate Mirado Black Warrior

Papermate Mirado Black Warrior

The Paper Mate Mirado Black Warrior is an office supply store staple. I purchased a pre-sharpened package of 8 pencils in a blister pack for about $2.I ended up re-sharpening them with my Dux Varibel because I could.

This pencil has a smooth round barrel with a matte black paint finish, gold toned ferrule with a cherry red painted stripe and a classic pink eraser top. There were no bar codes or extraneous info printed on the pencil, just the branding and hardness info in gold foil in one line. Everything about it is classic looking which makes it a fairly appealing pencil. The packaging proclaims its the “world’s smoothest write — guaranteed.” Pretty big claim.

Papermate Mirado Black Warrior

The Mirado is a decently smooth pencil for a big box tool but its not anywhere near the smoothest write I’ve experienced. The lead is quite dark and smudgy and the point dulls in a sentence or two.

Papermate Mirado Black Warrior

The eraser, as with most pencil toppers, is lame and I wore it out with one erasing. Even with the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser, there was still a ghost of the writing left.

The bottom line: Meh. I’d give this pencil a C rating. Its too smudgy, too soft for an HB and the eraser is crap. There are better options available that are only a little more expensive.

Pencil Review: Nataraj Platinum Extra Dark 2B

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

One of my other happy purchases from CW Pencil Enterprises was a dozen box of Indian-made Nataraj Platinum Extra Dark pencils ($0.30 each/ $3.60 per dozen). The package included a dozen pre-sharpened pencils and a plastic pencil sharpener.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The pencils remind me a bit of the Staedtler Rally pencils with the alternating stripes of color on the hex panels. Where the Rally pencils are navy and white, the Nataraj are black and metallic silver. On one side, the brand name is stamped in silver and on the reverse panel is the pesky bar code. Oh, I hate those bar code but at least its on the reverse from the logo branding.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The lead does write quite darkly as described on the package. It will smudge a bit which could be nice for sketching or if you like a dark line. Even with the dark line, the point did not dull as quickly as I expected it to which is a good thing.

The pencils have a traditional silver ferrule and white eraser but the white eraser cap is CRAP. Its one of the worst I’ve ever used. You might as well flick it off so that you don’t use it accidentally.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The pencil sharpens nicely with a hand sharpener and write smoother once sharpened than it does with the pre-sharpened points.

Nataraj Platinum Pencils

The biggest shocker was the little plastic sharpener. It sharpened an excellent point and made beautiful shaving roses.

I’d grade this pencil a B-. The eraser really killed it for me but the pencil performance is above average. The cheap-y sharpener is really good for a freebie.

Pencil Review: Ito-Ya

ito-ya-1

A big shoutout to Andy Welfle at Woodlcinched and the Erasable Podcast for sending me this treasure from San Francisco. The Ito-Ya pencil is a smooth round pencil with an almost red-lacquer-like finish and a black rubberized dip end. The only printing on the pencil is the gold foil “ITO-YA” close to the rubber dipped end.

ito-ya-2

There’s a little feedback noise on the paper (the scritch, scritch sound on the paper as I write) but its quite minimal and overall the experience of this pencil is smooth. It writes a fairly dark line and smudges a bit which can be a little messy for a lefty.

The lines erased super clean with the Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser and did a passable job with the Black Pearl which pairs well with the ITO-YA pencil nicely. Very Japanese together.

My personal preference is for hex or triangular pencils so this isn’t an A+ for me but a solid B+ pencil. If you like round pencils, I’m sure you’ll rate it higher.

The ITO-YA pencil can be purchased online through Pencils.jp for ¥65 each.

Pencil Review: Kaweco Special 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil

Kaweco Special 0.7mm pencil

The Kaweco Special 0.7mm mechanical pencil is a bit wider pencil than I expected. It feels in the hand like a jumbo pencil. Luckily the anodized metal, hexagonal octagonal finish is warm and soft in the hand and quite comfortable. I thought the metal finish might be too slick but its not a shiny finish and the tapered end has a bit more tooth to it to keep fingers from sliding down.

Kaweco Special 0.7mm pencil

The stock lead in the Kaweco Special Pencil is super super smooth. The great thing about mechanical pencils is that you can change lead hardness or lead brands, but the stock Kaweco leads are an excellent option. I was quite pleased with the smoothness.

Kaweco Special 0.7mm pencil

The most unusual aspect of the Kaweco Special 0.7 is that under the presser button is the teeny, tiniest, little eraser. Its absolutely dorky how tiny it is in comparison to the size of the pencil and the lead thickness. Erasing one word with this eraser and most of the eraser is used up. I’d definitely recommend using a handheld eraser instead of this little dude. He’s for emergencies only.


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.

Dux Varibel Brass Sharpener with Leather Case

dux-variabel-1

I was very excited to find CW Pencil Enterprises and to see that they stocked the Dux Varibel brass sharpener in the leather case ($22). It can be dialed in to three different sharpnesses depending on the type of lead. The #1 position is for soft pencils and colored pencils, #2 is used for standard graphite pencils (“#2 for #2 pencils!”) and #3 for the sharpest point for harder leads or pencil weaponry.

(Pictured above is Mirado Black Warrior pencils sharpened with #3, #2 and #1 settings from top to bottom)

dux-variabel-3

The sharpener blade is sharp and fits standard round, hex and triangular pencils. The leather carrying sleeve just makes it awesome.

dux-variabel-2

The point is still not as sharp as a Classroom Friendly sharpener or my old  Boston hand crank sharpener but for a portable pocket sharpener, the quality of the points is good and I didn’t have any breaking issues while sharpening.

If you are a pencil enthusiast or know someone who likes a fine tool, you might want to pick one of these up.

Review: Staedtler Rally #2 HB Pencil

Staedtler Rally Pencil

I found Staedtler Rally #2 HB pencils in dozen packs in the clearance section of my local Office Depot so I couldn’t resist picking up a few dozen. These hexagonal pencils feature clean white and navy stripes on alternating hex facets, they come pre-sharpened and have a silver ferrule and white eraser top. Even at $3.49 per dozen, these seem to be a good value.

The packaging indicates that these pencils are made in Thailand and distirbuted through Staedtler Canada.

The paint on the pencils are nice but there is a pesky bar code printed on the pencil below the pencil brand info which is super annoying. I hate bar codes on my pencils, especially if I purchased them in a box of a dozen or more. What is up with this? My box of granola bars don’t have bar code on each individually wrapped bar, why should my pencils?

Staedtler Rally Pencil

The bright white eraser tops made me hope beyond hope that the erasers were Staedtler Mars erasers. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? But, alas, no. Not even close.

Staedtler Rally Pencil

Though pre-sharpened, I tend to re-sharpen my pencils which give a smoother first experience. I find the pre-sharpened points a little rough. The Staedtler Rally is no different here. When writing with the pre-sharpened point, its a little scratchy but after a couple twists in my Dux Variabel sharpener, the writing experience in much improved.

In writing, I got a little feedback noise on the paper but very mild. For a middle-of-the-range pencil, its totally acceptable. I wish Staedtler hadn’t bothered with the eraser caps if they aren’t going to use their flagship eraser on these. The eraser is utter crap. The paint and graphics are printed better than a lot of American pencil brands these days so in terms of looks the Rally is a nice looking pencil despite the bar code.

I think listening to the Erasable Podcast has made me want to “grade” my pencils. So, I give the Staedtler Rally a C — its a good pencil with a crap eraser that can be purchased at your local big box store. If you pair it with a REAL Staedtler Mars plastic eraser, I’d bump it up to a B+.

 

All the Pencil-Related Things

Sometimes, the stars align and my in-box is full of tips related to one specific topic. This week, it seemed to be all things pencIl-related. So, I thought I’d share my finds.

marshmallow pencil

This darling little pencil twig topped with a big pink eraser “mashmallow”. Perfect for fireside doodles. $13.99 from Animi Causa.

pencil socks yarn kit by Yarn Enabler

Then I found this beautiful hand dyed yarn from Yarn Enabler on Etsy that will stripe as you knit to make these awesome pencil socks. Yellow pencil stitch markers are also available as part of the kit. Yarn kit with stitch markers are $30.69US.

pencil socks yarn kit by Yarn Enabler

Little Red Riding Children's book

And my last pencil-related find this week is a darling little children’s book called Little Red Writing by Joan Holub and illustrated by Melissa Sweet about “a brave, little red pencil finds her way through the many perils of writing a story, faces a ravenous pencil sharpener (the Wolf 3000).” $12.75 on Amazon.

Review: Rotring 600 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

Rotring 600 0.5mm mechanical pencil

During the whole Black Friday hullabaloo, Jet Pens had a special offer for some of the Rotring Mechanical Pencils. It was an offer too good to pass up as I’d always wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I went for it.

The Rotring 600 0.5mm mechanical pencil ($33)  came in a taste, simple black, triangular, cardstock box with the Rotring logo stamped in red and white foil on the end. When I pulled the tabs on the bottom of the box the whole thing unfolded. Good packaging and yet not over-packaged. Totally recyclable box too.

Rotring 600 0.5mm mechanical pencil

Inside was the matte black finish version of the classic mechanical pencil. Initially, I was worried that the pencil would look and feel too masculine, too tactical but when I held it in my hand was when it all became clear. The knurling on the grip is super fine so it did not feel harsh or prickly, just slip resistant. And the pencil is spectacularly well-balanced. It did not feel excessively heavy and yet it felt sturdy and solid. The Rotring 600 is an all-metal body as opposed to the less-expensive 500 model ($18) which features a plastic body but metal grip and cap.

By pulling the click button on the end out and twisting, I can change the lead hardness label to an assortment of common sizes (HB, B, 2B, 2H, etc). This is the reason to have more than one — one loaded with a softer lead and one loaded with a harder lead. Win win!

Rotring 600 0.5mm mechanical pencil

The 600 is the lesser expensive version that does not feature a retractable tip. The Rotring 800 has a retractable tip but I decided to start with the lower priced model and see if I liked the pencil before I considered upgrading to the retractable 800.

The tip has a short thick support that is part of the body of the pencil in black plus a longer-than-usual tip sleeve that creates the feeling of having exposed a good deal of lead without actually needing to have that much lead out. This eliminates the likelihood of breaking the fine 0.5mm lead.

Rotring 600 0.5mm mechanical pencil

The lead the pencil shipped with was a smooth HB grade and made the writing experience a pure joy. The feel of this pencil in the hand is really extraordinary. I get why this is such a coveted tool.

I completely forgot that under the click button is a teeny tiny eraser. But really, pairing a Black Pearl with the black Rotring 600 is the classy way to go.

The Rotring 600 is available in 0.35mm, 0.5mm and 0.7mm lead sizes and replacement knurled grips ($11.50 each) are available so its possible to change the lead capacity of your pencil without having to buy a whole new 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?