Monthly Archives: April 2017

Review: Nataraj Jumbo Plasto Eraser

Nataraj (and Apsara) includes a block eraser and sharpener in every pack of 10 pencils you buy. The eraser measures 3.5*1.7*10mm, is made of firm white plastic, and sports red printing on one side. The red printing has the brand name Nataraj in a red stripe and the words Jumbo Plasto. On both my erasers the printing is slightly different and the color of the red differs ever so slightly. In use the printing blurs under my fingers, but leaves no marks upon paper or my hand.The firm white plastic reminds me very much of the Staedtler Mars Plastic and performs as well, if not better. It is not dust gathering. I’ve tested it across No Brand Notebooks, Field Notes, Yoobi Composition Notebooks, cheap 3×5 cards, Story Supply Company notebooks, and the cheap recycled paper at work. Overall it performs really quite well removing most of the graphite from most of the papers. Here and there it would leave a  ghost of an image but if one is writing over the space, it isn’t noticeable.

The size is perfect for pocket carry. It’s small so it disappears in a pocket but isn’t so small (think of the KiN pebble) that it is lost when you reach for it. The edges are rounded and comfortable to use. The Nataraj eraser is naked while the Apsara is sleeved in a little card stock sleeve. Somewhere in  my piles of stationery shit, I have a sleeved Apsara, one might think I could find it for this review, but no, it remains hidden. I’ve been carting this eraser around in my pocket and it has provided not only useful for erasing but has also served as a very pleasing worry stone.

I have to say, that though this is a “freebie” it certainly adds to the appeal of the bonus items in the Nataraj boxes. Some bundled erasers are truly horrible, but these are darn nice.

Introducing RSVP Stationery Podcast

Hey folks, the podcast is out of the bag- my friends Dee and Lenore and I have teamed up to do a podcast about stationery and so much more. You can listen to our first episode over at RSVPstationerypodcast.com and head to our facebook group for discussion.

Review: Jane Davenport Butterfly Effect Book AKA Travelers Notebook

Do you love the idea of the traveler’s notebook system? Maybe you’re vegan or vegetarian and the idea of carting around a thick piece of animal hide grosses you out. Maybe you’re crafty and you like the idea of making your own but don’t have time. My thoughts on the BEB haven’t changed much since my first impression post over here.

Enter the Jane Davenport Butterfly Effect Book (BEB). The BEB is a  $13 Traveler’s Notebook knock off made of 2 pieces of nylon canvas stitched around a piece of stiffish card. It’s got a pair of eyelets at the top and bottom center as well as one to hold a thick elastic cord around the center of the book. The cords included with the cover are all pale teal colored. They are also thick and quite sturdy. It is important to note that the BEB is eligible for the Michael’s store coupons, so that $13 can be cut down to $6 with a 40% off coupon. Which is a steal for this fun little cover.

The white nylon canvas isn’t anything spectacular, but it’s intended to be a canvas not the final product. I highly recommend that you look at all the stitching and edges to make sure they are secure before decorating. Use a lighter to heat seal any loose or frayed edges. After which you should gesso the living hell out of the cover. I didn’t gesso my first and it soaked up so much paint that it was difficult to decorate. Whatever card is in the center of the book- it is very absorbent. That said, once gessoed and dried, it is a great canvas for your decorative self. I did mine with a faux copper finish and loads of texture.

I’d recommend sticking to acrylic paint and flexible media for the cover because the cover does flex especially around the center fold. You wouldn’t want your hard work peeling right off.

The insert included with the BEB is garbage. A few sheets of cardstock folded and stapled. You are better off heading down to your local office supply store, buying a pack of card stock and folding up 4 sheets yourself and trimming it down with your paper cutter and rounding the corners with a corner punch.

I really wasn’t sure about using the larger sized TN setup, I’m quite dedicated to my pocket notebook sized books, but really found myself falling in love with the slightly too narrow shape and size of the TN inserts. Adding dot grid to the mix was a no brainer. I’ve been using one insert as a journal, one as a planner for No Brand Notebooks, and another as a reading journal. I’ve since added an insert for reviews and another for planning my new podcast RSVP*. I cannot emphasis how nice the size is for long running entries, or quick notes about the stuff I’m reading**.

I think that the BEB is a good purchase for anyone who wants to test out the Traveler’s size without a huge investment. $6 with a coupon is a no brainer. Continue reading

Review: Nataraj Metallic and Glimo Super Black Pencils

Nataraj pencils are made and distributed by Hindustan pencil company, much like my previously reviewed and adored Casemates (which are distro’d by Walmart). I picked up these two packages of pencils from the ‘zon for $4.99 each with free shipping. Each pack holds 10 pencils, a white plastic block eraser, and a plastic sharpener. For anyone keeping track, that’s about 50 cents per pencil, though factoring in the sharpener and eraser it is about 42 cents per item in the package. The package itself, I should have taken a picture, was well done. The pencils were in a tough plastic envelope, then in styrofoam packaging, and the 2 boxes were wrapped like a gift inside the protective foam package. All in all it was like unwrapping a slightly bizarre gift. Shipping did take about a month. It reminded me of old school mail order. Ahh memories. After unwrapping my gifty to myself I was greeted with Nataraj’s fun pencil packaging. While companies selling in the US seem to have moved toward clear plastic shrink wrap and stickered belly bands, Nataraj uses cardboard boxes. Each package matches the contents well. The Metallics have a metallic box with a pebble finish, while the Glimo has pastel colored diamonds in the colors of the pencils. The Glimo has a diecut window. The packaging is nearly identical except for package date stamps and a line that the metallics meet international quality standards. My pencils were all packaged in 2015, so they aren’t particularly fresh. But then pencils really seem to last forever if stored properly.

Anyway, inside the packages are some nice metallic pencils. The Metallics have gorgeous jewel tones that really shine. The camera cannot pick up the color well at all. It’s seriously glimmery and shiny and reminiscent of dragon flies of nice metallic flake paint on a car. They sport a nicely done and jaunty white and black end dip that looks awesome with the metallic paint. There are blue, purple, green, and red. The Glimo features silver stripes with a coordinating pastel colors of magenta, pink, peach, yellow, and pale teal. The end caps are a nice thick dip of the pastel color. The silver is barely metallic and in some the pastel shade is a touch thin, but overall these are quite well done.

On all of the pencils, either Metallics or Glimo the paint is mostly well done, with the occasional pencil with drips and runs. I had one in each box that had not only visible but runs that could be felt under my fingers. Mostly they were okay. The wood is jelutong and sharpens well in all my sharpeners. The cores are centered in most of the pencils, off in about half, and out of each box one was badly off centered, but still usable.

The core in these is the same, Nataraj’s “Super Black.” The super black core is very dark for writing. It is also nicely smooth and glides across most papers that I’ve tested them upon- from Yoobi Comp books, Field Notes, Story Supply Company, Life, Tomoe River, and No Brand Notebooks. (Handwritten review is done on a NBN dot grid traveler’s size.) They glide, which is the best way to put it. Not quite skate, but glide. It’s smooth dark and a nice feel. I believe this is the same core as the Casemates Premium, which is slightly different than the Casemates Neon. It’s darker and smoother. The Neons seem to have more occasional bits of grit and are slightly harder with better point retention/durability.

Speaking of point retention and durability, there is batch variation. I’ve sharpened a few of each, okay one of each color and I’ve found that most of them are almost the same in terms of how many comp book or NBN pages I get, but one, the blue metallic is super soft and even darker than the others. The rest I’d rate around a Staedtler B in terms of point retention and durability the one oddball is closer to a 4B. The majority are closer to a Staedtler 2B in their darkness. That is to say I’m able to get around 4 composition book pages written before I reach for another sharp pencil.

I love how these look and how they write. Sure they are about 50 cents per pencil, roughly 4 and a half times the cost of most of the Walmart Casemate pencils. The trade off is the better paint jobs, consistent cores, no badly afixed ferrules, and  eraser turds. That said, if you don’t want to spend the money, getting the Walmart Casemate Premium pencils is still the best priced option. That said, I immediately sharpened one of each color way and added it to my novel writing pencil cup. The fun colors and metallic sheen make me smile.

My one worry right now is that these have gone the way of the Nataraj/Apsara Pop, which have an awesome coloring scheme, and have been replaced with the less awesome color scheme of the Nataraj Joi.

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Review: Casemate Neon Pattern Printed Pencils Hex

The current iteration of Walmart’s Casemate pencils are darn good. Made by Hindustan pencil company they feature a top notch HB core that is dark and smooth. I find the neon and multi-colored packages to be better than the plain yellow pencils. The key to getting good Casemate pencils is to look and make sure the pencils are made in India. I’ve heard other reports that these are often round. The package that I picked up is a hex pencil.

I had hoped to pick up a pack of the plain unprinted neon pencils or a package of the premium tinned pencils. Neither was to be found so I took a chance that the 30 pack of printed neon pencils was as good as the neons.

The packaging for the 30 pack is a pillow box made of stiff clear plastic, with a bit of foam at the base to protect the points, and a thick label wrapped around the belly. In a pinch it could suffice as a decent pencil case. Each tube has 6 pieces of 5 colors- pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue. All are neon except the blue, which in my package is a royal blue color. Each 30-pack is $3.24, which is roughly 11 cents per pencil.

The pencils themselves sport a standard Hindustan HB core. That is to say it’s silky smooth across most papers and is nicely dark. I’ve found very occasional bits of grit in some of my pencils, but this is rare and to the same extent that I find them in much more expensive pencils. The core has excellent point durability/retention. I get a few pages from a sharpening with my Carl A5. The wood is jelutong which sharpens well but has no distinct odor that I can detect*. It is lightweight and I have grown fond of the look of this wood. It ranges from pinkish tan to nearly white to speckled. All of my sharpeners handle it well.

The paint appears to be a layer of white, with neon atop that with an overprinting of a very thin coating of black. The black is nearly see through in some areas and the neon colors definitely pop through the black patterns. The black patterns are a pox upon an otherwise lovely pencil. On my pencils- every single pencil the printing is crooked, the grade designation is not only off center of a side, it’s often printed on a hex point and at an angle. Further the crooked printing is overlapped in some areas and not others. The patterns are also everso slightly stretched on some of the pencils. The images I’ve included in this review do not do justice to how truly abominable the print job is. It’s atrocious. It is laugh worthy. It is, as my Grandmother would say, ugly as sin.
The silver ferrules are affixed well to the pencil and hold a pink eraser. The erasers are typical of Hindustan and Casemate awful. This batch of erasers is stiff and gritty. In use they have a hard time removing graphite from even the smoothest of pages, and yet seem to lift the fibers of the page. Through repeated use I could see these erasers tearing a hole in the paper. They remind me of the old grey ink eraser like the Papermate Union.

In short these are great pencils for a very low investment. The core is wonderful, its’ just the exterior that makes these look awful.

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Lined Notebooks and One Off Packs

I finally listed the lined notebooks on my etsy account. You can find them here and here. The first link is to the general lined page with regular 3-packs of black, recycled covers, and a few packs of other colors. The second link is to the lined rainbow Allies packs. Get it, rainbow notebooks with straight lines inside are allies? It made me laugh.

I’m testing out a feature on Facebook that they have recently rolled out- shops. Some people aren’t able to access them yet, but many are. I’ve loaded up a few sets of one off books to Facebook. If they don’t sell by the end of next week I’ll go about putting them on etsy but for now, I really want to test out the facebook shop feature. (They don’t take a cut or percentage or even listing fee like Etsy does, so it might be a good way to sell things in the future.) You can find my Facebook shop here. The one offs are made of paper that I bought years ago for art journaling purposes and never used, now I am. Many of the covers feature some subtle glitter. All the loose glitter has infected my printer, shear, corner rounder, and life.

Writing Process Examined

After NaNoWriMo I decided to start my next novel and continue writing by hand. Thus far I’ve written 66,600 words across 4 Yoobi composition books and used only graphite. The Yoobi books are significantly smoother in texture than the Norcom and Roaring Springs Comp books I used for NaNo. The tactile feel is substantially different, and I’m really enjoying the feel. I began writing on February 26th (this writing is initially being done on 3/31) so I’ve done a substantial amount of writing in the last 30 days. In fact I reached 50,000 words after only 20 days.

Pencils used in writing.

My work schedule has settled down to my working most days after 2pm until about 7pm with longer days here and there. I’ve had to revamp when I write. In the past I had a strict no media- reading, TV, movies, art, or writing before work. I’m prone to getting into the flow and not knowing what time it is, and have been late to work in the past. Now that I’m working afternoons and evenings, that just doesn’t work. If I’m up at 10am I need to be able to work before work otherwise I waste most of my day, because I’m often fried after work.

I’ve set alarms on my phone to alert me to about a half hour before I need to leave, and then again when I need to get out of the house so I won’t be late. The 30 minutes allows me to jot down my thoughts for the scene and where I’m thinking it will go on  a sticky note as well as wrap up the thought. It also gives me enough time to pack my bag and grab a snack. I listen to podcasts on my way to work that help me to disengage from the creative process and get into the right mode for work. (Erasables, Myth and Legend, I Should be Writing, Art Supply Posse, etc)

After work I often find I need some down time to unwind. While writing is helpful in helping me to unwind I find that reading something can be more helpful in shifting from work mind to creative mind. I often read and listen to music for an hour or so after work. Occasionally I watch TV, but I find that many of the TV shows that I’ve been watching tend to aggravate me more than relax me.* I tend to save up 3 or 4 episodes of any one show and then watch them all in one day.

Often after reading for a few hours I’ll hit up the novel again and get a few more pages down. Sometimes I don’t get to it. I’ve learned not to beat myself up if I can’t write after work or skip a day. After all, I won NaNo once, and I’m currently crushing the number of words I did in NaNo 2016. I can do it even if I take days off. So a day or two off here and there is no big deal, hell, I am now looking at it as a needed rest for my brain. The other side of that is that just because I’m not writing doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about the novel. I’m a fan of the idea that sometimes the brain needs downtime to noodle through thoughts and figure out the sticky bits. Sometimes the downtime is needed reflective time.

So while yes the adage of “apply ass to chair” is a good one, sometimes the brain needs time to reflect without the pressure of the pencil/pen/keyboard. So long as you get the ass back into the chair after a day or two- even if it is to work on a different project, and you aren’t using the downtime to avoid the writing, the I think it’s all good.

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