Since I’ve switched over to a “use the good stuff” mindset I’ve been burning through my pencils and pen refills. I’ve also stopped buying stuff. When Baronfig approached me about reviewing another limited edition squire, I wasn’t going to, then I saw the pics.
And if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I love teal. That blue green color of the 90s and my youth is my favorite. So I said yes.
And oh man, I love this pen.
It is a squire, so if you like a basic squire you will love this design. It is balanced and has a nice weight in hand. The nock is twisty and smooth. As far as Squire pens go, it’s well made, as usual. The packaging is awesome and has a fun little game to get a little treat.* I particularly love the glossy varnish on the package to make the bottle design shiny on the matte background. Perfect.
The design wraps around the pen, so when I roll the pen in my hand it captures the motion of underwater grass. The rolling patterns are great. The little fish, octopus, and turtle are lovely. I’m quite taken by the octopus.
I don’t think I can say anything bad about this pen. The color is just right for me. the wrap around pattern is great and I love looking at each of the little critters.
Getting better sound doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it can be incredibly expensive. I did a posting the RSVP Stationery Podcast group awhile back about tests I did with a bunch of stuff that I had on hand- headphone, mics, lav mics, and my phone. The results were interesting.
The biggest and most important thing for getting better sound is reduction of background noise. That means turning off fans, heaters, the washing machine, and dishwasher. If that can’t be done then there are a number of ways to reduce noise.
My favorite is building a tent out of cushions or pillows. You can also build a tent out of a blanket draped over a chair set up on a desk as my podcast co-host Lenore does. When I traveled to Maine and stayed in an apartment I had no idea how to reduce some of the noises, so I built a tiny tent out of the available pillows. When I record in my work office after hours, I use an assortment of pillows from around the offices. I’ve also read of folx making a tent out of couch cushions. After you build your tent you stick your mic in there and talk into it. Make sure your mouth is about 6 to 12 inches from the mic, and start talking.
If that’s not working for you, think about going into a closet. You know I’d never tell anyone to go into a closet but sometimes it’s a great way to reduce background noise, once you shove all the clothing into the back it’s going to absorb a LOT of noise.
When I decided I wanted to start recording Manuscripting Pod from my phone I recorded snippets of audio all over the house, office, and in the car. I tested it with a variety of mics too. I wanted to see where I had the least background noise, without alterations, so that I could start recording with as little work as possible. I walked around, recorded 10 seconds of audio and a bit of silence, listened, tweaked things and repeated.
To start I tested out a lot of the headphone mics I had on hand. I found that I got good clear audio with my Monster replacement cables for my over ear headphones. I also got great audio from my HTC ear buds that came with an old phone. My Samsung ear buds also sounded decent. Though I should point out that I tested a pair that was virtually unused and a beater pair I used a lot. The pair that had been coiled up again and again in my bag and had been abused sounded awful. The Monster mic was very sensitive and depending on where my head was turned picked up my breathing. If you want to get into recording super cheap, a pair of new earbud or a new cable will be the cheapest way into recording.
I found that minimizing contact noise- the sound that occurs when you move your head around and the cables rub against clothing- helped to improve sound quality. I used tiny binder clips to secure the cable and mic to my shirt. This worked wonderfully.
The next step up in audio is a decent lav or lapel mic. They range in price from a dirt cheap $12 up to hundreds of dollars. A $30 mic can perform really well. Make sure you get a dead cat muff or foam muff for it. I prefer the fuzzy dead cat muffs myself and use one on all my mics. I find that a foam muff seems to muffle my voice a bit and can still pick up wind.
The next step up is a dedicated podcasting mic. I can only speak to the mics that I own or have used and they range in price. I started out with a Zoom H1. This is a great mic if you want to record all the sound in a room, it’s omni directional, uses regular batteries but can be powered via USB and will record out and about on it’s own. It’s great for music and general audio but getting it set up to record a podcast is a PITA, in that it gets all the background noise, which means you pay for ease and portability with a lot of processing when you are done. Linked is the H1n, the new version of the old H1. If you search youtube there are a number of videos on splitting audio by using a lapel mic and headphone splitter. I’ve used a splitter with my H1 and it works great as a tiny recording studio.
The next step from this is something like the Samson Meteor, which is what my other podcast co-host used. (He now uses something much more expensive) Or something in the same range is the Blue Snowball or the Amazon ball mic.
So after you decide how and with what you are going to record, how do you edit? We use Audacity for RSVP. It’s free and works great. I use this instructional Google Doc for editing and lean toward minimal processing for the podcasts. On my phone I record and edit with the paid version of AudioLab. It lets me record, edit and splice in my intro audio for Manuscripting Pod. I wouldn’t use AudioLab for hour long podcasts, but it does well enough for stuff up to 20 minutes long.
No matter what you decide to record with, if you plan to travel with the mic, get a case. Mics are sensitive and expensive. If you toss it into your bag along with your pens, pencils, and drop it or toss it around it’s going to break. My H1 has a hard case I adapted from a tool. My AmazonBasics Yeti knock off doesn’t have a case because it doesn’t travel. My mini mic has a soft sided neoprene case that I added more foam to make it even more cushioned. The lav mics are in another soft sided case- one that was originally for a small camera. take care of the equipment and it’ll last a along time.
As part 2 of this post series, I figured I’d link to a few of the things I use to record audio and video. Your mileage may vary and you can adapt a great deal of the things you have around you for better audio and video.
My favorite lighting tool is daylight bulbs, at least 60w equivalent LEDs, preferably 100w. They light a good amount of space with a nice clean and cool light that looks good with my skin tone and gives my art true to life coloring. You might want to look at soft white bulbs as well, because you could look different under daylight bulbs. I pick up a 4-pack every time I am at the hardware store. My local wally world does not carry day light bulbs. Weird.
I use cheap clamp on aluminum reflectors also called shop lights. They are under $7 at my local wally world, but you can get a better and larger reflector at the hardware store for about $12. The $7 version at wally world are designed for a 60w incandescent bulb, they can usually handle the heat output of 60 watt LED. Think of your budget. You will need 2 of these plus the bulbs listed above. to soften the light you can use a couple of binder clips to attach a piece of vellum paper or other frosted plastic to the reflectors. This should only be done with LED- incandescent or other styles of bulbs get too hot for this.
I also have a pair of smaller desk style clip on lamps. These have a small reflector and I use them to light up my desk with a more focused light. These are great for when I’m shooting art making.
If you don’t have the cash to buy lamps, pull lamps from around your house and remove shades to see what happens.
Set up the lights and shoot selfies with lights on and off. Move lights around, tip them and lift them. Take more selfies. Seriously, selfies are going to help you figure out if you look good, washed out, greasy, or red in the face on camera.
A tripod. This might be the most essential piece of kit. You can get a cheap tripod or an expensive one. I favor cheap tripods because I can get more than one for the price of half an expensive one. If you can’t afford one, look into borrowing one or getting a broken one and duct taping legs or whatever in place. You can clamp lights onto the tripod, you want the lights slightly ahead of the camera so the camera doesn’t cash shadows. Checkout some of the videos I posted here to figure out more about lighting.
Once you have the tripod set your camera up on it and take more selfies as you move the lights, yourself and the tripod around. Test every set up.
A cell phone mount for said tripod. There are hundreds if not thousands of options here. I’ve got a stick on mount that works well enough. You can pick up a number of mounts for cheap.
Extension cords and a surge protector. You will always want more electrical outlets and you want to protect your camera, phone and other equipment from surges. I like the squid surge protector and this cone style. Also, you are going to want a few USB charging plugs and more USB cords (or lightning) than you think you need.
A set of spring clamps will be incredibly useful for containing cords, cables, and making sure that those clamp lights don’t move around. I pick up a hand full of them everytime I go to Harbor Freight.
Consider your background when you shoot video. If there are lights and they make your face go dark, shut them off. Or swap out a lower wattage bulb, sometimes a slight light in the background can help define you from your background. Also some light keeps you from looking like you are in a cave. If there is a window, pull the shade or turn so that the window does not back light you. If your background is super busy consider taking up or hanging up a blanket, sheet or curtain to minimize background distractions. If your background is busy consider getting a garment rack and using it to hold up a blanket or sheet. I find these for free all the time. The linked version is the cheapest, but for a bit more money you can get one on locking wheels.
Clearly a lot of this stuff are things you need to purchase if you don’t already have them, but you’d be surprised at how much of this stuff you can pull together from various and assorted items you already have around the house. Especially the lamps, cords, and cables. A sheet or blanket makes a great backdrop.
So all of that addresses lighting yourself for video. Next up audio.
One of the very difficult aspects of working from home is getting accustomed to using video conferencing tools or suddenly being thrust into making instructional videos for your students. It’s scary to do at first but with a little bit of help you can do it and do these things well. Lighting, audio, and video are all easy to do once you get past the initial learning curve. If you’ve been here awhile you know that for many years I made art instructional videos before i went back to school, and if you’re new you just learned something about me. So I’ve collected a few resources to help you shoot better video with better audio.
If you work for a larger organization- like a college, university or school, you may have access to cameras and mics. Ask your school’s technology office, IT Desk, or librarian where these are located.
Otherwise use some stuff you may have around- old cell phones make great web cams, and you can adapt cameras to work with your laptop with a few apps downloaded. This video from Tested has some great apps and programs linked. A big shocker is that the comments are unusually helpful with additional apps and resources. For the first time in my life I can say, “read the comments!”
While this next video suggests some pricey lighting options, it has a great section on lower end lav mics- those little lapel mics the folx on the news wear. As for lighting, you can pick up a few cheap reflectors from either of the evil massive companies (links to follow) with a few 60 watt LED daylight bulbs. Placing them around strategically will give you decent light for most of your needs.
You can also use an old cell phone combined with a lav mic to create a wireless solution for audio capturing. Plug the mic into the old phone and hit record. Syncing it with the video can be a pain, but it can be totally worth it for the improved audio.
If you follow me on twitter, you know I’m not a fan of Zoom, but many companies and schools use it. Do yourself a favor and look at how to lock down some of it’s more invasive qualities, then use this guide to get better sound. Yes, part of that is going to be getting a better mic. If you are creating any sort of content that you hope to use in the future, please invest in the $30 lav mic suggested above or the $12 below, or when available again, a podcasting mic. At the very least look at getting a new pair of earbuds or headphones that you aren’t going to bundle up and take everywhere. Don’t use your daily commuter beater headphones to record your audio content. I guarantee they will sound terrible.
Another dead simple and useful thing to create while you are doing online classes, is a teleprompter. There are many tutorials out there, but this one is kinda funny. You can use a piece of class or even plexi (yes it will work) and an app plus a smart phone or tablet. For android, you can look up the app Elegant Teleprompter.
This video looks at some of the settings on a camera that you can address to improve the quality of your video. It also suggests $12 lav mic that sounds great in his videos. The $100 price tag doesn’t account for the camera or lens. Combine some of his lighting and mic suggestions with the camera phone and your video and audio quality will jump.
I recently watched a Zoom training put out by an Ivy League school, the content was wonderful, but it was destroyed by poor production qualities. The presenter used old headphones and mic that didn’t pic up his voice well, his camera was terrible and the other presenters sat with their cameras pointed at windows or lamps. Not only could I barely hear the content, but the video was painful to look at. Additionally, the presenters had a great deal of difficulty using Zoom. I was glad that I had not paid for the presentation, because the production quality was that bad.
I suggest before starting video conferencing, walk around your space and take selfies, adjust lighting until you look good. Sit in the chair or in the location where you’ll be presenting and adjust the camera so that it is at least at eye level, or better yet slightly higher. I like 6 inches higher than my eye level. Remember, no one wants to look up your nose.
Look at your background, is it busy will it detract from your content? Consider moving things around, taking down art or photos. turn of the light behind you, draw the shade closed. Turn on a light in front of you to offset any background light. You do not want things so bright in your video that it hurts to look at your darkened face against a super bright background.
In terms of audio, test record. walk around with your phone, record audio and listen. How does it sound? Is there stuff in the background? echos? You can soften a lot of echoes and weird noises with the addition of curtains and hanging some soft things up. You can also place pillows behind and around the mic (if your using a larger podcasting mic that ins’t directional) to soften some echos. Turn off fans and AC units. Liberal use of mute will help qality when you aren’t talking.
You may or may not know that I’m into fiber or fabric arts. I love quilts and fabric of all sorts. Back when I made books on a regular basis, I had the opportunity to buy loads of fabric. I went through tons of it. I still love it.
I started hand appliqueing fabric to an old chambray shirt that was in disrepair. It looks lovely. IT feels amazing. Overall I just really liked getting my hands on some fabric again.
About 9 months ago? It feels like a hundred years ago at this point, I picked up a free antique, 40s era Kenmore sewing machine in a delightful cabinet. The machine is a TANK. It has one stitch- straight. Though it does go backwards too. There are knobs and dials and it is so satisfying to use. Because it is in a lovely cabinet we put it into our office and I’ve been able to use it on the regular.
I sit down and make what I’m calling my “weirdo patches.” Which are simple little applique mini quilts. They fray and get fuzzy as they get washed but they are lovely to feel.
I’ve been known to track down patches of the perfect size to cover an old logo on an old hoodie. Now I’ve been measuring and creating these little applique quilts to cover up logos. Then I started to make them because being at my machine brings a sense of calm and peace. Plus I love clipping little pieces of fabric and arranging them. They are puzzles waiting to be discovered.
This, 2019 has been a rough year. I changed jobs, a family member had cancer and went through chemo and radiation, another family member has been ill, and then we have the whole government thing here in the US. This has been a year of transition and change, and rough patches.
Transitioning from one job to the next is always rough, especially as I moved from one with a top-down leadership style to one that focuses on teamwork. After nearly 20 years of working in top-down styled workplaces, moving into a teamwork environment has been a more difficult transition than I expected. In the past I planned for the first 6 months of any job transition to mean that I would work much less on my outside pursuits of writing, blogging, reading, art, crafting, and garden. And wow, was all of that impacted and for longer than 6 months. Hell, I’m going on a year and I’m just settling in. Add to all that I screwed up my shoulder and had a carpal tunnel flare up and whoa a recipe for not wanting to sit in front of the computer.
When I transitioned I had quite a few blog posts partially written and images shot so this blog didn’t see much of an impact until June. At that point, the combination of all the things in my life hit the fan and I simply was not able to focus on the blog much at all. My plan for 2020 is to get back into writing more posts, focusing on a few art materials, getting back into my professional ink series, and my cheap pens from China.
Another thing I might focus on is the use of the materials. Some of you may (or not) know that I started another blog, FermentStuff.com a place to focus and document my fermentation and gardening efforts. I use pens and pencils heavily in my documentation of my garden and ferments. Recipes must be documented and seed purchases recorded.
After I wrote the above I was informed that my Grandmother passed away. Despite her advanced age and frailty, it was unexpected. As with any death, it has put me into an introspective mood.
If there is one thing that 2019 going into 2020 taught me it is that we’re all human and life is short. Despite all my best intentions of writing and exploring art and writing materials, sometimes, life just gets in the way and things, like blogging, must be set aside for the moment. For now, I’m looking closely at how I use my stationery in my other hobbies- podcasting, writing fiction, and gardening; and let’s not forget the DayJob. It is always surprising to see how the stationery I love gets used in the pursuit of all my other interests. Stationery is a support and a tool. And with that thinking, I’ll be exploring a bit of that in this blog. I’m not sure how those posts will look, but they’ll be there. Despite taking a bit of time off from this blog, I’ll be back, with hopefully more reviews, weird little writings, some art, and an assortment of other written things.
If you aren’t already following my instagram, my facebook, and twitter you should. Though I’ll warn you Twitter is where I get salty and rant a bit and my Instagram is a lot of food and cooking pictures, and if you don’t like plants you won’t like my instagram. You can also follow my other blog, FermentStuff.com for more cooking, growing, and queered urban homesteading activities.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this review, Dade and I sat down and recorded an episode of RSVP about the use of stationery in support of our other hobbies and activities. This has always been a core component of how I review but is especially important in this particular review.
I’ll start with the basics that you all know about BF. I love their cream-colored toothy paper that works just as well for pencils as it does for fountain pens and gel ink. It holds up to brush pens and colored pencils and feels great every step of the way. To boil that down- if you like dot grid and use almost any writing utensil it’s great. They use the same paper in the Vanguards as they do in the Confidants. Near paper perfection.
The vanguard is a 72 page stitched soft cover notebook. The cover stock is thick and textured. The stitching on this edition is black and sturdy. They do use back tacking to secure the ends, which is better and more secure than cutting the stitching but can leave an unsightly bundle of threads at the edges of the book. None of mine have this issue. Occasionally the stitching will be crooked or off-center, but all of mine were good.
The covers of this one have art created by Josh Cochran. The colors are subtle blends of CMYK to create a near monotone effect. I’m not sure if this is intentional but I enjoy the various shades created. The lines in the art are both thick and shaky at the same time, and folks, I am here for it. Inside the covers are printed with a softer shade of the exterior of the main color of the covers. The back cover features a little doodle in the same theme as the cover. They are cute and a fun little addition to the notebooks. There are 3 different designs for the covers one yellow, one blue-green, and one in pinks. They are all lovely.
After ripping this package open, shooting pics for this review, I immediately pressed what I term the “summer” or yellow notebook into use for my garden planning and seed starting log. I’ve made my way through about the middle of the book. It has been tossed around my bag, the truck of my car, and had copious plans scribbled into its pages. What I really love about the Vanguards is that they are just the right size for a small to medium-sized project. 72 page is just right. The size of the pages is just right, and the softcover format allows you to open the book up flat to spread your ideas out across 2 pages without an overwhelming lump in the middle.
What I have been really surprised about with this vanguard is that the cover has stood up to this kind of abuse and use. Normally most of my notebooks get tossed into my bag or onto a desk. They don’t get wet as I log hydroponic feedings or smudged with dirt as I fill seed starting pots. What is most impressive with this is that despite being a paper cover it cleans off nicely.
I write the bones of my review with the item in whatever journal I’m using at the time. It felt a little weird to write with this review in the Baron Fig Clear Plus journal. It’s a 5 cent pencil being reviewed in a nearly $30 journal. But this pencil performs more like a 50 cent pencil than a 5 cent pencil.
The Pen + Gear (P+G from here) pencil arrives in a hard plastic box, honestly, I’d prefer cardboard with a window, but this is a decent box. There is a bit of flex in the packaging which can contribute to cracked cores. I chose the package of black pencils, but there are now many colors and decorative features available. It is important to note where the pencils are made while making your selection. Those made in India are the pencils you want. The rest are not good. The made in India are made by Hindustan and are great pencils.
The paint on these pencils is glossy but thin. Some grain is evident through the paint. The wood it covers appears to be bass, linden, ash, or one of the many other pale-colored kinds of wood available for pencils. From the smell, it is likely to be bass/linden. It sharpens perfectly in every sharpener I’ve used, from the Classroom Friendly to the KUM Masterpiece to the M+R Pollux. The graphite takes a lovely point.
The graphite inside is smooth and dark. Much like most of the HB or dark pencils made by Hindustan. These are not super soft. In fact, their point retention is on par with many HB pencils. I used my several test pencils on several different types of paper- from the smooth paper in my work bullet journal, rough pulpy index cards, kraft paper, rosin paper, and in the Baron Fig Confidant Plus. It was silky smooth on all paper, but also the point survived longer than expected on all the papers. I filled an entire page in the Confidant Plus before feeling like I needed to touch up the point.
The eraser… Generally speaking, erasers made by Hindustan are pink chicklets of disappointment. They rub the graphite around the page but not off, they melt into a sticky puddle atop the pencil. Not these. These black erasers are dust-gathering or sticky, and they actually work relatively well for erasers on pencils. I’m pleasantly surprised.
During the review period, which usually lasts about a week, I found myself reaching for this pencil over and over again. At the end of the week, I kept reaching for this pencil. It simply works and works well. I wasn’t sharpening it every 2 seconds, or pulling shattered cores from the wood. I didn’t fight with the sharpeners. Most importantly, I was able to use the same pencil throughout staff meeting at work without sharpening.
At $1.97 a 12-pack, these weren’t the cheapest Walmart pencils, but they are solidly good.
When the Clear Journal was first introduced by Baron Fig I passed on it, thinking that I really didn’t need a purpose-built journal for bullet journaling. I’m in the camp that believes any journal can be turned into a bullet journal. I still believe that but when I was offered the Confidant Plus size (aka The Big One) I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve been itching for more space in a few of my journals and figured this would scratch that itch.
Let’s get a few things out of the way. This is a Baron Fig Confidant, but bigger. Same great paper. Same quality binding. Same quality fabric cover. If you like a standard Confidant you’ll like this special edition. I’ll get into the special bits later. But thus far, the standard stuff is all great.
The Confidant plus size is much larger than a standard-sized journal and larger still than a Confidant. It makes other journals look diminutive. This results in a journal that is more than a little bit heavier than the regular Confidant. So if you carry your journal around with you, this might be one you leave on your desk.
There are a few extra extras on this journal- a pair of ribbon bookmarks, which like all Baron Fig bookmarks are just smidge too short. (Hint to BF- if you are thinking of adding an inch, add 3) I have small hands and dexterous fingers grabbing one of these ribbons is a feat worth celebration. I love BF ribbons. They feel great when I can grab them.
The end sheets in this book are gorgeous, as usual. The back features a pocket. Whhhhhat the what? BF included a pocket? I was shocked and happy. I love pockets in my journals. They house all sorts of stuff. This one won’t hold my ruler, as it’s a slash type pocket, but it will hold all the other garbage I shove in there. Slash type pockets are superior for stashing assorted papers to the typical envelope style pockets. Envelope style pockets allow for stashing of smaller loose things, AND rulers. But the slash is best for papers.
The final addition to this journal is an elastic. Baron Fig’s elastic when they use them, are awesome. Stretchy and soft but not loose. They hold the book closed in a snug way, but when not used just hangs out in the back of the book not catching on things. Because this book is a Confidant I often find myself forgetting that the elastic is there.
The lovely BF paper is printed with a few extras. In the front there are one line a day monthly pages. 12 of them. This is simplified with 1-31 and the months printed along the edges. Circle the month and then write on the day as normal. I like the layout and look of these pages. It is intended for you to ponder a single prompt or to keep track of the things you do in a month. The highlight reel. This is not how I use a journal but I see how it could be appealing. I tried it, and after a few weeks of boring entries; Dried pears. Made pear butter. Put bok choi into the cold frame. Checked ferments. I gave up on the highlight reel. I found myself wanting to use it like my regular bullet journal where I enter upcoming tasks and things- Cancel Hulu. Order water filters. So I did.
The notebook section is an upgraded dot grid that BF and Clear call “split grid.” The center of the horizontal and verticle is denoted with a + while the quarter sections are denoted with – or |. This saves you from needing to measure things out, just find the appropriate -, |, or + and make lines. I cannot explain to you how much I LOVE this format. It adds speed and flexibility to a bullet journal that makes setting up a new page fluid. I’m in favor of BF adding the split grid to all their Confidants.
In the back are habit trackers. I’ll be honest, I haven’t found a use for these. The set up doesn’t seem to work with how I track habits. Or have in the past. I appreciate the idea, and have read Clear’s vision for these, but they simply don’t work for me.
The final section of the book is devoted to a few pages of a variety of productivity methods* and ways to use the habit track and split grid of the journal portion. All of these are useful tools and can help you to figure out your bullet journaling style.
Overall I love this confidant. I love the little additions and attention to detail. I adore the larger size. You can sit down at a desk and really noodle out some ideas in a way that I’ve always thought the smaller (roughly) 6×9” size sometimes makes limiting. I find myself reaching for this journal again and again. The black with copper accenting is gorgeous. The end sheets are lovely. That subtle blue split dot grid on the creamy BF paper makes me very happy. It melts into the background behind pencil and pen. I’d love this color on more BF Confidants.
The Plus size is $28, a mere $4 more than a LE Confidant. If you’ve been aching for a larger size this price is good. There are 208 pages. 32 of them are either black, text or other places where you won’t journal. In total the book are 176 pages usable for journaling.
I’ve been struggling with how to review the special editions and pencils made for other companies by Blackwing aka Palomino. How does one review a pencil that has a topnotch core that is one of 4 different grades (extra firm, firms, balanced, and soft) wrapped in perfect cedar and then coated in a thick coat of lacquer? We’re already starting off with a wonderful product that may be a little higher priced, it is after all marketed as a premium pencil, that we know has quality going into it.
After all I acknowledge that the Blackwing is a premium well-made product at a slightly higher price than I like to pay. I’ve detailed in other posts that I will now only purchase singles or trade for the editions I REALLY like. Otherwise, I’ll live with one to use and one for my collection.
So how do I review the number 19? The story is great. For me the tribute means less to me than the rest of the pencils, even divorced from the story the pencil is great. I love a matte coated pencil, and the flat cool gray is wonderfully grippy. My hand doesn’t slide at all. The imprint smudges a bit which seems to be deliberate and in keeping with the newspaper theme. The charcoal eraser looks black to me but goes well with the pencil itself.
My one problem with this pencil is that the ferrule fit was not great. In Bob Slate, I noticed that all the ferrules were off. I don’t care much about the centering, that is dealt with by twisting the ferrule into place. Easy. Instead the ferrule just didn’t fit deep enough. Once I arrived home, I removed the ferrule and sliced off a mere millimeter and the ferrule fit perfectly. Gone were the janky looking bits of cedar hanging out around the sides and chips of paint. Once dealt with this pencil became amazing.
Now comes the argument that evolved as I used this pencil. Once dealt with the janky issues, the looks are perfect. But I had to deal with them. I had to do work on this pencil. A pencil that costs $3 (when bought as a single at Bob Slate, and even when not bought as a single it’s well over $2 per pencil) shouldn’t need to be worked on for it to be perfection. If I were spending 50 cents I don’t care about reattaching the ferrule in a pleasing manner, but when a pencil is sold at a premium price the quality control of said pencil should match that premium price. It shouldn’t be janky once it is boxed and sent out to buyers.
In short, this pencil is a perfectly sedate pencil that feels great in hand but it is hampered by janky production values that don’t belong on a $3 pencil. If I’d bought a 12-pack of these for $26 or $30 and they all looked this awful I’d have been very upset.