Category Archives: Review

Review: KUM Masterpiece

I mention the KUM Masterpiece pretty often in my pencil reviews. With good reason too, it’s a fantastic sharpener. Compared to the dramatic teasing of the Pollux from M+R, KUM did the roll out for the Masterpiece juuuust right. Initially it was only available in Germany then someone was able to do a group buy for a decent price. Finally, CWPE was able to get them in stock.The Masterpiece is machined from a solid block of aluminum, possibly an alloy. With a sliding blue plastic stop for your lead. The stop also has a slot on the underside to hold 2 replacement blade, and arrives with 2 in the slot. The blades are standard sharpener blades. I use M+R blades that are available in 10-packs all over the place. The Masterpiece arrives swaddled in neoprene and in a hard plastic case. I’ve ditched my plastic and neoprene for a mini mint tin, but that matters not. It comes with a neat neoprene case for carting around in your bag in cushioned safety. To use the Masterpiece you first sharpen the wood away in hole 1, which is on the left side of the sharpener. On a pencil with a well centered core it sharpens only the wood away. After you’ve shaved off the wood you slide the exposed lead into hole number 2 to the right, using a light touch it shaves off the graphite to a perfectly pointy long point. With practice you can learn to stop before you get a needlepoint hat snaps when you touch it to paper. I’ve found that I can usually touch up my point 2 or 3 times without sharpening the wood again.

If the blade in hole 2 is dull it will take forever to get a point and occasionally the lead will snap off. I rotate my blades. So I’ll recycled blade 1, moving the dull blade 2 to hole 1 and putting a fresh blade onto hole2. Generally the Masterpiece will sharpen any pencil any time without issue. It just works 99% of the time, unlike the Pollux. Replacement blades are cheap.

The Masterpiece is available for $18 plus shipping at CWPE and $15 at Pencil(dot)com plus rather high shipping. You can also get it at JetPens for $22, and free shipping at $25.

Pricing aside, the Masterpiece is ready to go the moment you get it and it just works and works. This thing is a workhorse of a sharpener. Sharpening everything from the cheapest Dixon no name to the priciest Blackwing volumes. I love it. Continue reading

Review: California Typewriter

This post is written by Harry Marks, the mind behind one of my favorite podcasts, Covered. you should check it out Harry’s interview style is excellent.

I was unable to catch California Typewriter, a documentary from Doug Nichol, in theaters during its limited run, so instead I purchased it from iTunes a few days before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what I expected. Certainly a heavy dose of hipsters nostalgic for an era they never lived so as to set themselves apart from the iPad crowd. However, this movie, unlike others centered around the tools of creators, didn’t give me what I expected and in fact, delivered something more.Looking at the poster, with its flaming sheet of paper sticking out the top of a vague, blue 1970s machine, one might think the movie was about the men in the four boxes at the top. Tom Hanks is arguably the most famous typewriter collector in the world, but he doesn’t feature that heavily in the film; John Mayer, David McCullough, and Sam Shepard are far more prominent, perhaps because the typewriter plays a bigger role in their creative endeavors. But these celebrities are not the focus of the film. They are more akin to hype men, expounding on the typewriter’s beauty and longevity while the rest of the movie focuses on its namesake: a tiny shop in Berkley, California that repairs, restores, and resells vintage typewriters. Herb Permillion, the store’s owner, his daughters, and repairman Kenneth Alexander keep things running four days a week. It’s almost enough to validate the “small businesses are the backbone of the American economy” platitude politicians spout right before they vote to tax the hell out of them.  I found myself pausing and searching eBay throughout the film because of the way Ken talked about a particular bell sound or how his fingers danced over a machine as though he’d built it himself. This family of do-or-die typewriter aficionados lives and breathes the clicks and clacks of yesteryear and it is impossible to not get swept up in their genuine love for these objects.Some might say a documentary about people repairing typewriters wouldn’t be very entertaining (I beg to differ), so when the cameras aren’t inside the shop, they’re pointed at the men and women who collect or make their living from typewriters. When Tom Hanks talks about one of the over 200 typewriters in his collection, it’s like watching Jay Leno discuss a rare car in his garage. You can’t help but smile and feel the warmth of his admiration for them. 1776 author David McCullough writes all his books on an old Royal in his backyard writing shed. Silvi Alcivar is a “poet on demand” who composes short verse on her red Royal Custom III in subway stations and at street fairs.Not all featured are writers and poets, though. Jeremy Mayer creates amazing sculptures of animals and humans out of old typewriter parts. I couldn’t help but cringe at his prying apart old Selectrics and Coronas to construct fingers and cheek bones for his skeletal people. When a film is dedicated to the preservation of such beautiful machines, seeing someone mangle them to feed their Frankenstein-like need to create feels like watching a person make wallpaper from torn-out Bible pages. Mayer’s work is fascinating in a macabre kind of way. Regardless of how each individual uses (or abuses) typewriters, every single person in California Typewriter has a different and unique reason for why he or she enjoys them, be it the sound, or the joy of an analog lifestyle, or the satisfaction of putting actual words on an actual page. This is what’s most inspiring about the documentary: everyone in it is different, just like every typewriter is different. The bells chime in different tones. An Olympia has a crispier “chunk” than a Smith-Corona. Keys are spaced and shaped differently, and each of those characteristics is something to either entice or repel a potential owner. One person makes sculptures with parts while another makes music. One types non-fiction in a shed while another types poetry in public. The typewriter can be a symphony and a work of art, and while different people may use it in different ways, its purpose is clear: to create.After watching the film, I felt compelled to drop a fresh sheet of paper into my own Smith-Corona and start a new short story. My words hit the page like gunfire. Sure, it was nice to slow down and get away from the notifications and dings of new email, but more than that it was fun. Typewriters are fun. Typing on a typewriter is fun. Fun is something not talked about when writing on a computer or even by hand. One is mundane, the other a chore (I’m failing NaNoWriMo by hand and it is less than amusing). The people of California Typewriter, both the shop and the film, embrace the fun side of the tools we take for granted. Their enjoyment is almost better than the footage of all the beautiful typewriters they surround themselves with. Almost.For me, California Typewriter has the potential to be the On Writing of movies, a well to revisit and quench one’s thirst when the words run dry. One viewing and I had already slipped a sheet of paper through the platen. No operating systems to update, no Internet required, no interruptions, just me and the words. You may call us hipsters or contrarians. You may look down on our love of the old ways, but our machines are 60, 70, 80 years old or more. They have lasted through numerous presidents, World Wars, the dot com bubble, and they may even outlast us.

California Typewriter avoids the common traps found in similar documentaries. It is more than a celebration of an enduring creative tool. It is proof that obsolescence is not inevitable, but a suggestion as long as these machines can enchant new audiences and skillful hands continue to keep them running. We’ve embraced analog because despite the time it takes to complete a task, it is more satisfying. Tactile. Personal. I cannot think of a better representation of these principles than California Typewriter.

California Typewriter is available now for rent or purchase on iTunes.

Harry Marks is the host of the literary podcast COVERED where he interviews authors about their books and the writing process. His fiction can be read at HelloHorror and in Plumbago Magazine.

Review: Mobius + Rupert Pollux

Who knew that a pencil sharpener could be so divisive? Well, I suppose pencil nerds who like the chewy look a Classroom Friendly sharpener gives fancy pencils might suspect that the Pollux could upset and excite folks.Let me start with the basics. The Pollux is a hand held sharpener that creates an concave point in much like the vintage Janus sharpener or a modern crank sharpener. Good luck finding a Janus with a working blade. The Pollux is machined from a solid block of brass and the design is reminiscent of M+R’s Grenade or Brass Bullet sharpener, but longer. The Pollux was teased for months and months before it finally became available, when it was finally available it wasn’t offered with replacement blades. Replacement blades weren’t available until at least a month. Many of the initial run of sharpeners had dull blades that caused issues with sharpening.Once you got a sharpener with a working blade, the point the produced is long and concave. It is very similar to the Classroom Friendly point and slightly longer than that produced by the KUM Masterpiece. This is where the Pollux incites heated pencil nerdy debate. Unlike the Classroom Friendly and Masterpiece, which will sharpen any standard sized pencil to delightfully long points, the Pollux won’t. The Pollux is finicky and hates certain pencils. The Tombow 2558, my Nataraj Metallics, and harder graded pencils shatter and are devoured by the Pollux. The same pencil in the Classroom Friendly will sharpen perfectly. You could sharpen the same pencil to a nub in the Pollux and never get a point. The Pollux can be frustrating.

Another thing is, the Pollux requires a sharp blade for it to work well. Once the blade gets dull it will snap the point off every time. It also requires a light touch. If you jam your pencil into the Pollux, oh hey, snapped point. If you wiggle the pencil around, look a snapped point. Annoying.

If you stick to premium pencils- Uni NanoDia, Blackwings, and Helvetica you’ll never have a problem. Or if you stick to pencils with a silky smooth core that lacks grit you’ll be happy. The Tombow 2558 seems to be an odd duck when it comes to sharpening. My favorite budget pencils- Staedtler Norica and Pen+Gear/ Casemates Clown Car and Patterned pencil all do well in the Pollux.

Another factor to consider is the expense. The cheapest price available is $28 from CWPE. Replacement blade are $8, for a 3-pack. To get properly set up the Pollux will cost $36. Which is a ridiculously expensive price for a pencil sharpener. Compare that to the Masterpiece, which now retails for $18 and is bundled with 2 replacement blades and produces a point that is nearly as long.

I’m torn about the Pollux, and I do love it, but the fact that it will just DEVOUR some of my pencils irritates the crap out of me. Because of this I keep my KUM masterpiece handy and forces me to alternate my sharpener carry based off the pencils I’m using that day. This tempers my love. That said, I reach for it over and over again. I’m more likely to put my Blackwings and nicer soft core pencils through it for that long lasting concave point. When it works, it is perfect when it doesn’t you want to lob it across a field and then set the field on fire.

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A Different Kind of SABLE

This post is written by Paula Binsol, the med student behind the Insta account @outofpost and the blog Out of Post. She gives us a fresh take on SABLE.

In the past few months or so, SABLE or Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy, has been a term thrown around in pen and pencil collector communities. I have always been more of a user than a collector, with even the rarest among my collection being sharpened up and put to good use, but in terms of SABLE, my stash is small and practical because SABLE for me means Student Acquisitions Budgeted for Length of Education.

Just a little background: for the past two and a half years, I have been studying in the Philippines. Here, my daily allowance is equivalent to about $10 a day, depending on the exchange rate of the US Dollar that morning. It may not seem like much but there are some people in this country who don’t make that as their salary, let alone as a daily allowance and while it is more than enough to live on here while I’m studying, it is not enough to acquire a collection of rare or vintage items, which is why I tend to use everything that is in my stash. As a stationery lover for years, mostly of pens and paper, I started my whole pencil journey in January 2017 and was shocked and surprised when many of the veteran members of my pencil-loving Facebook family offered to send me packages of pencils and notebooks to try. Their gifts make up the bulk of my collection and while it was not feasible to transport everything back to school with me, I have almost one of everything and they are being put to great use each day.

Now, being on a student’s budget does not mean that I cannot collect or acquire pencils! It just means that I must be more creative in the way that I acquire them. To do this in the smartest and most cost-effective way possible, I begin with making a list of all the pencils that I wish to acquire, basically, a pencil wish list. Then, in another notebook (for me, a Field Notes Lunacy), I keep an inventory of all the pencils currently in my possession, which gives me a bird’s-eye-view of my collection, at-a-glance. To make sure that I have the opportunity I try everything, I use a system taught to me by a friend – I have three plastic boxes, two of which house pencils that are newly sharpened and the last that houses ones I have tried. If I love the pencil, it goes into my daily line-up on a pencil cup in my desk, but most of them go into the green “have tried” box. Practically speaking, I try to get the most out of what I do have by using it, using it and using it some more! There are a few things that I carry around with me on a regular basis that get a lot of use. First, is my little Klimt tin, which houses my most-used erasers and a traveling sharpener. Then, my most used pencils remain on my desk in a pencil cup. I use three each day in my daily journaling and rotate through them so that I can get a feel for what I like and don’t like; it helps me pare down my collection to the bare necessities. I don’t let myself buy anything for my collection, which limits my acquisitions to just what comes to me in trades, which allows me to cut costs substantially, but does allow me to explore the pencil and stationery world in a budget-friendly way!  And as a student on-the-go, I have a pencil case that is ready and waiting for me at all times. My pencil case of choice for this academic year is a Yoobi case that I bought at Target. I love it because it opens up into a tray, which makes grabbing what I need when I’m studying so much easier. Because I very rarely have time hand-sharpen when I’m at school or during exams, I bring mostly mechanical pencils with me – my current favorites are the P200 series and I have one of each, a P205, a P207 and a P209, mostly for taking written exams (because on our exams if you alter your answers after writing in pen, it’s considered wrong—the perfect excuse to start out with pencil). You can also see my all-time favorite pencil for writing and journaling, Apsara Absolute with its Ippo Pencil Cap. My two trust erasers, the Sakura Foam and Tombow Mono were chosen because of how well they erase both on paper and on Scantrons; they don’t leave a trace and that’s just the way I like it. While as a medical student, we aren’t able to use pencil very often (we are required to use pen or submit typewritten work for the most part), my favorite use of pencil lies in my quiet daily life, in journaling, making grocery lists or my bullet journal. I have a special pencil case that I use when I travel along with my notebooks that can fit even an unsharpened Blackwing and has extra pockets where I can keep a Ziploc and a sharpener, for long point sharpening while traveling! My favorite notebooks are my A5 bullet journal (no brand traveler’s notebook), the Olive Edition by the Traveler’s Company used for journaling and my September Leather Field Notes size bought off Amazon for my notebooks that carry lists, brain dumps and speaker’s notes for the debate team that I train. All in all, when asked to describe my process and collection and myself, as a lover of stationery, I label myself as an appreciator—both a user and a collector. I find my collection to be large for someone who didn’t have to spend too much and I love, love, love trades because they not only allow me to get to know others within the pencil and stationery community, but they expose me to pencils and other paraphernalia that I would otherwise not have known without the kindness and knowledge of others. So maybe I can’t yet afford the renowned Pollux or snag a vintage Eberhard Faber Blackwing, but with my kind of SABLE, I find that I get to go on an adventure every single day.

  • Instagram/Twitter: @outofpost
  • Blog: https://outofpost.wordpress.com

Biography: Born and raised on bagels and lox and challah French toast, Paula considers herself a Jersey girl through and through. She is a lover of stationery, the musty smell of a good, well-loved book and runs on hot tea and plain croissants. Currently pursuing her medical degree in the Philippines and in her third year, she is a self-proclaimed nerd and believes that quality tools bring quality work.

Review: Yoobi Gel Highlighters

I don’t know why I keep buying highlighters. Now that I’m out of school I’ve got enough left to last the rest of my life. I’ve got enough highlighter ink left to refill my Platinum Preppy highlighters forever.

In my work life I use highlighters to cross names off a list after I’ve written progress notes for the day. I use a highlighter because I still need to get info off the list when I’m done and transfer that to the progress note after it’s been printed. It’s a convoluted process that has to do with time constraints and access, or rather, lack of access to a computer for my work. I prefer crossing the names off the list to a check mark for visibility. Even with this use, I’m SABLE on all my highlighters.I used the Sharpie gel highlighter, and like Dee I found it to be chunky and lackluster. I don’t know what possessed me to buy the 4-pack of Yoobi gel highlighters. Hope? Stupidity? I dunno. At $4.50 they aren’t cheap, but I tossed them into my cart anyway.

Each package contains green, yellow, orange, and pink neon highlighters. The highlighter is encased in a thick plastic roll up tube that reminds me of a glue stick and chapstick all in one. Each has a small clear cap with an integrated clip. The cap clips on and off securely and can be posted. When posted it’s only held on with friction but in my use it stays put. I tend to hold the cap in my hand anyway.The highlighter gel rolls up with ease, like any tube of chapstick, and each twist pushes up a decent amount of highlighter. When first uncapped and in use the gel has a very strong odor, it reminds me of marker, or some fountain pen inks. I suspect that what I’m smelling is something to keep mold from growing on the exposed gelatinous ink bar. I’ve noticed this with Faber Castell Gelato crayons, though to a much lesser degree. I don’t find the smell off putting but know that others might.The highlighters are smooth and soft. They require the user to find the right amount of pressure without going overboard. Too little pressure and the gel doesn’t lay down enough and with too much, chunks break off. At first I didn’t like the rounded tip, but once I wore down a portion of the highlighter to the right angle it covered a line of text pretty perfectly and without needing additional passes. Though once I did get it to the proper angle I was more likely to break off a chunk with too much pressure. The highlighter does take some time to dry. If you get chunks of it on your page it can sort of glue pages together.On the rough cheap paper at work the Yoobi highlighter shines it takes less time to dry and the rough paper seems to help it need less pressure to lay down an adequate line. On the silky smooth paper in my StudioC notebook it took days for it to dry. It also had a tendency to bleed through. It doesn’t do this on the cheap paper. The StudioC paper is thin but my fountain pens don’t soak through. I have to wonder if this is due to the amount of time the gel ink takes to dry. Either way, it’s worth noting that Yoobi gel highlighters work best on crappy paper. My final take on these? If you need to get a gel highlighter- because you forget to put the cap on your highlighter, or you don’t like ink getting everywhere, these are a better option than the Sharpie version. They are about the same price, are smoother and have cute sayings on the side of the body. If you can control the pressure you use when highlighting, these aren’t bad. Don’t expect to use them on thin nice paper though- that’s where they will let you down.

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Review: CWPE Exclusive Bugle Pencil

The standard Musgrave Bugle is a glossy clear lacquered round pencil. It’s made of linden with a hard HB core, that I find scratchy. The imprint is gold and adequately applied. I won’t hide it, I dislike the standard Bugle. I find it to be a cheap scratchy mess.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the CWPE exclusive version of the Bugle is significantly better. The core isn’t scratchy, rather it is a decently smooth HB core. It is a true HB that is not dark or light, it is right in the middle of the graphite darkness range. I like it on rough scratchy paper.

The core is inside round mismatched wood. One side is natural pale linden, the other is dyed black. Sharpening one of these is a great deal of fun- you get a neat black and white spiral. The 2 different colors are really just fun to look at as I write. It’s mentioned that it looks like the NYC Black and White cookie, and I’d agree. The clear lacquered finish on these is great. Now if they’d only made them raw…

The imprint is still kinda… adequate. Some of mine are missing letters or parts of words. Still gold foil though, so that’s nice. I wonder if the stamping issues are because the pencil is round? I have one with a fat knot in the middle of one side, I’m interested in seeing how well that one sharpens.

Speaking of sharpening, I prefer to get pointy with the Alvin/M+R Brass Bullet. The pencil is hard enough that the BB holds a point for a page or so. With a long point from the Classroom friendly pages and pages flow from the tip before needing to sharpen up.

The exclusive version of the pencil is 45 cents each. Not a bad deal for upgraded graphite and a fun exterior. 

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First Look: Baron Fig LE Vanguard Train of Thought

When BF sent out the “do you want this for review” email I almost said no. The exterior of the books looked really childish. Then I thought my nephew would really dig the trains on the exterior. So I asked them to kindly send me a reviewer set. Let me start this out by saying that in the interior of this notebook set sports BF’s lovely fountain pen and pencil friendly cream paper with a light gray dot grid ruling. I really love BF’s paper because it works so well with all my favorite writing tools. The stitching is done really well with white thread and is well centered and tight on my books.  The cover stock is lightly textured and feels nice in hand. The printing on these is matte finished. The exterior of these book features trains and clouds. They are childlike and playful with a dreamlike quality. The interior of the covers are the weird side of dreamlike and remind me of 80s era riffs on psychedelic imagery. The train and cloud theme runs throughout but with planets, aliens, and emojis. If these were done in neons we could call these, “That Day Lisa Frank Dropped Acid.” While they have that trippy quality I’m glad they didn’t go with neon shades and instead chose sedate groupings of analogous colors. This turns a bizarre illustration to the realm of fun without being too jarring to the senses. In a practical sense, these aren’t going to be something you bring with you to the boardroom or for professional meetings. One look at the poop emoji next to two aliens holding hands is going to raise the eyebrow of even the most lenient boss. These are strictly “for fun” notebooks. In that sense I love them. I always need more little notebooks for around the desk here at home and frankly if I were in school I’d love to use these, despite the odd looks some of my sedate professors might toss my way.

The Flagship Vanguards run $14 for a set of 3. You can get them over here at Baron Fig.

Here is where i”m going to go tangential on you. There is something really fresh and fun with all the things BF has been doing lately. Train of Thought is just one example where BF is shaking up the bring monotony of the stationery world. There are a hundred places where you can get a black grey, or white pocket notebook; hell even BF offers their notebooks in standard colors of black and grey. No I can’t take these into a stodgy board meeting but is that the target audience of these notebooks, or even the New School set? I don’t think so. I think Baron Fig is going after their core audience of younger professionals who might not be so concerned with what is considered “professional” in the traditional sense. I suspect a lot of people are going to loathe this set while many more are going to enjoy Lisa Frank on acid. I am in the camp who loves the idea of these despite working in an environment where my boss might tell me I can’t use them. Continue reading

Review: Piccadilly Essential Notebook Medium Ruled

The PIccadilly Essential Notebook (PEN) is a basic black journal. Some of you might want to call it a “moleskine knock off” but it’s probably been around at least as long as moleskine’s little marketing gem that makes everyone think that the moleskine is original (guffaw.)

Let’s talk about the basics- 240 ivory pages, smythe sewn, medium gray ruling, black satin bookmark, pocket in the back, elastic closure, and a hard “leatherette” aka vinyl cover. Like any smythe sewn binding the PEN opens fully flat for comfortable writing and will fold over onto itself for writing out of hand. Nifty. The belly band boasts that the PEN has acid free paper*.The paper itself is a nice warm ivory shade that I quite enjoy. It is easy on the eyes and a variety of colored inks look fantastic on its surface. Fountain pens feel great but have a tendency to feather and bleed. It’s too bad the paper isn’t better with fountain pens because my pens all feel fabulous on the surface of the paper. Pencil looks and feels amazing. The paper has a nice amount of tooth, so writing is effortless for a dark line. The pages don’t smear and smudge much either. Even my darkest pencils didn’t smudge. Ballpoint works well on the paper too. Interestingly gel ink responds much the same way as fountain pens. While the gel doesn’t feather it does bleed and show through.The same with rollerball.

Honestly, if you’d used a modern Moleskine these are almost identical enough that you can wonder if they are made in the same factory. The paper looks and feels the same- hell it even feather in the same bizarre way you see in moleskines. The only difference are the logo and color of the bookmark.

Piccadilly notebooks are only available at Barnes & Noble locations throughout the US. The Amazon sellers are… weird and sometimes the notebooks aren’t available or they range in price from $5 up to $50.  The MSRP is $15 but if you happen to be in B&N and look around the clearance section you can usually find them for $6 a book. I like them because at $6 they are cheap. Continue reading

Introduction to Kokuyo Campus Notebooks

Welcome to the first guest post on Comfortable Shoes Studio! I’ve asked some of my friends to write posts for the blog to introduce new voices. Big thanks to Hahna for kicking off the series! You can interact with Hahna via Facebook in the RSVP Podcast group!

A set of Kokuyo Campus Notebooks, Todai Series.

I never gave composition notebooks (comp books) much thought before I started reading Less’ reviews.  Didn’t use them much, but I do feel nostalgic when I see them.  They feel Very American with their no-nonsense stitching and the sturdy, 5-foot thick plywood covers that some sport.  Seems like they were field-tested and made to survive handling from jocks who could care less.  The empty class schedules, multiplication tables and grammar rules often printed on the insides also somehow seem hopeful and encouraging, as if the designers and companies are doing what they can to help kids get through their days.

i before e except after c, or when sounded as a as in neighbor and weigh.

To convert Celsius (C) for Fahrenheit (F): multiply by 9, divide by 5, and then add 32 or F = (C x 1.8) + 32.

Me, I tended to use crappy spirals or perforated glue bound books, but I also used a whole slew of asian stationery store notebooks, mostly for the My Melody covers. Though many were spiral bound, the ones I preferred to use were glue bound books.  They were mostly B5 size, which is 250 x 177 mm.  B5 is just a tad taller and a tad narrower than the standard American comp books which are 9.75X7.5 inches or 247×190 mm.

The B5 notebooks (purple) are a tad taller than the American comp book (orange).

The B5 notebooks (purple) are a tad narrower than the American comp book (orange).

B5 books are also usually thinner, with around 30 sheets per book, but sometimes they have more, up to 100 sheets.  Comp books, meanwhile, generally have 70-100 sheets.  Asian books are often glue bound, with no threads on the inside, but spiral books are also common.

Here two standard comp books (total 200 sheets, to the left) are stacked up next to five standard B5 notebooks (total 150 sheets, to the right).

Asian B5 books have thin and flexible cardstock for covers and inside they are ruled in a single color, most often at either 6mm or 7mm.  They also don’t have margin lines and I don’t think any ever have schedule grids, grammar rules or tables of any sort.

Typical ruling in a B5 book.  No red margins in sight.

Inside front and back covers are blank with no helpful multiplication tables.

Inside back cover, also stark white.  Ready for anything.

Comp books are hard (impossible?) to find in Korea, and I imagine that the B5s fill the void.  Like comp books, they are everywhere and come in a range of quality and price.  Lot of competition in the B5 notebook arena, but some of the most popular are the Kokuyo Campus notebooks. 

Kokuyo Campus Notebooks, Todai Series.  What’s shown is sold as a set of five 30-sheet books in the following colors: purple, blue, green, yellow and red.

Campus notebooks come in standard 6 mm or 7 mm rulings but here we have the Todai Series which features something slightly fancier than just plain rules: rules with tiny dots evenly spaced along the rule.  So not reticle, not dot graph, not graph and not grid + lines.  It’s dotted rule, or graph lite, as I like to think of it.  The lines and dots are a faint grey and unobtrusive when you write on it but are easy enough to see when you need them.  I love it.  But for those purists who think the dots are just too fancy for them, Kokuyo still offers plain ruled books as well, so fret not!

A close up of the dotted rule; it is also reflected in the design of the covers.

The Campus notebooks are ok paper for pens.  The papers are slightly thinnish and with some pens there is just a teeeeny tiny bit of ghosting.  I think most people would use both sides. Some ink pens might not allow it.  Luckily for me, though, I love my pencils and you can’t see pencil writing at all on the other side.  Yay for pencils!  

A small sample of pens, pencils and markers.

The teeeeeniest bit of ghosting.

Don’t use sharpies in the Campus books, unless it’s an emergency.

I love how discreet and slim the Campuses are; you aren’t committed to the usual 70-100 sheets per book like you are with American comp books. 

I’ve talked a lot of love for Campus, haven’t I?  There are a few cons.  First, they don’t completely lie flat, especially the first and last pages.  But I think that the pages lie extremely flat in between. 

First page opened.

Pages in the middle lie pretty flat.

Book abused and folded over completely.  Poor little fellow.

Also, I think that the glue is a big turn off for many people. 

Glued spine!  I love it and yes, glue turns me on.

Another minus: Kokuyo Campus books are $16.50 on JetPens per pack of 5 or $11 for the same 5 pack on amazon.  I know that in Korea, a single Campus notebook sells for around USD $1, so its definitely the importing that’s making them so pricey.  There’s a range in pricing to American comp books ($0.50-3.00+ for one), but you can find a decent one of 100 sheets for $1, or 1 cent per sheet.  Campus books are going to be 7 – 11 cents per sheet in America. 

All this can be yours for between $11 and $16.50.

Still, $16.50 for a five pack of notebooks isn’t ridiculous in the stationery world, where nerds regularly shell out $12 for 3 pocket notebooks.  So here at Chez Hahna, we still get ’em.

So there you have it, an overview of Kokuyo’s Campus Notebooks.  Why don’t you try a pack?  They’re my favorite! 

My happy place.

hahna lives in rural Illinois and is still trying to figure out what to be when she grows up.

 

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Review: Palomino Blackwing Volumes Number 1

As I did with my review of the 73 I’m not reviewing the interior of the pencil, but the exterior. The balanced core of the Number 1 is the same core as the Pearl but perhaps with a few batch variants. I’ve not read any wild conspiracy theories about the No.1 being even slightly different than other Pearls, so we don’t need to explore that area. No in this case a Pearl is a Pearl.Starting in with the least different aspect of this pencil- it sports a shiny silver ferrule and a nice silver imprint. Like the 73 the No.1 has the new branding and font- little trees and the updated Palomino. It looks great on this pencil.Held in the silver ferrule is an indigo blue eraser. It’s meant to be the color of chambray shirts but is a touch too dark. I was disgruntled that it was far too dark, then I used it. The color changed and with each erasure I found that it lightened, I realized that like chambray, the indigo eraser lightened and became the light indigo color I associate with chambray. A brilliant design choice, though not readily apparent.The pencil itself is gray washed. The warm color of the cedar shines through the thin gray paint. I love and loathe it in equal parts. Part of me wonders if I have come so far from my roots that I can actually enjoy a faux weathered pencil? Am I so far gone from my heritage that this is okay to me? Then I stuff the stub of the pencil into the pocket of my Wrangler chambray shirt and I feel better about life.The biggest departure for this pencil is that it is round. I for one love round pencils. There are no pointy hex bits digging into my finger. I rotate it smoothly in tiny increments. I can sketch with it and build up wide points to create bold expressive lines. I love the round. Several people complained that their ferrules were not perfectly centered with the imprint. o_O I just can’t. If it bothers you, grab the pencil in one hand and the ferrule in the other and twist until aligned. First world problem solved.So the elephant in the room, the tribute. I decided to look up Guy Clark and wow, okay, maybe I’m too young, not cultured enough, but man, Clark’s music is the cure for insomnia. Great lyrics just boy, he had a boring voice. Not my cup of anything. So yet another white bro, though at least this guy sings the songs of the working class? I guess. In part, I feel like we’re getting back into the dudebros at Palomino making tributes to the guys they love. That’s fine, but frankly, I have not cared, at all, about virtually anything they have decided to make a tribute about. I feel like there is a total disconnect between the dudes in charge at Palomino and the folks who use their pencils. “I like these things so everyone else will too.” None of these things are universal. The 73 and the 211 seem to be the most widely received but I think that’s because their topics are wider than just the stuff a dude, who is about my Dad’s age, really digs. (One can make an argument for the 24 being well received but is that because of the new firmer core or because so many of us were forced to read Steinbeck in High School?)

So here is a gripe that I have. I come from a working class background. I’ve spent my fair share of time doing hard physical labor and I always find it irritating when rich folks want to highlight the working class. I talked a bit in RSVP about how you could always tell if someone was rich or poor growing up, because the rich folks stained their houses gray, while the poor folks let their shingles weather naturally, because they couldn’t afford to stain or paint their shingles. While it is certainly nice to enjoy the aesthetic, it is another to mimic it out of a lack of understanding. Just go listen to me yammer on over here. For the dudebro who tone policed me, language warning, though it’s bleeped for sensitive ears.

So overall, I really enjoy this pencil. I love round pencils. I love the Pearl core. I like silver ferrules and imprints. I love the color blue. I’m warming up to the grey wash. I don’t care about Clark’s music at all and frankly I’m finding it easier and easier to divorce the tribute from the pencil and just enjoy the pencils. Get some at Jetpens. Continue reading