Review: Pen+Gear No.2 Wood Pencils 12-Pack

Year after year walmart does great things with their line of wooden pencils. Most of this has to do with contracting with Hindustan to make them. This year is no different. Look for the cardboard packages with Made in India for some pencil happiness.

I like that the P+G has a nice cardboard package with a window cut into it. The cardboard is recyclable anywhere, which the plastic packaging wasn’t usually recyclable. Inside the package the 12 pencils are kept safe. The lacquer is thickly applied over a white primer coat. The resulting finish is glossy, with some texture. It is quite imperfect. The ferrules are silver and fit the erasers better than in the past. Mine were all fixed to the pencil well. The erasers are soft and dust gathering, which I appreciate but seems a little weird to me. I don’t know why I don’t like dust gathering eraser on my pencils. Maybe I’ll warm up to them, maybe not.

The cores are classically, for this pencil and Hindustan, not perfectly centered. Maybe one is perfect. One was hilariously off center. This is par for the course for these pencils. I grabbed 3 randomly for sharpening. As usual they all sharpened well in all my sharpeners, including the Pollux. These pencils are made out of jelutong. 

The core is dark, smooth, and holds a point well. If you are looking for a cheap workhorse pencil, this is a great choice. They just write so very well. Even on slick pencil these leave a mark. You can get pencils that are twice as expensive, heh, or 5 times as expensive, that don’t work as well as these. At 4 cents a pencil these are a killer deal. Sure they are from Walmart, but if you are on a budget and you want to write with something that feels good and won’t break the bank, spending 47 cents (back to school sale) or 97 cents at regular price, this is a great deal.

Review: Ticonderoga Neon Erasers

Back to School sale 2020 is upon us. I shall not debate if it is wise or not for all school locations to send their kids back to school or send their teachers into the Covidzone, let it be known that as a former teacher, a sister to a teacher; and the child of teachers, I do not approve.* That said, distance learning needs stationery supplies just like in person learning.

I liked the first iteration of these cheeky little erasers. They feel great in hand and look super cute. This version is no different and if anything even more cute because they are NEON. Hells yes. Again readers if you’ve been here for any period of time you know that I love neon stationery items.

I love this iteration. They erase just as well and feel just as good in hand. They work great for erasing pencil from a variety of papers and work GREAT as a fidget.

Apsara Long Point Sharpener Hack

I’m a fan of long point sharpeners. The Apsara version is inexpensive and creates an extremely long collared point that is serviceable but too short. This hack takes a good sharpener and makes it great.

You need: post it notes, scissors or a craft knife, a screw driver, a ruler, q-tips or tissue, and of course Apsara Long Point Sharpeners

Let me know if you attempt this hack and how it turns out for you.

Review: Pilot FRIXION Fineliner

You know that feeling when you pick you pick up a nice pen or mechanical pencil and it just feels good in your hand? Like when you pick up something like the Pentel Kerry or the BAronfig Squire? The idea that this will be a nice writing experience? Yeah, that feeling. Perhaps comparing the Frixion Fineliner (FFL from here) to those pens is apples and oranges, so let me drop the bar lower. Let’s compare it to something like the Pilot G2 or the Sharpie S-Gel, both pens work well and you know you’ll get a decent writing experience from them.

Well sorry to get your hopes up. The FFL is none of those things. From the moment I picked up these pens they were a disappointment. They feel lightweight and cheap, The cap looks cheap. The printing on the body of the fineliner looks cheap. They look and feel cheap.

I can look past that if the experience of use is better than average. These provided a sub par writing experience. I like Frixion pens quite a bit. I pick them up even though they aren’t even close to archival. I like the idea of a pen that can be erased. Period. They provide a weird sort of nostalgia for me. One that doesn’t ooze and blob on the page. 

The FFL feels dry and the ink is not saturated enough for enjoyment. The black is gray. And all the colors left a pale line. I thought maybe it was the composition book paper being too absorbent so I tried them in a sketchbook that I know is not absorbent, in fact it is a book that allows ink to really shine and look great. While a bit better, these were still terrible. Pale and washed out.

They did erase well, though I suppose when the pen does lay down enough pigment to be nice and dark it is easy to erase the lines on the page.

Whatever I paid for these was far far too much. Avoid these.

Review: Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil 0.5

I love a good mechanical pencil. Really I do. I tend to take care of them and have quite a few around and about, but I REALLY love the idea of one with a cap. You see I keep my Rotring and Koh-i-noor tips in shape with Bic Crystal caps, no really, they slide on and grip to that knurling and act as a point protector. The blue colored cap looks great with my silver Rotring 600. Thus the idea of a mechanical pencil that has a cap with it? AWESOME. I ordered the olive green pencil from Jetpens, at $15 this isn’t cheap but it is far from the most expensive mechanical I own, no both my TWSBI Precision and Rotring 600 were roughly $25 (maybe $30?). Granted the Kerry is not the same quality as either, but let’s get to the review.

The Kerry feels like an adult pencil. When I was a teenager I’d have gazed longingly at the Kerry and decided that $15 was TOO much money to spend. I’d probably have looked for a silver or black version instead of the olive drab color. The capped pencil has a knurled area that is silver and looks flashy. The logo and all hardware are silver. When uncapped the grip is the green body color and the tip is brushed matte silver. The cap posts deeply and securely, and looks great when posted. The plastic has some swirl to it and I have to wonder what this would look like in some of those fancy acrylics that the fountain pen makers use, Primary Manipulation anyone? YUM!

The cap is metal, the body is mostly plastic, the tip is metal and I believe that the faceted bling is metal. Inside is an all metal mechanism. The nock is solid and seems to eject a minute amount of lead with each click. The provided Pentel HB lead is nice, but I swapped it out for Nano Dia because I love Nano Dia lead.

In hand the Kerry feels, well, perfect. I wasn’t expecting it to be perfect for my hand. There’s no grip knurling. The grip is plastic not metal. I have all these expectations but also the thought that so many people report it as a great pencil. Now I’m one of them. I have used it now to fill a composition notebook. I didn’t even think to reach for another pencil the WHOLE time. I grabbed my Kerry and notebooks and WROTE. It just worked and felt good to use. An added bonus is that it is small enough to toss in a pocket or clipped to a lapel and this pencil a just perfect in every way. Imagine tossing a Rotring 600 in a pocket, you’d have a stabbed thigh.

I picked this up from Jetpens. You can get it for less, but only in black from the ‘Zon.

Review: Steadtler essentials HB Graphite Pencils

I’ve seen some whispering around the stationery groups regarding these pencils. Staedtler’s new offering for the American Back-to-School crowd. These look like a riff on their Yellow Pencil 134 HB, only not. These were priced at $1.88 at Walmart for an 8-pack. 

The packaging of these is my least favorite type- a plastic bag. The pencils knock around in transit and often arrive with broken cores. I’ve received other staedtler pencils broken in half and in disastrous condition. These seem okay, well not harmed by the crap packaging.

Once opened the pencils were revealed to have a decent lacquer finish a nice bright yellow. The ferrule is silver and holds a dark pink eraser which is quite stiff and gritty despite being latex free. It works well enough but isn’t anything to get excited about. The wood beneath the lacquer is jelutong and sharpens well with all my usual sharpeners- including the Pollux. Kind of amazing. The imprint is good on 4/8 while the other 4 suffer from either too much paint or not enough and not enough or too much pressure. The imprint is shoddy. The cores are centered well enough.

The core is standard HB for Staedtler USA. That is to say that it is smooth, but also darker than some other brands but pretty middle of the road as HB pencils go. I’ve tested these on a couple of different types of paper, from a toothy composition notebook to a smooth toothy paper to smooth less toothy paper. It performs best on a paper like the Yoobi composition book. This is a pencil that does well with toothy paper. It’s also nicely dark on those papers. On less toothy paper it’s a little light for my taste. It is smooth when compared to other school pencils.

At $1.88 it’s a bit overpriced for 8 pencils though. That’s nearly 24 cents per pencil. When compared to other pencils like the Pen+ Gear plain yellow school pencil, well it’s not a question. The only reason to buy these over the P+G is for the brand, which as you know is something that teen Less would have considered (Ahhh the issues of a poor kid) but adult Less will chose performance over brand any day. So all that said, skip these.

It says something when Staedtler USA doesn’t even list these on their website. They aren’t proud of these pencils.

Review: Rotring Visuclick 0.7 Mechanical Pencil

I’m not gonna lie, if these had been available when I was a teenager my heart would have exploded. A Rotring with a sliding pipe? At $4.99 a 4-pack? Yes please. Sure they are bright jewel-like colors but, still Rotrings!

I will also admit that my adult heart had an increase in heart rate as I gazed at these with love. I didn’t notice until I got home that they were 0.7mm instead of my favored 0.5mm.

These plastic Rotring pencils are budget friendly. At only $1.25 per pencil, these are not disposable but they aren’t so expensive that if your kid (or you) break them you’ll cry. The pink, orange, blue and green are bright and cheerful and mostly easily found in a backpack. The sliding tip protects the lead and the tip from breakage. 

The pencil is all plastic except for the sliding tip, clip and nock cover. The tip and nock work well. I quite like the rounded bullet pointed tip of the nock. It is comfortable. The Tip cradles the lead well. The clip. The clip is garbage. It’s sloppy and not springy. If you clip it to something it doesn’t spring back well at all and in fact stays all sprung. Gross. I clipped mine into my pant’s pocket, a bad choice. It was bent to hell. I took the clip off and fixed it with ease, but still. 

The first click of the nock deploys the tip the next, 1mm of lead. The nock is solid and satisfying to click. It’s quite nice to use. The included graphite is Rotring HB and each pencil has 2 sticks. I do not like Rotring graphite. I swapped mine out for NanoDia B for a silky smooth and satisfying writing experience. 

The plastic is molded into a triangular grip. It might be a bit narrow for some people, but I have small lady paws, so this might not work for someone with large meaty paws. I found the triangular section to be perfect for my writing grip. I used these for writing in some of my composition notebooks, swapped out with a nice NanoDia 2B lead. I noticed that when writing if I pressed too hard there is a bit of play in the sliding pipe and it breaks off the nib inside the tip of the pencil. It doesn’t jam but when you advance the next bit of lead it ejects that broken bit of lead out onto what you’re writing on. The first time it happened it was a bit of a shock. Then I noticed when I broke the lead- usually when I was thinking about the next line I wanted to write and pressed down on the page with excitement at an angle. It’s not a deal breaker (PUNNY!) but certainly annoying

Overall, I like  these mechanical pencils. The colors are bright and they feel good but very lightweight. It did get me wondering if the tip and sliding pipe would work for other pencils. These might be a great way to adapt other pencils to a sliding pipe. Or maybe swapping out a flat nock cap to a rounded one? Not that clip though, that’s garbage.

Review: PaperMate EverSharp

I picked these up for a variety of reasons, first I’d ever seen them in any store. Which is not a difficult task. I haven’t been looking at pencils in stores in a long time. At $2.99 for 12 these are priced in line with many other school pencils, though it seems clear that these are meant to be a bit more adult. The package makes a LOT of claims- BREAK RESISTANT LEAD! Reinforced! Strong Lead!

These claims led me to believe this would be a hard light lead. 

Let me tell you the good about these pencils. They are made with bass or linden wood, so they have a pleasant odor, not cedar though. The ferrule is recognizable and the Mirado ferrule. The paint is a nice deep yellow. The eraser is plastic and works wonderfully well. The pencil sharpens really well in every sharpener I own, including the Pollux.

The core is hard and light but not on every paper. On the slick smooth paper of my current composition notebook it left a line that looks like an F or number 3 pencil would make. It was displeasing and difficult to read. In another composition notebook, one with toothy pencil friendly paper, it left a nice line but still held a point for a reasonable amount of time. The core is silky feeling, and smooth. It’s hard to describe this as feeling silky when it is such a hard pencil, but it is. I’ve had other H leads and they felt  like scraping the page with a nail. This reminds me of polymer leads.

The lacquer was thin and rough. And the pencil itself felt undersized in my dainty lady paws. I cannot imagine someone with large hands attempting to  use this toothpick tin pencil. 

Overall, this pencil is a solid meh. If you have a nice toothy paper it’s okay, but not great. The core is confusing in that it feels terrible on some paper and okay on others. I wanted it to be dark to match the polymer like feel on toothy paper, but instead it ended up too light to use on some paper. I won’t keep this in  my pencil rotation and can’t really recommend anyone buy it.

Composition Book Round Up: Walgreens

The local drug stores have been a bust. CVS only had wide ruled Caliber brand and nothing else in the Composition Book category save Moleskine giant Cahiers, which were tempting but VERY expensive.*

Walgreens had meager offerings this season as well- not a single Mead book in sight, None of the cute Studio C books**. A mere 2 boxes of Wexford College Ruled Composition books in the standard black and primary color offerings. The whole Back to School section was… half an aisle when it normally is 2 full aisles. Damn you COVID19!!!

I bought two Wexford College ruled Composition Books for 79 cents each. One black and one bright blue. It felt decadent. Total with tax was $1.68.

When not on sale these books are $3.49.

These are everything a GOOD composition book should be: Solid tight stitching, thick stiff chip board covers, generously well textured spine tapes, smooth paper with a barely there pale blue college ruling.

And the paper? Oh wow is it great. It handles wet liquid inks with ease, sheen shows up, lines stay true to nib size, no bleedings, no feathering, and enough tooth for a pencil to feel good.

The down side is that the only have 80 sheets. But when they have such darn nice paper? When they are on sale for 79 cents? And when they have the best covers of the good paper composition notebooks? Yeah, these are winners. If I hadn’t just bought 16 (sure 6 of those notebooks were dogs) I’d stock up on these.

*I’ll wait until they have them in clearance and then review them. I do like a giant sketchy area for thinking.

**I’ve since learned Studio C has rebranded (Thanks NoteBookJoy!) as Carolina Pad Company, which seems like a bad idea given their wide range of products. Do I really want to buy a lunch bag from a pad company? Eh

Review: Sharpie S Gel 0.7 Pen

My partner saw a pack of these and decided to score a few points with me and bought them for me. Wise choice partner, wise choice.

I enjoyed the porous point of the original Sharpie pen but I was not in love with the longevity or lack thereof. The narrow grip left me wanting.

The S Gel has a curved body with a swirled ribbed rubber grip. The plastic is matte black. The grip dips in a bit and flairs out near the base of the grip. The clip is extremely sturdy, the plastic is slightly flexy so it is likely that if it is clipped to something fat that it will stretch over time. But with some fiddling around and fidgeting I was not able to break the clip easily. The allblack body is accented with a silver ring and nock, and the Sharpie name and name of the pen are printed in silver.

The pen looks good. I found that I had to get accustomed to the curvy grip. I found myself holding it in the more narrow section but needing to hold it closer to the point for comfort and writing legibility.

The nock is satisfying. It pressed down with a stiff feeling and makes a satisfying click when engaged. The spring in this pen feels sturdy.

The gel ink is smooth and wet. Writing is effortless. Even on rough paper it feels smooth. On smooth paper it glides. The ink is deeply black. It rivals even fountain pen ink in its darkness. It doesn’t lift when a highlighter is used over it. I’ve yet to test it out when sketching with watercolors. The pen flows so smoothly when sketching. I haven’t noticed a skip or blurp. I have not had a blob on my page. It flows smooth and clean.

This has become my new favorite gel pen for writing and sketching. At $5.27 at Walmart this isn’t the cheapest 4 pack of gel ink pens but it’s also not the most expensive. That is flows so smoothly and deeply black makes it a winner for me. I do need to test it’s lightfastness in my window of fading. But right now it’s great for writing, doodles, and thinking.

I picked up a second 4-pack of blue ink S-gel after reading Brad’s review over at the Pen Addict. I snagged the black pen my wife had been using and we broke the waxy seal on 2 of the blue pens, and ours were all silky smooth and the flow was consistent on all the paper types I used- from the crappy paper at work, my various composition notebooks, and a nice Rhodia graph pad I had on hand. I’ll be buying more of these due to their silky feel and deep dark black on the page.