Review: Sakura “Super” Foam Eraser

A few week’s ago Johnny Gamber of Pencil Revolution, my comrade in pencils, posted a picture of the always wonderful Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser(SMPE). It’s one of my long time favorite erasers. It’s plastic is gentle on paper and soft enough to clean graphite out of almost any rough paper. It is an eraser that I suggest to friends who are seeking a good eraser. I do this for many reason. First you can’t get a SMPE just about anywhere. Every art, craft, or stationary store carries them. Second, I have used them for years and know they are reliable. Third, there is something safe in recommending this old standard. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it, it’s a safe recommendation.20150212_100920It has a few problems. The largest is that it’s a messy eraser that leaves crumbs everywhere. It also collects dirt as if it is a magnet. So if you are bothered by your erasers looking filthy, well, this one is going to piss you off. Finally, without it’s paper sleeve it tends to tear into smaller pieces if you don’t support it well with your fingers. Th9is is why I told Johnny to “up his eraser game, and get the Sakura “Super*” Foam Eraser.”SakuraFoamThe Sakura Foam Eraser (SFE) is a soft, white plastic eraser that arrives in a bit of cellophane and a card sleeve. It has a sticky texture that I’ve grown to love. The stickiness allows the crumbs to be rolled into a ball that sticks to the end of the eraser or picked up by pressing the eraser to the crumbs. When I read the sticky rubber info online I thought it was kinda stupid, but oh no, it makes clean up so much easier. That’s not just add copy, that’s a really real useful addition to the plain old plastic eraser.SakuraFoamIt is a super soft plastic that wears down pretty quickly on rougher paper. But it’s also relatively cheap at Jetpens. I don’t find it to be that much softer than the SMPE in use they seem to wear down at about the same rate. It cleans the page of every trace of graphite. On some paper it’s as if the writing never existed at all. It is soft enough to get down into the crevices left by the writing and clean the graphite out. Which is pretty amazing. Then when you are done cleaning, the crumbs are all clumped up and clinging to one another or to the eraser.SakuraFoamI have has small bits break off the edges of my eraser as I used it, but like I wrote, these bits were small, and didn’t affect performance of the eraser. I did not get any cracking where the eraser and the paper sleeve met. I also purchased the smallest offering on Jetpens, though I later purchased a much larger version when I neared the end of my small SFE W60. This should be an indication of just how much I enjoy this eraser. I own over a dozen different erasers and I bought a duplicate. I haven’t bought a duplicate of any eraser save a kneaded, a SMPE, and a few that were required in college. For me to buy a second of any eraser, now, when I can purchase any eraser that I desire. Well, that’s a ringing endorsement.SakuraFoam SakuraFoamSakuraFoamAnyway, you can up your eraser game by purchasing a Sakura “Super” Foam Eraser of your very own.
Continue reading Review: Sakura “Super” Foam Eraser

Reflection: Feeling Accomplished via Pencil Use

When the new semester began I decided that I was going to pick a pencil and use it until there was just a nub left. The first pencil I used down to nothing was a Creatacolor fine art graphite in B grade. Because it is a drawing pencil, the point retention was junk and I quickly wore it to a nubbin. It fit into my Stad One Touch well and I was able to use it until there was less than a centimeter left. I felt accomplished in using a single pencil until there was an unusable piece left, as if I could measure my learning through the amount of pencil used for notes and writing. Ridiculous right?

Feeling accomplished is a good intrinsic motivator. (For me anyway, I don’t know what intrinsically motivates you.) I like to feel accomplished. For a lot of my life I’ve done things and thought to myself, “Ha, I did that! That’s an accomplishment!” as if knowing that I did something, even a simple thing, was an accomplishment. And when I think more deeply about these thing, even the smallest of chores can be turned into an accomplishment. “I washed the floor! Yay, I accomplished something today!” Looking back at the pencils and learning, learning, other than counting the articles read or papers written, has little in the way of measuring itself daily. Rather, I write a paper and wait for the grade. I read an article and make notes, maybe journal a few ideas that come up. Until the end of the semester there is no way to measure my accomplishment. Enter the pencils. Using up a pencil gives me a measurement of use; notes taken, ideas recorded, and time spent.nubbins

Using a pencil from new down to a nub is not something that can be done in a short period of time. It takes dedicated use, concentration, and a lot of writing. Supposedly, an average (what is average? HB#2?) pencil will write 35 miles of words. That’s a serious amount of writing. Thirty-five miles. How many miles of notes, journaling, ideas, mind dumps, and grocery lists have  I made? Just thinking about writing for 35 miles makes me feel even more accomplished and less ridiculous.

I’m almost finished with a Dixon Ticonderoga Renew Wood. I’ve got an inch and a half left. After that I’m going to finish the last 5 inches of my Staedtler blue Norica from Canada. I’ve had the last 6 inches of a Palomino HB on my desk for a month, that will get the nubbin treatment next. While my enjoyment of using a single pencil down to near nothingness is holding true, I will admit that for ease of use I keep a pencil box full of sharp pencils with me for note taking. I’m going to pare this down to 4 pencils so that I can really focus on how much pencil I’m using. nubbins

Organization: Pocket Notebook Set Up

I often refer to  how I set up my Field Notes on social media, but I’ve never done a full blog post about my set up. I keep waiting for a time when I have just set up a new book but not written much yet. I am finally at the perfect moment- I have just started a new book and have only filled a few pages.FNindexedI start by numbering each page, preferably with a red Uniball Signo 0.38. If I can’t find the red I’ll use a black ultra fine pen. I use the Signo for it’s waterproof ink and super fine writing capability. It also does not feather or bleed on any paper.

The first page becomes my index. I fold the page in half and write 2- 48. Each line represents a page in the book. As I fill the page, I log it on the index page. I try to stick to simple one or two word descriptions. This lets me find pages with ease. On books with a large top margin (Ambition/Word.) I’ll write an expanded description on this line, otherwise, nothing.FNindexedI have a few set pages that I put in each book. Page two is always a catch all page. This page captures quick info; phone numbers, passwords, websites, words, page numbers, and the like. Specifically info that is ephemeral and I may not need to dedicate a full page. Page three becomes my shopping list. Generally, this isn’t for things like bread and milk, but larger items we run out of less often; light bulbs, laundry detergent, or things like staples, glue, etc… The things I might forget to buy when I’m in a store like home despot or target.  Pages four and five are my to do lists. Four is usually dedicated to my blog while five is my school and life. Page forty-eight, the final page of the book, is always my pen and pencil testing page. This lets me test out pens or pencils in store to see how they will work on this particular paper. Then page forty-seven is where I log the types of brews I’m using for my coffee.  How much coffee to water was used, how did the brew turn out, etc.FNindexed FNindexedFNindexedThe final addition to the book is a 3 month calendar. You can find them online or as a word template. I print one off and then cut out 3 months. I use washi tape to stick it into my book over my address section. I cross off the days as I remember, but this has become very useful when I’m planning things for classes and meet ups with friends and I don’t want to drag out my planner.FNindexedAfter that the rest of the book is a free for all.

When the book is filled I log it into a master index book and file it away. The master index is another field notes book where each page looks like the index for each book. Each book is logged on it’s own page. The descriptions are expanded slightly to be more descriptive, but only if they need to be. If the index states “paper,” it is expanded to state, “Theories F14,” so that I have a better idea of which paper it refers. However if it’s logged as “journal,” there is no need to expand upon that , unless the journaling deals with something specific that I may need to refer to later. This system lets me grab my index book, flip to about where I think I logged something, scan through quickly and find that “Theories F14” entry and pull the right book in less than a minute.

Of course this system works because I’m only searching through an index of 20 or so books. (I did not go backward and index my older books, I’m not quite that neurotic.) As my index, and number of books, grows searching will become more difficult and more time consuming.While I was a wiz with the card catalog when I was a kid, I don’t relish the idea of combing through multiple index books. At some point I will need to digitize my collection of notebooks. I’m resistant to this now, but I do see the need for it later, as I amass more and more books. I’m not sure what application I’ll use to do this- Evernote, OneNote, or some other platform. Who knows what will be available when I do finally decide to digitize.

School: Organization with Teffa Bag-in-Bag A4

My office in a backpack is something of a misnomer, as I use one of 3 different bags depending on where I’m going, how long I’ll be out of the house, and what I’ll be doing. The previously mentioned Tom Bihn Brain bag is for days when I’ll be out of the house for the majority of the day or I know I’ll be doing research. I also have a Tom Bihn Imago, which has been discontinued, but is for days when I’ll be home within a few hours or only need to  carry some of my “office.” The final bag is a Tom Bihn Small Cafe bag, my least favorite and will only hold a very small amount of my “office.”

A lot of the office requires charging cords and cables that for ease of swapping bag I bought duplicates of and had in each bag. This is both inefficient and expensive. I also had a few items that I wanted to put in each bag but didn’t want to duplicate- like my BT keyboard. To make switching from bag to bag and to cut back on some of the duplication of chargers and cords I picked up a Lihit Teffa Bag-in-Bag in A4 size. This is the largest size available and fits in 2 of my 3 bags, and the 2 I use the most, the Imago and Brain. The idea behind this is that you can put the stuff you use all the time into the Bag-in-Bag and transfer it to another bag, easily swapping bags. Makes a lot of sense.baginbagOn the outside I filled the pockets with an assortment of pens and a bullet pencil. The smaller pocket got a spare eraser, pencil sharpener, and spare batteries for my BT keyboard. The larger pocket holds my planner. The next row of pockets has a packet of wet wipes and tissues and an Unexposed folder with 3 spare Field Notes.baginbagInside the zippered pocket I have a cord for my iPoo, another for either my phone or tablet, as well as a 2.1 amp charger. (It is an AmazonBasics charger, and it works great.) Also in this pocket I have my BT keyboard. The zippered pocket is very slim and snug. To keep a laptop in this pocket you’d have to be using a very slim laptop. I can keep my tablet in it’s case in there, but it zips hard. Anyway, the slimness of the pocket actually does a great job of holding the cables, charger, and keyboard in place. It really doesn’t shift around all that much.

What I keep in this organizer may shift and morph over time. I really prefer to have my planner a little more accessible and in one of the outside pockets of my bag. So that maybe one of the things that changes pretty quickly, but I see that the rest of the contents might stay pretty stable over time.

I have to say that the limited edition blue color is a very nice shade of dusky light blue. The brown of the interior is nice as well. The stitching is pretty good, I did find a few loose stitches that were easily seared with a  lighter. Over all I find it a pretty good looking organizer.  Because this is a very simple organizer it has limitless options for customization and personalization. It would be super easy to add some elastic strips or velcro to the back of the zippered pocket if things needed to be held in place better.

The downsides that I can see to this organizer is that it is a tad on the bulky side, but any organizer adds bulk. The padding is very thin as well, so it doesn’t provide a lot of protection for bumps.


If you want to get one of your own, head on over to Jetpens.

School: Office in a Backpack

I decided to write a little bit on here about some of my school/study aides. Typically, I’m a pencil and paper type of woman, but sometimes I need technology. Being in graduate school means that I often have to write lengthy papers in APA 6th edition format. Carting around a heavy laptop is just not something I want to do, so I’ve found a way around doing so.

The first, and perhaps, most important part of my carry for school was to buy a quality backpack that can carry everything I need safely. For this purpose I bought a Tom Bihn Brain bag with a Brain cell insert. The bag is big enough to carry books, notebooks, tablet, and sundry items. It does the job well and is comfortable.

Rather than carry a laptop I have decided to use a tablet for my computing needs. Most of the time the tablet alone is suitable for reading PDF articles, but sometimes being able to edit or write papers on the go is a necessity. The on screen keyboard is crap for typing for anything other than short bursts. Getting a bluetooth keyboard has been a necessity. Originally I bought the AmazonBasics android keyboard and I loved it but I put it into a crappy case and tossed it around in my bag without enough protection and broke it. I bought a replacement  and it works well  enough, but it’s much louder. I plan on replacing it with another AmazonBasics when school starts up again, this time with a nice case.

Using the tablet as a word processor involves setting up Google Drive with blank documents and saving them to the tablet so I can work on them without wifi. The is important since many areas where I might want to work on my papers don’t always have the best or speediest wifi, like the commuter rail. Sometimes I get a seat near the wifi and it’s speedy and works other times I’m on a car that has terrible wifi. Or the coffee shop wifi is too slow to allow updates. Anyway, being able to work offline is a huge thing when I’m on the go. If you want to figure out how to make your google docs available on your tablet when offline go read here.

I make all my reading notes longhand in a cheap composition notebook. I favor the Staples brand because they are 50 cents at back to school sales and I can buy a bunch for low money. The paper is also acceptable for any of my preferred writing tools. Also, they are sturdy enough that I can cart them around for a full semester and not have them too beaten up. With 200 pages I can take copious notes on my readings, classes, and jot down the first outlines for my papers. (How I generate my papers is another post for the future.) Additionally I can cut pages out if I need to do so.

I use 2 different writing tools for notetaking. The first is fountain pens or gel inks, the second is soft dark pencils. I prefer pencils lately but often switch them out for a spot of color. Either allows me to make notes quickly and effortlessly. Fountain pens glide across the page as do soft dark pencils. The pencils I like range from B to 4B in grade. I keep a pencil box ready with a sharpener as well as an assortment of sharp pencils ready to go. This allows me to keep writing without pause if I need to, but generally I can stop, listen, and sharpen if needed.My first year I used fountain pens almost exclusively. This year I’ve been using pencils almost exclusively.*

I also carry a small pocket sized planner. I’ve been using a Bandit Apple Carnet PeeWee size but I’m transitioning over to the Field Notes Ambition planner in February. Being able to transfer over in February is the great boon of using an undated planner. Current I carry both in a leather cover by Davis Leatherworks. An additional way of keeping track of my life is another Field Notes in a leather cover along with a pocket. This acts as an idea/mind dump as well as a to do list and shopping list. Thus far it’s working very well. Though I  have to work better on my journaling.

Anyhow, all the above is what I use to not only keep track of my life, but to process and record all the stuff I’ve got going on for grad school. I’ve really needed to pare down and figure out how to use tools in a specific manner. This is, of course, a process and how I use tools changes over time, but for now this is it.


Continue reading School: Office in a Backpack

Review: Sonic Rachetta Capsule

When I saw these on JetPens I immediately added the blue and green color Capsule to my wish list. I then made the mistake of tweeting and posting pics of it. By the time I was ready to buy it, in just a few days, they were all gone! I  had to wait over a month for them to get back into stock. 20141031_172315This sharpener uses the Sonic Rachetta ratcheting mechanism. In stead of continually twisting the pencil, you twist it back and forth. It works pretty well and quickly. It’s only slightly faster than using a regular twisty sharpener.capsuleThe point produced is a short point without a needle tip or a blunt point, your choice thanks to the nifty switch. The great thing about the needle tip is that there is little tip breakage when using the pencil after sharpening. Which is pretty great. The sharpener takes the thinnest shaving of wood off my pencils, producing see through shavings and dust. It’s great to use with my nicer pencils because I’m not wasting a ton of the core when I use it. I never use the switch on mine as I have no use for blunt pencils.capsule capsule capsuleI really enjoy this sharpener’s looks. I like the crystal clear shavings reservoir and the bright coordinated colors in the sharpener itself. I also enjoy the facets and details in the cap. My one complaint about this sharpener is that it looks a little… Phallic or uh, adult toy like. It’s one step away from “massager” design, all it needs is a button battery and a motor.  Of course when it’s filled with graphite dust and wood shavings the sex toy look is diminished. But opening up my JetPens package I had a little chuckle. If you are neurotic about your sharpener and want it to look “always clean” this is not going to be the sharpener for you. the graphite and shavings are always visible and while I don’t mind the look, in fact I LIKE seeing the shavings fill the clear reservoir* the graphite does cling to the sides and look dirty even when empty. capsuleAt $5.50 it’s not the cheapest sharpener but it’s not the most expensive. In several weeks of steady use, I’ve been very happy with this sharpener. The major downside of this sharpener is that the blade, while screwed in, is not technically replaceable, since you can not find replacement blades to fit it. Which is a major bummer.  That being said, I really like this sharpener and I’ll keep an eye out for blades that may fit, it looks like it might use the Staedtler sharpener blades.capsuleWhen compared to the other Sonic Rachetta** sharpener, it works much much better. The other sharpener was plagued by being hard to empty and having and odd shape which held the shavings in at weird spots.  This sharpener empties with a simple tap on the trash can. capsule Continue reading Review: Sonic Rachetta Capsule

Coffee

I’ve been toying with the idea of adding reviews of my other other passion, coffee to this blog for awhile. I haven’t gotten around to doing it, but the idea is still sound. Of all of the things that come and go in my studio, coffee is a constant.  I cannot remember a time I did not create with out a good cup of coffee somewhere nearby.

Over the last few years I’ve had to cut back on my coffee consumption. I was a full  pot a day kinda woman, only I found that it was making me jittery and was interfering with my sleep. I’ve cut back to 1 or 2 cups of good coffee a day. Occasionally when pulling a late night study session I will have an additional cup. But most days I’m down to one cup.

Because I cut back so much I decided that I wanted to drink even better coffee than I was before. I began exploring higher end coffees and micro roasts. Though I spend more per pound of coffee I’m spending less than I was before because I’m drinking less. I’m also enjoying it more. I’ve also gotten very picky about the brews I’ll drink. I could tell you stories about the undrinkable swill I bought at a Starbucks on the Maine Turnpike or the delightful cups I’ve purchased near school.

Basically, I like coffee a lot and I’ve spent the last few years learning about different brewing methods and good coffee, maybe I should write about that. Maybe not. Maybe this stuff should go on a whole new blog, but I kinda feel like coffee and art go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Review: Twist Bullet Pencil

It’s been a few days since I got my hands on my Kickstarter backed Twist Bullet pencil from Metal Shop CT and HuckleBerry Woodchuck.Twist

Right out of the envelope I noticed two things. First the blue and silver combo I picked out is AWESOME. It looks stunning. the shade of blue is fantastic. Secondly, the white eraser was crooked.Twist

Because I’m neurotic I took the eraser out and screwed it back in a couple of times only to realize that the base of it was cut crooked and thus couldn’t really be made straight. I grabbed an emery board and filed the end of it flat, then screwed it in again. Success. It now sits perfectly aligned with the body of the pencil. The white with the blue is great. I’m not too ecstatic about the eraser material itself. It’s a serviceable white plastic of unknown variety, it does the job relatively well. Thus far it has not fallen out in my pocket even when I’ve walked about in the city or to the train. I can say that the threads do a fine job of what they are supposed to do- grip that eraser and hold it in. I do think that I’ll eventually upgrade to a metal cap to hold in the clip because I carry a block or stick eraser with me all the time and use that.TwistOn the flip side of the pencil is the bullet that hold the pencil. This also utilizes a thread to hold any pencil firmly. It arrived with a Blackwing 602 inside, held in very tightly. I tested out my spare tip with a Tombow 8900 and it worked just as well. I’m hoping to test out a bunch of pencils in this thing. The great thing about this tip is that it holds about  a half inch of extra pencil screwed into it, so as you use up your pencil, you can unscrew it to get at the “spare” pencil hidden inside. The threads hold the pencil secure as you write.Twist Twist

The bullet itself screws in and out of the body pretty smoothly. One of my tips can with some grittiness that soon smoothed off in use and by rubbing the threads with the end of a pencil nubbin. The threads are slightly sharp feeling, while they won’t cut me and I know that they’ll wear down with age, the sharpness is noticeable and irritating if I write more than a few lines. TwistBecause I was a Kickstarter backer I was able to get a second bullet tip at a reduced price. I picked a rounded and a pointed. I prefer the rounded to the pointed tip but that’s mainly a preference. I carry the second tip with a Pearl nubbin screwed in and capped with a General’s sav-a-point. This effectively allows me to carry a  spare pencil safely just in case I wear my nubbin down to point where I can’t sharpen it easily*.  There are other nubbin toting options, such as Randy’s great nubbin tins. They work great.TwistTwistAnyway, if you can’t tell by now, this is a great bullet pencil that is super tough. While not a throw away advertising item like vintage BP it is a fantastic spin on the old tools, and one that works very very well. While vintage BP will always be a fun EDC item for me, this version is tough, stylish, and very functional**.

Continue reading Review: Twist Bullet Pencil

Review: Apsara Platinum Extra Dark

I received this pencil free from Notegeist in my first order.  As far as I can tell other than some large quantity packaged on Amazon and eBay, Notegeist appears to be the only place to get just a few of these. Frankly, you’ll want at least one of these in your pencil case.

The looks of the pencil are very nice. It’s coated in a nice thick lacquer with silver and black stripes.  The end is capped with a simple black end dip. The imprint is even and not too deeply set in silver foil. It stands out well and is easily read.

The pencil sharpens with ease, though it appears to be made out of basswood and not cedar. I was able to sharpen it in any sharpener and to any point. It held a long point well.

As far as the core of this pencil goes, it’s nice and dark. While it holds a point reasonably well it doesn’t hold one nearly as well as an HB. It is fantastic and smooth. In my use I have not encountered a single bit of grit nor scratchy bit.

Review: Uni Kuru Toga Roulette Gunmetal Mechanical Pencil

David Reese might refer to mechanical pencils as bullshit but I’ve had a long standing love affair with these wondrous pieces of awesome. From my first knurled metal gripped Koh-i-Nor to this pencil, I love ’em. Well, except for that cheap ass Kuru Toga I previously reviewed. 20141203_172208Enter the metal bodied version of the Kuru Toga, the Roulette. I have previously discussed the smooth metal bodied version, this one is knurled. And the knurling is nice, it’s crisp and grip-y and completely not slippery. Which was a problem I had with the smooth metal gripped version of this pencil.20141203_172129

The balance is just right for my hand. With the larger weighted end of the pencil being at the business end and the lighter end being the rest of the pencil. It is also important to note that Uni cheaped out and made the rest of the pencil out of colored plastic.  While the pencil is metallic and perfectly matches the paint, I do wish it was made out of the nice aluminum of the grip section. I find that the plastic is less noticeable on this version than the pink version, possibly because the grip and the plastic are the exact same color.20141203_172032

The tip floats a bit as it needs to be able to move up and down without friction thus has a loose-ish fit in the cone. It’s barely noticeable as I’m writing. The Kuru Toga “engine” does it’s job and moves the tip in miniscule amounts as I write, keeping the edge sharp and crisp. The line doesn’t widen at all, it’s stays the same. IF I remember to not rotate my pencil. Since I’ve been writing with wooden pencils all summer I have gotten back into the habit of rotating my pencil, so in effect I defeat the mechanism.20141203_172136

The key to making these pencils work well, it to not rotate the pencil as you write, something that is hard to stop yourself from doing if you’ve been making yourself do it for a full 4 or more months. It also helps if it’s held at more than a 45 degree angle. Steeper angles don’t provide quite enough force to the mechanism to actually rotate the lead. So it just acts like any old pencil.20141203_172048

Anyway, bullshit aside, this is a great looking and feeling mechanical pencil. I break very few leads with this beauty and my writing is crisp and accurate, well as crisp and accurate as my crappy handwriting can be. The price isn’t bad depending on where you purchase it. I found mine on Amazon for about $10, but they are now out of stock. On Jetpens they are $16. In my opinion, if you are looking for a great mechanical pencil, the knurled metal grip Roulette is a fine choice.

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