Tag Archives: pencil

Review: Ito-ya Helvetica Pencil

The Ito-ya pencil is made by Camel. Per CWPE the eraser was designed for Camel by Eiichi Kato. Most pencils with this sort of ferrule-free eraser experience are made by Camel. I’ve reviewed another Camel pencil here.

I love the look of ferrule-free erasers. That’s no different on the Helvetica pencils. All the erasers are black, no matter the color of the pencil. They are available in white, black, red, and gray. You can find mixed packs on Amazon. I purchased a 12 pack with 6 red and 6 black pencils. The paint is thick and well applied to a perfect satin finish. It’s not quite dull enough to call it matte but also not shiny. The black paint and eraser feel stealthy. TThe imprint is printed rather than debossed. On all the pencils the imprint is glossy black. It stands out quite well on all the colors, even the black on black it looks great. Very minimalist.

Inside the paint is nicely fragrant cedar, which sharpens up in any sharpener I own. Inside that lovely cedar is smooth dark graphite. The writing experience with these is silky smooth. The graphite is dark too. If you own the Camel 60 pencil the Helvetica is significantly softer and darker. I’d liken it to a B Misubishi 9850 or Nataraj Super Black pencil. That is to say, dark and smooth.

Honestly, when I bought these I didn’t put mine down until it hit Steinbeck stage, then I immediately sharpened up another. Though these are $15 for a 12-pack, they are so pleasant to use that I keep an eye on Amazon and keep them in my future to buy cart. I also like to include them in trades and pencil gift package.

Continue reading

Review: Target Dollar Spot Pencils

The majority of the Dollar Spot Pencils are from the company Made for Retail (MfR). They are made in Vietnam and feature a variety of paint, imprints, and other fun stuff. I’ve bought a bunch of them and I’ve been happy. For this review I’m focusing on one particular pencil, their version of the “rainbow” pencil.

Rainbow is in quotes above for a specific reason- these at first glance look like a rainbow but when you look closer- not a rainbow. The colors are as follows: violet, pink, orange, yellow, blue, and purple. They are all surrounded by white and finished with a glossy smooth coating. Each pencil has a gold foil imprint near the business end with made for retail and a series of numbers.

Inside the fun wrapped paper exterior is a smooth, dark core. It’s darker and softer than a typical HB but not so dark or soft that I’d think of it as a B or 2B. The core is typical of all of the Made for Retail pencils. All of the MfR pencils I’ve used have the same core.

You might think that you recognize these from Kickstarter. We’ll you’d be partially right, these are a knock off of the Duncan Shotton rainbow pencils. Those featured a true rainbow inside and the option of white or black exterior. The MfR have a better core- it’s darker and more pleasant. The Shotton pencils are hard and a tad scratchy. I do prefer the matte exterior of the Shotton version over the glossy white version made by MfR.

If you can get past buying the knock off of a kickstarter item these are a fantastic pencil.

Continue reading

Review: Baron Fig Archer

So I’m a few days late and a few bucks short when it comes to this review. I’ve been sitting on it hoping my opinion would change. For the TL;DR crowd- it is pretty, if you like pretty, go ahead and buy them. If you want performance, go elsewhere.

I picked up a few of these from a friend for a few bucks. I didn’t want to spring for a 12-pack of pencils where the whispered undertone to all the reviews read, “scratchy.” I sharpened one up and used it extensively in a cheap Staples comp notebook during NaNoWriMo. I’ve forced myself to use it on slick as teflon Tomoe River paper and silky smooth Maruman and Life notebook pages. I’ve even jotted a shopping list on the nondescript paper in Field Notes.

Ignoring the feeling of the point on paper, the looks of these pencils is gorgeous. The matte finished cool gray paint with a perfectly end dipped darker charcoal gray end is just pretty. It is simplistic and pretty. It works. The imprint is also minimalist- a simple Baron Fig on one flat, with a stylized arrow on the opposite- both in crisp perfectly imprinted white. The pencil is perfectly minimalistic in design. They are gorgeous to look at.

I sharpened mine in, gasp, the Carl Angel-5 with it’s dangerously chewy teeth, which chomped into the soft linden wood body.  I suggest linden over bass based off scent. Linden smells like bay leaves to me and these pencils when freshly sharpened have that dusty odor of impending kitchen magic. Linden is ridiculously light weight. These pencils feel lighter than most pencils. I have not weighed them to be sure. the absence of a ferrule and eraser make them lighter but even compared to other pencils without ferrule and eraser they feel significantly lighter. I should weigh them and and take the subjective out of this review, but I’ll leave this here to let you know they FEEL lighter than other pencils. I prefer a little bit of heft to my pencils

This brings me to the core of these pencils. Scratchy is an apt description of these pretty pretty pencils. I’d lean more toward gritty. They are the antithesis of smooth.  If you are a fan of pencil points gliding over your page like butter on a hot griddle, look elsewhere, these aren’t the fix you are seeking.  They have a durable point that lasts for a good long time. I found myself getting pages in the comp book with the Archer. But it was an effort to write with- I had to force the graphite off the pencil. Compared to *gasp* my penny-per-pencil Casemates, these were a disappointment in use. Going back to kitchen based comparison- writing with these on most papers, even the glassy smooth Tomoe River, is like spreading chilled butter on cold toast- a gritty mess that is simply unpleasant.

Continue reading

Comparison of Sharpeners: Long Point

Here’s a little reference of points produced by long point sharpeners.

Included are:

  • Carl Angel-5
  • KUM  Automatic Long Point
  • KUM  5L or Stenographer
  • KUM Masterpiece
  • Apsara Long Point

These are all sharpened on a #2/HB Ticonderoga of som sort. The natural wooden pencil in the various pics is a factory sharpened General’s Cedar Pointe #1

 

Comparison of Sharpeners

I sharpened pencils with my collection of sharpeners (not all of them) and took pics of the points next to factory sharpened General’s Cedar Pointe #1 pencils for someone in the Erasable group. It’s good to preserve those images before they disappear into the abyss of the FaceBook group feed. (searchable yet never found again.)

In the pics you can see that the blade on my KUM brass wedge is dull.

Review: Casemate Premium No. 2 Pencils

I found these due to a post on the Erasable Facebook group. Casemates is Walmart’s private label office goods brand.I found a wide assortment of Casemate (CM) goods- from legal pads to pencils to journals in their office aisle. You name it, they have a Casemate logo slapped onto it. The majority of the goods, well, it is easy to see that they are simply rebranded things from other manufacturers. Such is the case with all private label goods*. With careful purchasing you can buy a product that is ALMOST the same as the regular product for a fraction of the price**.CMPP CMPP

The CM Premium Pencils (CMPP) are sold in an 8-pack for 97 cents. The 8-pack comes in a tin and plastic tube that doubles as a sturdy pencil case or stand. It does dent easily, but it is not crushed with ease. Inside the case are 8 pencils and a sharpener. The sharpener is pretty meh, but it does the job. It sharpens to a standard short point. The sharpener is labeled “Nataraj.” Which leads me to believe that the pencils are made by the Hindustan company which manufactures the Nataraj pencil brand***.

The pencils are quite nice. They have a thickly applied glossy lacquer in silver and black. The color scheme appeals to my inner angsty teen. The imprint is in silver foil and simply says, “No.2/HB.” the imprint is done well on some and not so well on others. On  a few of mine only part of the imprint was there the rest it was fine.CMPP

The wood appears to be linden/basswood. It’s light in color and sharpens well. When sharpened it has the smell of bay leaves. The ferrule is affixed to all of mine well. It holds a useless nubbin of an eraser that must’ve been added as a joke. It’s a white rubbery blob that is too small to fit properly into the ferrule and does an absolutely shit job of erasing graphite from anything I’ve tried- from Field Note to Story Supply Company to 3×5 card to Reporter notebook to my Mt Tom. It was a useless turd of an eraser. It sort of dust gathers, but mostly the pristine white eraser turns a shade of gray and feels mushy. This thing sucks sooooo bad.CMPP

The core itself is dark, smooth, sharpens easily, and holds a point remarkably well for a pencil this dark. I didn’t have to sharpen the pencil for page after page of writing. Holy smokes awesome. I was able to keep on going and going. Amazing point retention. However I would not call this an HB pencil, no, it is easily a B if not a 2B. Cores are mostly well centered, with one or two of the 24 I purchased off centered enough to notice a problem during sharpening.

Now the reason these pencils are kind of a big deal? Well first off the whole package- case, sharpener, and pencils are only 97 cents. That a pencil this dark and smooth is available for 97 cents is pretty amazing. The other part of the awesome is that these look and feel just like the Nataraj Platinum Extra Dark 2b pencil. Which is an awesome pencil with all the same flaws I’ve listed above. More importantly is availability. Previously, you have to order from CWPE (not a bad option) or find them via Amazon or eBay. None of these are deal breakers, but if you go the Amazon/ebay route you could wait weeks to a month to get your pencils, and pay more than 12 cents a pencil, plus you don’t get a sweet hackable metal case. The sharpener is okay, but nothing special. It’s the case that makes this a sweet deal. The case holds 13 pencils packed full, and is so much fun to decorate. I really really enjoy this tin.CMPP

Continue reading

Review: Caran d’Ache Grafwood

I’m going to declare the Grafwood the answer to all the problems people have with the Swisswood, which will be referred to as the Stinkwood.* What is so great about he Grafwood? First it looks great. The lacquer is thick, smooth, and glossy. It’s pearlized and each grade has a corresponding shade, so the HB is a light gray while the 9B is black, with every shade of gray in between. The imprint is silver foil, and it’s perfectly crisp and sharp. It’s not too deep to cause crinkles in the finish. The reverse side is adorned with the now standard bar code, black on the lighter colors and white on the darker.Grafwood

One may be inclined to disparage the bar code as a wart on an otherwise beautiful object, but consider the alternative- the barcode sticker which leaves behind a sticky mess of residue. I’d rather have a barcode that eventually sharpens away than  a sticky mess.

Inside the paint is cedar and a thick lush core. Each of the Grafwood pencils I”ve tried, B, 3B, and 7B have been delightfully smooth. They skate over the page. I find the HB and B to be a touch harder than most brands the 3B is perfectly dark and smooth and right on point for a 3B pencil. The 7B is also dark and smooth and perfect for sketching. The B is perfect for writing and keeping the point pointy for pages.Grafwood

There is a downside. For those of us who are aficionados of the long point our devotion will require something special with these pencils, you see they do not fit into the standard pocket carry sharpeners. Neither the Masterpiece, nor the KUM automatic, or even the KUM stenographer will satisfy the loing point craving No, the only thing that will bring these to a lovely long point while on the go is a knife. Further frustration is that they barely, and i do mean, just barely squeeze their way into the Carl A5. If there is a variation in your Carl A5/Classroom Friendly, well, these beauties won’t be fitting in.Grafwood
Grafwood

Continue reading

Review: Highlighter Pencil Round Up

Consider this a mass review, or comparison, or whatever. My favorite highlighter will always be an eye droppered Platinum preppy with a 50/50 mix of Noodler’s Electric Eel and Year of the Dragon inks. It’s the best highlighter ever. I had to test out some highlighter pencils, simply to satiate my own curiosity. It also makes sense for when I’m reading books printed on cheap pulpy paper and my Preppy soaks through the cheap paper like it’s TP.pencil highlighters

I looked at 4 factors that make a good highlighter pencil:

  1. Price- These things get used, and used pretty quickly when I’m reading a lot of text for school. Cheaper is better.
  2. Texture- This can get broken into 2 subcategories: smooth and crumble. Smooth refers to how the pencil applies to the page- does it glide or catch? When highlighting I want glide. Crumble has to do with how the pencil responds to pressure and application to the page. Does it crumble and make a mess or is it strong and clean?
  3. Transparency- Can I easily see through the color or do I need to underline with the highlighter? If I can’t see through it then what is the point?
  4. Sharpening- How well, or badly, does the pencil sharpen? Am I wasting a ton of core in each sharpening of the pencil?

Using this criteria I looked at a selection of highlighter pencils and tested them out. The best is listed first and the worst last, however none are truly horrible, just when compared to the others, not as good.

These are listed in the order of best to worst.

Koh-I-Noor Highlighter/ Dry Marker Pencil

These are reliably good highlighters. Transparent and smooth with minimal crumbling. They sharpen well unless they have been abused. They come in a 6-pack and are reasonably priced. My package was roughly $6 at Artist and Craftsman but they are a little more on Amazon.

Kutsuwa Highlighter Pencil

I picked this up at Jetpens for $3, which is it’s only downfall. It would be the best of the best if it weren’t $3 a pencil. It does come packaged with an extender and sharpener in one.These are perfectly smooth and transparently. They sharpen perfectly each and every time. If you don’t use your highlighters often this might be the highlighter pencil for you.

Stubby Pencil Studio, Eco Highlighter

I scored this jumbo pencil in a swap but they are available on Amazon. They are sold in sets of 4 of one color, 12 of one color, or rainbow packages. They average about $4 each. They are the largest of any of the pencils in length, with a thick core that sharpens well. If you like raw wood pencils, these will make you happy. That being said, the core does crumble in use, not as bad as the worst of the lot but enough to make note of the crumble. The core is nicely transparent so there is that. At $4 each, they are a little pricey for me, especially since the core is crumbly.pencil highlighters

Yoobi, Highlighter Pencil Set of 5

Available from Target and Yoobi for $3.49 a set or $11 on Amazon. I’m not sure why Yoobi has decided to price their products so expensive on the ‘zom but they have. Anway way, these are also a jumbo pencil, in lightly finished wood. They look great with a nice black imprint of the yoobi name on one side. There are 4 colors in a pack, with 2 yellow pencils. These sharpen well and are mostly transparent but I think a tad too dark over black text. The core itself crumbles and leaves a mess all over the page. I find myself sharpening the pencil all the time because the tip has crumbled off. If you are looking for a cheap alternative with a good cause, these are it, but they aren’t going to convince anyone to give up a marker style highlighter.

Koh-I-Noor Magic colored pencil  in red, orange, and yellow*

This is a jumbo colored pencil and not really intended as a highlighter but the blend of colors works well for editing and underlining. It is fairly opaque, which is why it does well for editing and underlining. It sharpens well and has a fun marbled paint job. Due to it’s multicolored core it can be a bit crumbly but it does okay. At $1.50 a pencil these aren’t a bad price for editing, but as a highlighter, meh.
Over all, I find myself reaching for the Koh-i noor Dry Marker over and over. They are regular pencil sized and I can get a nice broad tip going, then sharpen up in any sharpener. They work well and are priced right, when they can be found. The Kutsuwa is the better highlighter over all, but just so darn expensive. Also I chewed through one in a week of use. It was a heavy reading week, but still, gone. If you are looking for a highlighter, you’ve got some choices.

 
Continue reading

User, Collector, or Stockpiler Part 2

The last post was about how do stationery users really get to a point where they stockpile, basically the journey from simple user of an item to stockpiler. To boil that down, the group consensus was that people were searching for the perfect pencil/pen/notebook/sketchbook. In that search some people had the rug yanked out from under them and their favorite item disappeared, which seemed to directly correlate to instances of stockpiling. I think that it is important for me to state here that in these posts I do not intend to speak for “all” stationery nerds, but rather I’m combining my experience with an informal conversation that was had on a Facebook group. I’m writing this, or compiling this information because I find it fascinating and I suspect that others might as well.

The second important aspect was how people defined themselves- as users, collectors, a combination of the two or stockpilers*. Some people see themselves as pure users of their purchases. Most of these people seem to keep a small stockpile of their favorite items on hand. While other users call themselves user-stockpilers and they keep large quantities of their favorite items on hand. This seems to relate back to having difficulty finding their favorite items due to scarcity or manufacturer discontinuing the product, that the item is vintage, or that the manufacturer changed the product.

The last two items on that list- discontinued products and manufacturer changes seem to take people down the path of stockpiling favorite items. This can also lead to the other end of the spectrum- collecting. Collecting doesn’t preclude using but it is an interesting subset of stationery users. I must admit that I do have a small collection of pencils. One of each pencil that arrives in my home goes into a pencil case. Interesting to me is that collectors range from wanting one of everything that interests them to people who collect pencils in packages or great quantities of particular pencils that interest them. I think that the whole collecting side of the stationery world could be (possibly should be) a post in and of itself.

Here is where I make an admission. I wanted to be a collector, but I’m simply not. I really like using my various pocket notebooks, pencils and pens. I have a Danitrio Cumlaude pen that I’ve been on the fence of selling. Though it is a beautiful piece of celluloid that I adore looking at I don’t use it. It’s got the most buttery smooth nib but I don’t use it. I don’t use it because I’m rough on my tools and I’m deathly afraid that I’ll break it. So it sits in a lonely drawer, never being used. That bugs me. I want to use all my tools. I chew through pocket notebooks at the rate of roughly 1 every 2 to 3 weeks and I destroy pencils when I draw and I use them pretty quickly when I’m writing too. I take delight in using my more “collectable” Field Notes**, sometimes as coasters. I’ve got a whole post about how I came to the conclusion that I’m a user not a collector, so this isn’t the place for that story, but the reality is I’m not a collector.

It seems that most collectors use some of their stockpile but never the collection. This is another point of difference between collectors and users- nothing in a users stockpile is sacred, it’s all up for grabs. This, I think is the primary difference between users and collectors. A user primarily stockpiles or collects items to use, eventually, while collectors will hold certain items as sacred and not for use, ever. One member specifically referenced enjoying their pencils as objects- finding enjoyment in the look and feel of the item, not just in it’s use. Even users will take into consideration the look of a pencil or notebook as they use it, the more attractive the item to that person, the higher the desirability. In some cases, people had favorites due to nostalgia. My enjoyment of the EF ECOwriter is largely nostalgia. It’s a dark soft pencil but it also has some grittiness that can be unpleasant in use, but I love the dark chrome yellow of it’s paint combined with the silver ferrule and green eraser. This is nostalgia. While my enjoyment of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl is largely because it is pretty and performs well.

In this discussion, it’s clear that there are a lot of factors that determine if someone considers themselves to be a collector or user or combination of the two. Most importantly it seems that there is a sacredness to the collection of the collector and a lack thereof for the user. Most importantly it seems that each person determines and defines if they are a collector, user, stockpiler, or some combination. 

Continue reading

Review: Story Supply Co. HB Pencil

I backed the SSC kickstarter campaign, and you should too. They are fully backed and are in the stage of scoring extras, so go back it and score! Also if you don’t want to read the rest of my review, I really dig these pencils. Nutshell review: Dark, decent point retention, great for class notes.SSC PencilI had hoped to get this review out a little sooner than I have but due to a new internship, classes, and a ridiculous number of papers due in the first weeks of class, I haven’t had time to write up a proper review. However all of that means I’m able to really put this pencil through it’s paces. I’ve used a good chunk of it for class notes, reading notes and underlining, as well as general writing. Thus far I’m impressed.SSC Pencil

First off let me tell you more about the how nice this pencil looks. It’s a naturally colored pencil with nice navy blue printing, a golden ferrule, and a snappy blue eraser. It all works together to look really nice. It’s a sharp looking pencils. It is billed as raw, but it is not. After sharpening, there is clearly a finish that can be seen. Maybe a water-based varnish? I’m not sure, but it is not raw. (This could also be due to the fact that I have a reviewer sample and the final version might be different.) Regardless, it is  a good looking pencil.SSC PencilThe pencil is made by Musgrave*, right here in the USA. It is not made of cedar instead pine or basswood. It smells appropriately woody, though not as good as cedar. It sharpens well in every sharpener I’ve tested it with- the Carl A5 (aka the Classroom Friendly), the KUM stenographer, the KUM Automatic, and knife. The core sharpens up well too. It doesn’t chip or flake, even in my slightly dull KUM Stenographer. It has decent point retention for as dark as it is. With HB pencils I never know how many pages I’ll get out of them HB pencils seem to be all over the map in terms of darkness and point retention. I favor darker pencils, and don’t mind sharpening pretty often. I found myself getting about 2 composition book pages before I’d need to touch up the point. That’s pretty darn good if you ask me.SSC Pencil

I’d compare this favorably to a General’s Cedar Pointe #2, but being better in terms of darkness and smoothness, but not quite as smooth as the CP#1. Overall, this is a great pencil. It looks good and performs well. What more can you ask for?SSC Pencil

The only thing I wish is that the blue of the printing matched the blue of the eraser. That is a tiny little thing. Read more about SSC and what they do here. Back their kickstarter while you are there. It’s a great cause and you can score some great rewards.
Continue reading