Tag Archives: pencils

User, Collector, or Stockpiler Part 3

In my final post based off the user, collector, or combination question that I posed to the Erasable Pencil Podcast group, I’ll write about a couple of points that seem to have several adherents, and those are: the seemingly accidental acquisition in the search for the right tool; enjoyment of variety and change;  a love of stationery; as well as a fear of writing or use of the materials. Each of these is a vastly different point that is deserving of a blog post on it’s own but for brevity I’m addressing them here.

Initially it seems that all of this collecting and using begins as a love for stationery- be it pen, paper, or pencil. Pure unadulterated enjoyment leads to a quest for a pen, pencil, and paper combination that brings writing joy. In some cases, the chase precludes the writing, and people begin to not feel worthy of their pretty pretty tools. That really is an entirely different post or even series of posts. The chase also brings about an enjoyment in variety, after all, how many of us are truly monogamous with our pens, pencils, and paper?

Here again, I’m in the camp of people who like variety and yet once I find a tool I like (General’s CP#1,  Staedtler Norica, Calepino, Field Notes) I stockpile a decent amount of those tools so that I’ll always have them. While I enjoy change I also realize that I enjoy knowing that I have tools that will work the way I expect them to all the time. Say my monthly 6 pencils* include a few duds, I know that I can grab a CP#1 and use it and be happy with how the pencil works. While I enjoy what I use regularly I also enjoy the chase and variety of pencils available.

My love of stationery is derived from my love of writing and drawing as well as a need for a time management system that is flexible and easy to adapt to my changing needs over time. I’ve used such planning systems as the pocket mod, attempted bullet journaling, the pig pog method, and various other GTD styles. Anyway, my planner style has evolved over the years and you can read more about it here. It’s not the point of this post, but to point out that through the finding of the right tool, pocket notebooks, my planner style has evolved to use something I like and fits my use and life.

The final point, which I think I’ll expand upon in another, separate post, is the fear of using our tools. I saw this again and again in art journaling. Journalers would buy the most beautiful journals and then never use them. we call it fear of the white page in art circles, I’ve seen it mentioned as fear of the page in NaNoWriMo circles. It boils down to a person’s inner critic getting the best of them, filling the mind with the phrase, “Who do you think you are?” As a phrase, this just kills any sort of creativity. In therapy circles we call this “negative self talk.” I prefer to call it an inner critic, it seems friendlier, and lacks the clinical feel of the latter. Also, when artists write about the inner critic it is pretty approachable and most people can relate, but if I link to a research study about negative self talk, eyes glaze over.

When I teach art one of the first things I try to do is just get students moving their pencils, pens and brushes across a page in an effort to get to know the material but also to simply enjoy how it feels. This tactile sensation is one of the primary reasons for using analog tools. It’s a sensation you don’t get from swiping a finger across a screen**, it can only be derived from pencil, pen, or brush on paper or canvas. The joy we derive from the tactile sensations associated with analog tools is a large part of why we use them, collect them, and stockpile those we fear will disappear.

In conclusion of this brief series, I’d like to thank all the members of Erasables for feeding my curiosity and looking within themselves to answer my questions. It’s certainly fun to read about everyone’s love for writing, no matter the tools they use it really does boil down to love.

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Desire to Acquire

A few months ago I started to really deeply consider the things that I’ve acquired. While I hadn’t gone past what I could reasonably use in a lifetime (SABLE*) I had picked up a lot of stuff I wasn’t using. After I’d written and posted my “cult of stuff” essays a few years back, I’d become good about not buying so much stuff. My art supplies are right within the range of reasonable use. I have a few more sketchbooks and plenty of watercolors, but I’m good about buying what I’ll use and not a whole lot more.

Somehow my desire to acquire more fountain pens and fancy pencils, though I’m a confirmed user and not collector of said tools has continued me down a path of purchases. And more purchases, and more. Things came to a head when I had to purchase a set of storage drawers to store my pencils. As I put the drawers to use, I realized I had many dozens of pencils. Some were brands and styles I’d never use. I made a few decisions, four to be specific, and for the most part, I’ve stuck to them. I like to call these “concepts” and they are as follows:

  1. Reduce– aka stop the acquisitions. Stop bringing in more stuff. Get rid of stuff I won’t or don’t use.
  2. Use– Use the stuff I have. Diligently work my way through my stash of pens, pencils, ink and paper.
  3. Examine– Deeply examine how I use my stuff. Look at each item I own and how I use it. Did I purchase it as a novelty (725) or is it something I use on a regular basis (Tombow 8900) and is part of my everyday carry (Fodderstack XL)? Examine my uses. Document them carefully. Refer to decisions reduce and use. Follow through.
  4. Forgive– I’m going to give into marketing and hype and peer pressure, and when I do, use the stuff and then move on. Beating myself up for not adhering to concepts 1-3 doesn’t help. But I can refer back to them to examine the whys and hows of my purchases. Anything new that comes into the fold must be used and reviewed.

I’ve done remarkably well with this system so far. I was able to resist getting the latest Field Notes edition, which I thought was pretty cool, but I know I prefer grids to their lines. So it was easy to resist. However, I bought the TWSBI Eco(nomical) and it was an easy one to buy as I’d wanted  one from the moment I saw their first mock up on their facebook page. I used it for a week, reviewed it, and I’m still using it. I’ll post up a few follow ups over the next few months, and report if I continue to use it or not.

So I’ve done pretty well in my new concepts. I need to refine my examination of why I want something, so that the “reduce” concept is more fleshed out, and includes a built in form of resistance. But that is for another post.

For another post on this subject check out The Clicky Post.

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Attention! Kickstarter Cerat Pencils Not a New Product

A few days ago I found this Kickstarter for Cerat pencils of Britain. I’ve seen the gem or jewel topped pencils around for ages, usually being sold on cheap import shops. So to see them on Kickstarter being sold as something new and of quality, well, I found that kind of funny.

Anyway, I’m not sure if the pencils are really a quality item or not, but that they are being hawked on Kickstarter as a new item is untrue.

Anyway, this is one of those Kickstarter beware campaigns. Oh you can find the same pencils on ebay and amazon for about the same cost. If you are going to buy them get them from Amazon or the ‘bay instead. Don’t encourage Kickstarter fakers.

From Cerat’s own kickstarter page it states:

Here are the approximate breakdowns:

– Around 10% will be taken as fees by Kickstarter and transaction fees.
– Production takes 45% due to the labor involved as these pencils are partially hand made.
– 15% will be reserved for materials cost including acrylic blocks for the crystals on each pencil.
– A maximum of around 25% will be going into Postage and Packaging of the pencils.
– Any remaining funds after the rewards have been completed and backers are satisfied will be invested into & by Cerat Creations for new projects in the future.

Let’s break this down: The fees are about right. The production costs may be correct. The crystals made of acrylic look to be molded on every other iteration of the pencil. Earlier in the Kickstarter they mention these being “carved” from acrylic blocks, I highly doubt that. Postage may be correct. However, the cost to back this project is about what these cost on eBay or Amazon.

Also a quote from their page:

The pencils are all in stock, we have plenty thanks to a batch production we undertook, there really are no risks present and we’re prepared to ship immediately. Of course all costs have been considered and reward prices set accordingly.

The only risk that we may encounter is the over-funding of this project, which isn’t a bad thing at all! In this case, we’ll send out as many as we can fulfill the rewards by December where our production will have begun by.

The pencils are in stock. I’m not sure what you’d be backing here? Shipping? Them opening up the packages and repacking them by color? Again, not sure.

Be sure to read some of the Amazon reviews of a VERy similar product that basically state that these are cheap. The rhinestones fall off before they even arrive.

Review: Best Pencil for Notes #1

I decided to do a competition  among my regular classroom pencils to see which I deem the most perfect note taking pencil.These are the pencils I reached for over and over again as I took notes in class. I have a pencil box with between 8 and 10 pencils, each sharpened in the Carl A5 aka “The Classroom Friendly Sharpener.” I try to use each until it is dull and then grab another from the box as I need it. I work my way through the pencils as I wear each down. Now my note taking style is of the capture then reflect method. I capture the basic ideas, and then reflect upon them later. Getting everything down is less important than capturing the interesting bits. Most of my professors load their powerpoints and sometimes notes to a class blackboard site. Anyway, after class, as I ride the train home, I will reflect upon the class and jot some information down on the opposite page or flesh out my notes. Mostly I do this so that I have a good basis for which to write my papers.

The 9 pencils currently in my pencil box are:

  • General’s Kimberly B
  • General’s Test Scoring 580
  • MitsuBishi Hi Uni HB
  • Dixon Ticonderoga Target Neon Blue HB Soft
  • USA GOLD “vintage” Megabrands label, metallics HB
  • Musgrave Test Scoring 100
  • Staedtler Noris HB
  • Staedtler Triplus HB (Regular Size)
  • Blick Studio 2Bclass pencils

Since I’m looking at this as a competition as to the best pencil for my note taking needs, it is important to note that I’m taking notes in a Staple’s College Ruled Composition book. This is the made in Brazil version with slightly smoother paper that is fountain pen friendly.

I do not consider erasers as I have a Sakura Foam in my pocket at all times.

I took a number of things into consideration. The first two considerations were availability and price. This took some of my favorites out of contention. For classroom note taking, I don’t want to have my Blackwings*. In availability, I rule out anything vintage, like my beloved ECOwriters. If I can’t easily get them in a store they don’t make the list. The USA Gold that I have listed, is no longer available. I kept it on the list for the sole reason that it has the same core as a regular USA Gold, so it basically represents the cheapest of the cheap. If I’m ruling out champions due to price, the General’s Test Scoring 580 at over $1 a pencil is a loser, as is the Hi Uni HB.

The next consideration was point retention. The leaders in this were the Ticonderoga, USA Gold, Noris, and Musgrave TS 100. The Blick Studio was a miserable failure and was kept in the pencil box only for it’s capabilities for drawing.** The Triplus has decent retention but wasn’t in the top  5.class pencils

The next to last consideration was darkness. Did I have to jab the pencil to the page to get a decent line? Or was I able to write lightly and get decent line integrity? The Musgrave TS 100, Triplus, Kimberly, and Noris were all fantastic in this regard.class pencils

The final consideration was aesthetic. The Noris, Triplus, Kimberly, and Ticonderoga all were winners here.class pencils

So based on these considerations entirely unscientific results are as follow

#1 Musgrave TS 100
#2 Staedtler Triplus
#3 Staedtler Noris HB
#4 General’s Kimberly B
#5 USA Goldclass pencils

The Musgrave TS 100 will never win a beauty contest, but there is something I really like about its thin silver paint, cheesy printed logo, and craptastic eraser. I finally got a few with flaking paint to, but the dark core with decent tip retention really means I reach for it over and over again. The Staedtler Triplus, has no eraser, but it’s school bus yellow paint, and dark core had me reaching for it over and over again for both quick and long term notes. It’s rounded triangular body was comfortable and easy to grip. The Noris’s black and yellow striped body with smart red cap just looks awesome. The fact that it’s dark and holds a point make it even better. The Kimberly in B allowed me to do some sketchnoting as well as regular notes. It’s smooth dark core was a winner every time. I even enjoy it’s cheap bras cap against the thin green paint. Nothing says American Made like a shitty paint job. Finally the USA gold brings up the tail end. When I had to write for long periods of time and I would not be able to grab something out of the box fast, I grabbed this. It’s point retention is great, and I’m able to scribble on my articles and notes for the entire train ride into school (lasting about an hour.) With a cap it’s a great pocket pencil.

I took out of consideration the Staedtler Norica Blue (canadian) version because it’s not readily available, though lately I ALWAYS have on in my Twist BP. I also removed the Tombow 8900 in HB and B because it’s not as readily available as the rest of the pencils. I considered adding the Staedtler Rally, but felt that Staedtler was already well represented. Added to this list should have been General’s Cedar Pointe #1, but they decided to cease production right after I bought my first 12-pack. The CP#1 is a great note taking pencil. Dark, good point retention, and the raw wood finish, oh baby…

Of course, I reserve the right to revisit this list with entirely new pencils for my summer classes and then my fall classes, and maybe just because.

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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

Review: Classic Eraser Round Up

Over on the Erasable podcast they spent an entire episode on erasers. The episode focused on erasers from the perspective of writers and lacked the perspective of an artist.* This highlighted to me the major differences in how artists and writers use erasers and why they use them.

An overwhelming favorite of the podcast were the Pearl erasers, which are now available in the classic pink but also in black and white. The pearl series of erasers feature a gritty removal mechanism that artists tend to avoid as it can damage the delicate surfaces of your art paper, but removes graphite quickly and pretty cleanly while writing. And if you are pressing hard while writing the Pearl erasers can press down the surrounding paper fibers and get down into that groove and get that graphite out. Great for writing, not so great for drawing.

When it comes to using erasers for drawing or  shading, there are so many options out there that it’s confusing. What do you use and when do you use it? This post is about a few classic erasers that you’ll find many art teachers recommend.

All of the images show Design Drawing 3800 4B and a General’s Semi-Hex HB/#2 swatch on color lined 3×5 card. The Semi-Hex was chosen for it’s grittiness and ability to leave scratches in the paper, to demonstrate how the soft erasers have issues with getting into these grooves. The 4B was to demonstrate how the pencil can be pushed into the fibers of the paper. Also included in the first image is the pile of eraser crumbs created via erasing.

Let’s start off with the classic Art Gum Eraser.  It’s tan and can be purchased in a variety of sizes for cheap money. when you use ity you’ll notice that it is also crumbly and makes a mess of crumbs across the page. It does an okay job of graphite removal but it really does a better job with charcoal. It also doesn’t have any grit to speak of so it doesn’t abrade the paper like the Pearl erasers. It is however pretty stiff so I can dent your page.

I recommended this one to my former students mostly because it was super cheap but also for it’s great work with charcoal pencils. erasers1 erasers1Next is the standard kneaded eraser. These are made by a bunch of brands and can also be found in soft, medium, and hard varieties. though most varieties are medium (IMO) and are not labeled. If you aren’t in an art store you will not find the various “hardnesses.” Even most art stores simply carry one style. Many stores also have their brand label of kneaded erasers. In the past kneaded erasers were always gray. Now you can find them in blue, yellow, and other colors.

To use a kneaded eraser you stretch and pull it until it is soft and pliable. You can form it into shapes to make erasures on your page. My favorite shape is a teardrop, the pointy end can be used for details while the larger rounded end can clear away larger swathes of graphite. These can be trickier to get the hang of than similar block erasers, but once mastered they are great. You would use these on almost any drawing paper where you want to clean off graphite or charcoal without damaging your expensive paper. They leave no trace behind so generally, even after erasing your paper will react to watercolors just the same as before you erased. If you have pressed into your page, this eraser will not get that graphite out. This is a delicate eraser meant to remove delicate marks. However with work it will get a paper close to clean.erasers1 erasers1The final classic eraser we should discuss and is always on every art supply list I’ve ever received is the Staedtler Mars Plastic (SMP). While white plastic erasers are now everywhere** the Mars Plastic is the original. The SMP is suggested because it’s soft enough that it doesn’t damage paper but also can clean the paper really well. Unlike the Pearl erasers it has no grit but works really well. It was originally designed for designers to remove graphite from blueprint films, it removed graphite cleanly and easily. It tends to tear if you hold it too far back from the working end, and the paper sleeve helps to keep it from breaking but also to keep it clean. It was able to be cut into shape and used to get tiny small details, which was always fantastic for detailed drawings.

It was always outrageously expensive but has gone down drastically in price over the last 15 years. Which is really great  for the art students out there. I tended to go through one of these, if not more in a school year, as I sketched out ideas, added ink, and then erased my lines later.  It never worked as well with charcoal as it did with graphite but still did okay. It was also available in a click stick format. But that is for another round up.erasers1 erasers1These three erasers were on every art supply list I received in college and later I often recommended them. Over the years I’ve gotten rid of the art gum in favor of other styles but recognize it’s usefulness.

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Shipping Services

While I’ve been reviewing products on this blog for a good long time, one of the many things I’ve neglected to talk about is shipping from the various companies. We review shipping on Amazon, so why not from our favorite online pen and pencil companies? Here is my not so exhaustive list of shipping reviews in regards to pen and pencil companies.

Pencils.com: All of my shipments have been discreetly shipped in a white cardboard clamshell style box. Each box has been securely tapped on all edges. They open from the top and are gift-like in the package. Each package has been filled with styrofoam peanuts. I have not checked to see if these are the biodegradable sort, but they don’t look like they are.  The boxes always arrive in good condition, even when manhandled by the idiot delivery guy and not the good delivery woman. All items have arrived in perfect condition. Shipping is reasonably priced, right in the middle of the pack. They occasionally have free shipping sales. I try to take advantage of these sales. Speed of shipping is slower than other companies but not slow enough for me to complain. When they run a free shipping sale, they ship parcel rate, which is slower than the regular first class I usually select. You can pay more for priority shipping.

Jetpens: They ship in bubble wrap mailers. They do put loose pencils into thin card boxes. My last shipment arrived with a square of cardboard to protect the pencils. This is a far cry from some of my earlier shipments where items were sent loose in a bubble mailer.  As we all know that sort of shipping is the death of pencils. However, any order over $25 ships for free. Which is a huge savings. The free shipping is slower, as it’s sent first class and not priority mail.* I get my Jetpens goods within 3 to 4 days. Considering the goods are coming from Cali and I’m  in Mass, that’s really not bad.** I never order unless I can get over the $25 mark so I can’t comment on their paid shipping. I have never had a Jetpens purchase arrive damaged.

PencilThings.com: I placed my first order on the 9th and it arrived on the 14th.  I get the feeling this is a one woman operation so not a bad turnaround to get from New Mexico to Massachusetts. Considering that the good mail lady was on vacation and the moron had her route, really not bad.*** My small order was shipped in a bubble mailer. The pencils were not backed by cardboard or anything else.  Shipping was $5 and the order was shipped first class  and weighed 3 ounces. You do the math. Anyway, nothing was damaged and they are one of the few places that offer things like pencil caps and clips. They have a HUGE range of KUM brand sharpeners that can be hard to find other places.

Goulet: Ever since Goulet did away with their Fountain Pen Network discount I haven’t placed an order. They rarely offer free shipping and when they do it’s on orders over $50, $75 or $100.  However when one of my packages was damaged in shipping and not delivered, they replaced my package free of charge. So their expensive and speedy shipping is guaranteed. When my package eventually was delivered, damaged, to Walgreens about a month later (weird) and Walgreens opened it and called me, Goulet told me to keep both. This is a huge positive. Generally, Goulet packages arrived in 3 days from Virginia.

Any conversation about Goulet bears mentioning that they ridiculously over protect their package. All packages are backed by cardboard wrapped in blue cling film and bubble wrap then shipped in a box. Inks are put into ziplock baggies. The extra space in the boxes is packed with crumpled paper, and there is always extra space since all of the boxes I’ve ever gotten have been over-sized for the items contained within. This makes perfect sense for inks and delicate pens. But is completely wasteful for notebooks and other items . I always shed a tear for the environment when I place a Goulet order. There is no middle ground or variance for different items. Every item is packed with the same excessive packaging. Which I suppose is good, because you pay for it.

Amazon- Every package I order from them is packaged differently. IF I’m getting things from Amazon and not a reseller, it’s generally in a small cardboard box with large air pockets. I’ve gotten things from resellers in bubble mailers, boxes, card mailers, paper envelopes with no bubble wrap, and the list could go on. With all the variances I’ve never had an Amazon order go missing or be damaged.

Rated by shipping price, lowest to highest:

  1. Jetpens (over $25)
  2. Amazon (with prime)(rated lower than Jetpens due to many pencil related items being add-on items)
  3. Pencils.com
  4. PencilThings.com
  5. Goulet

Rated by Packaging, best to ok:

  1. Goulet
  2. Pencils.com
  3. JetPens
  4. PencilThings.com
  5. Amazon (rated here as ok mostly because I never know how something will be packaged.)

Rated by Speed, fastest to Slowest:****

  1. Amazon
  2. Goulet
  3. Jetpens
  4. Pencils.com
  5. PencilThings.com

Overall I’ve got perfectly adequate shipping from all of the vendors listed and I’ve been happy with service. Ratings are subjective and my opinion based on my purchase history.

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