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Review: Staedtler Triplus Fineliner

triplusI decided to pick up a trio of these pens a few months ago for sketching. I picked them up at Blick for around $2 a pen. They are now available at Artist and Craftsman for a little less. You can get multipacks on Amazon for decent prices. I’ve only seen singles at Blick and A&C. Blick has a great range of colors, while A&C had only 24 shades.

The Triplus sports a very fine fiber point that is sheathed in metal. The ink flow is smooth, generous, and even. The feel of the tip is smooth on every paper I’ve used. It will soak through on some thinner and more absorbent papers. It performed well in Field Notes, though the black does soak through if I linger upon a word in my meandered thinking.triplus

While drawing I found that they performed well. The teal shade was a tad too light, while black and blue were dark. What is important that you can leave them uncapped for ages and they won’t dry out, hence the “dry safe” designation on the pens.

I found the size and shape of the pen comfortable but not for long periods of time. Like most narrow, triangular writing instruments I find the shape and size annoying. Why? I’m not sure. I tend to death grip narrow pens but add triangular to the mix, I’m attempting strangulation. The tip itself is nearly a full inch long and if you are a “near the point” type gripper, you are going to feel the transition from body to point, and likely find it uncomfortable.IMG_0064

These have been marketed with adult coloring books. Have I yet mentioned that the tips are incredibly fine? They are smaller than 0.5, likely in the 0.38 category. It would take FOREVER to do a coloring page. I colored in 3 ¼ inch squares in a Mt Tom and 2 hours later I finish. Yes, hyperbole. That being said, if you would like to use a fiber tip pen the Paperhate Flair, which is cheaper, has a wider tip, might be a more enjoyable choice.
triplusOn the other hand, I tend to be heavy handed with fiber tipped pens and crush them. These survived and still work really well. I could see drawing with these or using brighter colors for highlighting. Mostly I’ve been using them for doodles and occasional quick notes in my Field Notes.

Review: Staedtler 900 25 Pencil Holder/ Extender

I’ve been using the Staedtler 900 25 pencil holder/extender (hereafter Staed925) since May. I haven’t used it daily, but nearly so. Let’s face it pencil holders and extenders range from ugly to slightly less ugly, but few are actually what I would term attractive. that is, until I received the Staed925. The Staed925 has an aluminum body that is anodized brushed silver, with the Staedtler logo in shiny silver. It’s a nice contrast. The grip is nicely knurled. Enough to be grippy but not so much you feel like you can sand off your callouses.  The lead grade indicator ranges from 2H to 4b and stays put until it is moved.Staed925Staed925I’m going to address my two issues with this pencil holder. First is the useless atrocity of a clip. This clip is a hemorrhoid on the entire design of the holder. With all of the pretty design that went into the holder, I cannot imagine why they would chose to sully the clean lines with this ugly clip. the clip is serviceable enough, it’s a simple fold over design. It is meh. The other issue that I have with this holder is the eraser deployment mechanism, in that it is also an after thought. The crimps for grip clash with the precise knurling of the grip, and look shoddy. Instead of raising the eraser, the tube around the eraser screws into the body of the holder. It’s dumb. The eraser itself is quite nice and I use it far more often than I ever expected.*Staed925 Staed925 I replaced the clip with a clear silicone band and a clear glass bead. I have no need of clipping the holder to anything, but the bead and band keeps it from rolling off my desk of cafe table when I set it down.Staed925The grip is turned to loosen to remove the pencil and tightened to create a vise-like grip on larger sized pencils. I found that while it held a USA Gold I was not able to sharpen the pencil while in the holder. Which is very unlike larger, thicker Japanese pencils like the Mono100 or the thicker Palomino Blackwing. These were held in a strong grip and I was able to sharpen the thicker pencils. Staed925 20150526_175721Anyway, until I received the Staed925 pencil holder/ extender my Derwent extenders** were getting a regular workout. Now I only use the smaller of the two Derwent extenders for the smaller thinner pencils. This holder feels like a pen and a nice pen at that. I feel fancy while I use it. Who doesn’t like to feel fancy on occasion?

You have a few options on buying this holder. Jetpens and various sellers on Amazon. If you have prime it’s cheaper at the ‘zon. There are also sellers shipping it straight outta Japan with free shipping. Choices, you have them.  For my Euro/UK friends this is available via CultPens as well.

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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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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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Review: Staedtler Norica

Last week I wrote about the Staedtler Rally, what I call the popped collar boat shoe wearing preppy of the Staedtler pencil line up.* The Staedtler Norica is the goth kid.Staedtler Norica

The lacquer is satin finished black with a silver ferrule and imprint. The eraser is what seems to be Staedtler’s new standard white plastic that is proclaimed as PVC and latex free. It’s been a few years since I worked in a school, but I suppose that is important. The imprint is sharp and unlike the Rally, doesn’t wear off. I have not noticed any flaking of the silver foil. Like the Rally, the silver ferrule is affixed tightly at first but loosens through use.Staedtler NoricaThe lead in this feels almost identical to the Rally. It’s nice and dark during regular writing, and provides some variation of line color when sketching. Here and there I notice a small amount of grit, but overall the writing experience is good. Not Blackwing good, but honestly, really not bad.Norica SketchStaedtler NoricaOne of the things that is odd about this pencil is that it is slightly more narrow than most regular pencils. Because of this it does not fit into a bullet pencil with ease. It does fit into my Stad One Touch Pencil holder and other pencil extenders with ease. Staedtler Norica

The wonderful thing about these pencils is that they come in a package of 36. the regular price is $9.99 but is often on sale (at Staples) for $5. My package had a pair of Staedtler white Rasoplast eraser shrink wrapped to it.

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Review: Staedtler Rally

One of the pencils that I’ve been using a lot over the last couple of weeks has been the Staedtler Rally a #2 HB. These caught my eye on Amazon because they are navy blue and white striped. The imprint is white and tends to wear off pretty quickly, leaving behind a matte impression of the formerly white imprint. The imprint rubs off with ease if I try to remove it. The ferrule is tight on the pencil but loosens as the eraser is used. The more vigorously the eraser is used, the looser it gets. The pencil sharpens easily in any of my sharpeners producing a sturdy point.IMAG1882

The eraser is white plastic, pvc and latex free. It’s a pretty tough and abrasive eraser, though doesn’t damage most paper. It removes the pencil markings from paper pretty well. It’s not great though. It does the job when taking notes. But for sketching I’d carry a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser or a Tombow Mono Zero click eraser for better clean up.Staedtler Rally

The pencil itself is nice and dark. It is not the smoothest of pencils. There are occasional gritty bits. I didn’t find this off putting for a regular working pencil. While I think that Palominos and Blackwings are awesome, it’s not realistic that I use them for all of my class notes or all my drawing. Well, it’s also unrealistic that I stick with one pencil or pen for an extended period of time. Rather, I’m a pencil serial monogamist.Staedtler Rally

Anyway, to me this is a really good looking pencil. The navy blue and white is quite striking and unusual. Is it my best pencil? No. But it works really well for class notes and for general sketching of things. It’s also relatively cheap when purchased through Staples, around 29 cents a pencil. I picked up mine via Amazon as an add on item, but my price was slightly higher. It’s a good pencil to give to people who might not be obsessive about pencils as a way of introducing to something other than that standard #2 pencil they get from the office supply cabinet. It’s got a lot going for it- inexpensive, good looks, a nice dark, mostly smooth lead, and easy sharpening.Staedtler Rally

Overall, this is a great pencil for general purpose work, easily replacing almost any HB pencil in your rotation for sketching or writing. Have a kid on  your shopping list who likes special pencils? This might be a great one for them. Have someone who likes pencils? Well, you might want to get them something a little more special, but this as a part of a gift pack of a few notebooks or journals, might make them happy.

Review: Kum Ellipse Pencil Sharpener

KUM Ellipse       I am excited to report that AC Moore stores are carrying KUM brand sharpeners and the prices are fantastic. I spotted my favorite KUM Automatic Long Point for about $6. Even though the long point is $6 on Jetpens, getting it locally for $6 is worth it because there isn’t any shipping. The other thing about AC Moore is that they offer monthly coupons. These coupons can be for 40%, 50%, and even 55% off. Taking any of those percentages off means that the price of the sharpener is even lower. They carry other KUM sharpeners. I snagged an Ellipse in orange. They are available in pink, yellow orange, green, and blue.

The Ellipse is a small smooth sharpener. The caps fit onto the sharpener securely on each end. inside is a small KUM wedge sharpener. The sharpener is plastic with a quality KUM blade secured with a screw, which makes it replaceable. (You can get replacement blades here.)KUM Ellipse

KUM Ellipse

The sharpener gives a medium sized point, somewhere between a small blunt point and the KUM long point. The point is good for writing and drawing. But it does leave the point with a long needle point that breaks off, so you have to keep a close eye on the point to prevent over sharpening. It sharpens quickly and easily. A few twists in this sharpener and the point is sharp and ready for action.

IMAG1745

The long smooth curves of this sharpener along with the secure caps make it ideal for pocket carry. It won’t poke or gouge into your thigh when carried in a pocket. For that matter it’ll be really great to carry in the pocket of a backpack or bag. It’s a terrific compact pencil sharpener.

KUM Ellipse

Mine was purchased with a 55% off coupon for $1.70, which is a great deal on a good pocket sharpener. While this isn’t the best KUM sharpener (that would be the KUM Long point) it’s a good one for daily carry.

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