Tag Archives: not good

Review: Dixon Oriole HB #2

The Dixon Oriole is a pencil that reinforces my determination to use a pencil (or pen) for roughly a week, if not longer before writing a review. It also is a caution for other bloggers who might do what @paperandhand referred to as “beauty” reviews*, wherein a blogger is sent free product that is outside her/his expertise and (maybe) feels pressured to do a review. The resulting review is clearly cursory, took perhaps 15 minutes to do, maybe less, and the product is rubber stamped as, “Gorgeous, lovely, awesome, great, superb.”  Maybe the products are gorgeous and great, but often times I find myself chuckling at horrible reviews that really don’t explore the product or their uses. In the end the reviewer has done the reader a disservice by promoting a product that they don’t know much about, don’t understand all that well, and ins some cases actually spread incorrect information**.

I digress, my point being had I initially written a review of the Dixon Oriole after handling it for 15 minutes that review would have been glowing, “OMG you guys, get this pencil, it’s soooo awesome, on par with some of my faves.” Except, I found out over the course of a little over a week of on and off use, no, it really isn’t. In fact, I would go so far as to call this pencil a polished turd. polished turdLet me start the review by stating that Dixon appears to have moved production of this pencil from the US, to China, and now to India. The box I received was from India. According to other reviews, there were some  quality issues with the finish while they were produced in China.polished turdFrom the box I received these are stunning yellow pencils. The finish is thick and bright chrome yellow, aka school bus yellow. It’s smooth and without blemish. This finish is premium, up there with a Palomino Pearl. When you sharpen it you can see the thickness of the finish. The gold foil imprint is sharp, tight and clear. The brass colored ferrule is well fixed to the body of the pencil, matching the gold foil. The pink eraser looks great on the classic yellow pencil. Overall if you are looking for a really good looking classic yellow school pencil, this one will fit the bill and then some.polished turdInside the pencil is made out of a light weight jelutung (I think anyway, it looks like the other jelutung pencils I have). It sharpens quite well.polished turdThe core is of average diameter and also sharpens easily. It is well centered. If sharpened with ANY long point sharpener the point snaps off. EVERY single freaking time. Since I used this a fair amount on the road (OK at school but not at home) and I carry one sharpener- a KUM handheld long point, I spent a ton of time sharpening my pencil. *** It was so annoying. Then came the fractures in the core. I’d sharpen my pencil, and pull it from the sharpener only to fine the core had fallen out. I’d sharpen it up again, only a great deal of the core had fallen out. I lost a good 2 inches of each pencil I used to the sharpener. This would break my concentration as I was studying. It would also irritate me. It’s clear from this that the core is not bonded well to the wood and is of uneven enough quality that though it was well padded in it’s shipment to me that the cores are all fractured to hell.polished turdThe eraser is also pure shite. I’d be better off rubbing my notebook on the ground or on my ass to erase a word. I was so frustrated with the eraser I just stopped erasing.polished turdAnother issue that I can’t figure out if it comes from Amazon or Dixon is that these pencils smell STRONGLY of mildew. I received several other items from the same warehouse in the same box and notice no discernible smell of mildew from those other items. So, either the smell is from this particular area in the Amazon warehouse, or these pencils smell. The box itself doesn’t smell too strongly and it does dissipate after the pencils are allowed to air out. But it is off putting and should be mentioned should anyone be tempted to order a pack after reading this review.****polished turdOver all these are good pencils when you sharpen then with a wedge, like the Alvin/DUX inkwell, KUM ellipse, and get past the fractured core. When they write they are pretty nice. However, the fact that they cannot be used with a long point sharpener without endless frustration really puts them off my radar. The core is also fractured in every single pencil I’ve tested, starting about 2 inches up, then every other sharpening thereafter. Honestly, this was a tough pencil for me to get past my week of use mark******. I cannot bring myself to sketch with such a shoddy pencil.

Why Dixon would put such a nice finish on such a terrible unholy pencil core is beyond me. Truly a situation where they polished a turd.

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Review: Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen

I had read a few good reviews of the Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen (V-301). The V-301 features Zebra’s typical mixture of stainless steel and black plastic barrel. At first blush it’s not a bad looking pen. The imprint is a crisp clean screen print. The black plastic is well molded and looks pretty nice. The center section, is the grip and has a waffle pattern that keeps the plastic from being slippery. Which brings me to the first detraction I’ll make of the pen. At each end of the pen the plastic is shiny but the middle section is flat. This makes sense because that waffle patterned plastic is the grip. I find it odd to mix matte and shiny plastics on the same pen.zebrafp

The pen is a nice diameter, neither too slim nor too thick. It’s a great size for gripping, even with my small hands. It is just large enough that it wouldn’t look ridiculous gripped in a big meaty paw. Without posting the pen is okay for writing but the cap is small and light enough that this pen can be posted without feeling off balance. It’s not a particularly long pen, even posted. The cap slides on and off the pen with a reassuring click. Letting you know it’s been removed or replaced. Even when you post it there is a click.zebrafp

My second issue with the pen is that the nib is diminutive when compared to the size of the pen. It’s on the ridiculous side and doesn’t look quite right. While others have reported that the pen writes well straight out of the package mine did not. It was quite scratchy. I had to get out my loupe and push and pull the tines into alignment and then I had to smooth it. Even still it’s not my favorite nib. It’s good for quick notes and such, but I wouldn’t want to take notes with it for a whole class nor would I wish to write out journal pages.zebrafp

The ink that arrives with the pen is acceptable, but nothing to write home about. It appears to take standard international cartridges. I have yet to test it with anything but the cart that came with it. I find the ink to be poorly behaved, feathering on a lot of papers and soaking through many others.zebrafp

Overall, this is a $5 pen available at places like Walgreens across the US. I think it’s a horrible introductory pen for people. I’d much rather see people get the Parker Vector* (are they still made?) or another brand of fountain pen than this one. I know that others have reported good luck with these, but I really see this as a good pen for someone willing to tweak the nib and play with the pen to get a good writing experience. I think that you have a better chance of getting a good experience with a Platinum Preppy.

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