Monday, November 30, 2015

November Miscellany: Notebooks, Fountain Pens, Journals

Once again it is the end of the month, and that means it's time for my monthly miscellany:
Finally, if you've been wondering how my NaBloPoMo challenge went, it did fall apart at the end of the month, but I'm happy that I'm writing blog posts again so it does not feel like I failed.  I also now know that writing a blog post everyday is not my style, and I have more respect for any bloggers who do manage to post daily.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Recent Acquisitions: Nibs, Nibs, Nibs

A while back I hinted that I was going to share with you "more nibs than I thought I would ever own in my life."  Well, wait no longer, because that time has now arrived!

To start with, there are these nibs:

A full set of Speedball nibs, on their original card.  If you can't read the card, they include six nibs with square tips ("for Square Gothic and Block Letters"), six with round tips ("for Round Gothics or Uniform Lines"), six with oblong tips ("for Roman, Text and Shaded Italics"), and six with oval tips ("for Bold Roman, Texts, Italics, etc.").  I can't imagine actually using all of these nibs for their intended purposes, but it is clear that a previous owner did just that, as most of the nibs (and the card) are stained with ink.

Then, there are these nibs:

These are for a "mapping quill pen", something I had never heard of before.  They are made in England, and the nibs themselves are marked "crow quill".  Unlike the previous set, these do not appear to have been used much, as the card and the nibs are quite clean.

Finally, if all of those nibs weren't enough (and of course they weren't, were they?), there are all of these:

Most of these nibs are Speedballs; there were also a few marked "Sprotts No. 2" and one marked "Macleans Best-ever."  All of these nibs were loose in a glass jar (helpfully labelled "NIBS" on the lid), and all of the nibs and pens in this post came in a box along with an assorted collection of rulers, drafting supplies, pencils, charcoal pencils, stencils, ink bottles, erasers, sealing wax, and bookplates.  (If you're wondering how I ended up with all of this, it was donated to a local thrift store where my mother volunteers.  I sometimes help by putting together bundles of stationery, repairing jewellery, etc.  Most of the contents of the box has since been sorted out and gone back to the thrift store, hopefully to find new homes.)

I think it is unlikely that I will keep all of these nibs.  Most of them need cleaning and probably some adjustment before they can be used, which is not a task I feel like taking on.  There are a few too many here to keep simply for my collection, especially since they are not as easy to display as my vintage ink bottles.  I am not sure yet what I will do with them, but I do hope that one day they can belong to someone who will appreciate them and maybe even use them.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Staedtler Pencil Sharpener

With my interest in wooden pencils growing, I decided that I needed a new pencil sharpener.  My old sharpener (see photo below) is very basic, and while it is actually a decent sharpener, it quickly becomes very uncomfortable and hard on my hands to use, and it does not include a receptacle to contain the shavings.  My new pencil sharpener is Staedtler's tub sharpener.  It's still a fairly basic sharpener, but with a few features that I like.

My Staedtler pencil sharpener has a single 8.2 mm hole, which will accommodate all standard-sized pencils.  Staedtler also makes a double-hole version of this sharpener, with 8.2 mm and 10.2 mm holes.  For now, I'm happy with the single hole as nearly all of my pencils are the standard size.  One thing I like about this sharpener is the lid that covers the sharpener hole when you're not using it.  This means that pencil shavings will not be able to spill out (good if you're carrying this sharpener in your bag).  And when you want to use the sharpener, the lid neatly folds back and snaps into place in a groove on the side of the tub, where it won't be in your way.  The other feature I like is the button that you have to press to open the sharpener.  This reduces the chance of the sharpener accidentally opening and spilling shavings everywhere.  The tub itself seems to be a good size.  I think you could do a lot of sharpening before you needed to empty it.

I tested my Staedtler pencil sharpener with several pencils - a Staedtler Norica, Tombow MONO drawing pencil, Dixon Ticonderoga, Rhodia pencil, and Earthzone Recycled Pencil, all in HB.  When I sharpen a pencil I like a point that is sharp, with a moderate sharpening angle; i.e., I don't want the point to be too long (which makes me nervous that I'll either break the lead or stab myself with it) or too short (which I think looks stubby and unattractive).  This pencil sharpener has (according to the Staedtler website) a sharpening angle of 23°, and it sharpened the first four pencils exactly the way I like them.  The fifth pencil, however, proved a bit more problematic.  The Earthzone Recycled Pencil is made of recycled newspaper, not wood (which was why I chose to include it in this test), and the sharpener simply would not sharpen this pencil to as sharp a point as it did the others.

Overall, I'm happy with my Staedtler tub pencil sharpener.  I do want to try more pencil sharpeners, but I think this one was a good choice to start with.  This sharpener may not be the most versatile sharpener for pencils made of non-traditional materials, but it will suit my needs for now.  It's comfortable to use, doesn't leave a mess of shavings on my desk, and will hopefully be only the beginning of my pencil sharpener explorations.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tips & Ideas for Drawing Mandalas

As I wrote at the beginning of the year, one of my goals for 2015 was to draw a mandala for every week of the year.  And while 2015 has not been the best year for me, I have been successful with drawing mandalas.  This has been the second year I've done a challenge like this (2014's challenge was collages), and I think it's a good way for me to get better at something and to develop my unique style.

Using some of the mandalas I've drawn this year, I've decided to compile this post of my tips and ideas for drawing mandalas.  Maybe I'll even help to inspire you to give it a try yourself.

Getting Started

All you need to draw a mandala is a piece of paper and something that can make a mark on that paper.  It can be a ballpoint pen, gel or felt-tip pen, pencil, marker, crayon, paintbrush, or anything else you can think of, as long as you feel comfortable using it.  If you like, you can add pens, pencils, or markers in different colours, but this is not essential.  As for the paper, you can again use anything that you feel comfortable with and that will work with the mark-making tool you've chosen.  (I've used index cards for my yearly challenge.)

To start drawing the mandala, I've found that it's easiest to start in the centre of the page and work outwards.  I usually start by drawing a small circle, star, triangle, or square in the centre and then creating a design that radiates outward from that central point.  But if you can think of a different way to start your mandalas, feel free to do that instead!

Ideas for Drawing Mandalas

Mandalas with four (top) and five (bottom) lines of symmetry.

Build a collection of shapes and symbols that you can use again and again.  If you look closely at the mandalas in this post, you will likely notice that I used the same few shapes in most of them.  These shapes include circles, semi-circles, dots, triangles, and petals.  This makes drawing mandalas easier because I can break every one down into the same few shapes that I'm already very comfortable with drawing.

Play with symmetries.  Most of my early mandalas had four or eight lines of symmetry.  I've found that these mandalas can look rather square and boring, and that mandalas with three or five lines of symmetry often look more interesting and dynamic (see examples above).  If you tend to always use the same symmetries, try drawing mandalas with different symmetries and see how they're different.  (Though keep in mind that since I draw freehand, none of my mandalas are going to be perfectly symmetrical.)

A large (and nearly monochromatic) mandala that spills off the page (top) compared with a small, compact mandala.  Both of these mandalas have smooth edges compared with the two spikier mandalas above.

Play with the overall shape of your mandala.  While most mandalas are round, they can be large and sprawling so that they fill the page or they can be small and compact.  They can have smooth edges, or they can be spiky with bits that radiate off to the edges of the page.  Try them all.

Try different mediums.  Try different pens - fine-tipped pens, broad-tipped pens, gel pens, metallic pens, felt-tip pens, brush pens.  Or try pencils, paints, pastels, or crayons.  I draw most of my mandalas with a variety of pens (including Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens, ultra-fine point Sharpie Markers, and Sakura Gelly Rolls), but sometimes I like to try something different.  (For example, here is a mandala that I created partly with watercolour pencils.)

A colourful rainbow mandala (top) and a black-and-white mandala with a bit yellow (bottom).

Play with colour.  My early mandalas usually did not contain much colour, but now they tend to be very colourful!  Try mandalas with a few colours, no colours, or a whole rainbow of colours.  Also, I usually draw my mandalas with a black pen and then add colour, but it can be interesting to start by drawing the mandalas with a coloured pen - it can give them a very different look.

Embrace imperfection.  If you make a mistake while drawing your mandala (such as by drawing a line where you did not intend it to be, or colouring in a part that you wanted to leave plain), simply repeat the mistake throughout the design.  The mistake then becomes a part of your mandala and no one will ever know the difference.  Also, don't worry about using compasses or straight-edges to create your mandalas.  You can use them if you want to, but I think the imperfection of mandalas drawn freehand is more interesting.  If your circles and lines are wobbly at the beginning, just persist, and over time, with practice, you will get better.

Most importantly, have fun!  I used the word play a lot in this post, and that was intentional.  Drawing mandalas should be fun, not stressful.  There are no rules, and your mandalas don't have to look like anyone else's mandalas.  Just relax, and have fun with them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pencil Review: Faber-Castell Castell 9000 2B + 2B Pencil Comparison

I've already reviewed the 4H version of the Faber-Castell Castell 9000 pencil, and in that review I mentioned that I wanted to try it in a softer grade.  Well, that time has come, and I now have a 2B version of this pencil (2B is one of my favourite pencil grades) to review.  But because I have already reviewed another version of the Castell 9000, in this review I'm going to focus on comparing it with some other 2B pencils that I own.  (If you want to read a more general review of the Castell 9000, please see my original post.)

Faber-Castell Castell 9000 in 2B and 4H.

Like the 4H, the 2B Castell 9000 is a dark green hexagonal pencil with gold lettering.  If you're a pencil novice and have ever wondered about what difference the grade of a pencil makes, check out the photo above.  There actually is a writing sample from both pencils there, but the 4H (directly below the 2B writing sample) is so faint as to be scarcely noticeable in the photo.  It's a bit darker in real life, but not by much.  That's what makes the medium-soft grades (HB, B, 2B) much more versatile for writing and sketching.

I compared the Faber-Castell Castell 9000 with three other 2B pencils: the Staedtler Mars Lumograph, Tombow MONO Drawing pencil, and Prismacolor Scholar.  Of these, the Tombow MONO was the darkest, smoothest, and softest.  The Prismacolor felt the scratchiest.  The Castell 9000 may have been ever-so-slightly the hardest.  When I compared how well the pencils smudged and blended, the Castell 9000 was the best, the Mars Lumograph and the Tombow MONO were similar, and the Prismacolor was the worst.  All the pencils erased well, though the Tombow MONO left the most shadow behind, probably because it was the darkest pencil.

I have to admit that, before I began this post, I expected that the Tombow MONO was going to be my favourite of these pencils, because I thought I liked darker pencils better.  But after sketching with all four pencils, I actually think I preferred both the Staedtler Mars Lumograph and the Faber-Castell Castell 9000, and - because it smudged the best - the Castell 9000 may even have been my favourite of all them.  My least favourite was undoubtedly the Prismacolor Scholar; I did not like its scratchier feeling on the page, and it hardly smudged or blended at all.  This pencil is apparently marketed to beginners, but I think that if I had started sketching with this pencil, I would have been very disappointed.

My camera apparently hated these sketches and refused to photograph them without either turning them blue or making them look washed out (as above).  I actually think they're not that bad.  Even that tricky-to-draw stapler turned out okay.

Overall, I am happy with the Faber-Castell Castell 9000 in 2B.  I like it much more than the 4H version, and I think it may even become my new favourite pencil.  The Tombow MONO Drawing pencil and the Staedtler Mars Lumograph are also excellent pencils, and I enjoyed sketching with all of three of those pencils.  If you like a darker pencil, then the Tombow MONO is the one for you.  And any of those three pencils would be a better choice for beginners than the Prismacolor Scholar.

Related reviews: Alan Li Drawings, Pens! Paper! Pencils!.

Monday, November 16, 2015

In Praise of my Completed Rhodia Notepad

Last Tuesday I used the last page of my trusty Rhodia No. 11 notepad.  I bought this notepad way back in October of 2009 at my university bookstore, and I only ever used it for writing reviews for this blog.  Most of the writing samples that you see in my reviews were written in that notepad.  The first pen I ever reviewed with it was the Uni-ball Fusion and the last pen I reviewed with it was not a pen at all, but a pencil, the PaperMate SharpWriter.  That in itself tells a story, for when I bought this notepad, I hardly ever thought about pencils at all, and now I'm a pencil collector.  Six years is a long time for a blog, or a notepad.  I find it hard to believe that a tiny notepad lasted that long, and almost as hard to believe that I'm still blogging here.

Now, I'm going to put all the used torn-off pages of my Rhodia No. 11 notepad back inside the empty cover, wrap an elastic band around it to hold it all together, and file the notepad away with all of my other completed notebooks.  I'll be writing my reviews now in my Rhodia No. 12 dotPad.  This notepad isn't new; I've been using it since June of 2013, when I used it to review the Rhodia Pencil.  It's different, though.  It's a bit larger, and it has a black cover instead of an orange cover, and grey dots instead of violet grid lines.  Reviews are not going to look quite the same.

To my beloved Rhodia No. 11 notepad, thank you for all the years you've worked with me on this blog.  Together, we've seen a lot of different pens, so many that I worry a bit about us sometimes.  I could always count on you to perform beautifully with every pen or pencil I used with you.  With your smooth writing surface, you made even mediocre pens write a little bit better, and your grid lines helped me to keep my writing in line.  I'll miss you, but I'm sure your dot grid cousin will perform just as faithfully, and I'm already looking forward to the next 6 years.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pen Review: Pentel R.S.V.P. Ballpoint Fine Point

The Pentel R.S.V.P. is apparently one of the more popular and widely available ballpoint pens out there, so I thought it was time I tried it out and reviewed it myself.

In appearance, the Pentel R.S.V.P. is very basic, as I would expect, but appears to have a bit more polish than other stick ballpoints (maybe it's the silver lettering on the barrel that does it?).  The barrel is clear, allowing easy viewing of the ink level.  The barrel also seems to be slightly wider than usual, and the grip section, which is quite small and short, is (for me) essentially useless.  The wide, round barrel and the useless grip make the R.S.V.P. very uncomfortable for me to write with, even for short periods of time.  I think it would be likely to cause some serious pain in my hand if I wrote with it for a longer time (and no, I'm not going to test that out!).

The writing performance is... okay.  The fine point really is fine; a 0.7 mm ballpoint is usually comparable to a 0.5 mm gel pen, my ideal line width.  The R.S.V.P. does seem to write relatively smoothly, for a fine ballpoint pen, although it feels a bit scratchy on some papers.  The ink occasionally blobs, which annoys me, although it's not really that noticeable.  I do not like the red ink; it seems rather faint, which makes me feel that I should be gripping the pen more tightly and pressing harder on the page (neither of which is a good thing to be doing with a pen that I already find uncomfortable to write with).  The colour actually seems very similar to that of the J. Herbin Rouge Caroubier I reviewed a while ago, another red ink I was unimpressed with.

Overall, I did not like the Pentel R.S.V.P.  It feels like a very average ballpoint pen, and when it comes to average ballpoint pens, I like Bic ballpoints much better.  The fact that it is so uncomfortable for me to use means that I will not keep this pen.  Depending on how you grip your pens, you may find this pen more comfortable to use than I did, but I don't think it's worth trying it to find out.

Other reviews: Rhonda Eudaly, No Pen Intended.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Pencil Collection, Part 1: Canadian-Made Pencils

My wooden pencil collection has grown a lot since I first wrote about it in 2013.  I now own too many pencils to include them all in one blog post, so I'm going to split my collection up into a series of posts.

This installment of the series will feature the heart of my collection, pencils made in Canada - although, as I discovered in the research for this post, most of these pencils, despite being made in Canada, were in fact made by American companies.  And most of these pencils were also made in the United States and other countries as well.


Top to bottom: Eagle Turquoise 3H drawing pencils (2 versions); Eagle Verithin 734 White (the reverse side reads "specially adapted for marking blueprints"); Eagle Verithin 745 Carmine Red; Eagle Canadiana 521 Black; Eagle Mirado - 174 B.

The Eagle Pencil Company was founded in 1856 in New York City, and in 1931 it opened a Canadian factory in Drummondville, Quebec (this page has more information (in French) about the Drummondville factory).  The cedar used to make the pencils was imported.  The Eagle logo changed over the years, and in my collection, you can see two different versions of it: a stylized eagle and a large letter E.

The Eagle Turquoise was a drawing pencil, available in a wide selection of grades.  I have two versions of this pencil (older and newer), but oddly, both are 3H!  On the reverse side, both are marked "'Electronic' Lead" and the second pencil is also marked "Super Bonded" and "Patented 1951."  The first has an unfinished end; the second, a metal cap.

The Eagle Verithin pencils were coloured pencils; I have two versions, white and carmine red.  Both are marked "Flexible Lead" and "Patented 1936" on the reverse side.  The white has an unfinished end; the red, an eraser with a red-striped ferrule.

The Eagle Canadiana was also a coloured pencil.  This pencil is different from all of the other pencils in this post in that it is round rather than hexagonal.  It has a white space on the reverse side for you to write your name (which reminds me of Laurentien coloured pencils, which also have such a space.)  The end of the pencil is unfinished.

The Eagle Mirado was originally named the Mikado (Japanese for "Emperor"), but was renamed in World War II.  (This page has a brief history of the Mirado.)



Top to bottom: Berol Verithin 752 (the name of the colour is not marked on the pencil, but it's some shade of purple); Berol Mirado 174 HB; Berol Grand Prix 228 HB.

In 1969, the Eagle Pencil Company became the Berol Corporation (Berol is a shortened form of the founding family's name Berolzheimer).  Berol in turn was purchased by the Empire Pencil Corporation in 1986, and by Sanford (a division of Newell Rubbermaid) in 1995.

The Berol Verithin and Berol Mirado are both versions of the Eagle pencils discussed above.  The Berol versions are of course newer than the Eagle versions, and I think that their graphics and text are more boring than those on the older pencils.

The Berol Grand Prix is a pencil that I have been unable to find elsewhere online.  I think it's an attractive pencil, however, as it's a light turquoise colour with the ferrule painted to match.


Top to bottom: Venus Velvet 6557 HB Medium Soft; Venus "Col-Erase" 116 Red; Venus Patria 6351 H.

Venus was originally a brand name of pencils made by the American Lead Pencil Company, which was founded in 1861.  In 1956, the American Lead Pencil Company became the Venus Pen and Pencil Corporation, and Venus was bought by Faber-Castell in 1973.

The Venus Velvet was a drawing pencil that came in a variety of grades, while the Venus "Col-Erase" was a coloured pencil.  Mine is red, and I find it interesting how its ferrule has two blue bands rather than just one, as the Velvet has.

I was unable to find any information about the Venus Patria.


Other Brands

Top to bottom: Dixon Chancellor 2180 B; Dixon Ticonderoga 1386 HB; Eberhard Faber Mongol 948 Light Green; Willson Mark IV F2 2/4.

Dixon is another American company (founded 1827 in Salem, Massachusetts).  I especially like the Dixon Chancellor because it is labelled as being made with "Canadian graphite" (as well as being "made in Canada").  The Dixon Ticonderoga is likely familiar to most readers; it's a classic American pencil, but I found it interesting that some Ticonderogas were made in Canada as well.

John Eberhard Faber was born in Germany and opened the Eberhard Faber pencil factory in New York City in 1861.  (Which is not to be confused with Faber-Castell, founded in Germany in 1761 by Kaspar Faber.)  Eberhard Faber is now owned by Sanford.  The Eberhard Faber Mongol was available as both a drawing pencil and as a coloured pencil.  Mine is a coloured version (with a neat metal cap on the end) in light green.

Finally, we have what might be the first genuinely Canadian pencil in my collection of Canadian-made pencils.  I have been unable to find any information about the Willson Mark IV, but I was able to discover that the name "Mark IV" was registered as a trademark by the Willson Stationery Company (of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) in 1964, and that the Willson Stationery Company was founded in 1900 by Harry L. Willson (this page has a very brief biography of him) in Winnipeg.  I would love to learn more about the company and its pencils.

If you would like to learn more about the diversity of wooden pencils, I recommend that you check out Bob Trudy's amazing Brand Name Pencils site.  You can find nearly all of the pencils I mentioned here on that website, and see other versions of them (or just browse all of the 175 pencil brands included on the site...).
I am far from an expert on pencils, but I enjoyed learning more about them while writing this post.  If you have any additions or corrections to what I've written here, please let me know in the comments.  And stay tuned for the next installment on American-made pencils!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pencil Review: PaperMate SharpWriter

Many years ago, I owned a PaperMate SharpWriter and I loved it.  I loved how I had to twist the end to advance the lead and I loved that I didn't have to sharpen it as I did my wooden pencils (I was quite young at this time, and I don't think I knew about regular mechanical pencils yet).  Most of all, I loved how the SharpWriter was different from any other pencil or pen that I owned.  However, the SharpWriter was also non-refillable, and I remember feeling very sad when the lead inevitably ran out.  I had nearly forgotten my early love of the PaperMate SharpWriter until I found these pencils at a thrift store - and then was surprised to learn that you can still buy new SharpWriters. 

Most of the examples of the PaperMate SharpWriter I've seen are a solid yellow-orange colour that mimics the look of a wooden pencil.  The tip is even a light tan to look like wood, and the eraser is pink.  I like my pink translucent version of the pencil (I like that it's translucent, not that's pink; pink is my least favourite colour) as it allows me to see the inner workings, which are different from that of most mechanical pencils.

Inside the SharpWriter, a spiral wire runs the length of the pencil.  The lead is inside this wire.  As you turn the tip, a black plastic piece (attached to the end of the lead) slowly moves up the wire, pushing the lead out the tip of the pencil.  If you turn the tip the opposite direction, you can retract the lead back into the pencil.

Apart from this, the SharpWriter is a very basic mechanical pencil.  It has no grip and a rather pathetic clip (the clip on my yellow pencil is already broken).  The lead feels smooth and slightly soft to write with.  The eraser is decent.  It would likely not last long, but neither will the lead.

Overall, I think that the SharpWriter is a fun pencil to use and I am happy to have re-discovered it, but it is not a pencil I would consider using regularly today because it is non-refillable.  I try to look for environmentally-friendly products when possible, and a plastic pen that is meant to be thrown away is simply not a good option for me.  While some have found ways to refill it, most users are not going to bother.  Perhaps this is a pencil that should have stayed as simply a memory.

Other review: Art Supply Critic.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My November Writing Challenge: NaBloPoMo

Probably many of you have heard of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), even if you've never taken part in it.  Since it began, NaNoWriMo has acquired many cousins, and this year I've decided to participate in one of them - NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month.  The idea is simple: post to your blog every day of the month.

As you've likely noticed, I haven't been posting here much this year.  I've been struggling a lot with procrastination, not just with this blog in particular, but with writing in general.  I've made plans so many times throughout the year to get back to my regular habits of writing and blog posting, and I've failed with those plans so many times as well.  But finally, as November approached, I had an idea: what about a monthly challenge?  Instead of trying to ease myself back into my writing habits, I could just jump right in with a challenge that I have never completed before in 7 years of keeping a blog: post something every day for a month.  (Because I have two blogs, I've decided to split my NaBloPoMo posts between them, so I'll only be posting here every other day this month.)

It's still the beginning of the month.  I don't know whether I'm going to be successful or not.  I've never written anything close to 30 blog posts in a month before.  But I feel excited about blogging again, and about writing in general.  I've always known that I work well under pressure, and this monthly challenge is providing just the pressure I need to stop procrastinating and start writing.

Are you participating in NaBloPoMo, NaNoWriMo, or any other similar challenge this month?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Eraser Review: PaperMate SpeedErase Exam Standard

As I've become more interested in wooden pencils, I've also become more interested in all of the accessories that go with them, such as sharpeners and erasers.  I'll be writing my first pencil sharpener review later, but for now I'll be reviewing another eraser, the PaperMate SpeedErase Exam Standard.  I have a soft spot for any pencil or eraser that has a school connection, and this eraser's name and the graphics on the paper sleeve make it clear that this eraser is meant to be used on Scantron sheets.  (I always loved filling in those little circles...)  Also, this eraser is black, which obviously makes it much more cool than a white eraser, right?

The Exam Standard is likely meant to be used with HB pencils, so I pulled out several examples of those to test it with - a Dixon Ticonderoga, Staedtler Norica, and PaperMate Earth Write (all pencils that I actually found at a local school, and hence would be likely to be used with this eraser in an exam), as well as a Tombow MONO drawing pencil.  I also compared the Exam Standard with one of my favourite erasers, the Pentel Hi-Polymer.

The PaperMate Exam Standard erased the Ticonderoga, Norica, and Earth Write reasonably well.  There was some shadow left behind, but likely it would be acceptable if all you were erasing was a tiny bubble on a Scantron sheet.  It erased the Tombow MONO drawing pencil the best - which I thought was ironic since that pencil is the least likely to be used in a school setting.  Compared with the Pentel Hi-Polymer, the Hi-Polymer clearly performed better than the Exam Standard (it was clear in real life anyway, and not so much in my photos!).

I was most impressed by how the Exam Standard neatly rolled up its eraser dust into one long piece.  I've never owned an eraser that did that before, so I was ridiculously excited by this.  When I remember my days of writing physics and math exams and brushing what felt like heaps of eraser dust off my desk, this is a feature I would definitely have appreciated.

Overall, the PaperMate SpeedErase Exam Standard is not the best eraser out there.  If you're simply looking for an eraser that erases cleanly, I'd suggest the Pentel Hi-Polymer or the Staedtler Mars Plastic.  But the Exam Standard does have the advantage of being dust-free and black rather than a boring old white that soon turns grubby.  And I just find it fun to use, which must count for something, right?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Recent Acquisitions: Vintage Ink Bottles

Over the course of the year I have been building a small collection of vintage ink bottles that I have found at garage sales, antique stores, and thrift stores.  I am not a big collector of vintage items, but I do love old things because they are often of a higher quality than things made today and have much more character.  Ink bottles are also a good thing to collect because they are small and easy to display.  I am trying to be more minimalist and own fewer things, so I didn't want to start collecting something that would take up a lot of space.

Left to tight: Waterman's Ink Tropic Green, Peerless Blue Black Ink, and Sheaffer Skrip Writing Fluid #32 Permanent Reproduction Jet Black.

Ink bottles don't seem to be that hard to find.  I have seen them often at antique stores and swap meets.  I am collecting the bottles that still have their original labels and contain some of their original ink (whether it is dried up or still usable).  I often see ink bottles that have no labels and that have been cleaned of any ink residue, but these do not interest me.  Each of my bottles cost me only a few dollars (or less) each.

Each of these ink bottles has something about it that I love.  The Peerless Blue Black has the most detailed bottle.  The Sheaffer Skrip came in its original box and the bottle contains a built-in inkwell for refilling your pen (you can see this inkwell on the top left side of the Sheaffer bottle in the photos).  The Waterman's bottle has the most interesting shape, and is still nearly full of ink (and the ink is green, my favourite colour!).  The ink appears to still be usable, but I haven't actually tried it out yet.  I am also fond of the Sheaffer and the Waterman's because they are both made in Canada.

Vintage ink bottles and box.

Do you collect ink bottles or any other vintage items?  And if you know anything more about any of these ink bottles, please share!  I am still very new to vintage ink bottles and would love to learn more about them.

More vintage ink bottles: Pentorium, The Well-Appointed Desk.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Pen Review: Pilot G-2 0.5 mm Blue and 0.7 mm Caramel

The Pilot G-2 is one of the most popular gel pens available.  I owned a 0.7 mm G-2 once, many years ago, and I remember it being somewhat scratchy and not that nice to write with.  But given their popularity, I thought that it was time to revisit these pens.  I now have a 0.5 mm G-2 in blue and a 0.7 mm G-2 in caramel, both of which I'll be reviewing in this post.  (The pens are also available in 0.38 mm and 1.0 mm, and in a variety of colours.)

The Pilot G-2 has a very basic design, similar to that of other retractable gel pens such as the Zebra Sarasa and the Bic Velocity Gel. It's rather boring to look at, but it's a functional design that works. One thing that I remember about my old G-2 and that I've seen mentioned in many other reviews is the brownish colour at the end of gel refill. It doesn't bother me as much as it does some other people, but it does seem rather odd, as I've never seen anything like it in any other pen (you can see it most noticeably in the 0.7 mm caramel pen in the photo below).

I was pleasantly surprised by how well both of these pens wrote.  I wasn't expecting much from them but both wrote very smoothly, with no scratchiness or skipping.  My favourite was the 0.5 mm, which has a lovely fine, crisp line which suits my small handwriting.  And I love the colour of the caramel pen.  It's a light orange-brown (almost exactly the colour of a caramel candy) that is still dark enough to be easily readable.  I think it's one of the more unique gel pen colours available, and also one of my favourite pen colours ever.

My camera didn't like me today, so I could not get this to focus properly.  I will try to get it to work next time!

Overall, the Pilot G-2 may not be the most exciting pen out there, but I have no complaints about how it writes and I'm happy with both of the pens I reviewed in this post.  The 0.7 mm is a good basic gel pen (I probably say that about almost all 0.7 mm gel pens I review!) and the 0.5 mm is great if you like a finer line.  I especially like that the G-2 is available in some unconventional colours, such as caramel.  I think that makes it a more interesting pen, and worth giving a try, or maybe a second try.

Other reviews: No Pen Intended, OfficeSupplyGeek, Gear Compass, The Well-Appointed Desk (0.5 mm), The Well-Appointed Desk (0.7 mm), Gourmet Pens (0.7 mm), Fountain Pen Physicist (0.7 mm), Tiger Pens Blog (0.7 mm), OfficeSupplyGeek (caramel).
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