Pencil for Long-Term Writing, Part 4: Accoutrements.


(Continued from 2010, Part 2: Pencils, and Part 3: Paper, and the original post in 2010.)

We will conclude our series of posts about maximizing the performance of pencils for long-term writing with a short look at pencil accessories.

Sharpeners
For journaling, I almost always prefer a long point. I like a point that starts sharp and is able to continue making neat lines without having to stop and sharpen every paragraph, or even every page. And the concave point produced by a crank sharpener like the Classroom Friendly model fits the bill perfectly. On the go (or if you prefer more control of your point), the KUM Masterpiece makes an insanely long point/longpoint and does not draw as much attention in a cafe’ as cranking a large metal contraption might.

Erasers
The best erasers for preserving pencil writing will not smear, will erase completely, and they will not mar the paper. Generally speaking, some kind of plastic eraser fits the bill for all three of these requirements. This blog is lacking in eraser reviews, but I generally reach for the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser or the Faber-Castell version for journaling.

Blotters
As mentioned earlier, I prefer a piece of an old map, a cut sheet from a Rhodia pad, or some other smooth and flexible paper for my blotter sheets. This helps to keep your journal neat in the first place, and stationery nerds seem to gravitate toward maps. Win-win.

Do Comrades have other tips or pieces of gear they use for keeping pencil writing safe for future Revolutionaries?

Cool, Blue Sun-Star Pencil Gear, Part I.

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Jet Pens sent some cool stuff our way a few weeks ago, and we’ve got a report. These are all blue Sun-Star items, and blue serves these pieces well. We’ll review the sharpener in more detail tomorrow.

Now, we have published a few pieces about mechanical pencils on this site. But I have never written one. I know embarrassingly little about them, and the Bic Matic is probably one of my favorites. So forgive me if I botch the terminology or am completely off the wall.

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Sun-Star Knock Free Sharp Mechanical Pencil
I liked this pencils as soon as I opened it for just the colors and form-factor. I love the ferrule and the band going around it, and the dimensions of the pencil are very nice. Recognized that color scheme: GOLDEN BEAR.What makes this pencil unique is the fact that the pressure of it being put down onto the paper “clicks” it, causing it to feed more lead to you and, in turn, to your paper. I thought it seemed a little…gimicky. But it actually works. I usually write in cursive, and the feed system was able to keep up with my standardish Catholic school script. The lead and eraser worked well, and the whole package comes with a replacement cartridge to boot. This is a nice add-on for a Jet Pens order, for sure.

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Sun-Star Bode Electric Eraser
The battery-operated eraser sort of baffles me. It’s, well…cute, and it doesn’t vibrate enough to make me lose my grip. But I feel like there was a trade-off somewhere in the material which the eraser itself is made. It feels soft, but it’s not. It wouldn’t hold together with the motor turning it against paper it the rubber was very soft. It’s a bit hard, but smooth. It works in tight places, which is, I assume, the attraction of such a sharpener. It doesn’t erase as well as a top-notch plastic eraser, but what does? The design is nice, and I suspect that it would be even more usefull with a better piece of “rubber” in there. I haven’t had a chance to cut something new, but if Comrades have any ideas, I am keen to do some cutting.

Review of KUM Tip-Top Pop Pencil Cap & Sharpener.

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That’s a mouthful, but this is a tool that, as my brother Tom might say, “gets ‘er done.” This is, in short, a very inexpensive version of The Perfect Pencil. This baby leaves your pencil Perfectly Portable, with an eraser cap, extender and sharpener all in one. Honestly, I use mine as a point protector/sharpener for pocket carrying. But the eraser is pretty good, as we’ll see.

This baby gives you a very short point. To give it a fair shake and a good test, I murdered the point of a Palomino with my trusty mid-90s Leatherman. I considered taking a shot of whiskey or getting my wife to hold my hand while I did this. But I didn’t want to catch my hand in those jaws. I have a chip on one of my front teeth from tightening the screw on this thing in 1999. The things a Pencil Blogger must do!

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This item used to show up as the Scribble sharpener (see review here). I like this design better. The colors are a bit…bright. But the blue matches my favorite style of Palomino pretty well. They also come in green, yellow (more like gold) and pink and are available on Amazon, but I got mine at Pencils.com for $2.95. Alberto already reviewed this version, and Comrades should check out his review, which features much better photos than I have here.

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The cap houses a pencil sharpener than pulls out of the top end. One could sharpener the pencil with the sharpener in place, in the cap. But I don’t think it would hold more than one sharpening’s worth of shavings. I remove the sharpener to use it, though it is a little difficult to find a place to grip it that way. The blade is screwed in, but I suspect this is a sharpener whose blade will prove difficult to find replacements for. I tell myself that this item will get smashed or lost before I dull the blade, so long as I only use it on the go. Since I usually sharpener my pocket pencil before leaving my house, this might be the case. Anyway, the sharpener fits nicely into the cap, and the plug hits home and stays there.

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In use, the cap fits very tightly onto most pencils. I have held the following pencils with success:

All current Blackwings
Palomino Blue
Faber-Castell Castell 9000
Staedtler Mars
Staedtler Wopex

Without success (pencil was too thin):

Dixon Ticonderoga (several versions) Edit: I fitted a Dixon Black by pushing it in pretty fare. There’s a little play, though, and the point hits the sharpener in the cap.
Faber-Castell Grip 2001

That is certainly not an exhaustive list, just the pencils I have tried, i.e., could reach on the table or in the box on the table. I should note that the pencil does not enter into the cap very far. This extends a very short pencil very well, but it does little to make a medium-length pencil fit into a pocket. For making stubs usable and for fitting a pencil into one’s pocket without the fear of a vampire-death by impaling, this cap is the ticket. The included pencil is even a little long.

Speaking of which, the pencil this set comes with is a nice one. It’s matte black, round, uncapped and has a nice lead that feels like a Castell 9000 2B to me. The eraser works better than the ones on the backs of the pencils I’ve tried it with, though it wears away quickly. I wouldn’t buy it for the eraser. To me, the pencil and eraser were free with the interesting cap/sharpener.

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As I mentioned above, this sharpener makes one short point. While I’m not generally a fan of such points, I can live with this. For one, a blunt point is the one I want in my shirt pocket or my hip pocket while on my bike. This is certainly just a “mental thing,” but I’m sure I’ve mentioned my abiding fear of Pencil Impalement before. Also, this cap’s utility makes whatever point it wants to give up more than good enough for me. If I will be away from home long enough to dull more than one pencil, I generally carry more than one pencil. But if I need more, forget one, or break that sum-gun, this cap will certainly help. Plus: it just looks way cooler than a small plastic point protector.

This little set is a winner, and at that price, definitely worth a spot in the pockets of Comrades everywhere.

Review of Helix Pencil Top Sharpener Combo.

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I found these at Office Depot during back-to-school shopping season. They cost $0.99 for a pack of two with one yellow pencil. I figured these were certainly worth a chance, and I am happy I bought more than one pack.

These are marketed as a combo-solution. There is a plastic sharpener encased within a rubbery housing. The housing is an eraser. To boot, one can use this as a semi-efficient point protector; turning the pencil in such a situation sharpens it a bit. I can’t find the item on Helix’s website, since they are now part of Maped. I’ve seen a few Maped items at USA stores lately, and I am hoping they might bring their pencils here.

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The sharpener is actually pretty good, giving a point similar in angle to a standard wedge sharpener. I tested a very cheap pencil first, as these are generally difficult to sharpen. The shavings came off in a nice long ribbon, which I found very surprising for some reason. I suppose that this item smacked of being “gimmicky” with its price and bizzarre design. Designing two items which are eaten away in use (sharpener that goes dull and an eraser that goes to dust) together is pretty smart, and it echoes the ephemeral nature of a wooden pencil itself.

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The screw is designed to not be removable (for safety, I assume). So replacing the blades looks impossible. At $0.50 each, though, this is not terrible — doubly so because so much of the material is usable as an eraser.

Speaking of the eraser — I’m not sure we’ve ever actually reviewed erasers. Part of this is that I just don’t like them. Or, at least, I used to not like them. They reminded me of nuns standing over my shoulder looking angry that my math homework was sloppy (though correct!). I think I’m over that now (sigh). And this is unavoidable anyway. We can’t review this without mentioning the eraser.

For another surprise, I’m, well, surprised by how well the eraser works! The performance on the black one I tested feels like a Black Pearl or black Factis. But it erases better, with with less effort.

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While it is unremarkable looking at best (I think it’s more…ugly), the pencil the set comes with is not bad. It produces a nice, dark line, though the finish is pretty disappointing. The label is already coming off. The UK versions have pencils which coordinate with the sharpeners, but all of the US versions I have seen only have yellow pencils. (Go figure.)

So this set winds up coming with a decent (if ugly) pencil and two good sharpeners held by excellent erasers. All for a buck. I was surprised by the quality of each item/function. Comrades, this eraser and sharpener combo is a keeper. Nab some, if you can find them. I’m not linking to sellers, but I’ve seen very good deals on eBay…