Popular Purple: The New Classroom Friendly Sharpener.

plate

Sometimes review samples come to HQ that make waves. The mountain books from Word. were such a package, as most of the books disappeared in a few days. Last week, we received a package from Classroom Friendly Supplies. This sharpener has brought out Comrade Charlotte’s Fight Face (a photo of which I will spare you because it’s frightening). You see, Charlotte has here own matte pink sharpener, and she wanted this one also. I mentioned that she’d have to fight another household member who would want it. She clenched her teeth and fists and said, “Grrrrrrrr!”

withpink

That’s the best way I can sum up the color of this sharpener. The color is closer to pink than to a violet, though it’s definitely very very purple. There’s something delightfully Halloweenish about this color.

withpumpkin
The many virtues of the Classroom Friendly Sharpener I did describe nearly five Pencil Years ago in this glowing review.

People ask we pencil bloggers and podcasters all of the time what a good crank sharpener should be. While the infamous bite marks can be somewhat problematic, any Comrade wielding a pencil mightily might resolutely remain unannoyed at an aesthetic hiccup, with the insanely long and concave points we can get from this sharpener.

If you like long points, and if you like purple, go buy this sharpener.

[This sharpener was sent to HQ for free, from review purposes. Opinions are still those of the Staff and Guard at Pencil Revolution.]

Pencil Sharpener Shootout: Stephen and Son Take Aim.

[Many thanks to Stephen and Hunter for another Amazing Review! Stay tuned next week, as PENCIL REVOLUTION TURNS TEN YEARS OLD. We are picking up a few USPS Flatrate boxes for some sweet giveaway action.]

Pencil Sharpener Shootout

No Amigos
No Amigos

No Amigos

Yes, This Kind of Shootout

AKA Father and Son Pencil Sharpener Review

AKA My Journey to Pencil Sharpener Satisfaction II

Readers of My Journey to Pencil Sharpener Satisfaction may recall my top selections among three different types of sharpeners:

Electric: School Smart Electric Heavy-Duty
Hand Crank: Mitsubishi Uni KH-20
Hand Held: KUM / Palomino / Blackwing Automatic Long Point Sharpener

I compared sharpeners, wrote my review, and I was done.

The Mitsubishi Uni KH-20’s primary challengers for the title of “Best Hand Crank” were the Carl CP-80 and Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5. After the review, I took my leftover Carl CP-80 into work and began using it there as my work sharpener while my newly abandoned School Smart Electric looked on, forlorn, with its single cyclops eye. And then a funny thing happened. I began to think I might actually like the Carl CP-80 better than my Mitsubishi Uni KH-20. Sure, the Carl took more effort to hold down while using it, especially for that first sharpening, but I started wondering if it was producing a better and more elongated point than the Mitsubishi I was using at home.

Could I have been wrong? Of course not, because, as my wife will attest, I am never wrong. There was enough doubt, however, that I felt compelled to take a second look. And while at it I probably ought to give a fair comparison to the Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5 rather than just dismiss it outright because of the unbridled brutality it unleashes on every unfortunate pencil barrel that stumbles into its path. Maybe, just maybe, it was also time to see if the Classroom Friendly’s reputation for a spectacular point really did outweigh its penchant for wanton destruction.

And this time I’d recall to active duty my trusty co-reviewer and son, Hunter.

A few notes on three sharpeners before we commence with the results of the review:

Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5

The Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5 is the pencil sharpener equivalent of a hungry crocodile. Imagine if crocodiles were permitted to have pet dogs. A crocodile, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, has embarrassingly teensy arms which serve no useful purpose other than to flop about and humiliate the rest of the body. A crocodile, in order to pet its pet dog, would have to grip the dog with its crocodilian teeth. This, dear readers, is exactly how the Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5 operates. The resellers of these sharpeners had a dilemma: “How do we get people to look past the inherit savagery of these products? I know! We’ll come up with names that signal ‘Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men!’”

“Classroom Friendly” evokes images of little schoolchildren. Happy little schoolchildren. Friendly, happy little schoolchildren. You certainly wouldn’t expect something that is “classroom friendly” to EAT the occupants of the classroom, now would you?

“Angel-5” is, of course, angelic. Peaceful, floating on air, benign. Not something that would mangle your arm like a demonically possessed garbage disposal.

In my previous review, I mentioned that people get teary-eyed when they speak of these sharpeners, like they’re the Second Coming of Christ or Hillary Clinton. This sharpener required a test subject at least as hallowed as itself. After months of legal maneuvering, Hunter and I were finally granted access to the super-secret Eberhard Faber vault, located 3 miles beneath the NORAD complex inside Cheyenne Mountain, Wyoming. We were after the most elusive of all Blackwing pencils, one not even seen by Blackwing historian Sean Malone himself. The one, the only, Blackwing Prototype Version 601.9999. Only one of these pencils exists, and until now it had never been sharpened. In 2005, Sotheby’s Auction House estimated its value if sold at auction at over $17 million, and here we were, allowed to sharpen it using a Classroom Friendly!

I won’t go into a lot of bothersome detail here about the solemnity of the elaborate Eberhard Faber ceremony leading up to this historic moment, and will just ask you to look at the results below. Please note these images depict a dramatized recreation of events that did not actually occur.

$17 Million Eberhard Faber Blackwing Prototype Sharpened by Classroom Friendly
$17 Million Eberhard Faber Blackwing Prototype Sharpened by Classroom Friendly

We were curious as to whether or not the notorious Classroom Friendly “bite marks” would be left on this prototype Blackwing 602. Only upon close inspection did my carefully trained eye spot the well-documented “bite mark” effect.

Minor Bite Marks Left by Classroom Friendly
Minor Bite Marks Left by Classroom Friendly

Again, without going into bothersome detail, we’ll just say that Hunter and I were quickly and roughly ejected from the bowels of Eberhard Faber’s lair and we promptly returned home to resume the review.

Carl CP-80

The Carl CP-80 is a fine sharpener. The only reason I didn’t rank it even with or higher than the Mitsubishi Uni KH-20 was because it wasn’t as comfortable to use.

What About That New One Everyone’s Talking About?

If you were hoping I’d throw in the “I’m so special I come with my own special case” KUM Masterpiece hand held, you’re out of luck. That sharpener does not exist. It is only a myth — an urban legend. And even if it were real, it would still be one of those uncovered graphite-spewing Pig Pens of the pencil world and I have, literally, washed my hands of them.

On to the Review

04 Our Gunfighters Face Off in the Middle of a Dusty Street

As mentioned above, I enlisted Hunter’s assistance for this sharpener review. Hunter loves co-reviewing because he gets free stuff. This “gifting” is very easy for me because I don’t even have to do anything; he just walks off with the subjects of our reviews. I’ll walk into his room, notice something I thought I owned and say, “Hey, that’s just like mine!” and Hunter’s eyes frantically dart around the room as he attempts to nonchalantly whistle. Hunter cannot whistle, but because he saw this reaction in a cartoon, he believes this to be the proper way to project innocence. Regardless of his chronic issues with kleptomania, Hunter is an excellent reviewer who doesn’t fall for mob-mentality dismissiveness and recognizes quality over mythology. So he’s earned every single stolen item in his possession.

Let’s push the reset button on my previous sharpener review and go for two goals with this one:

1. Rank the fanged beast Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5 against the Mitsubishi Uni KH-20 and Carl CP-80
2. Slot into the above listing the School Smart Electric Heavy-Duty and hand held KUM/Palomino/Blackwing Automatic Long Point Sharpener

After checking the unsharpened pencils to ensure their cores were centered, we sharpened pencils in all five sharpeners. Hunter and I used two of each of the hand crank sharpeners for our review to guard against skewing of the results due to a defect in one sharpener. Let’s see where the hand cranks lined up:

#1: Carl CP-80
Pros:
1. Leaves a slightly, and I mean slightly, longer point than the Mitsubishi Uni KH-20
Cons:
2. Noisier than the Mitsubishi
3. Less stable than the Mitsubishi and requires substantially more effort to hold, especially for first sharpening

#2: Mitsubishi Uni KH-20
Pros:
1. The quietest sharpener of all three
2. Although made of plastic, felt very sturdy
3. Nice long point
4. Felt very stable even during a pencil’s first sharpening
Cons:
1. Very close call between this and the Carl CP-80, but the CP-80 has a slightly longer point

#3: Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5Pros:
1. By a hair, left the nicest and longest point of the three
2. Sturdy metal construction
3. More stable to use than the Carl CP-80
Cons:
1. Noisier than the Mitsubishi Uni KH-20
2. Slightly longer point disguises an occasional wood creep like the other two sharpeners
3. Leaves “can’t miss them” indentations and as a pencil is repeatedly resharpened, a trail of these rings of bite marks forms on the pencils

05 Left to Right Carl CP-80, Mitsubishi Uni KH-20, Classroom Friendly aka  Carl Angel-5

Left to Right: Carl CP-80, Mitsubishi Uni KH-20, Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5
Left to Right: Carl CP-80, Mitsubishi Uni KH-20, Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5
Police Helicopter Photo of Post-Shootout Carnage
Police Helicopter Photo of Post-Shootout Carnage
Triumphant Carl CP-80s
Triumphant Carl CP-80s
Mitsubishis Nearly Wiped Out, Guts Spilled on Street
Mitsubishis Nearly Wiped Out, Guts Spilled on Street
Vanquished Classroom Friendlies
Vanquished Classroom Friendlies

What Does This Really Mean?

I expected a major differentiator of these three sharpeners would be the amount of wood creeping up the core, but to my surprise the differences were minor. Each of the three hand cranks produced similar results. That’s worth repeating, especially because we used two of each sharpener: Each of the three hand cranks produced similar results in the amount of “wood creep.”

The Mitsubishi was the easiest to use, felt the most stable during use, and was clearly the quietest of the three. The Classroom Friendly did barely earn its stellar reputation for producing the nicest point but this came at the cost of indentations in the pencil barrels, documented extensively in other reviews.

Hunter and I next ranked the sharpeners in four categories: Ease of use, evenness (wood creep), quality of point, and ranking via a point system of these other categories.

Ease of Use

1. Mitsubishi Uni KH-20
2. Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5
3. Carl CP-80

Evenness

1. Carl CP-80
2. Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5
3. Mitsubishi Uni KH-20

Point

1. Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5
2. Carl CP-80 (very close to a tie with #1)
3. Mitsubishi Uni KH-20

Rank via Point System Derived from Ease of Use, Evenness and Point

1. Classroom Friendly / Carl Angel-5
2. Carl CP-80
3. Mitsubishi Uni KH-20

Why Did We Rank the Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5 Dead Last When Your Own “Point System” Placed it at #1?

Hunter and I aren’t willing to accept the bite marks in the Classroom Friendly. For us, the difference in point quality did not outweigh the damage this sharpener incurs to pencil barrels. We do not believe wanton use of bared fangs is necessary to grip a pencil tightly enough to achieve point perfection. Modern technology is available and waiting to help us in this regard.

Let’s Promote Genetic Diversity

What happens if we take the unprecedented step of intermixing the species? We have so far obtained a father and son ranking of three terrific hand crank pencil sharpeners. Into this we’ll insert our School Smart Electric Sharpener and KUM/Palomino/Palomino Blackwing Two Stage Automatic hand held sharpener.

Left to Right: Carl CP-80, Mitsubishi Uni KH-20, School Smart Electric, Classroom Friendly, KUM/Palomino/Blackwing Automatic Long Point

Our order of preference, and this is where some of our readers will begin hissing while using their fingers to make signs of the cross:

1. Carl CP-80
2. Mitsubishi Uni KH-20
3. School Smart Electric
4. Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5
5. KUM/Palomino/Blackwing Automatic Long Point hand held

Even though the School Smart left an industrial jaggedness to the sides of the sharpened cores, it still sharpened evenly and nicely without leaving bite marks in our pencils. I know; it’s heresy to rank an electric pencil sharpener ahead of the knighted Classroom Friendly/Carl Angel-5. Worse, perhaps, is that we placed the hand held KUM dead last.

You: Say what, Willis?
Me: Hunter and I are not Luddites.

The KUM Automatic Long Point hand held sharpeners require work to make a point that, when successfully accomplished, is so sharp it will snap off when first pressed to the paper. As you can see in the photo above, the results with the hand held are difficult to obtain with uniform precision. It takes too much work. There, I said it, and I am not ashamed. Hunter and I just like a nicely sharpened pencil without all the fuss and muss.

Why do people even use hand held sharpeners? I accept only one reason directly related to the purpose of creating a usable pencil point: tool portability.

Runners who run three miles a day do so for exercise. Runners who do marathons no longer run for exercise; there are other motivations. It’s the same with people who enjoy using hand held sharpeners. Unless they’re using them for their portability, they’re in it for the artistry of the skill or because, to them, it’s a fun pastime and challenge. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for Hunter and me.

In Order of Preference, Left to Right: Carl CP-80, Mitsubishi Uni KH-20, School Smart Electric, Classroom Friendly, Hand Held: KUM / Palomino / Blackwing Automatic Long Point (Satellite Image Courtesy of NASA)
In Order of Preference, Left to Right: Carl CP-80, Mitsubishi Uni KH-20, School Smart Electric, Classroom Friendly, Hand Held: KUM / Palomino / Blackwing Automatic Long Point
(Satellite Image Courtesy of NASA)

And there we have it, the father and son ranking of three hand crank sharpeners interspersed with our top electric and top hand held sharpener. If you’d like a much more detailed description of how best to sharpen pencils, I encourage you to consult with the master himself, Mr. David Rees: Artisanal Pencil Sharpening.

(Thanks again to Stephen and Hunter for sharing with all Comrades the fruits of their search for pencil bliss! Images and text, S.W., used with kind permission.)

Father and Son Pencil Review, Part V.

Newbies
[I teased Stephen that I think he’s become a Regular Contributor to Pencil Revolution! We have here, Part V of his and his son’s quest for the Best Pencils.]

Father and Son Pencil Review V (aka Final Review v3.0)

So here’s the thing. Hunter and I were done after our fourth review, but three events totally beyond my control caused a change of plans:

1. A maniacal devotee of the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood 348 HB convinced hundreds of us, or at least three of us in the Erasable community to try these pencils out.
2. I became so enamored by the Mitsubishi 9000’s slogan “Made by Elaborate Process” it felt like a betrayal not to acknowledge its worthiness of inclusion in a review.
3. I succumbed to repeated testimonials and purchased some General’s Test Scoring 580s.
4. I finally came across Pencil #2 of John Steinbeck’s preferred trio: the Eberhard Faber Mongol 2 3/8 F.

I know, that’s four things, not three. Now you see why this is our third final review. I cannot be trusted with numbers.

Before we continue, let me caution you that if you continue reading, you will be quickly and deeply offended. In previous reviews, I’ve alienated:

Haters of the Staedtler Norica HB 2
People who disliked my repurposing of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act promises into pencil review statements
Lovers of Musgrave Pencil Company’s Test Scoring 100 (spoiler alert #1: they are about to become even more perturbed)
Lovers of U.S.A. Gold Natural 2 HB (spoiler alert #2: their annoyance will remain unchanged)
The Staedtler company
The entire population of Germany
Haters of electric pencil sharpeners
Lovers of Classroom Friendly pencil sharpeners
Australians who resent their flying animals being renamed by Americans
People who like pens
Democrats
Republicans
Comcast
Hand held pencil sharpener fans who don’t mind staining themselves and the world around them with graphite
Lutherans

If you are not a member of one of the groups above and thus believe yourself to be safe, you are wrong. You have been warned. Here we go.

People who are interested enough in pencils to research them and write about them and read reviews of them are insane.

Normal people, inarguably and without exception, spend their free time on pursuits falling into one of the following three categories:

Playing games or watching other people play games
Yelling at things or yelling about things
Fighting, wounding, or killing things or watching people fight, wound or kill things

People who like pencils, on the other hand, are seriously abnormal. Following is what constitutes a rare, heated exchange between two pencil people, hereafter referred to as “PP.”

PP #1: Have you tried a Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood?
PP #2: No.
PP #1: It’s awesome!
PP #2: Is not.
PP #1: Is too!
PP #2: Well, let me try it.
PP #2: (Days later, following receipt of a shipment from CW Pencil Enterprise or Pencils.com): Hey! Not bad!

PP don’t join hate groups. There are no PP in prisons; I’m not lying, you can check for yourself. PP do not sit on their front porches swearing at children who wander into their yards looking for lost toys or sickly rodents. Instead, PP understand and appreciate the differences among pencils in terms of darkness or lightness of the line, smoothness of the graphite moving across the paper, point retention, core thickness, type and scent of wood used, eraser quality and aesthetic appeal of the finished product. And they enjoy learning about these things and sharing their knowledge with other PP.

Clearly, then, PP are mentally disordered. I, too, suffer from this mass hysteria. In one of its manifestations, I obtained a six foot long Dixon Ticonderoga that made an overly reactive grown woman housekeeper burst out of my den into the hall loudly asking, of no one in particular, “WHAT THE F_ _ _?”

Continue reading “Father and Son Pencil Review, Part V.”

Mechanical Pencil to Last a Lifetime.

whole_pencil
That’s how this pencil on Kickstarter bills itself.

This is a solid pencil, machined in the United States, out of raw brass or aluminum. We are a little late to the party, since we just got our prototype this weekend, but I had to get this out. I love this pencil.

This is a solid pencil, as solid as a Space Pen — perhaps more so because there is no heavy brass refill rattling around inside. And the raw aluminum is wonderful. Because there is no coating, it seems to have a low specific heat. Mine gets very cold in my cozy house and then warms up quickly in my warm hands. And the naked metal, machined as it is, lends itself to a nice grip. This is something I don’t find in most metal writing tools.
clip
The plunger and clip are very attractive, extending the simple design of the pencil. I really like the black eraser and clip. The clip comes separated from the pencil, but I found it more useful with the clip attached and appreciated it’s inclusion. The click action is pleasant and feels like a Bic mechanical pencil made of aluminum. I assure you; that’s not an insult. I have trouble finding fault with that pencil myself.
end_plunger
There are a few gripes. First, I am not usually a fan of .5mm leads, and the lack of retracting needle makes the pencil rather sharp. Finally, the innards are plastic. But I think this pencil more than makes up for these few issues.
tip
First, the business end of the pencil — it’s perfect. It is machined so precisely that it does not need a needle. There is no lateral movement of the lead whatsoever. One of my pet peeves about mechanical pencils in general is that the leads move. Because of the shape of the nosecone, the lead feels more like a .7mm to me in that it does not feel sharp. The tip of the pencil itself is a little sharp, but I don’t make a habit of stabbing myself in the chest or arm with my writing implements — not lately anyway. The plastic innards are my least favorite thing about this pencil. But I wonder if the solid build would protect the mechanism somehow? At any rate, designer Andrew Sanderson promises that he’ll fix it or make you a new one. And that’s a pretty serious guarantee.

You have three more days to back this on Kickstarter. If  you like mechanical pencils at all, especially ones designed to last forever, definitely check this out. I was really surprised to find that I reach for this pencil pretty often, largely because I really like the feel of the metal. I’d definitely buy a brass one in the future.

[We received this prototype at no cost. Opinions are our own.]

A Halloween Sharpener.

IMG_3755
Let’s play “Find the Halloween pencil sharpener!”

IMG_3756
Jetpens sent over a package to HQ today which included this cool little ghost sharpener. To be honest, I’ve eyed this up for years, though I assumed it was smaller in person. It’s actually got a nice reservoir for shavings, and it’s easy to open.

IMG_3758
Inside is a KUM “Narrow Wedge” in black plastic. Both the wedge itself and the blade are replaceable, meaning this this spooky little fellow could grace your Halloween pencil adventures for years to come.

IMG_3759
The point is your standard KUM-Wedged (let’s make that a new verb for the lexicon) business end. The point is a little short, but not overly so.

IMG_3761
This is also the first pencil sharpener I own that glows in the dark. They must have improved this substance since I was a kid in the 80s because it definitely glows more brightly than the toys I had.*

*Or is it the CFL bulbs we didn’t have back then?

Review of Staedtler’s THE PENCIL, 1 of 2.

closeup
Now this is a piece of Pencil Beauty, and I hope I do it justice. A week after we received Primo Neon Wopexen at HQ, we received The Pencil. That is that name for Staedtler’s relatively new luxury pencil cap/extender/sharpener/eraser. Think of this as Staedtler’s answer to Faber-Castell’s Perfect Pencil, with an adage worthy of Don Draper’s best work.*

box

The Pencil is a set of three unique pencils made of Wopex material, with stylus tips where you might expect erasers — and a cap which houses a hidden (really) sharpener, an excellent eraser and also functions as an extender. We’ll look at the Cap Assemply first.

IMG_3643

disassembledThe cap is plastic. Stephen pointed this out in his great review last year, and I was among those disappointed that this was not made of metal. However, I think that knowing it was plastic before I held it prepared me enough that I appreciate that it does not weigh as much as the platinum-plated Faber-Castell version, which can be somewhat awkward to carry.

The far end has a cap which displays the Staedtler logo, in a tasteful fashion. The sharpener can be used with the Cap Assembly in one piece or with it exploded, as you can see. There is a slot in the side of the cap which allows the ejection of pencil shavings. This allows a better grip than the Perfect Pencil that I carry around daily, which only has the sharpener attached to the very tip of the top. The clip is metal and sturdy, sticking well to everything to which I have stuck it. I don’t own a digital scale, but the weight of the entire cap is what I would call pleasing. It has enough weight to feel sturdy, but it’s certainly no Pocket Anchor. There is some play while the pencil is inserted into the cap, largely because the pencil is held in some sort of Mechanism which allows it to rotate, making possible the In-Cap Sharpening. It never really bothered me, since I did not use it for long as an extender because my The Pencil was not short enough to require it. The Cap Assembly holds onto The Pencil, though there is no Death Grip to leave makes on your Luxury Wopex. I am not certain why the Cap Assembly comes apart, if it’s not just to make it possible to clean out shavings and graphite residue, which is something that plagues the best of us — and something which I am very glad to be able to get rid of, should it arise from what I’ve discovered are notoriously dusty pencils (Wopexen).

The shapener produces a nicely-angled point. Here is the factory sharpening, next to the result produced by the included sharpener.
pointcomp
Putting a point on a Wopex is something that puts strain on a sharpener, and this one performs well, shaving thin layers of extruded wood flour and graphite.
shavings

The eraser works very well, though I would only use it in a pinch. Staedtler tells us that they do not currently offer replacements, and this is an eraser whose existence and presence I’d like to count on when I find myself pushing a stroller with nothing on me but this device and a coffeeshop receipt on which to scroll that Brilliant Idea about Existence that I will keep to myself.

Perhaps best of all, the Cap Assembly fits normal pencils as well. My fancy Faber-Castell version does not, and the refills are expensive. Not only does this cap fit a regular Wopex; the silver looks great with the colors of Wopexen available to us here in North America.
wopexincap

We certainly don’t mean that we are not using the Luxury Wopexen that came with this set. And as this review is getting long, we’ll cut this in half and let WordPress self-publish a post dedicated to the pencils in this set tomorrow. (Stay tuned!)

*I am wondering (and I mean this without snark but with earnest excitement) if Faber-Castell is cooking up an “answer” to the Wopex.)

(This set was provided to us by Staedtler North America, free of charge. Opinions, impressions, analyses and images are my own.)

Neon Wopexen!

points
Ever since Gunther’s post last year featuring the gorgeous neon Wopexen available in Europe, I wanted some 0f my own and to be able to get more. I lusted for these 80s throw-back pencils made of Millennial Materials. I teasingly begged for these to Come to America last summer. Now I’m certainly not saying that Staedtler brought these neon Wopexen to our vast shores because of that, but, ahem, a little Hope goes a long way, no?

Staedtler kindly sent us a pristine pack of these brightly-colored beauties. I wondered what Thoreau would think about the Wopex material, as I read the email on the train back to Boston from Concord (and what Thoreau would think of me checking my email on a train, on the very rail-bed he so loathed).

sparkles

I have done my very best to capture the Sheen and Texture of these pencils for you here. They are magnificent! They remind me more of the European finish, which is more rubbery and sparkly than the North American version we reviewed this spring. Everything I loved about the green Wopex, I love about this pencil.

colors

Aside from the obvious color differences, these are more…Grippy. And there are no barcodes.* The ferrules are well-attached, and the erasers are very effective. In addition to the inclusion of blue (ahem, Ticonderoga, you got it right this year), one major plus that these pencils have over other neon pencils is the crisp, reflective silver stamping, which allows the neon colors to shine through in their True Hues.

So far as I know these are only available online from Staples. Under four bucks for premium German pencils is a steal, in my opinion. I plan to Hoard some of these, especially since my daughter has already Raided mine.

Many thanks to Staedtler for the samples, and stay tuned for our review of The Pencil, which is exciting and very WOPEXILICOUS.

ferrules

*The samples we received from Staedtler North America lack the barcode that the Staples purple Wopex has for some reason.

Review of Sprout Pencils.

The herd pack, lined up.
The herb pack, lined up.

The kind folks at Sprout sent us a pack of their plantable pencils recently for review (gratis), and I am in love with these pencils. These were originally on Kickstarter, and I missed them totally.

We received the herb pack, which reads like a list of the contents of the little garden in our small yard here at HQ. These are round pencils, made of cedar, in the USA. The logo is laser-etched, which made them smell like a campfire for the first week or two that I had them. And that’s a good thing.*

Before my pack was gutted, I scored one of these patriotic notebooks.
Before my pack was gutted, I scored one of these patriotic notebooks.

The ends are capped with a dark green plastic which dissolves in water. This contains the seeds. Do not chew on it. How does it work? Let’s borrow Sprout’s graphic:

Click for larger goodness.
Click for larger goodness.

Detailed instructions are also here.

These arrived a little too late for planting in Central Maryland, but I have another plan in mind. I am going to use these up before next spring and plant them then, for some Pencilicious Planting Action (PPA). I hope to report back then on how well they work, with photos of lushness galore.

I love when pencils come in a box.
I love when pencils come in a box.

In action, these pencils are very nice to write with. The unfinished wood and round shape are very comfortable, and the cedar sharpens perfectly. They come unsharpened; so you can get out a little Compost Cedar from the get-go. The leads are smooth and a little on the light side. This makes them great for writing on rough pots and textured plant-labels. The moisture sensitive caps do make me leave these inside during the muggy Maryland summer. But I can’t say that I venture outside to write as much in July as I probably should anyway. The lead is smear-resistant and seems to be lightly waxed. Erasing is impressive, and ghosting is not bad at all. They feel like a modern Ticonderoga core to me.

Versatile core.
Versatile core.

I have to say that I would really like these pencils even without the seeds in the caps. A round, naturally finished cedar pencil with burned on logo is very appealing to me. However, giving them another life next spring/summer, after use has rendered them stubs, is a nice way to honor such pretty pencils.

Thanks to Democratech for the sample pack, and I hear you can find these around Boston and Cambridge (where I’m headed on the 20th) if you’d like to avoid having to buy them online. They are available at Amazon also, for $19.95 a box.

*Ha! Find a pen that does that!

Review of Gallery Leather Oporto Journal.

full_front

Gallery Leather contacted HQ a few weeks ago asking us if we’d review one of their made-in-maine leather journals. We received the Oporto Journal free of charge, and here is the skinny. Gallery’s description:

Modern Italian design in a journal constructed true to Old World book making tradition. Flush-cut, supported bonded leather cover.

I think there’s much more to say than that, especially with the very graphite-friendly paper in this book.

desk_journal

This is a Desk Journal. I don’t know why, but I really like the idea of a desk journal, a ledger or book for sitting at one’s desk. For this purpose, this notebook is great. It measures 8×5.5 inches, with 192 lined pages. The lines are spaced at 1/4 of an inch, which is identical to the Field Notes Shelterwood. The lines feel less wide than they do in the Shelterwood, though, since they are spread over a larger area with the increased page size.

binding

The binding on this book is solid. Upon opening the book for the first time, both the leather and the binding were stiff. However, with time spent with this book for review purposes, it’s softened and loosened up nicely. I imagine that a week of desk use would render this book able to open fairly flatly.

spine_color

The leather is smooth, with a subtle texture and sheen. It smells great, but is not over-powering, and the raw/rough edges are a very nice touch (and keep the book more flexible). The spine is especially attractive, with a nice semi-boxed shape that neither sits too loosely nor refuses to budge for opening the book.

bottom_corner

My favorite thing about this book is the paper. It’s got a tooth that makes using harder pencils not only possible, but enjoyable. Certainly, this paper is not rough, and I imagine that pens that don’t like rough paper would work well. But the tooth does have certain consequences.

top_corner

Pencils which are as soft as the 2010 Palomino Blackwing* are out of the question, unless you like a smeary mess in your journal. Middling darkness HB pencils performed well, as did high-end but relatively dark Japanese HB pencils like the Hi-Uni and Mono 100. Some German HB pencils which I love but which are unloved by smooth papers (like Field Notes’ regular paper) were a true pleasure on this paper, producing a distinct line and showing great smear resistance. In general, I found this paper to be a little on the messier side in smearability, but erasability was excellent. Castell 9000 and Mars Lumograph HB pencils are dreamy on this paper, and I had good luck with the Grip 2001 also. Because the paper is stiff (not necessarily thick), ghosting is very good with this paper. The German HB pencils I used retained much of their point retention, smoothness and smear resistance, while appearing much more darkly on the page.

If you’re on the lookout for a nice Sitting Still Journal, take a hard-but-smooth HB pencil with this book, and journal to your heart’s content.

* I think they should adopt this coinage of mine and send me a dozen to boot, don’t you?

Review of Sun-Star Safety Pencil Knife.

extended
We received one of these Pencil Knives free of charge from Jet Pens a few weeks ago at HQ for reviewing. I have used this little knife for a while and have probably taken it to inappropriate places in my pocket over these weeks. So believe me when I tell you that this is a cool little knife, one that has been tested.
closed
First, it is a safety knife, but it is still a knife. Don’t give one to a toddler or someone with tiny fingers. That said, it is difficult to cut yourself with it if you are careful and use it for what it is meant for — sharpening pencils. I am a man who brings accidents down upon himself, and I haven’t cut myself with it yet.* This is a very pocket-friendly knife. It takes up about as much Volume Real Estate as a pocketknife, but it is very light. I literally forgot it was in my cargo shorts pocket on several occasions, almost leading to a Washing Machine Test. The blade assembly slides out and locks into place with a satisfying click, and there is a thumb indentation for ease of use.
metal

I want to stress that using this knife is very unlike using a regular pocketknife to sharpen a pencil. The blade is thinner and is curved. Because of the safety guard, you cannot chop off large hunks of wood or graphite from your pencil. This knife works in a sort of semi-shaving action, taking off small pieces of the pencil with each cut. This means that it takes some time to bring an unsharpened pencil to Readiness for Action. But it also means that there is a lot of room for error. Because it is so unlike a pocketknife and because it takes off so little of the pencil at a time, this is an ideal sharpener for someone who is interested in taking up knife sharpening but perhaps is nervous about losing a digit or is intimidated by slight difficulty of sharpening a pencil with a knife.
pencil
After several weeks of use, my review unit is still working very well, without significant dullness or any rust. Certainly, replacement blades would be a boon to this system, but the $6 price tag is not so steep. I really like this knife for touching-up points while I am out, when the pencil just needs a little nudge back to sharpness. It is lighter than some brass pocket sharpeners, but the volume keeps it from falling out of my pocket.

Plus, did I mention that this knife is just cool?

* Knock on wood.