Review

Review: Pentel Multi 8’s

IMG_0008During the time I was scanning the internets for interesting bits of stationery (still do it but not as extensive as last year), I remembered that somebody offered me a LAMY “tri pen” a long time ago and I almost forgot I had it. So I went looking for it in my storage (I’m really organised, but the chaotic type..) and was pretty happy to find it still as I remembered it although I remembered also that I’d like to have a multi-pen with more functions. So I searched the sites for some interesting multi-pens.

IMG_0005

And it was then that I first saw the Multi 8s. It was like a teenager wet-dream (nerd/geek wet-dream), a pen with 8 different things in it. And not one of those bulky multis you can get from BIC or HEMA. No, a real sleek pen with 8 mostly different functions. Wow! At the time when I tried to get them, they were somehow really difficult to get a hold of, but I managed to get some directly from Japan. They weren’t cheap, but you get the pens PLUS recharges for everything that is already in the pen. There are two different models the “MULTI8 PH802 for checking use” and the “SUPER MULTI PH803 multi writing function”. They are functionally totally the same, but have different fillings and hence the writings on them changes.

IMG_0007

The 802 is intended for proof-reading and includes some non-copy colours: the classic non-copy blue and a lesser known (to me at least) bordeaux non-copy lead. Then you also have red, blue, brown, orange, yellow and green, so the most basic colours for doodling purposes. Mind you the quality of those leads is not bad at all, they are quite soft for mechanical pencil leads, but you’ll use them up real quick (they’re rather on the short side) if you use them for more than scarce colouring of doodles. It surely is a nice pen to have. I use both of them daily. They are stored in my custom “Destination Zero” Memo Deluxe. The 802 is a real beast, hence the “SUPER”. It boasts 3 different ball-point lead (blue, black and red) a non-copy, fluorescent pink and yellow leads, a red and HB graphite lead, mostly about everything you’ll ever need on a daily note-taking basis.

IMG_0004

They are all plastic and you can use them as maracas… yep, it’s rattling a lot. The mechanism is pretty easy to use: just choose the desired lead with the rotating clip and then push the button. The lead is released from its compartment and falls… out of the pen if you don’t stop it. So it basically is the same thing as a simple lead-holder only a little (sarcasm) more sophisticated. The ball-points don’t fall out. I think the leads aren’t supposed to fall out (there’s a metal piece on the end of each lead) but somehow mine tend to slide right through or it is me pushing too hard?

IMG_0006

They are not particularly nice to look at, functional yes, but not sexy… nope. There’s another thing that confuses me: the rotating clip sometimes is misaligned and the Japanese description has me puzzled. So leads can be stuck, and you have to rotate and push, or push and shake or whatever… I’m not sure bit they still work nicely. So it is a clear recommendation if you “need” something like the MULTI 8s.

EDIT: I just checked jetpens.com if the MULTI 8s are available, which they are, but more importantly they show what I was doing wrong with the falling leads…

Advertisements

Review: Caran D’Ache Swiss Wood HB

IMG_1196

It was kind of difficult to find a store that had the Swiss Wood, when you try to find it in a physical shop that is. I found it in a really nice little shop in Cologne called Papier Pop-Up. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough in the past, but they had the Black Wood on display so I asked if they were also carrying the Swiss Wood. The pencil is really a beautiful one. A bit larger than average, with natural wood finish with some sort of transparent lacquer. The white lettering, the FSC logo and the red tip with the white swiss cross; it’s a surprisingly light pencil compared to its size and the dark wood color really convey a sense of uniqueness.

IMG_1198

Then that smell! Some might find it unpleasant, I’m not yet sure what to think of it. Some describe it like the smell of smoked ham or grime. I think it smells a bit like soy sauce. Glovelier Beech seems to be a special breed of beech found in the Swiss, hence the “Swiss Wood” moniker.

IMG_1197

I heard a lot of good things about the pencil, before I had one in my own hands, so my expectations were pretty high. That said, I must say that these expectations were way too high. The graphite that is based on clay (!) is not really pleasant. It writes  easily, but with a very light gray tone. It’s lightly sticky, moderately smooth, but too firm for a HB. I was expecting something darker, heftier as the size suggests, but the lead is disappointing from my viewpoint, though still above average. Caran D’Ache has a special place in my heart as they are promoting the pencil in an exclusive and almost luxurious way with their limited editions, especially the Maison series. I’m feeling a bit bad of giving the “Swiss Wood” a less enthusiastic review than I expected, but that is what it is, despite its unique looks and the peculiar fragrance the utility of the pencil is above average.

IMG_1199

Review: Maruman Mnemosyne A4

IMG_4770

This is something I wanted to do for some time now. Writing a review about my favorite notebook. But mind you I never use it as a notebook, but as a drawing/sketch-book. If you’d use it as a notebook alone there are some warnings to consider. The first one is that the paper is quite thin and things shine through, and I believe if you’d use the pages on both sides things would become quite messy. Another annoyance is that the paper easily creases and that can be quite frustrating. I often creased pages when erasing something and due to the smooth nature of the paper it literally slipped under my fingers. These negative points are just small caveats compared to when you start to write or draw on that paper.

IMG_4777

That paper… it is just fantastic paper, thin, light, smooth, precious, but can easily take a “beating”. I even wrote Maruman to ask if they didn’t have the paper in larger formats, but unfortunately the biggest format is the A4. The notebook itself lives through very clever design features. The first one is that it is a spiral notebook.

IMG_4772

The spiral is so cleverly designed that it never hinders the opening of the book, and another nifty detail, the first and last spiral are left out. This enables you to easily tear the micro-perforated pages out of the book.

IMG_4775

The back of the book is made of thick cardboard, that is just sturdy enough to use the book on the lap.

IMG_4771

Then there is the black plastic cover with gold lettering and the inspiring “Imagination / Unruled” quote.

IMG_4774

The first page is bright yellow with some note-taking tips in Japanese. The pages itself are not white, but a tone yellowish and have a box on the top for titles or whatever.

IMG_4773

Another great design detail is that the back and front are bigger on the large side of the pages and protect them from harm. I used the notebook with both Uni Pins and Pilot Drawing Pens. I largely prefer the first ones, but that is for another review sometimes this year. The paper is just sooo smooth, but with the right grip, not slippy, just fantastic. As said before the paper can take a “beating”, meaning that when you blacken an area repeatedly the paper doesn’t bloat and break (do I make sense here?).

IMG_4776

I use mainly a MONO100 H pencil for preparation sketches, which is absolutely perfect for the paper, although I do have sometimes some difficulties to erase some firmer pencil strokes with my kneading eraser, but my trusty electrical eraser comes in handy then. And no this paper does not whiten (become white?) when erasing on it, as it happens with the colored Moleskine paper. But as said before the paper is very unforgiving for creases. The Mnemosynes come in different sizes. If you ever fancy an unruled notebook, give them a try. I love it to death and will always prefer them to Moleskines or other drawing notebooks. I’ll use it to the last page.

Review: Mitsu-Bishi Nano Dia B

IMG_0011

For a pencil-lover like myself the name Mitsu-Bishi stands for some of the best pencils in the world, and also maybe the most beautiful modern pencil IMHO: the Hi-Uni. Now the Uni brand, that operates at the foremost consumer front alongside the Posca brand, stands for quality at moderate prices. The Uni Pin fine-liners are amongst the most used in the domain of illustration, and probably the best. So I was pretty much surprised to find these Nano Dia pencils that don’t seem to fit into the rest of the Uni portfolio. Digging a bit (not much) I found this article on the ever entertainingly informative pencil talk (http://www.penciltalk.org/2012/01/mitsubishi-nanodia-pencil), that asks the same questions I was asking myself when I received the pack of 3 Nano Dias B. My main question is who is this pencil marketed to? It looks a bit too dull for the children/school market and yet it is not speaking to a more mature market, maybe something in between with an eye on the low-cost sector… no idea.

IMG_0009

Well, we won’t find answers to these questions here, so why not continue to the core of my interest: how does the Nano Dia B perform? Let me first talk about its looks. It is not an especially ugly pencil, but nor does its dull appearance convince the connoisseur. There’s the somewhat sad little Nano Dia logo, the brand markings and then there’s some triangles that are surely supposed to mimic the faces of a diamond… but the pearly appearance is kind of a nice touch, although it does not really help to raise the esthetics a lot. Both ends of the pencil are naked. The pencil itself is very light and the wood has a rather pleasant, undefinable wood smell.

While sharpening it with one of my Janus 4048, I was very surprised how easy and neat the wood of the pencil let itself cut by the sharpeners blade.

IMG_0008

The feel of the lacquer is astonishingly pleasant and there’s some slight grip to it that somehow compensates for the lightness of the pencil. The lead is right up my aisle. Firm, not to smooth, not too sticky and really, really dark if you push it. This is the kind of performance I love. This one pencil can do a lot of shades of grey, and it does so in an easily controllable manner. I didn’t need a lot of time to learn how the Nano Dia will react to pressure, its drawing capacity was readily available, no need for explorations with different papers.

IMG_0010

Now the biggest surprise is how long I could draw with one sharpening. The sketch page you see in the photo is done with one sharpening of the Nano Dia, and I did some really dark areas. Dulled down its still a pleasure to draw with it and it was still possible to draw fine (although light) lines. One negative point is that due to the amount of graphite the pencil conveys it smears moderately.

I won’t bother trying the 2B of the wood-clinched line of the Nano Dias, as the main line are leads for mechanical pencils, but I will most certainly try the HB 0.7mm and see how it performs.

So all in all I’m pretty surprised by that pencil. It is a really good pencil with a very good drawing performance, but without the looks of a good modern pencil.

Review: Eberhard Faber MONGOL 482

IMG_0002

Life’s full of surprises. There are the ones you are planning for yourself and then there are those that simply happen. Most of these surprises in my life are of the second type, because I’m pretty bad at planning and bad at keeping deadlines. I organized most of what’s happening in my small cosmos around the fact that I’m sluggish most of the time. Writing a blog that asks for more than one action to be of interest is in every effect exhausting for a person like me. But my love for drawing, pencils and the internet keep me going and giving input and thoughts into the thriving pencils and pens community. On a side note, I have unfortunately more than one hobby (don’t like that word). My main interest (don’t be shocked) is music. Especially electronic music and more precisely my modular synth. Most of the last two months were spent wiggling (that’s the word that describes the action of making music with your modular). Another really interesting trait of mine is that I get easily bored, so here I’m back again to drawing and reviewing pencils.

IMG_0001

Did you want to hear all of this? Is that a good introduction to a pencil review? Yes, as it shows a glimpse of the person behind the drawing, the “pencil-wielder”. So what have I been using lately? The MONGOL. It first appeared on my radar as I was searching through some of those pencil databases. It struck me with its quite unique look: vintage, the kind of vintage you’d buy, as it is kind of timeless. So I got hold of two of the old boxes of “1”‘s and “2”‘s. The boxes alone are a beautiful sight. It’s the kind of graphics and typos you see copied on a lot of modern products that pretend to be vintage.

IMG_0003

The pencils I have are not of the very best condition: the lacquer has cracks, the erasers are hard and mostly unusable (but that is unavoidable with old pencils I think) and some (hopefully not more) of the leads are broken, so the pencils might have been dropped at some time. So beside these little problems, how well do they perform?

As I said it is a beautiful pencil. The yellow lacquer, the beautiful mix of black fonts, the bronze ferrule. It is advertised as a the “Business” pencil, so it does not pretend to be a drawing pencil, but is mainly aimed at a writing clientele. Then there is the “diamond star” that refers to the special lead used here. The #1 box says: “Woodclinched Complastic Lead”. This might refer to the use of a synthetic binder. But hey, I have strictly no idea, and am not that eager to dig into the technical part.

IMG_0005

It’s always a pleasure to draw with a pencil that has a history. The Mongol certainly is one of the most successful brands throughout the years. As this article (penciltalk) from 2007 suggests they are still being produced today. The ones I have are of the old kind. I’m not sure how old exactly, but as always this is not really interesting in my perspective of things. So my first attempts at sketching were not really conclusive. As a matter of fact I was not feeling creative.

IMG_0004

So I made another attempt (yes, another dragon) and I really began to feel the potential of the pencil. Surprisingly the Mongol is not a sketching pencil in my hands, but one of those I prefer using as a detailing pencil. As soon as I try to throw some crosshatching I literally lose the feel for the pencil. It really is a pencil that wants to be controlled, that performs extremely well with delicate handling. It’s not a very dark nor soft. The #2 really feels like a standard HB, but with more finesse. It is difficult to describe, as the word stickiness doesn’t really apply. The Mongol is really light and refuses to produce a too dark line. I have often problems with pencils that are too light as I compensate this lightness with a cramped wrist and that normally ends in pain… The Mongol doesn’t do that and that is another surprise. Somehow the lead has a hint of softness or stickiness that compensates the lightness.

IMG_0006

Another thing I have observed is that I have to sharpen it very often, but not because it dulls rapidly, but because I feel most comfortable drawing with it when it has a nice sharp point. It really is a surprising pencil. I was under the impression when I first saw it, that it would be a rude (in a good way), smudgy and prone for sketching pencil, perhaps due to its name or coloring, and it turns out to be a really delicate pencil that needs effort to appreciate. The more I use the Mongol, the more I appreciate its fine-tuning, and we are talking here about a mass produced pencil. Give it a try if you happen to come by a couple of these.

Review: Faber-Castell Blackwing 602

IMG_0005

The myth, the legend, the pencil of pencils, the pencil made famous through numerous illustrious people is… well, I think we’ll start at the beginning. So my love for pencils is an old one. This love was a practical love, a love for the medium rather than the product. As I probably said in other posts my first real good pencils were Lumographs and 9000s. Really good pencils, pencils for drawing on different papers, pencils for sketching, pencils for realistic finishes. As I drew less, through shifting goals in my life I lost interest in drawing and into pencils. But this recently changed big time through my job as an art teacher and especially my first assignment to a drawing course. I began to draw again. Through this I delved also deeper into the realm of the pencil as a product and discovered a whole world of nerds and geeks talking about pencils and other things related to these in a pompous and loving way. Here I discovered that there is this one pencil everybody is talking about: the Blackwing 602. So after purchasing some other pencils on the bay, I managed to get hold of some Faber-Castell Blackwings for a somewhat decent price as these had minor faults (the ferrule not in the right position f.ex.).

I really didn’t want to use them seriously. Just keep them for my children or something like that. But as I also started to write this blog, it turned out that there’s no way around a review of the original Blackwing 602. I recently reviewed the Palomino Blackwing Pearl, which I liked, without being stoked. So what do I think about the real thing. It looks good, it looks vintage with its pink eraser, the pale bronze ferrule, the grey lacquer, the fading gold lettering. This look is never outdated, it’s a timeless design classic.

You see I’m not eager to get to the point. This might be the premature end of this blog, because I’m not going to say a lot of good things about the Blackwing 602 as a drawing pencil. The hype surrounding this pencil is clearly overblown. It’s a pencil that’s really smooth, too smooth, extremely soft, too fat, breaks fast as hell and does not really shine in its performance. I had to sharpen often. I used it in the same Canson sketchbook I used for almost all the pencils I reviewed until now, and it behaves a bit like a 4B, maybe 5B. Even the smallest pressure produces a very visible line, putting pressure on the point produces a lot of dust and a nice smeary black line or it breaks.

IMG_0001

IMG_0002

This happened twice now, and it is not that the lead is broken inside, I know how that feels, no here the lead just snapped, and no I didn’t force it. I used a Palomino Blackwing Automatic Longpoint sharpener. So nothing too spectacular. For the rest of the drawings I tried different angles with my Kutsuwa T’Gaal and it didn’t break anymore, even on the point-iest selection (For those that  don’t know the T’Gaal: it’s a sharpener that has a dial on the side where you can decide the point-iness of your pencil). This is the first time I remember that happening to me with a pencil and at that with the legend, the myth, the Blackwing 602. You can imagine my surprise, that was the last thing I was expecting to happen. I’ve also been missing the stickiness, that smooth, graphite leaden stickiness I learned to appreciate with the Palomino Blackwing 602. The lead feels a bit uncontrollable, too fast, not enough grip, but not entirely unpleasant. The sharpened point dulled extremely fast, which I felt as being somewhat unnerving considering the price I payed for it and also strange since the pencil is hailed as long-lasting. I tried the pencil on very smooth paper (Kokuyo Twin Ring Notebook), just to be sure that the Canson paper is perhaps the wrong paper for the BW602, but the result has been exactly the same. Smear resistance is something one would normally not look into with a 4B or 5B pencil, but a pencil that is thought as a writing instrument and smears like the BW602 shouldn’t get the praise it gets in my opinion. It’s a pencil that’s not meant for tidiness, it’s more the dirty kind.

IMG_0003

I really wanted to love it. I wanted to cherish it, to hold it in my hands and let Hemingway’s spirit flow out of it onto the paper. But nothing of this happened. Maybe I was expecting too much, maybe the Faber-Castell version of the Blackwing 602 isn’t the same as the Eberhard-Faber one. Maybe the one I tested has been badly storaged, has dried out (if that is even possible). Maybe my writing, my sketching is not adapted to this pencil or vice-verso. I am underwhelmed and also a bit sad. I’m sad that the myth has truly died a bit under my sketching hand. Only the stories remain, reality has taken its toll. I have paid way too much for that pencil…

IMG_0004

Review: Palomino Blackwing Pearl

IMG_0084    I said to myself I’d never review the original Blackwing 602. Myths are narrated by a fireplace and not reviewed by some young ignorant. Well lucky for me Palomino set out to copy… erm, revive the legend and give me an opportunity to review a pencil that pretends to be another. I could have chosen to review the Palomino Blackwing 602 first, but by trying the three of them side by side I found more similarities between the Pearl and the original BW 602, than that one to the Palomino BW 602.

IMG_0083

But lets start with the appearance. And the Pearl just wins every beauty price a classic pencil could gather. The lacquer is gorgeous, there’s this nacreous tint to it, that just shines. The black font used is smaller than on the Palomino BW 602 and there’s no catch-phrase on the back (good thing). The ferrule is exactly the same as on its brother (the cousin being the orig. BW 602), as is the eraser, both of very nice quality. The lead of the Pearl is a bit thicker between its wood-coffin, the line where the two halves of the wood meet are apparent.

The performance of the Pearl is good. It produces a really dark line, you don’t need a lot of pressure to push it beyond 2B territory. First thing I noticed is that even if a nice point lasts long, sharpened with a CARL Bungu Ryodo, the point easily breaks under the pressure. And the point leaves a lot of dust (as seen in the picture). The lead runs smoothly and lends itself to some really expressive sketching. Due to its fat nature the lead easily smears, but it’s still fine and manageable. I like it.

IMG_0082

So I tried the Palomino BW 602 just to get a feeling of the difference and it felt harder, still smooth and left a less darker line, but somehow it felt more at home in my hand than the Pearl. Trying the FaberCastell Blackwing 602 I was surprised to find that the Pearl is much more like the original BW 602, than the wanna-be Palomino BW 602 tries to be. Only difference is the “stickiness” of the lead. The original BW 602 feels more adherent to the paper, where the Pearl has less of that effect. So the original BW 602 stands unrivaled, although Palomino has through their attempts produced some really good pencils, they circle it well, but can’t quite put their thumb on it.

IMG_0085

Nevertheless does the Blackwing Pearl’s performance leave a really positive feeling. I will surely use it more often to darken things and areas, but I dont’ see it as a “draw-it-all pencil”, more like a 2B brother to the Palomino Blackwing 602, that one being the HB of that set. But you can’t beat the fashion statement that the Pearl delivers when you draw in public!

IMG_0086