Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Faber Castell Apollo and Grip


I have recently spotted a new pencil in shops, the Faber Castell Apollo. An alternative to Faber Castell Grip I (which has a sort of triangular grip section opposed to the circular one available on Grip II)
Apollo is a circular body and a triangular grip. I found the Appolo available in 4 colors
(barely visible in the background on the left). Black, dark blue, purple and washed out pink.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Pencils in hotel rooms



Recently I have done a little bit of traveling. Most of the times, in the hotels I come across ballpoints, but there are the occasions when I stumble upon a pencil or mechanical pencil.
This time I was greeted by a Bic mechanical pencil with the branding of the hotel on the clip instead of the BIC logo.
The Bic mechanical pencil came with an extra lead inside.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Nature trip

This was a short vacation that recently ended.
It was nice enough that i considered it was worth sharing some pictures, even though there are no pencils here :)
I actually had a small notebook and the Koh I Noor notebook with me, but I was mesmerized by the beauty of the surrounding to take a picture of that as well.

I usually take a pencil and a notebook with me in a zip lock bag. Not that would be necessary as lead doesn't wear off with water. I use the pencil and notebook for route preparation, and during the hike to take notes. I try to rely as little as possible on the phone/gps.

 The waterfall is created by the water coming out of a cave at the top of the cliff, which was part of the visit as well. I must say it was worth it.
But the most use on this trip was not seen by the Koh I Noor pencil or by my trusty Opinel. Besides my camera, of course, the most used item was my newly purchased whistle fox 40.

On the track to the cave and waterfall, around 2 km hike from the main road, we encountered a wild hog and besides clapping and talking loudly I used the whistle to make some extra noise. But no success, it didn't want to move from there. It's a bit of a sad story as we later found out when arrived at our destination that it was probably hit by the train during the night.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Review Koh-I-Noor Notebook 2 mm mechanical pencil

The Versatil from Koh-I-Noor that I talked about in the post Koh-I-Noor Versatil lead holder from 70s, made me a bit nostalgic about the 2 mm lead holders. And after seeing the Koh-I-Noor Notebook 2 mm pencil, codename 5608, I couldn't help myself and just got one.
The pencil has a very nice design, combining the classic, futuristic looks. I do not know why but the design takes my imagination to the 60s, old small cars with chrome and typewriters. Weird combination..
For me, this was the selling point.
The first thing about the pencil that comes to mind when you have it in hand is "this is soo small". The length of it is a perfect size, I would call it compact. It is long enough to have a good grip on it and it is small enough to fit anywhere. But because the pencil is very thin it contributes to the look. The purpose of this was EDC, no doubt.
Size comparison Koh I Noor Notebook 2 mm and Koh I Noor 5.6 mm

There is a compromise when it comes to ergonomics in the detriment of size. The pencil is fine for short period of writing and for jotting things down, and the knurled grip feels very nice in the hand.  But even for small hands like mine, when I write more, it becomes a bit uncomfortable because it is so thin with around 8 mm in diameter.

So because of its small size and its cool looks, you will be inclined to have it with you all the time.

There are a few things about the Koh I Noor that I do not like, or I would prefer to be better made. The barrel is not attached to the mechanism. I mean that the lead and the clutch rotates freely in the barrel of the pencil. So if you want to sharpen the lead in it you have two options. The first option is to hold it by the lead and rotate it in the sharpener, and the second is to hold it from the advance button which moves along with the clutch mechanism and the lead.
The second complaint is about the clicking mechanism doesn't seem to be sturdy, and mine is rubbing inside between the mechanism and the barrel. I would say this will not last you a lifetime like the old Versatil will.
Koh I Noor has kept the classic 4 tooth sharpener that is hidden in the advance button. It is a nice touch but 2 mm pencils like Rotring 300 have a better sharpening system built in. And talking about the sharpener, it comes loose easily. I found the pencil several times without this little part attached, only my luck made me find it in the bag or on the desk. But take it into consideration that you might loose it.

These negative points destroy a little bit the aura of the pencil and the brand name. I don't want to say it is made cheap but I would prefer that Koh I Noor would put a little more effort into making a better pencil.



If you want to czech more things about Koh I Noor you could start with these posts:
Koh-I-Noor Versatil lead holder from 70s
Koh-I-Noor in Prague

Friday, September 6, 2019

Italic mechanical pencil

I am sure this is not the proper way of presenting this mechanical pencil but for me is a first. I never saw a flat, "italic", mechanical pencil lead.
I guess it is very good for tests where you have to highlight the right answer, or when you pick the lottery numbers
 I found this no name pencils on Aliexpress and I am wondering what are the applications for this leads. From what I found out Zebra has a similar mechanical pencil. And at some point in time, Faber Castell had a flat lead holder lead.
In the picture below with Faber Castell on the lead box (product number 9040), it is marketed as "Flat drawing leads"


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Wing Sung 612 Fountain Pen

chinese fountain pen wing sung 612
Wing Sung 612 fountain pen
     Today I will share with you my very old Wing Sung 612 fountain pen, which is a Chinese Parker 51 look alike fountain pen. The one I have features a plastic body in teal, a hooded nib that is not perfectly centered to the body, a metal cap and the trim that are plated in gold color. The filling system is an aerometric sac. And the most important thing is that you can get it for peanuts, or a similar one similar as this one is a classic.


But this is not all to it. It is actually the fountain pen I had and used during the first years of school when writing with a fountain pen was mandatory.
I found it recently in a drawer and inked it up for a test drive.

The pen looks really good if you take into consideration it was used by a young boy 6 - 10 years old about 25 years ago. It has scratches on the cap, and on the body. The ones on the cap show more because of the finish. Also, the clip has a slight bend to it, and the trim on the end of the barrel is a bit discolored.
The cap is a friction style, with no snap. But it stays well on the pen and there is no risk of falling off. Ideal for taking notes. Because the section is smooth you can hold it anywhere. I tend to use a high grip on this fountain pen.
The clip is hinged and is secure, but the tip of it is a bit sharp and scratchy. I have carried it for a short time in the same pouch with my Faber Castell Loom and it managed to scratch the body of the Loom.
The filling system is not a very good one. You have a bladder that you squeeze to push the air out and let the ink in. I don't like it and I feel a converter or cartridge would be better. But at that time this system was the popular one. After looking at more modern Parker 51 style fountain pens I was very happy to see that modern Chinese hooded nib fountain pens use a converter. And I will probably try one of those.

What I like a lot is the cap, which is held in place by friction, and for an office environment is the perfect cap. You can take it off very fast and just take a few notes and then put it back on. Also, you can leave the fountain pen uncapped for longer with no drying issues.

If I do not write with it for a couple of days it can have hard starts or if left unused for longer it can dry out.

For me, the pen feels thin, and for longer writing sessions is uncomfortable. Also, the pen is very light and if you write more you have to use force to put the ink down, or at least this is the sensation I get when writing more. On the other hand, a heavy metal fountain pen like the Faber Castell Loom sticks to the paper due to its weight, I just have to steer it.

Looking with the 20x loupe at the tip I have noticed that the sweet spot is a bit asymmetric. I mean the sweet spot is 2/3 on the right tine while the left one only has about 1/3 of the sweet spot. This makes me curious if it was a "defect" or this was caused by the many pages written and the way I used to hold the fountain pen.

Image from the internet, I haven't kept the package
When I was in school, the diversity of fountain pens available was a lot smaller than today. So these fountain pens were the go-to pen, 99% of my colleagues were using it. Wing Sung, Hero and other similar Chinese brands that were imitating the Parker fountain pen. The only diversity came from their colors.
Every time I pick it in hand it amazes me how good the fountain pen writes. You do not have high expectations for a cheap old Chinese fountain pen. But this is proof you can spend less than 5 $ and get a great writer that will last you for a very long time.
I would say in terms of economics this fountain pen can rival any cheap ballpoint on the market in the long run.

But in the end, I have to give credit where credit is due. It is a cheap fountain pen that can last a lifetime, that writes good, it puts down a steady wet line, no skips, no hard starts.
I have found a lot of reviews of Chinese fountain pens where people say that the Chinese are learning to make better fountain pens, that can write smooth at an accessible price.
I would like to say that they were making them a long time ago.
So wonder no more, just a few dollars can get you a fountain pen that will last you for a lifetime. It is incredible how accessible these fountain pens are.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Bic participates in Tour de France

 It was very nice to find out that BIC the well known stationary producer is part of the Tour de France since 1952
Then and now

Thursday, August 1, 2019

A Tour de France Opinel or two

After this special tour, and the stages in Savignon I just had to buy a new Opinel knife. On the last day of the Tour, I made a visit to Decathlon and got the t
raditional No7 Opinel with a Carbone blade.
First thoughts about the new Opinel are similar to the ones I had with the No8 I already own. Even though back then I didn't think I would buy a second one, here I am.
The first impression is a bit discouraging, it is hard to open the blade and rotate the locking ring. But now I know it's limitations and what is good for, and I am not as harsh with it. It is a 100 year design so it is normal to have some limitations. So with the confidence gathered from the previous Opinel, I started tinkering with it and broke it, as I didn't take notice that Opinel had changed the design of the locking ring. Now it only locks clockwise and the new ring has a slot in which it turns.

The nice part about the Carbone is that the blade came very sharp out of the package, while the stainless needed a lot of sharpening.
Even though the blade is shorter with only one centimeter the feel in hand is totally different. The knife is not only shorter but thinner. It is more suitable as an EDC knife and I like this size 7 a lot.
If you plan on doing food preparation I will still carry the number 8 as it is more versatile.

So I have 2 memories from this Tour, 1 damaged no 7 Opinel and a second no 7 Opinel that I didn't destroy yet. But for 7 $, or 6.3  is not a tragedy.


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tour de France souveniers


If you fancy Le Tour and stationary you can get this yellow pencil case from the official Tour de France webshop. Being the 100th Tour it is even more tempting.
You can keep in it pencils and fountain pens, or if it is not your cup of tea you can store your energy bars, rice cookies, and suncream.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Tour de France souveniers

The 100th tour just spent some time in the mountains and valleys of the region Savoie in France. A lot of things happened, even shortened stages due to meteo conditions, snow in July.
The entrance in the Savoie region happened with the climb on Col du Galibier, 2642 m. From the end of the 18th stage until the 20th stage Le Tour visits very beautiful places and hard climbs: Col de l'Iseran, Val Thorens.
Col du Galibier: Lenght 18 km/ height 2642 m/ gradient 7%/ total elevation gained 1245 m
Col de l'Iseran: Length 16 km/ height 2764 m/ gradient 5.9%/ total elevation gained 950 m
Val Thorens: Length 36,5 km/ height  2233 m/ gradient 4.9%/ total elevation gained 1906 m

So why not get a souvenir from Savoie, from the well-known knifemaker Opinel.
An engraved Opinel for 24$
or a distinctive shirt color Opinel (yellow, polka dot or green)