Thursday, December 16, 2021

Which are the best pencils?

According to the Wirecutter, the best pencils for writing and schoolwork are:

1) Palomino Golden Bear
2) Dixon Ticonderoga
3) Palomino Blackwing 602
honorable mention Faber-Castell Grip Graphite Eco pencil with eraser

I have to disagree with the author of the article right from the start. No doubt the pencils are great, and appreciated by many people, but saying the best pencil for writing and schoolwork is Palomino, Dixon or other brand is not true.

For writing, people will appreciate a no fuss approach. A pencil that needs sharpening on a regular basis, doesn't have a constant line width, makes a mess on your desk is far from being the best. In this regard any decent mechanical pencil will offer you a better experience to any of the pencils above. The lead advances at a push of a button, shake or automatic. There is no need for sharpening ever, because of this you don't have to carry a sharpener with you. Any mechanical pencil can store a multitude of leads inside, so you do not run out. You can swap the leads with different hardness ones. There are several widths available, from ultra-thin to normal tip size. In general, wooden pencils have a worse grip than their mechanical counterparts. Choose a mechanical pencil that suits you and is comfortable in your hand, and it will remain that way after writing with it, as the length of the pencil will stay the same virtually forever.

Saying that the best pencil for schoolwork and writing is a wooden pencil is the same as saying the best watch for timekeeping is a mechanical watch (insert brand name here). A $20 Casio will be a better watch in regard of timekeeping, or for that matter a cheaper no name digital watch will do a better job keeping time compared with watches that cost thousands of dollars.

I am not saying that wooden pencils or mechanical watches for that matter don't have a place in this world. Many like them, including myself, but I wouldn't go around saying that they are the best for writing or timekeeping. There are other reasons to praise these products and to appreciate them, the craftsmanship used in producing them, the quality, the feeling you get while using them. In some cases, these things are works of art.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Loop pencil

I came across a modular pencil, called Loop, that reduces waste and extends the life of your stationary on Yanko Design.

When the pencil becomes short, instead of throwing it away and contributing to waste, pollution etc you can use one of these modular designs where you get an extension in different forms, being a cylinder, cap looking, eraser etc.

The design looks rather well. It is a good mix of cool and modern without being extra serious or goofy. I have to say that I like the presentation and the available accessories. You can get a stand for the pencil or a pencil "splitter" (I do not know how to call it)

Others do better in waste management, for example a mechanical or a clutch pencil offers all the benefits with none of the drawbacks of the conventional pencil. So solving a problem that doesn't really need solving is more like an imagination and design challenge than an actual solution. Trees still need to be cut to produce the pencil.

When I see this modular design my mind goes directly to primary school, when modular pencils (of course not of this caliber, all made of plastic, and were horrible for the environment), were in high fashion among the students. The pencils usually had a plastic transparent or translucent barrel and inside there were several very sharp leads held in plastic. And when the lead would dull, you would just pull it out and put it at the back of the pencil.

If you can't imagine it, here is a picture I managed to find online.

I am not so old that clutch or mechanical pencils didn't exist back then but for the kids it was a  novelty and an interesting pencil to dress your pencil holder with

Others have addressed this problem as well, like Faber Castell. They have a pencil extender which can be used as a cap, so you don't damage the pocket or break the lead, if you carry your pencils in this manner. And it also works as a sharpener.

I would say it brings more functionality to the table, but it doesn't have this cool looking design and color scheme. It is less friendly looking and more sober. But what it lacks in the design, it makes up in functionality.

Or you can find many pencil extender designs online


Thursday, November 25, 2021

Parker Jotter and Bic in series To The Lake on Netflix

A good series, full of suspense from Netflix, To The Lake, has a few shots of the characters writing in journals or taking a few notes. The go-to ball points as always are the Parker Jotter and Bic ballpoint.

Starting with the Bic, it makes its appearance in an old Russian ambulance

Unfortunately, things end pretty badly for the crew. Not because of their ballpoint choice, I might add.

Second appearance is the Parker Jotter, used for a little bit of journaling.

It seems to be a standard version with plastic barrel, nothing fancy, but a reliable writer.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Jinhao 992 fountain pen

The third in the bunch of AliExpress fountain pen purchases bought for $2.8 is the Jinhao 992 fountain pen. I used the fountain pen for some time now, and I am going to share my experience with it.

The Jinhao 992 fountain pen has a classic and clean look to it. It resembles Sailor and Monteverde fountain pens, but I wouldn't call it a copy, maybe inspired. Also, the design is so classic that you will find parts of this in many other pens.

The Jinhao 992 fountain pen is made completely out of plastic and comes in a bunch of solid colors, translucent or transparent. So, there are a lot of options to suit everyone's taste. For me, the classic black with silver trim was the nicest and classiest looking, so I went with it. I enjoy the look of the fountain pen and the feel in hand, but this is not quite the hole story.

It comes with a fine nib, which is on the small side, as is the entire fountain pent. It has some graphics on it, and it has Jinhao and F are also present. The 992 didn't come with the smoothest nib. It doesn't scratch the paper, it just has more feedback than I would expect from a fountain pen. The flow of the ink is what you would expect from a Chinese fine nib. Fast writing is not an issue with the pen, even though it is not a wet nib. It keeps up with no problem. It is a perfect writer on regular paper, it doesn't feather or bleed trough. Upside down writing is scratchy and extremely dry. It's not a thing that this fountain pen is really able to do it, which is a bit odd for a Chinese fountain pen.

The cap is a screw on, and it takes just a hair over one revolution to take it off. It comes with a strong clip and a trim at the point where the cap screws on the barrel. The trim has the name Jinhao on it and that is about it. There is nothing fancy about it, no motifs or shapes on it. I think the reason for this trim beside the visual aspect is the longevity of the cap. The plastic from which the fountain pen is made doesn't inspire much confidence, and I think it is easy to crack it if you tighten the cap or the barrel a bit too much. Adding a metal ring I think prevents this to happen, as it offers some extra rigidity to the plastic.

The barrel has a small cylindrical end, nothing fancy here. 

The fountain pen is rather small, and for long writing sessions is not the most comfortable. You can post the cap securely on the back of the fountain pen to make it a more suitable writer for longer sessions. I usually write without posting the cap, but because the pen is small, thin and very light I use it with the cap posted if I take more than just a few quick jots. The cap has a good airtightness, as the fountain pen sat on my desk for a few weeks without being used and started with no skips when I picked it up to write with it.

The Jinhao 992 was supplied with a converter. And if you take into account that it cost $2.8 shipped, you will see that the shortcomings of the fountain pen are not that bad. It might not last a lifetime, but for what you pay you will get a decent writer.

The addition of a converter is nice, but mine at least is not a very good performer. The ink doesn’t flow liberally inside, and often air pockets are created due to the capillarity effect. Adding something to agitate the ink inside the converter would improve its function a lot. You can add it yourself or just swap it with an international standard cartridge. The Jinhao can't be used with long international cartridges as they do not fit inside.

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