Saturday, December 24, 2022

Daco fountain pen (writig set or solo fountain pen)

This is not a known brand, but it is one of the no name that are available around where I live. The most common, the DACO products, are available as gift packs with a ballpoint pen and a fountain pen. They offer low cost products that look decent, usually metal construction, and can make a good gift that does not cost an arm and a leg. Probably for the most people who are not big into fountain pens, a heavier pen might be associated with a quality one, made out of good materials. And because we are right around the time of the year when Santa is doing his thing, I am going to share my thoughts on this kind of giftable writing sets that usually come with a fountain pen and a ballpoint. (not an actual gift from Santa).

The price range for a DACO pen is around 10 - 25 euro, which is not a lot but at the same time the upper models get in the same price range as more known brands, like Pilot or Faber Castell.

I do not know the name of this model and I do not think it would be very relevant, it was part of a set with a mechanical pencil and a ballpoint pen. It is more a review of how does a pen like this holds up to a more reputable brand.

The fountain pen as I mentioned is all metal construction. It feels nice in hand, not too heavy, not too light. The body is a dark gray / olive that looks classic and nice. The metal cap has a couple of rings on it to break the monotony of the shiny metal. The first place where you can tell this is a budget pen is the clip, which is not that great. Once you pop off the snap cap, you can see underneath the tip of the clip the name is branded. It is not that visible. 
Once you remove the cap, you are greeted by a decorated fine nib and a shiny metal grip section that has the same couple of circles for a more interesting design and for better grip. The grip is not that bad, taking into account the section is made out of shiny metal. What I am not fond about is the small diameter of the section. It is not the easiest to get along with if you plan to write more than a page.
At the opposite end, the body has a shiny plain metal finial that is well integrated in the overall design of the pen.
The threads on the body are well-made. The pen takes international cartridges, long or short, which is convenient. Especially for people who are not that deep in the fountain pen hobby. Changing the cartridge when you are out of ink is a great, hassle free operation. The cartridges are widely available. And if you want, you can always get a converter for the pen and use bottled inks

For testing purpose, I used Pelikan 4001 black ink. It is a quick drying ink. The pen lays a fine and dry line. But it does write nicely. It doesn't need pressure and there is almost no feedback. On standard paper you can feel a hint of feedback, but on a quality paper the pen glides effortless. I would say this particular model is smoother than my Faber Castell Loom or the Metropolitan.
Even though this pen writes really well, I don't know if this applies to all their pens, or it is a wheel of fortune. I can imagine that producers like this one don't have the same quality control in place as bigger brands.

For a casual writer, a drier pen is great, as it means you can use it on any kind of surface.

If you want to gift someone a writing or a fountain pen like this, I think it will be fine, especially if the person you are giving it is not an enthusiast. The pen writes well out of the box, no intervention on the nib is required, the materials are of good quality and for most people a metal pen might scream quality opposed to a plastic/acrylic pen which will just feel plastic. The fine nib is great, as the pen can be used in any scenario, even in a regular office where quality paper is rarer than a pink unicorn.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Faber Castell 1112 HB pencil

The Faber Castell 1112 HB is a classic looking wooden pencil perfect for taking notes and writing. It is what most people would expect from an affordable wooden pencil. 

It is 18.5 cm in length, the body is hexagonal, painted black and at the end it has a white eraser hold in place by a yellow faded gold trim that gives it some contrast.

On the black body with silver letters it is written the model number followed by the lead hardness which are printed along with the Faber Castell logo and name.

The first thing I noticed when picking this particular pencil in my hand was the warped body, which I don't think is supposed to be a feature. I do not know how common this is, but it makes me feel that the quality of the pencil is not quite top of the market. It does not affect the writing, in any way, though.

 The lead of this model is HB. I would say it is a softer/darker lead than I had expected from it. Being a lower cost model, I expected the lead to be harder, and more scratchy, but it is a decent writer. I would say in comparison with Faber Castell Grip it is not as smooth, and possibly it is a fraction darker. Over all, I would say it writes good enough for most.

The writing doesn't smudge when you drag your hand or fingers over the page. It also erases well from the page, the first test is a light single pass over the hatching. The last test row is testing the residue left on the page after a firmer pass of the eraser. Compared with the Faber Castell Grip it is just as good.

The wood is soft and can be easily sharpened.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Parker Jotter in Matrix Resurection

One of the most famous and loved movie franchise, The Matrix offered us at the end of December 2021, after a long break the latest movie in the series Matrix Resurrection.

In a picturesque scene, Neo (Keanu Reeves) and The Analyst (Neil Patrick) seem to have a therapy session where Neo tells his dreams to The Analyst.

During the discussion, The Analyst takes notes using a Parker Jotter ball point with gold top and black or very dark blue barrel.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Metal mechanical pencil AMP37202 from Aliexpres

Recently I tested a few fountain pens that I bought on AliExpress, and now I went for an all-metal mechanical pencil. The pencil I am testing doesn't seem to have a name beside AMP37202. It isn't the catchiest name out there, for sure. On AliExpress, you can find it if you search for metal mechanical pencil. The pencil cost me $3.65 including shipping, and I chose the metal gray color 0.7 mm lead thickness. You can also find it in black, green, ivory, salmon, white in all sizes from 0.3 mm to 0.9 mm.

The appearance

The pencil has quite a nice look, and it has an all-metal body, which I think is made out of aluminum. At first glance, the pencil punches way above its price level, having a clean design, solid construction, knurled grip and nice colors.

The pencil has quite a pointy tip that would make it good for drafting. It has a sliding sleeve that works. The grip of the pencil is knurled, but not too deeply. It isn’t extra grippy. But it looks very nice with the 5 parallel rings that offer the pen a premium look.

The barrel is hexagonal and on the side it has a big sticker with a bar code lead thickness and model number. The clip is metal and very sturdy. On the part that connects to the body, it has a cutout that shows lead size, 0.7 mm.

The barrel seems to be made from one piece of metal and the tip is screwed on the mechanism. Even though the pencil looks nice, I have the feeling that the proportions of the parts are a bit off. The grip seems very long and in comparison, the body seems a bit short. So does the clip, which can be annoying in hand. If you grip the pencil close to the tip, the clip rubs on my hand quite a bit.

The cap is flared to the connecting and seems to be a bit loose. It doesn’t go over the mechanism too deeply, and I believe there is a high chance that it will get lost sooner rather than later. Under the cap there is an eraser.

The lead advance clutch mechanism is made out of brass, while the internal barrel that holds the leads is just plastic.

How does it perform?

 The pencil sits very well in the hand as it has a long knurled grip section. Having such a long grip section gives you a lot of hand positions, allowing to have a close to the tip grip or a further back one.

The lead advancing mechanism feels snappy and secure, but also has a faint feel of friction.
10 clicks will give just over 8 mm of lead.

End to end, the pencil measures 146, and the diameter is 9 mm.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

How many leads should you keep in a mechanical pencil

How many leads should I store in my mechanical pencil, is a question that I ask myself regularly. Well maybe not as often, or not at all, but why not find out.

Depending, from where you get your information, you will find out that you can store as many leads as you want or there is a strict number that you should put in two or three pieces at most.

The main worry with keeping more leads inside the pencil is that the leads will break and produce fine dust which will clog the pencil eventually, the mechanism will jam, or the leads will be unusable due to breakage.

Rotring in the product care states that you should refill with two or three leads. "We recommend refilling your pencil with 3 fine leads. It’s the best balance for longer use without creating too much dust inside the tube due to an overload of refills."

Staedtler for example, doesn't mention the number of leads that you should keep inside your pencil, but the refill is designed to dump the entire content in one go. "Simple “12-a-go" refilling for many Staedtler mechanical pencils such as Mars micro 775 and graphite 779"

I do believe that the producers of pencils are taking all the needed precautions in advising you to keep just a few leads inside.

At the same time, I have a feeling that the leads have improved a lot over the years. The resistance is a lot better, while the quality of the writing (line darkness and smoothness) remained the same if not improved over time. A good argument for my opinion is the lack of the needle that used to be present in all mechanical pencil erasers, used to clear clogs in the advance mechanism,. Nowadays, the needle is missing basically from all modern mechanical pencils. Some producers still keep it around, but it is more and more a rarity.

To see if the recommendations are still valid today, I will do a test for a 4 week with two Rotring Tikky III 0.5. One of them will be loaded with 3 leads (1 in the chamber ready to write and 2 loose in the barrel), while the second one will carry an entire refill,12 leads. I will carry around both pencils and use them in rotation, trying to keep it as impartial as possible.

From the beginning I can feel the mass of leads slushing around in the pencil which holds an entire refill pack, and defiantly they create more noise and commotion compared with the 3 leads pencil.

I feel like I am a master of the mechanical pencil, like badass movie characters that know the difference between an empty gun and a fully loaded gun (Lian Neeson Taken reference)

Ant the results are in...

So from what you can see, the leads came out just fine from both pencils. None of them broke, and no dust came out of the barrel (white paper test). In conclusion, I wouldn't care too much of how many leads there are in a pencil, as this non-scientific tests seems to point that even a big number of leads will do just fine in day to day scenario, stored inside your favorite pencil. Generally, it is a good idea to keep a few extra leads on hand, or in this case in the pencil, so that you don't have to worry about longer writing sessions.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Graphgear 500 used by Gerard Butler in the movie Greenland

In the movie Greenland starring Gerard Butler, right in the starting scene you can see a glimpse of a GraphGear 500 used for a brief moment by the star of the movie.

The movie starts with John Garrity (Gerard Butler) as an engineer on a construction site looking over some designs and taking some notes with a Pentel GraphGear 500 mechanical pencil. It is a disaster movie, a comet is going to hit earth and, and a few selected people are notified to go to a shelter.

This is the first and last time the pencil appears in the movie, but I am sure the pencil survived the comet and is still working today.

In the rest of the movie, you can see the trip to the shelter and all the misfortunes that happen on the way.

I do not know if the crew chose with a reason the Graphgear 500 over its bigger brother 1000 (braking issues) or it was just what they had lying around. Either way I think this is a solid choice, in case of a disaster, to have such a good mechanical pencil.

Monday, June 6, 2022

GShock GA810 MMA long term review

GShock GA810 MMA, GA800 (metallic watch gshock)

My view on the Gshock GA800 / GA810

This is my review of the G-Shock GA800 (810), after a period of 4 years of intense use of the watch.
Before getting the watch, I didn't think too much about it. GShocks are big and useless, right?! Who needs a watch that can survive a drop of a few meters and withstand 200 meters of submersion underwater? I was skeptical that any of these features are meaningful characteristics because I considered them just a bunch of check boxes that Casio has put on the data sheet. The watch has this and that, but I will not use it, and probably most people won't. I am not a diver, and I don’t intend to drop it from the top of the building.
After two years with the watch, I think I get it. The watch definitely has more features in terms of resistance than most people will need. And this makes it bulky, plastic, basically a grownup's toy. On top of the look, the big list of can dos gives the user confidence. You forget the watch is on your wrist, and not just because it is very light. It most likely has to do with the fact that the watch will probably outlive you, so there is no need to worry about going in the pool with it on your wrist. The watch has a unique look, people associate similar styled watches with Gshoks. Even non watch people, at least heard about them. Gshocks can be a fashion statement, or can be whatever you want it to be. It can take the abuse without complaining too much, it can look cool and trendy with see through cases and bands...

So this model in particular the GA 800 (my version is 810 MMA, which has a shiny metallic dial instead of the resin one), has been with me for almost 4 years now. At first, I was consciences about the bold looks, the size and the fact it was making it awkward to put on or take off a jacket, but after some time with it, I realized I keep reaching for it every time I get out of the house. It managed to charm me in this time, to the point that I want more Gshocks.

The watch shares its case with the GBA-800 and GBD-800.

The GA800 (810) is an analog watch with 5 pushers (one dedicated light button on the face of the watch), The module is one of the “smarter” ones. The hands will adjust to the digital time (older Casio's didn’t have this feature, you would have to adjust the digital time and separately adjust the hands to match the digital time).
Another nice feature of the watch is by pressing the C and Light button simultaneous, to move the hands in a position in which the digital display is visible. It can be very useful as the hands on the GA800 are quite bulky and can cover most of the digital display.

What is the GA800 specialty?

The main feature of this model is the stopwatch, which can be easily accessed by pressing D button in home screen. Once pressed, the stopwatch starts instantly. It also has the ability to record lap time. The recall function shows you the date of the timing and the laps recorded.
The stopwatch is 24 hours. It also offers the ability to recall on the times (laps). You can scroll through the memory of the saved laps. The watch will display the date on which the laps were recorded.
Only a 99 minute timer though, which is a pity, the standard 5 alarms and a simple dual time feature.

The battery lasts about 3 years, which is just ok.

The hands have a bit of luminous paint on them, but it is not very durable in traditional Casio fashion. The marking on the dial do not have luminous paint applied to them. I do not consider this a problem, as the watch has a backlight that can do the job well.

The light on the watch is good and compared to other models you both the analog and the digital display are illuminated. It uses a LED placed under the 9 o'clock marker and backlighting on the digital display. It has an auto-light function that can be turned on by holding the light button for a few seconds (I do not use it). You can also set the duration of the light at 1 or 3 seconds. This could be another decisive feature for you, not all Gshocks illuminate both the analog and the digital displays.

Like any other GShock it is robust, bulky, covered in black resin and too big for most of the wrists out there.
The GA-800 is one of the few G-Shock that features second-hand. Right off the bat, if you're looking for a G-Shock with seconds hand, you can pick up the GA800 or 810, and you won't be disappointed.
It's an affordable model that offers just the basics, it doesn't have atomic timekeeping or solar power, or anything fancy, but it has the seconds hand :). It is a bit weird bragging with the fact that you have a watch with a seconds hand, but it is what it is.

My version as I mentioned is the GA810, which has a metallic silver dial with metallic hands, and a small negative display. The analog face of the watch and the negative digital display are not the best in terms of visibility, I think the basic standard model GA-800-1AJF does a better job. But I like the fact the metallic face makes it a bit less plastic. It is a better rounded watch in my eyes.
The writing on the dial is very unobtrusive, also on the resin case, you can see it only if the light hits it in a certain way.

The negative display at the bottom of the dial is small, and the visibility is not great. In good lighting you can see it clear and that is about it. I like the watch has a dedicated light button, and it doesn't share one of the standard buttons. It is more accessible and easier to press.

The digital display on the main screen shows either the day/date or the hour in digital format. To switch between the two, press the A button.

Why do I like it?

It is very comfortable on hand, light, I have all the features I need on it, and it gives me more confidence, knowing that my watch is more capable than me. I don’t shy away from activities and labor with the watch on my wrist. At the beginning I saw it more as a sports watch, outdoor watch. Now I just wear it almost anywhere. Plus it looks nice on my wrist even though it is a bit big for it.
It is a very accurate watch, my model gains about 3-4 seconds per month.
I like the fact it can show two different time zones at a glance. The analog hands plus the digital display set on dual time.

What would I change about it?

I would like a longer lasting battery in the watch, it takes a CR2016 which lasts about 3 years.
A second neat pick is the digital display which is a bit small for my eyes to see it clearly especially if the lighting is not the best (being inverted, black background with white lettering doesn’t help either)
Module wise, I would like it to have a world time instead of dual time. But Casio usually puts just a feature on these low end models, on the GA800 is the lap timer that can be accessed super fast from the home screen by pressing the C button.
Small pet peeves is the luminous paint, only applied on the hands and not on the markers, plus the quality of the paint is not the best. This is not a real issue because the watch has its own illumination system, which is actually good. I would put this in the category nice to have. (Seiko, Orient, even Lorus has very good luminous paint applied generously on watches that have a low price tag)
Another feature that I am not that fond of, but for many it might be a plus, is the fact that the back of the watch is held in place by 4 screws instead of a threaded back case. I feel that I am going to strip the holes when I have to open the watch to replace the battery (the case is resin after all and the screws are metal). Not all people might consider this a negative, just because it is more common to have a small Philips head screwdriver lying around in your home, or you can easily find it at the store near you, rather than having a specialized watchmakers tool to open watches back cases.

Would I recommend the watch?

Yes I would. I like the fact it has a traditional 3 hands. There are other models, but usually you will find the 3rd hand on the expensive masters only.
It gets a lot of attention from other, especially from non watch people.

Is it too big?

My wrist is about 16.5 cm in circumference, and the watch is 54.1 x 48.6 x15.5 mm. It looks big on my wrist, and it is big. It is difficult to get a coat cuff over it. But it is supposed to be this way, to be bold and tough looking. I’ve tried smaller Gshock and I can’t say they look better. Even though I prefer smaller watches in general, and I am against the dying trend of wearing oversized watches with G Shocks I am making an exception

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Computer keyboards

Related to writing instruments but in a different category, typing is the most common method of writing for most people. So in a way, keyboards are part of the writing instruments we use on a daily basis. My first experience with a keyboard was with a vintage mechanical Compaq leaf spring. At that time membrane keyboards were everywhere on the market and for me were much cooler looking (mine was an old, big and noisy hunk of metal and plastic), some of them had multimedia keys or even short travel. So I put the keyboard in a bin and went out and bought the first of a series of crap membrane keyboards.

Recently seeing a surge in mechanical keyboard popularity I made the leap back to the mechanical side and bought a mechanical keyboard, the cheapest I could find, as I was unsure if it will be something that I will appreciate or even enjoy using. I was also skeptical about the noise mechanical keyboards make. Apparently after a certain age you are not as sensible to loud noises :), so I have to say I like it very much, even though it is a blue switch keyboard which is known for making lots of noise. Also, the board itself being a cheap one is hollow and amplifies the noises generated by the clicks and the keys bottoming out, and resonates a bin, "ping" which is a bit distracting. It is especially true for when I keep the feet up, and is less noticeable if the entire back is on the table and I put something between the table and the keyboard.

After using it for some time, I realized what crap of a keyboard I am working with every day. So I took it to work. I have to say, my colleagues were not so impressed by the clicks the keyboard makes, even though I took the time to explain how much cooler mechanical keyboards are and how better they feel to the fingers. So, long story short, I took it back home and went back to the membrane keyboard I was using until that point, because the blue switches were a bit overwhelming for an office environment. 

Because the feel of a rubber dome is so different* from a mechanical keyboard, I was curious if this makes any kind of impact in my typing ability.

Do mechanical keyboards have an effect on your typing speed?

* Many people refer to mechanical keyboards being mushy. It is hard to describe in words but, a rubber dome is like pressing on a sponge, while a mechanical keyboard has a very crisp feel, and you can feel the end of the travel very abruptly. Also, a blue or brown switch as a distinctive bump when the key registers (before bottoming out), and offers a very crisp sensation when the button hits the tactile bump and when it bottoms out.

I tested my typing speed on the following setups:

T-Dagger Bermuda blue switch mechanical keyboard / Rubber dome keyboard Dell KB1421 / Dell Laptop Latitude series 5501

I did 12 typing tests with all the aforementioned keyboards, and taking out from the average the slowest and fastest session. I did the testing using, top 200 English words. 

 The detailed results are:

I am accustomed to all the keyboards, and type of them almost daily. At this speed, I would be cataloged as an average or just above average typist. Of course, the "real" typing speed varies based on the complexity of the text, how familiar you are with the language you are typing in, the length of the text etc.

As you can see in the typing speed on all keyboards is rather similar, the mechanical having the highest average typing speed and the top typing speed (70 words per minute / 76 words per minute), followed closely by the membrane with an average of 69 WPM and a top speed of 75. Last place goes to the laptop switch keyboard that only offered me an average speed of 67 WPM and a max of 70 WPM.

Even though the speed doesn't vary much between keyboards, the typing feel and colleague's liking (or better said disliking) might.
To better explain this, I made this graph, where the vertical axis represents the satisfaction factor and on the horizontal axis the keyboards types are enumerated.


If you do not value being liked or having friends for that matter, you should go and buy a mechanical keyboard. For the rest of you, just keep using the keyboard you have, as it doesn't make much of a difference for most of you.

Monday, May 16, 2022

New colors for the Rotring 500 and 600 in 2022

Rotring now offers the infamous Rotring 600 and Rotring 500 mechanical pencils in new colors. The Rotring 600 featured on the cover of the catalog is now available also in: white, gold, and rose gold. I think the white one especially stands out with a very clean and professional look.

The Rotring 600 3 in 1 has received 2 new colors, the royal blue and the dark green. Until now it could be purchased in black and silver.

Rotring hasn't forgotten about the little brother, the 500 which was available only in black. Now it can be purchased in pink, royal blue, and dark green. Compared to the 600 the 500 still keeps the grip section, the clip, the lead hardness indicator and cap in the standard back color. Probably a cost saving decision, to keep the pencil affordable. Even so, the pencil looks rather nice, I especially am intrigued by the green / black version.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Faber Castell Grip 2001 pencil

This Faber Castell Grip 2001 pencil is part of a range of products that Faber Castell has put on the market under the Grip name. The characteristic of the pencil are the doted patches of rubber that offer comport and "grip" to the user. The pencil is on the higher side of pricing, being a step up from the competition's classical pencils. It has a triangular shape that is great for comfort, it has a cool metal gray color and dotted black grip patches as implied by the name. At the top it has a black eraser which gives the entire pencil a very slick and modern look, at least in the one I have, because the pencil can be found without an eraser.

It has a unique look and feel that I enjoy. The pencil is made in Germany and has a very premium feel when you pick it up. I've got the HB version, which corresponds to the US 2 1/2. The pencil comes sharpened and has a very nice pointy tip. It has a total length from tip to eraser of 18.5.

The cost of a pencil without the eraser is about 0.7 - 0.8 Eur while the eraser version comes just above the 1.1 Eur mark (0.76 - 1.2 USD).

The Faber Castell website, states that they produce over 2 billion pencils per year, and are taking great care of the woods used to produce these pencils and the labor workforce involved in their operations, and 82% of the energy used is from renewable sources. So let's take into account information like this when buying a pencil.

How does the Faber Castell Grip 2001 performs?

In the end the most important is how the pencil writes, how does it feel when the lead hits the paper.

The pencil writes well, it has a bit of a harder composition that you can feel while writing with it. It offers a bit of feedback, it is not as smooth as a mechanical pencil lead, for example. Because it is a harder, it saves you from resharpening it very often, in retaining the tip quite well. At the same time, it is not producing the darkest line possible. Compared with a generic pencil it did better, and compared with the mechanical pencil leads from Rotring it produced a similar line.

In the smudge test it performed very well, it was almost smudge free which is great.

The pencil erases just fine, and with a single pass over the writing, the result was satisfactory. Usually the attached eraser is not on par with standard erasers, and this is no exception. The quality makes it ok for when you are in a pickle, but a block eraser will offer much nicer results.

In the end the pencil performed well, it will offer better results compared with a generic brand, but it will not

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