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.

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.

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:

T-Dagger blue switches

Dell KB1421 membrane

Laptop Dell Latitude













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