Thursday, July 13, 2017

Copy cats

I never thought that I will see pencil rip offs but it seems that there are quite a lot on the market.
I am trying to understand this market. What is the reason, well you get the same look a lower price. There are expensive products for which it makes sense to me to make a copy but why would you copy the design of a 3 - 4$ product? Could it be that they are just lazy?

Here are a few of the culprits

Rotring Tikky III vs Daco:

Between the two the differences are minor. The lack of the red ring and a grip that is more rhomboid shaped is all the visual difference Daco made to the visual aspect of the Rotring Tikky III

Rotring 600 vs Daco Metalix:

and again Rotring vs Daco, red vs black.

Pentel P205 vs Forpus Aztec vs Bic Criterium

or maybe Bic Criterium, ish. The cap is missing, Bic uses an eraser that looks similar to the Faber Castell 1345, so this is a mixed cat.

Pilot H327 vs Ico

With shame, I have to say this one I actually own. This 0.5 $ mechanical pencil made me think about this post.

If you have other copy cats in mind let me know in the comments.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Paul" sketch with Pentel Graphgear 500

pentel graphgear 500 in movie Paul

A new mechanical pencil spot in the movie "Paul". An older movie with Simon Peg where Graeme Willy (played by Simon) is trying to help the alien with the name Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) to escape from earth.
While in the RV, Willy is drawing a sketch of Paul, using a mechanical pencil.
Even though the image is not very clear I think it is safe to say that Willy is using a Pentel Graphgear 500

Not very clear but if you zoom enough you see that the cap and clip are metal while the barrel is not. Also at very close inspection the clip attaches to the barrel leaving a small gap in the back

The tip is "technical" with long sleeve and a knurled grip

This last picture is where you can see the entire pencil. Again with high magnification, it is more clear that the mechanical pencil used by Simon Pegg is a Pentel.
It seems that Pentel's are pretty used in movies (see the Doctor Who seen on screen post)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Port Royal board game

port royal card game luck fun party game
As you could see from the recent posts, board games are receiving more interest from me. Just before Christmas I bought the game, a great period for having family/friends over, eat snacks and a looot of food, drink soda and everything alcoholic and have some fun.
I was in doubt if I should purchase this game, as it did not appear to be very fun or addictive from the game plays I found on youtube. I bought it as it got good reviews from everybody and high scores.
After buying it and playing a few rounds of the game I have to say it is a great card game. A lot of fun. Even those that were very skeptic at the beginning, after just a round, the Russian roulette style card turning game offered instant fun and thrills.
Let's play just one more round. In conclusion, everyone had a lot of fun playing the game.

The game is a bunch of cards with different icons characters or ships. At the same time, the cards have two rolls when they are face up they are used according to the picture on them when face down they are used as gold coins. The goal is to gather victory points either by completing quests or by collecting character cards that have victory points.
I recommend this game even after half a year since I own it. It is an easy fun game for everybody.

Related posts:
1. Secret Hitler board game DIY (a game that you can print at home and have a lot of fun, "mafia style game")
2. Party games, cheap and fun (3 short and fun games, 2 can be played with a standard deck of cards, the third dice rolling game)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mechanical pencil lead

When I buy lead for my mechanical pencils I just get Rotring. Why? Because I am a Rotring fan and second because is widely available where I live. The most common brands are Rotring and Faber Castell. And because when it comes to products for me Rotring tops Faber Castell I just go with the first choice.
But I am curious what is the difference between products. I used in the old days other unknown brands, and the big difference that was very easy to see was the fact that cheaper brands offered brittle lead, that would break with a small amount of force.
So I am curious how will a lead produce or branded by a reputable company stand against a cheap no name.

So I rounded up HB and 2B lead that I have laying around.
Rotring HB, 2B
Faber Castell HB
Koh I Noor 2B
No name brands Micro 2B, Daco 2B, Turbo 2B

The first difference you see is the price. While Rotring, Faber Castell and UNI are priced similar at around 0.8 euro for pack of 12 x 60 mm leads, the no names are around 0.25 euro for a pack of 20 x 60 mm. Even though the value is negligible the price difference is high.
So what do you get for more money?
First and most important is consistency. The cheaper brands Mirco in particular was  CRAP. It managed to take a part out of my beloved Rotring Tikky III 0.5 mm. The thickness was larger and clogged the pencil. Luckily I have a Staedtler Mars Micro that comes with a metal pin for clearing jams. The jam was big that I needed pliers to push the lead out. While I managed to get rid of the jam I also got rid of a rubber ring that sits inside the sleeve that has the role of guiding and keeping the lead snug.
I have to say that I did not had any clogs in the last 10 years or so. Even Rotring removed the unclogging pin since the second iteration of the Rotring Tikky because things like this just don’t happen any more.

Ok let’s get passed this unpleasant experience.

First thing you look in a pencil is the line it puts down. How visible it is, how resistant to smudging is, and does it erase easy or it lets an ugly smudge.

The UNI HB lead offered a less darker line, while Rotring HB and 2B offered similar darkness line (but I felt the 2B to be smoother while writing).
Faber Castell HB was somewhere between the Rotring and the UNI. The Koh I Noor puts down the darkest line. All the no brand names offer decent to good lines.

In a smudging test several finger passes over the paper Rotring performed the worse, the line is almost gone, while surprisingly the 2B Koh I Noor offered the best result. Water smudging same result.
Eraser tests: Rotring Tikky, Faber Castell Dust Free, Faber Castell PVC Free, Stabilo Supereme
The leads did not put too much resistance to erasing. The best results: Rotring followed by Faber Castell and UNI. The worst Koh I Noor.

All the no name brands have brittle leads, that break more easily under pressure. But it should not be a big deal if you have a light hand.

The result for best everyday writing lead are
2 Faber Castell
3 Rotring

1 Koh I Noor
2 Rotring
3 No name brand Turbo

The best performing eraser
1 Faber Castell Dust Free - good eraser and not so much debree
2 Rotring Tikky
3 Stabilo Supreme

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Platinum Preppy, first fountain pen

platinum preppy 0.3 writing under 10 usd good fountain pen

The Preppy is my first fountain pen .. sort of. I had used fountain pens in the elementary school and I stopped using them as soon as I finished it. The use of a fountain pen was not a requirement in higher grades. I switched to a ballpoint without looking back.
I can say I was traumatized by the fountain pen in my early school years. Ok traumatized is a bit much but I did not like the constant need of refilling it, I always had dirty hands, the ink smudged, and many times drips of ink were in the cap because of the handling.
For some time I wanted to test a fountain pen, and after a bit of research, i went for the Platinum Preppy. It is a nice looking pen, demonstrator style. In the shops, most fountain pens are for kids but this one is great for everyone.
cheap and good fountain pen

The pen comes in a plastic bag, nothing fancy.
The first thing I did was to remove the writing from the barrel. I tried to use a rag and alcohol. It works but it is not easy, so I used the back of the Opinel blade. I managed not to scratch the plastic while removing the writing, but you need to be careful.
cheap good fountain pen preppy

Now instead of the ugly logo plus a ton of fine print, I can see the ink and the inside. I like the clear plastic look. It's modern, convenient as you can see if you are running low on ink plus it is not too flashy.
platinum preppy mod erase writing

The build quality is not one of the best. For example, the threads on the barrel are twice the size of the thread on the nib section. It fits well but you can see that some corners had been cut to save money.
The writing experience.
Since this is a new hobby it is hard to properly evaluate the performance. But I will say that the nib was a bit scratchy while moving it to the right. It put me off and I start messing with it. I tried realigning the tongs, then polished the nib on the back of a ceramic cup. It writes a lot smoother but wider and wetter. I like the result and I think there is still some work to be done.
Overall the fact you have to mess with it is not a big minus. There are a lot more expensive fountain pens that come with a substandard nib out of the box. 
This is an aspect of the fountain pen world that I do not like.
So I would say that for such a cheap pen and such a fine nib (0.3 mm) it is not a deal breaker.
I found out that I enjoy writing with a fountain pen. I wrote nonsense worth of 10 pages. Just for fun 😃 
Maybe I will try a conversion to an eyedropper.

Considering that I like using a fountain pen so much I will probably buy a better pen soon after all the Preppy served its purpose. I just wanted to see if I will use a fountain pen or I will stick to my old trusty mechanical pencils.

Friday, February 24, 2017

DIY Party game Telestration

DYI telestration fun drawing party game

This one is the bomb of party games. Why? Because it's hilarious.

What is Telestration?
It is a game that is a combination between telephone and illustration, so the name Telestration.
You draw, guess, draw guess and at the end of the round, you will find that laughing can be painful.

What do I need to play Telestration?
Because this is a DIY here is a list of things needed for the game.
First, you require a bunch of cards with things that you have to draw. The more abstract the definition, the more fun the game will be.
A good starting point is Cards Against Humanity (white cards). If you do not have the game, you can print the cards on standard paper and cut them. You can find the .pdf on the internet. Of course, you can add your own cards in or create your set of cards.
Second thing needed is paper, a notebook would be great. One for every person playing. If you really like the game and want to play over and over again, I suggest buying a whiteboard foil and making notebooks out of it, so you can reuse it every game. The cost of the whiteboard foil, markers, notebook on which to stick the foil, cutter, and other small things will be around $30 for 10 notebooks.
Third thing, you will need something to draw with

How do you play Telestration?
The more, the merrier. Everyone starts with a notebook and takes a card from the pack without showing it to anybody else. You start a timer for 1 minute, and everyone has to draw what is on the card, without using letters or numbers. Once the timer runs up, you sign the drawing and pass it to the left, or right for that matter, as it doesn't make a difference. The notebooks will travel in a circle, reaching each player. Just keep the same direction for the entire game. The player next to you will see your drawing, then will flip the page and will write what the drawing represents. At the same time, you will receive a notebook and will do the same thing, using the 1-minute timer for each of these rounds of drawing or guessing. Then the notebook is passed to the next player in line. The next player in line will only see the thing the previous person wrote, not the initial drawing, and will have to make a drawing based on the previous person guess. The notebooks are passed like this, each time the players will see only what the player before them wrote or drew, and each of these rounds will be timed, 1 minute. You will keep guessing and drawing until finally the notebook you started with will end up in your possession again.

Once you have your starting notebook, the game is over and each player tells the story of his notebook. Taking turns, players will reveal to the group the card they started with, and they based the drawing on and the evolution of the guessing and drawing.
This is the real fun part of the game, laughing and making fun of the drawings and guesses.

There are no losers to the game, only winners because everyone will have a great time.

Related posts:
1. Secred Hitler board game DIY (a game that you can print at home and have a lot of fun, "mafia-style game")
2. Party games, cheap and fun (3 short and fun games, 2 can be played with a standard deck of cards, the third dice rolling game)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pentel Energel on Doctor Who

doctor whoo pentel pen
Doctor Who Christmas Special 2016 - The return of Doctor Mysterio
I have just received a double treat this Christmas. I was eager to see the Doctor coming back on the screens. It was a long wait for all Doctor Who fans. And what a season start it was. Not only we were able to see Peter Capaldi doing a great job as the Doctor Mysterio, but Pentel Energel appeared on the screen as well.
In the episode, the return of the Doctor Mysterio, the 2016 Christmas Doctor Who Special, the Doctor makes a superhero by mistake. A Superman.
Grant a small boy ingests by mistake a gemstone given by the Doctor and becomes G, from Ghost. Of course, every Superman has its Luis Lane, and this one is no exception. Well a version of her. A journalist that Grant loves in secret, Lucy Fletcher.

The journalist Lucy Fletcher, played by Charity Wakefield, interrogates the doctor while holding a grey Pentel Energel
doctor who interrogation pentel

It is hard to see as the pen is not the main focus of the scene.

It seems that the Pentel is a popular pen, as it was spotted on an episode of Better Call Saul as well.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Party games, cheap and fun

Recently I have been interested in board games. I have posted a DIY very fun and addicting party deception game, Secret Hitler. But I wanted a shorter game, fun and on the cheap side or a DIY game.
I have found 3 great games, 2 of them are card games, Coup and Get bit. And the last of the 3 is a dice rolling game, Roll for it.
Of course, there are other great fun short card games, like Munchkin, Exploding kittens, Saboteur, and the list can go on.
But I was interested in finding a game that can be played with a standard deck of cards or do it yourself kind.


Coup is a poker like game with a lot of bluffing about the cards you have in your hands. The deck is composed of 15 cards 5 characters. Each character appears 3 times in the deck. I use an ace, jack, queen, king, and joker. Up to 6 players can play. If you would use a second deck, 10 12 players could play.
Each of the characters has an ability, but nothing stops you lying about what you hold in your hand.
The characters are
Assassin - Ace
Ambassador - Joker
Captain - Jack
Contessa - Queen
Duke - King

The characters have different abilities
The Assassin can assassinate a character
The Ambassador allows you to exchange the cards that you have in your hand
Capitan can steal 2 coins from another player
Duke can collect tax
The Ambassador and the Captain can block a steal
Contessa can block an assassinate
The Duke can block a foreign aid

Each player is dealt 2 cards, face down. Clockwise each player takes an action. If you get caught bluffing, get a card assassinated or are subject of a coup, you have to turn a card face up (the card is out of the game). When you lose both cards, you are out of the game. The winner is the player that still has a playing card. One more thing you need is coins. I use real ones as they are easy to find and cheaper than fake plastic ones :)
coup rules and actions
diy card game


Another fun game is Get Bit. The original game comes with a different color suit of cards, a plastic shark, and plastic robots that have detachable arms, legs and heads.
The concept is very simple. Each player puts a card face down on the table. The player that has the smallest number card is put last in line (closest to the shark) and the player with the highest number card gets to be the first in line. The players that are putting down the same number card do not move in line. The last robot in line gets bit by the shark and loses an arm or leg. When you have nothing more to lose you are out of the game. 
Because the traditional pack of cards does not come with a shark or robots, you will have to improvise.
Either get some Lego figures or use a pen and paper.

With a deck of cards, 4 players can play. If you have 2 different (non-similar) deck of cards up to 8 players would be able to play.
In a 5 player game, each one will receive 6 cards. (number of cards dealt is number of players + 1). If you do not have the figures you will deal an extra card to each player, for example, the king, which will be face up on the table, instead of the robots. You will use this card to establish which player is closest to the shark. 
When a robot is last and loses a part he will receive the previously played cards.
diy card game

Roll for it

This is a simple dice game. Each player receives 6 dice. On the table are put 3 cards containing numbers that you have to roll. Each card has 2 up to 6 dices on it that have to be matched with the rolled numbers. When you have completed the card you take it and another card is put on the table. Each of the cards has a score. When you reach 40 points you win the game

diy card game
Roll for it!

Get the feel of the games
To get a better feel of the games, you can look up some YouTube playing mechanics.
Or you can install the app. At least for Roll for it and Coup, the apps are free.

Remember, have fun!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Uni Kuru Toga mechanical pencil

I have been looking for this mechanical pencil for some time. I recently found it in a local shop and bought it for the equivalent of 2.21 € or 2.41 $.
The Uni Kuru Toga, by Mitsubishi Pencil Co, is a mechanical pencil with an engine inside, according to Mitsubishi. The Kuru Toga has a mechanism inside that rotates the lead when you write. This creates an even line without the need of spinning the pencil while you write for longer periods of time. You could say it is a pencil for lazy people. I would say it's an interesting innovation in the field of mechanical pencils.
Unfortunately, the shop only had 0.5 and 0.7 mm in this dark blue color (similar in color with the uni jetstream ballpoint), with a transparent grip and a dark gray "engine". I would have liked something more contrasting and more joyful.
The packaging was not something to brag about. Actually is putting the pen in a bad light. For the price of 2.21 €, the pencil came with a pack of 12 leads and another 6 inside the barrel. This is actually the starter pack in a not so nice way of presenting it.

kuru toga mechanical pencil

The reality was different. The mechanical pencil came with a case of HB leads, that was strapped to the pencil with tape. The package did not contain extra erasers. I guess this is the doing of the shop.

Anyway moving on..
kuru toga tip

The look of the pencil is interesting in my opinion. When I look at the tip and the transparent grip my mind makes me think of a Rotring roller. This is a good thing as I really like Rotring design. The barrel looks like the Uni Jetstream ballpoint. On the grip is written "kuru toga engine"
The clip is made of plastic and is kind of flimsy and it will probably snap really easy and really soon. On it, is written uni Kuru Toga 0.7
On the barrel, there is a sticker with the lead size, a picture that indicates that the lead rotates and a text that says "Revolving action keeps the lead Sharp!" The plastic from which the barrel is made does not inspire confidence in terms of durability.
Under the cap, there is a small white eraser. A weird design is the part where you load the leads. If you remove the eraser you will notice that the lead tank is slimmer (at least the part just under the eraser). So you can only load one lead at a time. A benefit is if you do not have the cap and the eraser on the leads will probably stay in, as you have to shake the pencil around to take out a lead from the barrel. This feature is just weird for me. I prefer to have easy access to the lead compartment.

The writing experience with the Kuru Toga is nice. The engine works for me. At first, I was skeptical as I imagine that the engine needs extra pressure to work, but it works in normal writing conditions. You can feel it working as the line remains constant without the need of rotating the pencil in hand if you write for longer, and you can see it spinning due to the transparent grip. The "engine" has a logo on it, so it is easy to see it spin. It actually spins fast, it needs around 20 pushes (touches of paper) to rotate the lead 360 degrees.
The only concern, for now, is the longevity of the mechanism (and maybe the color).
The grip has very small waves. It has a slippery feel to it but it sits just fine in the hand.

For other people, the pencil might not work. This is because of the way the pencil is designed. What do I mean? Well .. if the lead is pushed the "engine" turns the lead 1 step. To efficiently push the lead you need to have a grip that is closer to vertical, the less step the angle is between the writing surface and the pencil the higher the force needed to put the engine to work. If you hold the pencil at a smaller angle you have to exert high pressure which can be impractical.
I hold a writing instrument in hand the barrel of it rests on the index finger, giving a very high angle (around 70 degrees). So all of you who have "fountain pen hold" might be disappointed.

In other words, your mileage might vary.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Secret Hitler board game DIY

Autumn colors and cold rain is perfect for arts and crafts, a DIY weekend project. Actually more like afternoon project.
I found an interesting board game named Secret Hitler. It is similar to Mafia, but in this, you get playing cards and a board.
secret hitler board game diy
The game is played with 5 up to 10 players. There are 2 teams, fascists, and liberals. The point of the game for the fascists is to get Hitler chancellor or promote 6 fascists laws. The liberals to win have to promote 5 liberal laws or kill Hitler.
So the first thing is to download the game from the kikstarter site. (download)
The pdf with the playing cards is b&w, and you do not get the full deck of cards design. All of the fascist cards are the same as well as the liberal cards. The real deal has beautiful artwork for every fascist and liberal card.
secret hitler board game diy printTo make the game I decided to get a thick paper, 300 gram (color cardboard). To print it I used my 10-year-old inkjet Canon printer. It needed a very slight nudge to take the thick paper in but after that, it was smooth sealing. I used color cardboard instead of plain white to give the game a bit of the original feel.
The total cost of the supplies was about 4 $, plus a few hours for printing and carefully cutting.
The colors I used for the cards are: yellow for the chancellor and president cards, blue-gray for the laws, role cards and party member card, and red for the board.