Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gel Pens Pelikan, Pilot vs cheap brand

There are many products with very different price points and you can't just wonder, why the difference? You can tell yourself, it is the quality what you pay is what you get. But really?
I am bringing in to the ring an incredible threesome of gel pens.
Pelikan Soft Gel, Pilot Super Gel and no name brand Forster.

Cold start test. 

After a long period of sitting on the shelf. It is the first test because I had to get them started.
Pelikan, Pilot Super Gel 0.5 had no problem starting right away. Pilot 0.7 had some issues and Forster needed convincing.

writing with gel pen Pelikan Pilot Forster

Line width and saturation. 

I am testing only general purpose writing colors (blue, black)
Black color, test between Pilot 0.7 and Pelikan. I can say that Pelikan produces a hair skinnier line (the size is not advertised) and it seems to be a little less saturated compared to Pilot 0.7 mm
gel pen line width and color saturation
Blue color, test between Pilot 0.5 & 0.7 and Forster. Forster does not specify the width but is around 0.5. It is a lighter blue compared to Pilor but nice color. The width is very close to Pilot 0.5. The 0.7 mm Pilot has a darker color and a thicker line.

Bleeding

I tested all this on cheap copy machine paper, because it is most likely to use this pens in an office environment where this kind of paper is the norm.
No surprise the thinner the point less bleedthrough.
Worst performance order:
Pilot Super Gel 0.7 black. Bleedthrough but can be used
Pilot Super Gel 0.7 blue. Bleedthrough but can be used
Pilot Super Gel 0.5 blue. It has decent performance and can be used
On the same place Pelikan Soft Gel and Forster with very little bleedthrough.
gel pen bleed through copy paper Pelikan vs Pilot


Comfort and ergonomics

The best in class is the Pilot, which has a grip section with smooth circles spaced closely. It is comfortable and you can use the pen for long hours
Second is the Pelikan with a rubber insert. It is at the same level with the plastic body. It feels good but I do not think offers to many benefits.
Last is the Forster which has the grip identical with the rest of the barrel just a bit thicker. It is not uncomfortable to use but for sure they cut some corners to be able to produce them for cheap. It has a sharper edge if you're gripping the pen close to the lead.
gel pen ergonomic

Writing experience

The writing is the most important aspect of the pen after all. I can say that all right ok, but my opinion is that Pelikan is the smoothest. Pilot has a bad feel to it, it's like the ball is wobbling inside, it does not seem a quality assembly. And this aspect is true to all of the tested Pilots. Even the Forster felt better to me.

Quality

Forster is cheaply made, the cap is not as secure as the other. Also, the clip cannot be used as if you pull it slides out of the cap. This is not valid for all the ones I have only for the blue color. But it shows that the quality control and the design are not the best.

Value

This is a very interesting section. Because I don't think it is a surprise to anybody that the quality on a cheap no-name brand is lower compared to Pilot or even Pelikan.
But the real question is a cheap product a good value to the customer. Well, it can be a very good value sometimes.
In this case, I think you get 90% of the quality for a lot less money
cheap gel penIt's not the most scientific test you can make but sometimes you need to simplify the process and admit that your mileage might vary.
How long will the pen write depends on the level of ink inside. Of course, other factors influence the mileage, like the line thickness, reservoir diameter, and ink viscosity. So the 0.5 pens will last longer than 0.7.
But to compare the pens (0.5) without writing until the pen is out of ink I measured the ink inside. I assumed the diameter and viscosity of the gel holder are similar so I did not take this into consideration while doing the measurements. Pelikan and Forster do not say the line thickness but I consider them to be a 0.5 as they are very close to the Pilot in width.

BrandInk levelPriceInkPrice
cmeurcomparisoncomparison
Froster9.70.24benchmarkbenchmark
Pelikan Soft Gel10.70.64+ 10.3%267%
Pilot Super Gel9.90.99+ 2%413%




In this situation, Forster is cheaper by a mile. It holds less ink but it is cheaper between 2 and 4 times than Pelikan and Pilot. That in my book is called a good deal. But there is a catch. The ink levels between my Forster pens vary a bit. One of them has 1.5 cm less than the one I measured. Another one is 0.9 cm less. So this is not very consistent. But even if I would redo the test, and I would use the one with the smallest amount of ink the test will still look great. The Pelikan would hold ~ + 30% more ink but still costs 2.67 times more. The Pilot would hold around + 20% more ink and would still cost more than 4 times as much. So you can buy for each 2 Pelikans 5 Forsters, And for each Pilot 4 Forsters.
Annoying is the fact that not all pens are filled up as they should be, and again this is the lack of quality control with this ones.
All discomforts aside they are good value. Pelikan is the second on the list and Pilot get the disappointing 3rd place as the product is very expensive, and the writing experience is not as good as the cheaper products tested.



Friday, May 11, 2018

Review Faber Castell Grip 1345 mechanical pencil

faber castell 1345 review 0.5 mm
Faber Castell 1345 Grip II, 0.5 mm in blue
Faber Castell Grip 1345 is one very nice mechanical pencil. It is made in Japan, and it comes in 2 lead sizes. The 1345 is a 0.5 mm and the 1347 is 0.7 mm.
There are 14 available barrel colors to pick from. The Faber Castell green, a traditional burgundy, dark blue, black and other very nice pastel colors.
I have, and will review the Faber Castell Grip II model, 1345 (that is 0.5 mm) color blue.

Because the pencil is made out of plastic it is a light mechanical pencil, but it does feel good and solid in the hand.
Faber Castell has put thought into the pencils design. The barrel is made out of a glossy plastic. On the barrel, it is embossed with gold like paint GRIP 1345 0.5 the Faber-Castell logo and name.
After more ware and tare I will say how the writing is holding up.
The top part of the barrel is brushed so it has a matte finish to it. This makes the pencil more interesting and shows that someone has put thought about the design of the pencil.
The clip is metallic, elegant and feels secure.

The clicking mechanism holds a very long twist eraser. The plastic seems soft to the touch and has a chromed trim near the eraser. The advantage of this system is the long eraser, and the fact you twist to reveal it, so you do not risk losing the cap. The eraser has 3 cm of usable length so it will last. Even this is a cool feature too have, and the implementation is nice I will not give it extra points, as I am one of those guys who doesn't like using the erasers on the mechanical pencils. Not because they are rubish. I do not use them as I do not like the worn look, it makes the pen less appealing.
This way I enjoy a "brand new" pencil everiday.
The downside because of this long eraser is the feeling system. Because this eraser section is so long it is harder to put the leads in.

faber castell 1345 review 0.5 mm blueThe tip of the mechanical pencil is conical and made from a chromed metal. It offers a retracting and sliding sleeve, so it makes for a pocket safe mechanical pencil. The retracting and sliding sleeve does not have a wabble to it, when you write it feels just a regular non retractable sleeve.
Because of the conical tip, it's not a drafting pencil, it is intended for general use. The pencil comes with spring lead protection, meaning if you press harder on the lead, the lead will be cushioned by a spring. This works if you have a more vertical way of holding the pencil.
I like the way the sliding sleeve works (this is a feature also named "automatic" on some mechanical pencils). When the lead is used and the sleeve will hit the paper, and so it will slide back a little bit, revealing the lead. This means you can use the advance system less and the lead will be far less susceptible to break. But not all "automatic" pencils are created equal. Some of the problems this system encounters are: too much pressure to slide the sleeve, sleeves that do not have the right angle and not enough polish making them scratchy. I would give the Faber Castell Grip an 8.5/10 score for this feature. It works almost perfect.
The advance mechanism makes a nice clicky sound when pressed. The lead advancement is on the low side. 5 clicks will offer 3 mm of lead. In comparison, the Rotring Tikky (version 3) puts out 4.5 mm.
The grip section is made out of soft rubber. It is very comfortable and nicely integrated into the barrel, but I suspect it will have a relatively short life. It seems a bit soft and it has a moves a bit under pressure, I think with time it will become looser. This is the drawback of the rubber grips. They are comfortable but not durable, and can be annoying to feel it move in hand. Other problems that might appear is the hardening of the grip to the point it is uncomfortable, it cracks, or the rubber becomes sticky.

All this makes the Faber Castell Grip 1345 a very nice mechanical pencil, that I am happy to use as my daily writer.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

What is the similarity between fountain pens and mechanical watches?

Whats the difference between a groundhog and an eagle?

They both live underground except for the eagle.


A good joke that is appropriate for this topic. Why do we use these things? Fountain pens and mechanical watches should be a thing of the past. But they are not, actually they are doing well.
Many years ago I think Bill Gates dream was an office without any paper or pen. A vision that is far-fetched even today when we have all the gadgets around. We have computers and laptops, on which you can type a lot faster than you can write by hand, the letters are more legible, it is not user specific. You can easily edit papers, search documents, it is incredible. Now we have high-performance phones that are up to 1000 $. You have it on you all the time so you can type some memos, notes, reminders, to do lists, you can even use speech recognition to talk to your phone.
vintage fountain pen print advertisment
Parker advertisement
A few years back most people thought that stationary shops where a thing of the past, and it will not take long until they will disappear.
Well, what happened? They are still around, you can find them all over town, in malls, online.
Maybe it is because sometimes freehand writing is more convenient, you are not limited by a word editing software, you have the ability to do quick sketches, representations, graphs and so more. So this explains partially the existence of pen and paper in an office.
But coming back to my initial question, why do we keep using fountain pens and why are they so similar to mechanical watches? 
For me, it's more of a newly discovered hobby. I was not a fan of fountain pens in school, I used one from the 1st to the 4th grade, because it was mandatory. Ballpoints or pencils were not allowed.
My first fountain pen and second (I think I had 2, because the first one cracked) were a Parker copy Hero but I do not know the model number. They were green, that I can remember and had a gold cap (not of real gold of course).
I stopped using them after the fourth grade and didn't look back until in recent time.


So why people still use fountain pens? They have a lot of disadvantages. To name some of them:
       Most of the ink is not waterproof, and smudges. I agree there are inks that are water resistant but are expensive, not widely available (i only found 1 locally in a single shop)
       It is very affected by light (again there are more permanent inks but as well they are expensive and difficult to procure)
       The ink is wet, and on cheaper paper, it can bleed on the other side, or it can feather. On the opposite side on glossy paper, it needs a longer period to dry and there is the risk of smudging it. Because of drying time, it is difficult to be a left-handed person and write with a fountain pen. Not all pens and inks will work.
      Most pens hold small amounts of ink, and these means many refills which sometimes can be a dirty job. You need to carry with you backup pens or cartridges in case you run out of ink. There are options like eyedroppers which hold very large amounts of ink, but then you risk blurping ink. Why does this happen? Because you have too much ink inside, or better said, too much air when you use up the ink. So the solution is refilling it constantly and not let the ink levels to go under 1/2 or 1/3. This defeats the purpose of the eyedropper fountain pen.
      Dealing with ink is most of the times messy, and you will have ink on your hands, clothes, and furniture if you are really that lucky one. Sometimes pens leak, sometimes you are not careful enough when refilling it, or you do not clean it thoroughly after filling it.
      Nibs are fragile things, too much pressure, dropping the fountain pen uncapped can mean that you are going to buy a new fountain pen.
      Even thought fountain pens are premium products in most cases and have an accordingly high price they are far from perfect. Most of the times the nib is not aligned as it should and you have to mess with it to get the best writing experience.

In many situations, they are a thing of the past. There are better options there that overcome most of the problems of fountain pens. Ballpoints have come a long way and good refills write consistent, with very little pressure (there are heavier ballpoints that write under there own pressure), they last a long time, you don't need to worry about refilling it every day or every week. You can just have them laying around, you do not need to worry about them drying out. Most of the ballpoints inks are considerably less affected by water and sun.
You have mechanical pencils. They do not offer the opportunity of getting messy, they write consistently, you have various lead sizes and grades. It is very easy to refill and a refill pack is minuscule. They can last a lifetime as well as the writing. The effect of the sun is almost inexistent. There are rollers, gel pens, and many other writing instruments.

Why don't we ditch the fountain pen for good?
In my opinion is the same thing the mechanical watches are still around us and prosper.
Why would you buy a mechanical watch that is not as accurate as a quartz one, it has far fewer features, and any simple feature (like a chronograph) means a lot more money. From a quartz watch you can get accurate time, smaller price tag, solar charging, batteries that last 10 years, time synchronization with an atomic clock, multiple alarms, timers, countdown timer, time zones, GPS, barometric pressure, automatic time zones, illumination, ruggedness and much much more.

Because the fountain pen like the mechanical watch is a thing of beauty. It does not need to be cheap, simple, easy to live with. It fulfills the need for the old-fashioned way of doing things. They are classy a thing of beauty that you can pass on, even in this age of consumerism. They are a dependent way of getting the job done that was proved over many years. It is the way to connect with the past, our roots. It is the way to regain the love for doing things "by hand" and the love for analog.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Noris pencil in a digital world

On the 30th of March 1858, the first patent for a pencil with an eraser at the end was issued to Hymen Lipman
What is next? Well, the Staedtler Noris has a stylus ...

from Staedtler Catalogue 2017


of course, if you think that merging to items into one is the way to create a bad product you can stick to the Noris HB and get the new Noris Digital, launched in 2017

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Jumanji: Welcome to the jungle with Casio AE1200


Usually, in the movie business, everything is done with a reason, and the reason is making money. Cars and watches are no exception, it is a good source of promoting a brand. When it comes to watches most of them are high end, high price timepieces.
Yesterday I went to the cinema to see Pacific Rim, the second one. The movie does not worth talking about, it is like the first one...
But in the hall of the cinema was a cut out with the Jumanji cast. I saw the movie but I haven't noticed until at that moment that Kevin Hart is wearing the Casio "Royal" AE1200.

How cool is that. The watch that the fans say it belongs in the Bond universe but never appeared is featured in Jumanji.
To pay respect to the movie which brought the Casio AE1200 to the big screen the nickname of the watch should be changed to Jumanji watch, granted it doesn't sound as cool as Casio Royale.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Montblanc fountain pen in The Infiltrator

movie infiltrator signature fountain pen
Another spotting on the big screen, but this time is of a different magnitude. Mostly you see actors using pencils or ballpoints, but in the movie The Infiltrator, Bryan Cranston uses a fountain pen. It is a very short appearance. The fountain pen used is a nice white and silver. Very classy and elegant.
movie infiltrator writing fountain pen
If you take a closer look the fountain pen has the grip and the top part silver color. The barrel is a mate white.
On the grip, there is some engraving. The cap is a screw type.
movie infiltrator writing fountain pen
The fountain pen featured is a Montblanc Meisterstuck Solitaire. It is a very nice fountain pen with a gold nib 18k plated with Rhodium. The grip section, end of the barrel and the clip is platinum plated.
On the grip, there is a beautiful engraving with Montblanc.
The price of the pen is between $ 650 - $ 1000.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Spring is here


I do not know how many countries have this tradition but here, it is a custom to offer to the ladies on the 1st of March a small gift in the form of a "martisor" and or snowdrops. In some regions, it is a custom for men to receive them. Anyway, it's meaning is the rebirth of nature the end of winter. It is the white and red string and usually, it comes attached to some kind of figurine, something that shows that spring is here, like a flower or something that brings luck like a horseshoe. And is a custom for women to wear them during the month of March or at least in the first days of March.

Of course, you can find different motifs, flowers, plants, good luck symbols, traditional symbols, birds, insects (usually ladybugs, I haven't seen a dung beetle martisor yet), and colored pencils. Wait .. what?


This is the first year I saw such kind of symbol but maybe it will start a trend. I think the magic pencil from Koh-I-Noor would be a much nicer spring symbol.



Sunday, February 25, 2018

Koh-I-Noor and the Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018

It is very hard to find a connection between the sports world and the stationary world. But somehow there is such a connection, in the Czech Republic. Continuing the posts about Koh-I-Noor... 
It is very interesting to see how much the Chech company is tied to the country. In Prague, there are several Koh-I-Noor stores in very central locations. They are in the old part of the city, where it is full of tourists. I would expect to see a bar, a tourist trap or some fashion shops instead of a stationary shop, but they promote themselves very well and want to show the ties of the company to Prague and the Czech Republic. It like bohemia glass, when you say it, Czech Republic comes to mind. To show how "Czech" they are, they closed the production facility in China, so all the Koh-I-Noor products are made in EU.
So since 2016, Koh-I-Noor is a partner of the Czech Olympic team. I think this is the only stationary brand that promotes itself by partnering with the Olympics or with any kind of sport.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Koh-I-Noor in Prague


This is one of the many Koh-I-Noor stores in Prague, close to Charles bridge. It was closed, but luckily I managed the next day to catch it open. 
As the sign says Art Materials inside, so for the no art persons like me the selection was a bit limited. I could not find fountain pen ink unfortunately but I added to my collection a Koh-I-Noor 5219 blue clutch pencil.
A fun fact about this particular Koh-I-Noor store, it is right near the Romanian embassy and the Gingerbread museum
koh i noor store in Prague

The pencil looks nice and feels nice in the hand and the knurled grip feels a lot better than the Versatil or the thin barrel of the Koh I Noor Notebook pencil
The price for it was 75 CZK which is about 2.95 euro or 3.65 $

Not all the products were cheaper than what I can find in Romanian stores but this was about half the price.


A more in-depth review of the Koh-I-Noor 2 mm clutch pencil will follow.
Until then here is a little of the Prague's beauty.




Even though there are impressive architecture and imposing churches in Prague, the Czech people according to Wikipedia are not that religious.
34.5% non religious
44.7% undeclared
the biggest number of followers has the Catholic Church with a little over 10%
So there should be no surprise if you see a church converted into a hotel or a bar/restaurant.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Koh-I-Noor lead holder & leads preview

koh-i-noor harmuth pencil lead holder 5.6 mm artist
After publishing the post about the vintage Koh-I-Noor Versatile lead holder I got into a Koh-I-Noor frenzy. Even before I got it published I started seeing cool items from the brand in local stores and I just had to have them all.
All this, is just a preview of what is about to be featured on this blog, a few items that I picked up.
Also this has to be a huge coencidance as shortly I will make a trip to Prague, the home town of the brand, so I am a bit exited.

Stay around to see all this goodies in action and more, maybe even a post about the Prague trip and the Koh-I-Noor store.
But for now I am preparing the posts for:
Koh-I-Noor 5340 5.6 mm lead holder in gold and the Gioconda 5.6 mm artists leads
Koh-I-Noor 2 mm color leads
Koh-I-Noor notebook 2 mm lead holder
Koh-I-Noor inks
Koh-I-Noor notebook 2 mm clutch pencil