Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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Mechanical Pencils In The Spotlight

07/05/2020

Cult Pens has deemed July 5th as Mechanical Pencil Day making this a good time to review a few models beyond the ubiquitous Pentel.

Autopoint, Pentel, Ibis Sketch, Tombow MONO graph, Pilot Opt., uni Kuru Toga, Zebra DelGuard

For years, an Autopoint has been a staple in my rotation while a few uninspiring MPs accumulated in a drawer. No love for that lot. Then came the quarantine and the time to play with the unloved bunch to which I added one that is especially comfortable in my hand. Much to my surprise, I now like all of them if to varying degrees.

Just as pens and inks need to be matched for best performance and a satisfying writing experience, mechanical pencils and leads benefit from similar consideration. How could I have missed this?

Lead properties include diameter, lead darkness, smoothness, sturdiness and durability. Pen characteristics include grip, diameter, materials, lead advancement, and eraser size. Color and form are less varied than in fountain pens as MPs are more workhorse than eye-candy though there are a few pastel and neon models in addition to black, white, and red. Doesn’t that sound simple compared to the vast world of fountain pens and inks?

Best features:

uni Alpha-Gel Shaker Soft Grip – Lead advances with only a gentle shake but the mechanism broke quickly.

Pilot Opt. – Shaker advance with wide barrel.

Tombow MONO graph – Locking shaker advance with long needle tip.

Zebra DelGuard – Tip design reduces breakage to zero for me.

Uni Kuru Toga – Lead rotates producing a very uniform line.

Pentel icy – Best value and availability.

Autopoint Jumbo All-American – Very sturdy. My first one lasted 15 years.

Ibis Art Sketch – Wide 1.8mm rectangular lead.

Zebra DelGuard, uni Kuru Toga, Pilot Opt., Tombow MONO graph

Comments:

Only the Autopoint 0.9mm with HB lead stood up flawlessly to heavy-handed use.

The Zebra Delguard 0.7mm with 2B lead did very well with soft to medium pressure. With HB lead, the tip did not break easily. This pencil is a very comfortable diameter for long writing sessions.

The uni Alpha-Gel Shaker Soft Grip 0.5 HB has a gel grip and advances the lead with a gentle shake rather than having to press a button. This significantly reduces the interruption of writing flow. Uni Nano lead is less inclined to break in it. Unfortunately, the shaker mechanism broke after only two weeks of modest use.

Pilot Opt. 0.5 has the shaker mechanism so lead advances easily. It is a bit heavier than many of the other pencils with a slightly wider diameter than most and has a soft grip. The clip is far and away the easiest to use. Just push the top against the barrel and the clip opens.

Tombow MONO graph 0.5 is another pencil with a shaker advance but this one locks so the lead won’t advance if jostled in a case or pocket. The metal sheathing for the tip is very long making it especially suited to precise lines and for use with rulers. It is paired with Uni Nano Dia 4B lead for a dark line.

The Pentel Icy 0.7mm with Pentel B or HB lead is a little more prone to breakage but it is inexpensive and available everywhere.

The Uni Kuru Toga 0.5mm has a unique tip that rotates the lead so that it maintains a consistent line shape. The tip gives a little to accomplish that feat and for me worked best with a light touch. I like it best with Uni Kuru Toga 2B lead.

The Ibis Art Sketch Mechanical pencil is unique. It comes with a flat 1.8mm 2B lead that puts down a very wide line.The lead is too solid to break and very smooth.

Ibis Sketch 1.8mm lead

Conclusions:

I already own four Autopoints, so there is no need for another. If I were to purchase a second pencil from one of the other models, it would be the DelGuard 0.7mm. In addition to lead not breaking easily, the grip and balance suit my hand very well. Uni Nano Dia lead is strong and a good match for it whether HB or 2B.

The shaker pens are very convenient to use. The Tombow MONO graph with its needle point is perfect for tiny writing and fine details because the lead tip is highly visible.

As for 0.5 and 0.7mm leads, I used Kuru Toga, Pentel, and uni Nano Dia. The latter wins as it breaks less easily in the 0.5 size than the others.

At 0.9mm, the Autopoint HB lead does not break at all. For those who are heavy-handed, this lead in an Autopoint pencil might be just the thing. The line is a bit soft but that for me has been an acceptable trade-off.

The erasers are very similar in size with the Pentel and the Autopoint being somewhat larger. I rarely use them and prefer a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser when needed.

Not a day goes by that I don’t use a mechanical pencil. It is an essential tool in my kit and a bargain at the price.

Teoh review of the Uni Kuru Toga.

Product Links:

Available at Amazon from which I might receive a tiny commission should you purchase through these links.

Autopoint All American 0.9

Tombow MONO graph 0.5 pastel, neon or gunmetal

uni Kuru Toga 0.5 colors or black

Pilot Opt. 0.5

Zebra DelGuard 0.7

Pentel icy 0.7 (newer model)

Uni Alpha-Gel Shaker 0.5

Ibis Art Sketch 1.8mm

Autopoint 0.9 HB lead

Pentel 0.7 HB and B leads

Uni Kuru  Toga 0.5 2B lead

uni Nano Dia 0.5 4B and 0.7 2B leads

Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser block or stick

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Brush Pen Ink Test

02/18/2020

Though not crucial for doodles or writing in a journal, permanence is a necessity for use with watercolors. Inspired by Teoh’s pen comparison, I tested some brush pens that contained their original inks.

After allowing the ink to dry for a minute or two, I applied water to the right side of the swatches to see which ones would move. Two were not waterproof. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it can be exploited to make shadows or to add color to objects. Those that are waterproof won’t mix with paint placed next to or over them. That opens up a wealth of possibilities.

The test paper is Bee 100% Cotton Watercolor Paper. Though I use brush pens more often in a sketchbook, watercolor paper provides a better surface to test a pen that will get used with paint.

For drawing, the Kuretake 630-8670 due to its brush-like nib was the best for my purposes. Unfortunately, it seems to have been discontinued.

The Kuretake Cambio is readily available and comes in different nib widths and colors which makes it a bit more interesting for my doodle notebooks. It also has excellent flow and coverage. When I need to purchase another brush pen, the Cambio will be the one.

From top to bottom: Kuretake ZiG Cambio Shu-Boku in vermilion,  Sakura Pigma Sumi Brush XSDK-TA, Sakura Pigma Brush sdk-br#49, Kuretake 630-8670, Pilot S-50FDF-B,  Tombow ABT N15.

A few of the brush pens tested are available at Amazon. Inkophile earns a tiny commission when you use these links to make your purchases.

Kuretake ZIG XO50-10B Cambio Medium Brush Pen, Black

Kuretake Zig XO50F-10B Cambio Fine Brush Pen, Black

Kuretake ZIG XO50-070B Cambio Shu-Boku Medium Brush Pen, Vermillion

Kuretake ZIG XO50-091B Cambio Usuzumi Medium Brush Pen, Gray

Sakura Pigma Black Paint Brush Pen (XSDK-BR-49)

Tombow Dual Brush Pen, N15 – Black, Brush and Fine Tip Marker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday Tidbits: Pen, Paper And Ink Links

01/28/2020

José Naranja makes beautiful journals that he on occasion offers for sale. Oh, and I didn’t even make it through January without falling in love with an ink from Colorverse. What do you think of it?

From the archives, a photo of my mother’s jet beads, a silk flower, Rhodia pad, and ten pens. The red Lamy Safari looks out of place but it’s a good writer. In my rotation, how a pen writes is more important than its form. Which is more important to you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes A Rollerball Beats A Fountain Pen

01/21/2020

Yes, you read that right. Sometimes a fountain pen isn’t the best choice, especially when a pen might be idle for months at a time. Recently, I became acquainted with the Uni-ball Signo 307, a gel pen that suits such situations admirably.

The 307 was recommended for use with watercolors due to its permanence and saturated black color. Unlike some gel ink, the Signo does not produce globs that dry slowly. It is smooth, archival, and skip-free. According to Uni-ball, the 307 contains “Super Ink™ that protects against water, fade, and fraud.” In addition, rollerball pen tips do not fray or wear down on textured watercolor paper like felt tips do. The combination of permanence and durability makes the 307 a useful addition to my collection of watercolor tools. It is a bonus that it fills my need for a maintenance-free, always read to write pen.

It is comfortable in the hand, extremely light weight, and should tolerate normal use easily. It has been many years since I used a rollerball and it is good to see there has been improvement in the quality of the ink.

My 307 has a medium 0.7 nib that comes with black, red or blue ink. The kicker is that it requires absolutely no pressure to write a consistent line. My hand is very happy with it even if it is an inexpensive plastic pen. My fountain pens aren’t remotely jealous. The little stinkers have no fear of being replaced by a no-class upstart. Have they been raised right or what?

You don’t have to take my word for it. The Pen Addict posted a review in 2015 if you want to learn more from a trusted source.

On Amazon, I bought several to keep in locations where I write only on occasion but don’t always have a fountain pen handy. Note that there is an earlier model 207 that does not seem to have the same ink though it is a smooth writer. It does come in more colors if that is important for your needs.

Inkophile is an Amazon Affiliate. If you buy through these links, I get a tiny commission that will help finance new products to review.

Signo 0.7mm black ink

Signo 0.7mm assorted color set

Signo 0.5mm black ink

Signo 0.5mm assorted color set

Signo 307 Refills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Herbin 1798 Shimmery Inks Meet A Dip Pen

11/27/2019

Dip pens caught my fancy recently and J. Herbin’s 1798 inks have been just the thing to add some sparkle to my efforts. The current colors in the series are Cornaline, Amethyste, and Kyanite and they look beautiful alone as well as together. As a longtime fan of Herbin as well as anything silver, I was very happy to see this group of inks introduced.

My Fellowship dip nib has a fountain pen feed that holds a significant load of ink, enough to fill a page, and with a quick swish of water, it’s ready for another color of ink. The pen produced lively passages by switching between the turquoise, coral, and amethyst colors on a per word or line basis.

Next, I tried a small, synthetic watercolor brush to create softly edged doodles, swatches, and swirls without feathering or bleed-through. Not my usual approach, but it did provide a sufficient test of ink characteristics.

Swirling the bottles before each dip kept the shimmery bits in suspension. If they settle in your fountain pen, a gentle motion will redistribute them. Note that they appeared more well-distributed on the page than particles from some of the other sparkly inks I have tried.

The colors are among my favorites and I would be happy to see them in a non-shimmer version, suitable for mundane tasks and business use. These are not super-saturated but deeply colored and very easy to read. It isn’t even necessary to tilt the paper to see the silver glints.

Kyanite du Népal falls in the turquoise range and with its flecks of silver, brings to mind jewelry or a fountain pen with silver-colored trim.

Orange ink can be shy but not Cornaline d’Egypte.

Améthyste de l’Oural is a deep, mid-range purple. The silver flecks stand out well making it the most dramatic ink of the three.

All three inks performed admirably on Clairefontaine paper demonstrating good flow and lubrication. If you like fat pens, the bottles have wide openings to accommodate the larger ones in your collection.

Herbin 1798 Ink would make a lovely holiday gift for the inkophile on your list.

There are lots of reviews and dozens of images at other sites in case you are not yet convinced to add a bottle to your collection. However, be forewarned. Resistance is futile.

Ed Jelley: J Herbin 1798 Kyanite du Népal Ink Review

Pen Chalet: J Herbin 1798 Kyanite du Népal Ink Review

The Gentleman Stationer: Ink Review: J Herbin 1798 Kyanite du Népal

Doodlewash: REVIEW: Jacques Herbin Kyanite du Népal Ink by Life Imitates Doodles

The Well-Appointed Desk: Eye Candy: Herbin 1798 Kyanite du Nepal by Ana

Chris Saenz: Herbin Kyanite du Nepal – Ink Profile – Viewer’s Choice

Pen Boutique: J Herbin 1798 Kyanite du Népal Ink

Goldspot Pens: Herbin 1798 Kyanite du Népal Fountain Pen Ink Unboxing and Review

Ink courtesy of Exaclair USA.

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BENU Tattoo Fountain Pens

09/17/2019

Although I haven’t gotten my hands on one, the new Tatoo design from BENU looks intriguing. Luxury Brands of America is bringing it to the U.S. and it’s already getting some buzz. Teoh posted a review yesterday showing each of the eleven tattoo designs quite clearly. What do you think of it?

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Herbin Vert de Gris Ink

09/03/2019

Exaclair, Inc. sent a bottle of Herbin Vert de Gris ink to review and it did not disappoint.

Caveat: I am a longtime fan of Herbin inks but I set aside my bias when putting ink to the test. Mostly.

Herbin Vert de Gris bottle and writing sample.

According to the website, the color is “based on the lovely gray/green patina that appears on aging copper”. It is a deep, dark teal. A free-flowing nib will bring out its dark side while a dry nib will make it a little less saturated and encourage a more subtle look. I shook the bottle before testing both the Herbin glass pen and the Namiki Falcon SF just in case there should be any settling. Oddly, results were slightly more green than online examples or the color swatch on the top of the box.

It is not an extremely lubricating ink, but rather a moderate one that will be more than satisfactory in most pens. I think my Parker ’51’ in Navy Gray is going to love it, especially the color. No bleed-through, show-through or feathering on Clairefontaine. A doodle on the back of a cheap envelope showed mildly uneven outlines, but that isn’t the surface on which my fountain pens get the most use.

No fancy-schmancy, two-toned, glittery look to Herbin’s Vert de Gris. Rather it is a well-behaved ink dressed in teal that could easily augment an everyday-carry (EDC) selection of blue and black. At least that’s what my pens recommend and I would not disagree.

For a second opinion, Paper Girl has a good review of Vert de Gris.

From the ExaClairUSA YouTube channel:

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