Archive for the ‘writing tools’ 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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A Dozen Distractions From The Pen World And Beyond

06/04/2020

An odd mix of things that provided much-appreciated distraction this past week…

Five years on, I still love this duo.

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Lockdown Distractions Plus A Few Links

05/03/2020

To keep the lockdown from being a bore, I’ve spent a good deal of it investigating my under-appreciated and unused writing and watercolor paraphernalia. Exploring several empty journals and an assortment of gel, rollerball and brush pens has provided colorful distraction. My first choice in mechanical pencils, an Autopoint 0.9, has been joined by a Uni Kuru Toga 0.5 and a Pentel Icy 0.7 providing gray-scale variety for sketching as well as writing. My planner has morphed into a diary as well as my log of binge-watching that includes several BBC series, film noir features, Wynonna Earp, Longmire, How the Universe Works with Mike Rowe plus a variety of science programs.

How are you staying busy?

If you want to play along, these are the mechanical pencils I am currently using:

Autopoint 0.9 mm with HB lead

Uni Kuru Toga 0.5 mm with 4B lead

Pentel Icy 0.7 mm with HB lead

Drawn from a photo on Instagram…

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Doodling As An Antidote To Turbulent Times

04/05/2020

Do you have a squiggle, doodle or word that brings relaxation, pleasure, even joy when you write it? For many of us, the repeated making of that mark breaks the incessant clamoring of life and renews the flow of energy that surviving the onslaught demands. Turbulent times be damned!

Make your mark count. Fill a page with it when the lights are low and electronic devices have been put to rest. You may find that you fall asleep more easily. Draw it repeatedly to break a deadlock or switch gears when too much is happening at once. Calm, relaxed, focused are essential states that repetitive mark making can help you achieve.

My doodle of choice lends itself to margins, small areas or even full pages. Any instrument can produce it admirably, even a stick in the sand. I do set some rules including not letting the swirl lines touch each other. That particular limitation keeps me focused and less able to entertain extraneous thoughts. Distraction achieved.

Fountain pens and felt tips are my preferred instrument for line variation but satisfaction isn’t dependent on the tool. It’s the motion and the look of the doodle that matter most. It is a terrific way to use up ink when it’s time to change colors.

The drawing of something so familiar provides a useful basis for comparison when evaluating a new pen or ink. The degree of flow and lubrication are revealed by drawing swooping lines and doodles. Nibs that bite into the paper’s surface are relegated to second class status and thereafter employed only for suitable tasks. In essence, make my doodle properly or you are going to spend your days in the pen drawer.

If you haven’t found your special mark, review old pages of notes for something suitable. Over the years, I have gone through several types of doodles and while I have a favorite, there are others that are good as well. I tend to go for rounded, flowing lines. Cross-hatching comes in second. Words don’t work for me if relaxing is my goal though a page full of random words can break a writer’s block. Calligraphic decorative elements offer a wealth of possibilities. It doesn’t have to be the entire element. Even a small portion of one might do the trick.

Should you fancy a little variety, there are seasonal squiggles that fill a niche like fir trees, pumpkins, hearts and shamrocks. The point is not to limit yourself. If you are playful with it, so much the better. Use up disappointing paper and ink. It really doesn’t matter. Just do it and enjoy it. And isn’t that what pens should be about.

Ten years of my doodles and squiggles reflect little change. Why tinker with what works?

Some of my non-fountain pen doodling favorite tools can be found on Amazon. Should you purchase there, Inkophile may earn a tiny commission at no extra cost to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Sunday Reads: Pens, Journaling And Animals

01/21/2018

Beautiful images at the first link. Kudos to the photographer. If you aren’t a pencil lover yet, Ana might persuade you…

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