Kum No. 410 Magnesium Pencil Sharpener

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It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a pencil sharpener. The reason for this is because I mainly use the Pollux sharpener for my everyday needs. Well, when I was in Cambridge last week with Johnny and Less, I came across the most fabulously beautiful (to me) Kum 2-hole wedge sharpeners. They are essentially the silver 410 sharpener, but are coated with magnificent neon-bright colors. These sharpeners were made for me. They had several colors, but I picked up the yellow (of course) and the magenta ones for review. I expect no performance difference in these sharpeners compared to the standard 2-hole wedge, but since I have never reviewed the original, here we go:

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At first glance these sharpeners are striking. As an individual that truly loves and enjoys bright colors, these deliver. I get a very mid-90s vibe from these things— you know that move from pure neon to neonish bright colors— that’s what these remind me of. The finish on these two sharpeners are different and I’m not sure why. On the yellow sharpener it is more of a matte finish whereas the magenta sharpener has several layers of what appears to be a clear coat. Not sure why this is— perhaps it’s just a variance in production? Either way, I find it interesting. It’s really hard to capture on camera, but the yellow one has sharper details than the magenta. This difference in no way impacts the performance of the sharpeners— I just thought it was an interesting observation. Also, because of the extra clear coating, the magenta version is a bit heavier.

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Performance wise, these sharpeners do a good job at sharpening. The point I can get from these is a lot shorter than what I’m used to as I exclusively use long point sharpeners, but I can’t fault the sharpener for that as it’s not a long point sharpener. The larger hole accommodates larger pencils up to 10.2 mm in diameter. What I most love about this sharpener (besides the color) is that it is so lightweight that pocket carry is comfortable as most folks won’t be able to tell it’s there. While I do enjoy this sharpener, I will always prefer a long point and would most likely use the Kum No. 400 which is the single-hole long point sharpener or the super affordable Apsara long point which are $5.25 for a box of 20 (!!). While I don’t rank this sharpener as high as I would others (I’d probably give it a 6 out of 10), at around $2, you really can’t go wrong picking one up. I use it more for larger barreled pencils as I have yet to find a sharpener that can give me as good a point as this does for them. Until they invent a Pollux for large pencils, this will be my go-to for that task. Sadly, after an hour of googling, I have not been able to find the 2-hole magnesium in colors so I cannot provide a link. They are not even listed on Kum’s website as an option. I guess if you want them you can go to Bob Slate in Cambridge, MA. I paid $3.50 for each of them. If I happen to find an online source, I will be sure to update this post accordingly.

Baron Fig Grow Daily Journal

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For those of you that know me or listen to me on the RSVP podcast, you know that I have trouble remaining consistent when it comes to keeping a journal in any form. I am not sure why I am this way— I tend to get bored easily or have trouble staying motivated. When I saw the Grow Journal from Baron Fig, I almost passed on reviewing it since I figured that it would be another book I’d never fill or utilize to its full potential. After checking out the product page, I realized that for once, a product may work for me. Let me explain why:

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First off, the Grow Journal provides eight different options when it comes to journaling. I like having this choice. The way I have been journaling is with a blank page— one page per day written in paragraph form. This format works well when I am inspired and motivated, but when I really need to journal, like when I’m depressed or anxious, it’s overwhelming. With the Grow, I can choose what works best for me on any given day. Each page has a column on the edge of the page with the eight different ways to journal: record, reflection, gratitude, wins, lessons, musings, check-in, and freestyle. At the back of the book these categories are fully explained. Record is defined as just writing down what happened during any given day— it’s a way to keep a personal history of what has been going on. Reflection is writing down what happened in a day and then reflecting upon those events. Gratitude, wins, and lessons are pretty self-explanatory. Musings is defined as something more abstract and it is where you just write what is on your mind with no judgement. Check-in is data-based and is for stuff like keeping a log of tracked goals: moods, exercise log, and really any other progress tracking. Freestyle is just that— free. Write whatever you want in any way you want. In the back of the journal there is also a six-week starter guide that gives you a sort of road map to getting into the habit of keeping a journal.

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In addition to the sidebar of journaling options, there is a section on the bottom of the page for metadata. You can track the date/time, the weather, and your mood. I never thought these things were important, but it has really helped me notice patterns in my mood (like when it is raining I tend to have a worse mood than when it is sunny). At the top of the page there is an option for an entry title— I’m not sure I will use this much as I don’t really have the desired to title my journal entries. Also, in addition to the lined page, each line at the beginning has 3 dots and I’m not totally sure what they could be used for. Perhaps a template to draw boxes for checklists? A way to incorporate bullet journaling? The demo photo on the website shows the user making bullet lists, so maybe that? I’m not sure, but either way it’s a nice touch. The look of the Grow Journal has grown on me. I definitely like the touch of yellow on the elastic band that holds the journal closed and the matching yellow on the inside covers. The journal cover and bookmark are charcoal colored which really makes the yellow pop. On the cover, the iconography of a seed transforming into a plant/tree is a nice touch as well.

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There are 170ish usable pages, so for a year of daily use, you would need two of these. Or, if you are like me, one would suffice. I really recommend this journal. I have enjoyed using it for the past week and I am so much more motivated to keep up with it because I have so many choices. It really gives me something to look forward to. The price is $24 and they are available now a the Baron Fig website.

**I was provide this journal free of charge from Baron Fig. Free stuff does not influence my opinion of any product whatsoever. The would be wrong and gross of me**

Blackwing 811

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The moment I set my eyes on the 811, I loved it. I’m a fan of bright colors and while it’s not super bright, the 811 certainly stands out among other offerings from Blackwing. Besides the color scheme, I really like the story behind the 811. As an individual that works as a writing tutor for both a high school and a college, I have such a soft spot in my heart for libraries. I miss my childhood where I would search through one of many card catalog drawers and put it on the pull-out table built into the magnificent piece of library furniture— I would flip through and find the call number of the book I needed and transcribe that onto a scrap piece of paper (you NEVER took the actual card with you— that is bad library manners) only to search through the stacks for what I needed. A lot of that is digitized now and when I was in college last year I would request a book online and it would be waiting for me at the front desk. It’s just not the same. I especially like the focus on Maya Angelou. There is not enough focus on women when it comes to stationery limited editions (especially with BW) and especially women of color. While Angelou was not the main focus of the edition (a library lamp was), she does have the honor of representing the 811 on the pencil.

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I really like the gradient on this pencil as it fades from a minty green to a darker, emerald-like green. The gold ferrule is spot on as it represents the base and the gold pull chain of those iconic green library lamps. The 811 is coated with phosphorescent paint which makes it glow in the dark— this is super cool, but really just a gimmick as you need a light to write, but it is super cool to see a cupful of these on your desk in the dark. Sadly, the glow doesn’t last very long. I charged these pencils for a few hours in natural sunlight and under a lamp and it fades pretty quickly. Because this is just an aesthetic offering and has no bearing on the performance of the pencil itself, this finding is inconsequential. The eraser is pink and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I mean, white would be too bright and black would just clash with the gold ferrule, so I guess pink it is. I was worried about the finish of this pencil since it is wrapped and not lacquered, but unless you look closely, it appears seamless. My other worries mirrored Johnny Gamber’s comments on his blog Pencil Revolution when it came to hand feel and grip, but I have not had a problem with that at all. The core of this pencil is firm just like the 602 and stays true to the 602’s performance. I am not a big fan of the softness of the 602 as it is very difficult to write small and I find myself sharpening a lot. I am also a very heavy-handed writer, so my experience with point retention might be different than others’.

602 core made it difficult to fill out my D&D character sheets

602 core made it difficult to fill out my D&D character sheets

Overall, I think this pencil is a buy if you like the 602 and/or have a particular affinity for the theme. Based on the community’s response, these may be hard to find in the near future as Blackwing’s website crashed the moment the 811 was released. You can head over to Blackwing’s website to purchase a dozen while they last as they are sold out elsewhere. They retail for $27.95 a dozen now due to Blackwing’s recent price increase.

Ticonderoga Neon

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For those of you that know me, you know that I love all things neon. Pencils, pens, highlighters, notebooks, you name it, I love it. I’m not sure where this obsession comes from. Perhaps it is from my childhood as I grew up in the 80s and 90s and every now and then I enjoy the pull of nostalgia when I use my stationery. Whatever the case, if it’s neon, I own it. When it was brought to my attention that Ticonderoga had a new neon edition out, I was excited. The photo that was posted on their Instagram was all I needed and I absolutely had to find out where I could acquire these beauties. Turns out, you can only find them in Office Depot/Max (for now), so I am guessing they are an exclusive offering. The pack of 30 pencils comes with a free pencil-shaped sharpener as well. After an hour and a half long trek to my nearest Office Depot, I got my hands on a couple of packs. They are priced at 12.99 which, for 30 pencils and a sharpener, isn’t bad at all. If you order online, you can usually find a 20 percent off coupon which makes them a bit cheaper. Anyhow, on to the review:

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My first thought when taking one of each color out of the pack was “WOW” as these are bright. The pink, orange, yellow, and green are the brightest while the blue is just okay. I especially enjoy how the traditional green imprint and green and yellow ferrules have remained the same on these pencils. It’s Ticonderoga’s “thing” and I’m glad they didn’t change it up with say a black ferrule or something. The erasers match the barrel of the pencil and are a nice touch. It really pulls together the whole neon theme. The juxtaposition of bright neon colors sandwiching the traditional yellow/green really makes the whole thing work. The core of these pencils are the common “soft” core (HB) that most Tics have. These pencils are made with basswood and not cedar which is kinda disappointing because for a while you were able to still find some cedar Tics on store shelves. The core is consistent in the sense that it writes just like all the other current day Ticonderogas I own. There is no grittiness and point retention is about average for an HB core. The provided eraser does a pretty crappy job completely erasing the dark marks that this pencil lays down, but that’s an easy fix (cue: Hinodewashi).

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The sharpener that comes with these pencils is mediocre. It sharpens, sure, but the point is left brittle and almost always breaks when writing for the first time. It’s good to use in a pinch, but I’d ditch it for something a bit more functional. Overall, I love these pencils— they perform like they should and they look great. As far as whether or not to purchase them, that’s up to you— do you like neon? If yes, buy. I mean, that’s the only reason you should pick these up as they are just like a traditional Ticonderoga with a different paint job. I don’t always grab a Ticonderoga for my everyday writing (I usually use a Neon Casemate or a Blackwing), but this pencil just might make it into my rotation because it makes me happy looking at it. Really, at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most? Using something that bring us joy?

Blackwing Natural

It has been quite a long time since I have reviewed a Blackwing pencil— I stopped reviewing special editions since I was really only talking about form since function never really changes (besides hardness). This new offering is different though— it is something Blackwing fans have been asking for for a long time— a natural Blackwing. If we remember back to the time of the 211, we remember how loved that edition was (and still is). There was something about a “naked” Blackwing that seemed to please everyone. It is so nice to have an affordable 211 look-a-like, but does it live up to the hype and expectations of the community? Let’s find out:

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When opening up the box of the BW Naturals, I am immediately drawn to the beautiful wood grain of the cedar. There are many other natural pencils I have used before, but there is something about this smooth finish on the BW Natural that really makes it pop. The shiny gold ferrule is a perfect mate to the gold imprint on the barrel. The gray eraser on the other hand? Meh. I really think any other color would have worked here— I personally like the pink or the yellow, but there is an easy fix as Blackwing sells replacement erasers in almost every color.

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The Blackwing Natural is advertised as “Extra-Firm”, but I did not expect how dark of a line this pencil laid down. To me, it writes like a F which is on the lighter side of grades, but definitely not what I would classify as extra-firm (I’d put extra firm in the 2H/3H category). It erases okay with the provided eraser but even better with a Hinodewashi (my favorite eraser of course). Point retention is great considering how dark the pencil writes— I was pleasantly surprised here. When one factors in the aesthetics of this pencil coupled with its performance, I can see how this would be an EDC for some folks as it definitely is for me. At 21.95 for a box of 12, you really cannot go wrong here. They are so worth it!

General's Semi-Hex #1

It has been quite a while since I have reviewed a good, classic pencil. Over the years, I have strayed away from just writing about pencils to writing about all things stationery. While I don’t see that as a negative thing, it is sometimes nice to get back to one’s roots. I’ve always loved a bright yellow number 2 pencil (in this case it’s a number 1, but I digress). There is something about a yellow school pencil that evokes a pang of nostalgia— a longing for simpler times punctuated by carefree school days where your only worry was how cool you looked when you walked to the pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom. Even though we can never get those days back, we can use of tools like the Semi-Hex to get those neurons firing that are responsible for feelings of nostalgia. Anyhow, here’s what I think:

The Semi-Hex is one of my favorite pencils from General Pencil Company (the other two are the Pacific and the Badger). Even though I prefer a sharp hex, the Semi-Hex offers me a nice break from those Musgrave Test Scoring pencils. It feels great in my hand and allows me to maintain my Hulk-like grip without feeling much fatigue. I chose this pencil in a #1 because I enjoy writing with a softer, darker graphite and I’d have to say that this pencil is a true B grade. Point retention is decent for a softer graphite and the eraser does a well enough job on a variety of papers. The overall quality of this pencil is what you would expect from General and after sharpening and using several Semi-Hex I have not encountered any barrel-splitting, broken leads, or quality control issues re: fit and finish. This pencil is an absolute deal at 65 cents and can be purchased from CW Pencil Enterprise.

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TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

When I started this blog I was pretty sure I would only be reviewing and talking about pencils. I mean that’s how I came up with the name The Weekly Pencil after all. As time progressed, other stationery goods piqued my interest and I began to include notebooks, erasers, highlighters, and a multitude of other related goods. This review in the “so much more” category as we say on the RSVP podcast— it’s a review of a fountain pen. Let me preface this review by saying that I am in NO WAY a fountain pen expert, I am not a devoted fountain pen user, and this is the only fountain pen I have ever owned and used. As with all niche communities, I know how passionate the fountain pen community can be and I am preemptively defending my possible ignorance on the topic. With that being said, I have decided to review a fountain pen because I think it is important for newbies out there like myself to have an opinion that is not informed by rich, deep history of fountain pen use. I have big thoughts and feels about the pen I reviewed and about fountain pens in general, so let’s get started!

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I was turned on to the idea of a fountain pen by my best stationery bud and RSVP co-host Less. Less runs the Comfortable Shoes Studio blog that some of you may already be familiar with. When I was in the market for my first ever fountain pen she first suggested the Platinum Preppy— it was super cheap and I would be able to get a good sense of what a fountain pen would write like. After playing around with a Preppy for a bit, I decided I wanted something a bit more— that’s where the TWSBI Eco comes in. The Eco has been billed as a great starter fountain pen and as a pen that is not only user-friendly, but has an affordable price tag. At right around $30, the Eco offers a clear, see-through plastic barrel with a piston-filling mechanism and a screw on cap. The nibs on these pens are steel and come in a variety of sizes: extra fine, fine, medium, broad, and italic. For this review, I used a medium.

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I think one of the reasons I have largely stayed away from fountain pens has been the issue of maintenance. The Eco is a breeze to fill and clean out— I did so without even looking at instructions. The piston-filling mechanism is pretty intuitive and besides the silly mistake I made by twisting it while the cap of the pen was still on (ink spewed everywhere into the cap), I had no issues with cleaning or replacing the ink. I will say that it is near impossible to get every little drop of water out of the barrel after cleaning. After cleaning, I left the pen in multiple pieces for a few days to dry out and there was STILL a bead of water in the barrel. This really isn’t an issue, but annoying nonetheless. Writing with the Eco has been a pleasure. There have not been any issues with skips or scratchiness and the grip of the pen is comfy enough. My only complaint is that the pen cap is a tad bulky and when posted on the back of the pen it does make it feel a bit top heavy. Even though this pen is not perfect, I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get into fountain pens. It writes beautifully and lays down silky smooth lines and performs great on a variety of papers. I also enjoy the clear barrel as it is not only aesthetically pleasing, but makes it useful for me to see how much ink I have left. While I won’t be using this pen on the daily, it is a fixture in my pencil/pen roll and glad I took the risk and purchased it.

CW x General's Baseball Scoring Pencil

I love baseball. Growing up, my father’s love of the game was a focal point of my summer/early fall. He loved the Cincinnati Reds. We take a road trip most years to Ohio and would spend a few days in Pittsburgh to see the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium for a few games and then onto see the Reds at Riverfront Stadium. Both of those stadiums are no longer there, but memories of my dad sitting next to me teaching me how to “keep the book” have lasted forever. When I was older, I used to keep the book when I would watch games on TV and would always delight when I could write that backwards “K” (a strikeout looking). Life has gotten busier and changed these past two decades, and I haven’t kept score of a baseball game in years. That’s why when I saw Caroline collaborate with General Pencil company to make a Baseball scoring pencil, I was hit with twinges of nostalgia and excitement.

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Everything about this collaboration is great— the packaging design is A++ and I really like how the lettering and color scheme take me back to the 50s when signs and lettering were hand done. The pencil itself is round-barreled and white with a gold ferrule and red lettering. What I really like about the design of the pencil is that there are three little v-shaped marks on each side of the lettering that make you instantly thing of the stitching on a baseball. They could have gone overboard with trying to make this pencil look like a baseball, but they didn’t and I like that the subtlety evokes the same sentiment without being over-designed.

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This pencil has a very smooth, dark graphite core. I’d say it falls in the B range. It is a bit too soft for me to comfortably write with as I have to sharpen frequently, but for keeping score the pencil is perfect. It works well on a variety of papers— toothy, smooth, standard printer paper, and notebook paper. I will say it really shines on toothier paper though. Marks make with this pencil erase well. I did have some trouble erasing all the marks I made while journaling in my Baron Fig Confidant, but I also press pretty hard, so that is an experience I have often. Next year, I plan on using these for score-keeping my good ol’ Cincinnati Reds, but I cannot bring myself to use these pencils in any other capacity. My heavy-handedness, dislike for round pencils, and impatience with having to sharpen every half page makes these a pass for me. These pencils are $2 a piece for $10 for half a dozen. I’d suggest ordering the six— you save two bucks and get the cool box.

CW x Iron Curtain Press Notebook

Yellow is my favorite color and the brighter the better. Bright yellow is a color that one doesn’t see often in their daily life. Sure, we see the yellowy-orange of street signs and traffic light poles, but not the bright, cheery yellow that never fails to put me in a good mood. When I clicked on the “new” tab on CW Pencil Enterprise’s website, I was not prepared to fall in love so quickly, but I did. The Iron Curtain Press (ICP) Standard Notebook in a striking yellow with black accents. I had never used ICP (gah— makes me think of Insane Clown Posse, but that’s for another blog entirely— lol) notebooks before mainly due to their hefty (to me) price point. This 160-page notebook is $17 and I just could never justify spending that much on a notebook. Until now. Let me just say that you get what you pay for and then some.

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To start off, the aesthetics of this notebook are super clean and no expense has been spared re: materials. The cover of this notebook is nice and thick with rounded edges so sliding it in and out of a bag is great as it doesn’t snag on anything. Also, it is spiral-bound with a matte gold wire binding. Letter-pressed on the front cover is space for your name, date, and subject. Inside you will find lined paper with a slight (and I mean slight) hint of toothiness. Pencil feels great in this notebook and erases beautifully as well. Each notebook is hand-made and while the CW collab does not offer it, ICP offers either lined, graph, or dot-grid options AND left-handed binding for you lefties out there (Lenore <3 ). I can’t recommend these notebooks enough. In fact, my next pick-up will be their dateless planner. You can pick the CW collaboration here or browse the entire catalog here.

Viking Verso HB/4B

The Viking Verso is simply not a double-ended pencil— it is a double-ended pencil with a long, rich history. According to Viking, the Verso was introduced over 150 years ago in Paris at the International Exposition of 1867. Back then a Bavarian company Berolzheimer (sound familar? :) ) & Illfelder released a double-graded pencil. The idea of the double-graded pencil kind of fell off the radar for years until a German blogger and pencil aficionado, Gunther Schmidt (Lexikaliker) brought it to Viking’s attention. The interesting backstory is not the only thing that makes the Viking Verso so special— it is not an easy pencil to manufacture. The problem comes in when the pencils are getting their coats of lacquer and stamping: it is near impossible to tell which end is which. Other double-ended pencils are simple to differentiate as they are red and blue or colored and graphite. Viking had to refine their manufacturing process for the making of this pencil, but the result is super worth it.

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As a non-artist, I thought that I would have no real use for this pencil. After all, writing with a 4B would be a smudgy experience with constant sharpening. I found after a week with this pencil, that that 4B end would come in handy. Most of my pencil use these days is at one of my (3) jobs where I tutor high school students. The format is such that I have to take three-column notes for the students while they are up at the board working on a problem. I use the 4B side to sketch out the three columns and write the headings and then use the HB side to take the actual notes. I also have used the 4B side to underline things in my own personal journal.

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On top of this newfound functionality, the writing experience with the Verso is enjoyable. Like all other Viking pencils I have used, the graphite never has a gritty feel to it, lays down easily true to grade, and erases wonderfully. The finish is a work of art as one side is glossy and the other matte. Several layers of paint have been applied which adds a nice thickness and a softer hex to this pencil. The bright white paint that highlights the Viking brand with its popular Viking ship (a Knarr? Faering?) finishes up the slick look. These pencils aren’t cheap at $3.00 a pop, but are worth the investment— even more so if you are an artist. CW has them in stock and for those of you outside of the US, they can be ordered directly from Viking.