Läufer Color Plast Eraser

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This week, I take a look at a new eraser by Läufer— the Color Plast. Läufer is a German company that is well-known for their erasers. In 2004 they merged with German stationery company Gutenberg. According to an unconfirmed report by Matthias from Bleistift, they are perhaps a part of Société Bic, the company that owns the BIC brand. The Color Plast is a plastic eraser (as if the name didn’t give that away) that comes in two varieties: blue/red or orange/yellow. Each eraser comes with a thick paper sleeve that has information on the side that it erases 4B to 9H and colored pencils— this intrigued me since it is very hard to find an eraser that can effectively erase colored pencils. Let’s see how it preformed:

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For all types of graphite, this eraser performed phenomenally. The only place where it didn’t do that great was erasing some writings I had in a notebook, but that is probably because I press pretty hard when writing. Erasing with the Color Plast is a pleasure and takes very little pressure to make marks disappear. It is on the dustier side, but not as dusty as say a Pink Pearl. The dust it leaves behind is large and clumpy so it is easy to brush away. As far as erasing colored pencil— it does an adequate job. I found that the nicer the colored pencil, the harder it was to completely erase. I suspect this has something to do with the fillers/binders in colored pencil lead— something I am pretty clueless about. Perhaps a regular colored pencil user could offer more insight on this.

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Aesthetically speaking, I like these a lot. The colors are super bright and the paper sleeve is designed in such a way that, while in German, is easy to read. I especially like the little icons for the pencils it can erase. It’s a nice touch. One thing I was surprised at was that the colors were not a gradient— I suspected when I removed the sleeve that it would fade from one color to the next— this was not the case. The colors instead are just one half of each color. Not a deal breaker obviously, but also not what I was suspecting. At $2.00 each, these erasers are not unreasonably priced— an eraser this size can last me well over a year, so it’s a good investment. You can pick them up at CW Pencils while they last.

Pilot Better Retractable Pen

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While shopping at Bob Slate in Cambridge, MA about a month ago, I came across a pen that I have not used in about two decades: The Pilot Better Retractable Pen. I have fond memories of using this pen in grade school as it check all the boxes I required: click pen, sharp hex barrel, smooth ink, and a good grip surface. I immediately bought one in each color (blue, black, red). I was pretty skeptical about how these would perform against today’s offerings, but I was pleasantly surprised. Let’s break it down into two categories: aesthetics/build and performance.

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Aesthetics/Build Quality: I love the look of this pen. I always will. There is something so elegant yet simplistic about the Better Retractable. The barrel of this pen is a lot thinner than one may be used to when it comes to pens— think pencil barrel thinness. This diameter is great for me as I have very small hands and like to press hard when writing. I also like the translucent, hard plastic and ribbed grip area on the barrel. As tight as my grip is and as sweaty as my hand gets, there is little to no slippage during a marathon writing session. The pen has a metal tip and clip which are nice touches. The clip while VERY durable is problematic at times. I like to clip my pens in my notebooks after use and the edges of the clip on this pen are so sharp that it rips the paper almost every time I use it. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is something to consider.

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Performance: This pen writes super SMOOTH. On top of its velvety smoothness, it is consistent— it doesn’t clog up or leave blobs of ink when writing. The tungsten carbide ball point does not catch on the paper no matter how hard or at what angle I press. The pen is quite rugged and the hard translucent plastic really holds up. I also like the tactile feel to this pen— most pens have a rubberized grip that eventually gets dirty or wears away— the Pilot Better Retractable does not have this and instead has decided to go with a simple, raised plastic grip that is part of the barrel itself. This lack of extra rubber or grip makes the pen very lightweight which helps me with hand fatigue since I am a tight gripper.

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Overall, these pens are at the very top of my favorites list. Super cheap (so you don’t feel bad when someone inevitably steals one from you), durable, and obtainable. You can find these pens at your local Stapes/office supply store or you can order them here on Amazon for around $12 a dozen.

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.

Blackwing X TWA Hotel Pencil

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This week, I bring you a collaboration none of us saw coming: TWA and Blackwing Pencils. If you think about it, they did exist in the same sphere— both prominent artifacts of the 1950s era. Trans World Airlines (TWA) was formed in the 30s and finally took the name TWA in the 50s. As the decades passed, TWA was known for being an industry leader in innovation: In the 1960s, they introduced in-flight movies and were one of the first airlines to use Doppler radar. The 60s also saw the birth of a brand-new terminal at John F. Kennedy International airport in NYC. TWA was innovative in the sense that they had a keen eye for design and concept— they, along with Delta, were one of the first airlines to introduce the spoke-hub system (this is where airlines had a central hub location and routes were organized in “spokes” around a central hub) which boosted efficiency and allowed for fewer routes and is something every airline does today. In addition to having a handle on productivity, their design of the terminal at JFK was revolutionary and boasted closed-circuit TV, interior passenger jetways, a PA system, baggage carousels, an electric arrival and departure flip-board system, and a robust selection of dining (Dunlap, 1994). All of the things travelers take for granted started with the TWA Flight Center.

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More recently, starting in 2016, the TWA Flight Center, dormant since 2001, began its journey to restoration. New York City-based Morse developers collaborated with MCR, a large hotel development company, to re-create the feeling of the early 60s excitement felt in the terminal. They have dubbed their creation TWA Hotel, a 512-room hotel with 45 event rooms and five hospitality suites that host up to 1,600 people. Each of the 512 hotel rooms are furnished with mid-century modern furniture. From retro-fitted rotary phones, walnut martini bars, tambour walls to walls adorned with vintage TWA advertisements, each stay takes one back to what I could consider the Golden Age of commercial airlines. Some rooms have a runway view where you can see planes take off and land (this makes me SUPER excited as I am an airplane enthusiast). In order to negate the LOUD jet engine sounds, all rooms have a 7 pane, 4.5 inch glass window. I WILL be staying here sometime soon. Anyhow, I digress. On to the pencils. In each hotel room there are Musgrave pencils— I just wanted to mention that as they have a pretty cool write-up on their website about them— perhaps a review is in order. We are really here to talk about the TWA Hotel X Blackwing pencil, so let’s go:

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First off, pictures do not do this pencil justice. The red is SUPER red, and SUPER glossy and overall fabulous. As someone that is not a fan of red anything, this pencil wins me over. To compliment the nice, bright red, there are two white stripes stamped on one side and Blackwing X TWA HOTEL on the other. I’m a little underwhelmed with the lack of iconography here. I know one side of a pencil is small, but I wish they were able to use the original TWA logo on one of the sides. I’m sure there was good reason to use the design they chose, but it’s kind of meh. The ferrule is a shiny silver with a bright white eraser to go with the print on the barrel. This pencil’s core is “balanced” which means it has a Pearl core. A few things that I wish they did with this pencil— first, the design I griped about earlier— something a bit more flashy would have been cool. Also, I was almost expecting a little paper inside the box with TWA history/facts kind of like how Blackwing does with the limited editions. I am sure it would have increased the price of these, but it would have been a nice touch. Especially since a lot of folks that buy things from a TWA Hotel gift shop will probably be enthusiasts of the brand. Overall, I’d only recommend these pencils if you are a collector. There is nothing different about these other than the finish. They also retail for $29.95— two more dollars than the volumes editions. If you are interested, they can be purchased here.

Baron Fig Gather Review Journal

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The Baron Fig Gather Review Journal is one in a series of guided journals Baron Fig has released over the past year. These journals are great for going deep on your daily routine, documenting recipes, developing good habits, and now, reviewing your favorite things or activities. When I got the email to ask if I wanted a review copy, I hesitated as I figured how could I ever use a journal like this? I don’t really consume much popular media and I’m not one to really care or reflect on what I do consume. Well, I’ve had this journal for a little over a week now and it has brought much intentionality to my life and the way I look at certain things. The first thing that surprised me was what I wound up using this journal for. After writing up a review for a book I finished reading, it dawned on me— I could use this journal to review items for this blog! This is such a great idea as it helps me jot my down my thoughts on the fly and also scratches that analog itch I seem to always have. When it comes to blogging, perhaps it’s the bridge between digital and analog. Anyhow, I really enjoy the format as it’s short-form and encourages you to be deliberate with your words.

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Aesthetically speaking, the Gather has a nice olive green cover with the 15 different logos that are used for the different review categories embossed on the front of the book. Each page is laid out in a very simplistic manner: there is a spot to log the item you are reviewing, about half a page to write your thoughts, and then at the bottom there is a 5-star rating system and underneath that space for your high points and your low points. On the side of the page are little square icons of each of the 15 categories one could use to signify what they are reviewing. Some of the categories are: video games, music, books, food, place, product, art, etc. At the back of the journal there is a journaling guide like the Grow Daily Journal has. The guide gives you a brief description of each genre and its components. I didn’t think I would find this part of the book interesting, but it was actually really helpful to peruse to get some ideas generated.

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The final part of this review is on whether or not you should buy one. Short answer: it depends. If you consume a lot of media, travel, or eat out a lot, this may be beneficial to you. The journal will be especially beneficial if you practice any kind of mindfulness exercise or spend time deep in thought analyzing your interests. If none of this sounds like you, I would pass on this for sure. Overall, I think it is still a worthwhile purchase because unless you find yourself reviewing things a lot, this will probably be a one-time purchase. At $24, the Gather is not a bad deal at all. You can find the Gather over at Baron Fig along with their other guided journals.

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?

Baron Fig Archer: Oracle Limited Edition

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Perhaps one of the most used toys of my childhood was my beloved Magic 8 Ball. I shook that thing to get the answers to the most pressing questions of a pre-teen’s life: Does that girl that sits behind me like me? Will we have a snow day tomorrow? Should I ask her out? While this grapefruit-sized ball with a icosahedron inside could not have had the prescience to predict my life, it was amusing and fun. As an adult, life has a lot less of those urgent questions nor is carrying around a Magic 8 Ball is practical. Enter the Oracle pencil by Baron Fig. Designed to provide a bit of fun to break up the monotony of our days, the Oracle provides six possible answers to our pressing questions: Will I get a promotion? Should I call out of work tomorrow? Should I get out of *bed* tomorrow? A simple roll across the desk will decide your fate if you so desire. Aesthetically, these pencils don’t do it for me. I might be an anomaly though-- I love everything neon and bright-- this color palette is quite muted. I have previously given Baron Fig shit for not being colorful enough and in the beginning, I even dared to call them “bro-ish” with their choices. They have delivered color since then, and I’m grateful for that, but these pencils match their original color choice style. I’d like to emphasize: there is nothing wrong with that! Just not my jam. The iconography on the other hand is pretty cool. I like the incorporation of a crystal ball intermixed with the different suits of cards. It really drives home the whole Oracle theme as I imagine sitting at a table across from a fortune teller with a crystal ball and a spread of cards. The design on the packaging is even better as it is a much more intricate version of what is depicted on the pencils. I’d love to see this design on a limited edition Vanguard or Confidant.

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Performance wise, these are right on par with other pencil offerings. If you have used a Viarco, you have used a Baron Fig Archer. While not confirmed, I’d bet my last 211 on the fact that Baron Fig uses Viarco for all their custom pencil needs. I will say that there is a slight difference when it comes to grittiness— other Archers suffered from this problem. So much so that I really didn’t care to write with them, but this iteration is free of that sandiness. You will still experience that scratchy feeling when writing. I don’t think it is necessarily the graphite that is scratchy, I think it is the feedback this very lightweight pencils provides its user. I am a fan of a heavier hand feel when writing, so it’s not my thing, but others will probably not even notice. All of that aside, you really cannot go wrong picking up these pencils. At $15 for a dozen of limited edition pencils, it’s worth it. Especially so since you can predict your future! Pick them up on Baron Fig’s website while they last!

*** I was provided these pencils free of charge for review purposes. Free items in no way influence my view of a product and my opinions are mine and mine alone***

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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