Back to School Spring Semester Edition

I love college for the simple fact that one can have two "back to schools" a year (more if you want to torture yourself with an intercession course).  Each spring and fall I start fresh and do a bit of gathering for the coming semester.  I clean out the backpack from last semester (sorry black, shriveled banana-- forgot you were in there) and reorganize my tools.  I have been thinking a lot about what I will use this spring.  This is the first semester in my college career where I am taking a full course load.  That's four classes and 16 credits-- no small feat for a non-traditional like myself.  In order to stay engaged and motivated, I often mix up what writing tools I use throughout the semester.  Here is a glimpse into my backpack and at each and every thing that I put into that backpack for the semester.

The Bag

Like most college students, I have a lot of shit to carry around.  I had considered purchasing a hip messenger bag, but it was hard to find one that had all of the features I wanted-- extra secure pockets, place for water bottle, multiple compartments for various things (headphones, pocket notebooks, pencils/pens, etc.), and comfortable straps since a lot of my classes involve me trekking across one end of campus to the other.  I decided to go with a North Face (I know, SO cliché) backpack.  I chose the Recon because it checked off all of the boxes for me:

I have had this bag for two years now and it has yet to let me down.  It has worn very well and all zippers work like new.  While I would love to have a reason to purchase a new backpack, I have no reason to with the North Face Recon.

Paper

This selection really goes against my uppity, elitist stationery preferences, but my notebook choice for last semester and this semester is the lowly Staples college ruled spiral notebook.  I have found that when I am taking note on the fly in class or when I am reading along with a text I am unable to do so neatly.  I have a strong desire to have everything uniform and routine with my notes (same headers/hierarchy), so using a good notebook for that and having to take my time to achieve this goal would no be feasible.  What I have done instead is if I do take notes for a class that is within my major, I will re-write them in a nicer notebook for long-term use.  Using cheap Staples notebooks allows me to spend a bit more money on things like pencils and other tools where quality does matter.

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Pencil Case

I actually use two pencil cases for my every day carry backpack.  The first one is the Nomadic PE-18 Pen case.  I chose this case for the simple fact that it had a lot of compartments without being too bulky.  I really like that it has one large compartment for pens and pencils and a smaller compartment for a few highlighters or pens as well.  Every compartment is smartly designed and the Nomadic has held up for the past three years of every day use.

The second pencil case I use is one I just purchased.  It is the CW Pencil Enterprise branded Viking leather pencil case.  This case is beautiful and even holds an unsharpened Blackwing.  I plan on using this case as a holder for whichever pencil and eraser I am using for the week as well as highlighters and any marking pencils I need for work.  Caroline is currently sold out of these cases, but she plans on getting more in stock in a variety of colors.

Erasers

There are really only two erasers I ever use: the Matomaru-Kun Plastic Eraser and the Tombow MONO "Erase Easily" Eraser.  The Matomaru-Kun is a bit softer than the Tombow, but both perform well.  They do not damage the paper at all and completely erase pencil markings opposed to smearing them around a bit before rubbing them off the paper.

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Sharpeners

I carry four sharpeners with me in a small plastic box and each sharpener has a particular use.  The Masterpiece and/or the Pollux are for when I have time to sharpen a nice long point on a pencil.  The Milan square sharpener is for when I am taking notes in class and need to sharpen quickly.  The Milan leaves a "just right" point for writing.  Finally, I use an M+R  Brass dual hole sharpener for when I need to sharpen a jumbo pencil or one of my highlighter pencils.

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Highlighters

I have a thing for highlighters.  I can never seem to settle on a particular brand or color for too long.  I used to use the Tombow Kei Coat Double Sided highlighters, but now have moved on to the Zebra Mildliners.  I have all three sets, but really like the light neon ones for schoolwork.  I also use the Caran D'Ache  Couleurs Flous Jumbo highlighter pencils when I am in the mood.  I recommend all colors but the yellow one as the yellow really needs you to push pretty hard for it to show up noticeably.

Pencils

This is a tough one.  I have hundreds of pencils around the house.  To select just a few to accompany me on my school adventures is a difficult task and at first I was just going to pick one brand and stick with it for the whole semester.  Then I got thinking.  Part of the fun is using a different pencil every now and then.  I narrowed it down to a select few:

I will not go into how each pencil performs as I will probably blog about it this semester, but I will say that I tried to pick a range of brands while staying within the same lead grade in order to have some consistency.  I made sure to try to include pencils that I have never used before to keep it interesting.

Planner

In previous years, I have used a Field Notes undated planner for school assignments.  This year I decided to go with a Baron Fig Confidant planner since I have never tried any of their paper or products that much.  I can say that initially I am underwhelmed with the Baron Fig planner-- the cover fabric seems to have come unglued from the heavy cover underneath.  This is only along the spine and does not affect the use of the book, but I guess I was expecting more.  We shall see how it turns out.

I hope all of you enjoyed a glimpse into my academic school supply life.  I'd be curious to hear from other students to see what they choose to carry.  Leave a comment if so inspired.

 

 

 

Penmanship Pencils: A Review

In Asia, there is a lot of emphasis on penmanship.  So much so, that there are specific pencils for that exact purpose.  I suppose in Asian countries the intricacy of their handwritten language necessitate a need for such tools.  The penmanship pencil offers a smooth, dark graphite that glides across the paper and provides ample feedback for your writing experience.  I would relate the writing experience to writing with a crayon and marker combined into one.  What is equally great about these pencils is that they do not smudge much like other darker lead grades.  This is very useful if you want to use them to take notes or journal (note: I have tried these on a few different paper types, but not all).  Today I am going to take a look at the two main penmanship (pencilship?) pencils; the Tombow MONO and the Mitsubishi Uni:

At first glance, both of these pencils are beautiful.  From the striking finish to the inscriptions on the side of the pencil, they are a writing implement you are just drawn (no pun intended) to.  Like most Japanese pencils I have used, the attention to detail is phenomenal.

The cores of both of these pencils are nice and thick with the Mitsubishi core being a tad bit thicker.  Both were sharpened with the Classroom Friendly sharpener:

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Writing with the Tombow proved to be a dream.  The pencil was nice and smooth and laid down nice, dark lines.  Compared to the Mitsubishi, the Tombow provided more feedback when writing-- the actual sound of scribbling resonated much more so than the Mitsubishi.  This may have had to do with the fact that the Tombow was a lighter pencil overall weight-wise.  The graphite laid down was almost identical to the Mitsubishi and did not smear.  I also preferred the color scheme of the Tombow as I like bright colors, but my opinion is entirely subjective.  The Mitsubishi on the other hand was heavier, provided almost no feedback when writing, and the finish, while not as attractive as the Tombow was better.  The thicker lacquer and the larger core most likely added to the overall weight of the Mitsubishi as I feel both of these pencils are made from the same wood.  Another positive is that the Mitsubishi is a bit easier to find than the Tombow.  Both CW Pencils and JetPens carry the Mitsubishi, while only CW Pencils carries the Tombow.

I really cannot say that there is a clear winner here.  Both pencils perform well and I think it comes down to which is more aesthetically pleasing to the user.  Here are links for both pencils at CW Pencils: Tombow and Mitsubishi 

 

Eraser Round Up

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This week has been a bit different.  A lot of times, people always ask me what the best eraser is for everyday use.  I usually answer "Mitsubishi Boxy", but after the nth time of recommending that glorious little black rectangular eraser I began to wonder.  What about the other ones?  Just like pencils, there are dozens of different types of erasers made of different materials that appeal to and equal amount of individuals.  I did not want to merely review erasers-- reviewing items is a subjective matter and what I may like may be completely horrible to someone else.  What follows are twelve different impressions on erasers-- some quite common and well known and some you may not have heard of.  Note: A Blackwing 602 was used on a Field Notes Shenandoah with 60# paper. Papermate Pink Pearl

PinkPearl

The Pink Pearl is perhaps the most well known eraser on this list.  I am sure all of us have fond memories of using this rubbery pink parallelogram during math classes.  We also probably remember how gritty it was and how it left horrible tears or pink smudges on the paper.  Well, this is not your 80's Pink Pearl.  I will readily admit that I expected that Pink Pearl of yesteryear; gritty, barely usable, and endlessly frustrating.  Papermate has a tendency to take good products and butcher them and the Pink Pearl-- I figured-- was no exception.  Boy was I surprised when I used the Pink Pearl for the first time in 25 years.  No grit, no smear; just buttery smooth effectiveness.  The Pink Pearl performed well beyond my expectations and has become my new favorite EDC eraser.  There is something about the nostalgia of carrying a Pink Pearl with me everywhere.  I like it.

Seed Radar  

Radar

The Radar came recommended from one of my favorite Erasables, Less (check out their page!).  It comes in a variety of subtle colors, but I gravitated towards blue.  I am kinda bummed the eraser itself is not quite blue enough, but where it lacks in vibrancy, it make up in performance.  Not only does this plastic eraser remove most traces of graphite, but its dust rolls up nicely into little bunches for easy clean up.  The Radar has a useful cardboard sheath that prevents the eraser from breaking.

Tombow MONO

Mono

I am a huge fan of Tombow products.  I have a current affair with their Brush Pens and the MONO 100 was my favorite pencil before I found the Erasable Podcast group.  I expect nothing but the best from Tombow and while the eraser does a good job with line drawing and regular handwriting, it struggled with the shading portion of the test.  At first, it smeared a bit and then managed to get the job done.  Like most plastic erasers, the dust clumps neatly together and does not leave a mess.  The MONO is affordable and worth giving a shot.

Caran D'Ache Technik

Technik

I expected a lot from the Technik for two reasons: its price and the fact that it is made by Caran D'Ache.  I was most let down by the eraser's ability to erase cleanly.  It performed OK with line drawings, but with the shading it had excessive smearing and took a lot of effort to get the most graphite cleared.  The Technik is a very hard eraser and it leaves neat rolls of eraser dust.  I posit that the hardness of the plastic has to do with its crummy erasing performance.  I know I said I wouldn't review erasers here, but I can't resist with this one.  I'd pass on purchasing and instead get 3 Pink Pearls (or really 3 of anything).

Pentel Ain

Ain

The Pentel Ain erases well, but is a bit dusty.  It showed some smearing on the shading part of the erasing test, but with some effort it came through and got the job done.  Not much to say here, because it was solidly mediocre.

Koh-I-Noor Magic

Magic

The Magic is an eraser that I have been wanting to get my hands on for some time.  I love how each eraser is different with varying colors and swirls.  As a rubber eraser, the Magic is clearly very dusty.  I'd liken the dustiness to a standard pink pencil eraser (think Ticonderoga/General's).  It has a nice pungent rubbery smell and does fantastically on regular light handwriting and lines.  It is a smeary mess on the darker lines and shading parts and actually reminds me of the Pink Pearl from years ago.  The Magic is a cool eraser nonetheless and is a nice pocket carry, but at $2.50 you are definitely paying for the novelty.

Staedtler Mars Plastic

Mars

I was quite unimpressed by the Mars plastic; it was dusty, took a lot of effort to erase things, and smeared a heck of a lot.  I expected more from Staedtler, but was left with a less than average eraser.  I do like the size of the Mars as it makes for easy erasing, but the effort you put forth getting the job done negates the bonus of a larger eraser.

Hinodewashi Matomaru-kun

Hino

The Hinodewashi came highly recommended from pretty much anyone that has used it, so I was excited to use this delightfully bright white block of plastic.  It performed beautifully with very little effort.  The dust rolled up nicely and did not smear any of what was erased.  These are hard to come by in the US, but Caroline has a few at CW Pencil Enterprise if you are interested.

Craft Design Technology No. 14

CDT

The minimalist design of CDT products always draw me in.  I enjoy a product that lets its product do all the talking and not the packaging.  Well, the CDT left a lot to be desired.  First, when opening the eraser I could not help but notice the smell.  I can't even tell you what it smelled like, but it was a chemical-like smell with a hint of plastic.  In fact, it was so pungent I could smell it without putting it up to my nose.  Once I got past the smell, the CDT was meh.  Yes, it erases, but is dustier than I had expected and it took a lot of effort to erase the samples and even then, you can see a shadow of what was once there.

Koh-I-Noor Thermoplastic

thermoplastic

I want to start off by saying this eraser was my absolute favorite design wise.  I love the hexagonal shape (which I believe is a nod to the pencil) and the recessed center that allows for a very comfortable grip.  The six corners allow for maximum control and precision.  The Thermoplastic erases OK, but does leave a shadow on both samples.  I would say that this eraser is best for light writers out there that do not press that hard or use H grade graphite.  I know this eraser says its plastic, but it was the dustiest of the plastic erasers I have tested.  The Thermoplastic comes in a myriad of colors and if not used as an every day eraser, its still a cool pocket carry (its almost reminiscent of those worry stones one would carry in their pocket).

Faber-Castell Dust Free Art Eraser

FaberCastell

Another recommendation from Less, the FC Dust Free never ceased to amaze me as I explored its qualities.  First, I love the dark green color-- it does a good job of hiding any graphite marks that may transfer to the eraser.  Second, while subtle, is the contoured edges that make for comfortable holding.  I really didn't think that this would make a difference, but it did and has a really good hand feel when erasing bigger projects.  Finally, it lives up to its name: Dust Free.  This eraser was perhaps the most effective when keeping its waste materials rolled up in tiny little bunches.  The FC Dust Free also erases beautifully.  Not the top performer in the "clean erase" field, but it definitely holds its own.

Sakura Foam

Sakura

The Sakura Foam is one of the few erasers on this list that I have used before.  I really like the way its shavings ball up together-- this makes for a quick and easy cleanup.  The Sakura does an amazing job erasing any kind of line drawing or handwriting.  Where its lacks is its ability to erase large areas of shading.  I'm not an artist, so this is not a deal breaker for me, but something to keep in mind.  Another downfall of this eraser is that it wears down pretty quickly.  That worn down edge you see in the picture is just from the two tests I did (line drawing, sentence erasing, and shading).  The Sakura definitely lives up to its "High Quality" designation, but if you make a lot of mistakes, you will blow through these pretty quickly.  With that being said, it continues to be one of my favorites for every day erasing.

 

 

 

Tombow 2558 HB

The Tombow 2558 has been a pleasure to write with this week.  Smooth, dark graphite for an HB graded pencil, a nice color coordinated look, and pretty decent graphite durability. FB_IMG_1442947217591

I didn't really expect much from an regular old school pencil, but as always Tombow never fails to disappoint.  I found myself entrenched with statistics notes this week and the Tombow came through.  My only complaints were that the graphite, because it was soft, wore down pretty quickly and I required a bit more sharpening than I would have liked.  The eraser on the pencil wore down pretty quickly and left a lot of crumbly shavings, but I did like the nice touch of matching the ferrule with the foil stamping on the pencil.

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I gave this pencil such a high rating because even though it wore down pretty quickly, I could see myself ordering a gross of this pencil and using it every day.  Head over to JetPens if you are interested in picking up a few!20150927_135040