Community Member Spotlight: Andy Welfle

Here at the Weekly Pencil, every month I will spotlight a new member of the pencil community.  I had this idea after I realized that so many people looked at me like I had two heads when I said that I was a blogger that wrote about pencils.  Their next question was “other people like pencils too?!”  I assured them that yes, there are thousands of pencil lovers out there passionate enough to blog about, talk about, and podcast about pencils.  My other motivation for this segment was that we are such a big group over at Erasable that sometimes we don’t get the chance to really get to know the members of our community that we interact with daily.  This is a chance to get to know those members.  Our first pencil pal I am spotlighting is Andy Welfle, one third of the Erasable Podcast crew.  Enjoy!

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What got you into pencils?

I’ve always really liked school supplies, like pens, pencils, notebooks, Trapper Keepers, et cetera. But there was something that led to my focussed interest in pencils. On a whim in 2007, I ordered a pencil sampler pack from PencilThings.com (which isn’t really maintained anymore, sadly). The pack, not dissimilar from this one, included some products from CalCedar, like a Palomino and a Golden Bear (both still branded under California Republic Stationers, and a few others. (That blog is long dead, but the raw text from those posts are still archived on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.)

It led to an aha moment that, wow, good pencils are way better than crappy pencils! That realization changed my life.

I emailed the then-proprietor of Pencil Things and showed him my reviews. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse — would I be a product reviewer on the site’s blog in exchange for free stuff? Of course I said yes.

I blogged regularly there for a couple of years, and we built a pretty nice community. It was in the heyday of blogs, before Twitter and Facebook were really in the mainstream, and I connected with a lot of amazing stationery bloggers, like Sean from Blackwing Pages, Lito from Palimpsest, Matthias from Bleistift, Gunter from LexikalikerStephen from Pencil Talk and yes, Johnny from Pencil Revolution.

Eventually, the Pencil Things blog fizzled out, and the shop owner’s health declined. He sold the site to people who didn’t see the value of in-house blogging and community building — they were more interested in selling cheap personalized pencils on Amazon. We parted ways, and man, after a year or so, I missed writing about pencils on the internet.

That’s what led me to start Woodclinched in 2010, and a few years later, to collaborate with Johnny and Tim on the Erasable Podcast in 2014!

How do you use pencils in your everyday life?

I always have at least one pencil with me, and usually have several within easy reach. My beloved Timber Twist bullet pencil is always in the pocket of my light jacket (which I wear basically nine months out of the year in temperate San Francisco weather), and I always keep a rotating assortment of pencils in my extra-long zip-up pencil pouch from CW Pencils. There’s generally at least one Blackwing, one Baron Fig Archer, and plenty of others.

I mainly use pencils at work — I have a lot of meetings and if there’s reason to take notes, it’s with a pencil in my Baron Fig Confidant. I also make quick notes and lists on sticky notes or into my pocket notebook (currently a Write Notepads “In the Pines”).

What would be your dream pencil?

Good question! I’ve thought about this a little bit before. My perfect pencil would:

Performance Characteristics

  • Would have a core that was a magical blend of the smoothness of a Palomino Blackwing 602 and the point retention of a Blackwing 24
  • Would be comfortable to hold, with maybe a soft-cornered semi-hex
  • Would be lightweight like a Baron Fig Archer
  • Would be made of FSC-certified California incense cedar, with a prominent woodgrain, yet would sharpen smoothly and cleanly
  • Would be made of a M+R Pollux-compatible wood, with lacquer strong enough to withstand the teeth of a Classroom Friendly Sharpener

Aesthetics

  • Would have the looks of a blue, lacquered Japanese pencil, like the Tombow KM-KKS
  • Would have plenty of words and glyphs stamped on the barrel, with maybe some kooky phrase like “MADE BY ELABORATE PROCESS”
  • Would be available tipped with an eraser (with a unique Field Notes-esque ferrule, or a painted stripe), or end-dipped, capped with an accent color

Top 5 pencils?

It changes on a week-to-week basis, I think. Generally, though, these pencils are regulars in my top five, as expressed on the Top 5 page of Erasable:

  1. Palomino Golden Bear: This is by far the best pencil quality for the price. Solid all-purpose performer, beautiful to look at and hold, and made in the USA. All for less than $3 a dozen. Get the blue ones.
  2. Palomino Blackwing 602: One of the best quality pencils on the market today, modeled after the mythical Eberhard Faber Blackwing. High quality writing pencil with retro styling and a super unique look. The flagship pencil at Pencils.com.
  3. Mitsu-Bishi Hi-Uni 2B: High, high quality graphite within a smoothly sharpening wood case and a thick, gorgeous lacquer. More expensive than even the Palomino Blackwing, but definitely worth it.
  4. Musgrave Test Scoring 100: Kinda strange looking, but the balance between hardness and darkness is so good. And the price can’t be beat.
  5. Staedtler Noris School Pencil: Good performer, but really, I love it for the look. Yellow and black striped barrel, with a bright, thick red cap. It’s nothing special to Europeans, but it stands out as an object of wonderment to Americans.

What kind of work do you do?

It’s with some amount of irony that I work at Adobe, a large software company in San Francisco. They’re the makers of, among other things, apps like Photoshop and Illustrator, which have generally replaced analog tools of creative expression in the workplace.

I work on a design team as a UX content strategist, which means, in a nutshell, that I write the words in the interface as well as create content standards, manage terminology and voice and tone used throughout the products and basically collaborate with designers to make sure the language and the visual designs work together.

It’s a fun job, but with all of the electronics at my disposal, it’d be easy to toss my pencil and notebook aside. I already have to keep my calendar and my comprehensive to-do list digitally.

It’s fun, though, because I work with some amazingly creative people who also use notebooks and nice writing utensils. I’ve converted a lot of my coworkers here (and at Facebook, where I worked before Adobe) to pencils.

You can tell the pencil users because our white desks are streaked with graphite and eraser crumbles.

 

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Musgrave Round-Up

Musgrave Round-Up

The Musgrave round-up is first in a series of reviews I will do about all pencils (that are currently obtainable) in a specific brand.  I often wonder if pencil companies that brand pencils with different names really have differences within each pencil.  Besides aesthetics, do these different pencils have different cores?  To test this out, I will take each pencil and write one full college ruled page and compare how each pencil feels while writing and how well it performs when it comes to erasing, smearing, and darkness.  Before we get to the actual reviews, let’s talk about Musgrave as a company first.

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Musgrave has been making pencils in Shelbyville, Tennessee since 1916.  Supplied by Tennessee red cedar and a system of recycling cedar rail fences for more modern wire, Musgrave had all the resources it needed.  Musgrave not only bartered with farmers for the old cedar, but their crew installed the new wire and pole fencing that would be replacing that cedar.  Since the cedar rails had been outdoors for an extended period of time, they were already weathered and in perfection condition.  The cedar was cut into pencil slats that were sent from Tennessee to German manufacturers like Faber.  In 1919, the Tennessee red cedar had been depleted and a new source needed to found.  Luckily, a wood with similar characteristics from California, California Incense Cedar was shipped it.  This new wood was fast growing, plentiful, and renewable.  Musgrave held on as a company through the Great Depression and during World War II and still operates today in Shelbyville.  One the few pencil manufacturers left in the United States, Musgrave is an example of how ingenuity and dedication to one’s product can last the test of time.

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The pencils I will be talking about today are the ones that are easily available for purchase.  There are other pencils in their lineup that I would have liked to try, but I am still waiting for a response from the company about how I can acquire those.  I will update accordingly if that ever comes through.  All pencils reviewed today were purchased via CW Pencil Enterprise.  Please note that I am not comparing these pencils against each other– that would be unrealistic as these pencils have a variety of purposes.  Instead, I have used each pencil for a period of time and have provided some feedback and thoughts on how each performed.

Bugle ($0.25)

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The Bugle has a very simple design.  It has a round, unpainted barrel with a thin clear overcoat with the word “BUGLE” and 1816 stamped in white.  There are also two little bugles stamped on the pencil which make it completely adorable.  There is no eraser and the pencil is very light in your hand.  Based on the smell test, I do not think this pencil is made of cedar, but I could be mistaken.  Writing with the Bugle produced a very loud scratchy sound, but not a scratchy feel.  I felt it was a bit light for a number 2 pencil and because of this lightness it was very easy to erase.  Point retention is amazing and I was able to fill an entire sheet of college ruled notebook paper before I had to sharpen again.

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I would recommend this pencil for a few reasons.  Aesthetically speaking, this pencil is great.  I really like the bugles stamped into the side and I am a sucker for natural looking pencils.  I personally don’t like round barreled pencils, but that’s just me.  Also, the Bugle has wonderful point retention even though it is a bit lighter than I like for a number 2 pencil.  As a furious note taker, I find myself having to sharpen a lot.  This was not the case with the Bugle as it seemed to just keep going and going.

Harvest #2 ($0.35)

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At first glance, the Harvest is your typical looking yellow school pencil.  Upon further inspection, you can see that it is so much more than that.  I have to admit, I am in love with the design of this pencil.  It has a nice sharp hexagonal barrel (some hate this; I love it) and a thick coat of yellow lacquer.  The typography of the word Harvest is wonderful and the other gold foil stamping has a nice, retro look to it.  The Harvest advertises that it has “bonded lead” which means the core is glued right onto the barrel.  This increases strength and decreases breakage.  The ferrule of this pencil is great as well with a crimson brown stripe in the middle of it.  It holds a bright pink eraser (that performs very meh).  It appears the Harvest is made with white ash as it is much lighter in color than the other pencils in Musgrave’s line-up.

Sadly, the core of my pencil was a bit off-center so it sharpened unevenly, but not so much so that it impacted its performance.  The Harvest wrote as dark as a number two pencil should and had average point retention.  I was able to fill up an entire notebook page, but towards the end I found myself rotating the pencil a lot to get a sharper edge to write with.  Don’t let my off center core dissuade you from picking up this pencil.  It is beautiful!  I would recommend not using the supplied eraser as it is pretty bad and feels as though you might rip your paper while using it.

Test Scoring 100 ($0.40)

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The Test Scoring pencil produces a love/hate sentiment among users.  Some like the sharp hex edge and shiny graphite lay down while other abhor it.  Say what you will, but the Test Scoring pencil looks pretty rad.  I like that there is “100” on the side of it almost encouraging you to do your best.  The graphite composition of the Test Scoring pencil is artificial and is actually called electro-graphite.  The reason this formulation is used is because it puts down a more reflective mark so the grading machines can pick up on it.  It writes nice and dark and has a smooth feel while writing.  Of course because of this darkness, point retention suffers.  This may be fine for grade schoolers, but for post grads taking tests, sometimes pencil sharpening is not allowed so I’d bring a dozen or so pre-sharpened just in case.

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The eraser is shit.  Seriously, it almost ripped my paper,  I wouldn’t dare use this eraser on a Scantron for fear of ripping a hole right through the sheet.  I wouldn’t recommend this pencil for heavy note taking since it dulls pretty quickly and smears a great deal.  I do enjoy the sharp hex it offers, but I can’t see myself ever using this outside of its intended purpose.  This pencil would be perfect for jotting down short notes or lists.

Ceres 909 ($0.40)

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The Ceres is another one of Musgrave’s standard yellow school pencil offerings.  It has the usual stamping of the Musgrave brand and then the word “Ceres” in a font that I know I’ve seen before, but I can’t remember what it’s called.  It has a standard number two pencil kind of darkness and I’d place it somewhere in between the Bugle and the Harvest as far as darkness is concerned.  Writing with the Ceres can be a mixed bag; at times it wrote pretty well with very little feedback, but at other times it was very scratchy.  It was almost as if there were some kind of little chunks of something within the graphite because the scratchiness would go away after writing for a little bit.

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The graphite it does lay down is easily erased, but not by its own eraser.  I mean you could erase it with the built-in eraser, but it is very rough on the paper.  Also, the eraser disintegrates, but does not create any dust and instead kind of tears off in chunks.  I wouldn’t say that this pencil is trash, but if it were in a pencil cup with others I would not reach for it unless I had to.  It certainly is better that the garbage most offices order from Staples or WB Mason, but marginally.  Musgrave really needs to work on their eraser game.

News 600 ($0.40)

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The News 600 is not your standard writing pencil.  You will have frustrating results if you try to use it for note taking– just don’t.  It is super dark and soft; I’d say it would be around a 4B or so and it has a larger than normal core.  Be careful with handling this pencil as pencils with larger cores can break if the pencil is dropped.  Having a broken core inside a pencil will render it pretty much useless since when you sharpen it, the point will simply fall right out of the pencil.  I would only recommend this pencil to be used by artists or if you are doing a newspaper crossword puzzle.

Final Thoughts

Musgrave is one the oldest pencil manufacturers still making pencils in the US.  They offer a pretty large line up of pencils, but their main business seems to be in novelty pencils.  I would say that for the cost of each pencil, you get what you pay for.  If Musgrave made some small improvements like improving their erasers and moving back to using California cedar, they would be a contender for one of my favorite pencil companies.  I love, love, love a sharp hex and Musgrave seems to be the only place that can offer that.  Too bad small, easily remedied things make me not want to carry much of their stuff in my daily rotation.  I mean, I love the Bugle, but it’s a round pencil, so unless I was all out of hexagonals I will not use it.  One final thing for Musgrave: please update your logo.  It’s bad.  Please.

 

CW Pencils Pencil Box Subscription

These days, it seems as though everyone is getting in on the subscription business.  The latest entry into the arena is CW Pencil Enterprise.  The quarterly subscription service is $120 for a year, but it is paid in four installments.  This model is unique in the stationery subscription service model since it allows you to cancel mid subscription.  Also, for those that have a hard time coming up with a large chunk of money at once, $30 at a time makes it easier.  According to the description on the website, the pencil box is guaranteed to contain:

  • At least 3 pencils
  • At least 1 pencil accessory (sharpener, eraser, extender, etc)
  • A wild card item (notebook, pencil case, more accessories)
  • Exclusive ephemera
  • Whatever else we are excited about

Now that the details are out of the way, let’s get to the contents of the box.  I will list each item and its fair market value.  Afterwords, I will talk a bit about my thoughts on the subscription service itself.

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General’s SEMI-HEX #1 – $0.67

Papermate MONGOL 480 #2 – $0.17

Caran d’Ache Technograph – $3.00

Koh-i-Noor Original Magic FX – $3.00

Stationers Inc. Reporters Notebook – $1.98

Faber Castell Double Hole Sharpener – $4.95

Doppel-Laufer Universal Eraser – $0.37

Exclusive Postcard/Pamphlet – $2.00

Shipping/Materials – $10.00

TOTAL: $26.14

Now let me state the obvious and get it out of the way here: the value of the items in the box does not equal $30.  BUT.  You are not just paying for items in a box.  You have to factor in materials and labor to pack the box as well as shipping costs.  You are paying for the thoughtful, intentional selection of pencil paraphernalia.  You are paying for an experience.  Also, this is the first subscription box from CW, so I am sure there are exciting things in the works.  I’d like to revisit the whole cost/value issue after a year’s worth of boxes.  I would like to see more exclusive stuff like enamel pins, patches, stickers,etc.  And as far as themes go, I’d love to see a Japanese box, a vintage (with actual vintage items inside) box, and (well this is Dee specific) an all things neon box.  My final verdict on the subscription: BUY IT.  This little collection of items are things that I would not have tried out otherwise and love how everything stays related to the theme.  Nowhere else can you find a personal pencil curator to satisfy your pencilly needs.

***NOTE: I paid for this subscription with my own monies***

 

Massive Mechanical Pencil Lead Review

Massive Mechanical Pencil Lead Review

This post seems to be the antithesis to what I preach all day: “The only good pencil is a wooden pencil!  Wooden pencils for life!”  Even though 95 percent of my pencil usage is in the form of wood cased pencils, there is still room for a good mechanical.  I actually have quite a few mechanical pencils and enjoy using them from time to time.  For testing purposes I am using a Tombow MONO graph 0.5mm mechanical pencil and writing on standard printer paper.

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Pentel AIN Stein ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

The Pentel Ain STEIN lead was nice and smooth and had a moderate darkness.  Point retention with this lead was moderate.  The case it comes in is nice and sleek and the lid stays attached.  You twist it to expose a hole where you can get the lead out.  STEIN stands for “Strongest Technology by Enhanced SiO2 Integrated Network” (whatever that means).  It has an “enhanced reinforced silica core” which claims to make it smooth, strong, and smudge free.  Lefties rejoice!

 

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Uni Kuru Toga ($3.30 for 20 pcs.)

The Uni Kuru Toga lead was smooth with a moderate darkness and point retention was a bit better than average.  I believe it probably has to do with its special formulation.  The Kuru Toga lead has a “soft outer layer around a hard inner core” and they claim that one can easily shape the lead into a point.  It comes in a round, cylindrical case with a removable lid.  While it is round, there is a small nub on the lid that makes it so it doesn’t roll off of a table or desk.    This is important to note since the Kuru Toga mechanical pencils do just that.  The pencil rotates the lead ever so slightly each time you lift the point off the paper.  If you don’t have a Kuru Toga pencil, you should buy one!

 

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Pilot Neox ($3.55 for 40 pcs.)

The Pilot Neox lead is nice and smooth ad a bit darker than most other HB lead grades I have tried out.  When writing with this lead, it glides across the paper effortlessly.  Point retention is on the low average side.  Pilot claims this lead contains “high quality graphite with few impurities, and the bond between the carbon atoms is strong than ever.”  Pilot makes some bold claims here stating that their lead uses lubricating properties of graphite crystal to ensure a smooth writing experience.  The canister has a sliding mechanism up to that opens to allow you to pour out the lead.

 

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Uni NanoDia ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

The Uni NanoDia Low-Wear lead glides easily over the paper as you write and feels very strong and durable.  Point retention is very strong considering it is so smooth.  The Uni NanoDia Low-Wear Pencil Leads are infused with nano-diamond pieces to create an unusually strong and high-quality lead.  The canister has a sliding mechanism in its lid that allows you to dump lead out.  I really like the overall design of this container.

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Zebra DelGuard ($3.25 for 40 pcs.)

The Zebra DelGuard is moderately dark, but felt kind of scratchy which was disappointing as I usually enjoy Zebra’s products. Point retention was average.  The case features a clever mechanism that opens a trap door and pushes out leads automatically when you use the slider on the side of the case.

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The Pentel Ain STEIN Hard and Soft ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

I was really excited to see if there was much discernible difference between the soft and hard versions of the Ain STEIN leads.  Much to my delight, there was.  The soft is a dream to write with as it slides right across the paper and legitimately feels like you are writing with a stick of butter (ok, maybe not that soft).  What was interesting was that it seemed lighter than the regular Ain STEIN and hard versions.  Perhaps this had to do with how it was laid down on the paper.  On the other hand the hard version was semi-scratchy as to be expected, but was slightly darker.  Obviously the point retention on the soft was poor and the hard was excellent.

 

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Rotring TIKKY ($3.00 for 12 pcs.)

 

The Rotring TIKKY lead was beyond disappointing.  It was very soft and point retention was awful.  What made me ever more frustrated was that you only got TWELVE leads for $3.00!  Also, the opening mechanism up to was really hard to fiddle with.  The canister is an ugly brown.  Avoid this at all costs.

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Tombow MONO Graph ($3.25 for 40 pcs.)

The Tombow MONO Graph leads are one of my favorites on this list.  They have a hard feeling to them when you write and the lead is nice and strong.  Point retention is slightly better than average.  These high-quality leads offer smooth writing, crisp lines, and great break resistance. The case features an innovative cap design: sliding it one way allows a single lead to come out a time, and sliding it the other way allows several leads to come out at a time.

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Hi-Uni Hi-Density GRCT ($4.95 for 40 pcs.)

I really couldn’t find much in the way of a description for the GRCT leads, but I did wander across this great vintage commercial for them:

The Hi-Uni GRCT had the most “pencily” feel out of all the lead I tried.  It was also the truest to an HB.  Point retention was right in the middle.  The case has a sliding mechanism on top that allows you to dump the lead out.

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Tombow MONO WX ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

The Tombow Mono-WX lead was nice and smooth and laid down a medium line.  Its point retention was better than average which was surprising considering how smooth it wrote.  Also, it felt very strong for a smoother lead which was nice.  The top of the unique dispenser opens to the right to dispense a single piece of lead at a time, or can be pushed to the left to extract multiple lead pieces at a time.

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Lamy ($4.30 for 12 pcs.)

Another huge disappointment here.  I couldn’t really find any description about these leads anywhere.  They come in an ugly, plain case and have a lid that comes completely off which is annoying because it is small and slippery and can easily be lost.  The lead itself is super hard and light.  It has a great point retention, but for $4.30 for 12 leads, this is horribly expensive for what you actually get.  Avoid.

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Staedtler Mars ($2.00 for 12 pcs.)

Staedtler’s Mars Micro Carbon lead glides smoothly across paper, producing dark lines. It is kinda flexible and pretty break-resistant. Point retention is a bit below average.  According the Staedtler, the lead is also environmentally friendly, composed of more than 90% natural raw materials. Plus, it is produced using unique ecologically-responsible manufacturing processes without PVC or softening agents.  The design of the canister is a bit odd and it has a very tiny top that is difficult to remove.  You also only get 12 leads and while it is still expensive at $2.00, it is not as sinful as Lamy or Rotring.

Wrap-Up

Overall, it was fun trying out many different leads.  While I didn’t rank each one, I have a top three: Tombow MONO graph, Pilot Neox Graphite, and the Pilot Ain STEIN soft.  All of these leads were purchased by myself from JetPens and I was not compensated for my opinions at all.

 

 

 

 

Write Notepads: A Year in Review

Write Notepads: A Year in Review

For the uninitiated, Write Notepads is a small, local business based in South Baltimore, Maryland that makes pocket (and other sized) notebooks.  For every notebook you purchase, one goes to an inner city student that needs one.  From the packaging to the actual notebook, everything is designed with meticulous attention to detail.  While Write sells standard notebooks that are always available for purchase, they also have a subscription option where you receive a new limited edition every three months.  Along with the limited edition notebooks, you receive limited edition pencils that match.  I will take a look at all four editions in this overview and comment a bit on their aesthetics and choose a favorite.  I’d like the send out a huge thank you to Kathy Rogers, a member of the Erasable group for providing the samples I reviewed.

Lenore

Write’s first edition was a an ode to Edgar Alan Poe.  Inspired by the darkness of Poe, each notebook has the simple word “Lenore” foil-stamped on its cover.  The inside of the notebook is 70 lb. small graph paper.  I am not sure how I feel about the tiny squares– I prefer a larger grid so I can make easier checklists.  What I do like is the matching pencil– there is a raven foil stamped on the barrel.  The ferrule, eraser, and wood of the pencil is also black which stays within the dark theme Lenore has going.  While I like the pencil a lot, the notebook is not my favorite.  I’d rank it 4th due to the small graph paper inside and the minimalist cover.  The pencil get 1st place hands down.

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Kindred Spirit

Write’s second edition Kindred Spirit, was inspired by the idea that us notebook and pencil enthusiasts are all kindred spirits and share the same feelings about our niche hobby.  The notebooks have been packaged as “Charcoal Bookettes” as a play on the idea that each notebook is like the beginning of a fire with the charcoal resembling the potential fire that is formed when we put our ideas to paper.  The outside of the notebook is a light orange-yellow with the slightest of marbling and the word “Write” stamped inside of a black flame.  The 70 lb. paper inside is lined like a ledger notebook which is a feature I like since I use a lot of my pocket notebooks for lists.  The pencil that came along with it was a natural wood-grain pencil with a pinkish-red eraser and “Quickstrike – Safety Pencils” stamped in red on the barrel.  I like this notebook a lot– the bright cover and the ledger-lined paper inside does it for me and puts the book 2nd on my list.  The pencil is a creative design and I have a thing for natural wood pencils, so it gets 2nd place as well.

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The Royal Blue

This Fall edition features the B&O Railroad and was created to honor The Royal Blue, a train that shuttled passengers from Washington D.C. to Jersey City.  The notebooks are a Saxony Blue and gold– the railroad’s traditional colors.  A crest in gold is printed on the cover and “The Royal Blue” is at the bottom in the original font of the train line.  This edition also has 70 lb. paper with the ledger lines I so love.  The pencil that comes with this edition is also blue and has a round barrel.  Stamped in gold is a picture of the Royal Blue train, the words “The Royal Blue” and “Write”; there is a sliver ferrule with a white eraser.  This notebook gets 1st place due to its design and ledger lined inside.  The pencil gets 4th place because I hate round barreled pencils (sorry).

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In the Pines

Write’s final edition of their inaugural subscription year was titled “In the Pines” and was inspired by a “cold walk through a dense pine forest.”  According to Write, the title pays homage to an “eerie hymnal originally attributed to Lead Belly, and popularized by Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session.”  As a lover of trees, I wanted to love this edition.  The detail of the dark green embossed cover is beautiful with a silver pine tree and the words “In the Pines” on the front.  Inside is 70 lb. dot grid paper which I am not in love with as the dots seem a bit more spread out than I am used to.  The pencil that goes along with this edition is also in dark green with silver stamping on the barrel.  I really like the detail of the number 2 inside a pine tree.  What is disappointing is I feel like the quality control on these pencils is not the same of the others.  I ordered a few and some have chips in the paint and sloppy stamping.  The chipping is not a big deal since it is at the end of the pencil and will be sharpened away anyway, but still disappointing.  I give the notebooks and pencils from this edition 3rd place on my lists.

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The Pencils

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Back to School Spring Semester Edition

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.

 

 

 

Write Notepads & Co. “In the Pines” Release

Write Notepads & Co. “In the Pines” Release

As with most limited editions from Write Notepads, a lot of thought and purpose was put into this edition.  From Write’s own website:

At the heart of it, a cold walk through a dense pine forest was our ideal way to welcome Winter.  Once we established the color structure, it came time for a name. The ageless, eerie hymnal originally attributed to Lead Belly, and popularized by Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session was the perfect title for our release. “In the Pines” haunting lyrics set the tone for this epic Americana release.

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Source: Write Notepads & Co.

Each notebook is glue bound with 70-pound dot grid paper.  Even though I have yet to get my hands on these notebooks, I have used Write Notepads in the past and can assure you they have one of the highest quality paper in the pocket notebook market.  Limited Edition releases are VERY limited.  This edition has 750 printed, so I would jump on it as soon as you can.  Write Notepads has a subscription service, but it is only opened at certain times, so I would check their website periodically to see if the signup link is available.  For a great review of this limited edition, check out Leadfast.