Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Comparison: Pentel Ain Stein B, HB + uni NanoDia HB, 3B

While I don't often review pencil related items, I am actually a big fan of mechanical pencils, so I wanted to share a brief look at several premium pencil leads.

The two on the left are called NanoDia, from uni(ball), while the two on the right are the Pentel Ain Stein (read: "Einstein").

The packaging for these leads is flashier than the standard removable top on most lead containers. The Pentel Ain Stein has a twist top while the uni NanoDia features a slide top. I have lost the top on a pencil lead container before, so these are great designs to prevent that issue.

The Ain Stein container has a small opening, so I had to give it a few gentle shakes to get the lead out (at least with a full container). The NanoDia has more access, but this also comes with a greater risk of spilling the leads.

In my writing test, the Pentel Ain Stein HB was not as smooth as the NanoDia HB (I wrote this as Nano Dia, with a space, but dobule checking revealed that there is, in fact, no space).

The paper used for my comparison was an Ampad Gold Fibre Quadrille pad and the pencil was a Zebra M301 Ultra.

The uni was smoother in both cases, but neither lead had any issue with becoming crumbly or snapping with a decent amount of pressure applied.

I apologize for the bluish color in the photos; it's often quite overcast here in Minnesota during the winter, so the color is not quite accurate, but it's mostly the consistency and shading that people look for in a pencil lead anyway.

For my erasing test, I used a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser as it is one of the best, most common erasers available. Each of the duplicate lines I wrote out erased completely with very minimal ghosting.

While the Ain Stein B and uni NanoDia 3B were both very smooth, the uni NanDia HB was certainly smoother than the Pentel Ain Stein HB. Interestingly enough, JetPens seems to have discontinued the Ain Stein leads, so I'm not sure if it was an availability issue or if the lack of popularity lead them to remove it from their offerings.

As a side note, the NanoDia is supposed to mean small (Nano) diamonds (Dia), so lead breakage is supposedly minimized with the addition of a little diamond dust. Because none of the above leads have ever broken on me, I can't say that the diamonds help, but I can't say that they don't either. I guess I will just have the piece of mind knowing that the diamonds are doing their thing to keep me writing without the period, annoying snap of a broken lead.

uni NanoDia - JetPens - $3.30 The HB is currently sold out, but you can most of the other hardness levels.

Pentel Ain Stein -> not available from JetPens, but you can still get it elsewhere if you're interested.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pilot Razor Point II

Alright, so I meant to write "and IT has been", but I was caught up enough in the writing experience of the pen not to notice my omission. This pen is very basic in it's design, much like the Marvy Le Pen and Sakura Pigma Micron, but it does have a bit of starry-night razzle dazzle going on with silver speckles on grey. 

I know most felt/plastic-tip pens do not fair well as a refill version, but Copic has done it, as has Sharpie, so I would love to see this one in a steel barrel with interchangeable cartridges and point sizes.

That being said, my Copic has an issue where he "bristles" tend to crack - it has happened to me twice. My stainless steel Sharpie Pen is awesome, but the tip wears down quickly, so I guess a disposable plastic tip/felt pen is optimal. 

This example looks better in person. As I've noted in previous reviews, my lighting situation isn't the best. Daylight is non-existent after work, and whatever light I can refract from the Minnesota snow is a slightly blue tinge. I do have Photoshop, but I haven't had time to learn how to use it to correct my images.

Here's a comparison of the Razor Point II to other plastic tipped pens. Some of these are fairly common, especially the V Razor (found at big box stores), the Staedtler and Sakura (found in art supply stores), and the Sharpie (found in almost every pen cup, car seat, couch cushion, and junk drawer).

The Razor Point II was closest to the Sakura Pigma Micron, but I would favor the Sakura for all of its acid-free, archival, so on and so forth. I am not sure if the Razor Point II has ink with these properties, but this adds a bit of mystique.

Some mug shots of the clip. Very minimal and basic, but it works.

This images shows a bit more of the sparkle. It looks both menacing and ethereal. It's also very comfortable to hold for a basic stick pen.

The pen is saying, "You need to try this." At least with the right quantity of microbrew it is.  :)

I'm actually quite surprised this isn't more common/available. I also thought the same thing about the Pilot Bravo, but maybe there's a legitimate reason that these are not more well known. Does anyone else have experience this with one?


Per Daniel's Request, a view of the bleed-through test (Rhodia Reverse Book 80gsm):

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pentel National Handwriting Day Contest

Pentel just sent me an e-mail with an excellent opportunity to show your thanks and enter to win some prizes at the same time. The details are as follows:

Image taken from

What's This All About?

In celebration of National Handwriting Day, we're paying homage to the art - and the heart - of the handwritten note. We're asking you to recognize someone special with a handwritten thank you note - and we're awarding prizes to the best ones.

How to Enter?

    Hand write a thank you note
    Snap a picture of your note
    Upload your image to the Pentel of America Facebook tab-

At the end of January, Pentel® will select five of the best entries to win!

Hurry, the first 50 fans to enter will win a bonus prize!

So, there it is. Get out your writing supplies and show some thanks to those you care about. I'd be curious to see some of the thank you cards, too, so feel free to leave a link in the comments to the image. Outside of that, good luck!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pilot EasyTouch Pro (Medium) Black, Blue, and Red

The EasyTouch Pro is not a pen a I read a lot about, and I don't know what to make of that. Of all of the "regular" ballpoints available on the shelves, at least in the U.S., I think this is one of the best.

I picked these up in a 3-pack for around $7.00. You get the usual black, blue, and red combination that seems to be the default for a multi-color pack of pens.

One thing that I really like about this pen is the grips. Sure, they can attract a bit of dust, but these little tire-like grips are wonderfully grippy and ergonomic, and I put these in my top 3 in the Best Grip category.

The conical tip shape and 1.0 mm ball are standard options for a ballpoint, so this might be a good configuration to elevate someone beyond their regular ballpoint without having them experience a jarring transition from their comfort zone, i.e., not everyone is going to move from a 1.0 mm ballpoint to a .38 gel without feeling that their world has been violated - it's best to smart with small advancements and go from there. 

As noted in the written review, the performance of this pen is very smooth, with only moderate white spots within the line consistency; it's enough for me to overlook, at least. 

 The built quality is quite solid and everything feels firm and durable. The retractable mechanism has a pronounced click action and the overall balance and comfort of the barrel leaves little to critique - of course, your mileage may vary.

For anyone who likes to take notes in a couple different colors, this is a great little set. That being said, you can also track down the Acroball multipen, which not only has other point sizes, but it's a more convenient package for those of you who don't want to lug around a large pen case.