Friday, June 28, 2013

Pentel Twist-Erase Click .9 Mechanical Pencil

I never thought construction cone/safety orange was a really fun color until I started getting into fountain pen inks and Rhodia products, but now orange is one of my first picks, so I love the look of this mechanical pencil from Pentel.

I'm not sure if I ever owned a .9 mechanical before this one, and I'm still not sure how I feel about something between my beloved .5s and a 2mm lead holder. A .9 is comparable to sharpening a wooden pencil, writing a few lines, and then writing - it's a bit fat for my writing style, but it's perfect for sketching, large notes, and the lead is a helluva lot more resilient to breakage. 

I've been using this one at work to sketch markups for our drafter, who then turns the drawings into CADs (we manufacture medical and industrial carts, primarily). 

One huge different between the Twist-Erase line of Pentel products vs. other mechanical/drafting pencils is the huge eraser. This is by no means an 'emergency eraser', and the refills are easy to find. I didn't get a chance to do a writing/erasing sample, but most of you are familiar with quality erasers, and this one does a pretty solid job (not as perfect as the super premium erasers, but it's priced right). 

I will say that if you are not erasing in the direction the eraser is pointing, e.g., in a circular motion, you may end up twisting the eraser back into the pencil. You can hold onto the collar to prevent this from happening, or you can just erase with the eraser - kinda hard to describe but, if you get one, you'll figure it out.

The mechanism to extend the lead is conveniently placed next to the grip; this is efficient, and I like it. I'm not sure where other people typically weigh in on this, but I find shaker pencils to be a needless amount of spectacle and effort to get a get a pinch of graphite, but maybe it's me that's weird. At any rate, the mechanism on the side is better than a shaker mechanism. :)

I thought the ergonomics on this were pretty comfortable, and I was able to write very close to the point, just as I like it; it makes it easier to write small, which is what I prefer. The build quality is solid, and I thought the clip was adequate. This pencil is part of the Pentel Recycology program and, as such, is made with recycled content, in this case 59% recycled plastic. This is a good pencil.

Retail price is on these is $2.99 and, to fulfill the obligatory disclosure, I received this one at no charge from Pentel. You can see their product page for this at,

Monday, June 17, 2013

Allegory Etch Notebook Cover and Twist Ballpoint Pen

There seems to be a strong Renaissance of sorts for handcrafted goods these days, and one of the projects on Kickstarter right now includes the Twist Ballpoint Pen and the Etch Notebook Cover, two new products from Allegory.

The pen comes in to flip-top magnetic case, and the Etch (yes, I know it's lowercase, but I'm trying to make this easier to read) comes with a 3-Pack of Moleskine Cahier notebooks, but there's also an option to order Field Notes if you prefer.

Though I don't have a small scale, I can tell you that this pen is very heavy, as in the heaviest pen I own. But you can see that it's a very cool pen, assuming you like wood as a pen material, and it contrasts nicely with the chrome hardware.

Regarding the configuration of the pen, you can select the color scheme of the pen (light or dark) and the refill that you like best.

As you can see, I really enjoy the way this pen writes, and I will be looking to see if I can find a nice, fine point refill to replace the 1.0 ballpoint inside - perhaps I will go with a rollerball refill instead. This is by no means a cheap date, but this is a pen that will last many years, if not a lifetime.

The 'etch' notebook cover is made from kangaroo leather. Here's the information about the leather from this project's Kickstarter page:

Kangaroo leather is very high in tensile strength, which means we can offer a slim design that is also very durable. It also has a world class texture and feel: soft, conforming, and it develops a beautiful patina very quickly. 
Perhaps most importantly, kangaroo is arguably the most ethically harvested leather in the world. It is a byproduct of the kangaroo meat industry, which is not farm/ranch-based. The animals live full lives in their natural habits and are harvested humanely to prevent overpopulation and protect the local ecosystem. As with all our materials, we have researched the ethics and environmental concerns thoughtfully. You can find more info on this in the FAQ.
My experience with the notebook cover is very favorable: it's a great design, the leather is soft, and the whole package appears to be quite durable. It looks great and the functionality is evident.

I did notice two imperfections in the leather: one was just below the letter 't' and the other is a small blotch 60% up on the center-right side of the notebook. I don't know if this is typical or if I received a flawed sample, but I really couldn't care less - my Doane Utility Notebook cover has some scars, but it shows that it gets used, and I enjoy that aesthetic consequence.

Outside of that, the back, outside cover has two slots for cards, notes, or your identification. I did forget to take a picture of this, but you can see it on the Kickstarter project page.

In summary, these are examples of two, well-made, responsibly-sourced products, made by hand, and crowd funded to help a small, domestic business get its name out there. For me, it doesn't get much better than that.

I would make changes to the weight distribution in the pen, and I would prefer additional options for refills, but a smooth writing ballpoint makes most people happy, so it's not a bad way to go in terms of building the company.

Both items can (ideally) be obtained with a $40 pledge ('etch notebook cover) and $60 (Twist ballpoint), or $100 (both).

I'm looking forward to future products from Allegory, and I'm not-so-secretly hoping that a 2.0 mm lead holder is on the future products list. (Update: They do make a 2mm lead holder!

I'd be glad to try more products from Allegory any day.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

W.A. Stark Giveaway - And the winner is...

Congratulations to awordsmith; you are the lucky winner of the W.A. Stark .30 Cal Bolt Action Ballpoint Pen.

Though the rest of you may not have won, you've provided important feedback to help a new business in the pen/paper/ink community, so I certainly appreciate it, and I'm sure it was helpful for W.A. Stark, too.

awordsmith - you will have one week to e-mail me your mailing information, or a new winner will be selected and posted.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

W.A. Stark .30 Cal Bolt Action Pen Giveaway!

Last August, I reviewed the .30 Cal Bolt Action Pen from W.A. Stark. That review has continued to be one of the most read postings since it went up, so now I'm going to send it off to one lucky winner in a giveaway!

Outside of the pen, I'm including a Schmidt 1.0 ballpoint refill, a Parker style 1.0 ballpoint refill, and a Parker style 1.0 gel refill.

I selected the wood and hardware for this pen, and the pen was made to order just for me. Because this is a really nice pen, there's going to be a little bit more involved to enter.

My friend Derick, who made the pen, recently re-launched the website (and opened the W.A. Stark store), so I'm trying to help with some feedback and exposure among the pen/paper/ink community.  Here's how to win:

Visit the W.A. Stark website and take a look around. Post some feedback about the site as your comment to enter for the giveaway. Your feedback can be anything from a product that you want to know more about, something you would like to see on the site, or something that you like or dislike about the layout and design of the page.

  • The giveaway is limited to one entry per visitor. Any duplicate comments will disqualify you from the drawing.
  • The giveaway will be for U.S. visitors only - due to costs and potential issues with items being held in Customs.
  • Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm, CST, on Friday, June 14th, and I select and post the name of the winner either Saturday or Sunday.   
If you have any other questions or feedback, please let me know. Good luck!