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grids & guides stationery

Grids & Guides stationery

From Princeton Architectural Press, we have A notebook for visual thinkers and 12 pencils for visual thinkers in their “grids & guides” series.

Grids & Guides stationery

The paper wrappers credit the editor, Jay Sacher, and designer, Benjamin English. The notebook is 144 pages, 146mm x 210mm, and features a black linen cover and an interior with a variety of “grids” and “guides”. It is made in China and retails for $USD16.95.

The pencil box features twelve unmarked hexagonal pencils, six in graphite, six in light blue. The box also contains a very thin plastic ruler with circular cutouts. The pencils are made in Taiwan and retail for $USD14.95.

Perhaps because they come from a book publisher, both products have ISBN numbers.

Grids & Guides stationery

It took me a while to recall that I have other products in this series – both notepads and a red linen cover notebook. They were purchased separately and I no longer have the packaging material.

Grids & Guides stationery

Grids & Guides stationery

Overall, the products strike me as thoughtful and that they might be good gifts for the right person. If you actually are a designer or engineer who uses logarithmic or polar graph paper, etc. – I doubt you’d want it presented in the notebook’s semi-random layout. That’s where the novelty side becomes prominent.

Grids & Guides stationery

The pencils are good basics. I didn’t test if the blue is a real non-photo blue. The ruler is a nice extra, but very flimsy.

Grids & Guides stationery

The notebook and pencil set pair very nicely, and I’m glad to see that these products were produced.

The backyard pencil [Updated]

Staedtler 771 1.3mm mechanical pencil

Something more casual today. This pencil, the 1.3mm Staedtler 771, has bright Noris colouring. It is a large chunky triangular pencil, and has no trouble surviving and being found after a wind gust. It feels sturdy and solid, and at about $CDN10 ($USD8, 7 Euros), has an unexpected wealth of features – a clip, a retracting cylindrical guide, a rubbery grip area, and a twist-out eraser.

Today is a provincial holiday where I live, and some time in the backyard makes me realize that at least in certain circumstances – the visibility of a pencil is an asset.

A small sticker tells me the pencil is made in Japan. My only misgiving is that 1.3mm lead is not commonplace here.

[Update: August 8, 2017]

This blog is fortunate to have some very informed readers. One of them is Gunther, the author of the erudite Lexikaliker weblog. Gunther has shared some interesting history regarding the Staedtler 771:

The Staedtler 771 is made in Japan, and was first presented at Paperworld in January, 2008. The pencil commenced sales in Germany in May, 2008.

Early 2014 saw the pencil’s discontinuation in Germany. In Japan, the 771 continued, and was joined in Fall 2014 by a white and black version, the 771-0. Both versions continue to be offered in Japan.

Gunther mentions that “Staedtler Germany still offers 1.3 mm leads because they were also used for the graphite 760.” The 760 was discontinued, though the 925 appears to still be around.

Bosco wood pencils

Bosco wood pencils

It is a true pleasure to present an outstanding modern pencil product. Previewed here, some of the creators of the original and renowned Colleen Woods series have reprised the series with an even more impressive rendition of a multi-wood species pencil set.

Some details of the set are recorded here (audio in Japanese):

The original set was two volumes of twelve, for a total of twenty-four pencils. The new set has a more modest ten pencils. Eight repeat wood species used in the original set. I photographed these eight (new and old) together for contrast. Some have different national origins or specific gravity. The rosewood pencil in particular seems to differ in tone.

Bosco wood pencils

The new set has better typeface rendering on the pencils, and are about 3mm shorter.

Bosco wood pencils

One end exposes the leads, and the other is sealed, an appropriately sophisticated finish.

Bosco wood pencils

Like the original, the packaging is modest cardboard, though the pencils come in a pleasing maple tray..

Bosco wood pencils

One of motivations for reviving pencil talk was the ability to discuss truly great pencil products, and this set meets that criteria. There are a few matters around the origins of this set that I don’t fully understand, and there seem to be presentation variations in different markets. I’ll mention a major difference from the original set that may be of interest to readers – these are currently for sale in multiple markets.

Bosco wood pencils

See also:

Colleen Woods Pencils, Vol. 1

Colleen Woods Pencils, Vol. 2

Pencil Review: Krasin Constructor

Krasin Constructor

The Krasin pencil company of Russia dates from 1926, and may be the most prominent national brand not yet seen at this blog. Named after a diplomat (Krasin seems to be in a lot of online newsreels, visiting Western capitals in the 1920s), the brand states they are the leading pencil producer in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The Krasin catalog shows a full product line – colour, writing, drawing, carpenter, red and blue, and probably other varieties that I can’t discern, not speaking or reading the Russian language. One of the graphite lines is the Constructor, and the pencil we see today is the Constructor Vintage.

Krasin Constructor

One notes right away the Cyrillic lettering, and the replacement of the familiar “HB” grade indication with “TM”.

The pencil is distinguished by a simple attractive design with a clear varnish. The packaging is very nice – not super fancy – but it nicely presents the product. It is not the typical afterthought.

Krasin Constructor

Name: Constructor

Full name and model no: Constructor Vintage

Manufacturer: Krasin

Background: See above.

Weight: I’m not in current possession of a scale. I’ll update this post when I get one.

Dimensions: Rounded (though less rounded than most European pencils) hexagon with unfinished cap. The box helpfully states the pencils are 177mm long, 7.1mm side to side, and that the core has a 2mm diameter. I did not confirm these measurements.

Appearance: The pencils are hexagonal and factory sharpened. The cap is not finished. The pencil surface is a clear or very light lacquer.

The pencil is marked: The imprint shows the Krasin logo, some symbols offsetting the Russian word for “Constructor”, and the pencil grade. To my eye, it is a pleasing and minimal look.

Other notes: The pencil box may contain further information, but I am not able to read it.

Grip: I found the lacquer to be a bit “grippy” or “tacky”, especially on a humid day. The appearance is nice, but the touch doesn’t convey that this was the best possible approach.

Sharpening: I started with the excellent Möbius + Ruppert Pollux. To my surprise, the lead was so off centre that unremoved wood made the pencil unusable (David Rees had a term for this, didn’t he?). I tried two other pencils, and the leads kept breaking. I thought this must be another Pollux-unfriendly pencil. I switched to a KUM 300-2 and had the same problem. So I just kept going until I got lucky.

Krasin Constructor

The wood type is unknown to me.

Writing: There is something funny going on. Even though the pencils were almost unsharpenable – the leads seemed better than I expected. Not great, but definitely a notch above discount pencils, especially the 2M. There was variation among the grades.

Krasin Constructor

Erasure: I did not notice anything unusual using a Muji eraser on Ito Bindery paper.

Overall: This is a really interesting pencil, one I hoped to find years earlier. Also, I suspect that this particular version is sold as a special item. But as a national flagship pencil, it is very disappointing.

See also: Krasin Pencil Co.

Neri Leadholder

The muted fate of the book Stationery Fever was somewhat of an enigma to me – it had so many references and contributions from prominent online presences that I thought it must have smartly set itself up for success. It even examined some of the issues with the new “Blackwing”. I’ve heard the publisher didn’t treat authors or photographers as they expected. That is sad to learn, as the book has a lot to offer, and introduced me to several very interesting stationery products and stores, including the Neri leadholder, the subject of today’s review.

Made by Iterno Italiano in conjunction with Parafernalia and designed by Giulio Iacchetti, this leadholder has a striking minimalist design.

Neri Leadholder

The leadholder takes 5.6mm lead, and is available in black, anthracite, and aluminum. The version shown here is the anthracite. The body is aluminum. There is also the Neri S, a 3.15mm version in a wider colour range. And a ballpoint also joined the family. A matching lead pointer would be a nice accessory.

A writing implement usually leads one’s eye to the point of contact – the point, the nib, the brush – but the Neri is different – it has a striking feature – a giant brass screw.

Neri Leadholder

The simple design is very appealing. Having seen various complications over the years – the Neri is simple in contrast. (The Parafernalia association surprised me. Parafernalia in particular are known for exceedingly complicated products such as their Revolution pencil.) The Neri is a holder for a 5.6mm lead, with a large brass screw to hold the lead in place. That’s it, only two pieces!

Neri Leadholder

How well does it work? I believe there is one serious problem. This mechanism doesn’t have a piece on the other side of the screw to hold and thus centre the lead. So the lead is kept in place by the screw on one side, and hugs the leadholder’s opening on the other side. It is off centre or askew.

Neri Leadholder

The feel in the hand is a personal matter. I’ve both liked and not liked it at times. I’d recommend trying it in person before purchasing.

Neri Leadholder

Overall, the product has great design, but for me the off centre lead is a letdown.


Correction. Also an apology for jumping the gun. I am pleased to report that Strikethru is alive and well! Please go take a look.

The great blog Strikethru also seems to be gone. Typewriter focused, it was of course about more. For me, it often led to smiles. It inspired me to buy and read The Iron Whim (and I learned that a wonderful former neighbor knows the author. That neighbor has also lived in Kitchener and Toronto and the Bay Area!). It also led to me to Berkeley Typewriter, Paper-Ya, and the Regional Assembly of Text.

Author Cheryl remains active online. We wish her the best!

A side note: Not too many stationery blogs are older than pencil talk. Ninth Wave Designs is older, as is Pencil Revolution. So are Moleskinerie (now a vendor site) and Scription. (Some of these have changed formats/focus/domains over the years – understandably!)