Porsche Design P’3120 mechanical pencil

Porsche Design pencil

The Porsche Design P’3120 is no everyday mechanical pencil. Machined out of aluminum, the P’3120 is a design standout.

Made via a Porsche Design/Faber-Castell collaboration, the pencil has all the design oomph one would expect from those design titans.

Porsche Design pencil

At 30g, it is one of the heaviest mechanical pencils on the market. The all black metal is highly distinctive. It is part of the “Edition 1” series, commemorating the 35th anniversary of the first black Porsche Design chronograph. (The pencil is also generally available in aluminum, anthracite, and titanium finishes.)

Porsche Design pencil

The pencil is cylindrical, with circumferential grooves. There is a grip area, with three scooped out areas for a traditional finger grip. The lead sleeve is conical. The pencil uses 0.7mm lead.

The major usage factor I would note is the weight. The pencil is heavy, and even if you tend to prefer a more perpendicular grasp, letting the pencil rest in your hand at a lower angle can become a habit of necessity.

Porsche Design pencil

The clip rests on another highly designed scoop. But the pencil is so long that it can’t be easily clipped to all shirt pockets.

The lead refill caused me some initial caution, but there was nothing to worry about. The pencil’s top half (called the “cap” in the documentation) can be pulled off or unscrewed. Pulling it off reveals the eraser – also in black. Unscrewing the cap reveals a cartridge. That cartridge itself has a cap, revealing the lead bay.

That “cap” is also the (twist) lead advance mechanism.

Porsche Design pencil

There is one slight documentation discrepancy – the manual says the cartridge has a capacity of three leads, while the cartridge itself says the limit is five.

Porsche Design pencil

The pencil comes with a manual, guarantee card, and small booklet mentioning other Porsche Design items. (The pocket knife, watch, and car, seemed to look fairly nice.)

The pencil itself is sold in a box with a magnetic clasp, inside a sleeve, inside another sleeve.

The P’3120 is a very nice pencil, and I love the look and feel. More so after some time. I can’t imagine this pencil not being appreciated by anyone who loves fine graphite writing implements.

pencils.com relaunched

pencils.com website

The pencils.com domain was registered on March 20, 1996, according to Network Solutions Inc. The registration expires in 2015, so owner California Cedar Products is definitely thinking in the long term.

Usually the top result when searching for “pencils” in online directories and search engines, the site has been redesigned and relaunched. I was fortunate to be able to see a development version, and am happy that the site is now live in a “beta” version.

New features include:

* an online store
* an area for artists
* forums
* industry news
* essays on pencils

And much, much, more.

I registered as “penciltalk”, and look forward to seeing what develops.

Congratulations to pencils.com on the site relaunch.

Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

A specialty pencil for highlighting, the Lyra Mega Liner 96 is a woodcase pencil with a fluorescent wax core.

Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

It is oversized, with an oversized core. I have yellow and blue versions, but it also comes in green, orange, and pink. The diameter is about 11mm, so they just fit in most large hole sharpeners.

Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

The pencil is hexagonal, and has a very lightly varnished natural finish. It is imprinted:

Obverse: Germany [logo] Lyra Mega Liner 96 962n

Reverse: paper + copy + fax

Let me mention that I like liquid pigment fluorescent highlighters. My favourite, the see through Zebra Zazzle, disappeared from Canadian shelves a few years ago, but I still have a few.

Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

The Lyra Mega Liner is not just for show – it is a working highlighter, leaving illuminated marks on paper.

I tried it on printed paper, and on a laser printout. It works, though it doesn’t give the saturated effect of fibre wedge highlighters dispensing bright yellow pigment.

Lyra Mega Liner, printed paper
Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

Lyra Mega Liner, printed paper
Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

Lyra Mega Liner, laser printout
Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

Zebra Zazzle (for comparison), laser printout
Lyra Mega Liner highlighting pencil

If I could find these locally, I might be using them every day. But via mail order, they become expensive for an ancillary item.

Spangle pencils

California Republic Stationers recently announced some oversized pencils aimed at children: the Mini Jumbo, the Mini Jumbo Triangular, and the Jumbo.

Made in Thailand, the pencils are part of the discount Spangle line.

The pencils are brightly coloured, and have a heavy solid feel. They also have a fairly strong paint aroma. Strong enough that I found myself quickly going to wash my hands after touching them. While CRS states “All Spangle Pencils conform to the ASTM D4236 and are safe and non-toxic”, there can still be a gap between being safe and being pleasant. Maybe it’s just that they are “fresh off the press”.

The Jumbo has a diameter of 9.5mm, and a weight of 11.3g. The Mini Jumbo is 8.4mm/9.4g, and the Triangular Mini Jumbo weighs in at 8.3mm/9.5g. (Numbers approximate.)

Issued in bright primary colours, the pencils scream “fun”.

As oversize basswood pencils, they require quite a bit of effort to manually sharpen. Unfortunately, that effort reveals that the lead is a bit scratchy.

I think the Spangles look great, but the strong paint aroma, sharpening difficulty, and scratchy lead outweigh the initial appeal, at least for me.

Erasers: The Pink Pearl, the Staedtler Mars plastic, and others.

Erasers: The Pink Pearl, the Staedtler Mars plastic, and others.

Let’s take a look at some popular pencil erasers.

When I’m taking notes at a meeting, I rarely use an eraser. There just isn’t time. I strike out the error, and carry on. But at my desk or at home, the ability to correct one’s writing, charts, and drawings is a major benefit of the pencil. It’s especially great when the eraser works well.

I wanted to look at the two leading erasers that I see in the marketplace – the “Pink Pearl”, and the “white vinyl” type, specifically the Staedtler Mars plastic. I’ve also added in a gum eraser, and a kneadable eraser. There are still other types of erasers, but I think these four represent the main categories one would encounter in an office or art supply shop. I specifically wanted to test the Pink Pearl and Mars plastic side by side since they are so well known.

The science behind gum, rubber and erasing is interesting, but out of our scope today. There are some links below for further reading.

For the test, I sought brand new erasers at local stores. The Mars plastic came fully wrapped. The Pink Pearl was in a “blister pack” of three, the Lyra kneadable eraser was partially wrapped, and the General’s gum eraser was loose. The exact models used were:

General’s Gum Eraser No. 136E

Dixon Pink Pearl 101

Staedtler Mars plastic 526 50 UP

Lyra Knetgummi 3467

My reference pencil, the Staedler Mars Lumograph 100, was used for the first round of tests. A second test suite was done with Pentel Hi-Polymer Super 0.9mm HB lead, used in a mechanical pencil. This was partly to contrast the pencil lead types, as well as give the erasers additional tests.

Four paper types were chosen to represent a spectrum of types and quality. Two cheaper papers (Office copy, Moleskine), and two better quality papers, including watercolor paper – Rhodia, and Strathmore cold press watercolor. The exact papers were:

Xerox Business 4200 20lb. 75g/m2, 92 brightness


Rhodia vellum paper 21.3lb 80g/m2

Strathmore Watercolor cold press 140lb 300g/m2

Two type of markings were made – a straight line, and a doodle/shading of a square area.

I took photos as well as having the original documents for comparison. I realized that this also turned out to be a test of the papers and leads from the erasure perspective.

Here is a test sample, the Mars Lumograph 100 on Rhodia, before and after erasure.

Erasers: The Pink Pearl, the Staedtler Mars plastic, and others.Erasers: The Pink Pearl, the Staedtler Mars plastic, and others.

Here are the scores. The erasure results were ranked 1 to 4, with 1 being the best erasure, and 4 the worst erasure.

Chart 1: Lumograph 100 line erasure

Xerox Moleskine Rhodia Strathmore
Gum 2 1 2 2
Pink Pearl 4 4 4 4
Mars plastic 1 2 1 1
Kneaded 3 3 3 3

Chart 2: Lumograph 100 drawing erasure

Xerox Moleskine Rhodia Strathmore
Gum 2 1 3 1
Pink Pearl 4 4 4 4
Mars plastic 3 2 1 2
Kneaded 1 3 2 3

Chart 3: Pentel Hi-Polymer Super line erasure

Xerox Moleskine Rhodia Strathmore
Gum 2 3 2 2
Pink Pearl 4 4 4 4
Mars plastic 1 1 1 1
Kneaded 3 2 3 3

Chart 4: Pentel Hi-Polymer Super drawing erasure

Xerox Moleskine Rhodia Strathmore
Gum 1 3 3 1
Pink Pearl 4 4 4 4
Mars plastic 2 1 1 2
Kneaded 3 2 2 3

Interpreting these results, the Mars plastic is the best or almost the best at erasing lines on all types of paper. Erasing a Lumograph 100 drawing, the General’s Gum eraser performed slightly better. At Pentel drawings, the kneaded eraser did very well, though not better than the Mars.

The overall test winner is the Staedtler Mars plastic, with a nod to the General’s Gum for woodcase pencil artists, and kneaded erasers for mechanical pencil artists. As the results depended on the task and type of lead and paper, the real lesson is that an eraser has to be looked at as part of a pencil/paper/eraser combination, and in the context of usage.

The Pink Pearl was a disappointment. It came last in all sixteen invividual tests, and sometimes left a pinkish smear.

The kneaded eraser has a major benefit that became apparent as my desk got filled with eraser detritus: Kneaded erasers leave no residue, since they absorb the graphite as they erase. The eraser thus gradually becomes darker (and dirtier) over time.

An observation about the pencil lead is that the mechanical pencil lead is much more erasable – remarkably so in some cases. The Pentel markings on the Moleskine and Rhodia seemed to just disappear with the Mars eraser. The mark’s only remaining evidence seemed to be indentations in the paper from the pencil’s pressure – and these require careful examination to see.

The photocopy paper and the artist’s watercolour paper – neither of which were created for pencil use – retained the most graphite after erasure attempts.

Further reading:

Erasers World A collection and information site for erasers. Several interesting company biographies, as well as essays on erasers and eraser materials.

Joy of Erasers Blog devoted to erasers.

Wikipedia eraser article Not bad for Wikipedia.

Chemical & Engineering News Informative non-technical article on erasers.

Staedtler document on erasers (700K PDF) A mix of technical and marketing information about erasers.