Jumbo Ito-ya pencils

Jumbo Ito-ya pencils

The pencil talk laboratories took delivery of some Ito-ya pencils just over a year ago, and discovered that they were excellent for a house brand pencil. Of course the world’s largest stationery store is no ordinary “house”!

Ito-ya’s jumbo pencil is more than just a variant of the standard sized version.

Available in five very rich solid metallic finishes, the pencil presents itself very well.

Jumbo Ito-ya pencils

To start with, the cap is a metal attachment painted black, not an eraser. I am so used to the regular sized pencils that I kept trying to use it as an eraser!

Jumbo Ito-ya pencils

In a Faber-Castell rubberized Contour sharpener, sharpening this pencil is a joy. (And this is not the best sharpener.)

Jumbo Ito-ya pencils

The cedar is just super straight grained, soft, and easy to sharpen. The pencil isn’t cheap, and the choice of wood must have been part of the cost equation.

Jumbo Ito-ya pencils

The lead isn’t that of the regular pencil – it is a super dark and rich lead (a bit hard to erase) that might have some darkening ingredients apart from graphite.

Jumbo Ito-ya pencils

All in all, a superb example of a jumbo or oversized pencil.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

These pencils aren’t aimed at writing, yet they are all superb at the task.

Sold to students facing multiple choice exams, they are specialty test pencils. These specific ones are made in Japan, and called “Mark Sheet” pencils.

Of course, test taking isn’t the only possible use, and today we’ll take a look at them from a writing perspective.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

The pencils are:

Mitsubishi Uni 100 Mark Sheet pencil, HB
Pentel CBM10 Mark Sheet pencil, HB and B
Tombow LM-KMS Mono Mark Sheet pencil, HB

All are hexagonal with finished caps, and sold unsharpened.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

The Mitsubishi is grey, with a black dipped end and blue ring. The lettering is white, and the pencil states, “Hi-Density Lead for Mark Sheet.” The cap is stamped “HB”.

The Pentel is navy blue, and has the slogan, “the best quality for OCR sheet marking.” The blue is offset by two silver rings and silver lettering. The HB has a marigold cap, while the B grade sports red.

The Pentel has a vivid bright blue finish, with a matte silver dipped end and silver ring. The lettering is in white.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

All three pencils have nice finishes, and sharpen easily.

Certain pencil/paper combinations really shine (a subject for a future post), and on a Maruman Mnemosyne notebook, all three pencil brands are exceptional in their non-crumbling adherence, smooth application, and dark rich black lines. The best? For me, the Pentel, and especially the B grade version, stood out as a super-smooth writer.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

Specialty pencils of course have specialty erasers, and the Uni Mark Sheet eraser does a great job. The formula seems somewhat different than other familiar erasers from Pilot or Tombow – more crumbly, but possibly even more effective.

Mark Sheet pencils from Japan

(Pentel also make a “mark sheet eraser”, but I haven’t seen it in person.)

All are first rate, but writing with the Pentel CBM10 Mark Sheet pencil in B is an experience I especially recommend to all pencil users!

See also:

Pentel Mark Sheet Pencil – pencil talk, August 2008
LM-KMS – Lexikaliker, June 2009
MONO Mark Sheet Pencil Set – On the desk, at any time, March 2010

Pencil review: BILT matrix

BILT matrix pencil

Name: BILT matrix.

Full name and model no: BILT Matrix Charcoal Black HB2.

Manufacturer: Ballarpur Industries Limited (biltpaper.com), incorporated under a previous name in 1945.

Background: Ballarpur’s website says they are India’s largest paper company.

Weight: The pencils in the box I received ranged from 4.2g to 5.2g, averaging 4.6g.

Dimensions: Rounded hexagon with finished cap. 174.5mm in length according to the box.

BILT matrix pencil

Appearance: The pencils are hexagonal and unsharpened. The pencil finish is black, with the edges finished in silver. The text is silver, as well as the cap. The unsharpened ends are clean, with no paint spilling over.

The pencil is marked:

bilt matrix Charcoal Black HB2

Other notes: The pencils have a stated price of 3 Rupees each.

Grip: The pencil has a light gloss and is quite comfortable and easy to hold.

Sharpening: Regular readers know I like Carl sharpeners. But the Carl sharpens everything well, so I tried the matrix in an Eisen handheld plastic sharpener. It felt a bit tough to sharpen, though the result was fine. The wood was unfamiliar to me, probably one of the many species native to India.

Writing: I found the pencil to be surprisingly good. On Rhodia paper, the lead seemed somewhat smooth and very stable and non-crumbling for a budget pencil.

Erasure: With a Pilot Foam eraser, removing lines was no problem. The natural rubber Faber-Castell 7041-20 required just a bit more effort.

BILT matrix pencil

Overall: While I’m not familiar with Ballarpur Industries, I think they’ve produced a fine product in the matrix pencil – the pencil presents well and has attractive packaging, and writes much better than one would expect from a product that is priced at about seven US cents.

I’d like to thank hemmant for kindly sending me these pencils last year, along with some other Indian pencils. They have been a pleasure to discover.

Notebooks from Laywine’s

Notebooks from Laywine's in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Between online selling and big box stores, many types of smaller businesses are feeling the pinch today. The independent stationery store is unfortunately a relic in many places. One exception may be New York City. (See these posts at Pocket Blonde. New York looks great!)

One way of fighting back is to move up the food chain and specialize in higher profit areas like custom stationery or fountain pens. Yet even that is getting tougher as online selling grows. I often read that the Lamy Safari is a great $20 fountain pen. But every retailer in Canada that I’m aware of charges between $42 and $46 for this pen. At $46 plus 13% sales tax, that is $C51.98 (or $US51.08 at today’s rate). So is it a great $51 pen? And just where is it sold for $20? Well, online. Yes, it might actually be $21 or $25 plus shipping, but that’s still nowhere near $51.

So you can see the challenge that a brick and mortar retailer might have. Now think about $200 vs $500 for a pen. (I think this ratio continues to hold up, from what I’ve observed.)

Laywine’s is a store in Toronto that I recently visited. I think they’ve found one good way of competing with online retailers – by comprehensively stocking a broad array of all these brands that we see promoted online. In fact they had many products that I’ve not previously heard of, despite my keeping up with several stationery websites and blogs.

I’m not mentioning looseleaf paper, agendas, fancy journals, or correspondence oriented stationery – and trust me, they have plenty of items in those categories as well.

So let me mention some of the notebook brands and items they have:

Clairefontaine and Rhodia – they’ve always stocked these brands, and comprehensively – the Rhodia pads from the tiny jotters to (my favourite) the mighty A3 sized No. 38. The ring-bound Clairings and Pollen paper and new tobacco-coloured (age bag) 9cm x 14cm formats were standouts for me.

Moleskine – This store was selling this brand when they had fuzzy faux animal print covers and we thought they were made in Italy. They still have a full line, including the new A3 and A4 formats.

Field Notes – Here it starts to get interesting. Laywine’s has this brand in regular and “special edition” formats. I bought an orange pack and three-colour pack. Much cheaper than mail order as well.

Doane Paper – another brand that I associated with online marketing. I learned of them from the reviews at the Pen Addict blog. I wasn’t aware that they had a retail presence. I walked away with several formats (and wish I had bought more).

Behance – we’ve looked at Behance in the past. Laywine’s again has the full range, as far as I could tell.

Letts – I was not aware of a new notebook line from this established name, and picked up a notebook in a very pleasing and unusual dimension. (172mm x 232mm).

Leuchtturm – there were even more formats here than I’ve seen for sale online (including thick/thin versions and dotted/lattice versions).

Canteo – the first time I’ve seen this fantastic Swiss brand at retail. (I love the 4mm grey squared paper.) The offerings were limited, but they said that more is on the way.

Whitelines – Apart from the many versions I’ve already seen, they had hardcover and glued pad formats that were new to me.

Miquelrius – I’m afraid this was my biggest disappointment. All the Miquelrius notebooks I saw (some in a pleasing composition book format) looked poorly finished, and I’ll have to wait to try out their line.

Apica – another line that Laywine’s has stocked for several years.

There are other Japanese brands they stock, but whose names I’m not sure I can accurately identify.

So by bringing all these brands together, this store is creating a powerful and compelling counterforce to online ordering. They’re benefitting from the online hype without selling online. And, what a great store it is! The photo shows some of my purchase.

I don’t think any single online source has such an array – Clairefontaine, Rhodia, Moleskine, Canteo, Leuchtturm, Apica, Rhodia, Field Notes, Doane Paper, Behance, Letts, Whitelines, Miquelrius, Apica, all side by side.

So if you happen to visit Toronto and like stationery, I do recommend a stop at Laywine’s. Maybe there is a great stationer in your locale that you’d like to recommend?

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

One more inexpensive multipencil. Please see the previous post on the Uni Style Fit for comparison.

Pilot also makes an inexpensive multi-refill writing implement, the Hi-Tec-C Coleto. Like the Style Fit, any combination of appropriate refills works. There are 2, 3, and 4-refill bodies, and by my count, 45 different pen refills, varying by diameter and colour. As well, Pilot makes a stylus and a 0.5mm pencil refill.

I ordered the 3-refill body ($US2.20 at Jstationery) and three pencil cartridges. As an international customer, I like Jstationery’s shipping policy – always charging the customer only the exact postage incurred.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

My intent was again to create a multipencil, but this time in a tri-grade graphite format rather than tri-colour. I used Pentel Ain lead in 4H, HB, and 4B to create a nice graphite spectrum.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

The Coleto has a number of differences with the Style Fit. First, the selection and advance mechanisms are not part of the pencil body, but rather attached to the refills! It looks odd to me, but works quite well in practice.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

The body is more of a standard cylindrical shape, the clip much more able to actually clip something, and the grip area has a rubberized pattern overlayed. Overall, I find it much better thought out and practical than the Style Fit.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil

While it started as an experiment, I really like the result. The 4H/HB/4B pencil combination is definitely appealing and something I will use.

Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto multipencil