Composition books

The composition book remains a useful format for writing, and possibly, a simple pleasure.

These books are single signatures of 50 pieces of paper, sewn and folded in half, creating 100 sheets. The cover is cardboard and fabric. The standard dimensions are 190mm/7.5″ width, 247mm/9.75″ height.

The Mead Composition seems to be the classic. Also shown here are a few others that I found at a university bookstore. They are:

Mead Composition, MeadWestvaco Corporation, made in Vietnam
Environotes Recycled Comp Book, Roaring Springs Paper Products, made in USA
100% Recycled Composition Book, Top Flight, made in Taiwan
New Leaf Composition, New Leaf products, made in Brazil

Composition books

All except the Mead proclaim the use of partial or majority recycled materials. The Environotes stands out slightly with the muted colour scheme, square corners, and 80 (rather than 100) sheets. The New Leaf book easily had the brightest paper.

All have tables for class schedules on the front inside covers. The back inside covers have “useful information”, mainly weight and distance measurement conversions. The Mead is alone in having a grammar section.

Composition books Composition books
Composition books Composition books

I have to note something about the price: each is $C4.29. The same bookstore sells a large Moleskine notebook for $C21.00. (Right now, one Canadian dollar is $US0.96 or €0.78.) They are not the same products at all – but the almost fivefold price difference surprised me.

The Mead composition book may in fact be magnitudes more successful than fancier fare. It doesn’t have an active PR department or online marketing team; it does seem to have wide distribution, being available in big box office supply stores, the stationery corners of department stores, and even the small university bookstore I visited.

Some online reviews suggest these books are not great with fountain pens or fibre tipped pens. I won’t dispute that. But trying a nice pencil, there is no problem at all. That is a typical pencil advantage – many paper types accept graphite quite easily.

I like the fancy brands, but the composition book still seems appealing for many purposes.

Composition books

What do you think?

Caran d’Ache Technalo 779 water soluble pencil

These are not pencils for writing memoirs or taking scientific notes. Made by Caran d’Ache, the graphite core is water soluble. Like watercolour paint, the graphite dissolves when wet, becoming another type of medium, while remaining graphite.

The pencils, in HB, B, and 3B, have the bar code attached to a removable plastic piece:

Caran d'Ache Technalo 779

The pencil is exceptional in appearance, with a beautiful and simple gold imprint on a matte black background. An easy sharpening cedar pencil, it really has the feel of a quality art supply.

Caran d'Ache Technalo 779

The brush icon indicates that this is a water soluble pencil:

Caran d'Ache Technalo 779

The cap is glossy:

Caran d'Ache Technalo 779

I am not an artist! But even as a backyard doodler, I can see that these pencils are both capable and fun. Going over a drawing with a fine brush dipped in water unleashes nuances and shading capabilities that would be challenging to achieve with regular pencils. Or at least for me they would be!

Caran d'Ache Technalo 779

Maybe you have tried them, or a similar product?

The nutty eraser

Some of these nuts are not edible:


From Kikkerland, we have the PVC free and Latex free peanut eraser.

An amusing novelty, but not so great as an eraser:


Staedtler Tradition 118-2/3 red and blue pencil

Staedtler Tradition 118-2/3 red and blue pencil

The growth of online stores, auctions, and selling forums has resulted in many benefits for pencil end users, including the ability to discover unusual products. Here is an example.

How many people outside of Malaysia knew that Staedtler made a red and blue pencil?

Staedtler Tradition 118-2/3 red and blue pencil

The traditional red and blue format survives, yet I’ll bet very few people would know where to find one. I suspect that in most markets, not a single brick and mortar store carries such an item.

Certainly this particular pencil is a surprise – why is it so “beneath the radar”? From a major manufacturer, it would command a market simply due to the brand.

Staedtler Tradition 118-2/3 red and blue pencil

So there are a few things different – the tradition name, usually written with the lower case t, has graduated to using a majuscule T.

The markings are also a bit un-Staedtler – no bar code, just the text, “Staedtler Tradition 118-2/3”. 2/3? 2/3 of what? And the imprints don’t seem to be of top quality.

The red and blue markings do seem to be nicely merged with the traditional tradition branding.

And finally – why the tradition line? How does this variant relate to the 110 pencil?

Staedtler Tradition 118-2/3 red and blue pencil

The Malaysian made (according to the box) pencils are a nice oversize hexagonal shape, and function well. The line seems a bit dry while richly pigmented – nicely tuned for writing. I look forward to using them.

P.S. This is the 500th post at pencil talk.

Crayola Pro Sketch pencil

According to Crayola LLC, only 1% of US households don’t know the Crayola name!

The makers of very famous crayons and so much more, it is no surprise that Crayola (founded in 1885) makes a woodcase pencil. Perhaps it is surprising that this pencil is so hard to find.

Like other large manufacturers, the items one can find here and there are not always in the official catalogue or website. Such is the case with this pencil, which I don’t find mentioned on any Crayola website.

The pencil itself is labelled “Sketch Crayola Pro”, while the packaging suggests the name “Sketchers Pro”.

The package has three pencils in HB, three in 2B, and one each in 4B and 6B. The packaging gives no information about pencil details or the country of manufacture.

The pencils are round and finished in matte black. They have silver lettering and grey dipped ends. The end colour varies with the grade.

The pencils sharpen easily. I can’t discern the type of wood, but it is agreeable from an end user perspective. I hope it isn’t an endangered species!

The HB and 2B pencils have very ho-hum leads. Scratchy and smearing! About what you would expect from a discount pencil. The 4B and 6B are much more interesting. I suspect most children never experience these softer grades, which float across the page. Just by including these two pencils, I think the set partially redeems itself.

Fußball pencil

Faber-Castell has released a timely themed pencil.

Have you seen it (if you live in Germany), or any other FIFA World Cup themed pencils or stationery items?