Japan

A few years ago, I made contact with some pencil bloggers in Japan. They have always generously shared their knowledge and enthusiasm.

It is a joy and relief to report that those linked to in the “From Japan” sidebar are all well.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

About eight months ago, Sharpie announced a new product, the “Liquid Pencil”. As soon as I learned of it, I was excited to see what it might offer.

Of course, I have heard of the former Parker Liquid Lead Pencil through Penhero’s excellent article, and noted the similarity of the marketing, though fifty-five years apart:

1955: “A lead that never breaks!”
2010: “Eliminates broken pencil leads”

1955: “Rolls words on paper smooth as silk!”
2010: “Writes as smooth as a pen”

Parker and Sharpie are now both brands of conglomerate Newell Rubbermaid, so it is entirely possible that the techniques of the original process are part of this revival.

The product launch had a lot of interesting elements, as well as some controversy.

First, it garnered considerable media attention. A few samples:

TIME: Sharpie’s Liquid Pencil Becomes Permanent After Three Days

Engadget: Sharpie Liquid Pencil, the aftermath: it’s ‘permanent,’ not permanent

Wired: Sharpie Reinvents Pen with Liquid Pencil

Now if you look at those articles, you’ll see the controversy. The original “Becomes permanent like a Sharpie marker after three days” statement was withdrawn by Sharpie. See the timeline of reactions in these three Engadget articles.

On stationery blogs, I saw reviews at Office Supply Geek and The Pen Addict. The product didn’t seem to be winning over either of these reviewers. Yet, I still wanted to see what this pencil might offer. I told myself that I’d wait until it turned up locally. That day just arrived.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

The package contains two pencils and six minuscule eraser replacements.

The package claims (front):

No more breaking leads!

And on the back:

Smooth like a pen, erases like a pencil

Sharpie’s Liquid Graphite Technology eliminates broken leads

No. 2 lead equivalent

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

I won’t say much about the form factor or appearance. The product looks like a cheap ballpoint pen, and has some sharp ridges where the cap meets the body. The cap clicks to extend or retract the pencil point.

To my eye, the mark made doesn’t at all look like any graphite or pencil deposit I have ever seen. It has none of the luminescence or texture of graphite – ceramic, polymer, or water soluble. It simply looks like a ballpoint pen mark.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

Writing with it, the problem is that the pencil barely functions by conventional standards. It just doesn’t leave a consistent line. The mark starts to dry up after a word or two (and that word or two isn’t rendered very well). It cannot render the dot in an “i”. Any woodcase pencil can do a better job.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

It does erase well, but that seems moot given the overall problem. It is hard to understand how this product was released to market.

Is something missing?

Lyra Groove, Stabilo EASYgraph

A new pencil trend – scallops or grooves cut into finished triangular pencils, exposing the underlying wood. Seen here, the Stabilo EASYgraph (right and left hand versions) and the LYRA Groove. Lexikaliker reports that Koh-I-Noor will be introducing a similar product in 2011.

Aimed at children, the idea is that the grip is improved, facilitating a good grasp and writing technique.

I wonder, what do the manufacturers do with the excavated pieces?

Lyra Groove, Stabilo EASYgraph

Comparing the two pencils, the Groove seems relatively simple – round scoops. The EASYgraph comes in two versions, right and left handed, with oval indentations matching the “correct writing grip”. The EASYgraph did feel much more comfortable in my hand.

Lyra Groove, Stabilo EASYgraph

The EASYgraph also has something very unusual – the lettering in different orientations according to the handedness of the pencil:

Lyra Groove, Stabilo EASYgraph

For writing, the Groove seemed quite rough and scatchy, while the EASYgraph was comparatively smooth.

My sincere thanks to Gunther from Lexikaliker, who sent all three of these pencils to me eons ago.

Midori notebooks

Midori Notebooks Midori Notebooks

The globe is shrinking – recently found locally (Ontario, Canada) – Midori notebooks.

Plain and simple, yet high quality. Nicely finished. No visible cutting or processing artifacts or residue.

Relatively expensive, but their reputation preceded them.

The Midori paper loves graphite, and graphite loves this paper!

Midori Notebooks