Paint it Blue: The Caran d’Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

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In late 2020, Caran d’Ache announced a limited product line featuring the very special colour International Klein Blue.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

According to The Secret Life of Color by Kasia St. Clair, the artist Yves Klein loved the intensity of ultramarine pigment, but was disappointed with the paint it created. He worked alongside a chemist to create a resin that exposed more of the pigment’s lustre. (Klein sadly passed away at 34. He patented Klein Blue at age 32.)

Patenting a colour is an interesting notion. Rights to a colour are typically only applicable in a context. Klein’s patent is apparently for his process, not literally for the colour.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

The original International Klein Blue is still only made by Klein’s original collaborator and available at the very same art store that served Klein in Paris: Adam Montmartre.

Caran d’Ache announced the adaptation of seven of their products as Klein tributes: At the very high end, Leman fountain and ballpoint pens. And at more accessible price points, a Sharpening Machine, Fixpencil, 849 ballpoint, and two woodcase pencils.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

The Fixpencil and Leman Fountain Pen are differentiated in the offering by possessing the ability to write in ultramarine – the Fixpencil has water soluble ultramarine leads, and the Leman a limited edition ultramarine ink. Given the use of Klein’s name and the “®” symbol throughout the advertising and packaging, it is presumed that the Klein pigment isn’t in the ink or lead as this claim isn’t made. All the products share the use of ultramarine surfaces or highlights, and Klein’s signature.

The Fixpencil is an iconic writing instrument, honoured by a Swiss stamp and familiar withing writing culture. It has been mentioned at pencil talk in 2008 and 2017.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

This particular model is distinguished by the surface colouring, and comes in a metal case. It ships with a 2mm B grapite lead, and a tube with three ultramarine water soluble leads. One of the leads in my tube arrived broken in half. The blue leads are just a few mm shorter than the graphite lead.

On some very special mulberry bark paper from Hanaduri, I tried the pencils and the blue lead, wet and dry:

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

I also tried them on writing paper that I regularly use, Rhodia R:

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

It isn’t really the colour depth or reaction I expected.

I am not happy that there appears to be no refill available. The blue lead seems like a very special accessory, and though the leadholder will continue to function with graphite, this ultramarine lead enhances the association with Klein.

The 849 is another classic. I don’t have a lot to say about it. I think ballpoint cartridges may be receiving small incremental improvements over the years – they may have been pretty awful some years ago, but this one does not skip or dispense lumps of ink. The Caran d’Ache Goliath refill generally has a excellent reputation.

A smear of the blue on HP photocopy paper:

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

Two pencils have been released. First, the MAXI is a jumbo sized hexagonal pencil with a very thich 4.5mm graphite lead. The pencil is matte and a deep ultramarire – truly striking. The cap is a very slight dome, unfinished.

Second, a set of four pencils simply called “Set of 4 Graphite Pencils”. These are a notch larger than most standard pencils, and possess a 2.5mm HB core. They are about one third coated in ultramarine, and the remainder in clear lacquer. The four pencil box packaging appears to reprise the Exotic Woods packaging.

Both pencils are made of “FSC Mix” cedar. The regular pencil is said to be of 8 plys, and the maxi of 6 plys. Official pencil standards tell us that this refers to the number of pencils produced by the pencil sandwich. Probably not interesting to most consumers, but it piqued my interest.

The MAXI lead seems a little smoother and richer than the regular lead. I wish the MAXI’s lead was also in the regular pencil.

Some Final Impressions

This is a thoughtful and properly licensed commercial product created in association with the estate of a major twentieth century artist. The work involved in acquiring the rights to use Klein’s signature likely rivalled the amount of work involved in production. I salute Caran d’Ache for doing this, and hope there will be more. May I humbly suggest Le Corbusier as someone who might be worthy of similar treatment?

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

My critiques are minor. The pencils, at their price and given Caran d’Ache’s environmental and social commitments, should be 100% certified, not just “FSC Mix”. FSC certification includes human rights criteria, not just tree ecology, and I think that’s important. The MAXI pencil is probably the standout product to me. If the end was dipped in the same colour, it would be slightly nicer. The regular pencil could have a smoother and darker lead. And the Fixpencil should ship with more than three blue leads, or have refills for sale.

Overall, I feel a delight at seeing this rich deep blue in a time of grey.

Neri Leadholder

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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.

Caran d’Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

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2015 was the 100th anniversary of famed pencil maker Caran d’Ache. We’re a little late noting this, but belatedly wish them congratulations! For the anniversary, a few commemorative items were offered, including a special version of their famed Fixpencil.

The Fixpencil, which we looked at in 2008, is arguably one of the most iconic writing instruments around, having been recognized in a Swiss stamp.

Some of the other items (e.g. fancy fountain pens) weren’t really my cup of tea, and the pencil commemoration (for the Technograph) just seemed to be four standard pencils in a cardboard box. Fortunately, this special Fixpencil seemed appealing, and came without an outrageous price.

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

The pencil is a standard 2mm Fixpencil, but with a special design – silver colouring, a 10cm ruler, and colour leads:

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

Of special interest is a multilingual brochure that outlines the stories of Caran d’Ache products. The text is light on facts, but the illustrations are great!

Caran d'Ache 100th Anniversary Fixpencil

Did you buy any of the Caran d’Ache 100th anniversary products?

Lamy Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

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Lamy has many fans in the stationery world, and justifiably so. Their products are associated with reliability, good value, and a commitment to good design.

Here is a Lamy Safari you’re not going to find in any stationery store: a 2.0mm mechanical pencil. The one pictured is a custom modification by isu, the author of both the uncomfortable chair, and the uncomfortable chair 2. Why two blogs? I am not sure. Maybe there are even more.

In a great confluence of events, Stationery Magazine issue 10 just arrived from Japan. We took a brief look at the first issue almost a decade ago. Although I do not read or speak Japanese, the annual magazine has such great photography that it is still worth picking up if you’re someone who reads blogs like this one.

Guess who is featured in issue 10? The master modifier himself!

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

Thank you isu for the great pencil!

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

I wonder if Lamy could be persuaded to add 2.0mm to their lineup?

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

LAMY Safari 2.0mm Mechanical Pencil

David Hayward Design 5mm Brushed Nickel Scribbler

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David Hayward Design 5mm Brushed Nickel Scribbler

The David Hayward Design 5mm Brushed Nickel Scribbler is a very well made leadholder/clutch pencil with an incredible heft. At 66 grams, it is heavy and dense, and by far the heaviest handheld writing implement that I own.

The aesthetic is one of simplicity, with clean lines and surfaces. It is a design for designers – it dares you to not pick it up and start drawing.

Rosetta leadholder and accessories

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Rosetta leadholder and accessories

Ipenstore was kind enough to send some items for review. The products are from their “Rosetta” line, which I take to be an in-house brand. I’ve ordered items from Ipenstore in the past, and have always been happy, especially with their range of unusual items and expert packaging.

They sent me a 2.0mm leadholder in a mechanical pencil format, a combination pointer/eraser, and some lead refills.

Rosetta leadholder and accessories

The pencil has a blue plastic body, and metal knurled grip. It does resemble the product of a well established manufacturer. The eraser pointer is a handy combination to have.

Rosetta leadholder and accessories

The cap also has a built-in pointer.

Rosetta leadholder and accessories

The 4B leads are okay. They shine in price: under $4 for the box of 12. That’s a fraction of the price of the top brands.

Rosetta leadholder and accessories

Overall, the Rosetta products offer entry into the 2.0mm drawing realm for a reasonable price. The metal knurled grip is a distinguishing feature.

P.S. More Rosetta products in the future.