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 The original “Becomes permanent like a Sharpie marker after three days” statement was withdrawn by Sharpie.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.

Mongol pencils from Eberhard Faber Colombia

Happy New Year to all readers!

Mongol pencils from Eberhard Faber Colombia

In the lazy days between Christmas and New Year, a very interesting package arrived, thanks to frequent pencil talk commenter futural.

Mongol pencils from Eberhard Faber Colombia

The former Eberhard Faber company had a complicated global footprint. We see that in the patchwork ownership of the name today. We also know the Mongol remains a popular pencil brand in the Phillipines.

Mongol pencils from Eberhard Faber Colombia

Some news – the Eberhard Faber Mongol 482 pencil also lives on in Colombia! Produced by “Eberhard Faber de Colombia” (no references to Sanford or Newell-Rubbermaid on the packaging), futural tells me that the bar code reveals a Peruvian origin. How interesting – Woodchuck from CalCedar has said the Mongol has been made in Venezuela, and more recently by Marco in China.

Mongol pencils from Eberhard Faber Colombia

Whatever the details, the Colombian Mongol definitely appears to be different than the modern Philippine Mongols.

The finish consists of a basic thin lacquer. The leads also seem somewhat smoother than the Amspec version. The eraser even works fairly well. All in all, a very acceptable pencil.

These aren’t the only Colombian pencils that arrived! Stay tuned for more.

See also:

Ninoy and Cory Aquino Mongol pencils (pencil talk: August, 2008)

The Mongol 482: New and Old (pencil talk: February, 2007)

Berol Handwriting pencil

Berol Handwriting pencil

The Berol Handwriting pencil come to us from Sanford UK, a division of Newell Rubbermaid. The Berol name remains active in the UK and other countries. The Berol history at that link is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in pencil and fountain pen corporate history.

Please see Handschriftbleistift (a great name) at Lexikaliker to see another UK “Handwriting pencil”.

The name is intriguing – why so specific? Differentiation from drawing pencils is all I can guess.

Berol Handwriting pencil

The official product page indicates an official price of £0.80 for 12 pencils – well into discount territory.

The choice of pencil finish is very interesting – alternating red and white sides, with a red cap. The white sides in particular seem thinly painted, and rather prone to revealing flaws or any stray graphite dust.

No place of manufacture is mentioned.

Alas, the pencil has a very hard and scratchy lead. While the statement made on the box, “Hard Wearing,” is no doubt true, the Handwriting pencil seems a poor choice for handwriting. Whether child or adult, I can’t really see any extended use of this pencil being very pleasant.

Berol Handwriting pencil

Ninoy and Cory Aquino Mongol pencils

Out of thousands of pencil brands, are there any with a more devoted national following than the Mongol brand has in the Philippines?

A 1999 stamp issued by the Philippine Postal Corporation commemorated the Mongol’s 50th anniversary in the country:

Philippines stamp of Mongol pencil

Wikipilipinas claims that the Mongol name is now synonymous for “pencil” in the Phillipines!

And a search for “Mongol pencil” via Google reveals that the brand is still very active in that country. In fact, it is more than active – how many countries have national literacy campaigns with celebrity endorsements, issuing woodcase pencils as their symbol?

Please see Celebs join Mongol pencil advocacy for details.

The Mongol name comes from the former Eberhard Faber pencil company in the US. I don’t know what year was the last for the Mongol in the US. In 2005, Woodchuck mentioned the continued existence of the Mongol name in Venezuela.

It turns out the pencils were also being made under license by Ampsec in the Philippines.

An online store in the US started selling the Amspec version. In 2007, pencil talk compared them with the original Mongol.

The only full online review of the Amspec version is at the now defunct Blyantsiden blog.

While I can’t read Norwegian, I do understand “2/6”, and don’t disagree.

So at some point Amspec stopped making the Mongol, though the brand didn’t disappear – it is now distributed by Star Paper. Noticeably absent is the statement that the pencil is made in the Philippines. On the other hand, Newell-Rubbermaid’s name achieves new prominence.

A comment at Timberlines suggests the pencil may in fact be imported from Venezuela!

Ninoy and Cory Aquino Mongol pencils

So keeping in mind the special role that the Mongol pencil has in Philippine culture, we have a truly unique offering – a limited edition Mongol from the “iamninoy-iamcory” campaign, which is sponsored by the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation.

Ninoy and Cory Aquino Mongol pencils

Ninoy was a prominent opposition leader, assassinated in 1983. His spouse Corazon (Cory) eventually ousted the Marcos regime, restoring democracy. National heroes, this pencil is endorsed by their daughter Kris Aquino. The pencil is truly rich in political and national themes.

Ninoy and Cory Aquino Mongol pencils

The association of a pencil brand with charitable, educational, and political causes at this level appears unprecedented. The Mongol pencil seems to truly be loved in the Philippines!

Papermate Mirado Classic pencil (2010)

The Papermate Mirado Classic pencil.

The closure of Sanford’s US pencil factory last year was perhaps the final chapter in the story of US pencil manufacturing’s demise.

Starting with the move of incense cedar pencil slat maker CalCedar’s manufacturing to China, and followed by Dixon’s departure to Mexico and China, Sanford’s exit was perhaps expected. Of course, the names and brands carry on.

The Papermate Mirado Classic pencil.

Papermate’s current website gives no indication of woodcase pencils being part of the product line. A weekend visit to a large office supply store revealed a hint of the future. The most expensive pencils in the large store, the box of 12 No. 2 Mirado pencils appears as they have for years, except for the statement “Made in Mexico”.

Appearance

The packaging still claims “The World’s Smoothest Writing Pencil – Guaranteed!” The cardbord box of twelve seems basically unaltered.

The back of the box states:

  • 100% Premium Cedar Pencils
  • Shapens to a Fine, Exact Point
  • Soft, Non-Smudge Eraser
  • Made in Mexico
  • The pencils themselves are yellow, just like their predecessors, except missing the “USA” lettering.

    The Papermate Mirado Classic pencil.

    The manufacturing details appear slightly improved – they’ve reverted to an unsharpened format. Some paint spills over the end, but the problem of imprecise clamping of the ferrule appears much better. The varnish seems okay, not the best, yet certainly better than the “no name” pencils that supermarkets sell.

    The Papermate Mirado Classic pencil.

    The Papermate Mirado Classic pencil.

    Sharpening

    I had no trouble sharpening the pencil in a manual sharpener, a desktop Carl, or a battery-operated Panasonic sharpener.

    Writing

    A real surprise. I’ve never been a huge fan of this pencil, possibly because of the bland, generic appearance. But it writes quite well. Perhaps not as smoothly as pencils costing five times more, but still quite nicely. It certainly seems as good as the US made predecessor, and I’m wondering if it may even be better?

    The Papermate Mirado Classic pencil.

    Erasure

    The erasers seem exactly like those of the predecessor, pink with powdery (latex?) coating. At least while new, they work reasonably well, especially compared with other “pink” erasers.

    The Papermate Mirado Classic pencil.

    Overall

    I am leaning towards a conclusion opposite to the one I thought I was going to make. Whether it is new equipment or some other factor, the new Mirados seem to be manufactured to a standard at least as high as their immediate predecessors.

    Have you tried them yet?

    Double ended colour pencils

    Double ended colour pencils

    While red and blue pencils are a sublime and beautiful example of the pencil maker’s art, other colour leads can be combined though the same process for an amazing result.

    Double ended colour pencils

    Colleen is a company we’ve mentioned many times. With leadership from a former manager of Japan’s now defunct Colleen Pencil Co., the revived company in Thailand seems to have separate lines – aimed at first, the Thai and international market, and second, the Japanese market. This particular set is for the Thai and international market. Twenty-four double ended pencils, with combinations such as “Warm Gray & Royal Purple” or “Cream Yellow & Russet Brown”.

    Double ended colour pencils

    The unsharpened pencils come in a modest yet pleasing carboard box. But I think it is a set of 24, not 48! Am I wrong?

    They are a fantastic visual treat:

    Double ended colour pencils

    For the price, I think it is a very innovative product that would delight both children and adults.

    Double ended colour pencils

    There are others on the market. Here are double ended sets from Bruynzeel and Laurentien:

    Double ended colour pencils

    Bruynzeel is a Netherlands brand now owned by Sakura of Japan. Their ColorExpress 12 Twinpoints are hexagonal and factory sharpened.

    Double ended colour pencils

    Laurentien is a Canadian brand in the Sanford empire. Take a look at the brand website, which shows quite a bit of the brand history, including the product rename from the anglicized “Laurentian”. See also this article from the Canadian Design Resource website.

    The round factory sharpened pencils have an interesting twist – a “regular” colour, and a metallic version at the other end.

    They also have some specific sharpening recommendations:

    Double ended colour pencils

    Agreed, handheld sharpeners are not as useful as they should be! I am curious about the cosmetic sharpener recommendation – are those blades made to a higher standard? I suppose it’s possible, with cosmetic pencils costing magnitudes more than writing or drawing pencils.

    Double ended colour pencils

    Just as the pencils have more than one identity, so do the manufacturers. Colleen is an originally Japanese brand, now located and manufacturing in Thailand, and noting that “Japan Lead” is used. Laurentian is a Canadian brand, owned by a US company, with the product made in Indonesia. Bruynzeel is a Dutch brand with a Japanese owner, with the product made in China.

    Double ended colour pencils

    As befits products immensely appealing to children, all the pencils do have safety badges – the Colleen bears the CE EN71 logo, the Laurentien the ASTM logo, and Bruynzeel bears both.

    Double ended colour pencils

    My thanks for Gunther from Lexikaliker for kindly sending me the Bruynzeel pencils.

    See also: The Lyra Super Ferby Duo (July, 2008)