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.

Toronto Pen Show 2018

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Let’s end the blog’s lengthy recess with a report on a recent event. Scriptus, the Toronto pen show, held their 5th annual show last weekend. It was my second visit to this show, and I enjoyed my time there.

The show’s venue, the Toronto Reference Library, is a special place. I am old enough to recall the predecessor location, which is now the University of Toronto Koffler Student Centre. The old reference library was a grand Carnegie library (one of a number in Toronto, all very nice) with a giant reading room and all the books behind a counter. Patrons had to fill out a form to request a book. (That’s also how the provincial liquor store used to operate. I’ll have to ponder the connection.)

Koffler Student Centre
By SimonPOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The new library represented a remarkable shift. The books were out in the open! For the first time, the public could see and touch the reference books without a gatekeeper. The building was also like no other library the city had seen. It seemed to have no walls. Designed by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, the floors were concentric wavy circles, and the whole building seemed like an open vessel. For better or worse, I spent many hours of my teenage years there.

Toronto Reference Library
By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid EngineOwn work, CC0, Link

The pen show is in one of the areas not regularly open to the public. A theatre, there are some interesting views of downtown from the windows. They also offer quality programming. For example, you can hear John Irving speak next month.

The show is free, and consists mainly of display tables that are rented by vendors. The show was crowded – much too crowded for my taste – but better than 2017.

Vintage pen dealers seemed to use the most space, followed by new pen dealers, often occupying several tables. Then people selling pen accessories, journals, notebooks, and various organizations. I found almost no woodcase pencils at the show.

I did find a number of craftspeople, including people with professional bookbinding skills. I bought a small distressed leather book from Don Taylor Bookbinder. It contains Tomoe river paper. While I now wish I’d bought more, I think the small book will offer a good chance to see if I like the paper and to learn how the binding performs over time.

Don Taylor Bookbinder

Stephanie Raudsepp from Montreal was visiting, and she makes thoughtful notebooks that aren’t just recycled – they are chlorine-free and made with wind power. I bought three, with the idea that a couple of them may become gifts.

Stephanie Raudsepp Notebook

Stephanie Raudsepp Notebook

I also bought a Taroko Design Breeze Notebook, whose packaging was quite professional looking.

Taroko Design Breeze Notebook

All the paper vendors allowed visitors to try their paper. And these weren’t just “staff” – the actual artisans were there in person.

Where did all these skills come from? I enjoyed visiting the table of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild. I bought a very small $2 kit from them, and got some back issues of Book Arts magazine.

Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild

Oh, I said there were no pencils – but there were pencil sharpeners, courtesy of an antique dealer.

Vintage Pencil Sharpeners

Vintage Pencil Sharpeners

And some more about the library itself – exiting the show, I noticed that the library now has 3-D printers, a print your own book machine, notices about an entrepeneur in residence, and other new features on the main floor. That floor used to house core reference materials such as dictionaries, enyclopedia, directories. I’d like to explore that print your own book offering!

Toronto Reference Library Brochures

And – there is a small retail area near the main exit with a coffee shop and a small bookstore. All food and drink (possible excepting water) used to be forbidden from libraries, and a bookstore (not just a small gift shop) inside a library seemed odd. But the businesses are not run by the library – they are tenants in the retail area. And the bookshop has Faber-Castell Document pencils and oversized 870 and 871 Castell marking pencils. These are super rarities of the modern catalogue – and there they were.

The Loot

Some other notes. The event, free and set in a library, could have been accompanied by more education (other than just “retail education”) about pens. I recall being taken to a coin show as a child, and it had lectures, displays, etc. – not just a retail bourse area. I also met other stationery bloggers in person for the first time. The event had various pre-events, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Ana Reinert from The Well-Appointed Desk and Brad Dowdy from The Pen Addict. Hard to believe this took so long. I thought I’d meet another pencil blogger first. I wonder if the show could support a pencil table?

In comparison to buying a handmade notebook or a vintage item online, a show like this is a much better experience due to the ability to test and handle the products in person. Talking to the person who made the product makes it even better.

Have you gone to a pen show? What did you think?

Düller Memo Pad

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Düller Memo Pad

An unexpected local find, the Düller Memo Pad.

An elongated notepad, the paper features a dotted grid. The cover is a very nice forest green.

Shown here with a Düller Dietrich Lubs fountain pen:

Düller Memo Pad and Düller Dietrich Lubs fountain pen

Stabilo bionic worker

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Stabilo bionic worker

This is a pencil blog, not a marker blog, but I’m still happy that Quo Vadis Canada sent some samples of the Stabilo bionic worker this way. Well, I’m calling it a marker, but it is officially a “liquid ink roller ball”. And I’m not sure if it is the brand that was used by bionic public servant Steve Austin.

As well as representing Rhodia, QVC represents the famous pencil brand Stabilo in Canada. How interesting! (I wonder if they know that I like pencils?)

The bionic worker has two main special features – an ink window and a completely rubberized surface. The ink window doesn’t show me too much. To me, the grip is comfortable. And the all orange appearance can’t be ignored.

Stabilo bionic worker

I admit to not regularly using this type of product, but I think that could change. I’ve previously mentioned paper products that didn’t like graphite, and wondered if they might have another writing instrument as their ideal partner. One confirmed result: the Behance Dot Grid notebook and the Stabilo bionic worker are a fantastic combination. The colours are vibrant and vivid on this paper. I see no feathering, nor marks bleeding through to the paper’s reverse side.

Stabilo bionic worker

The only negative I can see is that I can’t find a place to buy more. These markers seem like a higher end product – not something one will see at most office supply stores.

My thanks to Quo Vadis Canada for sending these samples.

Caran d’Ache 45 multipen

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Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

This post continues on two other articles about vintage multipencils. (The Faber-Castell 33/78 four colour pencil and the Caran D’ache Tricolor.) I mentioned their quality construction, as well as the relative complexity of their mechanisms.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Well, I got further with them than I did with the Caran d’Ache 45. The 45 was advertised online as a multipencil, but when it arrived, it turned out to be a multipen – three ballpoints and a pencil in a classic looking barley pattern housing.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Octagonal shaped, each writing implement is selected by sliding a corresponding switch. The implement is retracted by clicking the cap.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

So now the fun starts. First the obvious. I can’t find any way to advance or replace the pencil lead, and suspect it is all manual. That’s okay – at least it works.

Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

Now the ballpoints – they are dried up. Easy to replace, right? Unfortunately, no. There seems to be a standard mini-ballpoint format that is used by pocket pens and multipens, but it has two differences from the 45’s format. First, the modern format is longer – which can be remedied with a side-cutter. But, the 45 is a clutch leadholder on the inside, and it wants the format of the original. The 45 does not properly grip the new format.

The original, between modern examples:Caran d'Ache 45 multipen

So, I fear this potentially amazing writing instrument is a paperweight, unless someone out there has some ideas for finding a replacement ballpoint refill.

This post is also a cautionary tale about proprietary formats for writing implement refills – pen, pencil, or other.

Stationery Magazine

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Stationery Magazine

I can’t read much of it, yet it seems to speak very well to many interests of mine.

Red and blue pencils, leadholders, quirky office accessories – they’re all here, and featured prominently.

The magazine is in Japanese, with about 150 glossy pages crammed full of photos of woodcase pencils, mechanical pencils, leadholders, erasers, sharpeners, staplers, hole punches, rulers, and much more.

Stationery Magazine

Yes, they have a page on Vernier calipers:

Stationery Magazine

Sharpeners also.

Stationery Magazine

Stationery Magazine