International Arrivals pencil sharpener

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One small mystery solved.

The International Arrivals pencils – fluorescent and carpenter – have no practical way to sharpen them.
International Arrivals pencil sharpener

A lucky break came my way, and I found the right sharpener at a local bookstore – a place with no other International Arrivals products that I could see.

International Arrivals pencil sharpener International Arrivals pencil sharpener International Arrivals pencil sharpener

International Arrivals pencil sharpener

Much larger than just a general large hole sharpener, with slots specifically sized for their two pencils, the product brings some resolution to the problem.

International Arrivals pencil sharpener International Arrivals pencil sharpener
International Arrivals pencil sharpener International Arrivals pencil sharpener

The oversize fluorescent pencils are made usable again – and the carpenter’s pencil is pointed. Of course, this point is like that of a regular pencil, and discards the lead’s rectangular shape. Who wants carpenter pencils pointed this way? I suppose it beats nothing.

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

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Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

Finally – a modern design aesthetic applied to the desktop pencil sharpener!

The Bungu Ryodo BR-05 from Carl is a marvel – it costs less than some handheld sharpeners from Faber-Castell and KUM – and it performs amazingly well and has a compelling modern design.

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

The mechanism is easily understood, and offers two point choices – blunt or sharp. Both are in the “wow” category compared to most available sharpeners. The pencil shavings are held in a removable tray.

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

The little touches are just amazing – the point adjustor switch itself looks like a pencil crown – there are tactile dots on the grip points – every small detail has a consistent look.

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

Did I mention that the retail price is $21?

I find it to be just amazing. The pencil is inserted and clamped, and the handle is rotated. Sharpen, and you’re done when there is no feedback pressure. That’s it.

Here are the results with both ‘sharp’ and ‘blunt’ sharpenings:

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

It has a single rotary blade cylinder which is applied against the pencil. I don’t know how long the blade will stay sharp. The sharpener is lightweight, and the whole unit has to be gripped while sharpening, unless it is attached to a desk surface. It does have clamping-capable infrastructure, though no clamping hardware is supplied with the unit.

Carl Bungu Ryodo BR-05 pencil sharpener

It is definitely a functional office accessory that also looks great.

Replacement Pencil Sharpener Blades

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Replacement Pencil Sharpener Blades

Pencil sharpeners are an essential pencil accessory. They keep the pencil pointed and usable. Yet they are frequently a frustration to use, splintering, chopping, and breaking pencils. Sometimes this is the fault of a cheap pencil. And sometimes it is the fault of the sharpener.

The weak aspect of most portable sharpeners is the blade. The blade may be made very cheaply and be just barely usable a few times, or even if better quality, have become dulled over time. Rust and oxidation may also have had a role.

Yet, in years of frequenting art and office supply stores, I have never seen a replacement blade for sale. Art supply store staff tend to agree that this would be a good idea, but they have no place to order them.

What this means is that portable sharpeners are being sold as de facto disposable items – even fairly expensive ones with glass and metal housings.

I suspect that even a single sharpening dulls many blades, and that the working lifespan of a typical handheld sharpener blade in tip-top condition may be less than that of a single pencil. So there are a lot of blunt sharpeners out there in the world.

Laurentien, a colouring pencil brand that will be known to Canadians (now part of Sanford), states here:

We no longer recommend hand-held sharpeners for any of our colouring pencil lines. These sharpeners usually dull quickly and will chip at the wood instead of shaving the wood.

In the photo are some replacement blades (the KUM Standard 530S) that I ordered from the highly efficient Cult Pens in the U.K. Yikes – replacement blades from overseas. It is a shame that I couldn’t buy them locally. But I ordered them as part of a larger shipment, and now wish I had ordered more. It was the only realistic way I could see to keep some favorite sharpeners, like a DUX inkwell, usable over time.

Now some sharpeners truly are disposable – with no ability to replace the blade – but many are attached with a tiny screw, and will take this replacement blade.

Why aren’t replacement blades commonly available?

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil – 2

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Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

Next in our “Perfect Pencil” series, we are going to look at the Design Perfect Pencil, which features an aluminum pencil extender.

It is typically sold in a paper and plastic box with the extender and three of the refill pencils.

The product is interesting in itself, and also an intermediate step between the plastic and precious metal versions of the product.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

The pencils supplied are round, supplied in black or brown, and more recently silver.

The extender presents itself as a single rounded aluminum piece. It grips the pencil with a smooth tapered fit – no machinery to fiddle with. (Not that fiddling with machinery is a bad thing.) It is adorned with two black rubbery rings and a clip.

A silver coloured cap pulls out with an attached sharpener. The sharpener is the same model used in the Castell Perfect Pencil. However, the sharpener works magnificently! It is a wonder of concision, economically stuffing a first rate pencil sharpener into the extender.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

It works well, and the extender matches the silver pencil very well.

I like it, and it is easy to use, though the supplied pencils don’t seem quite up to snuff. (Great design, but not half as smooth as the 9000 in B.)

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil – 1

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Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

This article is the first in a series on Faber-Castell’s “Perfect Pencil” line.

The Perfect Pencil is a pencil extender with a clip. Newer versions also have a built in sharpener. The mechanisms and materials vary through the product range.

Today we’ll look at the basic model, the Castell Perfect Pencil.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

Sold loose or in a blister pack, the product is a sharpened Castell 9000 pencil with eraser, shorter than standard length. The pencil has a plastic green extender, which caps the pencil. The extender provides a metal clip.

This extender is the essence of the product. The extender can be used as a point protector while transporting the pencil, and as an extender as the pencil wears down.

The top of the extender has its own cap, which pulls out to reveal a portable sharpener. The sharpener can be unscrewed and replaced. The extender is removed by twisting a screw-on end part.

As you may see from the photos, my perfect pencil is quite worn from use. I really like it, and use it a lot. It makes a pencil very portable and usable – protecting the point, providing a clip, and supplying a super compact sharpener.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

A more subtle point as well – the matching of the famous green of the Castell 9000 pencil in the extender creates a nice flow and look. You can use another pencil with the extender, but the 9000 naturally fits. A Musgrave Unigraph might also go well.

Some negatives –

The sharpener is a disappointment. It has to be held in a very specific way to get it to sharpen, and even then barely works. Yet – I have other perfect pencil sharpeners that are excellent. So I’ll call it a quality control problem. The parts are so small that they likely have to be made to very specific tolerances, and were sub-par on the particular one I bought.

A white eraser will tend to be quickly become not so white if carried around. Not a big deal to me, and as we’ll see, not an issue in the higher end products.

The little end part that is twisted to allow the extender to be removed can be unscrewed and lost.

Price. Regular blog readers will know that we don’t usually focus on product costs. But this item has a premium price in many markets including Canada, yet is mainly plastic. To put it in relative terms – this extender will cost more than a dozen Castell 9000 pencils in my local market. I have no disagreement with anyone who would rather have those dozen pencils!

I looked at one possible substitute last week, also not so cheap, and have to conclude that more competition in this area would be good. How about some investment in the ergonomics of pencil extenders. We have looked at pencil extenders before – and the truth is that these “extenders” are last resorts. Surely someone could come up with a comfortable, lightweight alternative, that ergonomically flows from the pencil. (The Staedtler 900 25 does better, and I have seen a few photos of other types of extenders, such as the one made by Itoya, but have not directly seen or used them.)

And the positives –

It remains an innovative and unique way for those of us who use and like woodcase pencils to transport, maintain, and use them. The product implementations many key pencil use principles – safety, portability, sharpening, and erasure.

It works, and is very practical – it can take considerable use, even some abuse, and continue functioning.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

And a small update – there appears to be a newer, lower priced version on some markets, though I haven’t yet seen one.

KUM Blue Ocean pencil set

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KUM Blue Ocean pencil set

KUM is a well known pencil sharpener manufacturer. Though inhabiting a very specialized market, they have an enviable reputation as a quality manufacturer with international distribution.

What may not be as well known is that KUM sells pencils – three by my count, all part of larger product offerings.

KUM Blue Ocean pencil set

Today we’ll look at the KUM Blue Ocean. At first glance it appears to be a small barbell – perhaps a discreet exercise product for office workers.

Closer inspection reveals that this is a pencil – housed at one end by an eraser, and at the other by a plastic cap. We’ll look at each of the three devices in turn.

The eraser is gigantic for a pencil cap type eraser – a black mini-football marked with the KUM logo on two sides. It does erase quite well. It weighs in at 10.7g.

The cap is marked “KUM since 1919”. It is black grooved plastic, with the appearance somewhat clunky in my view. The top of the cap has a true “cap” – a small piece of attached plastic that can be removed to reveal a red plastic sharpener.

Typical of a KUM product, there is a screw on the blade, and I suspect that the blade is replaceable. It works as a sharpener, but it is challenging to get a proper grip.

The cap/sharpener weigh 6.7g.

The pencil itself is marked in silver on matte black, “KUM Blue Ocean KUM”. It is 125mm long, below standard length.

The cap is rounded but unfinished. The wood is very pale – basswood?

The lead is a surprise – a very dark 2B perhaps, good though not the smoothest.

So back to the barbell comparison – a typical modern pencil is 4g, and the Blue Ocean pencil is 3g. But this eraser is 10.7g and the cap 6.7g. So this is a lopsided barbell.

All aspects of the product have problems. The eraser is simply too heavy to be a pencil cap eraser. At triple to quadruple the weight of a woodcase pencil, a pencil falls backward out of one’s hand with this eraser attached.

Even with a tightened grip, the balance is all off. While perhaps KUM wanted to offer value, or the appearance of a substantial eraser, a 10.7g eraser is simply too heavy for a pencil cap eraser.

The cap/sharpener is awkward and clunky. It does not taper towards the pencil, and cannot be comfortably held.

KUM Blue Ocean pencil set

KUM’s concept is not new to us. I think we have to give credit where it is due, and thank Faber-Castell for their Perfect Pencil line. However, unlike the Faber-Castell products, KUM’s Blue Ocean product is not practical, and barely usable.

I commend KUM for trying something new – but the execution leaves much to be desired.