Stationery

This category is for all things relating to stationery, pens, pencils, notebooks and anything else.

Wacom Bamboo Stylus for Surface Pro

Wacom Bamboo

I have enjoyed using pen input for Windows since my first Tablet PC. Using a pen allows you to draw and make notes using ink, as well as be more precise with the cursor when required. Personally I find the pen that comes with the Surface Pro 2 to be quite agreeable… but I do know that people generally complain about a couple of points.

The first is that you clip the pen on the side where the charging port is – this is a bit like an after thought, but when space is a premium – it’s not a surprise.

The second is that it’s a bit light and plasticky for a £25 pen.

There’s not much you can do about the first one complaint, but the Bamboo Stylus Feel is a good alternative if you want to have a premium pen-like feel.

Wacom Bamboo

As the price of the Bamboo Stylus feel had come down to less than £10, so I thought I’d try it out. If didn’t like it, at least I’d have a spare!

I haven’t had a chance to use it very long yet, but already I can tell that it is well worth the money. The build quality is very high, and it feels a lot more premium than the Surface Pen. The weight is good, and the length is slightly longer than the Surface Pen when you place the cap on the end, or shorter when you put it away.

Wacom Bamboo

It feels great on the screen – slightly softer and less slippery than the Surface Pen. The accuracy is also really good – I had no issues using it right away with the default calibration on the Surface Pro 2, without installing any extra software.

The button on the side (which lets you right-click) is totally flush with the barrel, so it’s a little hard to find by touch alone. There also isn’t an eraser on the other end, a feature which I really enjoy on the Surface Pen.

It’s worth noting that the packaging stated that it was for the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, but it worked on the Surface Pro 2 without any problems. Be sure to check that the one you get includes the ‘Wacom feel IT‘ technology. There’s also a Carbon version – if you’re interested.

This is going to be the stylus I carry around in my bag with me, but when I’m doing art work, I’ll have both handy.

Pros

  • Cheaper than the Surface Pen
  • Higher quality than the Surface Pen
  • Feels great when writing on the screen

Cons

  • No eraser on the end
  • Button is flush with the barrel

The Great Pencil Debate

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of many different kinds of stationery, but that doesn’t mean I want to have to think about which pen or pencil to use at any specific time. However, there have been two pencils that have been fighting for my top spot for a while now…

Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Roulette

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I have used various Kuru Toga pencils since they first appeared on the market, starting with the original all-plastic design, moving to the amazing High Grade and then to the perfected Roulette model. Each of which has been even nicer to use than the last. The main idea behind the Kuru Toga design is for the lead to rotate as you write, ensuring that the pencil end never gets flat on one side – a trait to most mechanical pencils which means that your writing is not consistent. This gives you an amazing thin line, which added with my B grade lead is dark and bold enough for the majority of writing tasks.

Before using a Kuru Toga I used to manually rotate the pencil every now and then just to make sure I was still writing with a sharp tip. While this is not the biggest problem the world needs to solve, I applaud the Mitsubishi Pencil Company for coming up with an elegant and solution to the problem.

The Kuru Toga Roulette is solid, well weighted, and built with high quality plastic. The grip on the Roulette version is a painted metal which could potentially scrape, but at the moment has held up very well. As with most mechanical pencils, there is also a small eraser at the end which can always be used in situations where there is no full sized eraser available to use.

Quite simply, the Kuru Toga Roulette is the most advanced and gorgeous looking pencil I have ever used. But is that enough?

Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder

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Enter the 2mm Field Lead Holder. I first started using a lead holder regularly in August 2012, even though I’d had one in my pencil case for a while. On the technical scale it’s pretty much at the opposite end to the Kuru Toga – it’s a stick of 2mm lead with a plastic and metal surround. There’s no rotating lead and not much in the way of fancy technology.

It is also not ideal for writing mathematics or large amounts of text – but I haven’t been doing this much since finishing my university course a couple of years ago. Usually used for drafting, sketching and other art works, the larger 2mm lead actually started to look really nice when set on the Moleskine notebooks I use for my personal and professional endeavours. The thick, bold lines are fantastic for making lists and doing mind maps or diagrams.

Who wins?

Between these two pencils I have decided on both.

Most of the time, I use a squared Moleskine notebook for work. Here the Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder is used to make task lists, draw diagrams and make notes.

The Kuru Toga Roulette is used in my Moleksine weekly diary – making smaller notes, mind maps and task lists.

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Uni 2mm Field Lead Holder

Brad Dowdy also reviewed the same pencil this week, great minds think alike!

field-1

The Field series of lead holders feel much stronger and more expensive than the original lead holder design I reviewed back in August 2012. The plastic is more solid, the metal seems better, and the mechanism is also a little neater.

field-2

I decided to go for the red Field pencil, even though I’m still using my favoured B grade leads. I think the red colour really stands out, and contrasts well with my Moleskine notebooks.

field-3

Pros

  • Thick bold lines, especially with B lead
  • Feels good in the hand and nicely weighted
  • Has a basic sharpener in the end

Cons

  • You need a pencil sharpener and eraser with you
  • The point on the lead gets flat, so you need to rotate it

Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Roulette

kuru-toga-1

I have primarily used mechanical pencils for my note taking more than a decade now, and there are two particular kinds that really stand out in my memory. The older Pentel model that I first really grew to like, and the modern Uni Kuru Toga pencils made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

I have used no less than four different designs of the Kuru Toga (and a number of colours of each) but all of the Kuru Toga pencils share the same important feature – the lead automatically rotates as you use it.

kuru-toga-2

Long term users of mechanical pencils will surely know the biggest problem is that the point of the lead becomes flattened on the edge that is drawing the line. The trick is to manually rotate the pencil in your hand as you write to avoid getting uneven lines. Here’s where the Kuru Toga’s rotating lead mechanism comes in handy – it does all the work for you so that all you need to do is write.

The version I’m currently using is the Kuru Toga Roulette 0.5 mm with 2B NanoDia Lead* – and it is by far the best of an already fine bunch.

kuru-toga-3

Pros

  • A true innovation in pencil technology
  • High quality black plastic components
  • High quality painted metal grip
  • High quality silver coloured trimmings

Cons

  • Not easy to get in the UK
  • Not super cheap at $16 + tax + shipping

* Mitsubishi actually produce leads specifically designed for the Kuru Toga. I have not tried them out yet though.

Uni Sign Pens

Last time I ordered some Japanese pens from JetPens I got myself two Uni Sign Pens – red and black with the fine tip.

For a while I had been using Uni Brush Pens for making notes on A4 paper, however after prolonged use the tips start to get softer. The Sign pen has a much smaller tip and gives a thinner and much more uniform line while keeping the text nice and bold.

I find the pigment ink to be very good too, and it doesn’t bleed or go through a Moleskine notebook. Though I was disappointed to find that they’d printed the barcode on an otherwise very attractive gold-trimmed barrel.

Pros

  • Feels really good to write on both A4 and Moleskine
  • Thick uniform lines
  • Great ink

Cons

  • Why would you put a barcode on the barrel?

Uni 2mm Lead Holder

A couple of weeks ago I ran out of B grade lead in my Kuru Toga pencil. Rather than immediately sourcing some more, I decided to try using another B grade pencil.

The B grade Uni 2mm Lead Holder by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. It has a metal end and a bright red red tip, matching the colour of the stopper on the B grade lead. The rest of the body is the standard Uni maroon, which they use on their wooden pencils too.

The quality is very high, and I’ve really enjoyed using it. The lead is strong, dark and doesn’t break easily. Uni provide a pencil sharpener designed to fit the 2mm leads, which is essential for using this pencil.

Unfortunately, I have had it leak into a bag once, but if I was using a pencil case at the time there would have been no problem.

The Uni Lead Holders don’t have an eraser on the end of the pencil, so you’ve got to supply your own. I decided to go to for the Boxy eraser – also made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.

The Boxy eraser is really fantastic, it erases even dark lines without too much pressure and leaves no marks – despite the fact it is black. The black colouring also means won’t get grubby after a while. Very handy indeed.

Overall I have really enjoyed using this combination. However I must say it is a little tricky to carry around all three pieces – all the time, especially when compared to the convenience of carrying just a Kuru Toga Roulette.

Update…

After using this pencil for a solid few months I’ve found that the chromed metal tip has started to peel, revealing a cheap metal under it. I also got the opportunity to try the Field line of lead holders – and decided that their quality is measurably higher.

Uni Brush Pens

Recently I’ve been making a lot of notes on A4 notepads rather than my usual Moleskines, and my usual Jetstream pens are a little to thin for what I’m looking for. So I’ve taken to using a Uni Double Sided Pocket Brush Pen – which I purchased a while ago from JetPens.

I’ve not really been using the fine tip, but it’s good to know it is there… it has a nice feel when you use it but right now I’m all about the big strokes of the medium tip. I guess it does depend on what you are looking for.

I also have a medium tip brush pen as well, and I have not used it as much as the double and you can really feel the difference in the two – the one I have been using feels a lot softer now.

Personally I prefer the single medium brush pen overall, rather than the double. But I guess it depends if you’re going to use that thinner tip.

Pros

  • Feels fantastic to write with
  • Nice thick bold lines
  • Great ink that doesn’t go through the paper

Cons

  • Brush pens go soft after lots of use
  • Looks like they’ve been out of stock a while

Style Fit Meister 3

I’ve always been interested in multi-pens, and I’ve found some pretty cool ones (the Pentel Vicuna suggested to me by Brad Dowdy springs to mind) but my favourite ink is Uni Jetstream by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company, so finding the ideal multi-pen which includes this fantastic ink has been a little mission of mine.

While Uni actually produces a number of Jetstream branded multi-pens, I decided to start using the Style Fit series of pens. These cool Japanese pens allow you to mix and match from a large selection of refills and bodies that they provide. Including the fantastic Jetstream and Signo inks. Oh and they also do a pencil refill, which is pretty handy.

I tried the original 5, 3 and 1 size plastic body components, which were great but felt a little cheap. So I had really high hopes for the Meister 3 – the first of these Style Fit bodies to be made out of metal. Oh and it’s also in a higher price bracket of $16.50 verses $3.30.

I went for the swooby red version, which is looks great with my latest Moleskine diary. The refills I went for were the 1.0 Jetstream in black and red, as well as the 0.5 pencil. It’s so very close to perfect… but not quite there yet.

Pros

  • Massive amount of choice for refills
  • Much higher quality materials
  • Twist to change pens is much nicer than the plungers
  • Metal clip is way better than plastic

Cons

  • It rattles when you shake it
  • Pushing down doesn’t do anything except on the pencil
  • No ‘neutral’ position – it’s one pen or another
  • The window doesn’t really help you see which pen you have selected

There is one last thing I’d like to mention, and I’m not listing this as a con as there isn’t any way of doing it yet – but I’d really like to have the Kuru Toga mechanism in a multi-pen like this. The current iteration of the Kuru Toga pencils are way too large to fit in something like this. I’m sure it would be possible to create something that worked in a similar way in the future, and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

While this multi-pen is very close to the mark, I’m going to stick to using my Alpha Gel Jetstream pens and my Kuru Toga Roulette pencils as my every day stationery at work and at home.

I’m glad I got this new addition to the Style Fit line, and I’m going to be using this Meister 3 as my go-to portable pen for when I’m travelling, as well as keeping it in my work bag (see What’s in your bag?) until I need it.

Sharpie Pen & Liquid Pencil

We all know and love the original Sharpie marker. It’s an absolute modern classic, but what’s more interesting is the addition of the Sharpie Pen, and the Liquid Pencil…

Sharpie Pen

I only recently got the Sharpie Pen Retractable, but already I like it. True, the barrel is a little fat which tends to make the very fine tip look a bit funny, but overall the experience is good. The ink seems to be very nice and does not bleed through my Post-It notes. Though I do worry that the ink will dry out, and I’ll have to wait and see if this is the case…

I have noticed that there is a slightly updated version of this pen on the Sharpie website, I think I may prefer the newer barrel design, but I don’t think there’s going to be enough in it for me to get one just yet.

Sharpie Liquid Pencil

The Sharpie Liquid Pencil (which I believe may now be discontinued) uses a liquid graphite ‘ink’, which writes like a pen, but is erasable like a pencil. The idea is that you’ll no longer have any broken leads, or something. I think the idea is just to reinvent a classic in a whole new way. A bit like technology… for the sake of technology.

I’m so glad I have this pencil – the idea is very cool, even though the execution is a little off. Unfortunately the lines come out blotchy and not very consistent… but bonus points are given because of the cool technology inside. Though the truth is that I always gravitate back to my real mechanical pencil after using the Sharpie Liquid Pencil a short amount of time.

Above all, Stanford has shown us that Sharpie is capable of being much more than just a marker. They have probably played a slightly safer move by adding these risky and experimental products to a brand that is seen as cool by the younger generations anyway, and as far as I’m concerned they can keep doing this – even if the product doesn’t turn out as well as hoped. I think this is especially important for an American brand, as the Japanese seem to excel at this naturally.

Update…

While the Sharpie Pen started out well, the more I’ve used it the less I’ve liked the barrel. It’s too fat and and the rubber grip is too solid to be worth having. The ink is still very good though!

Storing my Pens and Pencils

I really like pens, pencils, and pretty much all the cool stationery, but I also like to keep things organized – so I have one bag which is dedicated to my artwork and stationery collection which has built up over the last 10 years or so.

The bag itself is a Toshiba laptop bag, with lots of little organization pockets on both the inside and on the front, a section for papers and other things, and of course the main laptop compartment.

Inside the bag I keep a number of pencil cases, some tear-out paper books, a folder of drawings, a couple of Moleskines and a Toshiba R400 Tablet PC.

The Tablet PC lets me draw directly on the screen, which I mainly use for producing cartoon-like graphics (I should totally post some!) and any other photo retouching work. I’m actually really fond of the ink support in Windows 7 and I love using the Wacom ‘penabled’ digitizer to produce pressure sensitive lines.

The black pencil case on the far left contains mostly pencils. There is a set of Watercolor pencils, a set of various grades of lead pencil, and some brushes for when I fancy mixing the colours. Pretty much everything in this pencil case is from WHSmiths.

The two denim Edwin pencil cases contain a wide selection of pens, too many to go through in this post, but I’ll write a follow up on some of my favourites in the future. The larger of the two also contains some spares I’ve purchased – for example I have a couple of Sailor Ink Bar pens which are unfortunately no longer being produced. These pens are sourced from a number of places including Cult Pens and JetPens and random shops I’ve found in the UK.

The two red Nomadic pencil cases are home to my favourite art pens, the supplies I usually need when doing any arts and crafts, and all the spare leads for the various pencils I use for drawing. I’ll definitely write a post about these two soon.

But that’s not even everything… you can also check out the contents of my favourite pen collection, and I’ll be sure to write some more posts in the future which will detail some of the most intersting pens, including why I like the Kuru Toga and Jetstream ranges so much.

I know I have a bit of a pen addiction, but I’m not the only one. Brad Dowdy from The Pen Addict has set up an IRC channel on irc.freenode.net #penaddict. Feel free to drop by to our ‘help group’ with your IRC client of choice, or via your web browser.