Uni 0.5mm Kuru Toga Slide Pipe

If anyone ever asks me which mechanical pencil is the best, I always tell them to look at the Kuru Toga.

There have been three main variants I have used day-to-day as my favourite pencil since the first one came out in 2009:

Kuru Toga

The “Original” Kuru Toga design
Kuru Toga High Grade

The “High Grade” Kuru Toga design
Kuru Toga Roulette

The “Roulette” Kuru Toga design

From top to bottom, we have the “Original” all plastic design, the “High Grade” design featuring a smooth metal grip and a thinner overall barrel, and the “Roulette” which swapped the smooth metal grip of the High Grade with a knurled grip.

This is also the order they became available and I’ve always switched as the newer models came out. The Roulette has been the most recent design and it has been the version I have used almost exclusively since then.

(Note: there have been a few other designs, ranging from an “α gel” grip, to simple Disney designs – but I’ve mostly skipped trying those)

While the barrel design has got (subjectively) better each time, the internal workings of the Kuru Toga has always been the same:

Kuru Toga Drigram

As you can see above, the Kuru Toga takes a unique approach by rotating the lead. This drastically improves the consistency of the lines produced from the pencil and reduces the chance of breakage.

With the Kuru Toga, the outside edges of the lead are worn down first. To aid this, a special kind of lead was made to complement the Kuru Toga:

Kuru Toga Lead

Earlier this year, an updated version of the Kuru Toga became available but, unlike previous revisions to the barrel, there have been changes to writing experience too…

Uni Kuru Toga Slide Pipe Mechanical Pencil

In late 2015, a new variant appeared. The Kuru Toga “Slide Pipe” has two new features:

  1. You can retract the lead sleeve or pipe for storage
  2. The sleeve slowly slides up as you use it

This is really great addition to an already fantastic pencil mechanism.

Kuru Toga Slide Pipe

Being able to push the lead pipe up into the barrel makes the pencil much nicer for storage because the overall length of the pencil is reduced and the tip is a lot kinder to pen holders and pockets.

It makes it safer too. There have been a number of times when I’ve accidentally stabbed myself in the hand with my Kuru Toga Roulette, a less than pleasing experience – trust me.

In addition, the lead pipe slowly slides up the lead as you use it. This means you don’t need to propel the lead as often, and there’s no way that the tip of the metal pipe will ever scratch against your paper when the lead gets worn down. I hadn’t actually had this on any of my pencils before and it’s also a really great addition.

Saying that, I tend to propel the lead anyway, as I like to be able to see a larger tip. But I found that I was able to write nearly twice as long as I could with the Roulette using the same B grade Kuru Toga lead. That’s pretty amazing.

Finally, while I am pleased to see this kind of improvement come to the Kuru Toga, I must say I’m a little disappointed that they chose to only update the original design.

Kuru Toga

The “Original” Kuru Toga design
Kuru Toga Slide Pipe

The “Slide Pipe” Kuru Toga design

I have a lot of pencils I can choose from and using the same plastic design of the original Kuru Toga isn’t appealing enough to grab my top spot, I’d much rather see the Roulette design feature this new pipe.

I can only hope an updated Roulette is on the way, and I’m keeping an eye out for it.

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Zebra Sharbo X ST3

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine got back from Japan with a very healthy supply of stationery, and I was fortunate enough to receive a number of shiny new pens and pencils to try out. (Thanks Jordan!)

sharbo-x-st3

The Zebra Sharbo X ST3 was one of these gifts, and I quickly decided it had to be the first I would write about.

I have already been using a Sharbo X LT3 for the last six months, so I know how great the Sharbo X line of multi-pens pens can be. Of course, I was not disappointed.

The beautiful glossy-white painted finish is different to my standard choice of black, and having something out of the ordinary has made this pen stand out even more as one of my favourites.

sharbo-x-surface

All Sharbo X multi-pens can be filled with compatible D1 refills ranging from gel, ball point, emulsion and pencil and stylus. The ST3 is in the same price range and extremely similar to the LT3. There are a few differences though:

  • The ST3 is thicker than the LT3, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I’ll discuss below
  • The threading in the ST3 is plastic, compared to the brass in the LT3
  • The logos and labels on the barrel have a slightly different style
  • The clip joins to the barrel in a slightly different way

sharbo-x-st3-lt3

The thicker body may mean that it probably fits a wider variety of D1 refills – when I first got my LT3 the thickest of my refills actually scraped on the inside of the barrel.

sharbo-x-insides

Above you can see how the side of the LAMY refill has rubbed off inside the LT3 (front), and it seems that the ST3 (back) will not have this problem.

I also have a feeling that the thicker barrel will allow me to write for longer periods of time. The LT3 is a bit skinny for extended use, and over time I noticed that it is less comfortable to use than my Jetstream Prime, even though there are only a couple of millimetres difference in the circumference.

For my refills, I have gone for the same setup as a my LT3:

  • Position I: 0.5 mm B Nano-Dai Lead
  • Position II: Black 0.7 mm Jetstream
  • Position III: LAMY Orange Highlighter

Overall I’m thrilled with this pen and it has already made its way into my all-time favourites. For the moment I am using it in place of my LT3, but I am not sure which one I will use as my daily pen moving forward. As they’ve both got the same setup I can easily swap between them or keep them in different bags.

sharbo-x-color

Pros

  • Sturdy construction and no rattle
  • Standard D1 refills with the trademark Sharbo twist selection
  • Great pencil implementation with lead width selection, knock, and eraser
  • Feels incredibly well made and expensive
  • Beautiful white finish

Cons

  • Not the cheapest multi-pen body, your budget may vary
  • D1 refills are small and don’t hold much ink, especially gels
  • You cannot swap the pencil out for another component
  • Thicker than a standard pen
  • The white finish can be an ink magnet!

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More Stationery Photos on Instagram

My stationery addiction is a big part of my life – of course the whole point is to be productive, but it often looks gorgeous too.

I have decided to create an account on Instagram purely for the purpose of sharing more photographs and information about the stationery I love and use every day. Check it out if stationery is your thing!

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Zebra Sharbo X LT3

Shortly after writing about my Analogue Note Taking System I misplaced my favourite pen and it really bothered me. True, it was only for around 36 hours, but it was long enough to get me thinking.

Writing in my journal and my notebooks is very important to me, and I need to have a backup pen I can be happy to use at any time. It has to be more than ‘just okay’ and actually give me joy to use.

It has also been a quest of mine to find a truly decent multi-pen, so I set out to try and solve both issues; a multipen which could act as a backup for my favourite pens and pencils – while still being as enjoyable to use as possible.

I had tried a couple of multipens fairly recently (Jetstream Prime, Style Fit Miester) but both had flaws I couldn’t get past for everyday use. Both of them ended up being very useful spare pens which I would keep in my bags, but using them wasn’t as nice as I wanted.

sharbo-x-a

Then I found the Zebra Sharbo X LT3.

I had known about the Zebra Sharbo multipen system for a while – I knew they were more premium than many of the others, and I knew that they used the standard D1 refills. I took another look at them and found the Zebra Sharbo X LT3 on JetPens.

While it isn’t the most expensive or impressive Sharbo X multipen, it’s a really great offering. It’s pretty thin for a multipen too, as you can see below in comparison with the Jetstream Prime.

sharbo-x-b

Like the Jetstream Prime it is made of high end materials, but the biggest and most important difference is how it feels so much better. It doesn’t rattle.

For me the fact that the Sharbo X system uses D1 refills was one of the best selling points. There are plenty of options from multiple manufactures – allowing you to mix and match with refils from Zebra, Uni, Lamy, and more. My favourite online pen stores like JetPens and CultPens have lots to choose from too.

Here’s what I have decided to put inside:

Position I: Black 0.7 mm Jetstream

The Jetstream refill is the most obvious choice for me. This is the type of ink I use the most, and as this was directly aimed as a substitute or my existing black 0.7 mm Jetstream – it had to be included.

The amount of ink included in these D1 refills is significantly less than I am used to, which makes me worry that it will be too expensive to use. However I am still on the original refill I put into this pen when I first got it – 60 days ago at time of publishing – and I have been using it every day to write in my Hobonichi and my Field Notes.

As I use the Jetstream ink this more than anything else, I would expect it to be the first to need replacing. Of course, I have thought ahead and got myself some spares from CultPens.

Position II: LAMY Orange Highlighter

This is a very interesting experiment. My first thought was to use another Jetstream refil with red ink (in a similar way to my Myster) but I decided to try something a little different. I went for a LAMY M55 tripen marker refill from CultPens.

It has proven to be really great in a number of use cases – from highlighting parts of printouts to shading in doodles. As the colour is quite light you can layer it really well, allowing for some very creative use. Though I have found that it is sometimes it’s a little dirty on first use. This is probably to do with the way it is stored inside the barrel, and not a deal breaker.

It’s not a liquid ink like a normal highlighter, so it can’t be used in the same way as other highlighters, but I’m rather impressed and glad I took a chance on it.

Position III: 0.5 mm B Nano-Dai Lead

First of all, I have to get this out of the way. This pencil is never going to be as good as my Kuru Toga.

How can it be? I have been spoiled by what is – in my opinion – the very best type of mechanical pencil by using various designs of the Kuru Toga for many years.

That aside – the barrel itself has to take a pencil in the third position, so I am more than happy to take advantage of it. Having a pencil is always useful and I often use it with my Field Notes for drawings, sketches, and other types of notes.

You have to buy the pencil lead housing separately, with choices of 0.3, 0.5 and 0.7 mm sized leads. I opted for the 0.5 mm and filled it with B grade Nano Dai lead from Uni. It has been a favourite of mine and I used it in my Kuru Toga pencils before the specially designed Kuru Toga lead became available.

Investing in a Sharbo X & refills isn’t cheap, but that’s ok because it feels expensive.

Pros

  • Almost no rattle compared to other muti-pens
  • Takes standard D1 refills with a nice simple twist selector
  • Pencil is well implemented with knock and eraser
  • Really feels like it well made and expensive

Cons

  • Relatively expensive for an empty barrel
  • D1 refills are also expensive and don’t hold much ink
  • No option for anything other than a pencil in Position III
  • Some small chips have appeared on the edge of the barrel

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One Year of Field Notes

My first Field Notes notebook

It was one year ago today that I started using my first Field Notes notebook.

It all started with a pack of three “Pitch Black” dot-grid memo books while I was on holiday. I’d heard such good things about these small, creative, and well-designed notebooks. I wanted to try them out!

The first book took me quite a while to finish but after a while I got more comfortable with using them for anything I wanted to write down.

After that I was hooked and I signed up for the Field Notes COLORS subscription service. Through this service the good folk over at Field Notes HQ in Chicago, Illinois will send fresh designs to me on a quarterly basis.

One year of Field Notes notebooks

Over the year I have used 22 notebooks and enjoyed each one in their own way.

I have used a mixture of stock editions, COLORS editions, collaborations, and rarer limited editions. Some of my favourite designs have been produced by the Field Notes creator and well-known designer Aaron James Draplin.

Stack of Field Notes notebooks

Before using Field Notes I would use larger Moleskine notebooks for things I knew I wanted to keep, and additional loose A4 pages, or Index Cards, or any other kind of random notebook.

Now I have standardised on Field Notes I take a lot more notes, and I keep them all when I’m done. They’re well integrated into my Analogue Note-Taking System too, so I always have them with me.

As the notebooks are a great size at 3½″ × 5½″ and 48 pages, they feel like they can just be used for anything. I don’t worry about folding them over or stuffing them in my pocket; they’re special but not too special to use. They’re just right.

You can read a little more about why I like Field Notes in this post from June 2015, but essentially I find them to have great physical dimensions and they only look better after being used. The many variations keep me interested and encourages me to write things down regularly.

Used Field Notes notebooks

Here are the editions I have used in this first year:

  1. Pitch Black
  2. Unexposed (Orange and Blue)
  3. Two Rivers
  4. Cold Horizon
  5. Expedition
  6. Drink Local (India Pale Ale)
  7. Cherry Wood
  8. National Crop (Cotton)
  9. Raven’s Wing
  10. Red Blooded
  11. America the Beautiful (Spacious Skies)
  12. Shenandoah (Sweet Birch)
  13. Workshop Companion (Plumbing)
  14. DDC Factory Floor (Simple-Minded Silver Streak)
  15. Shelterwood
  16. Landland Dead Print
  17. XOXO Festival 2015
  18. DDC Dead Print
  19. County Fair (Texas)
  20. Snowblind
  21. National Crop (Soybeans)
  22. Original Kraft

Field Notes Original Kraft

It wasn’t deliberate but I find it funny that the last book I started in the year was the most generic edition you can get*.

* Though I am sure fellow Field Nuts will notice the lack of the ® symbol on this notebook – it was printed in 2012, before they registered the trademark.

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