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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Analogue Note-Taking System for 2016

For 2016, I have changed my analogue note taking system for the first time since I started using two Moleskine notebooks in 2012.

The centre of my 2016 setup is an Arts & Science leather case for the A6 Hobonichi Techo. I went for the bright option with this vivid orange, a colour which I often link to energy.

It looks absolutely gorgeous and feels great to hold.

hobonichi-case-closed

When closed, the whole kit is a similar size to the dual Moleskine notebooks I used to carry. It’s a little shorter and wider, but generally, they feel to be around the same size in terms of having something to carry around.

leather-sitching-closeup

One of the benefits of using this case is that the whole thing zips up to keep the notebooks inside, nice and safe. This means that, rather than carrying two Moleskine notebooks and a pencil case, I can now just carry the single case with me every day.

Right now, I have the following items inside:

  • 2016 Hobonichi Techo (A6, Japanese)
  • Two Field Notes Notebooks (XOXO Conference 2015, DDC Dead Print)
  • Seven note cards (one currently used)
  • Bookmark (a thankyou card from Landland)
  • Arts & Science Pencil Board
  • A Minecraft sticker I acquired last week

knolling1

This is simply a snapshot of time at the start of 2016 while writing this article. The items inside will change over the year, with the Field Notes changing at least monthly. Most times I’ll only have one Field Notes, but there’s a lot going on at the start of this year so I’ve started with two.

hobonichi-case-open

Opening up the case reveals the notebooks inside. The Hobonichi Techo is on the right hand side, easy to open and look things up. I usually take it out when I’m going to be at a desk for hours, but I can also write and review various things directly in the notebook when it is still in the case.

I will write some more about the Hobonichi Techo in a couple of weeks, but I mostly use this for time-based planning and daily journaling, rather than some of the more creative uses that the notebook is famous for.

I do like to customise the outside though, and both sides are covered in stickers.

inside-pocket

I fell in love with Field Notes in 2015 and now I use them for just about anything. If I have only one Field Notes notebook with me, then I tend to put it in the left hand pocket as above. Since I am using two at the moment, I tend to just put them inside rather than stuffing the pocket.

band-of-rubber-close-up

I also like to have a Band of Rubber on hand for if I need to hold them together.

Anything goes in these notebooks. I burn through these books faster than anything else, and mostly they’re used to record current thoughts, plans and help support my longer term goals.

note-cards

The pocket on the left also includes a couple of card slots. I use them with some blank, white note cards that are used for rough notes, ideas, and pretty much anything that I used to use index cards for – just in a smaller form factor. I don’t like to tear pages out of my Field Notes, so this is what I use if I need take a note for somebody else.

I’ll write some more about my use of these cards soon, but I find that this form factor is much more useful to me than index cards. They easily fit in a wallet too.

note-closeup

On the right, there’s a slot for a pen, and my current pen of choice is the Jetstream Prime (single version – I reviewed the multipen version a while back) with a 0.7 mm black refill. This has become by far my favourite go-to pen of choice, so it gets the pride of place here.

both-cases

Obviously, I am a huge stationery nerd and I can’t just have one pen, so I still keep a main pencil case, which I also carry if I’m using my work bag or something similar. It’s an optional extra though, so it’s not always with me.

This is also a snapshot in time, but here is what’s inside right now:

knolling2

The Kuru Toga is favourite of mine and it still gets plenty of regular use. I’ve also found myself using the Uni-ball Air with large sheets of A4 to work my way through some ideas I have. I find it to be much more enjoyable than a Jetstream when working on a bigger scale or sketching rather than writing.

bb-8-drawing

Most of the other items in my pencil case are going to change fairly regularly. I like to try new things so I often put pens or pencils in here for me to experiment with on a whim. An example is the Field Notes No 2 pencil: it has been there for a couple of weeks, but I simply have not used it yet.

knolling3

There are a few other extras I often tend to use. A cotton bag for the Arts & Science Hobonichi case, a DDC Stuff Sheath, and a Field Notes Band of Rubber – just in case.

hobonichi-case-and-stuff-sheath

I regularly use the DDC Stuff Sheath when just carrying a single Field Notes notebook with me. It’s a fantastic little leather sheath that can be used for anything, but easily fits a couple of Field Notes and other loose materials.

I have this on hand when I need it and often carry it with the Arts & Science leather case for my Hobonichi. They make a great pair.

way-durable-very-orange

Like the pencil case, it’s an optional extra, but it’s most helpful when I am travelling or visiting somewhere and want to take a single notebook out with me.

It’s way durable and very orange.

landland-field-notes

Also worth a mention, is my seemingly never-ending supply of Field Notes notebooks. I keep these at home and choose a different one as soon as I finish the one I’m using. I love working my way through the many designs I have and I’m enjoying each one of the differences in paper and manufacturing techniques.

These are the fundamentals of what I’m planning to use for 2016. It’s quite different to the way I worked before, but I feel that it allows me more flexibility and the ability to write more often with my analogue tools. I feel more connected to analogue note-taking than I ever have.

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Uni-ball Air

Last month, I was in my local Tesco and decided to have a look around the stationery section on the off chance that there was something of interest.

I was extremely surprised to see a new, unfamiliar Uni-ball pen, since I’m pretty up-to-date on the latest products from the Mitsubishi Pencil Company. I don’t know how I missed this one, it has even appeared on a couple of the stationery blogs earlier this year.

Uni-ball Air in Tesco

In my defence, the usual places I look for brand new Uni-ball pens are Mitsubishi Pencil’s Japanese website and on Jetpens, a US based reseller specialising in Japanese pens. At time of writing this, the Japanese website still didn’t have it (they just announced they’ll be available in Japan starting 26th of November 2015) and neither does Jetpens. Yet.

uni-air

The Uni-ball Air is a liquid ink rollerball pen with a unique tip. The tip has stainless steel on the inside and is surrounded by a black plastic that gives it a distinct look and seems to flex with pressure, enabling the pen to write at more angles than the similarly-inked Uni-ball Eye series. The advertising says that the tip gives a similar feel to a fountain pen (without the leaks), because you can get an effect where the line changes in thickness, depending how you hold it.

uni-air-close

The tip has stainless steel on the inside, but it’s surrounded by a black plastic which gives it a distinctive look and also seems flex with pressure, enabling the pen to write at more angles than the similarly-inked Uni-ball Eye series of pens.

uni-use

The thick black line has turned out to be a very good pairing with the Workshop Companion edition of Field Notes. I have enjoyed using it for sketching diagrams on large A4 pages, but for my usual daily note taking activities, I’m going to be continuing to use my 0.7 mm Jetstream Prime for now. I love Jetstream ink too much to give it up.

The Uni-ball Air has made it into my pencil case and will be used as an option whenever I want to use this kind of ink. However, I hope to acquire a thinner version in the not-too-distant future, so that I might have more opportunities to use it.

uni-air-comaprison

By the looks of it, the version you get in the US is actually thinner and, in my opinion, better looking. I’m not keen on the stripes they’ve given us in Europe. Why are they even different?

I find it interesting that it came out in the US and Europe first. In fact the slogan they’ve been using on all of their international sites is “West meets east“. It certainly seems like it was released in the West first, for some reason.

Pros

  • Interesting and unique tip design
  • Variance in line thickness
  • Super smooth writing
  • Uni-ball’s secure ink

Cons

  • Liquid ink is not ideal for all uses
  • Only seems to come in medium/broad in the UK
  • Not thrilled by the stripy look of the barrel

As a final thought, I’d like to say that I’m pleased to see Uni-ball are still innovating. They are my favourite pen and pencil manufacturer and I often worry about their lack of new designs in rollerballs and ballpoints. I’m essentially using the same type of ink refill I was using almost a decade ago. The Air feels like something different to their existing line-up, and that’s good.

Update

The Uni-ball Air is now listed on the Japanese website, and it looks like they have the same designs. The broad ‘stripy’ version, and the cooler black version. The black version is shown with ‘micro‘ branding on the side, and is 0.5 mm. Hopefully I’ll be able to get one soon!

Jetstream Prime

The fact that I love Jetstream ink would be no surprise for anyone that has spoken to me about pens. However, these days I use a lot less ink than I used to. This year, I have only used pencil in my notebooks, and it has almost always been the same 0.5 B lead that I use in both of my daily-use Kuru Toga pencils.
 
I do still use ink sometimes though, and this is where the lovely new Jetstream Prime comes in. It’s a multi-pen with serious style that is made out of some fantastic materials. The three refills that come with it are black, blue and red – with the ability for you to change it into other types, should you desire. There are both 0.5 and 0.7 options.

Jetstream Prime

Personally, I never write with blue ink, which is why I usually tend to avoid carrying them. Therefore, I cannot really say how good the blue ink is, but with the other two, it is exactly as expected and it is the same high quality that I’ve come to know from the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.
 
The pen itself has a very nice metal body, with a matte finish on top. The version I have has a chrome-detailed end, though there are a number of other versions. I’m really not a fan of the fake jewel in the end though. It’s certainly not as bad as I thought it would be – but I feel that I would have preferred the design without it.
 
Talking of other versions, they also make one that includes a pencil. However this one is thicker and includes the pencil as a fourth option. I haven’t tried it out so I can’t say how good it is.
 
As is always the case with these multi-pens, they’re never quite perfect for what I’m after. The body of this design is very nice, but the useless (for me) blue ink is something that I’ll never use. Yes, I could replace it with another 0.7 of either the red or the black, but I don’t think I’m going to invest in that at this time. I would have liked to see the slimmer three pen version come with a pencil, which would essentially give me the same setup that I have with my StyleFit, but with a nicer body.
 

Pros

  • Great Jetstream ink
  • Fantastic premium feel body
  • Neutral position by un-clicking all pens

Cons

  • I don’t write in blue, so it’s wasted on me
  • Not sure about the fake jewel on the end
  • All multi pens rattle, this is no exception

How I like to Study

stargazing

After taking a 4 year break from studying, I decided to ease myself in gently by studying a subject with which I was already fairly familiar. I opted to go for Galaxies, Stars and Planets, a short course with the Open University that has helped me formalise many of the concepts I have learned through being a member of The York Astronomical Society.

Location

My location of choice is the JB Morrell Library at the University of York. I’ve frequented the library since I worked at the Science Park in 2008. Back then, I was studying mathematics and I loved how studious the atmosphere was. Since then, the library has been refurbished making it even easier to get access to things like power sockets.

uni-library

I do actually have a favourite spot on the second floor which has a nice view and isn’t very far away from the toilets and recycling facilities. There is also a chilled water fountain nearby – but if water isn’t strong enough the Café is just downstairs. (Which is great for my Fitbit floors goal!)

The Morrell Library is located on the Heslington West campus. It is only a short walk to get to the largest plastic bottomed lake in Europe (fans of QI will understand the reference). I have found that it is a lovely place to walk around, and it gives me some exercise and fresh air when taking a break from studying.

bridge

Equipment

The course I’m currently studying centres around one key text book, which is supplied to me as part of the material sent by The Open University. It’s also available online in PDF and epub formats. The latter of which can be used (via conversion) with the Kindle.

large-scale-universe

My Kindle has been the main way I have read the study material while working on the course, and it’s obviously a lot easier to carry than the larger study book. I also keep a copy of the PDF versions on my Surface Pro 2 just in case I need to look at the diagrams in colour.

The Surface Pro is also great for the online elements, including watching videos provided by the Open University, which accompany the course.

einstein

I decided to use a Moleskine notebook to work through the activities and make notes. It actually ended up being larger than I needed, so I think the type of notebook I use will be something I look into changing, for the next course.

Because all the equipment I use is so small, everything fits in my Knomo bag without any problems. In previous years I had been carrying around a large backpack which contained more books, a larger computer and a calculator or two. Keeping things light and simple means I have less to carry with me when I study, helping make the whole experience more enjoyable.

dark-matter

Software and Services

When I started the course back in May, I set about doing a lot of the meta-work up front. This meant that I could just rely on these things moving forward.

  1. I downloaded all the images, videos, and other materials from the OU website and put them on my OneDrive, setting them to always be available offline on my Surface Pro
  2. I made a list of all the work that would be required in the study plan and put it all into OneNote as a task list
  3. I put the milestones and study dates for the whole course into my Outlook calendar
  4. I set up the Aladdin Sky Atlas software using IKVM.NET on my Surface, so that I didn’t need Java
  5. I converted the study book from epub into the Kindle format, and stored PDF versions for the Surface

When actually working on the activities and reading the material, I’ve also used Windows Calculator, Bing Wikipedia, Periodic Table and Star Chart. These applications have helped me do mathematics, look up further reading, and – very importantly – visualise the solar system using 3D graphics.

sun-diameter

hydrogen

The extra programs that the Surface Pro provided where not required for the course, but certainly helped.

Mindset

I decided that I only wanted to study at my study location, which means I go there once a week, every week and make no compromises about that. If a friend suggests doing something on one of these days, I’ve just had to be firm and say no.

surface-library

But doing it this way has really suited me, as it gets me away from a home full of distractions and into a productive environment with other people wanting to get things done. The motivation of wanting to progress my work has been enough to keep me going.

I may have found it a lot easier on this course because it’s a subject I already understand more than the average person, so I’ll be really interested to see how well I fare when I pick a new subject next year.

While I’m not ruling out taking time off again, I’m certainly planning to continue my mindset of life-long learning for the foreseeable future. I’m sure the way I like to study will only improve over time.