Sunday, February 28, 2016

Top 5 Pencils of February 2016

Hello fellow pen and pencil enthusiasts. Sorry for the delay in posts. Yesterday was my birthday and I got a few new pencils and it inspired me to post a Top 5 of my favorite wooden pencils.

Please note that these are in no particular order. I had a hard enough time narrowing it down to just 5 pencils, let alone put them in order. ;)

Dixon Oriole #2:
I remember using these in elementary school with fond sentimentality. I've never had an issue with these "budget" pencils. I've noticed a lot of other online reviews on Amazon, other blogs, etc. give them a much undeserved thrashing. Even the newer Indian made pencils are high quality, in my experience. I have a few boxes of the old US made ones and a few boxes of the new Indian made ones and I've noticed no real drop in quality. The leads are well centered, the pencils are not warped, and the lead is very smooth with good point retention. They are also very durable. My first time using one since elementary school was when I found one in a parking lot a few years ago that had obviously been run over and abused. Its eraser was shot, but there was a lot of wood/graphite left. I left it in my car and used it to jot down gas mileage notes for years. When I started getting more into pencils seriously again, I took it out and began using it more regularly. Even though the paint is cracked from being run over, the graphite itself is still perfectly fine. Note that the paint is usually very thick and glossy, and does not suffer from cracking unless run over by a car! I use it on a daily basis for random notes at my desk at home. I highly recommend giving these pencils a try and trying not to take the other naysayer's opinions before giving it a chance. These can regularly be found for around $2 for a box of 12 on Amazon.

Palomino HB:
This is one of two packs of pencils that I received for my birthday from my wonderful girlfriend (Thanks!). These are just around half the price of the famed Blackwing pencils, but write just as well. Smooth, dark graphite with decent point retention. Well balanced since they do not have the heavier ferrule/eraser at the end, like the Blackwings. I highly recommend these if you can live without the nicer eraser of the Blackwing, as they are much cheaper. They can routinely be found for around $12.95 on Amazon.

Staedtler Norica HB/#2:
Let me preface my choice of the Norica by saying that this opinion is for the pre-2015 versions of the Norica, with the thicker, smoother graphite cores. The ones made in 2015 and later are not as good as the older versions. The 2015+ versions have more tooth to them and the cores are not as thick. I have yet to see ones with copyright dates of 2016, so I hope they get their act together and go back to the old cores for subsequent versions. The 2014 and prior versions are buttery smooth and dark, but with a slight tradeoff in terms of point retention. I recently found a few 2014 boxes at a lesser visited Staples out of town, and if you look hard enough you can still find the older versions on eBay. These come in Blue and Black, and I notice no difference between the versions. When I last ordered a pack on Amazon about a month ago or so of the blue ones, they were from 2008 and very smooth. Here is a link to the blue ones: Amazon. Also, if you have a Staples nearby, check them out and see if you find any with copyright dates of 2014 (or earlier) and get those instead. They come in packs of 36 there for under $10. I'd avoid the 2015 models.

Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 2B:
The Hi-Uni, like the Palomino HB and the Blackwing pencils is a premium pencil. They come without an eraser, but the lead is smooth and the point retention is very good for having such a soft and dark core. These are originally intended to be used for drafting and sketching, but work great for writing as well. Most of the time when it comes to Japanese pencils you have to order them from a seller in Japan and wait 1-2 months for them to arrive. Amazon currently has them in-stock and fulfilled by Amazon and eligible for prime, so you won't have to wait as long. They are currently around $16 for a dozen: Amazon.

Palomino Blackwing 602:
This was the 2nd of two packages of pencils that I got for my birthday from my girlfriend. These have a very similar core to the Palomino HB (and could very well be the same, as I can't tell much of a difference). They have a nice gunmetal colored finish and a very handy eraser that is extendable and replaceable. These are the most expensive of the bunch, but very much worth it if you are looking for a high quality pencil and price isn't as much of an issue for you. I noticed that at the time of posting this they are being fulfilled by Amazon, but you usually have to pay for shipping. Grab them while you can and take advantage of the free shipping! They are around $22.95 for a box of 12. Amazon.

Honorable Mentions:

Tombow 2558 HB:
Fantastic writing pencil, but difficult to find without having to import them from Japan or pay a higher price for them individually on Jetpens. If you're okay waiting a bit, I highly recommend these. Amazon.

Paper Mate Mirado Classic #2:
The core in these pencils is one of the best I've ever used. Smooth, dark, and with fantastic point retention. The only thing holding them back from being in my top 5 right now is the poor quality control I've found. Some pencils have erasers inserted improperly, off-center leads, and warped pencils. When you find ones that are put together properly, they're some of the best. Heck, even the ones that are slightly off are still way better than most pencils out there. And they're cheap. Amazon. Also, if you can find some older American made ones, I'd recommend those higher.

Dixon Ticonderoga Laddie HB/#2:
These pencils are thicker than a regular pencil, which makes them very comfortable to hold for long writing sessions. The core is also very thick and dark, but the point retention is not the greatest. These pencils write more like a 2B/3B in terms of softness/darkness. The eraser is oversized as well and works great. The biggest drawback to these pencils is the fact that they are larger, they do not fit in most pencil sharpeners. The only one I own that fits it properly is my little Staedtler tub sharpener, that sharpens it to a stubby short point. I love using these for crosswords, as darker cores work better on cheap paper in my experience. Find them on Amazon for under $4 for a dozen if you have a larger sharpener: Amazon.

Mitsubishi Uni NanoDia B:
I found these pencils on Jetpens (no affiliation) for around $1 a piece. They write dark, and have good point retention due to the formulation of the graphite core. My biggest issue with these is the lack of availability. I've yet to find another store aside from JetPens that sells these at a reasonable price. They are twice as much on Amazon. I also like to use these for Crosswords with smaller boxes.

Happy writing,
Derek (ThirdeYe)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sheaffer Snorkel Special (Medium) Review

Hello fellow pen and pencil enthusiasts,

I hope everyone had a great Fountain Pen Day 2015 yesterday. I decided to try out my "new" vintage lap desk for this review. The handwritten review is below, and I will transcribe it below. I also sincerely hope you enjoy reading about one of my first fountain pens that I ever purchased, as it is also one of my favorites.

Last night I looked through my pen collection and decided to ink up an old favorite. This was my 1st Snorkel that I bought at a book store, of all places. I remember getting it for an amazing deal, probably $20, if I remember right. It did need restoration, but it was so worth it! For being the lowest tier Snorkel, the nib is better than all of my higher end Snorkels, aside from my Statesman that needs to be repaired again.

This pen is a bit too slim for me, which is the only real issue I have with Snorkels. I much prefer the girth of the PFM, however, these are much more affordable.

This pen is the "Special" trim, which as I mentioned above was the entry-level, non-white-dot, Snorkel. The only real difference is that it has a basic Palladium Silver open nib. The rest of the pen is the same, I believe. It writes way better than one would think!

(I also wanted to add more to the review that I forgot to touch on, so what's below is not in the written review)

In the review, I forgot to mention that I also have another non-white-dot Snorkel in my collection, the Admiral. It also has a standard open nib, but in 14k gold. That one is also a fantastic writer, but needs to be restored again as well. There is one other issue with Snorkels that I forgot to touch on as well... they are very finicky. I have had my Admiral and Statesman restored before, but they need to be restored again as both stopped filling/working after just a couple of fills. In fact, I was only able to fill the Statesman once before it stopped working again. This Special has been restored probably 3-4 times now. When working properly, these are fantastic pens to use and the Snorkel tube used for filling really makes using up the last bit of ink in smaller bottles/samples much easier. 

- Derek (ThirdeYe)

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Montblanc Meisterstuck Blue Hour: Twilight Blue Fountain Pen Ink Review

Phew... just typing that post title was strenuous. Here is my review of Montblanc's new Meisterstuck Blue Hour: Twilight Blue ink. Why they chose to give it two names is beyond me, but hey. I just like saying MBMBHTB for short. :) I like this ink, but I wasn't really blown away by it. For the price I paid ($16), I'd rather just pay a couple more dollars for a 50ml. bottle of Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo on Amazon. It can routinely be found there for around $20 a bottle, and you get almost twice as much ink. To my eyes, I can hardly tell a difference between the two inks, anyways. Plus, the Iroshizuku bottles are better to fill pens from (and look cooler!)

I meant to post this about a week ago, but the weather has been so cloudy and rainy that there has not been enough sunshine to take any relatively decent photos when I get home from work. I finally caught a few brief moments of sunshine this morning before the storms roll in again and snapped a few photos. One of my good penpals (and fellow blogger), Laura, has also posted a great review of this pen that I will link at the bottom of this page. I highly recommend checking her blog out. Her posts are very thorough and detailed and she updates the page quite regularly. I hope you enjoy the review!

p.s., I should mention that the pics make the ink actually look blue, but in person it looks more like a light blue-ish green or teal. I'll add a few more pics and a scan soon.

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Click to enlarge. Water resistance test of 5-10 seconds under a faucet and left to dry for 30 mins.

Please visit Laura's review here!

Warm Regards,
Derek (ThirdeYe)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lucy approves of My Supply Room's care package

Hello fellow pen and pencil enthusiasts!

George of My Supply Room was nice enough to send me a fountain pen related care package from his collection. Not pictured is a yellow Pelikano Junior that I am letting my girlfriend use. I have been using the Parker 45, but I have yet to try the others. I can't wait to try them out. While taking this photo, our cat Lucy also approves of the gift and also wants to send her thanks. The one in the brown box is a nice looking Hero with some Russian cartridges. There are also some violet Pelikan cartridges, a Hero 616 "Doctor", and the blue one on the bottom is a Jinhao (Lamy Safari clone).

Thanks George! Visit his blog here, it is one of the main inspirations for starting this blog in the first place -- his pen and pencil collection is astounding.

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Take care, and happy writing,

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pen Addiction - Comes and Goes

I'm assuming that most readers of this blog are pen/pencil enthusiasts. Has anyone else noticed their "addiction" coming and going in waves? I go through periods of months where I put my hobby on the shelf, but something will trigger it and it comes flooding back into my life like it never left. It can be a dangerous hobby if you do not utilize self-control. :) It's like this with a lot of hobbies in my life... video games, cars, music, etc.

I theorize that part of my cyclical behavior is due to the fact that I already have such a large collection that I'm hardly even able to use all of the pieces I have in my collection already. Conserving money is another large factor. With a lot of disposable income, I could easily see myself enlarging my collection even with other items sitting on the back-burner waiting to be used.

I must say that there are still quite a few gaps in my collection that I've never been able to fill completely. I've always wanted a very high-end pen, like a Pelikan M600/M800 or a Montblanc 146, but I've never been able to afford one. I'd also like to find a good, durable kick-around fountain pen that writes finely without drying out or leaking/flooding. I've tried quite a few, but I've never been able to find just the right one to put in my pocket. The Sheaffer 100 would fit the bill if it wasn't for the clip and cap being so stiff and difficult to use. The Platinum Preppy or the Parker Reflex would work fine, but the plastics are so thin that I'm afraid they'll break in my pocket. I think the closest I've found is probably the Pilot 78G (but it also feels quite breakable) or the Cross Solo. Ideally, though, I'd like to find one with a metal barrel that could hold up better in my pocket. I've also pondered the Lamy Al-Star, but it's a bit large and the clip doesn't look good in a pocket, in my opinion. How about the Pilot Metropolitan?

Just some random thoughts for the day. Have a good one!