Midori MD Pencil Review

Introduction

Midori is very famous for their Traveler’s Notebooks and their brass products. While they have produced pencils in the past, for their brass pencil extenders, the Midori MD pencil is their first full size pencil. The MD line (which I believe stands for Midori Diary) is known for its simplistic design and light colors. Does Midori pull through with their first full-length woodcased pencil?

Specs

Shape: Hexagonal
Length: 176mm
Diameter: 7mm
Weight: 5g
Place of Manufacture: Japan

Design

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The pencils come in a pack of six within a slim plastic package. There is a small label in the packaging, similar to those included with other Midori MD products. As always, there is nothing gaudy about the packaging.

The writing on the label is playful and is meant to mimic handwriting. Luckily, it is not hard to read. The back of the label only has a barcode and some recycling information.

The pencil itself is very simplistic. The barrel is hexagonal and is a light cream color. The paint is matte and does not reflect any light. While it is smooth, you can definitely “feel” the pencil between your fingers. There is no ferrule.

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There is black lettering on one side of the pencil with the words “Midori MD” as well as “B” to indicate the hardness. There is no other writing or imprinting on the pencil.

Fit and Finish

The pencils feel solidly made, although the paint is not the best. It appears as though the paint rubs off easily, as seen in the above pictures.

The lettering is pretty good, although not that sharp on the edges. This might have been done on purpose as part of the font, but it looks a bit sloppy.

The two halves of the barrel are matched well and the core is well centered. However, the paint around the edges came chipped. It is not apparent whether this happened during manufacturing or during packing.

Functionality

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Sharpening the pencil in my Carl Angel-5 was very smooth and easy. As expected, the pencil left some bite marks in the barrel. It did not expose bare wood, but, instead, the marks were paint filled.

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The point was moderately long and well rounded. The barrel did not split upon sharpening. There was no excess shavings hanging on after sharpening.

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The core is a tad harder than most Japanese pencils of hardness “B”, writing closer to a Mitsubishi Hi-Uni “HB”. The writing experience was “all right” at best. It is better than your run-of-the-mill dollar store pencil, but, at least for me, the amount of feedback the core was giving me was somewhat unpleasant.

However, a few days later, I was curious enough to pick it back up and give it another go. During my second attempt at using it, I found it to be better than I first thought, and definitely usable, although it will not be winning any awards in my book.

I will note that my opinion on the tactile feedback that the pencil gives is just my take on it. I am sure some will appreciate it.

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That being said, though, I do like how dark of a line the pencil puts down. Furthermore, it erases easily and point retention is pretty good.

Conclusion

I am a bit disappointed by these pencils. The quality was not as good as I was expecting and the writing experience was not not up to par in comparison to Midori’s paper offerings (in my opinion). Aesthetically, once you get over the dirtied surfaces, the pencil is elegantly simple and is comparable to the Mitsubishi White Pencil in looks.

I probably won’t be picking any more of these up in the future. I’m still on edge about whether I’ll keep the ones that I have. To each their own, though.

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Mitsubishi Kakikata 2B (and some info about other pencils for children)

Mitsubishi must be one of my favorite pencil manufacturers. I first saw the Kakikata pencil on Bobby Truby’s website Brand Name Pencils, where he has a blue one for sale. My heart was drawn to the red one, though, which has been on my search list for quite a while. Luckily, Enpitsu Philia of 鉛筆五四三 was able to help me out. Many, many thanks her!

Kakikata (書き方) means “How to write” in Japanese (I believe, although please correct me if I am wrong). The pencil is made just for that.

The round barrel makes it very easy to hold. The barrel is painted very bright colors. I have an example in red and orange, though I am aware of sky blue being another option. The colors seem fitting for a pencil meant for schoolchildren.

The lettering is silver foil on the front. On the back, there is a combination of gold foil and white paint. It looks like the foil was applied well, although the age of the pencil is visible through the wear the foil has suffered from.

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There is a small space on the pencil for the owner to write their name. There are two other spots on top. I don’t know Japanese, so I am not sure what they are for. If you’re able to figure it out, please drop a comment or send me an email!

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The pencil itself is made very well. The lead core is well centered, with the two halves of the wood matching in both grain and color. The halves are joined well and there is no gap between the pieces.

The paint is chipping at the edges, though I suspect this to be a result of its age rather than a manufacturing issue.

Unless I’m magically able to accumulate many, many of these pencils, I probably will never sharpen one. Honestly, I’m very satisfied with my Hi-Unis and 9800s and don’t feel a need to put another pencil into my rotation.

However, I suspect that these, along with my French Mitsubishi Uni and Mitsubishi White Pencil, will remain in my collection as “things I like”.

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Some other info:

If you’re interested in other Kakikata pencils, Mitsubishi still produces a version, item number 4653. Pencil Talk did a short write up on these pencils here. There is also the Mitsubishi NanoDia, which, while not having the Kakikata label, is labeled as “for kids”. Pencil Talk also did a review of them here.

Sticking with Japanese manufacturers, Tombow has their ippo! pencil, which is categorized on their website under Kakikata. Here is a link to a random review I found on the internet: link. Gunther, from Lexikaliker, also mentions this Tombow Blue pencil that is marketed to kids. I can’t read German, but if you can or if you’d like to look at pretty pictures, here is a link.

Lastly, Staedtler also produced their own Kakikata pencil released ca. December 2016. I am working on getting my hands a box of each set, but in the mean time, please check out Bleistift’s post here.

French Mitsubishi Uni HB

Sometimes, I’m just drawn to certain things. For some reason, white pencils have always been one. I saw this Mitsubishi Uni HB on Bobby Truby’s Brand Name Pencils. I was adding a bunch of pencils to my cart, but later on forgot about it until I contacted him about a trade, in which this Franco-Japanese pencil was included!

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Getting the pencil in person, I found an odd beauty to it. Like many of Mitsubishi’s higher end pencils, foil was used on the lettering. The gold foiling can be seen on other pencils, such as the Hi-Uni (my personal favorite), but the hardness was embossed using a purple/magenta foil. Might sound like an odd combination, but I sure wish they made other pencils with this purple foil on white lacquer combination.

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Check out the pretty floral pattern as well as that purple foiling!

On the reverse of the pencil, there is a set of three sentences in French: “Je tu veux te donner un coup de point. Je t’aime. veux t’embrasser.”

Pardon my French, for it is rusty (non-existent), but using Google Translate, I came up with the translation of: “I want to give you a punch. I love you. I want to kiss you.”

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“I want to give you a punch.”
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“I love you.”
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“Want to kiss you.”

Translated, it sends some mixed signals, but perhaps it’s trying to be romantic? I could come up with some theories, but it would all just be conjecture.

I’m not one for clutter, but this is another one of those pencils that won’t get sharpened or used. Maybe it’ll be a gift for a special lady friend, or maybe I’ll just like it so much and keep it. I think I need more.

If you’d like to buy one, I believe Bobby Truby still has some over here (I didn’t get paid for this link). Try not to buy them out, though. I still need to stock some up for the future.

Chris Reeve Giraffe Bone Mnandi

Introduction

The Chris Reeve Giraffe Bone Mnandi is what I would consider to be my grail knife. It isn’t too big, nor is it too small. It has some of the highest tolerances and best craftsmanship one can find in any production knife.

This will not be a review. I do not plan on using this knife and will only carry it on certain occasions. For the most part, it will be relegated to fondling at home and a special spot on my shelf.

Specs

Date of Manufacture: October 22, 2003
Blade Material: CPM S30V at 58-59 RC
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
Overall Length: 6.375″
MSRP: $400

Video

Coming soon.

Packaging and Paperwork

Luckily for me, the knife came with all of its original packaging and documentation.

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The box is interesting, as it is the older rectangular style. Since the knife was made in 2003, it only has the stickers for winning the 2000, 2001, and 2003 Manufacturing Quality Award.

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The right end of the box has stickers labeling the contents.

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Inside, there is a small sheet containing information about this specific limited edition.

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There is also the original birth card, which is often lost over the years. It is completely handwritten, in comparison to newer cards, which only have handwritten dates and Chris Reeve’s signature.

Included Items

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There is an Allen wrench that comes with each knife. I believe they were all taped to the lid of the box, as shown. They are 5/64″, which fit the screws on the knife.

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Additionally, there is a small calf skin pouch. The are still manufactured, although I have heard that there are quality and design differences between the old and new versions. It is quite interesting that this pouch is completely new, as it doesn’t show any sign of stretching at all.

Newer Mnandis come with a microfiber cloth and fluorinated grease. This one had neither.

Design

The Mnandi features the Chris Reeve Integral Lock design. In essence, it is a one piece framelock. The slabs of giraffe bone are not scales or overlays, but are, in fact, inlaid into the titanium scales. The titanium is slightly milled to precisely fit the giraffe bone. They are attached using 3M VHB (Very High Bond) tape.

The Mnandi has 13 different parts different parts.

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1. Front Scale
2. Blade
3. Back (lockbar side) Scale
4. Pivot
5. Smaller (rear) washer
6. Spacer
7. Larger (front) washer
8. Bushing
9. Long screw
10. Body pin (product page)
11. Back spacer (product page)
12. Clip (product page)
13. Short screw (product page)
14. Allen wrench

I will be doing a write-up as well as a video tutorial on how to disassemble and lubricate a Mnandi. It will be linked here after it is complete.

Fit and Finish

Tolerances are great. There is no blade play (side-to-side, up/down, back/front) at all. The blade centering is perfect both closed and opened. The lockup is good at around 50%. The lockbar itself is still, although not overly so. I never worry about the knife closing on itself.

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Left: Lockbar deploys at around 50%. Right: Blade centering is near perfect.

The hollow grind is symmetric and incredibly thin.

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Top: Lubricant residue shows the path of the detent ball. Bottom: The “S” signifies S30V steel.
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Lockbar side

Functionality

As I mentioned in the introduction, I do not plan on using this knife. Chris Reeve Knives does not offer re-blades for pre-2011 knives, preventing me from acquiring an extra blade to use. Furthermore, as Tim Reeve, son of Chris Reeve, pointed out, using the knife would eventually show wear on the handle, which would reduce collector’s value over time.

However, I still do find occasions to bring the knife out. The clip looks very innocent and fashionable when clipped on a shirt pocket. It is a nice accessory to have and an easy way to conceal a knife in situations where it something larger, like a Sebenza, might not be appropriate.

Value

Precises of this piece have varied wildly through the years. The original MSRP was $400, which was a small premium over the a regular Mnandi. Prices did not appear to increase until recently, when fewer and fewer have been surfacing on the market.

Previous Sales:

October 2003: $400 on Knifeart (Link)
January 2006: Unknown on British Blades (Link)
June 2008: $445 on Bladeforums (Link)
May 2010: $325 on Bladeforums (Link)
December 2016: $1750 on Bladeforums (Link)

 

 

Chris Reeve Giraffe Bone Mnandi: Unboxing/First Look

I’ve been chasing after this knife for quite a long time. Now, it’s finally in my hands.

Specs:

Date of Manufacture: October 22, 2003
Blade Material: CPM S30V at 58-59 RC
Blade Length: 2.75″
Handle Material: 6Al4V Titanium
Overall Length: 6.375″

The Unboxing

Some First Observations

The Chris Reeve Mnandi has always appealed to me due to the elegant curves the knife has. The handle has a slight arc in it which continues on through the blade. Now, holding the knife in person, I can attest to the aesthetics beauty of the knife. I seriously cannot get over the curves.

The build quality is exceptional. There is no blade wiggle of any type and the inlays are fitted perfectly. And that titanium milled clip is just a work of art.

I’ll do a full on review after I spend some more time with the knife. Until then, enjoy some preliminary photos of the knife.

Pictures

 

Mike Draper Mini Titanium Spatula Review

Introduction

A key tool in food preparation is a good spatula. They can be used to flip burgers on the grill or to make the perfect egg. Mike Draper gave his spatula high end treatment with the use of titanium. Coming in both standard and mini sizes, the shiny titanium is definitely a show stopper. However, is the titanium just a gimmick or is there value to its usage?

This product was provided by EatingTools for review.

Specs

Maker: Mike Draper
Materials: 6AL4V Titanium, stainless steel screws
Dimensions: 2.125″ x 2.875 x 7.875″, 0.22″ thick
Weight: 1.5 oz
Price: $32.50 from eatingtools.com

Design

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Mike Draper has two sizes of spatulas available: A larger “standard” spatula and a mini spatula. The basic shape of the two are the same, but there are also some differences. The larger version has both an angled and a flat blade style.

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Picture from eatingtools.com

Additionally, the larger version uses four screws instead of only three on the mini version. The butt of the handle has two different designs. One version is curved, matching the curves of the drilled holes. The other version has a slightly pointed end.

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On both versions of the spatula, there are two main parts consisting of two pieces of titanium, a handle and a blade. The blade has a single bend in it, giving it rise up to the area that connects to the handle.

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The handle also has a bend, which corresponds with the bend in the blade. There is a hole drilled at the end of the handle for a wrist thong or for hanging up.

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Fit and Finish

When it comes to any handmade product, fit and finish is a defining feature of its quality.

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The fit and finish on the spatula is great. The spatula has a brushed finish that resists scratches and wear well. However, it is a finger print magnet. Thankfully, a wipe with a cloth will remove the oils left from your hand.

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One area that was a tad imperfect was the screws. I believe that the screws were longer and had to be cut down to size in order to be flush with the handle. Somewhere during the progress, it appears that an actual piece was trimmed off. The brushed finish, however, looks great on the screws.

Functionality

To test the spatula, I put it to work making eggs every morning. Even with its small size, flipping eggs is a breeze on my cast iron. With all metal spatulas, I would not recommend using this on a non-stick pan.

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The titanium is very flexible, though it retains its shape very well. This makes getting under eggs very easy. The handle, although un-insulated, does not get hot.

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Food particles can easily get stuck on the surface, but a bit of scrubbing and elbow grease makes it look like new again.

With its small size, the spatula easily fits in a backpack for camping trips. I took it out into the woods with my cast iron for a nice cookout. I definitely recommend titanium tools and utensils after this experience. Between my American Kami SporkTiStix, and Spatula, I was never worried that my tools were going to give out. The spatula, even with its thinness, did not suffer any deformation on the trek and returned just the way it left.

Conclusion

A spatula might seem like something you’d pick up at the dollar store, but the this titanium spatula really shows you how great a cooking tool can be. Its durability is second to known and its design really showcases craftsmanship at its best.

Alan Folts TiStix Review

Introduction

Titanium is all the craze nowadays. With food utensils, they provide a distinct advantage over steel, with properties such as anti-corrosion and weight being among the most notable. However, Titanium tools are often much more expensive as they are harder to work with. When it comes to something as simple as chopsticks, does the added cost still make them worth it to buy?

This product was provided by EatingTools for review.

Specs

Manufacturer: Alan Folts
Place of Manufacture: USA
Length: 9.375″
Weight: 1.7oz
Price: $75 (link to purchase: here)

Packaging

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The TiStix come in a nice black sleeve packaging. There is a small loop that slips over the flap to keep it closed. Over the left side has the logo printed on faintly.

When it comes to packaging, the TiStix really hit the ball out of the park. I can see myself reusing this packaging for months if I continue to be careful about drying them off before putting them back.

Design

The TiStix are cut and milled at a small machine shop in South Carolina. After that, the TiStix are finished by hand by Alan Folts. This includes the anodizing, polishing, and bead blasting.

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Starting at the tip, the front inch are bead blasted. This gives them some more grip and contrasts with the rest of the polished body.

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Moving to the middle, there is some milling that add to the aesthetic. The largest milled ring are bead blasted for higher contrast. The other milled rings are not finished differently from the body.

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The end is bead blasted and is steeply tapered into a dulled tip. There is more milling here and, like before, only the largest ring is bead blasted.

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Other models come with different color anodizations that add some customizability.

Fit and Finish

The fit and finish on the TiStix are impeccable. It is impossible to tell the individual sticks apart from their size. This is expected, as they were professionally machined. The milled rings are distanced the same on both and the depths are the same.

When it comes to finish, even though the TiStix are finished by hand, they look perfect. The polished surfaces look smooth. They look a bit tumbled, which would explain their ability to resist wear marks. They frankly look like pieces of art rather than eating utensils.

Functionality

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I was a bit dubious at first about any differences the TiStix would have over other chopsticks. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the weight increase. It might seem like a hindrance, but the added weight shifts the center of balance closer to the hand. As such, they are much easier to control. Further, the titanium has a slightly “grippier” feel in comparison to stainless steel. While not as textured as something like bamboo or wood, the TiStix makes up it by being much heftier.

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The sandblasted tips make it easy to pick up the most slippery of items. This contrasts greatly with other types of chopsticks that either do not have any type of feature to help with gripping, or those that simply have a few grooves cut into the tip.

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When it comes to cleaning, the titanium holds up very well to scrubbing and does not stain. Using a sponge and some dish soap, it took no time at all to remove hardened food gunk off of them. The milled titanium rings are not deep enough to make cleaning them difficult. The bead blasted contrast remains after cleaning.

Value and Competition

At $75, the TiStix do not come cheap. However, the price can be justified. In comparison to other titanium chopsticks, the TiStix’s design, with its milling and bead blasting, showcase a higher level of workmanship. The ergonomics are also better, with the strong tapering putting the center of mass higher up than with other chopsticks.

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When considering value, one should look at both the item itself and how it compares. While the TiStix may look simple, they handily beat out the competition through it’s design and attention to detail. These additional design aspects require more workmanship, which further rationalize its price. For those reasons, I feel like the TiStix are reasonably priced and present tangible advantages to its competitors.

Conclusion

I was a bit surprised by the TiStix. As someone who has used chopsticks for many, many years, the TiStix may be the best pair of chopsticks that I have ever used. This is not an exaggeration. The higher center of mass and bead blasted tips make grabbing food a breeze. With their hardy solid, one piece construction, I have no fear of bringing them out and using them in lieu of disposable utensils. Given the opportunity, I would definitely purchase many more pairs for household use.