Midori MD Pencil Review


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?


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



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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


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.


Pentel Clic Eraser Review



I like push erasers. They provide a precise, long lasting erasing in a compact form-factor. However, since an eraser only erases as good as the eraser material, not only is the design of the push-mechanism important, but the refills themselves have to be decent.

The Pentel ZE-21 and the Pentel ZE-22 are the two models of “Clic” push erasers. The ZE-22 can still be purchased at local office supply stores, while the ZE-21 has been discontinued. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the two and I’ll be explaining why the Pentel “Clic Eraser” ZE-21 is in my EDC.


Place of manufacture: Japan
Price: $3 (ZE-21, must be purchased from reseller), $4 for four (ZE-22), $16 (box of 24 ZER-2 refills)



The ZE-21 is made completely from plastic while the ZE-22 has a plastic body with a rubber grip. On both, pushing the pocket clip down and then forward extends the eraser. The clip assembly holds the eraser refill through friction.

On the ZE-21, the body is smooth down to the grip, which is simply the same material, but ribbed. It is not particularly grippy, but is textured enough to get a firm grasp on when erasing.


ZE-22 (right), ZE-21 (left)

The ZE-22 on the other hand has textured plastic, as well as a rubber grip with a texture of the same design. This adds a few millimeters to the diameter. The rubber is soft and can be removed.

The clips have slightly different designs with the ZE-21 having a flatter and more boxy look while the ZE-22 has more curves. The plastic used for the clip is darker and has a shiner finish on the ZE-22, which matches the type of plastic used on the body. On the other hand, the plastic used on the ZE-21 is duller and feels a tad rougher.

The end caps on the ZE-21 and the ZE-22 differ a bit, with the ZE-21 having a more refined look with an indentation, while the ZE-22 is flatter. The flatter look accentuates the molding lines on the plastic, although the ZE-21 has a very noticeable bump in the middle of the cap.


The refill comes either in boxes of 24 or individually. The individual refills are packaged in thin plastic with a sheet with instructions surrounding the refill itself.

Though the model number is ZER-2, it appears that the “2” was not stamped on this particular packaging or that the packaging is generic.

Fit and Finish


The product was not meant to be an expensive one and the fit and finish is reflective of this. There are molding lines on the plastic and the parts have uneven colors. The lettering on the body is a bit uneven and is prone to wear.


The first thing you notice when you see my ZE-21 is that the paint has worn off the body. I didn’t intentionally scrape the paint off with my nail, but instead, the paint wore off through use and wear in wherever it was thrown into. The force required to extend the eraser has lessened over time, although this is only obvious through the different sounding clicks that it makes.

Eraser Test on Rhodia Notebook

ZE-21 vs ZE-22

With respect to erasability, since the refills are identical, they have the same performance. However, while the eraser holders look similar and share many attributes, their differences make one superior, in my opinion, to the other.


The ZE-22’s action does not feel sturdy after multiple uses. I believe this to be because of the design of the clip itself. The clip, while stylish, is connected by a thin piece of plastic. On the other hand, the ZE-21 is held together with a shorter piece of thin plastic, giving it less wiggle.


Further, the ZE-22’s grip “improvement” is a short term and unnecessary improvement. With the rubber grip, the ZE-22 is no longer able to be placed flat on a surface. Further, the grip accumulates dirt and grime quickly. After a while, the elasticity of the rubber will degrade and the grip will not fit flush with the body of the eraser.


The ZE-21, on the other hand, is simply one piece of plastic. As such, it’s only weakness is the “press” tab on the side of the eraser, which can lose its tension over time. This tab can However, as this is not necessary for the eraser’s usability, it is not important that it remain in perfect condition.


The push eraser has a special place in a stationery user’s arsenal. It is compact and convenient while providing accurate erasing. The Pentel Clic series uses the polymer eraser refills that Pentel is known for in a mechanism that is cheap and simple. While Pentel has tried to improve on the product, the older ZE-21, in my opinion, beats out the newer ZE-22. However, either eraser would prove to be useful and, at this price point, getting a few spares won’t break the bank.

rOtring 600 Gold 0.5mm Review



I love my rOtring 600. The solid construction and the attention to detail make it a joy to write with. However, the thin tip is fragile and prevents it from being pocket friendly. rOtring’s answer to this was the rOtring 600 Gold. It has a modern relative, the rOtring 800, that has been met with relative controversy due to fit and finish issues. How does the rOtring 600 Gold match up with its relatives?


Place of Manufacture: Japan
Length: 13.3cm (retracted), 14.3 (extended)
Weight: 34 grams



The rOtring 600 Gold can be easily disassembled to show all the main components. On the back end, the eraser cap and eraser can be removed simply by pulling. While the pocket clip can be removed, it is firmly attached and removing it would require a large amount of force. The pocket clip itself is engraved with “rOtring” with a stylized “O”.


On the front end, the knurled grip can easily be unscrewed. Following that, the tip and main mechanism is exposed. The tip can also be removed by unscrewing, although it is a tad more difficult as the mechanism itself will turn as well if it isn’t held tightly.


One interesting thing to note is that the mechanism is all metal and that there appears to be no plastic parts (except for perhaps the lead indicator). This probably has no impact on the actual performance or longevity of the pencil, but it does give the pencil a different feeling knowing that it is all metal.

rOtring pays a lot of attention to these small pieces of detail. The engraving on the clip seems pretty standard, but they also marked the lead size on the end cap. This is not found on the newer rOtrings.

The main feature of the rOtring 600 Gold is the retracting mechanism. When the pencil is closed, the tip is retracted 3-4mm into the grip, which protects it from damage. Further, when the pencil is retracted, the mechanism is locked and no lead can be extended.


The mechanism itself is activated by twisting the end portion of the pencil. This also houses a lead grade indicator, which also rotates. Here is where you will also find their iconic “red ring” (rotring in German).

It can be easy to identify why the pencil was called “gold” due to the gold hardware on the tip and at the end of the pencil.

Fit and Finish

I bought this pencil used, but through the wear and tear, there are still some aspects of the fit and finish that I can comment about. The tolerances are not as tight as I would have expected, though not so bad to the point that it is a bother. The end mechanism that rotates to extend the tip has some wiggle, but the pencil as a whole, however, does not rattle.


There is very obvious wear to the finish. It appears as though someone had tried to move the clip and, instead, scraped off part of the logo and quite a bit of the coating. The finish, however, seems very tough and it is a bit confusing to me as to how much force was required to do this type of damage.

The knurling is a bit blunted by design and does not provide the grippiness that is usually associated with more modern rOtring products. However, during writing sessions, I did not find myself losing grip of the pencil and it did not have as big of a “bite” as rougher knurling does.


This pencil meets the expectations that I had for it. The clip holds the pencil securely to my jeans with no wiggle. I have no fear of it falling out of my pocket at anytime. It hasn’t fallen apart or had the tip accidentally extend while the pencil was in my pocket. It can really easily be said that the pencil is very pocket friendly, especially because of the mechanism lock.


Extending the pencil is quite easy. Exactly a half turn of the end piece is required to extend the tip. The tip will “snap” into place, with an audible click.

In order to turn the lead indicator, the end piece must already be fully extended in the direction that you want to turn the lead indicator. Otherwise, you will end up extending or retracting the pencil instead. While some may think of this as a flaw, as rOtring did as they removed the lead indicator on the rOtring 800, I personally think the lead indicator is a nice touch and is very helpful.

As for writing experience, once the tip is extended, it feels just like a rOtring 600. While I am sure the weight distribution is different, they are both hefty enough that I cannot tell the difference. The tip has a bit of wiggle, but when the lead touches the paper, it no longer moves.

I had an issue where the lead kept on breaking and the pencil was becoming hard to twist open. I soon realized the problem was that the tip was unscrewing itself ever so slightly. The extra length that it gave made twisting the pencil open harder and, because it wiggled more, the lead was more prone to breakage.

Replacement erasers seem to be near impossible to find. rOtring 600 erasers do not fit as they are a tad too big. I have heard that rOtring 800 erasers will fit, but I have yet to try them. I will update the review once I do.

Comparison to rOtring 600

The body of the rOtring 600 and the rOtring 600 Gold are the same length. The tips, however, are a bit different. The tip of the rOtring 600 Gold is slightly longer, though the slim sleeve area is the same length.

The knurling is much milder on the rOtring 600, as previously stated. The rOtring 600 has pyramid shaped knurling, while the rOtring 600 Gold has flat knurling.


The clips are nearly the same, although I found the rOtring 600 had deeper engravings. Also, the rOtring 600’s lead indicator text was a bit whiter and the lead indicator itself was a bit harder to turn. This, however, may be because the pencil is newer and has not sustained the same amount of wear as the rOtring 600 Gold has.


Given the choice to pick the rOtring 600 Gold or the rOtring 600, I’d have to pick the rOtring 600 Gold again and again. The retractable tip simply provides so much more usability to the pencil. While there are more moving parts, when all the components are properly fitted, the pencil is a mechanical monster. I’ll be treasuring this pencil for years to come and it’ll definitely never be too far from my side.

Curved Blade Sharpeners: The Faber 4046/4048

Today, we’re going to be talking about the curved “Janus” sharpeners made by A.W. Faber and Faber-Castell.

An old advertisement for the A.W. Faber 4046 and 4047 (1)

A.W. Faber 4046

(Patent #: DE964034)

From some research on the internet, it would appear as though the 4046 was manufactured between 1930 and 1935. My correspondence with the Faber-Castell historian revealed that first 4046s were probably sold in 1935. I have seen two variants: one where the corners are a little rounded and another where the corners and sharp. The historian verified my findings.

The blade on the 4046 has a single caret ( < ) on one side and a double caret ( >> ) on the other.

Production of the 4046 was stopped temporarily during WWII, but resumed after the war. It was now produced in two different metals: brass and duralumin.

Patent #: DE964034 is for a curved sharpener. Gunthur Schmidt of Lexikaliker mentions (albeit in German, which I know little of) that this patent showcases a curved blade sharpener with what appears to be a smaller hole for sharpening leadholders. This makes use of both sides of the blade.

IMG_20160704_221922I managed to purchase an A.W. Faber 4046 off of Etsy for a decent price. Faber 4046s go for between $40 and $100 depending on condition.

Mine is a fairly worn example.The brass is showing signs of uneven oxidation. I was a bit concerned by the corners, edges and jimping, but the metal itself has worn down very little.

The blade itself has no rust, which really surprised me due to the high carbon content of the blades. There is some discoloration in some areas, though, but none that would change its usability.

One thing to note about purchasing a used sharpener is that the blade is you cannot resharpen the blade. This will change the distance between the blade and the edge of the sharpener, causing an oddly shaped pencil point.

IMG_20160704_221942If there was anything that disappointed me about the purchase, it was the condition of the screw. It looked as though someone used a screwdriver that was too small and completely mangled the head of the screw. I have not attempted to remove it yet, but once I do, I will be trying to find a replacement at once.

One interesting thing to note is that the place of manufacture stamp. Since it says “Germany”, we know for sure that it was produced before the Second World War or after reunification, of which the latter would be improbable.

I was quite impressed by the curvature of the sharpener. It’s just gorgeous at every angle.

Sharpening a pencil is quite easy. The knurling is grippy enough that the sharpener stays firm in the hand. The blade is a bit dull, but it has enough life in it to give a pencil a point. I decided, for my first pencil, to sharpen a Mitsubishi 9800.

Sharpening produced a mound of shavings. The shavings are very thin, but they are not very consistent. However, there were consistently strings of 5 to 10cm. The graphite shavings were not as nice though. There were some larger chunks, and it looked like pieces were chipped off.

The tip is quite nice. When compared to a pencil sharpened by the Angel-5, it is obviously convex. The tip length is similar, though the Janus gives a more consistent tip.

Faber-Castell 4048

Magnesium Faber-Castell 4048 (1)

The Faber 4048 was produced from around 1965 till the early 1970s.

The Faber 4048 came in two varieties: one made of brass and one made of duralumin. They both came in a small yellow box wrapped in waxed paper instructions. The instructions appear to be the same for both versions.

The instructions are written in 5 different languages: German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.


Transcribed: “You have made an excellent choice in the JANUS Sharpener No. 4048. It is a sharpener of precision. The double edged reversible blade is made of high quality steel, will provide you with constant long, needle-sharp points.

The blade can be changed simply and speedily, replacements (No. 4049) being obtainable through any good stationer or drawing office dealer.

Please do not attempt to remove any lead points, which may be caught under the blade, with other than a matchstick or other non metallic implement. Better still, loosen the screw and remove the particle of lead.”

The box itself is completely in German. There’s a picture of the sharpener on the front, with the Faber-Castell logo on the bottom left corner.

The edges of the box are either plain or have the item name on them. The box below was made in the 1960s. Boxes are same for both the brass and duralumin versions.

The blades on the 4048 are different from that of the 4046. The arrows are now gone and the blade now has two indentations at each end. Further, the blade is screwed in through the top rather than the bottom. I have heard that the blades are interchangeable though.

Faber 4047

The 4047 were the replacement blades made for the 4046 and the 4047. They came in a small nickel tube. They supposedly contained half a dozen, as per the ad above, but for the most part, I have seen them containing three (perhaps due to use). Something else to note is that the replacement blades, at some point, having the caret symbols.

$_57 (1)
Ebay Auction #: 201205775017
Ebay Auction #: 201205775017










Faber 4049

Faber-Castell 4049 (1)

The Faber  4049 appears to be the second variation of the replacement blades. Green boxes with white caps held five(?) blades. These were made for the Faber 4048 and the blades can most easily be distinguished from the Faber 4047 blades by the inclusion of the half circle cutouts at each end.

Picture Credit:
(1) www.lexikaliker.de
(2) My Pencils Draw Worlds

Carl Angel-5 Pencil Sharpener Review


I swear, I’m not cluttering. I have my brass pencil sharpeners and a handful of knives to sharpen pencils with, but sometimes, I get lazy. And for those days, a rotary sharpener can help out. The Carl Angel-5 supposedly gives a long sharp point for a decently low price. But can this “Made in China” product have the quality to sharpen pencil after pencil? Let’s find out.


Place of Manufacture: China
Price: $20-25


My Angel-5 came in a different packaging then the other Angel-5s on the shelf. I decided to take the risk, though, hoping that I got some older box or something. I haven’t really concluded with why this box is different. It doesn’t really matter though.

The front and back of the packaging had the same design, but the sides are different. One side showcased the sharpening capabilities, such as the clamp, while the other showcased the internal mechanism and the desk clamp.


The top had a little sticker indicating the color of the sharpener (red in my case) as well as all three colors that are available: red, blue and black.


Open the box, you see the sharpener on the left side of the divider. On the right side, there is the desk clamp. both are wrapped in plastic.

Fit and Finish

Starting with the clamp, the parts look like they are made well enough. The plastic parts show wear along what look like joints and are not polished. Further, there are lines and imperfections from the molding.

On the other hand, the metal parts are a tad porous and the stamped metal winged nut is not completely even. However, the threads are perfect and the nut has little play.

The sharpener itself is a beauty. The front features a steel plate that is super shiny. The shavings container sits underneath it and is plastic. They are both immaculate. There were no noticeable scratches or dents of any sort.

The body of the sharpener itself is made of metal and is painted red. I was unable to find anyplace where the paint had chipped. The paint is smooth all over and has a nice sheen to it. Because the body of the sharpener is also made of sheet metal, there are some small imperfections. For example, the areas where pieces are connected are not always perfectly spaced and small paint bubbles can appear. However, to complain about such issues is petty.

The back has  a cranked sided by two black screws. The crank is also made out of the same metal the front plate is made out of. At the end of the crank, a handle is attached with a rivet. It is a plastic ribbed handle that rotates 360 degrees The shavings container can be pushed out through the back, with enough pressure, as well as the front, although the crank will block it in its resting position.

The crank can be fully removed for cleaning or replacement. When removed, this reveals the inside of the pencil sharpener. Excess shavings can easily be cleaned out.


The shavings container is quite spacious and it appears as though it can hold many shaving. It can be fully removed, and is fitted loosely enough such that it will fall out if the sharpener is tilted forward.

While the sides and corners look very nice, the bottom does have some scratches and molding marks. This is unavoidable and it was quite nice to see that Carl decided to make them only visible on the bottom.

The plastic material is a finger print magnet and I had to really wipe it down before I took a picture. The logo and name of the sharpener is printed on the outside of the container.


The top of the sharpener has a sticker with the brand and name of the sharpener. Here, you can see some of the imperfections with the way the metal was fitted together and the subsequent paint issues. I would consider these minor, though, an acceptable at this price point.


I decided to sharpen a Mitsubishi 9800 as my first pencil. I mounted the sharpener to my desk, before realizing that it was going to be hard to take photos, so I soon removed it. It works quite well, though. The sharpener felt sturdy and it would be pretty hard to accidentally knock it over. The plastic is soft enough that it wouldn’t dent a desk (not that my desk doesn’t already have lots of dents).

I extended the shiny metal section and prepared to sharpen a pencil. It was a bit intimidating to go about this. The sharpener was all shiny and perfect and there was not a speck of graphite dust anywhere.

I put the pencil in and, after a number of turns on the crank, the distance between the clamp and the sharpener decreased and my turns on the crank felt resistance-less.


Out came a really nice point. It wasn’t the sharpest, but it was nice and long and well suited for writing. I am very pleased. But, I soon noticed something a bit discouraging.

The clamp really clamped down hard. On one hand, it’s a nice trait as it really pulls the pencil in firmly. However, it makes these really nasty dents in the pencil barrel. It’s most noticeable on the barcode area where it breaks through the lacquer and green is exposed.

It made a small pile of shavings. They were all nice and uniform and was easy to dump out. However, graphite dust stuck to the side of the shavings bin and it took quite a bit of time to wipe up the residue using a tissue and q-tip.


If I had to give a one word description of this sharpener, I’d say “good”, before going back and sharpening the rest of my working pencils. It’s fast and convenient and produces a nice point. If anything, my only complaint is with the dents it puts in the wood. That means that I probably will not sharpen many “nice pencils” in it, though this might change over time. That long point might just be too nice to pass up.

Caran D’Ache Swiss Wood Review



The Caran D’Ache Swiss Wood is often recommended by those who are looking for a new pencil for writing. It has a unique look, with the body of the pencil being constructed with a dark beech wood from the Jura forest, and a hefty weight. However, does the price and looks of this pencil translate into a good writing instrument, or is this pencil all talk and no write?

Country of Manufacture: Swiss
Price: $4-5 (retail), note that prices can vary wildly (Amazon prices it at $17)



The Swiss Wood has a base wood color. It is fairly dark and appears to be at least somewhat stained. The body of the pencil is further coated in what I think is wax. This gives the wood a smooth appearance in comparison to the raw wood that is exposed when the pencil is sharpened.

The end of the pencil is glossy red. This contrasts greatly with the rest of the matte brown body. The very bottom has a white cross.IMG_20160603_183158


The lettering on the pencil is done in a white paint. The lettering is punched into the wood itself, which makes the white lettering stand out even more. I particularly enjoy how the words on this edge of the pencil are all informative and useful. The last bit of the text states that the pencil is FSC certified, which is a nice touch considering the name of the pencil.


On the back, the barcode is printed on, while the item number is again punched into the wood with white paint. While I’m not a big fan of these barcodes on pencils, Caran D’Ache did a good job of blending the barcode in with the rest of the design.

Fit and Finish


I have had mixed experiences from the Swiss Wood. The lettering on my most recent purchase is foggy and not straight at all. It honestly looks like someone shifted the pencil mid print and dragged the ink up a fraction of a millimeter. There is also some discoloration on the wood near the end of the pencil.


However, with my older Swiss Wood, the lettering was impeccable, with no bleeding or smearing. The wood was also a very consistent brown.



The wood feels a bit denser than normal cedar pencils (which it should be) and, as such, sharpening the pencil also has a different feel. A bit more force must be used to get consistent shavings.

As for the writing, the graphite core feels hard on the paper. It feels as though you are writing with a marble. The lead wear is similar as well. The takes a while to feel like you are writing on a flat surface instead of a round one.

The line it puts down is well suited for writing, though not as much for drawing.

The lack of lacquer on the pencil and the natural wood feeling make the pencil easy to hold. It feels grippy, but not overly so. Further, the weight of the pencil makes it feel significant in the hand, which makes writing pleasurable.

The pencil has a distinct smell to it. I don’t notice it until I put it up to my nose, while I have heard from some that the smell is fragrant enough to smell at arms length. The smell can be described as sort of a sawdust smell. It has some undertones of paint as well.


I understand why the Swiss Wood is well suited for writing. The lead core inside puts down a decently dark line while wearing down slowly. The wooden finish of the pencil makes the pencil pleasant to hold. While not a particular favorite, as I prefer a darker line than it produces, for longer writing sessions, or for days that I want to look a bit hipster, I would definitely pick up the Swiss Wood.

Plain Stationery & Homeware (直物生活文具)

I had a chance to visit Plain Stationery & Homeware in Taipei, Taiwan. Plain is store owned by Tiger, who runs the blog Stationeria (it’s in Chinese, but the pictures are already worth the click).

The store front is located at: 台北市羅斯福路三段210巷8弄10號, Taipei. It is about a 5 minute walk from the Taipower Building metro station.

Google maps is quite helpful in locating the street the store is on, but the store itself can be a bit hard to find. Though I have been here twice before, I still have some difficulty finding it this time around. I passed it once, before looping back.


Walking into the store, the first thing one notices is how small the store is. It is the size of a small room and I bet a dozen customers would have a bit of difficulty walking about with ease.

IMG_20160527_141349The store is arranged in the shape of a zero. The middle island has a wide range of pens and pencils including the Pilot Preppy and a variety of Autopoints. I personally enjoyed the selection of dip pens and nibs. If you ask, they will let you try out any of the handle and nib combinations with any of the inks that they have.

They sell stacks of 100 sheets of fountain pen friendly paper from a variety of companies.

There are also different types of paper tapes, such as for scrap booking or schedule making.


TIMG_20160527_141419he counter holds some of the more expensive and the “deadlier” items. They sell whale shaped knives (it is where I bought mine) and a bunch of different Higonokamis. More recently, he has also been importing a few multitools and one-piece tools. Tiger managed to import Rotrings and Fisher items to his store and, due to their price, they are also kept behind the counter.

One thing to note, is that the store is very well decorated. Beyond the items that are for sale, there are a variety of interesting objects scattered across. Under the counter, there are various toys and other vintage objects. Don’t bother trying to purchase them though. When I went the first time, I tried to buy an old children’s play block with a bunny print by just placing it with the rest of my order. Tiger chucked and mentioned that it was not for sale.

IMG_20160527_141444On one of the walls, there is a wide selection of notebooks and clips. There are Field Notes, Campus, and Life Notebooks. Prices for Japanese products are much lower than in the US, while American products are a tad higher.

Much to my IMG_20160527_141453enjoyment, they have 0.4mm lead in stock, which is often hard to find in stores in the US.

Further down, they have some of my favorite pencils. They offer both Caran d’Ache pencils, such as the Swiss Wood, and Mitsubishi pencils. They also sell Palomino Blackwing pencils individually, which is convenient if you want to just try one out.IMG_20160527_141359IMG_20160527_141407

They have pencil extenders, caps, and clips as well as some more exotic items, such as the Gold Seed Eraser.

I love how they have samples of everything to try out. It’s nice to be able to hold a product in your hand before you buy it.

If you purchase a box of any item, they will give you the original box. Last time, I purchased 8 different pencils, and they gave me a Mitsubishi box anyways.


The other wall has some pretty random objects. There are cubbies filled with mini rubber (or perhaps plastic, I’m not sure) animals. I believe they are for desk decorations although I would consider using them in a terrarium.IMG_20160527_141353

There are also a lot of other interesting pieces of stationery such as stamps and stamp pads and an assortment of scissors. One of my favorites is a pair that folds up.

They also have mini bottles of J. Herbin inks scattered about and  some vintage looking pens from Mitsubishi and Bic.



As to the “Homeware” part of the store, they sell teapots and cups and other objects I would consider “desk objects”, such as hourglasses.

I almost purchased a set of storage boxes, but decided that it might be a bit too cumbersome to bring back to the US.

They recently (early 2016, I believe), opened a coffee shop and, as such, they have begun to sell some coffee products such as the Aeropress, filters and enamel coffee mugs. Their coffee shop is definitely on my list of places to go visit!


Apart from the aforementioned notebooks, there is also Midori Traveler’s series and their range of brass products. Midori has some of the nicest looking (and simple) packaging and everything just seems so orderly when displayed.

My purchase was neatly packaged by the lady behind the desk in a brown envelope. The envelope has a custom stamp on it. Mine was of a polar standing on that was being drawn with a pencil. The envelope was sealed with a some fun paper tape of a man doing a roll.


It was a pleasure to come by Plain Stationery & Homeware again and I’ll be stopping back whenever I have the chance. It’s small, but what it carries fits my interests very well. They’re always adding new products and there’s never a shortage of nice looking pics on their Facebook. I have to check out their Coffee Shop and, when I do, I’ll be sure to do a write up on that as well!

Pentel Graphgear 500 0.5 Review



I love my Rotring 600, but it’s price sometimes makes me a bit wary about bringing it out. It can also sometimes be nice to switch it up. The Pentel Graphgear 500 is a low-mid range drafting mechanical pencil that has a knurled metal grip. But, at a fraction of the price of the Rotring, is the quality and the design there?


Lead size: 0.5mm
Country of Manufacture: Japan
Price: $7 (retail), ~$4 (street)

Fit and Finish


For a pencil with a retail price of $7, I am quite pleased with the level of quality. There is quite a bit of metal on the pencil. the grip and tip are one piece of silver colored metal that has a substantial weight to it. The knurling is a bit on the aggressive side, although not overly so. The metal parts are all straight and clean with not sharp edges. The tip is thin and around 5mm long.



There appears to be little if any flash from molding the plastic parts. The internal mechanism seems to be fixed to the body of the pencil. I assume that with enough force and pressure, it could be removed, but at this time, I don’t want to risk that. The logo is applied to the body using white paint. It chips easily and can be removed using a finger nail.


The end cap is metal and is friction fit onto the pencil. It is a bit nicer than a lot of other end caps as it has a raised edge. Underneath it, there is a generic Pentel eraser.


There is also a clip affixed around the body near the end. It is stamped from sheet metal and has “JAPAN” written around one of the edges. It has a certain springiness to it. It can be removed from the pencil with some force.


The weight distribution is very much focused towards the tip. That being said, the pencil does not feel out of place in the hand. Because the weight is in the grip, the pencil is easily controlled and manipulated. The slim tip allows for accurate lines.IMG_20160426_221203

Loading more lead is easy. The end cap and eraser can be removed effortlessly and 4 to 5 pieces of lead can be stored in the body.

Advancing the lead is done by clicking the end cap. Clicks are a tad mushy and the mechanics feel a tad imprecise. Around 2mm of lead are advanced per click.

The eraser works all right although it is not the best. I’m pretty sure it is the Z2-1 eraser for their mechanical pencils, which is a non-clumping, dusty eraser. It does not wear particularly quickly.

The pencil has a lot going for it, and without other pencils to compare with it, there would be not much wrong with it that one could say.

Comparison to the Rotring 600


IMG_20160511_230319There are many similarities between the Pentel Graphgear 500 and the Rotring 600. Perhaps the most notable is the tip section. The Graphgear has a larger grip and has additional “milled” rings. Although it looks nicer than the Rotring, the Graphgear as a certain cheap feeling to it. I suspect I feel this way due to the metal that is used (steel in the Graphgear vs brass in the Rotring). The tips are of similar length although the there is more distance between the grip and tip in the Graphgear. This wastes more lead as there is more distance between the mechanism and the tip. Further, depending on how you like to hold pencils, the distance may be too long for your taste.IMG_20160511_230245

Another similarity is with the clip. Here, the designs are pretty similar and both have similar properties. If we’re grasping at straws, we can say that the Rotring’s clip allows for deeper carry, though it is mounted much lower than the Graphgear. On the other hand, the Graphgear’s clip is much more easily removed.


The Pentel Graphgear 500 is a great value. The metal grip and stamped metal clip are features normally seen on much more expensive pencils. However, due to the price, there were some shortcuts taken and, in the end, the more expensive pencils still outperform the Graphgear. However, I would definitely consider the Graphgear as a “throw in the backpack” or a secondary pencil.

Palomino Blackwing Pearl Review



I have a thing for nice white pencils. Not just any ol’ white pencils. They have to be good writers, but with a good look. The Palomino Blackwing Pearl, while not the iconic 602, stands out when you see it. The gold ferrule and shiny white body shimmer in the light and it looks like no other. But what about the writing experience and the ergonomics? Read on to find out more.


Place of Manufacture: USA
Price: $25 for a box of 12


The Blackwing Pearl comes in a silky smooth finish. There is a shimmer in the finish which can only be seen when the pencil is held at an angle.


The lettering is black, providing a deep contrast with the pearl white barrel. “PALOMINO” is written in a thinner and wider font than “BLACKWING” and “PEARL”, which appear to also be bolded.

The ferrule is gold colored and houses a black eraser. As with all pencil in the Blackwing line, the erasers are easily replaceable. I have had a few people ask if I swapped out the eraser on this pencil, due to the existence of a white eraser, but the pencil came with the black one. While I have no objections with the black eraser, I might try out a white one at some point purely for style.

Fit and Finish


I general have pretty good experiences with Palomino products. I purchased this particular Blackwing Pearl at the Maido in Santana Row. I was unaware at the time, but the paint is partially chipped near the ferrule. However, on my other Pearls, this problem is not seen.


The lettering is not as sharp as I might expect from Palomino. I believe that this might be because the lettering is printed, instead of foiled, on the pencil. The corners are a bit rounded and there are pseudo-sherifs due to smearing.

On the Pearl that has the chipped paint, the ferrule is not oriented correctly. This makes it a bit annoying to rest the pencil on a desk as none of the hexagonal sides are aligned with a flat edge of the ferrule. This problem is not seen on any other pencil. Though it is a possibility that the problem is only with that particular pencil, it brings up some questions about quality control.



The pencil is a joy to write with. Its hardness is supposed to be midway between the Blackwing MMX and the Blackwing 602. I find this to be mostly true. The line is quite dark, although not as dark as the MMX, while the lead wear is almost the same as the 602.


Writing with the pearl feels much like the 602. It glides like rubbing a marble on a sheet of paper. The body is slick, but it is easy enough to get a good grip.

I believe that the wood is the same cedar used in the MMX and the 602. Sharpening is a breeze with my hand sharpener, electric sharpener and knife all gliding through the wood.


Erasers can easily and completely erase any but the heaviest marks made by the pencil. As always, the Blackwing eraser on the back does an all right job, though not the best.



I’m a fan of the pencil, when it doesn’t have the manufacturing problems. A perfect example has a nice feel in the hand and performs well. However, a defective pencil can ruin the magical experience. At ~$2 per pencil, I’ll inspect each pencil in a box before I buy them and add them to my collection.

IBM Electrographic Pencil



The IBM Electrographic pencil looks like a advertising pencil, but it was not meant for the general public. Though it was made with a specific purpose in mind, this pencil has become quite famous in the pencil collecting world for being a great writer. Does the price and lore behind this pencil hold up to how it performs?


Place of Manufacture: USA
Price: ~$10 (new), ~$5-8 (used depending on length)

Brief History

The IBM Electrographic pencil was developed in the late 1930s to be used with the IBM Mark Sense technology. These pencils had to make marks that could be read by scanning machines. The cores of these pencils were made in an electric furnace that produced a graphite that produced a shinier and and darker line, as we’ll see below.

Fit and Finish


The ferrule is a plain silver ferrule that is poorly attached. While these pencils are all vintage and used, the looseness of the ferrule is quite unique in comparison to other vintage pencils.

The eraser feels supple, but does not erase. Instead, it produces an ugly red smear on the paper now.


The graphite and the wood are superb. The wood sharpens easily and the graphite looks so nice and smooth on the surface. The paint is done all right. It appears to be a thin layer, as small dents easily expose the wood underneath.


I purchased these pencils in a lot of three. I noticed that one of the pencils had a slightly different logo. The “t” in “Electrographic” on the left pencil is straight up and down, while the “t” on the right pencil is a bit tilted. Since the lettering is actually imprinted into the wood, I this must have either been a variant or a manufacturing error instead of a smear.



The IBM Electrographic performs wonderfully. It is very smooth and puts down that nice dark line. It is quite consistent and is easily erased. Though the lead feels soft, it wears down surprisingly slowly and I never felt as though I was writing with a flat surface.

I didn’t like the weight lacquered feel on the round body. Perhaps I’m more used to hexagonal pencils, but the round smooth feeling makes writing feel a tad weird.


The IBM Electrographic Pencil should be praised for its excellent core. I wish more pencils felt this smooth and put down such a dark line. The pencil, however, does not have the best fit and finish and the lacquer makes it a tad annoying to use. However, I’ll definitely be using these pencils and will get some more if the price is right.