Year: 2010

Stephens wooden ruler 12″ / 30cm

I bought this inexpensive wooden ruler from Ashton Print in Preston, Lancashire for 69p (1.08 US$, € 0.79). Since then I found that some online-shops sell it even cheaper. The ruler itself is 12″ / 30cm long and made in Australia by Stephens [1]The shop had a few Stephens rulers for sale. They were in a cardboard stand marked “Made in Australia. Carded in England.. This would be the perfect spot in this post to tell you a bit more about Stephens, but unfortunately I was not able to find any useful information about who they are or what products they offer, so let’s skip this part and go straight to the ruler.

The weight is about 12 grams

With about 12g the wood is quite light. So light in fact, that it feels fragile. It has less than half the weight of the wooden rulers I have used previously. Looking at the wood grain and taking the mass into account (12g for about 25 cm3 = 480 kg / m3) I would say the ruler is made from Aspen wood, but this is only a guess.

Eighths and Twelfths

The ruler has centimetres and millimetres printed on one side and inches printed on the other side. The four corners of the inch side are further divided into eighths and sixteenths on the right and tenths and twelfths on the left. Additonally the middle of the inch side has 30°, 45°, 60°, 72° and 90° angles printed on them. This is obviously not a replacement for a set square, but a nice addition that could be of use. The printing on the ruler must have been created using some kind of stamping mechanism and is a bit irregular, which gives this ruler an “old-fashioned” touch.


The wood is untreated, which means that nearly all pens or pencils you will use with this ruler could leave a mark on the side. Using such a soft wood has also another potential for problems. If there is a dent you will not be able any more to draw a perfectly straight line. Some wooden rulers have a metal bar on the side to guarantee a straight line, but the Stephens does not and I would not have expected this from a fairly inexpensive ruler either. There is not really much more to say about this ruler, but I am sure I will enjoy using my Australian ruler.


  • Good value for money
  • Has centimetres, inches and angles


  • Fairly soft wood, easy to dent


Tenths and Sixteenths

PS: If like rulers have a look at SUCK UK’s musical ruler.

Price and exchange rates: February 2010


1 The shop had a few Stephens rulers for sale. They were in a cardboard stand marked “Made in Australia. Carded in England.

ONLINE All Wood Marone

Last time I went to my local pen shop, Platts of Preston, I noticed that they started selling pens from ONLINE, a German pen manufacturer. Unfortunately the shop sold only ballpoint pens from ONLINE and the owner told me that he cannot get  ONLINE’s mechanical pencils and fountain pens. These ballpoint pens made me aware of ONLINE’s (relatively) new Top.Line range, which was introduced in 2006.

ONLINE is a fairly new manufacturer of pens, established in 1991 and focussing on “design-oriented writing instruments for students”. Even though the headquarters are in Neumarkt, in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria, it is next to Franconia (previously mentioned in the Eisen 402 post), only about 30 miles southeast of the headquarters of Staedtler, Faber-Castell, Schwan-STABILO and Lyra. In my opinion ONLINE is not a very good name for any kind of company as it creates confusion and makes searching for information difficult, but I can also see the pun (“on line”), related to pens if that was intended, and I can see that in the early Nineties the word “online” might have sounded extremely modern, representing a modern image for the targeted potential customers: students.

Last time I bought pens from ONLINE was in the Nineties. I liked the concept of the pens I bought back then: Rollerballs that can be refilled with standard ink cartridges, but after a few days of use the paint of some of the plastic parts started to wear off. A few years later I left Germany and went to the UK and in nearly ten years I have never seen ONLINE pens in any shop in the UK. The UK is not listed on ONLINE’s retailer web page, so I assume ONLINE pens are still not officially available here, but are imported by a distributor (who seems to import ballpoint pens from the Top.Line range only).  There are about 20 countries, including the USA, where pens from ONLINE seem to be available. As mechanical pencils from ONLINE are not available in the UK I asked my mother to buy me one and send it. It was bought from Schreibwarengeschäft Buntstift in Volkach, Germany and is the All Wood Marone mechanical pencil from the Business Line range, which is part of the Top.Line Collection 2009.

Every year ONLINE seems to launch a new Top.Line collection and Young.Line collection. The pens from the Young.Line collection are made in Germany. I did contact ONLINE to find out where the pens from the Top.Line collection are manufactured, but unfortunately I did not receive a reply.

The mechanical pencil is triangular-shaped and looks fantastic. The wood is matt and feels quite smooth. According to ONLINE’s web site it is Wawa wood. Coles of London write on their web site that this wood is

“cultivated on plantations on the Ivory Coast. The wood is processed in Italy; the first-class treatment prevents the wood from ripping due to dry air or swelling because of high humidity. One cubic meter of crude Wawa wood costs 700 €.”

Both, the Marone and the Nero version of the All Wood ballpen and mechanical pencil seem to be made using Wawa wood. I paid just under € 30 (42 US$, 26 GBP) for the Marone version of the mechanical pencil. It takes 0.9mm leads and the propelling mechanism is twist-based: turning the head of the pencil 120° will unlock the lead and advance it. Turning the head back will lock the lead again, so that you can write. Unlike most ratchet-based penils the All Wood there is no button that can be removed, which means that there is no eraser and if you want to refill the All Wood you have to twist the head and insert the leads through the conical sleeve. The clip is spring loaded, similar to the clip of the Lamy 2000 (reviewed at Dave’s Mechanical Pencils). The head of the All Wood is a bit wobbly, in its locked state more so than in the unlocked state. Even though I find this a bit annoying this does actually not make a difference when you are writing, as your fingers are holding the pencil’s head.

The spring loaded clip

Altogether a fantastic looking pen. Personally I prefer ratchet-based pencils or at least pencils with some form of built-in eraser, but the Wawa wood looks so good that it compensates for all the shortcomings (wobbly, no eraser) of this pencil.


+ Wood looks fantastic


– Head is a bit wobbly
– No eraser

Slimsy Box Black

Price and exchange rates: January 2010

Redcircle “mixed color” leads

If you have ever come across products from the Chinese manufacturer Redcircle they were probably copies of mechanical pencils from Rotring, but a little known fact is that Redring does not only copy Rotring pens, they also sell leads. There are of course standard graphite leads from Redcircle, but what I found more interesting was their pack of mixed colour leads, available in 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm.

Redcircle leads, 0.5 and 0.7, "mixed colors"

The first surprise is that the colours available for the different lead diameters are slighlty different. The main difference is that there is a red 0.5 mm lead, while there is only an orange 0.7 mm lead, the purple and blue 0.5 mm leads are also much more similar in colour than the purble and blue 0.7 mm leads.

Macro shot of an unused Redcircle lead in a Staedtler 925 25-07

Both 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm leads are unusually hard for coloured leads. The hardness of the Redcircle leads is somewhere between traditional coloured leads and graphite / polymer leads. For people who are holding their pencils at a very low angle (like me) this might sound like an advantage as most coloured leads are very soft and will break easily.[1]Generally I find the problem of breaking coloured leads so bad that I bought a Staedtler REG 925 85 05 Regulator. As you might know, the regulator allows you to set it in such a way that the lead is … Continue reading In this case however the disadvantages that go hand in hand with this harder lead are just too annoying. Compared to other coloured leads the colours are much less intense, they do not seem to “stick” to the paper, even if use more pressure when writing. This effect if worse for some colours (blue) and better for others (red). Generally this problem seems to be worse for the 0.7 mm leads. Many of the Redcircle colours are also quite grey once they are on paper and have an unpleasant look to it.


+ Harder lead than any other coloured leads I know, less likely to break

+ Colours less reflective than most other leads


– Colours have an unpleasant greyish tone compared to other leads

– Scratchy, light-marking and less colour-intense than other leads

– More difficult to erase than some other leads

– The 0.5 mm leads seem to be a bit wider than other leads, making it a tight fit in some pencils

I was surprised to see hard colour leads from a Chinese manufacturer as according to my experience Asian manufacturers and consumers seem to prefer softer leads. Unfortunately I was disappointed: These leads are much worse than most other coloured leads.

Redcircle and other leads on a Brunnen Kompganon Anno 1877

You can find a review of the Staedtler REG 925 85 Regulator at Pens and Pencils.


1 Generally I find the problem of breaking coloured leads so bad that I bought a Staedtler REG 925 85 05 Regulator. As you might know, the regulator allows you to set it in such a way that the lead is only advanced a tiny bit, very useful for avoiding lead breakage.