Monthly Archives: July 2011


Tesco, LeGou and Maped 2

When I go to the supermarkets in Shanghai it’s usually E-Mart, a large Korean supermarket chain. In the past I used to go to Carrefour, but I think I haven’t been to a Carrefour in Shanghai for at least five years – just because it’s less convenient to go there. It’s a shame, because they always had a good selection of Faber-Castel products with very low prices. Even though I’ve seen Tesco in Shanghai1 in the past, I’ve never actually visited one.  This had to change. I mentioned Tesco in previous blog posts. It’s one of the biggest or the biggest supermaerket chain in the UK. Many Brits try to avoid Tesco for various reasons, but my wife and I usually don’t mind and visit more or less all supermarket chains nearby, we don’t have a particular favourite.

The Tesco I went to is in SongJiang, not far from the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Trade. The selection of stationery is fantastic, much better than in the English Tesco extra I usually visit. The stationery products on offer are dominated by Chinese brands, which is no surprise – there are a lot of Shanghainese M&G products in the shelves. Even though I did not notice this brand in the beginning of the decade, it has certainly been in all the supermarket chains in recent years. Pencil-wise the choice is not great, there are only a few different pencils to choose from. Most are hexagonal, some are triangular. Most space was reserved for Tesco’s own brand yellow pencils (I’ll try to check where they are made when I go there again), Staedtler’s yellow pencil 134 (produced in Shanghai) and Chung Hwa’s Drawing Pencil 101. Pens are surprisingly cheap, but I’ll write more about that another time. One brand that seems to grow year on year in China, Britain and Germany is Maped. Maped –  Manufacture d’Articles de Précision Et de Dessin (Manufacture of Precision and Drawing Tools) is a French company established in 1947. Unlike companies like Staedtler or Faber-Castell, Maped concentrates more on non-pen stationery, like paper-clips, scissors, etc. Since 2006 they own Helit and Diplomat, two German companies. Helit manufactures Bakelite desk accessories and other items. You can see their Bakelite blotting roller in this blog post. This blotting roller is from a mould or based on a mould that is at least 90 years old. Back to Shanghai: I’m quite happy to have so much choice. You can be sure that I already bought quite a few stationery products in LeGou Tesco.

A small fraction of the stationery in LeGou

  1. Tesco entered the Chinese market in 2004 when they bought the Chinese supermarket chain 乐购 (LeGou – Happy shopper) []

Sawdust clay – Make your own pencil set 5

Muji

This is not the first time I mention Muji1, a Japanese retail company with stores in many countries. Their idea sounds good: No brand2 quality goods with a simple, often minimalist design. The problem is that many of their products aren’t really “quality” as promised by the brand name. I remember buying a very nice, not cheap teapot that cracked the first time we put hot water in it3. Their Memo Pads don’t work well with fountain pens and their “cotton fabric bonded cover” notebooks are a catastrophe with fountain pens. I don’t think I have ever seen paper that is less able to cope with ink. They do however have nice products, too. Their “passport” notebooks for example – and William Gibson swears by their toothpaste. A few years ago I tried it for fun, but wasn’t too excited about it.

Make your own pencil set

Last week I went to the Muji store in Manchester’s Trafford Centre land saw this “Sawdust clay – Make your own pencil set”. Originally £3.95 (~ $6,45; €4.50) it was on sale for £1 (~ $1.63; €1.14). I couldn’t resist and bought three of these sets. There are no instructions in text form, there are only the instructions in picture form printed on the box. Each set contains 5 lead (length 9cm, diameter ~ 2mm) and two individually wrapped bricks of wet sawdust clay (~ 65 g each). As you can see from the instructions the clay doesn’t need to be dried on an oven. I assume it will just dry out slowly, once taken out of the protective wrapping.

When commenting on one of my previous blog posts Stationery Traffic suggested that I should bake a cake in the shape of a pencil – but now I’m in a situation that works the other way round: what shape should I make these pencils in? Suggestions are welcome.



Prices and exchange rates: July 2011

  1. 無印良品 []
  2. Their products don’t have the Muji logo printed on them []
  3. I refer you to this Lexikaliker blog post and its comments that shows that water should be boiling for certain types of tea. Our water wasn’t even boiling, but the teapot just didn’t like it. []

Congratulations

Congratulations to the winners of the first Bleistift giveaway. I’ll send your prizes out first thing tomorrow morning and will also include a few other pencils I have lying around,  including the Faber-Castell 1117 and a Graf von Faber Castell pencil.

The first number I got from random.org was 20, this means Kartike E from Indonesia gets the first prize. She chose the rubber-tipped version of the Noris, the Noris 122 HB.

The next number from random.org was 16 – Palimpsest from the UK wins the Welsh-made sketching pencils.

Number 15 came next. That was a post by myself, so I requested another number from random.org instead, which was number 5: Lexikaliker from Germany. Since he already has some Staedtler Tradition 110s he was kind enough to give someone else the chance to win. Thank you! The replacement number I got was the 13, which means that Sheryl C from the USA wins the blister pack with Welsh-made Staedtler Tradition 110s.

Thanks again to all who took part. I hope the winners will receive the pencils soon.


Monsieur Notebook 13

This week: another topic1 that has been covered by Stationery Traffic before – The Monsieur notebook. After leaving a comment at Stationery Traffic’s Monsieur Notebooks post, the founder of Hide Stationery, Tom, contacted me and offered to send me a sample.

Notebook

Monsieur looks a bit like Mr. Peanut

I was very sure that I wanted a tan coloured notebook2, not the brown or black one. Deciding on the size was easy, too. A6 is a bit small unless you want to carry the notebook around, A4 is a bit big – so I chose A5. But what paper to choose? I didn’t want the plain 90 g/m² paper …but the 140 g/m² paper from Star Paper Mills was certainly tempting. In the end Vulcan logic won over Romulan passion and I chose the more practical, ruled version with 90 g/m² paper from BILT industries, a company which traces its roots back to 1945 when Ballarpur Straw Board Mills was established in India. BILT industries is not only making paper, they also manufacture other stationery. One of their pencils has been reviewed at pencil talk. In the future there will also be a version of the Monsieur notebook with 100 g/m² paper from the Finnish paper manufacturer Stora Enso.

Leather

Let’s look at the leather used. The leather is vegetable tanned, which means the environmental impact is not as high as it is with many other types of leather. The leather looks more red than other vegetable leathers I have seen in the past and it certainly didn’t have an artificial grain applied to its surface – you can see blemishes and marks. Personally, I like this natural, slightly rough look very much. It gives the leather a handmade and traditional look. Despite the look, the surface of the leather has a very even feel to it. So nice, that my wife first thought it’s not real leather as the surface is quite hard, but still feels smooth the same time. I have to say that she wasn’t too keen on it, maybe because of the natural look. Not that the leather is like “saddleback” leather in any way, but I would say that if you like matte, raw finished leather, like saddleback leather, and a natural look you will like this notebook – I certainly do. If you like perfectly looking leather with artificial grain, the one you see so often these days, you might not be too happy with the “naturalness” of this notebook.

Paper

Nick using a Lamy Joy (Image © BBC)

The paper performed really well. Even though it seemed to be sucking ink of very wet pens in, the picture shows this effect from a Pelikan M250, the ink didn’t bleed through the page and even though there was slight feathering with very wet pens the paper behaved well with pens that have a normal ink-flow, like the Hero 616 or the Lamy joy. Uncareful erasing of graphite with a Sanford Artgum Eraser did roughen the surface of the paper slightly, but gentle erasing was problem-free.

 

Conclusion

Overall, a great notebook. If you like leather and don’t reject it for ethical reasons3 this is a great notebook. Similarly priced as other notebooks with PVC or plastic covers, the notebook I reviewed here sells for £12.99 (~ $20.70; €14.50), but has a classic, much better feel to it.


Price and exchange rates: July 2011

I started using a new image plug-in. The old one didn’t really work well. From now on you should be able to get a close-up of most images by clicking on them. I would be happy if you could let me know, e.g. as a comment on this blog post, whether this function works well on your computer.

I would like to thank

  • Tom from Hide stationery for the Monsieur notebook, who sent me the notebook free of charge
  • Henrik for the Hero 616 and
  • Kent for the Dixon Ticonderoga.

The photo of Nick Hewer using a Lamy Joy has been taken from series 7 episode 8 of The Apprentice UK. I believe that the use of this image falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. after last week’s Staedtler UK / Tradition 110 post []
  2. which might fit well with my Sonnenleder pencil cases []
  3. Most vegetarians I know don’t mind buying leather []