Year: 2011

Graphite transfer and the Wopex

Today: another blog post about one of the items I have received from Office Hero, the Staedtler Wopex. You might remember my previous two blog posts about the Wopex, one was looking at the Wopex 2B and 2H and one was comparing different eco pencils. Office Hero sent me a pack of twelve Wopex as a free sample. Their normal price is £4.01 (~ $6.35; €4.60) plus VAT.

Why another blog post about the Wopex? The Wopex has one property I really like, even though there are actually also a few things wrong with the Wopex. Back to the characteristic I like, which is why I pick this pencil more and more often when making entries in my diary. The reason is simple and has been mentioned by Koralatov in a recent comment: there’s hardly any graphite transfer between different pages when writing on the reverse. I use my diary to keep track of appointments and to record things that need doing. Graphite from soft pencils will transfer easily after something has been written on the reverse or on the next page, which will in then look very unsightly. Even though you can get graphite from the Wopex to transfer to another page if you want to, as seen on the photos, this transfer is usually not happing under normal circumstance and is therefore not a problem.

Graphite comparison in a Castelli Academic Diary


I think the Wopex has great potential, but it also has a few flaws which I want to mention.

  • The “fibre Wopex material” is too hard, so I use dedicated sharpeners in my office and at home, just for the Wopex. The “fibre Wopex material” is also too hard for rotary blade sharpeners.
  • If you sharpen the Wopex to a very fine point the point will break easily.
  • Small bits of the “fibre Wopex material”, close to the lead, can crumble off when sharpening.
  • There doesn’t seem to be a difference between the Wopex 2B, HB and 2H.

There are quite a few other issues, but mentioning them all would distract from the main issue I want to address here: Wopex‘s great lead that is a very good choice for diaries.

Top-bottom: Mars Lumograph HB, F, Castell 9000 HB, 2B, Technograph B, Wopex HB, Mono HB, Ticonderoga HB

Let’s look at the results from my (unrepresentative) graphite transfer test, conducted by writing on one page, putting the next page on top and applying pressure to the reverse of the next page [1]The effects can be stronger when applying pressure directly to the reverse of the page you wrote on.. Harder and lighter leads do better than softer and darker leads – no surprise here. The best pencil in my comparison was the Staedtler Wopex HB, followed by the Caran d’Ache Technograph 777 B, which has previously been reviewed by penciltalk. The worst pencils in this test were the Tombow Mono 100 HB and the Amos Dixon Ticonderoga HB. This was obviously due to their softness which does however bring other advantages, e.g. better pressure/darkness ratio – I do however prefer a tidy diary and do tend to use the Tombow and Dixon only when smearing, smudging and graphite transfer don’t matter.


Price and exchange rates: October 2011.

I would like to thank

The comparison has been conducted in a Castelli Academic Diary my wife got from her employer. I use a no name  academic diary from my employer, which has very different paper. My initial impressions are that graphite-transer-wise good pencils behave better in my diary, but bad pencils behave worse.


1 The effects can be stronger when applying pressure directly to the reverse of the page you wrote on.

White Box Manuscript Book A4 Ruled Feint


A few days ago Office Hero, a new and independent stationery and office supplies company, sent me their catalogue together with free samples of four of their products for review. These products include a really nice ruler from Denmark, two different kinds of pencils and a notebook. After having had a look at their web site I was impressed by the fact that they stock many of the nice, specialist items that are not easy to get, like Linex products or, my favourite, the Velos Eyeletter. One thing to note is, however, that the prices displayed don’t include VAT, which is useful if you are buying commercially, but private customers from the EU have to pay 20% VAT for most items [1]Saying this reminds me that I once saw a camera very cheap at an online shop, I already put it in my basket and only noticed in the end that the price was without VAT and that the camera was actually … Continue reading.

I was most impressed by the aluminium ruler I received and planned to review it first, but it is a ruler that can be used for pens and for cutting and unfortunately I wasn’t able to find my craft knife yet, so I’ll start with the notebook and hope I’ll find my craft knife to test cutting with this ruler before writing about the ruler.


The White Box Manuscript Book has a very nice, red surface and about 80 pages. It is a ruled notebook, but the strength of the lines varies quite a bit on different pages. The paper is very good. It copes well with many inks and I only noticed bleeding through with some inks and only when being used in combination with very wet nibs. The paper’s attributes are, with one exception, great for graphite, too. First the positive bits: the graphite doesn’t transfer easily to the next page, even after pressure has been applied from the back (e.g. after writing on the back). It also copes well with erasers. The only problem I noticed is that some of the softer leads smear more than on many other papers, in the example on the photo you can see this with the General’s Semi-Hex pencil. The most impressive thing about these  is however their price. They are currently on offer and a pack of five notebooks is only £4.07, that’s £4.88 incl. VAT (~$7.65; €5.55) – less than £1 for one A4 notebook.


Great value for money, at least while they are on offer, and very nice paper that feels good and that copes well with ink and graphite.

(slight) bleeding through

Price and exchange rates: October 2011.

I would like to thank

  • David from Office Hero and Oliver Carding from Sagittarius Digital for the free samples.
  • Sean for the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 tested on the paper

I am very embarrassed, but I am not sure who gave me the General’s Semi-Hex pencils tested on the paper – even more so because I use one in the office very often. Whoever gave it to me, thank you!

Office Hero also included a leaflet with the samples: if you enter the code “BROCH1” when you order you get a brochure and 5% off with your order.


1 Saying this reminds me that I once saw a camera very cheap at an online shop, I already put it in my basket and only noticed in the end that the price was without VAT and that the camera was actually quite expensive at this specific supplier of photographic equipment.

Brunnen Kompagnon – out with the old…

Nearly three years ago I bought a Brunnen Kompagnon notebook, a quite small one (A7, i.e. 74 mm x 105 mm, ~ 2.9″ x 4.1″) so that it fits in my shirt pocket. I wanted a small notebook I can carry with me on a daily basis and thought I give the Kompagnon a try. I paid €8.60 (~ $11.70; £7.50) at myPens and ordered a few others things as well –  to reach €30 as they offer free shipping in the EU for order above €30.

I cannot say that the quality of this notebook was poor, but after such a long time of carrying it around with me on a daily basis and using it on a nearly-daily basis it is definitely not in great condition any more. Quite early I also ripped a page or two out of the back, but didn’t know that the  Kompagnon doesn’t really like this. It didn’t take long before neighbouring pages became loose.The plastic cover near the spine got damaged over time, too. I fixed it with double-sided 3M tape, but that didn’t solve the whole problem. The plastic stuck to the spine, but over time the corners have now ruined two shirt pockets. Time to replace this notebook, but unfortunately there isn’t much choice when it comes to A7. I’d prefer a slightly thinner notebook, too. The 192 pages of 80g/m2 Munken paper and the cover and pocket mean that the Kompagnon is about 1.5 cm thick.

I found the Samsonite basic notebook in A7 [1]unfortunately I couldn’t find an English web page with more information to link to, but it is 1.5 cm thick, too. The Staufen Poème is an A7 notebook with 96 pages of 80g/m2 paper, so it might be thinner. Another alternative I found is the X17 system, reviewed at Notebook Loves Pen. The Mode A7 version, made from bonded/regenerated leather (“Lefa”), for two booklets looks very interesting, but I am not sure whether it is too thick. A version for one booklet is supposed to be released later this year.

Does anyone have a suggestion for a “not too thick” A7 notebook?


Price: November 2008

Exchange rates: October 2011

Wikipedia has an interesting chapter about the history of the A paper formats.

There is a good explanation on the server of the University of Cambridge.


1 unfortunately I couldn’t find an English web page with more information to link to

A.W. Faber Castell Jubilator

Two of the Castell 9000 Jubilator tins

Our favourite count certainly knows how to to party like it’s 1761, but in terms of products celebrating Faber-Castell’s 250th anniversary there hasn’t been a lot. The anniversary pencils, discussed at pencil talk, seem to be the best products so far. Artists might like the set of coloured pencils, limited to 1761 boxes, and if you have a bit more money to spare the Elemento pens, released for the anniversary, might be just the thing for you, but they are out of reach for most of us.

1983: 222 years Faber-Castell, 2005: 100 years Castell 9000


Let’s have a look at Faber-Castell’s 222nd anniversary in 1983. Back then pencileers, molyvophiles [1]Someone passionate about pencils and molyvologues [2]A student of pencils had more than enough reason to celebrate. I wonder whether there was a corporate party for their business partners in 1983, too. Personally, I prefer nice anniversary products, but that’s rather selfish, Faber-Castell business partners will probably prefer the party.

Click to read (subject to screen resolution)

Why is the 222nd anniversary so important? I don’t know. I certainly don’t know why there have been more exciting products back then than in the 250th anniversary year so far. In my experience people from German-speaking countries place more importance on Schnapszahlen (repdigits) than people from English-speaking countries. You might argue that a repdigit is not very important, but then a ’round number’ is actually not that exciting any more once you change to another positional notation [3]25010 = 3728 = FA16 = 111110102.

The Castell 9000 Jubilator pencils

Faber-Castell released six different limited-edition tins for the Schnapszahl anniversary, featuring the following images: ‘The Nile Pencils’, ‘Railway Pencils’, ‘Aristocratic’, ‘The Caravan Pencils’, ‘Landscape Pencils’ and the picture with the jousting knights, previously discussed at pencil talk. Leadholder has more information about this picture – a mirrored version has  been used on pencil tins in the early 20th century. The jousting knights image has also been used for a special box from the same year, containing one gross, i.e.12 dozen, Castell 9000 pencils and limited to 2000 boxes, and it has been used again in 2005 for a special tin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Castell 9000.


1 Someone passionate about pencils
2 A student of pencils
3 25010 = 3728 = FA16 = 111110102

Norcom notebook #77073

Seeing this notebook in the The Works store in Southport, I couldn’t resist but buy it. It looked like it had character. The paper didn’t have the sterile and boring look printer and copy paper has. It looked a bit rough and it looked a bit as if it was made on older machines – and even better: it’s Made in USA, you see too few of these products here in Europe. There’s the occasional Scotch tape, Made in USA (I’ve even seen these in China), and there’s the occasional pen and eraser, but that’s about it. Other promising details on the cover are: 100% recycled, more smear resistant, easy erase, less bleeds.

I cannot deny that I was quite disappointed after trying the paper out. One claim is not true – Less bleeds? The ink is bleeding was bleeding through the paper at a phenomenal rate. I was trying to write as fast as possible to compensate, but no use. Unless the paper was stored wrong when being shipped to Europe or unless ‘less bleeds’ refers to the sheets having softer edges, resulting in fewer paper cuts at the edge of the paper (‽), ‘less bleeds’ is certainly not an attribute of this paper.

Ink bleeding through

Good news however regarding the ‘more smear resistant’ and ‘easy erase’ claim. It is easy to erase graphite from this paper and the paper is definitely more smear resistant than probably any other paper I know. The paper is very soft, but the surface is rather unusual. Graphite does not stick to the surface as it does on most other paper. This results in most pencil strokes looking very light, certainly much lighter than usual. Some pencils like Faber-Castell’s Castell 9000 2B leave much lighter marks on this paper than on other paper. For other pencils the difference is not as big, most notably for the Chinese made, yellow Amos Dixon Ticonderoga HB, a pencil I came to like. The pencil point of this Ticonderoga does not last very long, it is being ‘eroded’ at an incredibly fast rate for an HB pencil, but it does write well and, I am sure I heard this before in the context of the Blackwing, the lead being used up so fast makes you feel like you’ve done some work [1]Update: I found a comment from Henrik about this.. The American-made General’s Kimberley 525 2B yielded excellent results, too.

I assume the Norcom notebook #77073 is either not being made any more or is not made for the American market, as it is not listed on Norcom’s website.


At 59p (~ 92¢; 67c) for 70 sheets this notebook provides excellent value for money, but the paper is not really suitable for use with pencils and definitely not suitable for use with fountain pens. It’s probably more than adequate when used with ballpoint pens.

Price and exchange rates: September 2011

I would like to thank

  • Sean for the General’s Kimberley 525
  • Kent for the Dixon Ticonderoga.

More about the General’s Kimberley 525 at pencil talk.


1 Update: I found a comment from Henrik about this.