Monthly Archives: February 2013


Why did stationery become so expensive? 3

Recently, I started to wonder why some of the items bought in the past years and month got so expensive.

Here are some examples. All prices are from Cultpens, just because that’s where these items were bought. I didn’t pick Cultpens because their prices increased more or less compared to other shops – other shops had similar prices at the same time and have similar prices now. Example: The price Niche Pens charged for the M400 was nearly the same at the time and is nearly the same now. Let’s have a look how the prices developed.

ProductOld DateOld PriceOld VATPrice
Feb. ’13
Total Price IncreasePrice Incr./year
Pelikan M400 white tortoiseFebruary 2009£107.6515%£169.9958%15%
Graf von Faber-Castell Perfect PencilFebruary 2010£14317.5%£188.9532%11%
Graf von Faber-Castell Six Guilloche PencilsFebruary 2010£25.2917.5%£3123%8%

Neither RPI nor CPI were as high as the stationery price increase, even when you take the VAT increase into account. One point to mention is however that these pens are what I would call luxury pens1. So luxury stationery went up2. How did the price of branded, good quality stationery increase?

ProductOld DateOld PriceOld VATPrice
Feb. ’13
Total Price IncreasePrice Incr./year
Staedtler Mars Micro Coloured Leads 0.5mmFebruary 2010£2.2417.5%£2.5715%5%
Stabilo All Marking PencilFebruary 2010£1.0517.5%£0.96-9%-3%
Faber-Castell 9000 PencilJanuary 2009£0.7915%£0.9520%5%
KUM Streamline Chrome Canister Sharpener 460SJanuary 2009£3.9015%£43%1%3

Interesting. That’s much closer to inflation. The Stabilo pencil even got cheaper. Unlike all other products mention so far the Stabilo is, as far as I know, not made in the eurozone. Maybe the Euro is one of the reasons behind the price increase, the Pound lost a lot of value against the Euro and QE certainly doesn’t help to keep it’s value up4. OK, that’ Europe, but with Japan being a big manufacturer of stationery, how did the price of Japanese made pens develop?

ProductOld DateOld PriceOld VATPrice
Feb. ’13
Total Price IncreasePrice Incr./year
OHTO Tasche Fountain PenJanuary 2009£14.6715%£13.99-5%-1%
Faber-Castell TK Fine Vario L5November 2009£12.9515%£12.42-4%-1%
Zebra TS3 Pocket PencilDecember 2009£2.8815%£2.81-2%-1%

The price were quite stable, they actually even went down, especially in real terms!

So. Luxury stationery prices went up a lot. Eurozone stationery got more expensive, but in real terms it probably kept its price, especially when taking the VAT increase into account. Non-Eurozone stationery went down in price. I wonder what happened to luxury stationery from Japan. Did it go up or down in price? Did anyone buy, let’s say a Pilot Falcon or something similarly priced in the last years in the UK? How much did you pay?

 


Percentages are rounded.

The old price was reconstructed from the order confirmations which listed prices for all articles without VAT and the VAT sum for the whole order. This means that the old price listed for stationery might be off by a penny or so. I’d also like to add that this is not at all supposed to be representative.

Price Increase / Year is what it say on the tin. Price Increase divided by the years since the item was bought. Compounding has not been taken into account, hey: I’m not an accountant or economist.

The pictures are from old blog posts (here and here), just to put some colour into this blog post.

  1. Customers of Montblanc pens might disagree with me on that and might call these mid- level pens. []
  2. I’ll just generalise instead of going down the “the price of three pens at one retailer went up” route. []
  3. More precise: 6‰, but I tried to stick to rounded %. []
  4. Every time the latest QE figures are in the news I get a shock when I think about how much money that is equivalent to when you divide it by the (working) population. []
  5. Yes, it’s made in Japan. []

The search for the pencil cedar

You might remember my 2011 blog post about the Schwanberg and the pencil cedar. If you visit the castle grounds, mentioned in that blog post, you’ll have a chance to look for the pencil cedar as part of an organised tour this Sunday.

 


Two more blog posts that mention the pencil cedar:

Schön gespitzte Bleistifte from Lexikaliker

and Juniperus virginiana

 

The newspaper article has been taken from the Kitzingen Section of the Main-Post newspaper from 14th February 2013. I believe that the use of the fax of the article in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.


Noodler’s pens and Pelikans 12

I know that Bleistift is a pencil blog, so I usually try to keep fountain pen blog posts to a minimum, but today I can’t resist.

In December 2011 I bought a Noodler’s Ahab fountain pen1 and I didn’t use it a lot. Why? Because I was disappointed.

Why was I disappointed? That was actually down to my unrealistic expectations and wasn’t Noodler’s fault at all. When I read that it’s supposed to come with a flexible nib I expected some wonderpen that would be the fountain pen equivalent of my Brause 361 nib, i.e. I thought even relatively few pressure would make it possible to create a lot of nib variation. That wasn’t the case. The nib wasn’t much more flexible than M200 steel nibs from Pelikan in F or my Lamy 2000 M nib. My initial impression of the Ahab’s nib was probably also made worse by the fact that I often write on poor quality paper2 and because I used an ink that tends to be absorbed into the paper instead of staying on the paper to form a crisp line once dry.

Left to right: M215 Orthogons, Konrad Galapagos Tortoise, M215 Lozenges, M215 Blue Barrel and Stripes

Enter the Konrad. The text from the leaflet that comes with the Konrad reminds me very much of the Citroën C5 adverts3. I bought it because I like the look of it – no wonder: I like the look of Pelikan pens. I prefer the look of the round cap Pelikans to the crown cap Pelikans – and the Konrad has the round cap look I like. Unfortunately, the celluloid derivative used for the Konrad4 doesn’t look as good as the one on my Ahab, probably because it’s more translucent. This is however completely subjective and someone else will prefer the material used for the Konrad5.

In terms of nib flex the Konrad and Ahab are great, I just have to accept that I need more pressure to make it flex compared to my dip pen nibs. On the maximum flex end of the scale they don’t really produce a wider line than a Pelikan M200 steel nib in F6, but they can produce a slightly thinner line on the minimum flex end of the scale. If you now think a Pelikan steel nib in EF will produce similar results you might be disappointed. On good paper (steel) EF nibs produce a finer line than F nibs, but on poor quality paper the difference can be hardly noticeable. The EF nibs do however tend to be very hard and there’s hardly any line variation, i.e. they are much less flexible than the F nibs.

M205 De Atramentis Schwarzriesling ink, Konrad Pelikan Blue ink, Ahab Noodler’s Baystate Blue ink — Please excuse the shape of the letters, I usually don’t try to vary pressure on purpose when writing

Pricewise the Konrad is amazing. I paid about £23 including shipping (~$35; €27), bought on eBay. That’s about half of what I paid for my last Pelikan M215, about £56 including shipping (~$87; €66), bought from Amazon Germany. There are similar offers for different versions of the M215 on Amazon UK, but just to spell it out, one reason why the Pelikan pens are cheap on Amazon is because they don’t come in the Pelikan gift box, they come in a cardboard box, similar to the one the Konrad came in. The body of the Konrad does not seem to be as carefully handled as the Pelikan, mine came with some scratches on the body, but nothing too obvious or bad. The Pelikan has some advantages, too. It comes with a metal sleeve on the body, the body and cap have a higher quality feel to them and ink flow is more controlled and there less spilling  of ink when transporting the pen – but hey, the Konrad is only half as expensive, plus it can take all sorts of nibs.


Prices: January 2013.

Exchange rates: February 2013

Sbrebrown reviewed the Konrad on YouTube.

You can find reviews of the M215 at OfficeSupplyGeek and Goldspot pens.

  1. The Ivory Darkness version. Mine ended up being extra dark. []
  2. Simply because many of the documents I get are printed on that kind of paper. []
  3. “Not a single component of the Konrad pen is German made. Yet, its design is extremely German…” []
  4. In my case the Galapagos Tortoise. []
  5. I don’t and am thinking about getting the Ebonite Konrad once it’s available again. The Goulet Pen Company will have it back in stock again soon, but I’m undecided whether I should order because I might have to pay Customs Duty, Excise Duty and import VAT. []
  6. There is quite some variation though when it comes to Pelikan’s steel nibs in F, depending on when they were produced. []

Guest Review by Kevin of the Dahle 133 rotary sharpener (and Deli 0635 rotary sharpener) 5

Recently I purchased the Dahle 133 rotary sharpener from Amazon  UK. I wasn’t expecting a great sharpener given it’s bland looks in dull grey and black. There were however some features that drew my attention to this sharpener.

  1. The protected grippers that do not mark the pencil, unlike the usual metal “jaws of death” seen on most rotary sharpeners.
  2. The sharpener is advertised as having 2 point settings – sharp or blunt, however the screw type mechanism seems to allow for an infinitely variable sharpness between these two extremes.
  3. Low cost, from 7-10 pounds sterling depending on colour. I didn’t realise Amazon were also offering a green and white and black and white model for a couple of pounds less than my model.
  4. Sharpens pencils from the usual standard around 7mm up to 11.5mm for some chunky art pencils.

PERFORMANCE

As my main interest is graphite pencils, I sharpened a selection to see if it produced a point comparable to my gold standard sharpener – a modified (with padded grippers from the premium model) Carl Angel 5 (chinese mechanism). Here’s the results.

  • Standard diameter hex pencils such as the Faber Castell 9000 and Tombow Mono 100 produced a short exposed core and a dull point. Not impressed.
  • The round barrel Papermate Black Warrior (Mexico) produced a nice long cone and good point sharpness.
  • The oversize triangular Dixon TRI-CONDEROGA sharpened nicely with a long cone and medium/long exposed core.

While not as good as a Carl Angel-5 it does have the advantage of padded grippers and the ability to sharpen oversize pencils. I would give it a 6 1/2 out of ten for graphite pencils. BUT, and here’s the big BUT, this sharpener is absolutely brilliant with all the coloured pencils I tested. It seems the thicker cores of coloured pencils – 3mm and up are better suited to the geometry of the mechanism than thinner cored graphite pencils.

– the overall cone (wood and core is long and nicely tapered) and the exposed core is almost razor sharp and with just the right length.

For comparison I sharpened a graphite pencil and more coloured pencils in one of Matthias’ favourite sharpeners – the Deli 0635. The result for the graphite Berol Turquoise was quite good but the point and cone shape/length not up to the standard of the Carl Angel 5. But, yet again the coloured pencils were sharpened to an almost absurdly l.o.o.o.ng cone length and the exposed core is also massively long and deadly sharp, even sharper if that’s possible, than the Dahle 133.

Of the two sharpeners I would plump for the Dahle 133 for the more reasonable length of the cone and the exposed core. The Deli 0635 cone is simply freakishly long and sharp and thus the point strength is compromised.

OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST

Both these sharpeners would fit easily in most outdoor art sketching kits. The Deli 0635 is super compact and the Dahle is compact – about half way between the Carl and the Deli in size.

Both these little sharpeners are basically plastic externally but have robust all metal cutting cylinders with all metal gear drive.

The padded grippers on both sharpeners was the main reason I purchased them and in this regard they do their job admirably. I only wish that manufacturers and sellers would promote these padded gripper models as a feature – which they certainly are.

Given the results with coloured pencils, I will certainly be using mine more often in future.

Thanks to Matthias for the airing of this guest review.

 


You can find another review of the Dahle 133 at Lexikaliker (Google translation of the blog post).