Monthly Archives: November 2013


Black Friday, black pen: Muji’s aluminium hexagonal flat clip mechanical pencil (0.5 mm) 7

Just in time for Black Friday: a black pen – Muji’s aluminium hexagonal flat clip mechanical pencil (0.5 mm). This pencil and other pens from the black hexagonal aluminium range were first launched in August 2010.

Muji black mechanical pencil

 

The price

The official price in the UK is £9.95 (~$16.20; €11.95), at the current exchange rate this is more than 60% above the price charged in Japan …but Muji has recently removed this pen from their catalogue. It will not be stocked any more from Spring/Summer 2014, which means that you can get this and other black aluminium hexagonal pens for a very good price (I paid £3 in Manchester’s Trafford Centre) in shops where they are still available.  Be careful though, I have seen a few damaged pens among the black hexagonal pens on sale.

Muji tip

 

The material and shape

The pen itself is nice and well made, especially when considering its price. I obviously realised that it has a metal body, but I didn’t realise that the body is made from aluminium until I saw “Alumi” written in Katakana on the packaging. The pencil is comfortable to hold. The weight is under 15 g1 and this mechanical pencils has a slightly bigger hexagonal barrel (8 mm) than the average wood-cased pencil (7 mm). Because of the similar shape and weight handling is similar to the Caran d’Ache 844, which features an aluminium body, too.

Muji cap

The cap is ‘raised’ when the tip is retracted. You can even see a small gap between cap and body.

 

The retractable tip

The most interesting feature of this mechanical pencil for me is the retractable tip. To retract the tip of many other retractable pencils you press the top button while pressing tip and lead sleeve against the table. If you want to retract the tip of this pencil you just press the top of the clip and the tip will retract. You might have seen a similar mechanism on ball point pens that retract when pressing a side button. Another thing to mention: the thin lead sleeve and the conical part of the sleeve are one unit and will both retract. I mention this because on a Caran d’Ache 844, for example, only the thin sleeve will retract, while the conical part will not retract.

Retractable tip instructions

Retractable tip instructions (Instructions © Muji)

 

The flat clip

The flat clip2 is, as the name indicates, flat. Unlike most clips that are parallel to the body, but leave a few millimetres gap to the body, this clip fixed very close to the body with no real gap at all. It is hinged at the top and can be opened to an angle of up to about 7°. The clip itself is made from very thin material. I haven’t had any problems, like bending, so far, but I haven’t clipped the pen often either as I didn’t want to risk bending the clip.

Eraser and leads

Eraser and leads

 

The quality

Muji quality is usually good, but it can be hit and miss3. I’m happy to report that the overall quality of this mechanical pencil is pretty good.

Inner tip with unscrewed front

Inner tip with unscrewed front

The inner mechanism of the pen is a bit loose. This is more common with metal body mechanical pencils, but is not really a problem. When you shake the pen you can hear it move, especially when it is in its retracted state. The sleeve/mechanism of my pen is also slightly loose, but this doesn’t cause any issues when writing. The pen also comes with an “emergency eraser” under the top button / cap. Mine came with five very smooth leads, but I think according to the Japanese on the packaging there should be six, I’m not sure though. One push will advance the lead about 0.75 mm, which is good for my style of writing4. Overall value for money is excellent, especially when paying the Japanese price or the Western discount price.


The instructions are from the packaging of Muji’s aluminium hexagonal flat clip mechanical pencil (0.5 mm). I believe that the use of the instructions shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

Price: October 2013

Exchange rates: November 2013

For an even closer look click on any of the photos (as usual).

I’d like to thank Ms Adams-May for providing me with the dates of this pens availability.

 

  1. My scales are very old, so this might be inaccurate. []
  2. …one of those words where the number of characters in Katakana (フラットクリップ) is the same as in English, which makes it look almost comically long compared to other words in Katakana. []
  3. Some good and bad examples: One of our Muji tea pots didn’t even last a week, while the mugs from the same set are still ok – nearly ten years later. Muji’s green A5 notebook is completely unsuitable for fountain pens, while their passport notebooks are pretty good –  you can often spot the black version being used on QI. []
  4. Some mechanical pencils advance too much lead per push which can easily result in lead breakage if you write using an acute angle. []

Traces of graphite – Don Rosa 9

You might remember my blog post about Carl Barks, the creator of many fantastic Duckburg comics and characters1.

 

Don Rosa is famous for his comics in the style and tradition of Carl Barks, but he’s also created his own characters and comic universes. It’s difficult to try to convey Don Rosa’s importance if you are not familiar with Donald Duck comics, so I’m not even trying to explain why he is the most famous Disney comic artist alive – you’ll just have to believe me.

Happy Birthday, Bleistift would be a fitting as this blog post has been published on Bleistift's birthday

“Happy Birthday, Bleistift” would have been fitting – this blog post has been published on Bleistift’s birthday (Image © Don Rosa / Disney)

 

Unfortunately for Don there’s not a lot of money to be made in this field though, despite the huge popularity of his comics in many parts of the world, including Continental Europe.  Luckily he’s a really nice guy, so he despite the lack of financial incentives he’s touring Europe regularly, patiently signing autographs for his fans. I wasn’t lucky enough to ever attend such an event, but I did manage to get a print signed by him sent over to England when he was in Würzburg, near my ‘old home town’.

 

Don Rosa’s pencils

As part of this blog post I want to tell you about Don Rosa’s answer to my question what pencils he is using to draw his comics. Just to put Don’s quote in context – his background is in civil engineering.

 

First of all, remember that asking me about art equipment or techniques is
idiotic because I have never had any training and never even read about how it SHOULD be done. I just kept using the same stuff I used when I was doing fanzine work 40 years ago, which is all wrong.
But I see other cartoonists who use “normal” pencils and that seems stupid
to me. I used a .07 mm lead mechanical pencil with hard lead. That way I
could get fine detail in the drawing and it would erase cleanly. But all
other cartoonists use soft blue pencils and they never bother to erase.
I don’t think I bought any special brand, but Pentel was always cheap and common.

 

If you want to read a book with his comics I would have suggested Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, but unfortunately it seems to be out of print, so the few sellers offering it charge a ridiculously high price2.

 

As an alternative  way of finding out more about him: what about a tour of his house in Kentucky on YouTube?

 


I would like to thank Jano Rohleder for forwarding my question to Don Rosa.

  1. …like Scrooge McDuck, the Beagle Boys and many more []
  2. When I bought my copy it was maybe 1/10th of the current price. []

Pencil Paraphernalia and a Pretty Pencil Pin Pendant 3

Today: pencil paraphernalia and a pretty pencil pin pendant.

My wife bought them for me last year in the Cumberland Pencil Museum shop.

Derwent Zincwhite

Pencil keyring and fridge magnet

Derwent Zincwhite surface

A closer look at the surface


If you have seen this year’s first Faber-Castell newsletter1 these two items might remind you of the fountain pen our favourite count2 received for his 70th birthday: the pen’s barrel looks rather similar3. Just like the Derwent pencils these two items are made in the North of England. The company behind the fridge magnet and the keyring is Zincwhite from Huddersfield4.

Nice!

 

  1. If you haven’t seen it yet: You’ll also find an article about our pencil community’s own Sean, who is the man behind Contrapuntalism and The Blackwing Pages, in the newsletter. []
  2. Usual disclaimer as mentioned previously: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status and titles of nobility were abolished in the Weimar Republic in 1919. Graf (Count) is just part of his surname. In reality no one seems to care about this rule though. I assume this rule hasn’t been broken in the latest book about Faber-Castell, when his wife is referred to as Gräfin (Countess), because adapting the “surname” to the gender of a person seems to be permissible. As you can see, the whole issue is rather complicated. []
  3. …but is probably made from Castell 9000 pencils []
  4. I certainly won’t be able to mention Huddersfield without mentioning that Professor Sir Patrick Stewart is Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield. []

Three Horse Pencils 6

Today: new old stock pencils from Japan.

Three Horse Pencils

 

Introduction

My original guess was that these Three Horse Pencils are from the 1970s, but I found an American web site that indicates that these pencils might be from the 1960s.

I do like pencils with a theme (the Bonanza, the Alligator, …), so even though I’m not too keen on the strong colours and the light stripes (which are similar to the modern Marco 9001 and the Bauhaus 6004) the three horse heads printed on the pencils1 make good for that…

Three Horse Pencils

 

Appearance

Unfortunately, the erasers are unusable by now. The wood smells a bit like frankincense, but less pleasant and also a bit wet. I guess the pencils weren’t stored in a very dry environment.

Three Horse Pencils

 

Sharpening

I managed to produce a nice point using the rotary blade sharpener Deli 0668, my first choice these days when it comes to sharpening the Wopex, too2.

Sharpening in different prism sharpeners was less successful. The lead did break most of the time and the surface of the exposed wood looked very frazzled, unless I used a sharpener with a blade in near perfect condition.

Three Horse Pencils

 

Now and then

Compared to modern Japanese pencils the HB lead of the Three Horse Pencil is harder, very similar to a Western/European HB. It takes a bit more effort to erase the graphite, but not really a lot more. The line it puts on paper has a similar darkness as modern pencils. Using a good rubber, in my case the Staedtler Mars Plastic stick, the graphite from this pencil can be removed as well as that of a modern pencil: you’ll just see the dent the pencil left in the paper.

Three Horse Pencils

The package sleeve has the letters H.T.P. printed on it. This might be the name of the pencils’ manufacturer, but I was not able to find more information about H.T.P..

  1. You’ll probably have to click on the picture to enlarge or you won’t get a good view of the logo. []
  2. …because of the less acute angle, compared to the Deli 0635, it manages to sharpen the Wopex without major issues while still producing a fantastic point. []

Tiger Novelty Bracelet Rule 2

In 2009 Lexikaliker reviewed the BMI Quicky. Back then I was lucky enough to get this steel tape measure from him as a gift …and since then I have used it on many occasions.

Rolled up...

Rolled up…

On a recent trip to Granthams, a local stationery and art supplies store, I found the Bracelet rule by Tiger. It does have some resemblance to the BMI Quicky: both the BMI Quicky and the Tiger Bracelet rule are bistable steel tape measures than can be rolled up (I assume the outer side is longer than the inner side) or extended and flat (because the top is shorter than the bottom). When you change from one state to the other, doesn’t matter which way round, there are some folds visible (see picture), but they seem to go away after a while 1, but that takes forever2.

Left...

Left…

The Bracelet rule was available in bright yellow or orange yellow. I bought the orange yellow version for 55p (~ 88¢; 64c). The top is made from reflective material (visible in the first picture, look at the reflection on the right). The bottom feels plasticy felty.

Right...

Right…

In case you wonder: no I haven’t tried wearing it as a bracelet yet and I don’t intend to…

Flat...

Flat…


Price and exchange rates: October 2013.

 

  1. The rolled and the straight ones in the shop were fold free, but did exhibit this issue once the state was changed. []
  2. Several days after unrolling the ruler it still doesn’t have a smooth surface. []