Monthly Archives: May 2014

John Steinbeck

If you’re not in the UK you might not have heard about this development in the British school system.
Michael Gove – I don’t know anyone who likes him – managed to get the category of prose from different cultures removed, replacing it with modern works from Britain.
This means that works from one of our favourite (real) Blackwing users John Steinbeck (see Blackwing pages ) will disappear from the English literature exam syllabus.

Steinbeck Blackwing Kindle

Stationery blogs 3

I’m happy that so many new stationery blogs seem to have started recently – and that more of the general stationery blogs seem to care about the humble pencil, too …but when updating the links on this blog I also noticed that there are so many nice stationery blogs that have left us far too early.

Most missed is Sean’s previous blog Pencils and Music, but it’s nice to see that his blogs Blackwing Pages and Contrapuntalism are still alive and well.

Other blogs that didn’t survive and have either been taken offline or haven’t been updated in quite a while are (in alphabetical order) The Leaky Pen, Pencil Points, Paper Notes In A Digital World, Notebook loves Pen, Pencil Wrap, Notebooktivity, Pencil Reviewer, Fred’s Pencils, Pencil Sharpeners, Pages Made of Paper and Recording Thoughts.

You will be missed (especially the pencil blogs)!

The Motus and two old Faber pencil extenders


The Tombow Zoom 707 de Luxe 3

I’ve been luck enough to have been chosen by The Pen Company, together with several other bloggers, to receive stationery to try out. Here’s my blog post about the Tombow mechanical pencil they sent me, originally posted on The Pen Company’s blog.


Do you remember what you did in 1987?

If you were living in the USA you were lucky enough to be able to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. The UK and Germany got TNG a few years later, in 1990. If you’re more into computers: the Amiga 500 was also released in this year.

..and in the world of pencils 1987 was the year the Tombow Zoom 707 mechanical pencil, designed by Mr Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, was launched in Japan, one year after the ballpoint pen of the same series came out.

Tombow tin


It only took another year before the Zoom 707 was released in Europe – in 1988. Over the next years it won three design award in Germany: the Red Dot Design Award in 1988, the Design Plus Award in 1989 and the Baden-Württemberg International Design Award in 1990.

Despite this pencil being so long on the market I didn’t know about it until recently. I got my Zoom 707 from The Pen Company as part of their programme where they send pens to stationery blogs for review. I even got the de Luxe version, which was launched in 1994. Tombow describes the de Luxe version, which sells for £28.60, around £10 more than the standard version, as being “glossy silver”.

Size comparison: Tombow Mono 100, Tombow Zoom 707 de Luxe, Staedtler Mars micro

Size comparison: Tombow Mono 100, Tombow Zoom 707 de Luxe, Staedtler Mars micro

Expectations and reality

I’ve got to be honest here, I would have never ordered this pen. The slim design doesn’t look very uncomfortable to me, so I didn’t have particularly high expectation when I started using this pen. To my surprise it was much more comfortable than expected. The rubber grip section of the pen has a diameter of 6.5mm and is not too far off a Tombow pencil’s diameter: the Tombow Mono 100 wood-cased pencil has a diameter of 7.2mm.

The grip is only slightly narrower than a wood-cased pencil

The grip is only slightly narrower than a wood-cased pencil

Build quality is excellent, but the red ball at the end of the clip and the rubber at the end of the pen show parting lines, and except the look the pencil behaves very similar to your typical mechanical pencil: with around 10g the weight is similar to other mechanical pencils. One click will advance the by about 0.6mm, which is also pretty standard and it also uses a ratchet mechanism like many other mechanical pencils.

One click will advance the lead by ~0.6mm

One click will advance the lead by ~0.6mm

The pen comes in a nice presentation tin and with a lifelong warranty. It doesn’t come with instructions, though, and since I’ve used mechanical pencils in that past that have to be refilled through the tip I wasn’t sure how to refill this pen. It’s size and  the fact that my careful attempt to remove the push top (I didn’t want to damage the pen)  were not successful didn’t help either. The push top can however be removed, to be refilled. My pen came with three leads, but despite is slim design I managed to squeeze eight leads into the pen.

Tombow refill


The Zoom 707 is one of those pens that ages well. Despite being more than 25 years old it doesn’t look old fashioned.

As far as I know this pencil is selling well. I wonder how most people are using this pencil. Its two main attributes, the slim size and the sturdiness (thanks to its metal body), make it a pencil that is probably more suitable than others to be a diary pencil, the kind of pencil you clip to your diary and leave it there to fulfil this specific purpose.

Tombow standing

I would like to thank The Pen Company for this pencil and Mrs. Balsewicz from Tombow Europe for the information she has provided about the Zoom 707.

The Episodes Lyreco

Pencil spotting!

This time: Episodes, Season 3, Episode 1.

Episodes is known for the huge number of Staedtler Noris (see Staedtler Noris 120 and The Noris, then and now), but in the latest episode you can also see an Impega / Lyreco pencil, as well as some Stabilo text markers.


Episodes (Image © Hat Trick)

Episodes (Image © Hat Trick)

The Lyreco HB (previously: Impega) is quite common in offices around Europe. Lyreco of France is a big distributor of office supplies and many companies buy all their supplies from them. My employer too, so the pencils we get from the stationery cupboard are Chinese made Lyrecos. In case you are interested: their tapes are made in France and their paper is made in Germany.


Lexikaliker has a post about the similar looking Lyra Robinson.

I believe that the use of the the screen shot of the Lyreco pencil, taken from episode one of the third season of the TV series Episodes falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

La La Land Popcult pencils 6

La La Land envelopeToday: TV series and pop culture themed pencils. You might have previously seen them at BoingBoing.



Scotland and England

These are actually Chambers pencils that are hand stamped in Glasgow using hot foil stamping. The pencils I have received had the quotes written in gold coloured, upper case characters. I assume all Popcult pencils are like that, with the colour of the body and the quote itself being the main difference between different sets.

Chambers is an English company that started in 1913 and then, 99 years ago, became F.Chambers & Co Ltd. As far as I know they now belong to Italy’s Fila and have stopped producing pencils in the UK. The Chambers pencils used by La La Land, the people behind the Popcult pencils, are made in Thailand.


Pop culture

Many of the eraser tipped pencils have themes from TV series or movies. The level of accuracy varies. While Star Wars gets proper quotes, including “No, I am your father” instead of “Luke, I am your father”, Star Trek has to suffer the ‘fake’ quote “Beam me up Scotty” – but that doesn’t really matter, I guess.


Price and colours

In March I bought the “Star Trek pack of 3 blue stamped pencils” and the “Breaking Bad pack of 3 green stamped pencils” for £3.50 each plus £2 shipping, so £9 (~$15.20; €11) in total for six pencils. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that the colour in the article description is not linked to the colour of the actual product. I ended up getting the same colour for both, Breaking Bad and Star Trek pencils (meth blue / TOS Science blue), instead of the expected colours as seen on their web site. I was told that  there is a disclaimer on the etsy shop page that states that colour may vary as they sometimes run out of certain colours, but I didn’t notice the disclaimer when ordering and my personal opinion is that it might be better to remove the colour from the product description and to make the disclaimer more obvious.



The pencils do perform surprisingly well. For my taste point retention could be better, but reading other blogs I get the impression that generally point retention is not a big issue for most pencil users. If you are happy to use a B or even a 2B pencil you certainly shouldn’t have any issues with these pencils’ point retention.


As stated earlier, the pencils are made in Thailand, so I thought I compare them to some other Thai pencils. By coincidence the Thai pencils I want to compare them to also have a Scottish link: they’re from John Lewis. I would describe them as Mongol copies or Mongol type pencils, but as you can see,  in comparison with a real Mongol they exhibit a more aggressive shade of yellow. A dozen of these Mongol type pencils used to cost £1.50. I’m not sure whether the price has changed since I bought these, I should check next time I go to a John Lewis store.

Please click on image to better see the differences. Paper: Banditapple 3G.

Please click on image to better see the differences. Paper: Banditapple 3G.

Paper: Banditapple 3G

Paper: Banditapple 3G

Except point retention, mentioned earlier, these pencils are surprisingly good. The John Lewis pencil feels a bit smoother though, and slightly darker, with slightly worse point retention. The John Lewis eraser is also smoother and cleaner, but I guess that doesn’t really matter. People buy the Popcult pencils because of the quotes, not because of superior performance – and for novelty  pencils they are really good!



Sarah from La La Land let me know that they have updated the shop with new photos showing the exact colour the buyer will receive. I think she might also get a new quote for the Star Trek set [1]I don’t think any Star Trek fan dislikes “Beam me up Scotty”, it just hasn’t been said in the TV series..



Price (except John Lewis pencils) and exchange rates: May 2014.

I’d like to thank Sarah from La La Land for the additional information she has provided regarding the Popcult pencils.

You can find more information about Chambers at Palimpsest.


1I don’t think any Star Trek fan dislikes “Beam me up Scotty”, it just hasn’t been said in the TV series.