Monthly Archives: May 2017


Staedtler’s Mars 501 180 – the Wopex sharpener 8

Welcome to a slightly delayed blog post. The video for this blog post was put on YouTube quite a while ago, in February, but the blog post is only out now as a busy period at work meant that I didn’t get round looking for my protractor earlier.1

The Wopex

Unfortunately there’s a lot of Wopex hate going on in some parts of social media where people discuss pencils – and there are very few people defending the Wopex2. Luckily the Wopex can convince in the long term: I was very happy to read Deirdre’s blog post where she turned from a Wopex hater (‘I HATE WOPEX’) to someone not only tolerating the Wopex, but even accepting it and it’s advantages (Some quotes: ‘graphite […] actually isn’t that bad’, ‘point retention is great’, ‘if you are writing on toothy3 paper, the WOPEX really shines’).

Suffice to say4, I love the Wopex.

Just a quick reminder: Unlike normal wood cased pencils the Wopex uses a wood-plastic-composite instead of wood. The wood-plastic-composite consists mainly of wood and is, in my opinion, orders of magnitude better than pencils that use plastic instead of wood. Not only does the Wopex sharpen better, the lead – extruded together with the pencil – is also of much better quality, too.

The pellets before they’re extruded into a pencil

In the vial above you can see how the material looks like before it is extruded into a pencil. I got this vial at the Insights X trade fair. The pellets remind me of a company I worked for during my holidays in the 1990s. They were manufacturing extruded pipes and had similar looking pellets. The recycled pellets smelled very much like washing powder. As far as I remember extruding from recycled material was not easy, the material kept expanding in the wrong place resulting in uneven products. Unrelated – but there must be so much knowledge going into the production of a product like the Wopex…

The new Noris eco pencils in 2B, HB and 2H

The Staedtler 501 180

I first mentioned the 501 180 in a blog post from 2014, but a few months ago I finally got my hands on one – they are not very common and not easy to come by in the UK. The article number has gives some clues to this sharpener’s purpose: Wopex pencils have article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 40). Staedtler has now switched to using the word Wopex to describe the wood-plastic-composite material, and is not using Wopex anymore to describe pencils made from this material, but independent of how the name Wopex is used, the pencils made from Wopex material still use article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 30 for the new Noris eco).

Article numbers for Staedtler’s rotary (i.e. hand crank) sharpener start with 501 (e.g. the Mars 501 20 rotary sharpener) so 501 180 is the perfect5 article number for this sharpener, 501 for a rotary sharpener and 180 for Wopex. The 501 180 was designed by Helmut Hufnagl and is made in Taiwan.

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Video

Here’s a video where I compare the 501 180 to two other rotary sharpeners.

Clipping the pencils’ points off at about 7:30 really hurt and felt rather wasteful, but wasting so much good pencil when the auto stop of the other two sharpeners didn’t work was of course even more wasteful (…even though it didn’t hurt so much, maybe because the machine did the crippling of the pencils).

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

Tip: Open the video in YouTube, you can then play it at higher speeds, e.g. 1.5x.

Here’s a little table comparing the different points created by the three different sharpeners.

Sharpener:Deli 0635Staedtler 501 180Deli 0620
Angle:17°19°17°

..and here are the different points made by the different sharpeners.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Auto Stop

There is just so much less material wasted when the auto stop works. If you don’t have the 501 180 and your sharpener’s auto stop doesn’t work, have a look at the end of the video where I show a way of dealing with this problem. I am mentioning this simple trick here because my simplest videos seem most appreciated (e.g. how to refill a mechanical pencil), while my complex videos (e.g. the DelGuard pen force test) remain rather unloved.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

 


I have added the Wopex Mars 501 180 to the list of sharpeners, sorted by angle.

Many thanks to Benedikt Schindler for his help in getting the 501 180 to me in the UK.

  1. …because I switched to using a protractor when measuring angles I want to stick with this method so that all pencil points are measured the same way. []
  2. …with Johnny being the most determined defender in the Erasable group on Facebook. Thank you for that. []
  3. As expressed previously, for various reasons I am not keen on the expression ‘toothy paper’, but since this is a direct quote it will be one of the few occasions you can find this word in this blog []
  4. Yes, I learned that expression when I watched the English version of Star Trek Voyager. []
  5. I try to avoid using the word perfect, but in this case it is justified, I think. []

Pencil Pot Of The Month – May 2017

Description: A plastic container, used to hold pencils, in this case the famous four Fs

Price: not sure

Material: Plastic

Further information: Our twentieth pencil pot of the month is a plastic container that used to be the lid of a fitness band packaging. It is being used upside down, i.e. with the opening at the top. You can see that the writing on the back is upside down.


Handicraft with Bleistift VII – the Lexikaliker/Pollux/Leather Case™ 3

Time for another Handicraft with Bleistift post.

Pencil point protectors

Since we’re talking about Handicraft posts anyway, my 2010 Handicraft post contained the sentence “my point protector is so simple, you probably thought of it yourself somewhen in the past” – well, there’s proof that people come up with the same idea1, there’s a video on YouTube by tintinonair, explaining how to make these pencil point protectors.

Lexikaliker’s Pollux Case

You might have seen Lexikaliker’s posts about his Pollux cases, first in Basteln mit dem Lexikaliker (14), then a different version in Basteln mit dem Lexikaliker (15).

Well, I went with the more traditional, original version from Basteln… (14).

I have never worked with leather before and don’t have much DIY/craft experience or skills in this area, but Gunther’s drawing and measurements make it very easy to copy his design, which is similar to the leather case you get with the DUX Adjustable Brass Pencil Sharpener DX42774.

Me being inexperienced the whole thing took over an hour, but the time was mainly spent on trying to pull the needle through the holes, using the pliers from my Swiss Army Knife.

Doing the threads both ways, i.e. after sewing through the holes going through them in reverse again, so that the thread is also between two holes on the opposite side of the leather (I bet there’s a word for this) didn’t help speeding things up either.

Disrespecting my Blackwing

Well, I was well entertained, listening to our favourite Scouser’s (Craig Charles) House Party. By the way, Craig Charles previously featured in this blog post. While listening I once thought Arrested Development were singing ‘disrespecting my Blackwing’, but it turns out they were singing ‘disrespecting my black queen’.

Well, the main thing I learned, other than paying more attention to song lyrics, is to try to cut the leather deep enough the first time as the knife I used to cut the leather was so sharp, when cutting a second time the blade won’t end up in the old, but will cut a new ‘channel’.

One thing to do for next time is to get a smaller needle and thinner thread. When I compared the thread to the one on my Rustico I saw that mine is much thicker. With a thin thread and needle the whole ‘pull the needle with pliers, like an ox’ part could have been skipped.

I love the look of vegetable tanned leather and how it slowly changed colour over the years, getting much darker.

Colour comparison (Pollux case on top of a Rustico case) – look how dark my Rustico case darkened over time. I guess the Pollux case will follow soon

The leather cost me £2.25, but there’s enough left to make two more cases. As for the rivet.. unfortunately, I had to buy ten (for £5.49), so I hope I can find a use for the other nine.


I would like to thank Gunther from the Lexikaliker blog for his great plan on how to cut the leather for this case.

You can see the colour of my Rustico case, when it was new, in this blog post.

  1. …from the blog post’s point of view ‘somewhen in the future’ []

More Vietnamese Monos

The bottom of the box

This is just a quick follow up, linked to my previous blog post about Lexikaliker’s investigation into the Vietnamese Mono 100s1.

The familiar box…

The Vietnamese Mono…

If the Mono 100 is now made in Vietnam then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Mono (without the 100) is now made in Vietnam, too.

You can see the Made in Vietnam blind stamp against the light (open in a new tab to see clearly)

..and the Dong-A Fable

I would have liked to compare the Japanese and Vietnamese Mono, but everywhere where I thought I’ve seen a non-100 Mono in our house it turned out to be the similarly looking Dong-A Fable2, a pencil that has made a few appearances on this blog since 2009.

The Tombow Mono and the Dong-A Fable

Mono’s history

Well, 1963 is not only the year Terry Farrell, Jadzia Dax in Deep Space Nine3, was born. It is also the year the Mono was released. It was ‘kind of’ a successor to the Homo, which was released in 1952, but wasn’t liked by Tombow anymore, or should I rather say: they didn’t like the name anymore, after the

‘diparaging slang-term “homo” became well-known in Japan’ (Tombow Pencil 100 Year History Project Committee, 2013:p.38).

Mono display from the 1960s. ¥60, seen on the display, was the original price, later lowered to ¥50. (Picture from Tombow)

In 1967, for Tombow’s 55th anniversary, the Mono 100 followed ..and two years later there was a Mono eraser, too. I don’t want to bore you with more details, but if you’re really interested, let me know in the comments and I’ll write up more when I have time.

Mono box from the 1960s (Picture from Tombow)

References

Tombow Pencil 100 Year History Project Committee. (2013) The 100 Year History of Tombow Pencil. Tokyo, Tombow Pencil Cp., Ltd.


I bought this dozen straight from Japan and paid just under £9, I think.

Unless otherwise stated pictures in my blog are taken by me. Well, this is one of those ‘otherwise stated’ occasions. The pictures marked as such are from Tombow’s book “The 100 Year History of Tombow Pencil”. In January 2015 Tombow Europe granted me permission to use them in blog posts.

  1. English translation here. []
  2. To me the Fable is more common than the Mono. A fate I probably share with very few people outside Korea. []
  3. I just had to add a Star Trek fact. []

Field Notes Bonus Subscriber Shipment 2017 Surprise

I just got my Field Notes Bonus Subscriber Shipment.
Funnily enough1 it is very much linked to my blog post from earlier this month – but see for yourself.

It’s an essay writing exam, or competition ?, You have until end of June to submit your essay about an event that happened to you in elementary or high school. Prizes are 2x 250 customised FN memo books, 2x the Pretty Much Everything book, 2x a year’s subscription to the Quarterly Edition.

For comparison, here’s the exam book my employer is using, photo from my previous blog post.

Treasury tags are usually much longer than needed, so the connection is quite loose, but the length of the bars mean that the tag won’t fall out unexpectetdly

  1. ..but of course it’s no coincidence, it’s the time of the year []