Author name: memm

ONLINE All Wood Marone

Last time I went to my local pen shop, Platts of Preston, I noticed that they started selling pens from ONLINE, a German pen manufacturer. Unfortunately the shop sold only ballpoint pens from ONLINE and the owner told me that he cannot get  ONLINE’s mechanical pencils and fountain pens. These ballpoint pens made me aware of ONLINE’s (relatively) new Top.Line range, which was introduced in 2006.

ONLINE is a fairly new manufacturer of pens, established in 1991 and focussing on “design-oriented writing instruments for students”. Even though the headquarters are in Neumarkt, in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria, it is next to Franconia (previously mentioned in the Eisen 402 post), only about 30 miles southeast of the headquarters of Staedtler, Faber-Castell, Schwan-STABILO and Lyra. In my opinion ONLINE is not a very good name for any kind of company as it creates confusion and makes searching for information difficult, but I can also see the pun (“on line”), related to pens if that was intended, and I can see that in the early Nineties the word “online” might have sounded extremely modern, representing a modern image for the targeted potential customers: students.

Last time I bought pens from ONLINE was in the Nineties. I liked the concept of the pens I bought back then: Rollerballs that can be refilled with standard ink cartridges, but after a few days of use the paint of some of the plastic parts started to wear off. A few years later I left Germany and went to the UK and in nearly ten years I have never seen ONLINE pens in any shop in the UK. The UK is not listed on ONLINE’s retailer web page, so I assume ONLINE pens are still not officially available here, but are imported by a distributor (who seems to import ballpoint pens from the Top.Line range only).  There are about 20 countries, including the USA, where pens from ONLINE seem to be available. As mechanical pencils from ONLINE are not available in the UK I asked my mother to buy me one and send it. It was bought from Schreibwarengeschäft Buntstift in Volkach, Germany and is the All Wood Marone mechanical pencil from the Business Line range, which is part of the Top.Line Collection 2009.

Every year ONLINE seems to launch a new Top.Line collection and Young.Line collection. The pens from the Young.Line collection are made in Germany. I did contact ONLINE to find out where the pens from the Top.Line collection are manufactured, but unfortunately I did not receive a reply.

The mechanical pencil is triangular-shaped and looks fantastic. The wood is matt and feels quite smooth. According to ONLINE’s web site it is Wawa wood. Coles of London write on their web site that this wood is

“cultivated on plantations on the Ivory Coast. The wood is processed in Italy; the first-class treatment prevents the wood from ripping due to dry air or swelling because of high humidity. One cubic meter of crude Wawa wood costs 700 €.”

Both, the Marone and the Nero version of the All Wood ballpen and mechanical pencil seem to be made using Wawa wood. I paid just under € 30 (42 US$, 26 GBP) for the Marone version of the mechanical pencil. It takes 0.9mm leads and the propelling mechanism is twist-based: turning the head of the pencil 120° will unlock the lead and advance it. Turning the head back will lock the lead again, so that you can write. Unlike most ratchet-based penils the All Wood there is no button that can be removed, which means that there is no eraser and if you want to refill the All Wood you have to twist the head and insert the leads through the conical sleeve. The clip is spring loaded, similar to the clip of the Lamy 2000 (reviewed at Dave’s Mechanical Pencils). The head of the All Wood is a bit wobbly, in its locked state more so than in the unlocked state. Even though I find this a bit annoying this does actually not make a difference when you are writing, as your fingers are holding the pencil’s head.

The spring loaded clip

Altogether a fantastic looking pen. Personally I prefer ratchet-based pencils or at least pencils with some form of built-in eraser, but the Wawa wood looks so good that it compensates for all the shortcomings (wobbly, no eraser) of this pencil.

Advantages:

+ Wood looks fantastic

Disadvantages:

– Head is a bit wobbly
– No eraser

Slimsy Box Black

Price and exchange rates: January 2010

Redcircle “mixed color” leads

If you have ever come across products from the Chinese manufacturer Redcircle they were probably copies of mechanical pencils from Rotring, but a little known fact is that Redring does not only copy Rotring pens, they also sell leads. There are of course standard graphite leads from Redcircle, but what I found more interesting was their pack of mixed colour leads, available in 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm.

Redcircle leads, 0.5 and 0.7, "mixed colors"

The first surprise is that the colours available for the different lead diameters are slighlty different. The main difference is that there is a red 0.5 mm lead, while there is only an orange 0.7 mm lead, the purple and blue 0.5 mm leads are also much more similar in colour than the purble and blue 0.7 mm leads.

Macro shot of an unused Redcircle lead in a Staedtler 925 25-07

Both 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm leads are unusually hard for coloured leads. The hardness of the Redcircle leads is somewhere between traditional coloured leads and graphite / polymer leads. For people who are holding their pencils at a very low angle (like me) this might sound like an advantage as most coloured leads are very soft and will break easily.[1]Generally I find the problem of breaking coloured leads so bad that I bought a Staedtler REG 925 85 05 Regulator. As you might know, the regulator allows you to set it in such a way that the lead is … Continue reading In this case however the disadvantages that go hand in hand with this harder lead are just too annoying. Compared to other coloured leads the colours are much less intense, they do not seem to “stick” to the paper, even if use more pressure when writing. This effect if worse for some colours (blue) and better for others (red). Generally this problem seems to be worse for the 0.7 mm leads. Many of the Redcircle colours are also quite grey once they are on paper and have an unpleasant look to it.

Advantages:

+ Harder lead than any other coloured leads I know, less likely to break

+ Colours less reflective than most other leads

Disadvantages:

– Colours have an unpleasant greyish tone compared to other leads

– Scratchy, light-marking and less colour-intense than other leads

– More difficult to erase than some other leads

– The 0.5 mm leads seem to be a bit wider than other leads, making it a tight fit in some pencils

I was surprised to see hard colour leads from a Chinese manufacturer as according to my experience Asian manufacturers and consumers seem to prefer softer leads. Unfortunately I was disappointed: These leads are much worse than most other coloured leads.

Redcircle and other leads on a Brunnen Kompganon Anno 1877

You can find a review of the Staedtler REG 925 85 Regulator at Pens and Pencils.

References

References
1 Generally I find the problem of breaking coloured leads so bad that I bought a Staedtler REG 925 85 05 Regulator. As you might know, the regulator allows you to set it in such a way that the lead is only advanced a tiny bit, very useful for avoiding lead breakage.

Faber-Castell Sharpener-eraser pen 18 44 01

Faber-Castell Sharpener-eraser pen 18 44 01

I recently received the Faber-Castell sharpener-eraser pen 18 44 01 as part of the Faber-Castell Grip 2011 Office Set. It is a container sharpener with a built-in eraser.

The eraser

The eraser:

The eraser is a twist out style eraser, similar to the one found in the Staedtler 771 reviewed at Dave’s Mechanical Pencils. Both, the Faber-Castell and the Staedtler eraser, have a 7mm Diameter, but the eraser in the 18 44 01 is about 3 cm long, while the eraser in the Staedtler 771 is about 4 cm long. You could of course fit the longer eraser in the 18 44 01, but until the first centimetre has been used up it wouldn’t be possible to retract the eraser completely. Performance-wise The 18 44 01 is ok, but it’s not a fantastic eraser. It is a bit harder than the eraser in the Staedtler 771 and does its job, but when erasing soft pencil degrees it leaves more traces of graphite than the 771 eraser …unless you use the eraser a bit longer.

Staedtler 771 eraser and the 18 44 01 eraser

The sharpener:

The sharpener works very well. Compared to other sharpeners it feels as if you need to use less force when sharpening pencils, probably because the blade is very sharp. If you turn the case of the sharpener anti-clockwise you can close hole to the sharpener ..very useful as bits of graphite and tiny bits of wood cannot get out of the container anymore and it is then safe to transport the sharpener-eraser pen or put it in a zip-up case. A lead sharpened with the 18 44 01 cannot compete with one sharpened by the top products in this area, but the results are very good, certainly above average. It is best to only remove the case (to empty the container) above a bin or to remember how to hold the 18 44 01 so that the sharpener is at the bottom, otherwise shavings and graphite will fall out.

Conclusion:

A great idea, but with about 9 cm length and 2 cm diameter the sharpener-eraser pen is on the chunky side and a bit too big to be my everyday companion. I will however happily keep it in a case and use it when the case is open anyway. The 18 44 01 is Made in China and available in red and blue. I got this pen as part of the Faber-Castell Grip 2011 Office Set, so I am not sure how much it is in the UK (I could not find a price online). On the continent the 18 44 01 seems to cost about € 2.00. As far as I know replacement blades are not available.

Size comparison

Links:

Review of the 18 44 01 in a Japanese Blog (Google Translation)

Reynolds 432

Like the Nataraj 621, reviewed at pencil talk, the Reynolds 432 is a pencil from India with a design very similar to the Staedtler tradition. The differences in appearance are minor.

  • All three pencils are red with dark coloured stripes. While the Staedtler tradition and the Nataraj 621 have black stripes, the Reynolds 432 has blue stripes.
  • All three pencils are hexagonal, but the Staedtler tradition and the Reynolds 432 have the stripes on the edges, the Nataraj has the stripes on the faces.
  • All three are eraserless with different finished caps. The quality of the finished cap of the Nataraj is rather poor.

Reynolds 432
Reynolds 432

Reynolds:

The history of Reynolds is a bit complicated.

Milton Reynolds from Chicago established the Reynolds pen company in 1945, but the company was later bought by Edmond Regnault who was running a successful pen company in France since 1927. Since 1974 the company was run by Edmond Regnault’s sons until it was sold to investors in 1993.

Reynolds 432 point
Reynolds 432 point

The company behind the Reynolds 432 pencil, G. M. Pens International Pvt. Ltd., introduced the Reynolds brand to India in 1986 and is the exclusive Licensee of Reynolds, France. Newell Rubbermaid bought Reynolds in 1999/2000, which is now part of Sanford Reynolds SA, and closed the factory in France in 2007, sparking a boycott of products from Reynolds and Newell Rubbermaid.

Today Reynolds India produces all kinds of pens, including two different types of wooden pencils and two different types of mechanical pencils.

Reynolds 432 and Nataraj 621
Reynolds 432 and Nataraj 621

The pencil:

Reynold’s website highlights the following features of this pencil, available only in HB

  • Specially bonded lead for extra strength
  • Special quality lead for clean, fine impressions
  • Conforms to European standards of child safety
  • Soft wood for easy sharpening

The fact that there are paws printed on the 432 and the child safety standards mentioned on the web site seem to suggest that this pencil is aimed at children, but the “conservative look” of the pencil would suggest otherwise.

The wood used for the Reynolds 432 seems to be the similar to the wood used for the Nataraj 621. In a comment to the Nataraj 621 review at pencil talk Harshad Raveshia identified the wood used for the 621 as Vatta wood (Macaranga Peltata). The wood used for the 432 has a similar appearance, but is not red. Instead I would describe the colour as slightly yellow.  It could of course still be the Vatta tree, just coloured differently, or it could be a normal deviation expected for this type of wood.

(L-R) Nataraj 621, Reynolds 432, Staedtler tradition
(L-R) Nataraj 621, Reynolds 432, Staedtler tradition

A few other observations:

  • The diameter of the Reynolds 432 is a bit bigger than that of a Staedtler tradition.
  • The lead of the Reynolds 432 seems to be slightly harder than that of the Nataraj 621.
  • I did not have any lead breakage with the Reynolds 432, but I did encounter this problem with the Nataraj 621.
  • The hardness of the 432 HB’s lead can be roughly compared to the hardness of a Mars Lumograph 2B or a Faber-Castell 9000 3B.
Cap comparison (L-R) Staedtler tradition, Reynolds 432, Nataraj 621
Cap comparison (L-R) Staedtler tradition, Reynolds 432, Nataraj 621

Conclusion:

The wood is a bit harder than the wood typically used for pencils in Europe. This might have implications for the blade of your sharpener, but other attributes of the wood, like the texture and appearance are very pleasant. Writing with the Reynolds 432 is fairly smooth and overall this is a very nice pencil.

I would like to thank Sameer Khanna who agreed to swap the Reynolds 432 and the Nataraj 621 for two Staedtler Noris pencils.