Muji


Muji’s Low Centre of Gravity Mechanical Pencil 1

On a recent trip to Manchester I noticed that Muji’s low centre of gravity mechanical pencils finally made it to Europe.

Muji’s low centre of gravity pencil in Manchester

Last year they weren’t available in the UK or Germany, which prompted me to visit Muji’s “global flagship store” on Huaihai Road in Shanghai1.

The main purpose of the visit was to get my hands on this pencil for Gunther and myself.

They even had a cafe. I haven’t eaten Muji food before.

The food was quite good. It was slightly more expensive than expected, but the price was acceptable.

In the stationery corner there was a lot to choose from.

Pen and paper wise there wasn’t much more than what I am used to from Manchester, despite Manchester only having a small store now (the bigger one closed down about ten years ago)…

..there was however a lot more choice in terms of desk organisation (trays, boxes, ..).

The decoration was quite nice and it was easy to try products out before buying.

Can you spot the low centre of gravity pencil in the picture above?

As usual you can open pictures in a new tab to see them in high resolution.

I bought some other nice products, too.

I should show them in a separate blog post.

 

  1. It’s one of the stationery related stores I forgot to write about in my recent series of Shanghai related blog posts from my trip in August 2016. []

Muji’s pencils 4

This week I had a quick look at Manchester’s Muji store, where I found wood cased pencils and a desktop pencil sharpener.

Manchester used to have a bigger Muji store, but it closed down, maybe about ten years ago. We now only have a smaller Muji store in Selfridges.

Manchester’s Muji didn’t have these pencils and the sharpener earlier this year1, but it could be that bigger stores were stocking these products for a while already.

Muji's pencils and sharpener

Muji’s pencils and sharpener

I didn’t buy them, just because Japanese pencils in HB can be to soft for my style of writing (I want a fine point that lasts) and for the kind of paper I use (normal paper). An example of this would be Tombow’s Drawing pencil in HB. I thought Muji’s 2B pencils are most likely too soft for me so I didn’t want to buy them and then end up not using them.

The pens left of the pencils seem very similar to OHTO Tasche pens.

  1. They used to sell wood cased coloured pencils, though. []

Plywood pencil stands

Muji - three wooden stands

Today I want to show you some wooden pencil stands from Muji: From left to right we have the wooden desk pot (originally £4.95, currently £2.45 (~$4.05; €2.95))1, the wooden pen stand (originally £4.95, currently £2.95 (~$4.85; €3.55)) and the wooden desk rack (originally £6.95, currently £3.45 (~$5.70; €4.15)). These pencil stands have been on offer for more than a month now2. I assume Muji has reduced the price to get rid of these items in order to make space for new stock.

The pen stands are made from plywood in Vietnam (where Banditapple’s carnets are made). I love how they look. It’s definitely an upgrade from the common plastic pen holders.

Muji - wooden desk rack

My favourite is the wooden desk rack. The top rack is great for short pens or pencils, the lower rack is great for longer pens and pencils. If you don’t want the get graphite on the desk rack it’s easy to protect the plywood at the bottom end with a small sheet of paper.

If these pencil stands are not to your liking, what about these pencil stands?

If this isn’t posh enough for you, what about Graf von Faber-Castell pencil holder? There’s also a double compartement / notelet holder version. As expected, there’s a hefty price tag. The full-grain leather is available in brown and black.


Prices: December 2013 and January 2014

Exchange rates: January 2014

  1. It even has two wooden strips as “feet”. []
  2. I bought mine on 13 Dec 2013 in Manchester’s Trafford Centre. []

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. []

Sawdust clay – Make your own pencil set 5

Muji

This is not the first time I mention Muji, a Japanese retail company with stores in many countries. Their idea sounds good: No brand1 quality goods with a simple, often minimalist design. The problem is that many of their products aren’t really “quality” as promised by the brand name. I remember buying a very nice, not cheap teapot that cracked the first time we put hot water in it2. Their Memo Pads don’t work well with fountain pens and their “cotton fabric bonded cover” notebooks are a catastrophe with fountain pens. I don’t thing I have ever seen paper that is less able to cope with ink.They do however have nice products, too. Their “passport” notebooks for example – and William Gibson swears by their tooth paste. A few years ago I tried it for fun, but wasn’t too excited about it.

Make your own pencil set

Last week I went to the Muji store in Manchester’s Trafford Centre land saw this “Sawdust clay – Make your own pencil set”. Originally £3.95 (~ $6,45; €4.50) it was on sale for £1 (~ $1.63; €1.14). I couldn’t resist and bought three of these sets. There are no instructions in text form, there are only the instructions in picture form printed on the box. Each set contains 5 lead (length 9cm, diameter ~ 2mm) and two individually wrapped bricks of wet sawdust clay (~ 65 g each). As you can see from the instructions the clay doesn’t need to be dried on an oven. I assume it will just dry out slowly, once taken out of the protective wrapping.

When commenting on one of my previous blog posts Stationery Traffic suggested that I should bake a cake in the shape of a pencil – but no I have a situation that works the other way round: what shape should I make these pencils in? Suggestions are welcome.



Prices and exchange rates: July 2011

  1. No brand meaning that their products don’t have the Muji logo printed on them []
  2. I refer you to this Lexikaliker blog post and its comments that shows that water should be boiling for certain types of tea. Our water wasn’t even boiling, but the tea pot just didn’t like it. []