Staples


Smelly Pens – Zebra Sarasa Chupa Chups Edition 1

Welcome to what is probably my first gel pen focussed blog post: a quick look at the Zebra Sarasa Chupa Chups Scented Pens – and at the Staples gel pens.

Staples Sonix gel

The Staples Sonix gel pens were on offer and only 50p each: they are a mixed bag. The fluorescent pink usually writes well, other colours do sometimes smudge and don’t always have a good ink flow… This is very different to the experience Bob from my pen needs ink had. I’m not sure whether this is because of poor quality control, the difference between different colours, declining standards or the fact that my pens were too old, i.e. stored too long in the store before I bought them.

Staples Sonix Gel

Staples Sonix Gel

The performance of the Staples Sonix made me think of this video from the Wall Street Journal:  What Took China So Long to Master Ballpoint Pens?

Zebra Sarasa – Scented Chupa Chups pens

The Sarasas, on the other hand, are excellent performers. My green / yellow / red pack, bought from this seller, smells very nice, but the orange / blue / black pack has an artificial, bought here, slightly unpleasant smell to it. $9.50 for a pack of three seems a good price.

Zebra Sarasa - Chupa Chups Flavour

Zebra Sarasa – Chupa Chups Flavour

In the video review, you’ll also see my first scented pen, or at least the first I remember – a Hello Kitty Pen I got in the early or mid-1980s.

Scented Hello Kitty Pen

Scented Hello Kitty Pen

You can watch the video review here.

Or in full screen on YouTube.

More Sarasa Chupa Chups goodness at The Well-Appointed Desk. There are also several other smells, including from the Mister Donut series reviewed at The Pen Addict.


Using the Staples puncher with the Atoma system 6

M by Staples arc desktop punch

After my 2012 blog post about the Atoma and the M by Staples’ Arc notebooks1 I have been asked more than once whether the Staples ‘desktop punch’ can be used for the Atoma system.

 

The short answer is that it works well.

Locked for transport

Locked for transport

Why would you want to use a hole puncher2 not designed for your system? Well, it is much cheaper. The Atoma hole punch currently sells for around £140 (~$205; €185), the Staples one can be bought for around £35 (~$50; €45).3

Unlocked

Unlocked

Not surprisingly holes punched with the Staples desktop punch, when used with Atoma discs, seem a bit worse than the original Atoma holes4 – but in my opinion Atoma makes the better notebooks, while Staples makes the affordable paper puncher, so I will stick with this combination.

Atoma punched paper

Atoma punched paper

 

M by Staples Arc punched paper

M by Staples Arc punched paper

The M by Staples arc desktop punch is sturdy and well made in Taiwan and can officially punch up to 8 sheets in one go.

If you want to read more about Staples’ Atoma clone have a look at the Arc It Blog (not updated anymore).

Atoma left, Staples right

Atoma left, Staples right


Price and exchange rates: May 2016

As usual: open in a new tab/window to see the images in high resolution (except the last image).

  1. …to my surprise it is still by far(!) the most popular blog post at Bleistift, even though it is a few years old. []
  2. I know they are not holes, but I will stick to this name for now as it is commonly used. []
  3. I got my Staples desktop punch for my birthday many years ago, so I am not sure, but I think prices were pretty similar at the time. []
  4. I assume that Atoma punched paper, used with a Staples discs, would also be slightly worse than Staples punched paper. []

Atoma vs. M by Staples’ Arc 46

About Atoma

I tried to get hold of an Atoma notebook for a while now. Atoma notebooks are quite common in Belgium where they were first produced in 1948. Despite their popularity in their home country they are not very well known outside Belgium, not even in the neighbouring countries. I haven’t seen them in shops in the UK or Germany and some Dutch friends I asked haven’t seen them in the Netherlands either. No wonder: 80% of more than a million notebooks produced every year stay in Belgium. The company behind Atoma did not extend their patent when it expired in the Nineties, so copies are now available from many companies: There’s Levenger’s Circa, Aurora’s Adoc, Clairefontaine’s Clairing, Elba’s Vario-Zipp, Staples’ Arc and there’s Rollabind.

Atoma

Arc

How do they work

The pages of the Atoma notebooks are being held together by plastic discs. The discs are holding the sheets of paper through special Atoma shaped ‘holes’1. You can remove sheets from the notebooks or swap the sheets around, just like you can in a ring binder. One advantage of this system over a ring binder is that the notebook can be folded over. Another advantage is that an Atoma notebook, compared to a ring binder, is using less space because you don’t need the surrounding folder. The ring binder will also take away space even if empty2. One disadvantage of the Atoma system is that you cannot label the spine of a notebook.

Atoma and Arc paper

Where to get them from

There are two shops in the UK selling Atoma notebooks: Craft & Party Direct and Manufactum, but I didn’t order my Atoma notebook from either of them. Craft & Party Direct charge a lot for shipping  and Koralatov and Iain pointed out that they had bad experiences when ordering from this company in the past. Manufactum charge too much for shipping, too, and they have a ridiculous conversion rate for their UK prices, charging UK customers 35% more than for exactly the same product from their other online shops – that is on top of their expensive prices in the first place. Manufactum’s other online shops in Europe are set up in such a way that UK customers cannot order from them – very annoying. This plus other bad experiences3 with them made me avoid Manufactum in this case. In the end I ordered my Atoma notebooks from the International School of Brussels (Link updated). The notebooks were only €2.50 (~ $3.07; £1.96) each and shipping to the UK was free, so I only paid €5 for the two notebooks I ordered. The same order with Craft & Party Direct would have cost me £10.45 (~ $16.40; €13.35), five times as much. Manufactum’s Atoma notebooks are made of more expensive materials, so a direct price comparison wouldn’t make sense. I also bought one of M by Staples’ Arc notebooks in my local Staples4. With a price tag of £5 (~ $7.85; €6.39) it was more than twice as expensive as an Atoma notebook.

The discs: Atoma in blue, Arc in black

Atoma versus Arc

The Atoma A5 notebook is made in Belgium and came with 72 sheets (144 pages) of “ink-loving 90g/m2 ledger paper”.

The A5 Arc notepad is made in China and came with 60 ruled sheets of 100g/m2 paper. I like the fact that it came with a name/index sheet, but I am not keen on the white border on each page.

There is a lot of choice when it comes to covers and cover material, for both, Atoma and Arc. The cover of the Atoma notebook I bought is made of cardboard, while the Arc cover is made of polypropylene.

The paper of the Atoma notebook is rougher. Writing on it is nice and the paper absorbs the ink quickly.  The surface of the Arc paper is smoother, but ink takes longer to dry than on the Atoma paper. The ink doesn’t show through the reverse of the Arc pages as much as it does on the Atoma paper, but both papers are suitable for ink.

The rings of the Arc notebook are bigger, which means they will probably be able to hold more sheets of paper, but that also makes the notebook bigger, even if you don’t use too many sheets of paper. Aesthetically I find the Atoma ring size nicer and more suitable for the number of sheets of paper these notebooks come with.

Atoma (left) and Arc (right) paper

Conclusion

Both notepad are nice. I like the disc binding mechanism as it has several advantages over ring binders. If I had to choose between the Atoma and the Arc I’d go for the Atoma notebook. Not because it’s cheaper, but partly because I am not a big fan of polypropylene covers and prefer the Atoma’s cardboard cover. I also prefer the size and therefore look of the Atoma’s discs. Paper-wise the Arc’s paper seems to be better quality than the Atoma’s paper, but I haven’t used it long enough to be sure. My last reason for preferring the Atoma is that I prefer sheets without such a big white border.


Prices and exchange rates: August 2012.

I would like to thank Sean for the Blackfeet Indian Pencil seen on the last photo.

  1. They aren’t really holes, but I’m not sure what to call them so that it’s obvious what they are. []
  2. By the way, the ring binder and the hole puncher were invented in 1886 by Soennecken, a company previously mentioned in this blog. []
  3. Delivered item not as described, security issues with their web site, … []
  4. I’ll refer to it as ‘Staples’ from now on, not as ‘M by Staples’ []