Tombow


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. []

Mysterious Mono 100s 7

Sean and Gunther are the detectives of the pencil world. While Sean has specialised in solving cold cases Gunther is investigating up-to-date issues.

In Gunther’s latest blog post (in German / automated English translation from Google here, from Bing here) he is having a closer look at the new Vietnamese made Tombow Mono 100s.

Mystery solved – thank you, Lexikaliker.

I support his hypothesis that the blind code on the pencils is in the format YYMM. I bought most of my Mono 100s in 2009 and the blind codes of my Monos start with 08 and 09.

In case you wonder about my photo: After some of the original occupants of my Mono 100 case moved out the remaining Monos invited the two Faber brothers to move in.

 


The Mono Zero and the Mono One 6

Today: a comparison of different Tombow erasers – the Tombow Mono Zero, available either with a 2.3 mm round tip or broad 2.5 mm * 5 mm rectangular tip, and the Tombow Mono One, an eraser that looks as if it’s supposed to be used on a keyring or as a charm. I wrote this blog post originally for The Pen Company who send me these two erasers free of charge.

Mono Zero (back)

Mono Zero (white version, back)

Mono Zero background

The Mono Zero was originally released on 12 November 2007 and since its release it has won the iF product design award 2010 and the red dot design award 2010. It has also received Japan’s eco mark certification because of its high content of (pre-consumer) recycled plastic. The body of the eraser is made in Japan, while the eraser core itself is made in Korea. The Mono Zero has been designed by Ms. Chisato Takahashi, who  is also responsible for the Mono smart. I got mine as a free sample from The Pen Company where the current retail price is £3.47.

Mono Zero (black version, front)

Mono Zero (black version, front)

Mono Zero body

The Mono Zero is available either with a 2.3 mm round tip or broad 2.5 mm * 5 mm rectangular tip and each of these versions is available in either a black body or a black, white and blue body. There used to be a silver version as well, which – to me – always used to be by far the least attractive looking version. This silver version does not seem to be available anymore.

Mono Zero eraser removed - 2.5mm * 5 mm version

Mono Zero eraser removed – 2.5mm * 5 mm version

Mono Zero eraser removed - 2.3 mm round tip version

Mono Zero eraser removed – 2.3 mm round tip version

Mono Zero eraser

The eraser itself does not fill the whole body. This might come as a surprise when you have used other pen shaped erasers that come in a plastic body, but is not not really a problem. You do get slightly less eraser for your money, but the whole eraser (body plus eraser) itself is not expensive and the eraser core will still last a long time. Just to mention is explicitely, there are also refills available for these erasers, like for most pen shaped erasers. Labelled as an elastomer eraser, the Mono Zero contains an eraser made from ethylene propylene copolymer. When I received the eraser I did try it out and compared it to my favourite kind of eraser, a dust-free  or non-dust eraser (as long as it’s a dust-free eraser I usually like it very much). It’s probably not fair to compare it to my favourite type of eraser, or let’s say not objective – others might not like dust-free erasers, but then this comparison  is a valid approach as I am writing about what I like or dislike about the Mono Zero.

Comparison on Deli paper (A6)

Comparison on Deli paper (A6)

For the pencil to be erased by the Mono Zero – I originally thought what better match could there be for the Tombow Mono erasers than a Tombow pencil, so I picked last year’s 100th anniversary special pencil.

Erasing the soft Tombow 100th anniversary pencil

Erasing the soft Tombow 100th anniversary pencil

Mono Zero performance

To my surprise the two Tombow products, pencil and eraser, didn’t seem to be able to cooperate that well with each other. This was due to the fact that the Tombow pencil is very soft. According to Pencils and other things the 100th anniversary edition has the same lead as the current Mono 100, but my 100th anniversary pencil seems much softer (and smudges easier) than a Mono 100 (both HB). I am not sure whether I’m imagining things here, or I just happened to have a softer than usual 100th anniversary pencil and a harder than usual Mono 100, or whether the lead is the same, but there’s actually a shift in grade (e.g. 100th anniversary HB = Mono 100 B). In any case, the Mono Zero was not able to eraser a strong line, i.e. drawn with some pressure, without a trace. It did however manage to eraser strong lines of harder pencils, in this case a Staedtler Mars Lumograph in HB, without a trace.

Erasing the harder Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB

Erasing the harder Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB

Mono Zero conclusion

My impression of the Mono Zero was that it’s not the greatest performer when it comes to actual erasing (worse than a non-dust / dust-free eraser), but its strong point is precise erasing …because of the tip size and shape (a bit like a Kokuyo eraser). When I was looking for other blog posts to mention in this review I rediscovered Dave’s review of the Mono Zero, which came to the same conclusion regarding eraser performance.

A great eraser, because its fine ‘tip’ allows precise erasing, even though eraser performance itself could be better.

The Monos compared to a dust free eraser

The Monos compared to a dust free eraser

 

Mono One

The Mono One, designed by Mr Kazunori Katami, who holds a lot of stationery patents, was released slightly earlier than the Mono Zero – on 5 February 2007. The Pen Company is selling this eraser for £2.60. The body of this eraser is also produced in Japan (no eco mark certification for the Mono One, though), while the eraser itself is made in in Vietnam. Labelled as a plastic eraser, the eraser is made from thermoplastic elastomers. Despite the different materials, performance seemed pretty similar between the Mono Zero and the Mono One, with the Mono One maybe performing a little bit better.

The Mono One does not offer as precise erasing as the Mono Zero, the tip is bigger, but it is a nice size, which makes it a great eraser to carry in a pencil case bag or, possibly even on your key ring.

 


I would like to thank The Pen Company for these erasers, I got them as free samples, and Mrs. Balsewicz from Tombow Europe for all the information she has given me about these erasers.

I would like thank Sean for the Tombow 100th anniversary pencils.


The Tombow Zoom 707 de Luxe

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.

Introduction

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

Awards

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

Overall

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.