This and that (hexagonal cedar eraser edition)

A parcel from Japan

Last month Tombow released a new eraser (Japanese announcement, Google translation). It’s quite similar to an old, familiar friend, the Staedtler Mars plastic, but with a Tombow Mono inside. The eraser stick has a diameter of 6.7 mm and a length of 100 mm.

Tombow’s new Mono Stick and Staedtler’s Mars plastic

Tombow isn’t the only company with new erasers. Look at this special eraser from Seed. Seed’s Radar is one of their famous erasers. This version has a sleeve made from 300 year old cedar wood.

Cedar Seed

Here it is again, next to some other Seed erasers.

Comparison: different Seed erasers

Since we are talking about Japanese erasers: in case you were wondering about the symbols you can find on them: have a look at this document from JEMA, the Japan Eraser Manufacturers Association (Google Translation). It also contains explanations regarding testing.

from the JEMA document (Image © JEMA)

I also noticed the Orenznero, discussed previously, in the Bun2 magazine… well as a nice sharpener and organiser from Nakabayashi. There’s an automatic (~£28; $39, €31) and a manual version (~£9; $13; €10) of the Pacatto sharpener.

The Stationery King1 did of course have several appearances, too).

…and now for something completely different. I dare to include it because it has hexagonal in the title: Hexagonal Phase.

The computer animations from the TV series were actually hand drawn.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is back. The Original Cast of the Original Radio 4 Radio Comedy in new episodes, written by written by Eoin Colfer.

Image © BBC Radio 4


I would like to thank Yumiko for the nice parcel and Gunther and Sola for the additional information.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy images in this blog post are from the BBC series of the same name. I believe that the use of the image shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. Sean rightly wonders whether he shouldn’t be the emperor of stationery. []

The Fastest Pencil Sharpener – Kutsuwa’s double-bladed 2MaiBa

Today: A quick look at Kutsuwa’s 2MaiBa pencil sharpener. The packaging tempts customers with the promise “fastest pencil sharpener” and when it comes to manual prism sharpeners I haven’t seen a faster one yet.

This is down to the 2MaiBa’s two blades which will ‘shave’ the pencil from opposite sides.


Kutsuwa itself has been around for more than 100 years. They were established in 1910. As far as I can tell they seem to have become quite well known in 1970s Japan with their pencil boxes that feature a magnetic closing mechanism.

I haven’t come across their pencil boxes in the West, but you can find their erasers and their sharpeners outside Japan. Their T’Gaal is probably their most famous pencil sharpener. Other than that they also produce Miffy, Snoopy and Puma themed stationery.

The 2MaiBa

The 2MaiBa is really very fast, only needing around half the number of pencil turns than your average pencil sharpener. It produces a point with an angle of around 23°, but just have a look at this video for more information.

To watch this video in high resolution or full screen jump over to YouTube where you can watch it in 4K. I know that filming in 4K on a mobile doesn’t make much sense, at least not with my lighting. The video is slightly noisy, so wouldn’t have more information that if filmed in a lower resolution ..but I thought why not, and then I can claim that it is 4K.. I should do a comparison to see which noise is more pleasing to the eye.

What’s in a name?

Sola from Pencils and other things explains:

Actually Maiba isn’t a proper noun but two characters stuck together to describe the product (“2枚刃”). Mai(枚) is the unit for counting sheets (of paper, metal, etc.) and Ba (originally Ha, 刃) is “blade”.
So 2枚刃鉛筆削り would be “two-blade pencil sharpener”.


Gunther reminded me that I forgot to point out that the 2Maiba’s blades are marked with NJK. NJK is the brand behind the Tsunago. If you have a look at the NJK web site you will notice that they specialise in sharpeners.

The 2Maiba has been added to the sharpener comparison page.

Pencils – unsharpened and hyper acute

When looking at pencil points there are all sorts of angles you could sharpen a pencil to.

I guess an angle of 180°, i.e. an unsharpened pencil is as low as you could go – unless you want an angle > 180°.

Here’s a photo of an unsharpened pencil, seen in Season 10 of Inspector Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano), between the two eraser-tipped Noris pencils. You can see his other pencils in this blog post from 2012. Where they got an unsharpened Noris from is a mystery to me. Maybe they removed the pencil point of a factory sharpened pencil?

Episode: A Delicate Matter (Image © RAI)

On the other hand you have pencil like the ones from Pencil Guide that seem to have an angle of 6.8°1 (for comparison: the KUM Masterpiece has an angle of 15°). They look deadly.

Gunther explains:

If you create a point with an angle of 6.8° (cone angle 3.4°) on a pencil with a diameter of 8 mm you expose the wood at a length of approximately 67.6 mm. This length and the pencil’s length are in a ratio of approx. 1:1.618.

1:1.618 is the golden ration.

Pencil Guide calls itself a pencil sharpening service company, but they only sell sharpened pencils and don’t follow David Rees’ business model.

(Image ©

I would like to thank Jun-Haeng Lee for the information about Pencil Guide.

The images in this blog post have been taken from Pencil Guide and from episode A Delicate Matter of the RAI TV series Il commissario Montalbano. I believe that the use of the images shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. Thanks to Sola and Gunther I now think the angle might be 6.8°. []

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

..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. []

The Rolls Royce of Pencil Sharpeners 6

I first heard about the ELM V-71 a few years ago. The person who told me about it has more knowledge about sharpeners than anyone else I know ..and he called the V-71 the Rolls Royce of sharpeners.

ELM V71 (Image from 东莞八束易之美五金塑胶制品有限公司)

It’s an electric burr/cylindrical sharpener. Not exactly a very cheap one either – if you want to get one in Europe it will set you back around $150, but you’d probably have to import it yourself as I haven’t seen it for sale in the West. If you are trying to get one: most pages where I’ve seen it being offered are from Singapore.

ELM V5 (Image from 东莞八束易之美五金塑胶制品有限公司)

ELM (Dongguan Yatsuka Yizhimei Metal & Plastic Co.) also offers cheaper, battery operated burr/cylindrical sharpeners – a very different class to the normal battery operated sharpeners you can get, but also more expensive. The ELM V-3 and the ELM V-5 are about $30 each. Maybe we’re lucky and one day someone will import them. I am very tempted to order one, but haven’t done so yet. Maybe writing this blog post can convince me to press the Buy button after all. I think it will.

In the West you might have come across products from this manufacturer under the ACCO brand (one of their electric staplers).

Why do I write about this?

It looks as if it will soon be much easier to get your hands on the V71.


Caran d’Ache electric sharpener (Image ©

At the Paper World Gunther saw a new Caran d’Ache sharpener that will be available from September for €100. When I saw the pictures I first didn’t notice it, I hadn’t looked at the V71 for many months, but when I saw the ELM V71 again online I noticed that it seems to be the same sharpener. The inside might be different of course, better or worse, but there’s a good chance that this is the Rolls Royce of sharpeners after all.

Caran d’Ache electric sharpener (Image ©

I would like to thank Gunther from Lexikaliker for allowing me to use his pictures.

The pictures of the ELM sharpeners have been taken from websites linked to Dongguan Yatsuka Yizhimei Metal & Plastic Co. I believe that the use of the images shown in this blog post, falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.