Sharpeners

Eisen 402

The stationery cupboard, where my colleagues and I get our stationery supplies from, did have pencil sharpeners in the past. I am not sure why there are none left, but I assume it is because most colleagues, especially most support staff, use Paper Mate Non-Stop pencils.

Paper Mate Non-Stop

 

Paper Mate Non-Stop:

The Non-Stop is basically a SharpWriter with tip and eraser in black for the European market, or possibly for all markets outside North America. First released in 1984 the SharpWriter / Non-Stop is a disposable mechanical pencil, made in USA. You can even refill it, if you want. Unlike some other disposable mechanical pencils it is possible to refill leads when you remove the eraser. To advance the lead you twist the tip and – very positive for a cheap pencil – the lead is cushioned which should be good news for users who use more pressure when writing than I do.

The Eisen Model 402 in blue and yellow
The Eisen Model 402 in blue and yellow

 

Eisen:

But back to the pencil sharpeners… They were all the same type, had a cylinder shaped plastic container and were available in many colours. At the bottom of the plastic container you could see the wording “Made in Germany”. Some of the sharpeners had plain blades without any writing on them, some [1]I assume the older ones had “Made in Germany” and a lower case e with a crown on top written on the blade. After looking at different manufacturers’ web sites I found that this sharpener is Model 402 from Eisen [2]pronounced like iron with an s sound between the two syllables, a company manufacturing pencil sharpeners since 1921. Like nearly all other German manufacturers in the pencil and sharpener industry (e.g.  Faber-Castell, Staedtler, Schwan Stabilo, Lyra, KUM or Möbius+Ruppert) Eisen is from Franconia, an area slightly smaller than Massachusetts. Other information and figures I found about Eisen is sometimes contradicting, but apparently they have 60 employees in their Franconian factory and produce 200 million steel blades annually. In 2003 Eisen established its own factory in Taicang [3]Taicang is very popluar with companies from America, Europe, Taiwan and Japan. About 100 German SMEs settled there. near Shanghai, and production of the cheaper sharpeners was moved there while the production of more expensive sharpeners for cosmetic pencils is still taking place in the original factory in Baiersdorf. The factory in Baiersdorf is managed by Christian Eisen and the factory in Taicang by Stephan Eisen, both descendants of Christian Eisen, the founder of Eisen Metallwarenfabrik. Altogether, there are 150 employees in both factories, producing 60 – 80 million sharpeners annually.

Lyra, recently acquired by the FILA group, just started distributing Eisen sharpeners in the German-speaking countries, but I am not sure about the distribution of Eisen sharpeners in the rest of the world. They were available in the UK, probably through Impega [4]Impega became Lyreco in 2009, a supplier of stationery for companies.

 

Dong-A Fable, sharpened with (left - right) M+R grenade, Eisen 402, KUM Automatic Long Point
Dong-A Fable, sharpened with (left - right) M+R grenade, Eisen 402, KUM Automatic Long Point

Model 402:

What is so special about the Model 402, you might ask. The answer is that it is a fantastic sharpener, somewhere between a traditional sharpener and a long point . Sharpening with the Eisen 402 produces a point as smooth as one produced by Möbius+Ruppert’s grenade or by KUM’s Automatic Long Point 2M. Even sharpening “difficult” pencils, like the Dong-A Fable, is no problem with the 402. When I tried to sharpen the Fable with a hardly used KUM 400-5L the lead broke every single time, with the Eisen 402 I managed to produce a great point first time trying, even though I have been using it irregularly for years and with the same blade.

 

Eisen 402 blade
Eisen 402 blade

I noticed that my yellow 402, which has an unmarked blade, is not as smooth as the blue one, which has the Eisen logo and Made in Germany written on the blade. It could be that the unmarked blades are worse, but the yellow 402 was in my office and saw much more use than its blue colleague, so I blame the slightly worse performance of the unmarked blade on the fact that the marked blade had not been used so often.

The Eisen 402 is certainly a great sharpener. It outperforms my KUM Streamline Chrome Canister Sharpener 460S and my KUM Long Point 400-5L. The only shame is that it seems to be difficult to get hold of an Eisen 402.

I would like to thank Kent for the Dong-A Fable pencils used in the comparison of different sharpeners. Kent explained me that Dong-A is one of the oldest pencil manufacturers in Korea and that Fable is a relatively new model from Dong-A.

There is a video, produced for local TV stations, with more information about Eisen at Wirtschaftstreff Bayern. Unfortunately it is only available in German and the exact link is changing every month. The video with information about Eisen is from 23 October 2009.

You can find a review of the Kum Automatic Longpoint Sharpener at pencil talk. Lexikaliker has a review of Möbius+Ruppert’s grenade (Google Translation).

References

References
1 I assume the older ones
2 pronounced like iron with an s sound between the two syllables
3 Taicang is very popluar with companies from America, Europe, Taiwan and Japan. About 100 German SMEs settled there.
4 Impega became Lyreco in 2009

Tesco pencil sharpener

Tesco, a British supermarket chain, is currently selling a battery operated pencil sharpener for £ 3 (~ € 3.30). The sharpener is part of the “Tesco range”, which previously included  very good  stationery …like their pencils made from paper. Unfortunately some of these good products have suddenly disappeared in the last weeks, so I thought I should buy one of these sharpeners before it is too late.

Tesco Sharpener
Tesco Sharpener

The sharpener is available in silver and black and looks quite “plasticy”, but the design is not bad. If you look closer you see that the mould and the paint could have been done better, but for a product in this price range the appearance and workmanship is good. For those who do not know Tesco: this is typical for products from their own range, be it LED torches, padlocks or any other non-food item.

94g seems to be the model number...
94g seems to be the model number...

The sharpener is made in China and operated by 4 AA batteries. The languages on the labels suggest that except in the UK and Ireland the sharpener is also sold in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungaru and Turkey. As usual batteries are not included, but to my surprise the sharpener comes with an extra blade. This is very good news as the blade seems to be of very good quality, but more on this later. When you remove the shavings container you can see that the cutting unit inside resembles a manual sharpener that is rotating when a pencil is inserted. You will also find the replacement blade there, held by sticky tape. The cutting unit itself seems to be plastic mounted. Similar to other battery operated sharpeners, like the Staedtler Mars Desk battery operated pencil sharpener, the Tesco sharpener will not work if the shavings container is removed.

Tesco Sharpener, inside with spare blade
Tesco Sharpener inside, with spare blade

I assume that the model number is 94g, as 94g is printed on the label and the weight of the sharpener (without batteries) is a bit over 140 grams, certainly not 94 grams. That said, if you put the Hungarian text from the label in Google Translate it comes up with “Weight: 94g”, so either the label was made for an earlier, lighter version of the sharpener or the translation is wrong. Whatever the standard deviation for weight of this sharpener is, I rule out that my sharpener is 50% heavier than it should be and that my scales are that inaccurate.

How does it perform?

The sharpener itself works very well. You have to hold the sharpener, otherwise the sharpener will rotate around the pencil. It is also moving rather fast, so you have to pull the pencil out fairly quickly if you want to avoid using it up unnecessarily. The blade of my Tesco sharpener works extremely well for a sharpener of such a low price. It does certainly not perform as well as a great sharpener, like the grenade from Möbius & Ruppert, but it performs much better than most average sharpeners. The wood and the lead have a smooth surface when sharpened with the Tesco sharpener, which is not common with cheap sharpeners, but there is some rough scraping of the wood, sometmies in the form a visible line where the blade stopped when the pencil was removed.

One problem I noticed is that the often resharpened pencils tend to be sharpened more on one side than the other (see picture). It could be a coincidence or the fact that the speed of the Tesco sharpener made me sharpen often but little, reinserting the pencil with the previously shaved side towards the blade.

TiTi Kyung In T-Prime HB sharpened with the Tesco sharpener
TiTi Kyung In T-Prime HB sharpened with the Tesco sharpener

Altogether this sharpener offers great value for money. Assuming the blade is this good in the other “94g” sharpeners they are certainly worth buying.

 


Update April & May 2011:

I noticed that Tesco raised the price to £3.30 and that Sainsbury started selling the same model for £2.99.