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The Mono Zero and the Mono One

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.

5 years Bleistift – behind the scenes

It’s been five years since Bleistift’s first blog post. Time flies.

Today: a little look behind the scenes – from a web point of view.

Comments and Spam

Visitor numbers have been fairly constant over the years. Bleistift gets about 100 to 150 visitors a day. My guess is that many of them are actually not people, but spam bots …but it’s difficult to say exactly how many are real, human visitors and how many are not. Many spam comments have been left, but over the years there have also been nearly 1500 real comments. WordPress’ Plugin ‘Akismet’ is pretty good at sorting out spam, which means that real comments don’t end up in the spam folder very often. The spam comments Bleistift gets often contain links to web sites selling fake watches or medicine, but some don’t seem to contain links at all or they contain links to unsuspicious looking web sites. I guess some of these comments that don’t make sense, but that don’t link to any medicine,fake watch, etc. websites are designed to probe the spam filter of blogs without giving away who sent them. I think Kevin’s guest review of the Dahle 133 is worth being mentioned here. It’s probably the blog post most ‘attacked’ by spam or the one where spam comments are most difficult to detect by the system – recently it received about 50 spam contents on that blog post that were so ‘good’ that the Akismet plugin didn’t recognise them as definite spam.

Visitors

The origin of the visitors hasn’t changed a lot over the years. You can see this in the table below, which contrasts where the visitors from the last month came from and how that compares to visitors overall since the start of the blog. This information is recorded using Google Analytics. This is a lazy solution and it would be better if I wouldn’t use a third party tool for that. Maybe one day I’ll switch. I probably don’t even have to mention that the best blog around, Lexikaliker, does this the way it should be done, i.e. without third party tools.

October 2014All time
United States30%United States33%
Germany12%Germany11%
United Kingdom10%United Kingdom11%
Canada5%Canada5%
France4%France4%
Australia3%Australia3%
South Korea3%Spain2%
Spain2%Italy2%
Italy2%South Korea2%
Netherlands2%India2%

When it come to the web sites that send visitors to Bleistift not too much has changed either. Pen Addict was always the site that refers most visitors. If there is ever a spike in visitor numbers I can be sure that this means the Pen Addict has included Bleistift in their Ink Links.

October 2014All time
The Pen Addict15%The Pen Addict24%
Pencil Revolution11%Pencil Revolution9%
Lexikaliker7%Pencil Talk9%
Contrapuntalism4%Lexikaliker5%
Pencil Case Blog3%Dave's Mechanical Pencils5%
Pencils and other things3%Contrapuntalism2%
Pencil Talk2%Stationery Traffic1%
Just another pen2%Notebook Stories1%
Scribomechanica2%Pencil Wrap (defunct)1%
Blackwing Pages1%Notebook loves pen (defunct)1%

 

WordPress

The blog software I’m using is WordPress. It’s quite nice, but some things are not as nice as with other blog software. One example: Another blog software shows links to other blogs by date of the last post and with the name of the latest article. I did install a plugin, so that WordPress behaves in a similar way, but this solution is not that elegant – it takes a very long time for this information to be displayed when you visit Bleistift.

Bleistift is hosted a server I rent. This means it does cost money and I have to update the software myself, but the advantage is that the visitors don’t have to see advertising. Speaking of updating, I should really get round to changing the template so that it’s responsive and looks good on a mobile device …but that’s probably not going to happen any time soon.

Happy Independence Day!

As a pencileer, molyvophile and molyvologue [1]See explanation in this blog post. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than to sharpen an American pencil with an American blade.

…but which pencil to choose? In the end I narrowed it down to the Mongol and the Ticonderoga. As these pencils where also made in other countries I obviously only put the American made versions on the short list.

Independence Day Mongols

In the end I did go with the Ticonderoga, just because I thought Faber-Castell takes some of the emphasis on the USA away. So, the chosen pencil is the Dixon’s American Ticonderoga. I did have a few of them in stock, but haven’t actually used them yet. My Ticonderoga experience so far was limited to the ‘Korean’ Ticonderogas, the awful Ticonderoga Renew and the Microban Ticonderogas.

Independence Day Ticonderoga

The knife was easy to choose, my Leatherman Style CS …just because it is the only knife I own that is, as far as I know, made in the United States of America.

Independence Day Leatherman

OK, let’s start sharpening. Because I only have a few of these American made Ticonderogas I want a less acute angle than usual – I just don’t want to waste too much of the nice pencil.

Independence Day Sharpening

I don’t want to go for a proper obtuse angle either, as that would probably be a very strange writing experience.

Independence Day Point

Here way are. By the way, the American blade was sharpened with something American, too: The Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, which could also be used to sharpen blades of pencil sharpeners.

Independence Day Point Close

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Idependence DayAs usual, please click on the pictures to see them in a higher resolution.

References

References
1 See explanation in this blog post.

Pencil Gangnam Style?

With PSY’s hit topping the charts in the UK and the USA, I am wondering which pencil is the ultimate Gangnam Style pencil – luxurious, but also a bit crazy.

A hot contender is the Monami MP-4003.

Luxurious, but also a but crazy? Yes, but maybe a bit too kitsch.

Decadent? Yes. Even hedonistic? Probably not.

Steam punk? Dunno, maybe more like Art Noveau punk…

If the Empire State Building was in Korea, some might call the MP-4003 the Empire State pencil.

Quality

The Monami MP-4003 comes in a nice-ish plastic box and is accompanied by a nice lead container. Quality-wise you can see that the accessories that come with the pencil are not top class: the plastic box had a broken off corner and the lid of the lead container had a crack, probably not because they weren’t handled probably, but because of the materials used.

The quality of the pencil itself is better than that of the accessories, but if you look closely, you also notice very minor problems – like scratches on the surface of the plastic body, marks that might be sprue marks or problems with the friction fit of the cap, which is too tight …at least in the case of my pencil.

Design

The look of the pencil is fantastic, even though they have overdone it, at least for my Western taste. The knurled grip works well, but could maybe have a bit more grip. It feels like knurled for effect, not knurled for purpose and the knurled section also starts rather far away from the tip.

The cap gets wider towards the end. Something I like very much, probably the main reason why I like the Yard-O-Led Edwardian pencil or Graf von Faber-Castell and Faber-Castell Perfect Pencils with this design.

There is a lead hardness indicator, but oddly enough the only grade printed on the body is “HB”, which makes it nearly useless. One possible use might be to set it to “HB” for HB leads and to the black colour of the body for anything other than HB. Speaking of HB leads: the leads that come with the pencil are very soft and dark for HB leads.

Monami

Monami, the manufacturer, seems to be Korea’s biggest stationery company, but according to Kent almost all of their wood-cased pencils are cheap pencils for children with cartoon characters  printed on them. I couldn’t find this pencil on their web site, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is not being made any more. As far as I can tell my pencil was manufactured in 2011.

Conclusion

Value for money is good, with the price of this mechanical pencil being similar to most other mechanical pencils. I paid $6.50 (£4; €5) plus shipping on an auction web site. Keeping in mind that this pencil has more ‘metal’ on its body than most pencils in this price range makes it a very good price.

It is a nice pencil, but maybe a bit too much over the top. It reminds me of the kind of male fashion and accessories I have seen more and more often on recent trips to Asia: something that would look odd in Europe because it would look too delicate and playful, maybe even slightly unmanly. This pencil isn’t really at that level yet, but it is rather eccentric and likes to show off it’s golden coloured elements…

Alternatives

You can admire the MP-3003, IMHO a nicer, because silver coloured, version in Gunther’s virtual pencil case.

If the MP-4003 isn’t over the top enough for you, have a look at the Micro HEXA 10000 (again in Gunther’s virtual pencil case). It looks like a Pharao’s mechanical pencil with the grip of the Faber-Castell TK_Fine Vario.

 


Price and exchange rates: September 2012

 

Meriful

…and another post linked to Shanghai’s Fuzhou Road.This time about a shop called Meriful.

Meriful is quite different to the other shops you’ll find on Fuzhou Road. It is neither a cheap shop selling mainly Chinese-made stationery, nor is it one of those boutique-like shops selling a mix of “cute stuff” and designed, overpriced stationery of questionable quality. Instead you’ll find many items you might find in the online shops of the West, like JetPens, Cult Pens, bureauDIRECT or the less well known Deskstore.

Erasers...

Even though the shop is not too big you will find an incredible choice of exciting items. Just looking at the erasers – there must have been more than 100 different ones. Most items in the shop are imported from Asia, but you will also find European brands, like Rhodia (I bought the orange pad cover in Meriful) or Faber-Castell.

Midori Traveler's Notebooks

 

Meriful sells expensive designer calculators from Canon, but also affordable mechanical pencils from Redcircle (which are essentially fake Rotring pencils) as well as absolutely stunning handmade desk accessories from China (so beautiful, but so expensive).

Stationery by Carl

 

Imported items were usually about 50% more expensive than in their country of origin, but that isn’t too expensive, I thought. Other shops have similar mark-ups for imported stationery.

Carl Decorer Tape Dispenser

 

 

Their selection of items by Carl was amazing. The Decorer desk set (¥158, ~ $25 ; £15.60; €18.80) was unfortunately not available in the colour we liked, so my wife bought one of the Carl Decorer tape dispenser by itself, not as a set. It doesn’t feel as solid as it looks and it is a bit odd that the different materials have different shades of green, but overall it is a very nice tape dispenser.

 

Some of the items I bought in Meriful. The nice leather pen case is made in Korea.

Staff are very friendly and you can even negotiate the price if you find any issue with the products (previously opened, etc). When I asked for a new Rhodia pad cover from their stock they offered me a discount because they didn’t have any unopened ones left.

 


Price: December 2011

Exchange rates: March 2012