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.
..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 Fable To me the Fable is more common than the Mono. A fate I probably share with very few people outside Korea., a pencil that has made a few appearances on this blog since 2009.
Well, 1963 is not only the year Terry Farrell, Jadzia Dax in Deep Space Nine I just had to add a Star Trek fact. , 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).
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.
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.
Last time I visited Selfridges, they had the Robot Pencil Sharpener from Kikkerland on a shelf. I recognised it from Dave’s Mechnical Pencils, but I am sure I have also seen it in other blogs. Of course I could not resist and was drawn to it. Next to it there were also some other novelty pencils and eraser, including big dinosaur shaped erasers, Penguin Book pencils and paper pencils. This being Selfridges the items were not cheap, but I still bought the robot sharpener and the paper pencils.
The paper pencils are from a company called Eco Bridge and are made in Korea. I paid £3.95 (~ $ 5.95, ~ € 4.40) for three pencils. The price in Korea is 2300 Won (~ £ 1.35, ~ $ 2.00, ~ € 1.50). Not cheap, especially when keeping in mind that until recently Tesco sold similar pencils made from rolled Chinese newspaper for less than 5p (~ 8¢, ~6ct) each. O’Bon’s newsprint pencils, reviewed at pencil talk, cost $5 (~ £ 3.30, ~ € 3.70) for a pack of 10.
The Eco Bridge pencils is definitely softer than the Tesco pencil or the average European HB pencil, its softness is comparable to a Staedtler Mars Lumograph B, Faber-Castell 9000 2B or Palomino HB. Smudging is similar to other pencils of this softness. To my surprise the Eco Bridge is a very good pencil. It is much smoother than a Dong-A Fable HB, one of the few pencils from a Korean company that is, as far as I know, produced in Korea. I normally prefer pencils where the point stays sharp for longer, but softer pencils like the Eco Bridge have the advantage of delivering a nicer, darker black when writing.
When it comes to sharpening the pencils the Tesco pencil performs better than the Eco Bridge. The blade of the sharpener (in this case the Eisen 402) seems to cut the Tesco paper much better, while the paper in the Eco Bridge is more likely to get ripped away. While the paper used for the Tesco pencil is rolled paper with Chinese characters on it, probably from a newspaper or something similar, all three Eco Bridge pencils have a similar colour distribution on the paper, red in the middle, near the lead, and recycling beige on the outside. I suspect that the paper used for the Eco Bridge has been recycled and printed on specifically for this pencil, in order to produce this pattern on the paper. This would also explain the higher price tag. This recycling process might be responsible for the rougher paper, compared to the Tesco pencil, which results in the paper ripping easier.
The Eco Bridge is not cheap, but it is a nice pencil. It might not be able to compete with really good pencils, but it is better than most “average” pencils. If you like B or 2B pencils and happen to see the Eco Bridge pencils in a shop you could give it a try. On the other hand this money would (nearly) buy you one of the good pencils (9000, Lumograph, Palomino, Mono).
Price and exchange rates: March 2010.
I would like to thank Kent from Pencilog for the Dong-A Fable used for the comparison.
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:
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.
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 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 Eisenpronounced 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 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 Impega became Lyreco in 2009, a supplier of stationery for companies.
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.
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.