Keyroad


Keyroad 4

Keyroad on Fuzhou road

In my blog post about Simbalion’s Supreme Quality Pencil 88 I mentioned Keyroad, a Chinese stationery chain that I have also mentioned in several previous blog posts. Today I want to show you some photos I took in and around Keyroad stores, most from Keyroad’s store on Fuzhou road.

Keyroad

Simbalion’s Supreme Quality Pencil 88 and other pencils

The stationery on offer in Keyroad is not as exciting and high-end as what you could get in Meriful, but unfortunately Meriful on Fuzhou road closed down, or moved, in any case: I couldn’t find it on Fuzhou road. There are Meriful stores in other parts of Shanghai, but I haven’t visited them.

Keyroad

Even more pencils

Keyroad’s focus isn’t directly stationery. Their target group seems to be teenage girls, but because of this they have “designed” stationery, while common stationery stores tend to sell functional stationery.

Keyroad

A pack of smiley bulldog clips is only 12元 (~$1.95; €1.45; £1.25)

There is of course some overlap: you’d find plain pencils as well as erasers with cartoon pictures on in either type of store, but in Keyroad you’d find lots of colourful as well as imported stationery.You’ll find the likes of Lamy Safari or Parker Pens, but imported stationery tends to be prohibitively expensive.

I found more Keyroads than on previous visits – in new locations and also in locations where, previously, there have been similar shops.

Keyroad HongKou

The Dragon Dream Shopping Centre’s Queen’s Market is now a Keyroad, too


Price: May 2013

Exchange rates: June 2013


Simbalion Supreme Quality Pencil 88 8

Simbalion 88

Simbalion’s Supreme Quality Pencil 88

Simbalion are, as far as I can tell, not very common in the West. In a previous blog post I looked at the Graphic Pencils from Simbalion, one of Taiwan’s oldest stationery manufacturers. When I visited Keyroad, a Chinese stationery chain where I bought my previous Simbalion pencils, I saw Simbalion pencils I hadn’t noticed before: Simbalions supreme quality pencil 88.  They have a very old fashioned look. Packaging-wise I thought they were the best looking pencil in the shop, because of this old fashioned look. I like the layout, the fonts and the colours used.

Simbalion 88

The bad news

When I say supreme quality I use Simbalion’s description from the packaging, so these are their words, not mine. In my opinion these aren’t exactly supreme quality pencils. …and when I say “not exactly supreme quality” I’m being kind. They aren’t horrible, but compared to good quality pencils they are a bit scratchy and the finish isn’t to a good standard either. Their lead also breaks easily when you have a long, nice point, like the one produced by my favourite pencil sharpener, the Deli 0635. Looks as if not all pencil can handle the Deli’s 17.5° point.

Simbalion 88

The good news

…but I think I should put this all in perspective. When I picked a pack with a dozen of these pencils up I thought they’d cost 8.5元1 (~$1.40; €1.05; 90p), because that’s what the sign under the pencil said, but that sign was for another pencil. A pack containing a dozen of these pencils was actually only 4.5元 (~75¢; 55c; 45p) and thanks to my loyalty card and some other offers in store at that day I only paid 3.83元2. Value for money is therefore excellent, despite them not being on par with what a would call a good pencil

…and I like them mainly because of their look anyway. Their bright, strong orange, not fluorescent, but really strong is nice, even though the package is even nicer…

Simbalion 88

Other things to mention

Other interesting points to mention are that the performance of the eraser is better than expected and similar to the quality of the kind of erasers you find on the end of good pencils. Despite this  being an Asian pencil3 the HB classification is also more like a European HB, not like an Asian HB. If anything the pencil seems to be harder, not softer than HB, but that feeling might be caused by the slight scratchiness. I’m also not sure whether lead hardness will be consistent across a bigger sample. The length, including the eraser is slightly more than 19 cm. The diameter of the pencil is on the bigger side (7.1 – 7.2 mm edge to edge, 7.7 – 7.8 mm vertex to vertex). According to the packaging the pencil has a weight of 6.5 g ± 1. When I checked the weight  the pencils were lighter, but my scale is rather old4, so I’m not sure I can trust it.

I’ll try to keep my blog posts short, because I tend to go one forever5 so instead of talking more about Keyroad now, I’ll show you some photos  I took in Keyroad in another blog post soon.

Simbalion 88

In case you wonder why the pencil’s name is 88: 8 is seen as being an auspicious number – in Mandarin it sounds similar to the word for wealth or fortune. I think that similarity is even bigger in Cantonese, but I’m not absolutely sure.

Simbalion 88

A nice-ish pencil for a great price. I wish I’d bought more…


Price: May 2013

Exchange rates: June 2013

 

  1. I’m using the 元 sign instead of the ¥ sign, which is normally being used in Chinese shops, so that there is no confusion between the Chinese Yuan and the Japanese Yen. []
  2. I haven’t seen Fen (分), 1/100th of a Yuan in years, so I guess they’ll round up or down if necessary. []
  3. …from a Taiwanese company, but made in JiangSu province, China, just next to Shanghai. []
  4. You might have seen it in some older blog posts. []
  5. This blog post ended up being longer than expected – again. []

Chung Hwa 6903 6

Shanghai’s FuZhou road

You might remember Keyroad, a stationery shop on Shanghai’s FuZhou road, from the blog post about the Simbalion Graphic Pencils or from the blog post about the Deli pencil sharpener 0635. How could I not go there again this year… This time I was actually more excited by two other shops on FuZhou road, but I will not go into more detail now and will write more about them another time.

M&G

Back to Keyroad. I bought several packs of pencils, including a few different types of wooden pencils made by M&G, a stationery manufacturer from Shanghai which I only knew as a manufacturer of mechanical pencils and other stationery, but whose wooden pencils I have either never seen or I must have forgotten about.

Chung Hwa 6903

The best looking pencil in the shop was, however, the Chung Hwa 6903. A round, brown pencil with a white-painted cap and golden lettering. What a magnificent looking pencil, at least in my (subjective) opinion. I am not really a fan of round pencils and prefer hexagonal pencils, probably because I don’t have to write using pencils for six hours in one go… Nevertheless, the elegant look of this pencil, the great combination of colours used, the lettering and, not so common for a Chinese pencil, the painted cap made this pencil the star of the shelf.

Quality

There was some disappointment when I sharpened the first 6903 a few days later, the cheapish looking red wood does take some of the magic of the pencil away. There are also some gold flecks on the pencil body near the lettering and the white cap could have been painted a bit better. The 6903 seems to have a slightly larger diameter than some other round pencils, like the Faber-Castell 9008, but compared to the 9008 the difference is less than 1mm.

Chung Hwa 6903 and Staedtler Mars Lumograph

Conclusion

Keeping in mind that this is not an expensive pencil, I paid ¥9.9 (~ £1; $1.55; €1.25) for a dozen, the 6903 provides excellent value for money. The graphite transfer between pages for text written with a 6903 HB is similar to the transfer that is occuring with a Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB, definitely worse than a Staedtler Wopex HB and definitely better than a Tombow Mono 100 HB. If you have a chance to get the Chung Hwa 6903 for a good price you should definitely give it a go.

 

I am quite happy with these pencils, but wish there was a better version, made of cedar wood, or at least something not so red. I’d be more than happy to pay extra for the better material.

 


Price: December 2011

Exchange rates: January 2012

The Chung Hwa Drawing Pencil 101 has been reviewed in a previous blog post.


Simbalion Graphic Pencils 3

Einszweidrei! im Sauseschritt
Läuft die Zeit, wir laufen mit.
(from Julchen by Wilhelm Busch, 1877)

It’s incredible how fast time is flying by. This blog started last November with a blog post about the Kuru Toga and now it is already more than a year old. In the first year there were altogether 65 blog posts. Now for some statistics: during the first year most visitor came from the USA, followed by the UK, then Germany, then Canada. In terms of numbers the visitors from these four countries, where more than 65% of all visitors came from, were followed by visitors from 106 other countries.

…but enough about statistics. Let’s talk about pencils!

Today I want to write about a pack of “graphic pencils” from Taiwan’s Lion Pencil Co., Ltd., better known as Simbalion. I bought this pack of pencils in December 2009 at Keyroad a shop on Shanghai’s FuZhou Road. If the name rings a bell, I mentioned it in my previous blog post about the Deli sharpener 0635. I never saw this brand in the West before. Have you seen Simbalion pencils in your country?

The pack contains twelve pencils with the grades 4H-H, F, HB, B-6B. My pencil came in an “easy to use easel box”, but this box has since been replaced and these pencil are now available in a new polypropylene case.

The Lion Pencil Company was established in 1956 and is one of Taiwan’s oldest stationery manufacturers. The Lion Pencil Company is proud of having invented the “art set”, but I am sure some other companies will lay claim to having invented the art set in the stationery context, too. Their Taiwanese factory is in Taipei county, but they also have a factory in Kunshan (Jiangsu province), very close to Shanghai and just next to Taicang, where Eisen has a factory.

In Taiwan the normal price for the new set of these pencils in a PP case is 120 NT$ ($ 3.95, £ 2.50, € 2.95). I paid much more for my old “easel box”, maybe because these pencils were imported into the Chinese mainland or maybe, this is only speculation and probably not the case, because the new set is from the factory in Kunshan. According to the labels and stamps on my pack it was produced in the factory in Taipei county on 7th May 2009 – nice to get so much information 🙂

The pencils are nice, certainly not scratchy, but I do wonder about Simbalion’s grading. The H pencil from this pack is certainly the softest H pencil I have ever used and does feel softer than the HB pencil from the same pack. The print on the pencils is uneven in places and the end of the pencil has too much paint that is not evenly distributed.

Altogether a nice set of pencils for this price. The pencils are not scratchy or bad in any other way. My main criticism would be the unpredictable hardness or softness of the lead that does not seem to be consistent with the printing on the pencil.

Conclusion

Nothing too fancy, nothing too bad – you get what you paid for as long as you pay not more than the official price.

 

 


Price and exchange rates: November 2010

I would like to thank Kevin Davis from O’Bon for the sugarcane paper used in these photos.


Deli pencil sharpener 0635 9

If you ever go to Shanghai you should visit FuZhou Road. This road is famous for its book stores (including the Shanghai Foreign Language Bookstore), but you will also find many stationery shops there. After seeing the sheer number of different stationery shops, focussing mainly on calenders, note books, diaries, tools used for Chinese calligraphy (like brushes, paper, inkstones) and stationery, you might be disappointed when you actually want to buy stationery: the choice is smaller than expected because many of the shops sell exactly the same items. Other places in Shanghai that sell stationery are big supermarkets (Carrefour, E-mart) or small stationery shops you can normally find near universities.

Keyroad, a relatively new shop on FuZhou Road, is offering items quite different to those offered in the more old-fashioned stationery shops nearby. Targeting Japanophile students, only about half of the space is used for stationery, the other half is used for things like mugs, gloves, toys, etc. Most of these other items are for girls, quite expensive, cute and conjure up associations with Japan, Korea or Taiwan.

There is even a prism sharpener for oil and wax based pencils

The selection of sharpeners was not overwhelming, with the focus on cute looking sharpeners, but to my delight I found a rotary sharpener for only ¥ 25 (£ 2.40, € 2.70, $ 3.70). It is model 0635 from Deli, a stationery manufacturer established in 1988 and employing more than 2000 staff. The sharpener has one burr cylinder and even includes a spring-driven holder for the pencil. There is no desk clamp and no regulator for sharpness or point, but I do not think anybody would mind at this price.

Faber-Castell Bonanza 1320 B

The waste container even includes a prism sharpener in case you need to sharpen oil or wax based pencils as they are not suitable for rotary sharpeners. The manual of the sharpener is in Chinese and English, but the English is rather poor and difficult to understand.

The 0635 has one burr cylinder

Performance:

Performance-wise the Deli 0635 is excellent. The point is very long, even longer than one from a KUM Automatic Long Point. This is a problem for pencils with very soft graphite leads, for colour pencils or for pencil users who use a lot of pressure when writing or drawing, as the point might brake easily. I have not yet had any problems with the point of graphite leads braking, but I stopped using the Deli 0635 with colour pencils. Even the ones with harder leads, like the Mitsubishi Vermilion and Prussian Blue will brake easily when writing if you are not very careful.

Conclusion:

This is an excellent sharpener at such a low price. As it is a cylindrical cutter it should last quite a while without getting blunt. More expensive sharpeners have a desk clamp and let you adjust whether you want a long or short point, but if you like a sharp point and do not want to clamp your sharpener (I assume most people don’t) the Deli 0635 offers fantastic value for money.

Point comparison (l-r): M+R grenade, Eisen 402, KUM Automatic Long Point, Deli 0635

Exchange rates: February 2010