Made in Belgium


The Lyra Temagraph and the Eisen 480 9

I guess I should stick to pencils, the clam clips blog post really wasn’t popular, so here’s a new blog posts about a pencil and a sharpener/eraser combo. The pencil side of today’s post is, to some extent, linked to an earlier blog post about the Amos Dixon Ticonderoga and to pencil talk’s blog post about Fila’s global pencils. I’ll be writing about Lyra’s Temagraph. The sharpener side of the post is linked to an earlier post about the Eisen 402.

A Temagraph next to a Ticonderoga

A Temagraph next to a Ticonderoga

 

The Lyra Temagraph

Temagraph

Assumed origin: from Greek thema + -graph: An instrument for writing about a topic, theme or proposition

The Temagraph has been available for some time now, but in the past it was only available under the Fila brand name. You can see pictures of the old Fila Temagraph at Lápis and Pencils and at pencil talk. After Fila (Italy) bought Dixon (USA) and Lyra (Germany) they started ‘adjusting’ their products, including the Temagraph. The Temagraph suddenly started to look pretty much like the Dixon Ticonderoga (metallic green font on a yellow pencil) and is now marketed1 as a Lyra pencil, rather than as a Fila pencil.

Look

Two sides of the pencil are a labelled. The Temagraph side is labelled in metallic green. Opposite is the barcode side, labelled in black. The Temagraph has a end cap similar to the Noris, indicating lead hardness, but with a straight line around the corners.

Material

The FSC code on the packaging doesn’t leave any doubt about the Temagraph being linked to the Ticonderoga. The certificate is linked to the Beijing Fila Dixon Stationery Co., Ltd2 and shows that the pencil is made using Tilia spp., which includes many species of linden trees (also called lime trees or basswood).

The barcode side of the Temagraph and the Eisen 480

The barcode side of the Temagraph and the Eisen 480

Availability

Even though it is officially a Lyra pencil (and Lyra is/was a German brand) I have never seen this pencil in any shop in Germany. It dos however seem to be more popular in Fila’s home country Italy. When looking for the Temagraph on Amazon UK I could only find Italian sellers offering this pencil. Mine are from a local shop in Germany. They didn’t stock any, but a few years ago I asked them to order a few for me.

Performance

The Temagraph feels fairly smooth and puts down a very dark line. As you might have guessed from the fact that it’s a dark line – the lead rather soft, which means that point retention is not as good as it is with a normal pencil. In my case that means that I’m happy to use the Temagraph for writing the occaional sentence (think calendar entries), but I wouldn’t want to use it write a lot as it would need sharpening too often.

The Eisen 480 taken apart

The Eisen 480 taken apart

The Eisen 480

I sharpened the Temagraph with Eisen’s model 480. The Eisen 480 sharpens with an angle of approx. 21°. It’s a container sharpener that comes with an eraser, to some extent similar to the Faber-Castell Sharpener-eraser pen 18 44 01. The container for the shavings can be rotated and will lock in one of two positions: sharpener accessible and sharpener closed, to prevent shavings from falling out.

What an excellent point

What an excellent point

The eraser comes with a lid and fits exactly under the lid. Eraser performance is good. It’s a TPR (thermoplastic rubber) eraser that produces strands that roll together, to some extent similar to a dust-free eraser, but not as extreme, but eraser performance overall is no match for the excellent performance of the sharpener, which produces a nice, continuous strand of shavings with a thickness of about 0.2 mm. The blade is made in Baiersdorf, the container is made in Taicang, where assembly takes place, and the eraser is bought in.

 


You can find out more about the Temagraph at Lexikaliker.

The grey background in the photos (except the last photo) is from Atoma’s Alain Bertreau notebook. I placed the items in the A4 version of this notebook.

I bought the Temagraph in Germany, but can’t remember how much I paid for them.

I have received the Eisen 480 as a free sample from Eisen. Mr. Leistner provided further information. I don’t believe that, when I received the sample, Eisen was aware that I have a blog. I also don’t believe that not having paid for this sharpener has influenced my opinion of the sharpener in any way.

  1. It’s advertising includes promises such as “The best designers choose the excellent lines of Temagraph pencils.” and “The best illustrators choose the clean line left by Temagraph pencils! Superior quality, gold series, fine graphite for clean-cut lines, Temagraph pencils come with an extra-resistant and easy to sharpen and original green metal band indicating the grade.” Despite this promise the green band isn’t made from metal. I’m also not sure though what the green band is resistant to, why you would want to sharpen it. The green band doesn’t indicate the grade either. I’m not sure whether the best illustrators really choose the Temagraph, so like with a lot of advertising I choose not to believe this until I see proof supporting this statement. []
  2. Timberlines has further information about the Chinese manufacturer of these pencils. []

Atoma vs. M by Staples’ Arc 44

About Atoma

I tried to get hold of an Atoma notebook for a while now. Atoma notebooks are quite common in Belgium where they were first produced in 1948. Despite their popularity in their home country they are not very well known outside Belgium, not even in the neighbouring countries. I haven’t seen them in shops in the UK or Germany and some Dutch friends I asked haven’t seen them in the Netherlands either. No wonder: 80% of more than a million notebooks produced every year stay in Belgium. The company behind Atoma did not extend their patent when it expired in the Nineties, so copies are now available from many companies: There’s Levenger’s Circa, Aurora’s Adoc, Clairefontaine’s Clairing, Elba’s Vario-Zipp, Staples’ Arc and there’s Rollabind.

Atoma

Arc

How do they work

The pages of the Atoma notebooks are being held together by plastic discs. The discs are holding the sheets of paper through special Atoma shaped ‘holes’1. You can remove sheets from the notebooks or swap the sheets around, just like you can in a ring binder. One advantage of this system over a ring binder is that the notebook can be folded over. Another advantage is that an Atoma notebook, compared to a ring binder, is using less space because you don’t need the surrounding folder. The ring binder will also take away space even if empty2. One disadvantage of the Atoma system is that you cannot label the spine of a notebook.

Atoma and Arc paper

Where to get them from

There are two shops in the UK selling Atoma notebooks: Craft & Party Direct and Manufactum, but I didn’t order my Atoma notebook from either of them. Craft & Party Direct charge a lot for shipping  and Koralatov and Iain pointed out that they had bad experiences when ordering from this company in the past. Manufactum charge too much for shipping, too, and they have a ridiculous conversion rate for their UK prices, charging UK customers 35% more than for exactly the same product from their other online shops – that is on top of their expensive prices in the first place. Manufactum’s other online shops in Europe are set up in such a way that UK customers cannot order from them – very annoying. This plus other bad experiences3 with them made me avoid Manufactum in this case. In the end I ordered my Atoma notebooks from the International School of Brussels (Link updated). The notebooks were only €2.50 (~ $3.07; £1.96) each and shipping to the UK was free, so I only paid €5 for the two notebooks I ordered. The same order with Craft & Party Direct would have cost me £10.45 (~ $16.40; €13.35), five times as much. Manufactum’s Atoma notebooks are made of more expensive materials, so a direct price comparison wouldn’t make sense. I also bought one of M by Staples’ Arc notebooks in my local Staples4. With a price tag of £5 (~ $7.85; €6.39) it was more than twice as expensive as an Atoma notebook.

The discs: Atoma in blue, Arc in black

Atoma versus Arc

The Atoma A5 notebook is made in Belgium and came with 72 sheets (144 pages) of “ink-loving 90g/m2 ledger paper”.

The A5 Arc notepad is made in China and came with 60 ruled sheets of 100g/m2 paper. I like the fact that it came with a name/index sheet, but I am not keen on the white border on each page.

There is a lot of choice when it comes to covers and cover material, for both, Atoma and Arc. The cover of the Atoma notebook I bought is made of cardboard, while the Arc cover is made of polypropylene.

The paper of the Atoma notebook is rougher. Writing on it is nice and the paper absorbs the ink quickly.  The surface of the Arc paper is smoother, but ink takes longer to dry than on the Atoma paper. The ink doesn’t show through the reverse of the Arc pages as much as it does on the Atoma paper, but both papers are suitable for ink.

The rings of the Arc notebook are bigger, which means they will probably be able to hold more sheets of paper, but that also makes the notebook bigger, even if you don’t use too many sheets of paper. Aesthetically I find the Atoma ring size nicer and more suitable for the number of sheets of paper these notebooks come with.

Atoma (left) and Arc (right) paper

Conclusion

Both notepad are nice. I like the disc binding mechanism as it has several advantages over ring binders. If I had to choose between the Atoma and the Arc I’d go for the Atoma notebook. Not because it’s cheaper, but partly because I am not a big fan of polypropylene covers and prefer the Atoma’s cardboard cover. I also prefer the size and therefore look of the Atoma’s discs. Paper-wise the Arc’s paper seems to be better quality than the Atoma’s paper, but I haven’t used it long enough to be sure. My last reason for preferring the Atoma is that I prefer sheets without such a big white border.


Prices and exchange rates: August 2012.

I would like to thank Sean for the Blackfeet Indian Pencil seen on the last photo.

  1. They aren’t really holes, but I’m not sure what to call them so that it’s obvious what they are. []
  2. By the way, the ring binder and the hole puncher were invented in 1886 by Soennecken, a company previously mentioned in this blog. []
  3. Delivered item not as described, security issues with their web site, … []
  4. I’ll refer to it as ‘Staples’ from now on, not as ‘M by Staples’ []