“Made in France”


When I bought the Chinese New Year pens from BIC I also put a few more items in the basket to get free shipping. One of them was the BIC Silver Set: Seven silver-ish pens and a silver-ish notebook. The official UK price is £16.99 (~$22.70; €20.50). I saw which pens will be included, but didn’t know what to expect in terms of material. Will some of them have a metal body?

In case you wonder: all of the pens are plastic-y, none have a metal body. The 2mm Criterium lead holder would have been amazing with a metal body – a bit like the Caran d’Ache Fixpencil 884. The American made marking pencil is quite interesting. You can use it to mark any(?) surface with nice, opaque silver-grey paint – good to label black plastic or metal.

I really like that the packaging shows where the different pens are from.

Price and exchange rates: March 2022


My father was a joiner. When he used to make plans for customers he always used to label them with this stencil. I think this stencil is one of the earliest things I remember from his workshop. He used it until he retired, when he was in his seventies.

A few years ago I decided to take it with me to the UK. At that time it was still in perfect shape. I kept it in a plastic bag for a few years and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I took it out of the bag recently. The stencil was completely deformed and the surface was very oily. I assume something from the plastic bag somehow interacted with the plastic form the stencil.

What a shame. I put some heavy books on, in the hope that it will help get the stencil at least a little bit back into shape, but I am not too confident that this will work.

The label reads BILLOGRAPHE №4 (bille fine) MINERVA FRANCE

It looks as if these are still being made, at least in some sizes, but they seem to be extremely difficult to get hold of outside France [1]In Germany Standardgraph, which you might know because of their DUX sharpeners, is selling similarly coloured stencils – not only letters, also stencils to make plans of rooms, etc..



1 In Germany Standardgraph, which you might know because of their DUX sharpeners, is selling similarly coloured stencils – not only letters, also stencils to make plans of rooms, etc.

Pierre Henry file boxes

I feel like this is a ‘Soennecken’ blog post. As mentioned in a previous blog post he invented the ring binder and the hole punch, two items mentioned in this blog post. Even though Soennecken is not very famous outside Germany they are still around and you can still buy their pencil and mechanical pencils.


Ring binders

Ok, on to the real blog post. I used to store all my bills, invoices and other important documents in folders / ring binders. This somehow, should I say because of my laziness, ended up in me collecting letters for weeks or months and then filing them away in one big session that involved lots of hole punching and sorting.

After the last ‘filing away session’ I was wondering why I go through all that effort if I hardly ever look up what I have filed away. If I change my energy supplier or switch to another credit card I will shred all the carefully sorted pages anyway, probably without ever having looked up a single document.

Wouldn’t a system be better where I can just drop’ documents, even if looking things up might take a bit longer?

Made in France
Made in France

Filing boxes

That reminded me of a filing box I had seen in Aldi several weeks earlier, but I didn’t need one at the time. I remembered that they were cheap, made from metal and made in France. A quick look on the Internet  made me find them online: These were filing boxes by Pierre Henry, a brand I wasn’t familiar with. Looking a bit more I found that these were just on offer at Staples. One A4 file box was only £12.49 (~$19.65; €17.60) (and still is).


Fast storage, slow retrieval

No hole punching involved. You just drop your documents in the right bit of your suspension files. It’s quicker, but if you want access to a specific document it takes a bit longer to get it out. It’s a bit like the good old magnetic core memory: storing information is quick, but retrieving information takes a bit longer – unlike my previous solution, ring binders, which are more like MiniDiscs: storing information is complicated, but reading it is easy …or to use a more stationery related analogy: it’s like cursive versus block letter: cursive is faster to write, but reading it takes longer.

The label roll from the previous blog post
The label roll from the previous blog post

Suspension files

For my purpose the file boxes came with a few, but not with enough suspension files. Staples’ suspension files were quite expensive, so I bought some from eBay instead. Unfortunately half of my order was the wrong size: foolscap instead of A4, but luckily the seller sent the right size after I contacted them. If you don’t live in a country where foolscap is being used you might have come across it in the Sherlock Holmes books. I think this is where I first came across it.


As mentioned earlier I bought the metal file boxes from Staples. They promised next day delivery to my local Staples, but somehow it was Monday before they arrived, not Saturday as promised.

Some good offers in Staples
Some good offers in Staples

Stationary in a stationery store
Stationary in a stationery store

So far I’m very happy with my new way of storing documents. I got a 30% off voucher from Staples after my first order. The voucher expires tomorrow. I wonder whether I should get some more metal file boxes.


Price and exchange rates: June 2015

Happy Bastille Day!

Today is another national day. This time: France’s Bastille Day.

Of course I had to get a French pencil out. Many of my BIC pencils are made in China, but this one, the BIC Evolution 646HB/n°2 is made in France.

…and of course I had to sharpen it with a French knife.

Bastille Day

BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK


SBIC ecolutions evolution BLACK

BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK packagingToday: another pencil from France. This time it’s an eco pencil, the BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK. It’s a really good looking eco pencil with gold lettering on a dark grey, slightly metallic looking body. I paid £1.49 (~$2.35; €1.80) for a set with four pencils from a local supermarket.

When I first saw the packaging I was sceptical – it looks good, but does it write well? Most eco pencils don’t write very well, with the Wopex and paper-rolled pencil being the only exceptions I find usable.


Similar pencils

“Relatives” of this pencil have been reviewed at pencil talk and Lexikaliker. Unsurprisingly the BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK seems to be very similar to these pencils. The box indicates that it’s made form 55% recycled material and looking closer this seems to be an extruded pencil with an aerated casing. The pencils seem to have more air bubbles in the centre of the body, near the lead.

...with the Dux Bio sharpener, a Wopex and a Silvine notebook
…with the Dux Bio sharpener, a Wopex and a Silvine notebook


The sharpener used

I thought an eco pencils deserved a suitable sharpener, so I tried out the Dux Bio, a sharpener being advertised as 100% compostable and made from 80% renewable resources – even though I think it might be biodegradable rather than compostable, i.e. it the sharpener probably doesn’t turn into humus .

BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK

A quick word about the Dux Bio, also known as the DX5907. It’s a great sharpener that produces an even point with an angle of ~24°, even on difficult to sharpen pencils. I actually tried to get my hands on one for a while, but wasn’t able to find it anywhere. In the end (about 18 months ago) Dux was kind enough to send me one.


Using this pencil

Sharpening this pencil is fairly easy for a pencil with a body made from recycled material other than paper. The graphite core looks similar to that of a traditional pencil, but when looking at a sharpened point the graphite seems to be more reflective. BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK

The BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK produced a fairly light line – so light that it is tempting to press harder, especially if the point has been used for a while and the line is wider. Unlike a more traditional pencil pressing harder doesn’t however result in a darker line – or should I say the causal relation between pressing harder and producing a darker line is not as obvious as it is with a normal pencil.BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK



Overall it’s not bad for a recycled pencil. It’s certainly much better than the recycled pencils made by Remarkable, but even though it’s easy to sharpen it doesn’t produce a line as good as the Wopex.

BIC ecolutions evolution BLACK

Price and exchanges rates: September 2013