“Made in France”

The BIC Matic Classic 0.7mm

BIC Matic Classic

Introduction

Today: A mechanical pencil from France, the BIC Matic Classic 0.7mm. Probably their most simple pencil [1]On the high-end of BIC’s spectrum you’d find the BIC AI and the BIC Rondo, which has been removed from local shops and from their catalogue, so I assume you will only be able to get the … Continue reading. It’s main advantages, according to the packaging (click on the images of the packaging to enlarge, the thumbnails are rather small):

  • No need to sharpen and
  • Writes 2x nore than a graphite pencil.

 

Value for money

In April I bought a pack with three pencils in my local Morrisons (a supermarket chain from the North of England) for £1.50 (~$2.30; €1.75). £1.50, that’s very cheap – per pencil it’s cheaper than a typical, branded woodcased pencil. If you by the Matic in bulk you can get it even cheaper (i.e. ridiculously cheap). Other lead diameters (0.5 mm and 0.9 mm) and other looks (e.g. a girly, dotted version) are also available.

Matic Colours

 

About the BIC Matic

BIC Matic ClassicThe clip colours of the “default version” currently on sale in Europe remind  me very much of Lamy’s limited edition colours Aquamarine and Lime [2]The Lamy pens in these colours sell extremely well and are sought after. The BIC colours don’t match the Lamy colours exactly, but without a direct comparison they look pretty similar.. The colours used for the clips seem to have changed since this pencil has been reviewed by Pencil Revolution and Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, but the reason for the colour change might be geographical rather than temporal. I haven’t used this pencil in the past, but my pencils’ erasers perform very well, unlike Dave’s specimens. This could indicate that the quality of the eraser might have improved …or the quality of the eraser might vary depending on the origin of the pencil [3]It seems to be produced (or has been produced) in at least four different countries..

These pencils don’t seem to be as common in the UK or Germany as they are in the USA or New Zealand …or France, I noticed this pencil in the French TV series Spiral (Engrenages).

Tintin using a BIC Matic (Image © Son et Lumière)
Tintin using a BIC Matic (Image © Son et Lumière)

I’ve often seen similar looking, but different, pencils with a similar grip section supplied as no name stationery in offices or supplied as freebies usually with company logos printed on them, but the BIC Matic isn’t a common sight here.

The Matic and the Noris

Looking at them my first thought was that they’d be uncomfortable to hold because they are so slim, but actually they aren’t. With more than 8.0 mm at the grip section and more than 7.5 mm at the at the body their diameter is bigger than that of typical hexagonal pencils (7 mm edge to edge, 7.5 mm vertex to vertex).

 

Writing 2x moreWrites 2x more

What about the claim that this pencil writes 2x more than a graphite pencil? This might be an accurate claim for many users, but will largely depend on how you use your pencils [4]I’m taking the softness of the lead out of the equation. The provided lead seems to be a standard lead which behaves like many other HB leads). The length of the three leads per Matic added together is twice the length of the lead in a woodcased pencil. The “2x claim” is actually the same on the 0.5 mm and on the 0.9 mm version of BIC’s mechanical pencil, so it’s probably based on the overall length of the leads provided.

In reality your use would determine how much of the graphite you’re actually using. If you sharpen your woodcased pencil a lot you might not even use all of the central 0.7 mm of the lead, but if you don’t sharpen that often and rotate the pencil you might be using more than the central 0.7 mm of your pencil’s lead.

Arnaud, the intern, using a BIC Matic (Image © Son et Lumière)
Arnaud, the intern, using a BIC Matic (Image © Son et Lumière)

 

Want to double the 2x more?

If you see the statement “writes 2x more” as a personal challenge that you want to top this paragraph will explain what you need to do to double the BIC Matic‘s 2x writing with a normal, woodcased pencil. The trick is to use as much of the central part of the lead as possible. The central part you use should have a diameter of at least 1 mm. Done? Congratulations. You have now used twice as much of the lead (0.385 mm3 per mm of lead for the Matic compared to 0.785 mm3 for the woodcased pencil). In the following picture you can see a Black feet Indian Pencil with a diameter of more than 1 mm for the “unused” part of the “lead cone”. By rotating the pencil after every few words of writing the average writer should easily be able to produce a line of about 0.4 mm width, or even less if you rotate the pencil more often.  You also wouldn’t want to waste graphite when sharpening, so if you really want to increase your use the graphite you could a sharpener with a point adjuster to avoid removing graphite from the central part of the lead [5]A great discussion of the percentage of graphite used in a woodcased pencil can be found at Lexikaliker.. A suitable sharpener is the Deli 0668 – other sharpeners with point adjusters are available from DUX, M+R, Dahle, Carl and other manufacturers. Finally, to avoid wasting the last few centimetres of the pencil: use a pencil extender.

Blackfeet point

There’s another argument in favour of the woodcased pencil: the typical mechanical pencil can’t use the last centimetre or so of a lead, just because of the way the grip mechanism works. You can find more information about this at Lexikaliker. Thanks to Sean‘s help I got my hand on a few Staedtler Integrity pencils a few years ago. The Integrity wastes less then 2 mm of the lead (the Matic wastes about 11 mm) [6]Unfortunately I didn’t succeed in using the Integrity to use up short bits of lead, feeding it already short bits of lead doesn’t really work.

Laure using an orange notepad (Image © Son et Lumière)
Précédemment dans Engrenages: Laure using an orange notepad (Image © Son et Lumière)

Since I mentioned Engrenages before and this blog post has a French theme: Laure, the main character in Engrenages is using an orange notepad, but unfortunately it’s none of the three I have shown in this blog (except the Rhodia there’s the Carrefour one and the Oxford one). I wonder how many how many people in France use the BIC Matic and how many different orange A7 notepads there are in France …

 


Price: April 2013

Exchange rates: June 2013

I’d like to thank Sean for the Blackfeet Indian Pencil seen in this blog post.

The screenshots in this blog post have been taken from episode 7 and episode 9 of the third season of Son et Lumière’s Engrenages. I believe that the use of the screenshots shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

 

References

References
1 On the high-end of BIC’s spectrum you’d find the BIC AI and the BIC Rondo, which has been removed from local shops and from their catalogue, so I assume you will only be able to get the Ballgraf version from now on.
2 The Lamy pens in these colours sell extremely well and are sought after. The BIC colours don’t match the Lamy colours exactly, but without a direct comparison they look pretty similar.
3 It seems to be produced (or has been produced) in at least four different countries.
4 I’m taking the softness of the lead out of the equation. The provided lead seems to be a standard lead which behaves like many other HB leads
5 A great discussion of the percentage of graphite used in a woodcased pencil can be found at Lexikaliker.
6 Unfortunately I didn’t succeed in using the Integrity to use up short bits of lead, feeding it already short bits of lead doesn’t really work

Oxford’s Rhodia-style notepads

You might remember my blog post about the Carrefour Bloc-notes. Today I want to talk about another Rhodia-style notepad, the Oxford Bloc [1]I’m not sure what the official name is. There is a similar products, the Bloc Idéa, which seems to have the same format and the same 80g satiné extra blanc Optik Paper, but the cover of the … Continue reading. I bought this notepad for €1.05 (~ $1.39; £0.85) at J. A. Hofmann Nachfolger in Würzburg, Germany. I haven’t seen it in any other brick and mortar shop yet, but I have seen several online shops that sell this notepad.

The company

Despite the British-sounding name Oxford belongs to Groupe Hamelin, a French manufacturer of paper and stationery with roots that go back to 1864 and with plants in nine countries.

Rhodia Oxford Carrefour

Just like the Rhodia and the Carrefour notepads this notepad is made in France and just like the Rhodia and the Carrfour notepad, the Oxford notepad is held together by a staple, too, and features a orange fold-around cover. The notepad is available in the same common formats – the one on the photo is the 74 x 105mm version.

The paper

The paper feels less yellow and more purple than the Rhodia paper and less grey than the Carrefour paper. The grid printed on the paper is similar to the one on Rhodia paper, much less blurry than the Carrefour grid. The paper feels very smooth – no wonder the name of the paper has satiné in it.

It is a fantastic paper for fountain pens and ink, the inks I tried don’t show through on the reverse side at all, even though one of the nibs was rather wet.  For pencils it is a different matter though. The paper is so smooth that the graphite from the point of the pencil doesn’t seem to want to stick to it as much as on most other paper. As a result the line from the pencil feels slightly lighter than on other paper. Lines also feel lighter than on the previously discussed Oxford Black n’ Red polynote notepad. Both Oxford products use Optik Paper, but the Black n’ Red’s paper has a density of 90 g/m², compared to the orange notepad’s 80 g/m². Just as with the Black n’ Red it is also easy to erase graphite from the Rhodia-style notepad’s paper, but there is a chance that you will still be able to see the indentation where the pencil line used to be.

 


Price and exchange rates: April 2012

As mentioned in the Black n’ Red blog post Hamelin / Oxford doesn’t react to query sent through their web site’s “Contact Us” form, therefore I’m unable to provide more information about the Optik Paper used.

References

References
1 I’m not sure what the official name is. There is a similar products, the Bloc Idéa, which seems to have the same format and the same 80g satiné extra blanc Optik Paper, but the cover of the Bloc Idéa is different