Made in Japan

Dead gel refills

If they have been left unused for a while it is not uncommon for gel pens / gel refills to stop working properly.

Unfortunately, this means that the more pens you have in your rotation / are using at the same time, the more likely you are not using them enough. That’s just what happened to me.

Top to bottom: Schneider Gelion (in a Caran d’Ache 849), Zebra JSB (in a Holbein x Rotring 600 3 in 1), Stabilo pointVisco

In the case of my Holbein x Rotring multipen the Zebra refill was only two years old. The blue refill is perfectly fine. Being blue meant it got used regularly, but the red refill didn’t get used quite as much, so stopped working. I have replaced it now with a red Lamy refill. The new red colour is grey-ish as is common for ballpoint refills, but it shouldn’t dry out as fast as the vibrant red Zebra JSB refill.

The Gelion refill was older. I actually made a video at the time that shows how to use this refill in a Cara d’Ache 849 …but as the refill was idle for too long it also stopped working.

The final gel-like pen that stopped working recently was Stabilo’s pointVisco. It did survive very long though: I think I got my first pointVisco in 2008, but as I had a set of mixed colours, some of them just weren’t used as much, so stopped working.

There are some common tricks to try to revive gel pens and refills, e.g. putting them in hot water. I tried these trick, but was unsuccessful and have decided to say goodbye to these two refills and the pen.

Broken stationery surprise

Things can break – of course they can, but I was still surprised when a pen and an eraser, both not used much, broke.

Items can be ‘worn out’, but with good stationery you will usually have used up the item in question, or will have refilled it a few times, before that happens. Both items this blog post is about are from renowned manufacturers, so you don’t expect them to ‘wear out’ so soon.

Items can be misused, e.g. when excessive force is applied. The items in question were however treated carefully. The pen was always in a pen cup on my desk. It’s a pen cup I have used for many years, but that hasn’t been shown in the Pencil Pot of the Month series yet. The eraser has always been in a protected, padded compartment in the backpack I bring to work.

There can be manufacturing defects, but based on the reputation of the manufacturers and the specific mass-produced nature of the items that doesn’t seem likely.

The items in question are

  • an eraser from Mono. This is the version without writing on the sleeve so that it is permissible in Japanese exams
  • and a Schneider Slider Xite. One of the best looking and best writing ballpoint pens I know. The design is IMHO nearly on par with the uni-ball one. The uni-ball one is of course no ballpoint pen, but if we were to compare the look of the pens the uni-ball would only win narrowly because of the nicer clip and the matte plastic of the main body whereas the Schneider is produced with a less attractive glossy surface. Schneider’s Viscoglide ink is really great. If you haven’t tried it out yet, please consider doing so at the next opportunity.

Back to the topic of the two items breaking: The best explanation I can come up with is that there might be some sort of design or material flaw or the materials used got ‘exhausted’.

Please excuse the fibres / lint on the eraser ..nearly impossible to remove and based on the appearance the little fibres must be from my backpack. Why did it break? I’m not sure but my best guess is that at some point the eraser must have gotten a tiny crack that got bigger over time.

In the case of the Slider Xite I wonder if the biobased plastic is to blame on the early failure. As mentioned earlier, the pen was always in a pencil pot on my desk, so it shouldn’t have been exposed to any strong forces, e.g. during transportation. Interestingly enough the sticker on my pen says that the pen body is made from 90% biobased plastic. The current Schneider web site for the Slider Xite mentions however 70% biobased plastic in the pen body. Could it be that the plastic mix was changed because of issues with the plastic durability? Another hypothesis is that the pen was mishandled in the shop where and before I bought it ..and I didn’t notice until it was too late. In any case: some Sellotape stuck in the right place means that I will use this pen until the refill (original fill?) it came with will be used up.

A broken Orenz

If you read Bleistift blog regularly you might have noticed that I really like the Pentel Orenz. I think it’s the best sliding sleeve pencil since Staedtler’s Microfix.

The sliding sleeve works well and the pencil’s design is great, too, but unfortunately there is one weakness in the design that caused one of my Orenz mechanical pencils an issue: The metal clip is very close to the push button and there is only a very narrow strip of plastic to hold it in place. This narrow strip of plastic is will have to bear the brunt of any outward pressure the springiness of the clip cannot handle.

If you regularly clip the pencil onto slightly thicker pockets (or notebooks etc) the plastic will weaken over time and will eventually break off. In my case I regularly carry the Orenz in a pen pocket on my jacket. The pen pocket is not that thick, but apparently thick enough to cause this issue.

If you are squeamish please look away, the following photos, showing pencil mutilations, are not a sight for the faint hearted.

When the plastic from my Orenz broke off I didn’t initially notice as I was in a meeting. I just noticed that, when holding the pencil, the clip seems to be very loose.

Some closer inspection revealed the true horror and damage, though.

Here is a comparison how this looks like on an undamaged Orenz.

Please keep your Orenzes safe…


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

ippo! x MONO

Thanks to Shangching from East…West…Everywhere my family got a parcel with some nice stationery surprises and our son, and by extension I, were able to try out Tombow’s ippo! pencils for school children as well as the corresponding eraser.

My understanding is that the pencils from this set aim at being easily erasable, so they have soft leads that produced nice, dark lines and the special eraser makes it easy for kids to erase any mistakes cleanly and nice, making the page ready for the next attempt.

Like many other Tombow pencils, the ippo! pencils, this set came with two in red, two in blue, two in yellow, are all made in Vietnam. The eraser was manufactured in Japan.

Hats off to Tombow, this set definitely achieves what (I think) it set out to do.

The eraser performs very similar to other dust free erasers, but feels softer, so makes for pleasant erasing. The pencils, being (Japanese) 2B, are very soft. The softness of the lead will probably help in making the user press less hard, so the writing is more likely to be on top of the paper whereas a harder lead might have made the user press down more, resulting in compressed paper where the line was. No compressed paper -> no deep lines, which will still be visible after erasing as a sort of crevice on the page -> the erased area looks very clean.

I also like the fact that the eraser sleeve is perforated, so you can easily shorten it when the eraser gets used up.

Compared to another dust free eraser on paper from the Monocle by Leuchtturm notebook

Overall a very nice pencil and eraser set. Similar to other Kakikata pencils the pencils have an area for labelling with your name and are uncapped.