Made in Switzerland

Nespresso + Caran d’Ache

Thanks to Pen Heaven I was able to get my hands on a Nespresso + Caran d’Ache fixpencil for the purpose of writing a review.

Cooperations, like the one between Nespresso and Caran d’Ache, often use the letter “x” between the two company names, but Nespresso and Caran d’Ache have opted for the use of the “+” instead, so I will follow their approach.

Before the Fixpencil arrived I expected to see a lead holder that is basically the same as the standard Caran d’Ache (CdA) Fixpencil, just in a different colour, but to my surprise there were several unexpected, but noticeable, if small, differences.

First up: the pen itself.

The surface of the pen, or rather the paint, is less smooth that the other CdA Fixpencils I have handled so far. This surface is not too rough for your fingers and feels pleasant to use. The colour is imitating the aluminium look of the Nespresso coffee capsules.

My pen had three small indentation on the body that don’t seem to belong there. I assume this is a one-off quality control issue.

This Fixpencil is most likely not the only CdA made from recycled aluminium, as mentioned in my previous Nespresso bog post, so I assume the issue with the dents is not a direct result of using recycled aluminium. The dents could probably have occurred with any CdA Fixpencil or other hexagonal aluminium pen, like the 849 and I wouldn’t expect to to be common.

The packaging states that the pen is "made from Nespresso recycled aluminium equivalent to one capsule"

The packaging states that the pen is made from Nespresso recycled aluminium equivalent to one capsule. A very specific claim and as mentioned before I will believe this claim despite some of CdA’s previous claims that were misleading.

When I first used this lead holder I thought the pen feels lighter or ‘hollower’. After using the pen a few times I must have gotten used to it as I don’t notice this anymore, A quick trip to the scales confirmed the initial impression, though: The Fixpencil 22 and the Fixpencil 884 (Junior) both weigh 11.75g, while the Nespresso + Caran d’Ache edition weighs 11.05g.

Top to bottom: Fixpencil 884 (Junior), Nespresso + CdA, Fixpencil 22

The internal mechanism also came as a surprise. The mechanism is the same as in the currently available Fixpencil 884 (Junior). I write “currently available” as the 884 might have contained a different mechanism in the past, but I am not able to verify this.

The use of the 884’s mechanism also means that the Nespresso’s push button does not come with an (emergency) sharpener. As shown on the photo above, the push button is the end of an internal plastic pipe.

Next: the lead

To me the Nespresso lead is a big let down. The packaging states that the lead is “partly produced with Nespresso recycled coffee grounds”.

Weight-wise the lead is similar to the CdA Technograph lead, but the surface looks very different: rough and matt instead of smooth and shiny.

This is an interesting idea, but unfortunately, the lead doesn’t write very well, unless you are keen on faint pencil lines. If wonder if those coffee grounds would have had a better use if they were used as fertiliser. Depending on the paper you write on this issue is more or less pronounced, but for me the Nespresso lead’s attributes are nowhere near as desirable as the Technograph’s.

Top: CdA Teachnograph lead, bottom: Nespresso + CdA lead

The lead feels smooth on most paper, but produced a very light line on paper, much lighter than what you would get from Faber-Castell for example. I mention Faber-Castell because the lines produced by their leads are already very light compared to other, like Staedtler for example. Pressing harder when writing with the Nespresso lead won’t help with producing a darker line, i.e. the lead has a high pressure insensitivity.

When you sharpen the lead to a fine point it also seems to break easier than the Technograph lead. To some extent this behaviour reminds me of the Wopex lead, just that the Nespresso lead provides a much worse writing experience. I haven’t had a chance yet to use the Nespresso wood-cased pencil and I doubt I will find someone IRL who owns some and let me try, but based on Pencil Talk’s review of the Nespresso Swiss Wood Pencils, which doesn’t mention the issues I encountered, I wonder if the lead in the Nespresso Fixpencil is worse than the one from the Nespresso pencils.

A side point, but just in case you wonder: the Nespresso lead weighs the same as the Technograph lead.

Overall, this is a nice lead holder with a good, sturdy build. It would have been nice if this Fixpencil came with the same mechanism as the Fixpencil 22. The higher price than normal Fixpencil is due to the fact that this is a Limited Edition – funnily enough that links strongly to Kiwi-D’s and Koralatov’s comments on my previous blog post.


You can find another review of this pencil at The Gentleman Stationer.

Caran d’Ache 849 Claim Your Style

The latest addition to my Caran d’Ache 849 Claim Your Style collection has arrived. I couldn’t resist getting a turquoise one myself after getting one for my wife earlier this year and seeing how beautiful the colour looks. To properly claim it as my style it is again engraved with a computer-related font. The Pen Company did another excellent job with their free engraving. I’m also always amazed how quick they are. I ordered it in the afternoon and it arrived the next morning, engraved exactly how I wanted it.

Funnily enough, just this week The Well-Appointed Desk just posted a review of the 849 in exactly this colour. The Pen Addict also reviewed this colour in the past.

I fed my new 849 with Schneider’s Slider 755 XB – extra broad and blue. A very smooth refill that offers a lot of line variation compared to normal ballpoint refills, but that, of course, doesn’t lay done a line quite as nice and saturated as a gel refill.

Last year I made two videos about the 849 which might be of interest to you.

One about using gel refills…

…and one that is more generic.

E wie edelweiss

Today: a Swiss pencil, the Caran d’Ache edelweiss.

Caran d’Ache’s cheaper pens

The edelweiss is, as far as I know, Caran d’Ache’s cheapest full-length pen [1]The 1/2 length pencil 541.272 must be their cheapest pen.. By the way, Edelweiss is not only the English but also the Swiss spelling of Edelweiß because unlike in Germany and Austria the ß is not used in Switzerland. Outside Switzerland, Caran d’Ache is mainly known for their luxury writing instruments, but they also sell what I would call “office supply priced” stationery. I paid € 0.60 (~ $0.78; £0.48) each for the edelweiss pencils. Their other “office supply priced” stationery includes ballpoint pens which start at just under CHF 2 (~ $2.15; €1.65; £1.30).

 

Then and now

Caran d’Ache’s history goes back to 1915 when a pencil company was established that, nine years later, was bought by Arnold Schweitzer and became Caran d’Ache. The company name is linked to the Russian word for pencil – but I won’t go into more details: since you are reading pencil blogs you have probably heard this story before.

I tried to find out more about the history of the edelweiss pencil but was unsuccessful as Caran d’Ache did not reply to my request for information. I do hope that it will be possible to find out more about the edelweiss and their other products in the future, as the company’s new boss Carole Hübscher is said to want to “communicate actively”, unlike her father who run the company before her and who only gave one interview in 30 years.

I hope Caran d’Ache will continue to make cheap stationery but am not too optimistic about this in the long-term as their cheap products are, with a few exceptions, only available in Switzerland and even there it’s easy to find stationery shops that don’t stock Caran d’Ache pencils but those from other manufacturers. The future of Caran d’Ache and its 300 employees seems to be with high end writing instruments and boutiques like the one opened recently in Geneva.

 

The pencils

The edelweiss pencils are nice writers, but definitely less smooth than Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils of the same grade (F, HB, 3B). Ghosting/graphite transfer between pages is good, comparable to other European pencils, with the edelweiss HB maybe performing a little bit better than Mars Lumograph of the same grade, but the F and 3B edelweiss performing a bit worse than the Mars Lumographs of the same grade. Personally, I’m partial to F pencils as they tend to keep their point for a long time without their marks being too light on paper, so I like to use them for writing in situations when sharpening a pencil too often would be odd, or when I write in a book or diary [2]When it comes to ghosting/graphite transfer the Wopex is even better than a grade F pencil..

The paintwork and print are well done with only minor issues of chipped off paint near the unfinished cap. The current version has a black barcode printed on the pencil. The wood seems to be cedar and the pencils are easy to sharpen.

I couldn’t resist and had to put something stereotypical Swiss in the photo

 

Conclusion

The edelweiss provides very good value for money – if you can get your hands on this pencil that is rather rare outside Switzerland.

Sharpened with a Deli 0635. Pencils not rotated while writing…


I bought these pencils in November 2011 from Stilus BSA for € 0.60 each. The price has not changed since then (September 2012).

Price: November 2011/September 2012

Exchange rate: September 2012

 

You can find a review of the edelweiss at pencil talk and a blog post at Lung sketching Scrolls.

Brand name pencils has a photo of the old version of the edelweiss.

References

References
1 The 1/2 length pencil 541.272 must be their cheapest pen.
2 When it comes to ghosting/graphite transfer the Wopex is even better than a grade F pencil.