Made in Taiwan


More about the upcoming Noris 511 120 sharpener 2

The new sharpener on the block

When I saw the Noris 511 120 Sharpener, mentioned in the previous blog post, my first thought was that Helmut Hufnagl was probably involved in the development of this sharpener. Two reasons: like the 562 300 PB ruler it is suitable for left-handed users [1]no wonder Staedtler won an award for non-discriminatory corporate culture and like the 512 60C sharpener the 511 120 tries to provide a mess-free experience, thanks to the cap. The similarity to the Sonic Ratchetta is another thing to notice. The 511 120 , like the Ratchetta, has a ratchet mechanism. This also means you can sharpen without having to ‘regrab’ the pencil and it makes the sharpener easier to use for left-handed users. In the West, the Sonic Ratchetta seems to be more commonly available than other sharpeners of a similar design. Similar sharpeners are being sold under other names (Bostitch, Paperpro and more), but as far as I can tell the original version was not the Sonic Ratchetta but was the SDI Buggy, first released in 2013. (You have to watch that video!)

The maestro did it again

I feel lucky and privileged to have been able to not only get answers to my questions about this sharpener but to even some additional information, directly from Mr Hufnagl. As suspected this sharpener is really his brainchild and even though it is being produced at one of the two factories were Sonic Ratchettas/SDI Buggies, etc, are being made, the Noris 511 120 is a different product, i.e. has different specs.

Super 5 (top) vs Dex (bottom) the photo doesn’t help in understanding the differences

Super sharpener, Super 5

The whole ‘looks similar but is different’ situation reminds me a bit of the Super 5. The fantastic Super 5 fountain pen looks quite similar to Kingsley’s Dex and thanks to Scribble I found out that both of these, and also the Manuscript Master, use Helit bodies. These pens are however quite different in terms of ‘feel quality’ and even function: while the Dex feels cheap and plasticky the Super 5 is a great pen to use and has a very special nib. They are quite different even though both use Helit bodies. As mentioned previously, Helit is actually owned by Maped which brings us back to the topic of sharpeners: The 511 120 isn’t out yet, but I am looking forward to finding out how it will perform.

Testing

Mr Hufnagl asked different kinds of users to test the new sharpener. Doctors / GP practices and hairdressers were particularly impressed with this sharpener. Different employees were sharing pencils, e.g. to write down appointments, and ratchet mechanism made sharpening easy for left-handed users while the shape made the sharpener easy to clean (think Covid). Pupils from secondary schools also loved this sharpener.

I’m really looking forward to the 511 120. It certainly seems worthy of sporting the Noris’ colours and is a great addition to the Noris line in the Noris anniversary year.

Image © Staedtler

PS: You have to watch that video!

References

References
1no wonder Staedtler won an award for non-discriminatory corporate culture

The Confidant’s Secret

Today: a quick look at Baron Fig’s Confidant.

The Confidant and the Bleistiftverlängerer

Background

Like many people, I found out about Baron Fig’s 2013 Kickstarter from The Pen Addict podcast (it was episode 71). Back then the notebook didn’t have a name yet.

After the Kickstarter goal was reached the notebooks were sent out, got very good reviews and luckily Baron Fig kept making them post-Kickstarter and even created more products, becoming the Baron Fig company you see today.

Some of the early good reviews can be found at The Pen Addict (2014), Woodclinched (2014)The Well-Appointed Desk (2015) and even Cult of Mac (2014).

The European Perspective

I don’t think there’s is much I can add to the existing reviews in terms of new information, so instead I want to give you the European perspective on this notebook.

Importing and Shipping

The Baron Fig is difficult to get on this side of the pond. I haven’t found a shop selling it in the UK, but luckily shipping from the States is actually quite cheap. Postage for the $12 Confidant Pocket, for example, is only $2.95. This seems to be achieved by sending the notebooks through Germany (Field Notes send their notebooks through Sweden). The problem in the UK is that the moment you spend more than £15 you have to pay VAT [1]..but sometimes customs forget to charge you, which usually goes hand in hand with a hefty surcharge, how expensive depends on the carrier. When I was still living in Germany I was less often hit by these charges, but I don’t know whether this is still the case. The point here is that depending on which country you live in there might be unwanted extra charges if you order from the States.

The Count in Disguise

$12 (+$2.95) for a notebook, roughly A6 size [2]The Confidants are all a bit smaller than the equivalent A paper size, [3]..reminds me of the Lichtenberg drawing from this blog post. is not cheap, but once you look at this notebook’s competitors the price seems quite reasonable.

The Confidant on previous cloth bound notebooks

Cloth bound notebooks sell for a premium. They’re somehow even more expensive than leather bound notebooks. The closest competitor for the Confidant is probably the Linen Bound Notebook from the late Count’s [4]Usual disclaimer as mentioned in previous blog posts: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status … Continue reading Graf von Faber-Castell [5]Abbreviated: GvFC for easier reading. series, which you can see in this previous blog post.

The GvFC notebook and the Confidant

In fact, they are so similar, the Confidant is basically a version of the linen bound GvFC notebook with rounded edges and perforated pages (that’s where the title of this blog post comes in). I’m not sure whether this is accidental or a result of Baron Fig’s Kickstarter approach of  ‘asking people all over the world what they like in a notebook’. The GvFC notebook has been around for a while [6]I am not sure when it came out. I got my first one in 2010, so some of the people asked might have suggested features based on the GvFC item.

In terms of similarities: both, the Confidant and the GvFC notebook are cloth bound and probably [7]I am not 100% sure. The Baron Fig Kickstarter mentioned 100g/m2 paper, but in an email I got from Baron Fig they mention 90g/m2 paper. use 100g/m2 paper. I have mentioned two of the differences already: the Confidant has rounded edges and perforated edges. Other differences are: the Confidant has more paper to choose from (dot grid, blank, ruled), the GvFC notebook has more colours to choose from (five different linen colours), the bookmark is different (width and colour) and most importantly: the price is different – quite different.

 ConfidantGvFC
A4 / plus$22£30 (~$39)
A5 / flagship$18£25 (~$32)
A6 7 pocket$12£20 (~$26)

My experience

My Confidant is well made, but not as well made as the Graf von Faber-Castell notebook. Inside: mine has some materials/bubbles under the paper inside the lid, making it uneven. Outside: the cloth isn’t tight around the spine and some pages were not separated properly, as you can see in the video below. Stephen from Pencil Talk had the same problem with his Flagship (A5) Confidant [8]Mine is the Pocket one (A6). .

One way of looking at his would be to say that it shouldn’t happen to a small notebook that costs $12, but on the other hand, the similar GvFC notebook costs more than twice that amount, so the Confidant still seems good value for money.

First I thought my notebook doesn’t lie flat, a problem also described by Discover Analog, but then I realised that the Baron Fig description of ‘Opens Flat’ [9]Found at the bottom of https://www.baronfig.com/pages/confidantbuy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this page. refers to the pages being flat enough to write on, it doesn’t mean that the covers should lie flat on the table.

One more thing to mention about the paper: Andi Talarico from Baron Fig told me that the Vanguard and the Work/Play II use Baron Fig’s new upgraded paper, while the Confidant is still using the previous paper.

The Paper

Graphite Performance

Let’s have a look at the paper in terms of graphite performance.

As part of this comparison I have only compared the paper to Field Notes paper [10]..as they are the paper samples I have redone after discovering the colour base paper shift issue discussed in the Black Ice post..

To find more about how the paper is tested, please check the Ingersoll post.

The violin plots show that this is a great paper: It produces very dark lines of graphite (the violin plot for the Confidant’s paper ends very low) while the paper is quite light and bright (the violin plot starts quite high).

The confidant sample used for the violin plot

Violin plots, Confidant on the left

Ink Performance

Most of my inks are quite well behaved. Not surprisingly the paper dealt well with ink.

So I thought I take some of my slightly less well-behaved inks out, in this case, a waterproof ink, just because waterproof ink often goes deeper into the paper. The images below show that the waterproof ink didn’t bleed through and the reverse side of the paper was unaffected (open images in a new tab to see the high-res version).

Conclusion

To sum this blog post up in a few words: Quality control could be better. The paper is excellent. The notebook isn’t cheap, but good value for money compared to similar notebooks.

 

 


Price and exchange rates: June 2017

I would like to thank Andi Talarico from Baron Fig for the review sample I used for this boig post.

References

References
1..but sometimes customs forget to charge you
2The Confidants are all a bit smaller than the equivalent A paper size
3..reminds me of the Lichtenberg drawing from this blog post.
4Usual disclaimer as mentioned in previous blog posts: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status and titles of nobility were abolished in the Weimar Republic in 1919. Graf (Count) is just part of his surname. In reality no one seems to care about this rule though.
5Abbreviated: GvFC for easier reading.
6I am not sure when it came out. I got my first one in 2010
7I am not 100% sure. The Baron Fig Kickstarter mentioned 100g/m2 paper, but in an email I got from Baron Fig they mention 90g/m2 paper.
8Mine is the Pocket one (A6).
9Found at the bottom of https://www.baronfig.com/pages/confidantbuy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this page.
10..as they are the paper samples I have redone after discovering the colour base paper shift issue discussed in the Black Ice post.

Staedtler’s Mars 501 180 – the Wopex sharpener 11

Welcome to a slightly delayed blog post. The video for this blog post was put on YouTube quite a while ago, in February, but the blog post is only out now as a busy period at work meant that I didn’t get round looking for my protractor earlier. [1] …because I switched to using a protractor when measuring angles I want to stick with this method so that all pencil points are measured the same way.

The Wopex

Unfortunately there’s a lot of Wopex hate going on in some parts of social media where people discuss pencils – and there are very few people defending the Wopex [2]…with Johnny being the most determined defender in the Erasable group on Facebook. Thank you for that.. Luckily the Wopex can convince in the long term: I was very happy to read Deirdre’s blog post where she turned from a Wopex hater (‘I HATE WOPEX’) to someone not only tolerating the Wopex, but even accepting it and it’s advantages (Some quotes: ‘graphite […] actually isn’t that bad’, ‘point retention is great’, ‘if you are writing on toothy [3]As expressed previously, for various reasons I am not keen on the expression ‘toothy paper’, but since this is a direct quote it will be one of the few occasions you can find this word in … Continue reading paper, the WOPEX really shines’).

Suffice to say [4]Yes, I learned that expression when I watched the English version of Star Trek Voyager., I love the Wopex.

Just a quick reminder: Unlike normal wood cased pencils the Wopex uses a wood-plastic-composite instead of wood. The wood-plastic-composite consists mainly of wood and is, in my opinion, orders of magnitude better than pencils that use plastic instead of wood. Not only does the Wopex sharpen better, the lead – extruded together with the pencil – is also of much better quality, too.

The pellets before they’re extruded into a pencil

In the vial above you can see how the material looks like before it is extruded into a pencil. I got this vial at the Insights X trade fair. The pellets remind me of a company I worked for during my holidays in the 1990s. They were manufacturing extruded pipes and had similar looking pellets. The recycled pellets smelled very much like washing powder. As far as I remember extruding from recycled material was not easy, the material kept expanding in the wrong place resulting in uneven products. Unrelated – but there must be so much knowledge going into the production of a product like the Wopex…

The new Noris eco pencils in 2B, HB and 2H

The Staedtler 501 180

I first mentioned the 501 180 in a blog post from 2014, but a few months ago I finally got my hands on one – they are not very common and not easy to come by in the UK. The article number has gives some clues to this sharpener’s purpose: Wopex pencils have article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 40). Staedtler has now switched to using the word Wopex to describe the wood-plastic-composite material, and is not using Wopex anymore to describe pencils made from this material, but independent of how the name Wopex is used, the pencils made from Wopex material still use article numbers starting with 180 (e.g. 180 30 for the new Noris eco).

Article numbers for Staedtler’s rotary (i.e. hand crank) sharpener start with 501 (e.g. the Mars 501 20 rotary sharpener) so 501 180 is the perfect [5]I try to avoid using the word perfect, but in this case it is justified, I think. article number for this sharpener, 501 for a rotary sharpener and 180 for Wopex. The 501 180 was designed by Helmut Hufnagl and is made in Taiwan.

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Video

Here’s a video where I compare the 501 180 to two other rotary sharpeners.

Clipping the pencils’ points off at about 7:30 really hurt and felt rather wasteful, but wasting so much good pencil when the auto stop of the other two sharpeners didn’t work was of course even more wasteful (…even though it didn’t hurt so much, maybe because the machine did the crippling of the pencils).

Left to right: Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

Tip: Open the video in YouTube, you can then play it at higher speeds, e.g. 1.5x.

Here’s a little table comparing the different points created by the three different sharpeners.

Sharpener:Deli 0635Staedtler 501 180Deli 0620
Angle:17°19°17°

..and here are the different points made by the different sharpeners.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

The Auto Stop

There is just so much less material wasted when the auto stop works. If you don’t have the 501 180 and your sharpener’s auto stop doesn’t work, have a look at the end of the video where I show a way of dealing with this problem. I am mentioning this simple trick here because my simplest videos seem most appreciated (e.g. how to refill a mechanical pencil), while my complex videos (e.g. the DelGuard pen force test) remain rather unloved.

Left to right: point sharpened by Deli 0635, Staedtler 501 180, Deli 0620

 


I have added the Wopex Mars 501 180 to the list of sharpeners, sorted by angle.

Many thanks to Benedikt Schindler for his help in getting the 501 180 to me in the UK.

References

References
1 …because I switched to using a protractor when measuring angles I want to stick with this method so that all pencil points are measured the same way.
2…with Johnny being the most determined defender in the Erasable group on Facebook. Thank you for that.
3As expressed previously, for various reasons I am not keen on the expression ‘toothy paper’, but since this is a direct quote it will be one of the few occasions you can find this word in this blog
4Yes, I learned that expression when I watched the English version of Star Trek Voyager.
5I try to avoid using the word perfect, but in this case it is justified, I think.

Handicraft with Bleistift V – reusing a pen loop 2

After my initial disappointment with Leuchtturm’s pen loop, my pen loops caused problems because of protruding plastic with glue at the bottom, I adjusted my pen loops by cutting the bit of the plastic off that put glue on the pens put in the pen loop and that scratched their surface.  I wonder whether the pen loop has improved since 2011, maybe the problem is gone from later version of Leuchtturm’s pen loop. I haven’t found out yet because I haven’t bought new ones, but reused my old pen loops, as you might already have seen in this blog post. This weekend I have reused the last of my original pen loops, so I took some photos along the way.

before

Leuchtturm’s pen loop in my old diary.

removing

Removing the old pen loop. The glue is quite something.

removedThe old pen loop removed

toolsI’ll attach it to the new diary with a paper riveter I bought in Shanghai many years ago.

finishedReady for another year of action…


Disappointed with the Pen Loop 5

The Pen Loop in the diary provided by my employer.

I recently bought Leuchtturm’s Pen Loop, a pen loop you can affix to any notebook to add a pen loop. A good idea, but I have to say that I am quite disappointed. The loop itself is stitched to a squary pad that is self-adhesive on one side. The problem is that a small ‘tab’ of this pad protrudes into the loop. This tab is self-adhesive, like the pad, which means that pens in the Pen Loop will get in contact with the self-adhesive side and some of the glue will stick to the pens. As a result the pencils I put in the Pen Loop so far got very sticky. I assume this will improve once all the glue has rubbed off to my pencils. The tab is also quite hard, I wouldn’t be surprised if it can scratch the surface of delicate pens. I only used painted pencils [1]General’s Semi-Hex and the AMOS Dixon Ticonderoga so far – no pencils with a natural finish, so I was able to either remove the glue from the paint or sharpen the pencil to remove the ‘glued’ paint.

The gluey tab that makes my pencils sticky...

 

Conclusion

A great idea, but the execution is lacking.

It would be interesting to know  whether all Pen Loops have this problem or whether it’s a Quality Control issue and the one I bought has been sewed too close to the pad…

References

References
1General’s Semi-Hex and the AMOS Dixon Ticonderoga