Made in Taiwan

Black n’ Red polynote A7 plain 2

Last week I bought Black n’ Red’s pocket-sized, i.e. A7, polynote in my local Tesco’s. The polynote is a reporter notebook that flips open at the top and features a polypropylene cover and an elastic band. I bought it because it was half prize, only 60p (97¢; 68c), and because I was quite happy with my previous Black n’ Red purchase, a hard cover Black n’ Red recycled notebook.

Black n’ Red recycled hard cover notebook

My previous Red n’ Black purchase, the recycled notebook is really nice. Unlike the US version reviewed at Office Supply Geek it features British and European maps and information. I only paid £ 3.50 in my university’s library, but the price is probably either subsidised or they do not earn any money from this notebook as I have never seen anywhere else for a similar price. I have used this notebook for several months, but have only used pencils in this notebook, so I cannot comment on the suitability of the paper for fountain pens. It does however feel like good quality paper. I did contact Hamelin / Oxford brands with some questions about the paper, probably about a year ago, but unfortunately I never received a reply.

Back to the polynote

There seems to be a ruled version, too, but I bought the plain version. It contains 192 pages of 90 g/m² Optik Paper. The polypropylene cover seems durable and robust and can be wiped easily if dirty. The polynote does also contain a page with reference information, similar to the one found in the recycled notebook, but this time restricted to metric / imperial conversion tables. There is no danger that pages would fall out by mistake, but they can be removed easily if you wish to do so. The paper has a high quality feel to it and is more opaque than other 90 g/m² paper I have used in the past.

As you can see in the first photo I tried a pencil and two fountain pen inks on the paper.Erasing the graphite works well. The paper feels extremely smooth when erasing, but seems to retain more of a dent where the graphite was than other paper. This means you can see or guess the writing because of the slight indentation. Both inks worked well on the paper and did not bleed through the page.

Bach’s Purpur-Tinte

I bought the ink used with the TWSBI Diamond 530 at Eberbach Abbey, where some scenes of the film “The Name of the Rose” were filmed. This ink is from a small ink manufacturer called “Bach’s Tinten” (Bach’s inks). I have an iron gall ink from the same manufacturer, which is absolutely fantastic when used with a dip pen. Unfortunately, I was not able to find out more about the manufacturer of this ink. All I know is that it seems to be sold in some German museums and other tourist attractions. If you know more about this ink, please let me know.

TWSBI Diamond 530

I used Bach’s Purpur (purple) ink in my brand new TWSBI Diamond 530, which I bought from The Writing Desk for £36.79 (~$59.35; €41.75). TWSBI, originally an OEM manufacturer, make mechanical pencils, too. You can read more about their history and the meaning of their name at Okami Whatever. I first thought about buying this pen from the TWSBI ebay store, where it is slightly cheaper than in the UK, but the price is just above the threshold for VAT and customs (and therefore handling) charges, so buying it from The Writing Desk was the better option. The pen is quite big and made for fountain pen geeks: it is a demonstrator that can be disassembled and even comes with sililcon grease and the wrench needed for disassembly. As far as I know it is using a Schmidt nib, but a limited edition pen with a Bock nib will be released if there are enough orders. The pen is great and offers fantastic value for money. When it comes to fountain pens I am a fan of Pelikan, a Malaysian owned writing instrument manufacturer headquartered in Switzerland with manufacturing facilities on several continents, so – naturally – I compare the diamond 530 with Pelikan fountain pens and I have to say that the Diamond 530 is very big in comparison – much bigger than, for example, a Pelikan Souverän M600.  I do own a few fountain pens from manufacturers other than Pelikan and quality-wise the TWSBI is certainly one of the better ones, especially for this price.

Noodler’s Baystate Blue

Noodler’s, from Massachusetts, “the smallest ink company in the world with the largest color selection” is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite ink company. I do like inks from other companies too, but Noodler’s is my overall favourite. Baystate Blue is a very unusual ink, unusual in its rebellious colour and the high, i.e. alkaline, pH value. You can read more about it on Noodler’s web site. The first time I saw this intense ink on paper it reminded me of a pen I got in the late 1970s / early 1980s. At that time Pepsi ran a big marketing campaign worldwide – and in Germany, too: “Mach den Pepsi Test” (Take the Pepsi Challenge) [1]At that time RC Cola and Afri Cola were still commonly available in Germany. Afterwards you got a “I took the Pepsi Challenge” pen. As far as I remember it was a Staedtler pen and looked like a Lumocolor with a yellow body and with a Pepsi logo and reference to the Pepsi test printed on it. As far as I remember it  had a colour very close to Noodler’s Baystate Blue …and I completely forgot about this pen until Baystate Blue reminded me of this pen and this unusual colour. It’s not really my favourite colour, maybe because it is a bit too unconventional, but it might actually look quite good with a fine nib. I will try that out after I used up the Baystate Blue in my Pelikano junior.


The Black n’ Red polynote is a great little reporter notebook. I think I might carry one with me in the future. There is a plain and a ruled version, both probably ref. number M67072. The robust covers makes it a notebook you can carry around with you all the time and the current half price offer is really good, but even if you pay the full price it offers good value for money and nice smooth and unusually soft (maybe even a bit too soft) paper.


Prices and exchange rates: March 2011

You can find a review of Noodler’s Baystate Blue at Without ink.

Office Supply Geek has a great review of the TWSBI DIamond 530.


1At that time RC Cola and Afri Cola were still commonly available in Germany

Eraser Bonanza 3

In a recent post (“My favourite eraser”) I wrote about the Faber-Castell 18 71 20 Dust-Free eraser. In a comment to this post Henrik mentioned Staedtler’s PVC free eraser, which he said is quite similar. Curios about the Staedtler’s performance I got hold of this eraser andoday I want to write a bit more about this eraser and about the Läufer Oval Office.

The Staedtler 525 B30 PVC-free eraser

What I like most about the recently reviewed Faber-Castell 18 71 20 Dust-Free eraser is that you only need to apply very little force when erasing and that it does erase very thoroughly, much better than most other erasers. To my surprise the material of the Taiwanese-made Staedtler 525 B30 PVC-free eraser seems to be even softer than that of Faber-Castell’s dust-free eraser. It is therefore also no surprise that you do need to apply more force when you use the Faber-Castell eraser. This might be down to the fact that when I compared them the Staedtler eraser was brand new, freshly unwrapped, while one of my Faber-Castells has seen a few months, the other one a few years of use and contact with air. Just like Faber-Castell’s eraser the Staedler is also available in two sizes: the model number of the big one ends with 20, the number of the smaller one ends with 30.

Conclusion: The Staedtler is an exceptionally good eraser. It is not my favourite but comes very close. One disadvantage for me (others might not mind at all) is that the eraser waste does not twists up into strands, which makes it a bit more messy when you want to clean the paper and get rid of the eraser waste – but to be honest, for most erasers the waste does not twist up into strands, so this is nothing unusual.

I bought the Staedtler 525 B30 in November 2010 for 47c (~62¢, ~38p).

Läufer Oval Office

Läufer is relatively well known in Germany for their erasers. In 2004 Läufer merged with Gutenberg, a company some stationery fans might recognise because they supply indelible, permanent ink used for official documents – in Germany many dioceses and government offices use their G10 ink for official documents. As far as I know Läufer & Gutenberg are now part of Société Bic, the company that owns the BIC brand – but I have not been able to confirm this.

The Läufer Oval Office is, in my opinion, an average eraser when it comes to perfermance and the material it is made of. It is mainly interesting because of it’s shape and that is also why I bought it. The Oval Office has the shape of a stretched lens. While the 90° angle of a traditional eraser will soon get too wide for erasing small areas, the shape of the Oval Office means that it can be used for more precise erasing for longer.

Conclusion: A nice eraser I will use occasionally. The shape is practical and looks nice, but performance-wise I would describe this eraser as ‘normal’.

I bought the Läufer Oval Office in November 2010 for € 1.69 (~$ 2.20, ~£ 1.40).

The Staedtler Mars rasor you can see in the photos has been reviewed at pencil talk.

Prices: November 2010

Exchange rates: December 2010

I bought all three erasers in November 2010 from Schule-Uni-Shop. The Staedtler Mars rasor was € 1.37 (~$ 1.80, ~£ 1.15).

On a slighlty unrelated note: If you like Staedtler AND Star Wars, have a look at this article: Staedtler and Star Wars

Simbalion Graphic Pencils 3

Einszweidrei! im Sauseschritt
Läuft die Zeit, wir laufen mit.
(from Julchen by Wilhelm Busch, 1877)

It’s incredible how fast time is flying by. This blog started last November with a blog post about the Kuru Toga and now it is already more than a year old. In the first year there were altogether 65 blog posts. Now for some statistics: during the first year most visitor came from the USA, followed by the UK, then Germany, then Canada. In terms of numbers the visitors from these four countries, where more than 65% of all visitors came from, were followed by visitors from 106 other countries.

…but enough about statistics. Let’s talk about pencils!

Today I want to write about a pack of “graphic pencils” from Taiwan’s Lion Pencil Co., Ltd., better known as Simbalion. I bought this pack of pencils in December 2009 at Keyroad a shop on Shanghai’s FuZhou Road. If the name rings a bell, I mentioned it in my previous blog post about the Deli sharpener 0635. I never saw this brand in the West before. Have you seen Simbalion pencils in your country?

The pack contains twelve pencils with the grades 4H-H, F, HB, B-6B. My pencil came in an “easy to use easel box”, but this box has since been replaced and these pencil are now available in a new polypropylene case.

The Lion Pencil Company was established in 1956 and is one of Taiwan’s oldest stationery manufacturers. The Lion Pencil Company is proud of having invented the “art set”, but I am sure some other companies will lay claim to having invented the art set in the stationery context, too. Their Taiwanese factory is in Taipei county, but they also have a factory in Kunshan (Jiangsu province), very close to Shanghai and just next to Taicang, where Eisen has a factory.

In Taiwan the normal price for the new set of these pencils in a PP case is 120 NT$ ($ 3.95, £ 2.50, € 2.95). I paid much more for my old “easel box”, maybe because these pencils were imported into the Chinese mainland or maybe, this is only speculation and probably not the case, because the new set is from the factory in Kunshan. According to the labels and stamps on my pack it was produced in the factory in Taipei county on 7th May 2009 – nice to get so much information 🙂

The pencils are nice, certainly not scratchy, but I do wonder about Simbalion’s grading. The H pencil from this pack is certainly the softest H pencil I have ever used and does feel softer than the HB pencil from the same pack. The print on the pencils is uneven in places and the end of the pencil has too much paint that is not evenly distributed.

Altogether a nice set of pencils for this price. The pencils are not scratchy or bad in any other way. My main criticism would be the unpredictable hardness or softness of the lead that does not seem to be consistent with the printing on the pencil.


Nothing too fancy, nothing too bad – you get what you paid for as long as you pay not more than the official price.



Price and exchange rates: November 2010

I would like to thank Kevin Davis from O’Bon for the sugarcane paper used in these photos.