Just a few things I want to mention. I think there was something else I wanted to add, but I forgot…
Pollux spare blades
Thanks to Gunther from the Lexikaliker blog I got a set of spare blades for my Pollux when I met him last month at Insights X. Thank you!
Royal Mail’s 17th century pencil
Royal Mail’s Great Fire of London Special Stamps feature a 17th century pencil. I don’t have the stamp, but I have the postcard with the same picture, so I thought I show you this pencil (the red one on the left), together with a similar pencil – the one from Staedtler’s historic pencil kit. Petroski (1989, p. 47) Petroski, H. (1989) The Pencil writes that by 1610 black lead was used by artists and others to fit into their wooden pencil cases ..so a pencil being used in the planning of the reconstruction of London in 1666 seems realistic.
The photo of the Kaweco Tree Ornament has been taken from the Massdrop offer of this product. I believe that showing the photo in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.
What an exciting day. I got two deliveries, one from Japan and one from Germany.
The parcel from Japan was sent from Yumiko, a friend of Sean, who helped me get a few things I couldn’t order myself …including Uniqlo’s Tombow t-shirts. I was able to get the Pelikan version here in Europe, but the Tombow version is not being sold here.
I was hoping that the Japanese XL will be similar in size to the European XL, especially since the t-shirts being sold here come with English/Japanese tags, but unfortunately it turned out that the Japanese XL is at least one size smaller than the European version – so the t-shirts won’t fit unless I lose a lot of weight. I guess I should see this as my incentive to lose more weight ..but I don’t think it’s achievable for me to fit into these anytime soon.
There was also something else in the parcel. Something very special.
Lexikaliker has already covered all important points in his blog post about the Pollux, so I’ll keep it short and will just add a few of my impressions.
Out of the box the sharpener did sharpen well, but it was tearing/ripping the wood more than it should. Strangely enough the graphite point was cut very well, so I am not sure what exactly caused this behaviour that only affects the wood, not the graphite part.
You can see what exactly happened in this video:
I tried fixing it by sharpening the blade, first on a Belgian whetstone. You might have seen this stone in my videos about the Little Shaver. Unfortunately it wasn’t abrasive enough or I didn’t try long enough. I then tried my luck with Spyderco’s Sharpmaker and I got great results. After soe work on the blade the Pollux sharpened like a dream. Before working on the blade it produced shavings with holes in it, because the wood was torn. The shavings themselves had a thickness of around 0.25mm. After my blade treatment the shavings were thinner, 0.15mm thin – very thin.
Here’s a video I made after I worked on the blade:
Like Lexikaliker I measured an angle of around 18.5° for the pencil points produced by the Pollux.
It doesn’t leave bite marks on the pencil, that’s a big advantage – or in my case even a necessary requirement. I don’t think I’d use a pencil sharpener regularly if it leaves bite marks – however good the sharpening mechanism might be.
The point it creates is quite nice and concave. Concave points look good, but I find measuring the angle more difficult. When I try to measure the 0981’s angle using my traditional method I get an angle of 20°. When I measure the angle on a computer I get an angle of slightly more than 21°. In any case the point produced suitable for most purposes, you can compare this angle to other angles on my sharpener page.
The crank features a dial, not uncommon for this kind of sharpener. If you dial all the way to the left you get a ‘full’ point, but you can also create a ‘flat’ point, more suitable for coloured pencils if you set the dial to the right. Any setting in-between both extremes is also possible (the difference between both settings is about 3.5 full turn of the dial (1260°)).
The drawer is of course removable, for emptying the waste created during sharpening. The cutting mechanism is removable as well.
I tried to sharpen a Wopex in the 0981, but the auto stop doesn’t work with the harder material encasing the Wopex lead – this is common for crank sharpeners.
Price and availability
When you search for this sharpener on the internet most pages you can find seem to be from Japan. I assume this means that this sharpener is more commonly available in Japan. You can however find some sellers in the West. In Germany you can get this sharpener for €10 – €15 (~$11 – $22: £7.50 – £15), which seems good value for money.
Price and exchange rates: October 2015
Please open the pictures in a new tab for a high-res view.
The stationery cupboard, where my colleagues and I get our stationery supplies from, did have pencil sharpeners in the past. I am not sure why there are none left, but I assume it is because most colleagues, especially most support staff, use Paper Mate Non-Stop pencils.
Paper Mate Non-Stop:
The Non-Stop is basically a SharpWriter with tip and eraser in black for the European market, or possibly for all markets outside North America. First released in 1984 the SharpWriter / Non-Stop is a disposable mechanical pencil, made in USA. You can even refill it, if you want. Unlike some other disposable mechanical pencils it is possible to refill leads when you remove the eraser. To advance the lead you twist the tip and – very positive for a cheap pencil – the lead is cushioned which should be good news for users who use more pressure when writing than I do.
But back to the pencil sharpeners… They were all the same type, had a cylinder shaped plastic container and were available in many colours. At the bottom of the plastic container you could see the wording “Made in Germany”. Some of the sharpeners had plain blades without any writing on them, some I assume the older ones had “Made in Germany” and a lower case e with a crown on top written on the blade. After looking at different manufacturers’ web sites I found that this sharpener is Model 402 from Eisenpronounced like iron with an s sound between the two syllables, a company manufacturing pencil sharpeners since 1921. Like nearly all other German manufacturers in the pencil and sharpener industry (e.g. Faber-Castell, Staedtler, Schwan Stabilo, Lyra, KUM or Möbius+Ruppert) Eisen is from Franconia, an area slightly smaller than Massachusetts. Other information and figures I found about Eisen is sometimes contradicting, but apparently they have 60 employees in their Franconian factory and produce 200 million steel blades annually. In 2003 Eisen established its own factory in Taicang Taicang is very popluar with companies from America, Europe, Taiwan and Japan. About 100 German SMEs settled there. near Shanghai, and production of the cheaper sharpeners was moved there while the production of more expensive sharpeners for cosmetic pencils is still taking place in the original factory in Baiersdorf. The factory in Baiersdorf is managed by Christian Eisen and the factory in Taicang by Stephan Eisen, both descendants of Christian Eisen, the founder of Eisen Metallwarenfabrik. Altogether, there are 150 employees in both factories, producing 60 – 80 million sharpeners annually.
Lyra, recently acquired by the FILA group, just started distributing Eisen sharpeners in the German-speaking countries, but I am not sure about the distribution of Eisen sharpeners in the rest of the world. They were available in the UK, probably through Impega Impega became Lyreco in 2009, a supplier of stationery for companies.
What is so special about the Model 402, you might ask. The answer is that it is a fantastic sharpener, somewhere between a traditional sharpener and a long point . Sharpening with the Eisen 402 produces a point as smooth as one produced by Möbius+Ruppert’s grenade or by KUM’s Automatic Long Point 2M. Even sharpening “difficult” pencils, like the Dong-A Fable, is no problem with the 402. When I tried to sharpen the Fable with a hardly used KUM 400-5L the lead broke every single time, with the Eisen 402 I managed to produce a great point first time trying, even though I have been using it irregularly for years and with the same blade.
I noticed that my yellow 402, which has an unmarked blade, is not as smooth as the blue one, which has the Eisen logo and Made in Germany written on the blade. It could be that the unmarked blades are worse, but the yellow 402 was in my office and saw much more use than its blue colleague, so I blame the slightly worse performance of the unmarked blade on the fact that the marked blade had not been used so often.
The Eisen 402 is certainly a great sharpener. It outperforms my KUM Streamline Chrome Canister Sharpener 460S and my KUM Long Point 400-5L. The only shame is that it seems to be difficult to get hold of an Eisen 402.
I would like to thank Kent for the Dong-A Fable pencils used in the comparison of different sharpeners. Kent explained me that Dong-A is one of the oldest pencil manufacturers in Korea and that Fable is a relatively new model from Dong-A.
There is a video, produced for local TV stations, with more information about Eisen at Wirtschaftstreff Bayern. Unfortunately it is only available in German and the exact link is changing every month. The video with information about Eisen is from 23 October 2009.