Tombow


More Vietnamese Monos

The bottom of the box

This is just a quick follow up, linked to my previous blog post about Lexikaliker’s investigation into the Vietnamese Mono 100s1.

The familiar box…

The Vietnamese Mono…

If the Mono 100 is now made in Vietnam then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Mono (without the 100) is now made in Vietnam, too.

You can see the Made in Vietnam blind stamp against the light (open in a new tab to see clearly)

..and the Dong-A Fable

I would have liked to compare the Japanese and Vietnamese Mono, but everywhere where I thought I’ve seen a non-100 Mono in our house it turned out to be the similarly looking Dong-A Fable2, a pencil that has made a few appearances on this blog since 2009.

The Tombow Mono and the Dong-A Fable

Mono’s history

Well, 1963 is not only the year Terry Farrell, Jadzia Dax in Deep Space Nine3, was born. It is also the year the Mono was released. It was ‘kind of’ a successor to the Homo, which was released in 1952, but wasn’t liked by Tombow anymore, or should I rather say: they didn’t like the name anymore, after the

‘diparaging slang-term “homo” became well-known in Japan’ (Tombow Pencil 100 Year History Project Committee, 2013:p.38).

Mono display from the 1960s. ¥60, seen on the display, was the original price, later lowered to ¥50. (Picture from Tombow)

In 1967, for Tombow’s 55th anniversary, the Mono 100 followed ..and two years later there was a Mono eraser, too. I don’t want to bore you with more details, but if you’re really interested, let me know in the comments and I’ll write up more when I have time.

Mono box from the 1960s (Picture from Tombow)

References

Tombow Pencil 100 Year History Project Committee. (2013) The 100 Year History of Tombow Pencil. Tokyo, Tombow Pencil Cp., Ltd.


I bought this dozen straight from Japan and paid just under £9, I think.

Unless otherwise stated pictures in my blog are taken by me. Well, this is one of those ‘otherwise stated’ occasions. The pictures marked as such are from Tombow’s book “The 100 Year History of Tombow Pencil”. In January 2015 Tombow Europe granted me permission to use them in blog posts.

  1. English translation here. []
  2. To me the Fable is more common than the Mono. A fate I probably share with very few people outside Korea. []
  3. I just had to add a Star Trek fact. []

Mysterious Mono 100s 7

Sean and Gunther are the detectives of the pencil world. While Sean has specialised in solving cold cases Gunther is investigating up-to-date issues.

In Gunther’s latest blog post (in German / automated English translation from Google here, from Bing here) he is having a closer look at the new Vietnamese made Tombow Mono 100s.

Mystery solved – thank you, Lexikaliker.

I support his hypothesis that the blind code on the pencils is in the format YYMM. I bought most of my Mono 100s in 2009 and the blind codes of my Monos start with 08 and 09.

In case you wonder about my photo: After some of the original occupants of my Mono 100 case moved out the remaining Monos invited the two Faber brothers to move in.

 


Two deliveries – from Japan and Germany 2

uniqlo-tombow

What an exciting day. I got two deliveries, one from Japan and one from Germany.

Both seem to be XL... (Japan in green, Europe in yellow)

Both seem to be XL… (Japan in green, Europe in yellow)

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.

...the tags are different though

…the tags are different though

There was also something else in the parcel. Something very special.

Special Hi-uni

Not as posh as the ones shown on Contrapuntalism, but nevertheless extremely nice. Lexikaliker had similar ones, too.

 

The other parcel did contain a replacement Pollux. You might remember that had problems with my first Pollux. Thanks to Lexikaliker, without whom I wouldn’t have any Pollux, I got a replacement

Here’s a quick look at the replacement Pollux.

As a comparison: the second video features a knife sharpened pencil. You can also see Staedtler’s sand paper in the second video.

 

A Pollux sharpened Mars Lumograph

A Pollux sharpened Mars Lumograph


Lexikaliker has a blog post about the unsharpened Mars Lumograph pencils.


Scraping pencils 1

Pencils not only seem to be reliable writers, they also seem to be reliable in terms of keeping their prices affordable.

In June this year I used R to do some web scraping. The data collected was supposed to be for a follow up of my Why did stationery become so expensive? blog post. Well, this is the follow up blog post and there isn’t much to show, maybe because we are talking about wood cased pencils. Fountain pens and mechanical pencils had a more extreme price development.

I did the R code not only for the follow up, but also to teach myself a bit more R, I would have normally done this in PHP, which I am more failure with, having used it since the 90s and having used it for similar tasks in the past (even though people didn’t call these tasks web scraping at that time, or if they did I did’t know).

chart showing how the Koh-I-Noor PolyColor Art Pencil prices have changed.So what exactly did I do? I was looking at how the prices for pencils have changed on the Cultpens web site over time. My code that will get historic prices from archived versions of the Cult Pens pencil web page from archive.org is available at GitHub if you want to try it or change it for your own purposes. If you do please bear in mind that my code is not very good, I realise this, but as I am new to R I don’t know how to improve it (at the moment – I hope to find more time to learn R in the future). Also, if you try this please try to minimise any strain on the server you get your data from.

The findings were less exciting than expected. VAT has changed a few times over the last few years and there are obviously currency exchange rate fluctuations to be taken into account, as well as inflation and other factors.

The most interesting changes I could see was a > 10% price increase for some Graf von Faber-Castell products between 2010 and 2011.

The  Tomboy Mono 100 got cheaper over the years. Between 2010 and 2013 it got > 20% cheaper.

The most extreme price rise was for Koh-I-Noor products. At the beginning of 2014 the big Polycolor Art Pencil tin got nearly 40% more expensive, smaller tins got more expensive, too.

Overall prices seem remarkably stable.

As mentioned before I assume the price stability is also linked to this being pencils. As shown in my previous blog post fountain pens seem to attract more extreme price hikes.


Picture: Mongol plus Pilot Color Eno pencils on Brunnen Der Grüne Block.


The Mono Zero and the Mono One 6

Today: a comparison of different Tombow erasers – the Tombow Mono Zero, available either with a 2.3 mm round tip or broad 2.5 mm * 5 mm rectangular tip, and the Tombow Mono One, an eraser that looks as if it’s supposed to be used on a keyring or as a charm. I wrote this blog post originally for The Pen Company who send me these two erasers free of charge.

Mono Zero (back)

Mono Zero (white version, back)

Mono Zero background

The Mono Zero was originally released on 12 November 2007 and since its release it has won the iF product design award 2010 and the red dot design award 2010. It has also received Japan’s eco mark certification because of its high content of (pre-consumer) recycled plastic. The body of the eraser is made in Japan, while the eraser core itself is made in Korea. The Mono Zero has been designed by Ms. Chisato Takahashi, who  is also responsible for the Mono smart. I got mine as a free sample from The Pen Company where the current retail price is £3.47.

Mono Zero (black version, front)

Mono Zero (black version, front)

Mono Zero body

The Mono Zero is available either with a 2.3 mm round tip or broad 2.5 mm * 5 mm rectangular tip and each of these versions is available in either a black body or a black, white and blue body. There used to be a silver version as well, which – to me – always used to be by far the least attractive looking version. This silver version does not seem to be available anymore.

Mono Zero eraser removed - 2.5mm * 5 mm version

Mono Zero eraser removed – 2.5mm * 5 mm version

Mono Zero eraser removed - 2.3 mm round tip version

Mono Zero eraser removed – 2.3 mm round tip version

Mono Zero eraser

The eraser itself does not fill the whole body. This might come as a surprise when you have used other pen shaped erasers that come in a plastic body, but is not not really a problem. You do get slightly less eraser for your money, but the whole eraser (body plus eraser) itself is not expensive and the eraser core will still last a long time. Just to mention is explicitely, there are also refills available for these erasers, like for most pen shaped erasers. Labelled as an elastomer eraser, the Mono Zero contains an eraser made from ethylene propylene copolymer. When I received the eraser I did try it out and compared it to my favourite kind of eraser, a dust-free  or non-dust eraser (as long as it’s a dust-free eraser I usually like it very much). It’s probably not fair to compare it to my favourite type of eraser, or let’s say not objective – others might not like dust-free erasers, but then this comparison  is a valid approach as I am writing about what I like or dislike about the Mono Zero.

Comparison on Deli paper (A6)

Comparison on Deli paper (A6)

For the pencil to be erased by the Mono Zero – I originally thought what better match could there be for the Tombow Mono erasers than a Tombow pencil, so I picked last year’s 100th anniversary special pencil.

Erasing the soft Tombow 100th anniversary pencil

Erasing the soft Tombow 100th anniversary pencil

Mono Zero performance

To my surprise the two Tombow products, pencil and eraser, didn’t seem to be able to cooperate that well with each other. This was due to the fact that the Tombow pencil is very soft. According to Pencils and other things the 100th anniversary edition has the same lead as the current Mono 100, but my 100th anniversary pencil seems much softer (and smudges easier) than a Mono 100 (both HB). I am not sure whether I’m imagining things here, or I just happened to have a softer than usual 100th anniversary pencil and a harder than usual Mono 100, or whether the lead is the same, but there’s actually a shift in grade (e.g. 100th anniversary HB = Mono 100 B). In any case, the Mono Zero was not able to eraser a strong line, i.e. drawn with some pressure, without a trace. It did however manage to eraser strong lines of harder pencils, in this case a Staedtler Mars Lumograph in HB, without a trace.

Erasing the harder Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB

Erasing the harder Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB

Mono Zero conclusion

My impression of the Mono Zero was that it’s not the greatest performer when it comes to actual erasing (worse than a non-dust / dust-free eraser), but its strong point is precise erasing …because of the tip size and shape (a bit like a Kokuyo eraser). When I was looking for other blog posts to mention in this review I rediscovered Dave’s review of the Mono Zero, which came to the same conclusion regarding eraser performance.

A great eraser, because its fine ‘tip’ allows precise erasing, even though eraser performance itself could be better.

The Monos compared to a dust free eraser

The Monos compared to a dust free eraser

 

Mono One

The Mono One, designed by Mr Kazunori Katami, who holds a lot of stationery patents, was released slightly earlier than the Mono Zero – on 5 February 2007. The Pen Company is selling this eraser for £2.60. The body of this eraser is also produced in Japan (no eco mark certification for the Mono One, though), while the eraser itself is made in in Vietnam. Labelled as a plastic eraser, the eraser is made from thermoplastic elastomers. Despite the different materials, performance seemed pretty similar between the Mono Zero and the Mono One, with the Mono One maybe performing a little bit better.

The Mono One does not offer as precise erasing as the Mono Zero, the tip is bigger, but it is a nice size, which makes it a great eraser to carry in a pencil case bag or, possibly even on your key ring.

 


I would like to thank The Pen Company for these erasers, I got them as free samples, and Mrs. Balsewicz from Tombow Europe for all the information she has given me about these erasers.

I would like thank Sean for the Tombow 100th anniversary pencils.