Uni

Fresher

For many years there hasn’t been much going on in terms of new Caran d’Ache mechanical pencils. There is a lot of choice when it comes to ballpoint pens but there wasn’t much to look at in terms of affordable (<£50) mechanical pencils (there are unusually many in the ‘above £500’ range, though).

In recent years this changed to some extent with the 849 mechanical pencil being available in a few new colours and editions, e.g. Black Code. There are, however, not many shops here in the UK that actually stock these.

Image © Caran d’Ache

Today a new pencil joined the Caran d’Ache offering, available in a set with a ballpoint pen as a limited edition, the Set Fresher.

Image © Caran d’Ache

I am happy to see more mechanical pencils from Caran d’Ache, even though it is basically just the same pencil in different colours. I wish they’d do something else, e.g. offering a 0.5 mm version, but for now, just seeing more colours are a nice change.

Caran d’Ache seems to be starting the different colour limited editions game for their mechanical pencils and lead holders, or maybe not starting it but taking it up a notch, while Lamy is by now really good at the ‘new colour game’. Every time I think I won’t buy another Safari they come up with more good colours: last year the re-release of the original colours, this year the beautiful strawberry and cream colours, with matching clip etc.

Kaweco is also really good at this, with a mix of happy affordable colours and more posh looking ones that are slightly more expensive.

In terms of new innovation there have also been some news.

The new Kurutoga Dive is not only rotating the lead like previous versions, but is also advancing it. It is a capped and a limited edition. I wonder if the cap is there to protect the mechanism when not in use. Maybe the front is not as sturdy (in the current version) as previous Kurutogas with less complicated mechanisms. If that’s the case there might be a regular version without a cap in the future. This thought might explain why this is a limited edition: maybe they want to see first how this mechanism fares in the real world, or the manufacturing process isn’t automated enough for mass market production and some manual labour is currently involved in assembly which doesn’t make it quite mass market ready yet….


I believe that the use of the images in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

Miniature Mascots – Stationery Toy Capsule Fun

Toy capsule vending machines can be quite fun.

I saw these toy capsule vending machines in Manchester's Chinatown (photo from 2007).
I saw these toy capsule vending machines in Manchester’s Chinatown (photo from 2007).

In Japan there is a series of toy capsules, called ‘Miniature Mascots’. They are released with specific themes, e.g. sewing machines, camping gear, etc., as well as season.

Toy Capsules X Stationery cross-over = fun.

You can now get the first season of the stationery with products from Carl, Mitsubishi-Uni, Nichiban, King Jim and Max.

Have a look at this Carl Angel 5 Royal: You can even turn the handle.

https://gph.is/2vMci5Y

(This should display as an animated GIF in most browsers, if it is static you might have to click on it first.)

Here’s my little collection.

Carl’s Angel 5

Carl's Angel 5 Miniature Mascot
Carl’s Angel 5 Miniature Mascot

The star of the collection (because it’s pencil related and the handle can be turned).

Carl's Angel 5 Miniature Mascot
Carl’s Angel 5 Miniature Mascot

There’s also a blue version.

Carl's Angel 5 Miniature Mascot
Carl’s Angel 5 Miniature Mascot

Nichiban’s tape dispenser and refill

Nichiban's tape dispenser and refill
Nichiban’s tape dispenser and refill

Also available in yellow.

Max’s HD-10D stapler

Max's HD-10D stapler
Max’s HD-10D stapler

Max’s HD-10D stapler, with refill 10-1M

Uni’s Posca markers

Uni's Posca markers
Uni’s Posca markers

Uni’s Posca markers, also officially available in the West.

King Jim’s Label Printer PRO SR970

King Jim's Label Printer PRO SR970
King Jim’s Label Printer PRO SR970


I’d like to thank Yumiko for these Miniature Mascots.

The uni-ball AIR and the missing flex

An unusual post for Bleistift: not pencils and not fountain pens, either.
Last week I saw the uni-ball AIR for the first time. I was in a WH Smith’s store, a chain of stationery stores in the UK. What grabbed my attention was the fact that it was being advertised as writing like a fountain pen, i.e. pressing down more should produce a wider line.

I was tempted, but a pack of two was £5.99 and a pack of three was £6.99. I didn’t really want to buy more than one of this pen for this prize, in case I don’t like them.

At home I then found a place where I could order them for £1.99, including postage. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that there’s a medium and a broad version of this pen. I bought the broad one by mistake.

Well, at least for the broad version the advertised flex effect isn’t very strong on most paper, have a look at my video, where I compare it to a Pelikan F nib.

The paper used in the video is Banditapple‘s new 4G paper.

The flex properties of this pen might be disappointing, but it is still a nice pen to write with.

A close up of the uni-ball Air
A close up of the uni-ball AIR

Since I made the video I noticed that Tesco had a lot of stationery offers.

Stationery offers in Tesco
Stationery offers in Tesco

I bought a pack of 12 uni-ball pens for £12, hoping the uni-ball AIR pens would be medium, not broad (the pack wasn’t marked) and that the medium pens have more flex, but unfortunately it turned out that the AIR pens in this pack were also broad.

12 pens for £12
12 pens for £12


You can read more about this pen at Clicky Post and Office Supply Geek.

The Uni Shift and a look at 0.4 mm leads

The Uni Shift 0.4mm unlocked
The Uni Shift 0.4mm unlocked

Let me start by saying: It’s all Lexikaliker’s fault.

He praised the virtues of 0.4 mm pencils, so I had to order one.

I had a look at various 0.4 mm pencils and decided to go with the Uni Shift for £7.43 from Amazon Marketplace in the UK [1]When I bought it it was 3p more expensive: £7.46., in the USA it sells for $10.20, again on Amazon Marketplace …including shipping. In many online shops this pen can easily cost twice as much, though. I have no idea how the pen can be sent from Japan for such a good price.

The Uni Shift 0.4mm locked
The Uni Shift 0.4mm locked

Despite coming all the way from Japan it only took a few days before the pen arrived. The seller even remembered that I bought form him before.

0.4 mm

In theory

Well, this is my first 0.4mm pencil. You’d think 0.4mm doesn’t seem to be that different to 0.5mm, it’s just 20% smaller, but depending on how you write the difference in the graphite you lay down can easily be 30% or more.

Uni Shift 0.4mm

Here’s a little table showing the surface area you cover, depending on which angle you write with and assuming you don’t rotate the pencil(!). The spreadsheet is available as a Google Doc, so you can check the formulas I used. Please let me know if you find a mistake.

Surface area at 40°
Surface area at 40°

Assuming a writing angle of 40° a 0.5mm pencil would cover a surface area more than 50% bigger than a 0.4mm pencil, so there is quite a difference.

Uni Shift 0.4mm

 

In practice

…well at least that’s the theory. In reality things look a bit different. When I checked lead diameters with my caliper I got different numbers. Have a look at the table below. Note: 0.3mm and 0.35mm is used interchangeably my manufacturers.

Nominal value (mm)0.20.3/0.350.40.50.7
Measured value (mm)0.240.360.460.550.68

I am not sure whether I read about this discrepancy in the past, but when I had a look I couldn’t find any information about this on the web. Since my caliper isn’t ‘officially’ calibrated and is just for home use I won’t go into more details and speculation here, other that these might be legacy diameters manufacturers adhere to so that leads and pencil stay interchangeable.

Uni Shift 0.4mm

Using the nominal value, an 0.5mm lead used at an angle of 40° has a 50% bigger surface area than an 0.4mm lead. Using the measured values the 0.4mm lead is closer to the 0.5mm lead, but the gap to the 0.35mm lead widens, see table below.

Lead size (mm)0.350.40.5
Surface area (mm^2)(nominal diameter)0.150.200.31
Surface area (mm^2) (measured diameter)0.160.260.37

The main issue with 0.4mm pencils is that the choice of leads is not that big, but the excellent neox Graphite leads are available in 0.4mm.

Uni Shift 0.4mm

Uni Shift

The main purpose of the pipe lock mechanism seems to be to make the pencil pocket safe, i.e. the rigid sleeve/pipe is hidden so that it can’t damage your pocket. I guess the mechanism used in the Uni Shift makes it easier to create a pencil where the sleeve is rigid and doesn’t wobble, compared to mechanical pencils with a retractable sleeve. Easier might in this case also equate to ‘cheaper to manufacture’.

All sleeves out
All sleeves out

The mechanism that locks the lead feels a bit clumsy. I don’t find it as nice as some alternatives, shown in the video, mainly because it is more difficult to use single handedly.

I like the grip section. It is made from metal. The upper body of the pen is only plastic. Considering the price of the pen this is however not surprising.

All sleeves in
All sleeves in

The pencil is excellent value for money, at least for the price I paid. If you don’t like 0.4mm you can buy the Uni Shift in many other lead diameters, too.

Uni Shift 0.4mm and Silvine Memo Book


Price: June and July 2016
Exchange rates: July 2016

As usual please open images in a new tab to see a high resolution version. To see the video inhigh resolution please open in YouTube,

If you want to read more about Mitsubishi and it’s link to other companies with that name have a look as Estilofilos.

If you want to be amazed by Lexikaliker’s special 0.4mm pencil have a look at Sonderanfertigung and Sonderanfertigung 2.

The Uni Shift has been mentioned in The Pen Addict podcast, episode 152, at around 30 minutes. One of Brad Dowdy’s favourite mechanical pencils.

The Pen Addict and Dave have reviews of this mechanical pencil.

 

 

 

 

References

References
1 When I bought it it was 3p more expensive: £7.46.