Review – Uni Kuru Toga Roulette

I’ve previously looked at one of the most liked (and according the to the Wirecutter the best) recent mechanical pencils, the UniBall Kuru Toga; I was under whelmed. Recently I was able to get a hold of the upgraded version, the Roulette. Is it worth the upgrade? Should you skip the regular model and get this one? Let’s take a look.

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The back end of the pencil is a plastic and metal lead advancer; it works and doesn’t dig into the skin. There is a rubberized ring around it for reasons I don’t quite understand. Removing the advancer reveals a super tiny eraser that won’t last long but does indeed erase. Below that is a clip, which is fit onto the barrel in a way that would allow removal, but with difficulty. Japan is stamped into the side of the clip, and the name and size of the pencil is written on the barrel just beneath the clip. The barrel is plain until one gets to the section, which is metal and extended, the bottom half is knurled, but not aggressively so; it provides a good grip. There is a small hole in the grip that allows one to see the fact that the pencils mechanism is turning (but no the mechanism itself). Down from that is a tip very similar to the regular Kuru Toga, but extended is some ways. On this model this oddly designed step down cap is still not necessary, but covers up an otherwise ugly portion.

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Now on to the part everybody loves, the mechanism. I mentioned that I was under-whelmed by this previously, and I still am, but I know why now. The window in the grip section allowed me to see clearly when the mechanism was turning and when it wasn’t. And while it was possible to do this in the cheaper versions I was a bit harder to see. The mechanism itself by the way, as far as I can tell, is identical in both pencils, but there is no way to open them and find out exactly without possibly rendering them inoperable. But the answer to when the mechanism was turning when I was writing with the pencil was… never. I tested it, the mechanism works, it just never moves when “I” write with it. My writing, and drawing, are much too light to get it to rotate the lead, and thus I never see the affects. The packaging (for the inexpensive one, my roulette came in all Japanese packaging) says that the mechanism helps with the point of the pencil, and to prevent breakage. I really have never had a problem with either of these things, partly because I flail the pencil around compulsively when writing and drawing, and that rotates it such that my lead is always at a point. Now I guess I know that I write far too lightly to have a problem with breakage. But man, if I write lightly, some people must really press down on the things. So yes, it works flawlessly, but if you write like I do it isn’t really a selling point. And finally I wouldn’t worry about the mechanism wearing out, it is extremely well made and there have been no complaints about such a thing occurring, so if it does by that time you’d be able to just get a new one, it’s popularity means it likely isn’t going anywhere.

So, it is a good pencil? Yes. Is it worth the money for the upgraded version? Yes, even without the mechanism. The pencil is solid, well made, and solves the comfort issues I had with the less expensive version. The weight is good, the feel is good, the metal gives one a good grip and the writing is nice and fine. And if one does press hard enough to activate the mechanism I’ve heard nothing but good things. I wouldn’t take it over my Graphgear, but that’s just personal preference. I like the thinner body a little better on that one. So if you write with a lot of pressure, the Kuru Toga is the pencil for you, if you don’t you have other equally good options within the price range in my opinion. Even then it’s definitely worth a look.

Review – Daler Rowney 11×14″ Canvas Panels

Painting is fun, but stretching one’s own canvas can be difficult without experience, and even pre-stretched canvases can take up more space than wanted if one is simply practicing. Or, maybe you’re using mixed media or just drawing, and a stretched canvas isn’t right for you. Canvas panels are a good, sturdy alternative in these cases, and I’ll be taking a look at some fairly inexpensive ones by Daler Rowney.

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There are three canvases in the package. All are functionally identical. They’re 11×14” almost on the nose, and very sturdy, both in binding and in strength. The have a bit of flex, and have a slight bend if left unattended, but would be very hard to snap or fold. They’re essentially primed and can be painted on directly, but one might want to go ahead and prime them beforehand. The cotton canvas is acid-free to prevent decay, and the grain is not large enough to be intrusive. Paint, pencil, glue, etc. all stick well without any major problems. I’ve had one painting not like to dry on the stuff, but since all of my others have, I’d be willing to say the problem was with the old paint I was using.

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In short, the panels are quite good and inexpensive. They won’t replace a full canvas, but they won’t hinder the painter (artist). The slight warp they have is an easily corrected downside, and the only major one I can see.

Review – Master’s Touch Palette Knife

I’ve been painting recently, and have a new appreciation for palette knives (foolishly I never used them before), both for controlling paint on a palette, and for painting. Unfortunately I’ve found no real resource that says if there are consistent sizes and shapes for palette knives, and I don’t believe there really is. So instead of this being a review of a specific size or shape of knife, this will be a general look at the quality of the Master’s Touch brand of inexpensive and easily accessible palette knives.

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The particular knife style here is slightly unconventional, and appears in the least amount of photos I see online, though it is the shape used by Bob Ross, so it’s got that going for it. The handle is a light, okay finished wood with a lanyard hole and the Master’s Touch logo imprinted on it. It’s sturdy enough and it works. Following that is what appears to be a “brass” “section” ring that is dented and losing its finish. It holds the blade in place, fairly sturdily, but also not centered. The blade is stainless steel, quite flexible and tapers down to a very usable edge. It is finished well enough, and doesn’t get thin enough to cut easily, but I suppose if one really tried they could make it dangerous. In some places the brushed finish isn’t nearly as well done, but these places don’t really matter in the scheme of things.

Overall it’s a nice introductory tool. It obviously has some quality control issues, but they aren’t major and don’t prevent the tool from functioning or make it dangerous. It’s inexpensive, and I would recommend it to anyone who isn’t sure if they really want to paint and are just trying to get into it, upgrading in the future is always possible and still isn’t a lot of money. And even if one doesn’t this tool will likely be able to last a painting lifetime.

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Maroon, Brown, Caramel, and Grey

And now it is time for the final part of my look at the 20 colors of the Papermate Flair pen. This section only has 4 pens, and it’s special because I couldn’t find names for these colors from any official source. So the 4 names presented here are just what I think most represent the colors. Let’s get started and wrap this up.

Papermate flair colors part 4

Maroon – I love a good maroon shade, and this one does not disappoint. It’s easy enough to tell, even amongst other dark colors, what it is, and the tone is nice to look at. It might not be the most natural maroon I’ve seen, but it’s quite good, and sometimes it may even be work compliant. It doesn’t smear much but it’s not the best at resisting water, either.

Brown – The brown is a nice dark, UPS, brown. It doesn’t quite look like dirt, more like bark, and it barely smears. It’s easy on the eyes, blends in with dark colors, and could work in some office settings.

Caramel (error in image where this is labeled as Sepia and Micron Colors are switched) – Caramel is the color I’ve had the hardest time naming. I just don’t really get this light brown. It looks fairly standards, but it’s a bit off from the browns in Micron, Crayola, Pilot, and other such brands. It looks all right, but not the most natural, and most workspaces wouldn’t appreciate it. Although smearing is next to none.

Grey – And the final color is also one of the most boring. Grey is a color I love that isn’t featured in many color sets. And that’s because there isn’t much use for it. In nature I can only think of fog, and in an office only if you convince them it’s just your black pen running out. That being said, it’s a nice dark, even grey with very minimal smudging and feathering.

And there we are, the 20 current colors of the Papermate Flair. I do like them, and even some of the more garish colors are better in these sets than others. There’s a good mix of water resistance, workspace appropriateness, and personality in there. And I would recommend the set if you like tones of colors and like the Flair. But it’s a bit expensive and maybe one should consider the smaller sets if they want specific colors.

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Olive, Lilac, Navy, Plum, and Turquoise

And now for part 3 of my look at the 20 colors of Papermate Flair pens. This time I’ll be looking at five of the cooler colors in the lineup. I’ll just get started.

Papermate flair colors part 3

Olive – Olive is a nice green, forest-y color that looks quite natural and is very pleasant. It is quite conservative and laid back. One might be able to get away with using it at an office, but it’s unlikely. In poor lighting it almost blends in with dark blues and blacks, though. On the smearing side it’s one of the worst, easily smearing and becoming unreadable with contact with water.

Lilac – It’s a light purplish color that is smooth and quite easy to look at. It wouldn’t be appropriate in most offices, but in many a field of flowers there are similar colors. The color looks almost washed out before water is applied, but it smears and feathers probably the least out of the entire set.

Navy – Navy is a very dark, office-appropriate blue that goes well in most places. Artistically, it would be most at home in the dark, but there may be other applications. It does smear, but very little, and it is often readable afterwards. The main problem when water is applied is that there is so much pigment that it covers a wide area with a bluish tinge.

Plum – A bit off from most of the fruit I’ve seen, this plum is a dark, red-ish, purple color. It could pass for a plum still, just not one from a supermarket. It could also make its home in an office for a bit of fun, but not for everything. It bleeds, feathers, and smears pretty badly, but does stay mostly readable.

Turquoise – Turquoise is a nice color at points, but it shades quite a bit, and the color variation can at times be unpleasant. It’s a good sky, but doesn’t look like the stone, and going over it multiple times will turn it into more of an aquamarine. If your work doesn’t have a problem with blue, it should still work. With a wipe from water nothing changes, but if left for a few moments the color dissolves completely and is unreadable.

And that’s it for part 3. These colors are some of my favorites in the set, and much more usable than their warm counterparts. Next time I’ll be taking a look at the remaining 4 pens, which aren’t officially named anywhere I can find.