Comparison – Simply Tacky vs. Scotch Mounting Putty

When looking for some sticky tack to put that poster up on the wall without using push-pins, one usually looks for the Scotch brand. After all, they do know how to make things sticky. But one may also find Simply Tacky a (terribly named) product that does the same thing. Is it worth it to search for the right brand?

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To start off with, both items come with very close to the same amount of product. The Scotch packaging is slightly smaller, and more packed with use information and diagrams. Both are cut into four similarly-sized bars. The Scotch is the only one with a weight limit (of 1lb). Both are quite white, and are easy to pull apart and shape to stick onto a surface. Both are very grippy, with the simply tacky being a little more malleable and aggressive. It breaks into pieces more easily, though.

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As for what they can hold I’d say it’s about equal. The Scotch says it’s up to a pound, but they don’t tell you how much product to use. With a tiny, equally-sized bit of each product (weighing less than a gram) I was able to hold 70 grams (2.4 oz) easily, and I’ve held up to half a pound products stably up with enough (It will do up to a pound, but only in certain configurations of putty and object). Putting that same small piece of product up with a 7oz (198g) item, both failed fairly quickly with the Scotch maybe a little faster, but I’d chalk that up to my tests being not completely scientific.

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Overall, I’d say both products are really the same on the user’s end. Their uses are the same, price can be more or less in favor of each brand depending on where one shops, and they hold almost equally well. If you’ve got a choice in the aisle, then I’d say take the cheaper one, but it’s not worth another trip to get the right brand.

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Review – Zebra M-301 Mechanical Pencil

The Zebra F-301 is one of my favorite and most hardy ballpoint pens. I’ve used one for a long time, and they have a good record for staying together. But Zebra has several other writing utensils in their “301” line, one being the still-very-popular M-301 Mechanical pencil. Is it as good as its counterpart? Let’s see.

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The body of the pencil is the same as the pen, starting with a sturdy stainless steel click button, and going to a black plastic clip “holder” for a stainless steel clip that does its job if one doesn’t get turned upside down and shaken. The barrel is also a nice, plain stainless steel with the pencil’s information printed on it. The grip section is plastic with a bit of “knurling” that provides some grip and is unintrusive. The real difference between the two bodies is that after the section the pencil has a black plastic taper with a metal pipe for the lead. Unscrewing this will reveal the lead and make it breakable but otherwise not change the operation.

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The push cap operates smoothly, and can be removed to reveal an eraser that does its job, though it has no replacements in the package. Removing the eraser reveals the lead feed, which thankfully does come with more than one lead in the standard version. The lead feeds well, and writes as smooth as one would expect a standard HB to. It is a bit hard, and brittle at times; unlike many pens there is no shock absorber, so keep the lead as short as possible. The pipe and the lack of a shock absorber do make this pencil much more like a drafting pencil than the standard mechanical pencils, and it would work in that scenario in a pinch (or perhaps a bit longer). And its rugged steel exterior make it great for taking anywhere. One would just have to worry about the pipe getting bent or tearing something.

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It’s a great pencil, really, and it lives up to the expectations of its ballpoint relative. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a tough little thing that gets the job done, and for an inexpensive price, considering the materials and drafting-friendly capability. If one can find refills, they will have a pencil they can take anywhere for a very long time, even if it’s not their main utensil.

Review – Tombow Dual Brush Pens Grayscale Set

Ink-washing is a great way to improve the look of ink drawing, but diluting India ink and using traditional brushes can be messy and a hassle at times. Gray brush pens certainly do help and the Tombow Dual pens have both a brush and marker tip to make using grays easy.

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On either end of the marker there is a cap. One is quite a bit larger than the other, in both length and circumference. Both have ridges for easy removal, and small inner caps to prevent what they’re covering from drying out. The larger cap also has a fin to prevent it from rolling too far on a desk. The caps are made in such a way the that larger cap can “post” over the smaller one, and the smaller one can post into the larger one. They’re both sturdy and work well. The section for the larger brush side is nice and tapering. It’s long and easy to hold. However, the one for the marker side is quite stubby and holding on the body is almost necessary. The body itself is plain: a cylinder with text, Necessary information is there and it works.

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The pack I have is a pack of five grays and a black. The black is fairly understandable and a bit warm. The other grays purport to be “cool” but do vary from cool to warm, in my opinion. Several of them are also far too dark to really be distinguishable, but that also is just my opinion. The N95 and N60 are the most distinctive. Being very light and easy to work with, and very warm, turning to green after a while, respectively. The 45 and 55 are barely distinguishable and the 65 is about halfway between true white and true black, but all three get very dark very quickly and none of the five easily make a smooth edge, they are too varied in color to do so. The colors are all acid free, making them archival quality. And while they are water-based and claim to be blendable, I find that once they absorb into paper or card they are almost immovable. They go on smooth, the brush has quite a bit of variance but can be fragile (it is a sponge-like and not a bristle brush) and the marker is quite consistent and rigid. They can be used for several large projects or quite a few little ones, but can’t be expected to last longer than any other felt-based markers.

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In the end, they are great for someone who is just trying to get a feel for the grayscale washed look but is frustrated with, intimidated by, or doesn’t have to time for mixing up one’s own wash. Some other supplemental brush pens might be needed to get the full effect out of the shading, but these are a good start and the double-ended aspect makes them more useful than similar pens.

Review – Fiskars Cutting Mat (12×18)

If one is cutting things for hobby purposes for much time and one doesn’t have a table which would deal well with sharp objects, a cutting mat is really a no-brainer. But how well do the more common ones really work?

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Fiskars cutting mats are easy to find in many places. The particular one I use is 12×18 inches, but has a border of about a half-inch, extending the dimensions to about 13×19 but with rounded corners. Each edge is marked with a ruler that is accurate and the mat is divided into inch squares.  A couple of angles are also laid out in one corner. Most of the information on the mat is printed on a sticker on one of the sides (it’s double sided).

Being made of a fairly slick plastic, the mat can clean up easily after things like paint and plaster, but it has a texture that prevents the items being cut from sliding around. The mat is self-healing, but that really only applies to small nicks, anything larger might get a bit better, but will obviously never go away. Most things of this nature don’t inhibit the use of the mat. And it can take quite some beating from blades. If one is using this for hobby projects it will easily hold up to almost anything that is thrown at it (or rather cut on it). Obviously it has an upper limit, as it was cut into shape in the first place, but for normal personal (not industrial) use, it’ll work for a long time.

It does its job, I don’t know what else to say. Placing this on top of a table before cutting something for hobby, personal, or artistic use will almost ensure the safety of the tabletop. It works, and you can buy them from Wal-Mart.

 

Review – Excel #11 Hobby Knife Blades

X-Acto knives with #11 blades are an art, crafting, and modeling staple. But is the brand name worth it? Will a pack of Excel blades do just as well, or should you just buy the no-name brand from eBay if you want to save money?

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To start off with, the Excel brand 5-pack that you buy in hobby stores has a tube to store the blades in. It’s nothing special, but it gets the job done, is clear so you can see your supply, and is flexible so it doesn’t shatter.

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The blades fit securely in all hobby knife and scalpel handles that I tested, and should fit in all (unless there’s a proprietary system I don’t know about). The blades come sharp enough to cut paper, and hold their edge through cutting plastic. They dull and bend at about the same rate as X-Acto blades and can easily make it through several projects before dulling or being nicked. I’ve had no rusting yet (they come oiled), but I do keep them fairly moisture-free. The tip is “flexible” in that it doesn’t shatter and has some play (bouncing back when bent), but the point and the blade are hard enough that a single blade could take weeks of daily use (depending on the use, as plastic and metal are obviously harder than paper and cardstock).

Overall, these blades are less expensive and at least as good, if not better, than the name brand competition. They cut well, hold an edge, and resist breaking. They’re a reliable blade that is at least worth a look.