Review – Bull & Stash Notebook Travel Stash

Bull & Stash was a kickstarter for a notebook company that I only found out about because my brother was excited about it. The particular product he was looking at still hasn’t entered regular production, but I figured I’d test out one and see if they were any good in general.

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The basic idea is that the notebooks have removable pages. This way, different types of paper can be used, and notes can be organized after they’re written, both inside and outside the notebook. This is accomplished by having two posts on the back of the notebook that have removable screws to allow paper to be put in an out.

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The cover is a simple slab of supple leather with two holes in the back, and a logo stamped on the front. I’ve seen some complaints that the logo is stamped unevenly, and while it is on mine this doesn’t bother me. The cover did have an unsightly curl when I first received it (the back and front didn’t match up) but this has gone away with use. On the inside, the hardware is simple, and it screws down a flimsy cardboard piece with a place for basic lost and found information. Inside this is the paper. Around 40-45 pages can fit in at a time, but I’d recommend fewer. The cardboard and leather cover do provide enough stability to write on in most situations, but I wouldn’t be taking long notes or more than a few without a stable writing surface. The cardboard is also prone to bending, decreasing the stability over time.

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The paper is all right. It is fairly bleed resistant, but prone to feathering inks. The graph and lined refills are only printed on one side, which is fine by me because I only use one, but others might find it annoying. It would be difficult to use both sides in this book, though, because the hardware makes flipping through pages difficult. I’d remove the first few pages regularly to prevent them from being destroyed, and I can say that writing on the back of a page is almost impossible. The hardware also cramps the writing space. If things were a little smaller I’d be more happy.

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In the end, it’s a solid first attempt. It seems more like a portfolio builder, though, and I don’t know how supported the books will be. There are little inconsistencies and design problems that make me shy away from recommending the books. It’s not worth the current asking price to me if the cardboard and stamp quality aren’t fixed. And the edges of the notebook aren’t finished very well, leading to a very strange appearance. It definitely will last a long time: the leather and steel hardware aren’t going anywhere. But it just seems like the designers dropped the ball a little bit. It’s almost too simple and feels like it’s slapped together from existing items. Maybe my problems with the hardware are solved in the larger version, but I doubt it. Until a more usable and better finished version is released, I’d hold off.

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Review – Autopoint All American

There are tons of pencils out there, but sometimes the old designs just call to me. And they still work very well. It’s hard to beat some of the most simple writing utensils in many cases. The Autopoint All American is not the simplest of pencils, but it is quite a classic and simple design that works very well.

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The top of the pencil is a hard, but functional, eraser held in by a metal sheath; removing this allows for access to the lead storage area. There is a metal collar that holds the clip just down from that, followed by the faceted barrel with 10 sides. This continues until the break for the twist mechanism, at which point the tip tapers down to the point of the lead. The only information is the lead size and brand on the clip, which is quite hard to read, and leaves me wishing the model name was somewhere.

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The mechanism is a simple wire-twist one that is a bit stiff to use. Once lead is inserted, one can twist to the right to advance the lead, or twist to the left and push on a hard surface to retract it. While stiff, the mechanism is quite solid, and the lead is held firmly in place. I have a .9 lead size version (in blue) and the lead is large enough that breaking isn’t very common anyway, and I haven’t found it to be a problem. The lead included is fairly standard in and of itself.

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It’s a good pencil with a classic design. The mechanism isn’t the easiest to use but it’s robust and sturdy. The pencil itself has a very utilitarian look and feel that I quite like. It feels like many of the classic pencils I have. So for those looking for a classic, rugged pencil design, this is one to look out for.

Review – Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub

These days most pencils have their own erasers, but some still don’t, especially older models that have been in production for years and are still very good at their jobs. And even many of the new pencils don’t have enough eraser for the life of the pencil. Separate erasers are still a large market. But what if the eraser came in a more convenient package? The Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub intends to solve that problem.

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The main body is simple: it’s a tube of paper that is continuously wrapped around itself and sealed with a sticker. On the sticker is the main information for the product. There is a string attacked to break the sticker seal and allow for the paper to be peeled back when the product is used. The paper and eraser tip can also be sharpened, but I wouldn’t recommend this. The core of the utensil is a tube of Magic Rub, which is a very good white eraser. Sanford’s Magic Rub erasers are easy to use, resist drying out, remove quite a bit of graphite, and aren’t as hard on the paper as some other erasers. They aren’t the best erasers out there, but they are very good ones.

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And that’s really it. The entire “pencil” is slightly thicker and shorter than a standard pencil. But it fits in most of the same places and works very well. If you have a lot to erase, and don’t like the potential of breaking mechanisms with a mechanical eraser, I’d give this one a shot.

Review – Staedtler AllXwrite

I’ve looked at a few all-graphite pencils in the past, but they were only sold in art supply stores and were thicker than the average pencil. The Staedlter AllXwrite is a #2 all-graphite pencil that is much more widely available. How does it hold up?

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The body of the pencil is unsurprisingly plain. It’s a standard hexagonal pencil design, all grey with silver lettering. The information printed on it is enough to get by. At the end of the pencil there is a standard metal eraser holder, and a fairly standard white eraser that works well.

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The graphite is quite hard, but still writes with the same pressure as a normal pencil. There is a coating on the outside to prevent major marks, but it is still possible to mark with it. Sharpening is easy, but wasteful, and if one adjusts their writing or drawing in such a way as to re-sharpen the pencil as they write with it, it requires none and will last for a very long time, far outstripping the eraser. Other than that, it’s a standard HB, suitable for taking tests or notes, and making lists and art.

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I like this pencil a lot. They’ll last forever and write well. I’ve flattened the ends of one of mine to make it easier to shade large areas. This, coupled with a few others at varying degrees of flatness leads to a ton of artistic options. While these pencils are a bit more fragile than wooden ones, I think that with normal use they will hold up just fine for someone interested in getting a long-lasting or quirky writing implement.

Review – Liquid Accent Highlighter

Highlighters are a useful tool, mainly for their intended purpose of highlighting text. But they can also be used to “sketch” drawings before inking them and not be picked up by a scanner (similar to drawing with a blue {non-photo} pencil). Still, many highlighters are the same, and I hesitate to review them, but let’s take a quick look at the Liquid Accent highlighter that is my main choice for this type of product.

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The design of the body is fairly standard for this type of stuff. The cap is a smooth, domed shape with a “futuristic” clip based in and protruding from it. This snaps onto a barrel that is again one sloping shape, with a “lanyard” hole at the end (I assume that’s what it is). The body is transparent, so the ink supply and feed can be seen from the outside. The section is almost slippery, but not quite, and the chisel tip of the marker is quite hard and works well. The information printed on is the bare minimum, and I wish there was a bit more (like manufacturer’s name) to identify it.

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There isn’t much to say about how it writes: it’s smooth, it’s bold, and isn’t too wet (it doesn’t bleed). The ink stays where you put it, generally. I haven’t tested it in the sun, but it does smear a little bit under water, and it also smears any of the less permanent or non-dried inks it highlights.

It’s a good highlighter, but it’s hard to have a bad one. It highlights stuff, it holds well, and it has a ton of ink. (I’m having trouble finding my exact brand online, there are highlighters that seem very similar produced by Sharpie and Paper:Mate {Both owned by Sanford, which is owned by Rubbermaid}, but if it’s a cheap one when it is found, that’s another plus) I don’t really have much to recommend it over any other highlighter, but if you do find it, it’s not a dud.