Review – Kutsuwa STAD Pencil Holder

Okay, I’m going to admit here that I don’t really know the name of this product as the only English I could find on the package was a URL, “made in China”, and STAD. But I do know it’s a pencil holder, so there is that. From my research I’ve found that this is a less-common or less-popular model (as in I couldn’t find it online at all). So I feel the need to say this is not a review of the “one-push” model.

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Pencil holders have been around for a while, and there are quite a few options to choose from. In fitting with my style, I got the cheapest one (okay it was given to me, but I think that sentence suits me. I haven’t been able to find a price on these, but I bet it isn’t much). After all, it’s just a metal tube to hold a stubby pencil; can it being cheap really hurt it very much?

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The item comes in a two pack with some labels that you can stick on the side when the pencils (or whatever you’re using) information is covered up or sharpened away. There are only two labels so use them wisely. The holders themselves are very simple: they are two pieces of aluminum, a straight barrel with a stop-bump followed by some threads with cuts in them that allow the second knurled cylinder, which is tapered on the inside, to screw on and force it to act like a collet, holding the pencil in place. The finish is smooth save the knurling and resists major scratching but is quite shiny and reflective.

The pencil is held quite securely inside the device. There is the tiniest amount of give even when tightened down as far I as think I could go before damaging either the pencil or the holder. It is easily enough to allow for comfortable writing or drawing and (fairly) easy sharpening. I’m sure one could throw it hard enough to knock the pencil out, but that isn’t a normal-use scenario. Being dropped from desk or hand height won’t hurt the holder or have the pencil fly out, but it might hurt the pencil. The grip works well enough, but it is a bit slippery, the length of the barrel is enough to allow one to rest it in the webbing between their thumb and forefinger on most hands, though it isn’t the most comfortable or ergonomic. It also seems a bit front heavy with the back of barrel empty when the pencil gets very short.

To be short, no, being cheap didn’t hurt this product very much. It doesn’t feel weighty or expensive, but it does do its job. It holds a pencil that would otherwise be very uncomfortable or hard to control in a way that makes it at least tolerable to work with. It’s simple to use, and easy to handle. And with how cheap it is, I would say it would certainly be worth looking at. It isn’t as nice as the more expensive ones, but if one isn’t very picky, like me, and if you happen to find one, get it.

Review – Master Mechanic Carton Cutter

With so many options, one carton cutter review just wasn’t enough, and I am now back to review one that has a higher price. But does that make it better quality?

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The short answer is yes: it is better quality, but I’ll just go over a few things. The cutter has a bent and nicely shaped/joined sleeve made out of an unknown metal (probably steel), with an insert that is a folded piece of metal that will hold a razor blade. It also has a cutout “spring” that creates the tension instead of the body doing that, making it more pleasant to use. The sleeve also has a nice, easy-to-hold white paint applied, which makes it easier to see. The Master Mechanic logo that is printed on top of this looks nice but wears off easily and looks unsightly when it does.

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Use is easy and smooth, tapping (a hard surface) both to deploy and retract the blade-holding mechanism (placing the back on a hard surface and pushing firmly will deploy the blade, and doing the reverse with the blunt part of the front will retract it), but it does have a way it “likes” to go in and works better that way. The razor blades that are included are also slightly better than the cheaper knife, but in general one won’t get much use out of single-edge razor blades, which are sharp but cheap and prone to snapping or deforming.

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Is it worth it to buy a better version of such simple product? Probably not for most people. While this is a better carton cutter than cheaper ones, it isn’t really less dangerous or easier to use per-se. The fit and finish are as good as one could reasonably expect on a product this cheap; the amount of friction on deployment is constant; and the device will likely last for a long time. Still, a carton cutter isn’t a tool most people will be worrying about, and the less expensive ones would be easier to replace if they were misplaced or damaged.

Review – Tach-It Metal Tap Knife (Carton Cutter)

Depending on the size or type of art (or craft) works one is doing, carton or box cutters may or many not be on one’s radar or considered a useful tool. But even if one isn’t using them for opening supplies or actually during the art-making process, it still isn’t a bad idea to have one around since they’re cheap and easy to use. The dozen-for-five-dollars that these are priced at might be a bit larger set than most people would need, but it’s still inexpensive enough that it wouldn’t be hard to pick up.

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Tap knives are one of the simplest types of box cutter. On this model, the outside sleeve is a single aluminum piece that has been bent around on itself. Inside is another piece of aluminum that has been folded with a cutout at one end and a flare at the other. A standard single-edge razor blade fits in the cutout end (and can be replace by sliding the insert out of the housing) while the flare prevents the knife from protruding too far forward.

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Use is simple. Tapping the back of the knife against a hard surface will extend the blade until it is stopped by the protrusion on the back. And when the cutting is done, the front of the knife can be tapped on a hard surface to retract the blade. Very little of the blade is exposed making it fairly safe to cut with, and it’s held in securely enough that I wouldn’t worry too much about accidental deployment of the blade. How well it cuts and how long it lasts depends on the razor blade used. And the ones that come in the package are not the greatest. The points are especially brittle, and while they can keep an edge for a decent amount of time, they will crack and split with too much stress.

As far as a cheap, effective, and simple box cutter goes, they work well enough. The fit and finish leave something to be desired: the edges are rough, the tolerances vary quite a bit, and no surface is smoothed and finished, but they are so inexpensive they are practically disposable. They cut, they’re reasonably safe, and they could last quite a long time since there’s not much too them. One could get better quality, but I’m not convinced you’d really need to.

Review – Huion 17.7” Light Pad (L4S)

There have been some huge leaps in lightbox technology in recent years. I’ve owned 3 lightboxes in my time, one being a repurposed dental x-ray box, the second being a traditional style box and the third being this which I bought as a possibly temporary replacement for my more traditional-style box. But I might not be swapping back so soon.

Their photos look a lot better than mine

Their photos look a lot better than mine

The Light Pad itself is a rectangular prism that measures 17 7/8” diagonal and 14 1/8” x 10 5/8” x 3/16”, meaning it covers quite a large area, but is very slim. The workable white/translucent area has markings on the side indicated in centimeters 12 ¼” (31cm) x 8 ¼” (21cm) with a ½cm margin. The non-workable black margin is about ¾“ all the way around the pad and it’s only features are the power button and a logo. On the side of the device next to the power button is a micro USB port that is only used for power (this version has no internal batteries), and a red LED will come on when the device is correctly connected. On the back of the device there is some modest information and nicely padded feet that prevent the pad from sliding around when being used.

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Using the Light Pad is a breeze. Simply touching the power “button” lights up the entire workable area to the highest brightness setting (which isn’t very bright, and being shone through a white plastic makes it much less glaring on the eyes). Touching and holding the button will start the pad lighting up, and releasing the button during this will keep the pad at the current brightness setting. This setting is remembered and the next time one starts the device it will light up at the chosen setting unless you hold the button down again. The working area accommodates A4 and Letter sizes well, and the light on the brightest setting easily works with 2 sheets of 110lb cardstock. The plastic the surface is made from is very smooth, but resists sliding and scratches. The feet are also very nice and the device is stiff enough that it doesn’t bend around them under normal use (I still wouldn’t go stacking things on it).

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I don’t think I’m going to be going back to the more traditional lightboxes anytime soon. In my opinion the only advantage they offer is an angled working surface, which is a feature I never really used. The Huion Light Pad is a great lightbox; it’s sufficiently lighted and durable enough to be easy to work with, thin enough that is stores easily, and draws very little power. Its overall workspace footprint is very small, and its job is done almost flawlessly. I do find the red LED indicator light to be annoying but I can’t think of a better way to do things and it is much less troublesome than other indicator lights I’ve had to deal with. I also have no use for the multiple brightness settings but I suppose it’s better to have it than not. Still, the device has become a permanent feature of my workplace and I would recommend anyone looking for a lightbox to look at these cheaper and thinner LED alternatives to the traditional boxes.

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