Review – Tombow Mono Zero Erasers

A few years ago I was aiding my brother in the search for a good separate eraser to go with lead holders (that often don’t have their own erasers), and that lead me to review the Sanford Peel-Off Magic Rub, which is essentially a Magic Rub eraser in the same body Sanford uses for their Peel-Off China Markers. And to me that was the answer. I knew there were mechanical erasers, but they were mostly cheap little things, or not available in the stores I frequented. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I found the potential simple, high-quality solution of the Tombow Mono Zero mechanical erasers and I got them as fast as I could. Are they up to the task?

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The body is super simple, being a cylinder about the size of a pencil and a little over 3½” long. It comes in 2 different colors: silver for the round eraser, and black for the rectangular one (it’s made of plastic either way). At the front there is a step-down to the “lead-pipe” of sorts. This “pipe” being cylindrical for the round and flattened for the rectangular is the only other main physical difference between the two. The (lead/eraser) pipe is a nice, stiff metal that cleanly guides the eraser as it extends. On the back, there is a non-removable, simple push-click mechanism with an integrated clip. The clip is good but not superb at clipping, while having the advantage of being very structurally sound (something most plastic integrated clips are not). On the top of this mechanism is a sticker with the eraser’s sizes: 2.3mm in diameter for the round “small” and 2.5mm x .5mm for the rectangular “slightly less small”.

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Performance is good; the click mechanism is sound and has a satisfying feel, retracting and reloading are simple and both done from the front end (reducing the number of failure points but also making disassembly functionally impossible). The erasers are of the white variety and erase very well. They aren’t the absolute best I’ve seen and they won’t get rid of every single mark, but they are both quite tiny and precise, making them very useful in those fine detail areas other eraser wouldn’t even be able to get to.

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They are very good erasers, but more as a set to complement others than on their own. For writing, pocket and backpack sketchbooks, or those who do a lot of detail work, they will be fantastic, especially if one gets both to use in different situations. But for general use, they obviously don’t have the huge, quick-erasing capabilities of a standard eraser, and I’d imagine that in most people’s use cases they’d augment and not replace one. Still, I am one of those people who like to write and do finer-detail drawings more often than other types and they have earned a place in my pencil bag that I don’t see them moving out of any time soon. So if you’re looking for a fine mechanical eraser to easily carry around, fit in with your pencils, or do detailed work, I’d say take a look at these.

Review – Sharpie China Marker

A ‘china marker’ or ‘grease pencil’ is essentially a hard, fat crayon that is used mostly for temporarily marking nonporous surfaces like glass, plastic laminate, tile, etc. They are an item that used to be pretty popular but have since waned as newer products like dry erase markers for temporary work on board or laminate, and permanent markers for less temporary weather resistance have come on the scene. Yet they still can be very useful when working with glass or porcelain. This being the case I was not surprised to see some in the hardware store, but I was slightly surprised to see that they were ‘Sharpie’ brand. Do they hold up in comparison?

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The short answer would be “yes”. The Sharpie brand here is just an addition to an older, very standard design by Sanford. The body is just a version of their “Peel-Off” design. I have a fairly old (by surviving china marker standards, since using them destroys them) one that is almost identical in most ways. The body is tightly wrapped brown-ish paper that is sealed with a black, perforated coating. On this coating is all of the relevant information of the product, and beneath it is a small white string. Pulling on this string will create a tear in the coating that can then be used to tear off enough of the inside material to expose the tip if it is worn down. The tip begins exposed with a roughly conical spiral of the paper that provides a nice template when tearing off a bit later. While I do suppose that the item could be sharpened, it would be pretty wasteful and difficult which is why a system like this was developed.

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As for writing, I have a black version, and it behaves very similarly to a fat crayon. Line width and coverage are dependant highly on how much pressure is applied, but it almost never is a true “line” in that it doesn’t fill in the whole space when writing. It writes well on nonporous surfaces and often on porous ones, being again about as smooth as a crayon. For what it’s intended to write on it is relatively weather-and handle-proof (it can smear) but can be removed with a paper towel and some elbow grease. Nonporous surfaces are a bit more tricky, but in general there is a way to clean it off.

There are only two types of grease pencil/china markers: the mechanical version, and peel-off versions, this one being the latter. It is very hard to mess up a peel-off grease pencil, but it is also hard to innovate in that field. This shows neither. It was competently made, but not entirely ingenious. It lacks any innovation or improvement over the pervious generations, but it does mark what it was meant to mark (china) and more. The price and availability are also quite reasonable. If you desire to acquire a china marker, and don’t mind the fact that the “greasy” (waxy) tip is exposed, then this one will do everything you want it to.

Review – Alvin Isometric Graph Paper (8½ x 11)

One of the hardest things in art and design is getting perspective down. And while many organic things can be fudged to look fine, there are some times where a more precise and technical perspective must be used. That’s where isometric graph paper comes in (at least for 2-point perspective), with rulings that serve as guides for simple-but-precise shapes rotated at 45 degrees (or hexes). The particular brand I’m looking at today is Alvin.

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The paper comes in a pad of 30 sheets with a cardboard back and cardstock cover. The “spine” is simply glue that allows pages to be easily torn off. The paper itself is a pretty standard 20 lb weight that resists bleed-though on ballpoints and smaller felt tips. Rollerballs, larger felt tips, Sharpies, and the like will bleed, but not terribly. Show through is pretty bad, and the second side has no graph so I can’t recommend the back for use.

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The graph has a ¼ to ½ inch border around the edge with some basic information printed on it. The graph is just under 10 ½ inches by 8 ¾ inches, with lines coming from the border at 30, 90, and 120 degrees every quarter inch. The lines are a light blue and will not show up on simple scanner, and very faintly on more modern scanners when set to greyscale. Still, they can be easily removed and don’t photocopy well, meaning the drawing or diagram can stand on its own.

The grid is very helpful in creating simple outlines for 3D shapes and places, or hexes for board games and tile patterns. The paper is pretty unspectacular but it’ll get the job done. I have no clue about its archival properties, but since they aren’t advertised I’d say they’re minimal at best. They’re a fun thing to mess around with and a useful classroom tool, but they might be left behind for more serious art and design.

Review – Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser

Interesting tidbit with this review; I was ordering a replacement for this products (because spoiler: I liked it) and I ended up with something that I wasn’t expecting. While my original Mars Plastic eraser came in a humble card sleeve (as most still do) my new ones came in a fancy plastic swivel case. So this review will really be two parts. One for the eraser itself, and another for the upgraded container they can come in.

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The eraser is a standard seeming white plastic/rubber rectangular prism that measures about 2½ x ¾ x ½ inches and is marked in a regular pattern subtly with the Staedtler logo on two sides; the four smaller sides are essentially flat. Since it is an eraser there isn’t much more to say about the looks, but how does it work? Well, I really like it. I go back and forth between hard and soft (kneaded rubber) erasers. I’ve currently moved back to the hard erasers because I can see when their ability to erase starts to be diminished more clearly (by being shorter rather than slightly darker). In my experience it has erased almost every pencil line I’ve asked it to, and it is better than the ones usually found at the store (save Magic Rub), but comparing higher end erasers is very difficult. They all do their jobs well and it’s mostly a matter of personal preference (and sometime pencil choice) as anything else, but that’s where a fancy plastic case might stand out and make a difference.

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The case is slightly larger in every dimension (duh) than the eraser. The top and bottom are made to resemble the traditional card-wrapped eraser, with a white bit extending from the blue eraser identification part. A larger Staedtler logo covers the pivot on one side in this white area. On this white end attached to the pivot on the inside is a cut-out box that is about an inch on one side and an inch and a quarter on the other. This box has eight small ridges on the inside to grip the eraser, and it pivots 180 degrees from having the eraser tucked inside the rest of the case to being fully exposed. It can go farther, but at risk of breaking the back of the case. This allows for easy dispensing of the eraser with one hand and provides a nice sturdy handle when erasing. It also protects the eraser from getting gunky or gunking up other things (the inside does get a bit dirty/gunky sometimes, though). I’m a fan of the case (but being nitpicky the two smallest ends are rounded off and the eraser will not want to stand up on them).

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So in the end the Staedtler Mars Plastic is a good, but not exceptional, eraser. It’s not like it erases every pencil line in one stroke, or is virtually crumb-less, but it does get most pencil lines with relatively few crumbs. It works well, and I really like the case for the convenience and protection it provides. I’ve been using it (and flipping it open compulsively) for a bit and it doesn’t show any signs of breaking soon. Though it does make the eraser a considerable bit larger and limits use of about half of it. It’s a nice change of pace and experiment if one wants to spice up their eraser life.

Review – Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Brush Manga 6 Color Set

I’m not a Manga artist. And I usually don’t use color in my art. Mostly because it’s hard, like using brush pens is hard. What I’m trying to say is that my perspective on this particular set of art implements might not be the view of the average person who might find them very useful. With that said, let’s take a look at this set of Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens, the Manga 6 Color Brush set.

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The pens themselves are fairly plain. There is an indication of the size (“B” for brush, in this case) on the top of the cap. The cap has a set of groves running around it with a shiny finished top and clip. The clip is the same piece of plastic as the cap and does its job in an unspectacular way. The body is straight until the very end, which protrudes as a fluted section for posting, at which it’s effective. The body contains all of the needed information in several languages, which makes it seems a bit too crowded, but I can’t really complain. The section is slightly textured, which is wonderful; it isn’t slippery or uncomfortable. After that is a tapering section for the cap seal and the brush point itself. The cap seals and holds well onto this point.

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The brushes themselves aren’t of the bristle variety, but are more like a flexible porous point. This makes them much less finicky, and better for a disposable item like this one, as they would wear out faster than a bristle brush. Their flexibility is nice, going from a medium point to one several millimeters wide with relative ease, and they can be bent to some pretty severe angles without any long-term damage being done. The amount of ink they lay down is good. It increases with the pressure on the tip, and makes a full line. At times it skirts on “not enough”, and layering will definitely change the color significantly. Sharp turns with the lighter colors will leave a darker area on the corner. On office paper this amount of ink will bleed though, especially at the ends, but on cardstock there is barely show through.

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The six colors themselves are a decent selection, but not great: Dark Naples Ochre is a nice, natural looking yellow. Orange glaze is a bit pale and not really a color that is found in many places. Pink Carmine is a bit too dark and is hard to use. Purple Violet, besides having a redundant name, is dark and pleasant, but again not very natural. Phthalo Blue is a great looking lake or ocean blue, but is a bit dark for most uses, and Permanent Green Olive is quite dark and olive, which is more suited to deeply forested areas or jungle than to plains or some more common areas. Still, the colors interact with each other very well, and they dry fast, but do mix on the paper, meaning one can get interesting color combinations while still having their pens keep relatively clean.

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Overall, the set is a good set to introduce oneself to the Pitt artist brush pens. It has a nice simple selection of colors that allows for experimentation and can be used for the base of a larger set. But I certainly wouldn’t consider it a complete set for creating an art work. Many more colors would be needed, and more tailored to one’s specific purpose. For instance, there is very little here to make skin tones with, which would be very important in Manga. They’re very good pens, but the set is incomplete.

Addendum: I failed to mention the water/smear proofing of these pens when I first completed this post. Both of which are very good. When interacting with other inks or materials the lines generally stay solid, which is good for resilience but bad for blending. When hit with water the lines don’t move, but they do bleed a tiny bit of pigment.

 

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 – Piccadilly Sketch Book

There are quite a few sketchbooks out there, and it can be hard to choose. If one isn’t the “pick one and stick with it forever”, or the “grab the nearest one off the shelf when a new one is needed” type of person, it can be overwhelming. Which ones on the shelf are worth it? Piccadilly is a brand of notebooks that has been making inexpensive Moleskine-type books for some time. Are their sketchbooks any good?

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The books have a super-plain brown cardboard cover with only the word sketch thinly lettered on the front. This cover is more of a wrapping, as it’s only attached at one point on the back, wrapping around and folding in the front like a dust jacket would. The binding is a series of small, sewn signatures glued together on the spine. It’s similar to most other binding methods; the spine cover just isn’t glued to the actual spine. At 120 sheets it’s a nice length, and isn’t too bulky or heavy. The construction, while sturdy, wouldn’t, I suspect, hold up to more than its complete page count if heavily used, and the cover-cover might even fall off or be rendered unusable before then. For a non-spiral it’s good, but it won’t last forever.

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The paper is blank 100gsm, textured and acid-free. It’s quite thick, almost seeming like card stock, but this provides a stable writing service even deep into the book. The texture isn’t great, in my opinion, but isn’t intrusive either. It holds graphite and pigmented ink well. If one is using wet, dye-based inks, though, feathering can be quite severe. The thickness leads to very little bleed-through (although it couldn’t stand, say, sharpies) and almost no show-through in most cases. It’s very well behaved and makes writing and drawing a pleasure, especially with pencil.

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It’s a good sketchbook, quite a good one, if you’re not going to put it in extreme conditions. It’s on the lower price side of average sketchbooks and does the part. Most people won’t have a problem with it and I certainly haven’t. If you’re looking for something to beat up, a different book might be needed. But if you’re looking for a minimal, handsome medium-use sketchbook, I’d have a look.