Review – OHTO Sharp Pencil APS-350ES

I like tiny, pocket-sized things. Especially writing utensils, like the Fisher Space Pen Stowaway, the cheap touch screen styluses, and now the subject of this review, the OHTO mini Sharp Pencil. All of these happen to be the same size. So the OHTO is cool both in that it matches many other small items you can buy, but it also might be the smallest mechanical pencil I have ever seen, being a little over 4 inches long and less than 3/16ths of an inch in diameter. But at that size will it still work well? Let’s take a look.

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The design is meant to mimic a wooden pencil. The outside of the pencil is actually made of wood and has a hexagonal design. Mine is in green, with silver printed information on one facet. The tip is sharpened like a wood pencil until about halfway when it is replaced by a metal cone that leads to a very short lead pipe. On the back there is a clip that is a separate piece of metal bent around and friction fit. Beyond that is the click mechanism that is really only usable when the eraser holder is installed. The eraser holder is quite a simple piece of metal that keeps the lead in the feeder, depresses the click mechanism, and holds a very small eraser. The wire-thin piece of metal attaching this piece to the body seems rather flimsy and easy to remove, but I have had no problems with it shaking loose: it simply doesn’t have enough mass. Likewise I have encountered no problems with the quality of any of the components.

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The lead seems to be HB. I don’t have the package (which is rather understated and nice by the way) with me so I don’t know what it is exactly, but I have no complaints. It writes well, and can be sufficiently dark. The eraser also works surprisingly well for its size, with very little being used to rub away quite a bit, but I wouldn’t say it’s a great eraser. The click mechanism is satisfying and the lead is held very securely in place when one is using the pencil. The clip is also very good for the size, easily holding it in place while not damaging anything.

In the end, for on-the-go sketching or writing I would certainly recommend this product. I also wouldn’t recommend it at all for stationary or desk-related activities. It is very small, and while that makes it portable, it isn’t the most comfortable of writing implements. It will hold up very well in a bag or a pocket, and it looks quite neat in my opinion. I’d just say be careful of the back end being knocked loose and stock up on some extra erasers and lead (it only comes with one of each) as one will likely run through them pretty quickly.

Review – Sharpie Industrial

Sharpie makes permanent markers, but permanent never really means permanent. Of course there are ways to remove traditional Sharpie ink, especially since it, like many modern inks, is alcohol based. So, in order to keep up with their permanent image Sharpie came up with its “Industrial” version. How permanent is it compared to the regular version? Let’s see.

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The body is virtually identical to that of a regular Sharpie, except for the information printed on it, which has been changed to reflect the more permanent nature and is in red. As far as writing on regular paper goes, it is a bit warmer than standard Sharpie ink, but not really any less or more black. The difference is barely noticeable. Also, like a regular Sharpie, it will not write on wet surfaces.

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But on to the permanence. I tested the ink on a piece of galvanized steel by making a small mark, letting it dry, and then applying pretty much anything I could think of that might clean it off. It held up remarkably well, but it was mostly resistant, and not fully “anything-proof”. By the end of my test the mark was quite faded but still readable, and it had withstood: water, fire, isopropyl alcohol, bleach, WD-40, ammonia, acetone, De-Solv-It (citrus based gunk remover), Lysol, Gojo hand cleaner (for grease and tar), dry cleaning fluid (because I couldn’t throw the kitchen sink at it), lighter fluid, paint thinner (mineral spirits), and gasoline. So I checked online and in several reviews people said that in laboratory settings the alcohol used would take the marker right off. So I went and attacked it with some denatured alcohol, and sure enough it broke it down to the most pale of lines possible, but it still wasn’t gone. So I tested on some other materials and another piece of galvanized steel. On plastic, the denatured alcohol removed it with very little problem. On aluminum it was also met with little resistance. On a tuna can (which could be either tin, steel, aluminum or a mixture) it was a little tougher but almost all of it was removed eventually. But, finally, on a galvanized trashcan the alcohol met its match, reducing it to a very faded line but it was still unable to remove it entirely. So there is likely some chemical that bonds directly to or gets through the galvanization on such materials.

Barely visible mark after denatured alcohol was applied

Barely visible mark after denatured alcohol was applied

All of this stands to reason. Modern inks are mostly made from an alcohol-based dye solution. This makes them dry faster and essentially water resistant, unlike their former water-based fountain pen ink relatives. But they still fall short of pigment-based inks on permanence, especially when it comes to alcohol, which in many cases will clean up both ballpoint ink and (permanent) marker ink by reactivating it for a short amount of time. Virtually any ink (but not all) will smear, bleed, or be removed when its base is reintroduced. But that’s why we have different bases in the first place.

In specific settings where large amounts of chemicals are continuously applied to surfaces, especially alcohol, these markers won’t work. But there are specialty markers made for work like that. As a general purpose marker that is meant to be used in tasks that are more demanding than standard household ones it works quite well. It does outperform the regular Sharpie and would work sufficiently well for many workplace or “industrial” tasks, but testing may be required before using it on the job.

Review – Sharpie Mean Streak White

I have a pretty liberal definition of what an art supply is. Not quite as liberal as those who say everything is an art supply because (almost) everything you do is art of some kind. But I do think more qualifies as art supplies than the average person does. For instance I would say that everything meant to make a mark is an art supply. And that assumption will be tested here where I take a look at the Sharpie Mean Streak “permanent marking stick”, and see if it has any real art applications.

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The body is quite large, being about half an inch in diameter. It’s got a good amount of information on the side, but it gets a bit cluttered-looking. The back is a twist knob, like a glue stick. The cap has a slight taper with several ridges for grip. Inside is a pointy cone that can shape or dent the “marking stick” if you put it in slightly wrong. Inside around the “marking stick” (grease, wax, or whatever it is) is a sizable ridge that is quite uncommon on writing implements. There is also no grip section area.

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There are two ways I can describe this, either as a permanent (wetter) crayon, or a more slick grease pencil. Neither of those descriptions really tell you exactly what these things are. The inside substance comes in a pointy cone that is pretty useless. It’s very putty- or grease-like and when used the point becomes very flat very fast. It writes similarly to a crayon, in that it isn’t easy to control or sharpen. When the tip is flattened beyond a certain point, the base can be twisted to extend the point, but it can’t be retracted, so remember to not twist it too far out (that shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re an impatient reviewer like I am). The feeling it has is very slippery, and quite a bit of material comes off for not a lot of writing, but there seems to be quite a bit of it in the barrel, so running out should not be a major problem.

Performance is a bit disappointing. The white color doesn’t cover very well at all, meaning use in art as either correction or even to mix with other colors is very limited or would require re-application. It can be used as a covering to make things “hazy” but the coating is quite unpredictable. It likes to clump up in certain areas and barely cover others at all, meaning detail work also shouldn’t be done with it. As far a permanence goes, it is, but not wholly. I did testing (not just normal use) on metal and paper. Both were reasonably water-proof, on metal flame did nothing to it and on paper it did resist the flame but once the paper burned it did too (not that anything else would have happened). Then on the metal piece it stood up to WD-40, which has a knack for removing regular Sharpie, but was easily wiped away by isopropyl alcohol. I also suspect it could fairly easily be scraped off or crack easily on pliable surfaces. It does go on whether the surface is wet or dry as advertised and does dry in a fairly short amount of time for how tacky it is to begin with.

I would still consider this an art supply, and it can work well in mixed media, but really it is much more at home in the garage or the toolbox. The tip and lack of sharpening or controlling method means it works quite a bit better when marking large surfaces. It is “permanent” in that it’s hard to purposefully get off, but it doesn’t penetrate and won’t wear terribly well. It’s an interesting item, but certainly not a general use-one.

Review – Fisher Space Pen Stowaway

The Fisher Space Pen has a reputation for being a very good pen, with many models being used by many people for many different things. But I feel that some models of space pen get more attention than others. And for some reason, the stowaway isn’t one of them, but it might be my favorite and I think it’s deserving of a look today.

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The body is very simple. It’s a black metal cylinder with a plastic end cap and another slightly larger black cylinder fitting over it. Fitted to this top tube is a clip, which is longer than most pen clips I’ve seen and has “Fisher” stamped into it (not much else to say, it works as a clip should). On the section there is a slight but smooth step down, and then a taper to the point.

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Writing is fairly smooth, though it does require a bit more pressure than some of the more modern pens (but less pressure than the cheap ones). The pen itself is very thin in diameter, meaning one’s hand will begin to cramp if writing more than a few notes. The body is also very short, and generally requires the cap to be posted (placed on the back of the pen) in order to lie in the webbing of one’s hand and be comfortable. This small-ness is very useful when traveling, as this pen can fit just about anywhere (but not an Altoids tin or some similar sized case, which might be why “preppers” don’t use them very often). And even though it’s metal it weighs next to nothing. In most cases it will “stowaway” very easily.

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I really like this pen. It goes with me almost everywhere (and I found an almost identically-sized pencil I will be talking about soon). Its slim body and black color make it very low profile and professional, while its all-metal construction and space pen (underwater, upside down, in space etc.) writing ability make it a very rugged writer. I did dent and scratch mine within a day of owning it, but I haven’t put anything on it since (and besides, that just adds character). The cartridges are even replaceable so you don’t have to throw out the pen each time as with many pens of this size. So, if you’re looking for an on-the-go sketching/writing/note taking pen that could also fit in with any of your other stuff at a moment’s notice, I’d say check this guy out.

Review – Pentel Sharplet-2 .9mm

Recently I was gifted several mechanical pencils from someone who is a fan of larger lead sizes, and they were attempting to convert me. I have to say I’m not convinced, but the pencils themselves were ones I hadn’t had previous experience with. That isn’t really surprising, considering the vast array of mechanical pencils on the market from companies like Pentel, such as the gift I’m looking at today: the Pentel Sharplet-2 in .9mm.

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The pencil has a very classic and simple design that’s been around the block. At the back there is a plastic, cylindrical cover for the eraser, which is the standard tiny variety and placed over the lead tube. This back bit also serves as the click-advance mechanism. The barrel is the same diameter as the back cover, and consistent all the way down. The clip is one piece of metal that is friction fit around the barrel; it is a little stiff but keeps the pencil where you clip it. The only other features of the barrel are the brand and model information (that is engraved in as well as painted on, making it harder to wear away than on most writing implements), and about an inch of tiny ridges on the “section” (there is no separate section so that is for you to decide) for grip. The plastic cone that screws on the front is straight and unspectacular, ending in a metal pipe that makes the pencil more drafting-friendly.

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The leads pencils normally come with are all pretty standard, straddling the line between super dark and super light. The wider leads, just by virtue of being larger, require less pressure to write darker, and write (or sketch) in general with a wider and darker line. There are no real problems or tricks one has to get used to when writing. The eraser is similarly plain. It erases well, but can have trouble getting rid of darker or thicker lines like all erasers of its size that come packed in with mechanical pencils. The pencil does come in different versions for lead sizes; these are color coded for easy identification (it looks like there is some variation in the eraser color, as well).

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Pentel makes a solid pencil, and this is no exception. The design is simple, comfortable, and durable. It’s really a no-frills pencil. Everything is basic and has a function, it’s easy to disassemble and parts could be easily replaced (though it isn’t expensive enough to justify the hassle of that, it certainly isn’t a disposable pencil, though). The mechanism is satisfying to use, the grip is not slippery, the clip holds, and the retro styling makes it look kinda trendy (not that I care). If you want a simple, solid pencil or want to buy a set with easily distinguishable lead sizes, these would fit the bill.

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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Review – Poppin Fineliners

Poppin is a company that I don’t know much about, but their pens definitely catch the eye. When I saw this set of fineliners (felt tip pens) from them, I knew I had to pick a set up. The packaging and the feeling of the pens themselves appears quality, but do they live up to their first impressions?

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The outsides themselves are very nice looking. At the bottom is a small inset for posting the cap, which connects via a visible seam to a very smooth and featureless barrel. Underneath the cap are a series of step downs that are quite short and would be uncomfortable to hold, leading quickly to a standard-looking felt tip point, making it more comfortable to hold the pen by the barrel when writing. The cap, when on, has a slight step up from the barrel but is equally pleasantly smooth, and its only features are a dimple in the top and a rather unique u-like clip that looks like a Lamy wire clip that has been flattened.

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Functionally, the clip is about useless. It doesn’t have any dimple with which to grip, and is spaced farther from the cap than the width of most fabrics, meaning friction won’t be holding it in. The tips themselves aren’t that great, either. Like most fineliners, they do write with minimal pressure, but unlike most they do not give a consistent line. Dots very quickly form when writing or drawing due to having a very fluid ink not well controlled, and when writing fast at times skips can even develop, though this is rare.

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The colors of black, blue, and red are very standard, but the two extra colors are very washed out, blue especially. The blue is very pleasant sky blue when controlled well, but becomes darker quickly. But it still sticks out compared to other office blues. Red is nice and vibrant, though its tone is closer to that of a pink. It’s the least prone to problems as the ink is a bit thinner and less likely to dot. The black is fortunately a black and not a very deep purple or gray as some are. It is slightly on the cool side, which is unusual. The colors do match their corresponding pen bodies fairly well, but the inclusion of a 4th pen that has a white body, but also black ink, is slightly confusing. They unfortunately do bleed through the paper, but have minimal shading and resist water (while they do spread slightly when wet, they remain easily readable).

Overall I think the pens aren’t really up to par with what one can get for their office. They are sturdy and the ink works well, but without functional clips, they must remain at the desk or in a case, and their writing performance leaves much to be desired. The user just ends up with a pen that feels slightly rough and dry. If style and durability are your main concerns (and potentially ease of writing as the ink almost jumps from pen to page on contact) these might work for you. But for those looking for the superior, super-smooth and comfortable writing experience, or a portable reliable writer, these can be easily passed up.

Review – Parker Jotter Stainless Steel

There are many pen brands out there, specializing in various things. Most Americans who know more than nothing about pens would recognize the Parker brand as a longtime quality maker. One of the least expensive, most accessible, and longest running products they make is the Jotter ballpoint/gel/rollerball pen that utilizes Parker’s own refill type. I have here the “all stainless steel” version, how does it hold up?

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The pen itself is obviously all stainless steel. At the back is a very pleasantly tapered click button, followed immediately by the clip shaped as the famous Parker arrow. The pen from there slowly bulges and then tapers down to the end where it almost seamlessly meets with the pen’s point when it is not retracted, with only a slight seam 1/3 of the way down the pen where it is unscrewed to be refilled.

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Now I can’t speak to the Parker brand refill this pen came with as I don’t remember how it wrote and I currently have a Monteverde refill inside (that writes very well, as I said in my review). But I can talk about the feel and sturdiness, both of which are superb. The click mechanism is a bit different and it just feels not as advanced as some of the more modern pens, but it is very solid and satisfying. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just feels older (like using one of those drafting pencils that have been in production for 60 years). And the steel finish is very easy to grip, while beings stylish and well-wearing. Scratches and such barely show up, keeping the pen looking nice and professional for some time.

Overall it’s a great pen, and for the price (a little more expensive for the “all stainless” one) it is easily a great value as one pen could last a lifetime (though refills might not be cheap). It’s hardy, with a time tested, solid mechanism, and while it doesn’t look as nice or handle as well (or have as many expensive materials) as the more expensive ballpoints out there it still looks professional, fits in with both modern (stainless) and retro (colors) styling, and can take a rough and tumble life. It’s a tough little trooper.

Review – Sharpie Colors Part 6 – Orange, Peach, And Yellow

And now, it is time for the final (for now) part of my look into the various colors of Sharpie markers (that I own). This section isn’t quite a “nice” as the others as I didn’t have another place to put the yellow that seemed appropriate, and there aren’t many oranges. Nevertheless, let’s take a look.

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Orange – The standard orange is, like all standard Sharpie colors, quite dark. It doesn’t quite resemble the fruit enough for most renderings but is close enough. It’s not too bad on bleed-through, feathering, or shading. It’s well behaved, just not that useful.

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Peach – Peach doesn’t quite look like a peach either. It’s more of a weird skin tone. But it is perhaps a bit more natural looking than the orange. It’s pretty bad on bleeding and feathering, with shading being noticeable. But it is pretty so if you like the look you might be able to find a use for it.

Yellow – And finally yellow. It isn’t something really spectacular. It is indeed stereotypically yellow, without much of a natural bent. It is hard to read in the dark and bordering on eye hurting in the light. It bleeds through, but feathering and shading are minimal. I would struggle to find a place for it due to its unnatural hard-to-read-ness but if yellow is your thing, it certainly gets it done.

And that’s the last set of the Sharpie colors that I have. It’s probably the most lackluster set (figuratively. Literally would be the neutrals). I would struggle to find a place either in art or at the office for them, but they do help round out any personal collections and would make eye-catching signs I guess.

Most of the Sharpie colors are more useful, though. The set I have would work both in the artistic and office realm. And it offers a large enough selection of colors to keep most people happy.

Review – Sharpie Colors Part 5 Reds – Red, Pink, Pink Lemonade, and Magenta

We’re five parts in to my look at the various Sharpie pen colors I have. This time I will be looking at some of the various shades of red.

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Red – The red itself is a deep, dark color. It’s close enough to the color of a red rose, and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly if the dye for both is those red bugs) ketchup. It’s not very aggressive or eye-hurting, but it stands out and is good for marking and work-appropriate. It’s not the best or worst on the bleed-through side of things, but has almost no shading or feathering. It’s a good color, if a bit boring.

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Pink – The pink is also a bit like a rose, not getting quite to the obnoxious hot pink style, but still bright and visible. It’s not the most natural color, but it does separate things out from the crowd. Bleeding is again medium, feathering and shading are a bit more pronounced than on the regular red, though.

Pink Lemonade – Pink lemonade is indeed the color of pink lemonade, or of a pink crayon or candle (something wax). It’s not unpleasing, but it’s also not a color I would keep coming back to. It’s fairy flat and doesn’t really pop out, but is differentiatable. Bleed-through and feathering are pretty bad, and shading is noticeable, though not too much.

Magenta – And now for the final color I’m a bit dubious about. I think it’s magenta. It’s a very deep pinkish color (should I say again like a rose? Roses occur in so many colors) which I can’t find many natural parallels to, nor any really solid work applications. It does look pretty (I guess) but that’s about it. Bleed-though and feathering are terrible with this one, but no shading is evident.

And that’s the reds. They look like flowers, and don’t work well at the stereotypical workplace. They work for organizing, but have some pretty extreme properties. They’re certainly the most eye-catching of the bunch (other than yellow).

Next week I’ll look at the Oranges (and yellow)