Mini Review – Peruvian 2B Pencils

At this point, I’ve gotten through the reviews of most of the non-U.S. purchased products I’ve received. But down at the bottom of that list are these simple little nameless pencils that came from Peru in what I understand was a larger bundle. And I’d like to take a quick look at them before moving too far beyond.

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The body is your standard yellow, hexagonal fare, without a ferrule or eraser at the back, replaced with a white band and then a black “cap” of paint. The only other adornment is “2B” stamped in a gold color. They come pre-sharpened, and thus a little shorter than your average pencil, being around 7”.

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The lead is a 2B, so it’s a little softer than your #2 HB’s, but it’s far from too soft, and the difference is really hard to tell. That probably stems from it not being a very well refined graphite, making it more toothy and gritty than one would generally expect from this hardness of pencil.

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The build quality is work-able, with the wooden body being quite sturdy, and the absence of an eraser making things easy. There is some variance in how well the lead is centered, though, making sharpening sometimes difficult. In the end they’re what you’d expect from a cheap no-name pencil, but they get the job done.

Review – Crayola Crayons (120 Crayon Box Part 3 – Greens, Yellow, and Oranges)

And now it’s time for part 3 of this series (that is taking longer than expected) looking at all of the colors that come in the Crayola crayons 120 box set. This time it’s greens, yellows, and a few oranges; let’s take a look.

 

Jungle Green – Starting off, “jungle green” is what I can only describe as a “wet” green color. It’s not really blue-ish, but it just seems damp. The coverage is good, as most of the greens will turn out to be, but I’m just not sure how useful it would be for anything other than those weird sea-green shorts.

Pine Green – A theme with this first section of greens is going to be my wonder at why they were named that, and this continues the trend. While it is the color of some evergreens, I wouldn’t say this slightly-blue dark green represents pines. It covers kinda splotchy, but does make a good forest tree color, especially in the winter.

Jungle Green (Shamrock) – Now here’s going to be a little problem in this review; there is supposed to be another color called “shamrock” here, but instead I received a second “jungle green”. I do understand that this sort of thing is bound to happen, but I am a little disappointed and I hope it isn’t a common occurrence.

Asparagus – An unpleasant, yucky looking green that does indeed resemble some shades of asparagus (though not any I would be eating). It covers well enough and has much more shading ability than the majority of other colors in the set. Unfortunately its uses are quite limited and not on the nice side: like swamp yuck or vomit.

Tropical Rain Forest – Looking a little too blue for its namesake, Tropical Rain Forest is a deep aqua color. It covers fine and is a nice shading… well… shade. In tandem with other colors it works very well but little vegetation or really anything is around that will use it as a primary color.

Mountain Meadow – An oddly specific name for a rather plain looking green. Mountain Meadow is a slightly lighter and bluer color than regular “green”. It covers well in the normal range and has pretty standard green applications, though there aren’t any specific applications I can think of. It is a pleasant looking addition that adds some nice variation in shades (tints).

Forest Green – A color name that, along with “hunter green”, always confused me. This vaguely evergreen or dying-plant color covers poorly for a green and shades a little more than usual. While it isn’t a color that would be unused in the forest, it isn’t a usual main one and would be most at home coloring evergreens or parts of hunter’s vests.

Green – One of the standard 8 Crayola colors, Green is a very recognizable color with good properties. It’s nicely situated near the middle of the green spectrum and is suitable for all one’s foliage needs as well as for almost anything “green” made by humans. It covers quite well but has more pronounced darker spots than other colors in the area.

Fern – Vaguely fern-like, this pale green does a decent job of covering and highlights or lighter spots on plants. If I had been consulted I would’ve called it more of a “mint” myself, or “green army from Risk”.

Olive Green – Quite olive-colored (the green kind at least), and not really similar to military uniforms, I feel like Olive Green has a bit of a singular purpose. It isn’t the best at coverage and other than green-olives and pickles it looks a bit yucky.

Granny Smith Apple – Slightly darker in my experience than its namesake, Granny Smith Apple does resemble the famous apple skin and is a nice color to use in other plants or un-ripe fruits. It doesn’t provide the greatest coverage (being rather stipple-y) and will likely need a “support” color.

Screamin’ Green – And interesting name for a poor color, this neon lime green is an eyesore and not too great at coverage. Its uses would be limited to coloring neon signs, what one would write on black paper to make it “radical”, and perhaps radioactive waste. But I guess that’s more from a realistic perspective. Kids do like their neon.

Yellow Green – Much more green than yellow, Yellow Green is a light vomit-esque green color that covers decently but isn’t that pleasant to look at, though in the right light it could be the color of unripe fruit or changing leaves.

Electric Lime – The other neon green, Electric Lime is almost invisible on the paper and has very poor coverage. This is one where darker paper would be necessary and also the only use I could find for such a color.

Inchworm – Similar to Inchworms from children’s books, but not those from real life, this color covers well but has a bit of shading to go along with it. It could be used as a green highlight, for changing fruit or leaf colors, or, less pleasantly, for swamp muck in summer.

Spring Green – Another nearly invisible color that is much easier on the eyes. It is a vaguely green yellow that I could also call “autumn green” as it looks like grasses as they yellow in the fall or come back in the early spring. When colored in, it covers fine enough but has the consistency of grass and the green and yellow separate a bit.

Green yellow – An aptly named green-tinged yellow; Green Yellow is quite light and hard to see. It covers fairly well but with subtle shading that is hard to see at first. It is a good green highlight color, a likeness for grass turning yellow in the fall, and the color of some pears or apples.

Canary – A very muted yellow that is probably the hardest color to see in this section. I wouldn’t say it’s very good at imitating its namesake, but it does cover decently. I would still have a hard time trying to find a place to use it.

Almond – Not a dead ringer for either of the colors I associate with the nut, this Almond color much more resembles the off-white inside than the brown outside. In the end, though, I’d probably call it a very white yellow, perhaps an “eggshell”. The consistency (and thus the coverage) is very smooth and the uses are very interesting: cream, or eggshells, or sun-bleached something (paper?), but it’s subtle enough that it likely won’t be used to its full potential.

Yellow – Another one of the classics, plain yellow is a surprisingly deep and saturated yellow. The coverage is very good, and the shade is only slightly unnatural. It works well for many flowers (dandelions, sunflowers, etc.) and summer clothes, though on its own it is a little overpowering, and it needs to be augmented with other yellows.

Laser Lemon – High in my category of less-than-favorite is Laser Lemon, a particularly hard-to-see shade of slightly-neon yellow. It’s nearly transparent and the coverage is hard to discern but I’d say it’s patchy. It would make an interesting highlight or sign color, but that’s being generous.

Goldenrod – Goldenrod is a vaguely gold color that is more like a darker version of the following Dandelion. It’s the darkest/deepest of the yellows and as such is a tad on the messy side and its inconsistency doesn’t help. It’s a useful color for shading, darker flowers, and perhaps older plastics, but I don’t see it coming out often.

Dandelion – A bit darker than the flower it’s named after, Dandelion is a nice strong yellow that isn’t particularly pleasant, but also isn’t very yucky. It’s got great coverage but the layer has some inconsistencies and darker patches. It still looks fairly natural and is easier on the eyes than many yellows, making it good for large patches of the color, bees, flowers, and many human-made items like raincoats.

Banana Mania – This one sounds like a disease from a comic book, and is a much more orange/peachy color than one would expect from a “banana”. In fact it would work well for small fruits like apricots and peaches in their various forms as well as skin tones, though not as well, since, while it does cover well, it covers unevenly.

Unmellow Yellow – Like Laser Lemon but a bit more yellow and less neon, Unmellow Yellow has a terrible name that doesn’t really evoke a color in my mind. This one is hard to see, and hard to find uses for, looking both unnatural and unlike many man-made objects. The best I can come up with is yellow on TV/computer screens and the like. It does almost look like it’s glowing with its decent but incomplete coverage.

Sunglow – The name here is a semi-accurate description for this morning-ish orange color. It’s very light, almost fluorescent, and covers quite poorly, but it is a good rising/setting sun or hot coals kinda color.

Atomic Tangerine – These names aren’t getting any easier for me, but this one is apt. This color has minimal coverage and a “neon” quality, but it is actually dark enough to see on the paper and would be vaguely reminiscent of a tangerine that happened to get irradiated. Low sunset or safety vests is about all I can think of here.

Macaroni and Cheese – I’m gonna call this one flat wrong, and if you have macaroni and cheese that looks like this it might be tasting a bit funny. This slightly brownish orange covers quite well but I have a hard time placing it. Maybe those orangish brick buildings or left-out grapefruit peel.

Neon Carrot – Very similar to Atomic Tangerine and perhaps a little on the light side for its name, this color has passable coverage and is hard to see, being both very light and lacking that punch the other neon colors have. Its uses are very limited and it just seems to lack purpose.

Outrageous Orange – A real safety vest color, this one has quite poor coverage and high shading, making getting an even “coat” almost impossible. It is a neon-ish color and would do well as the tape used by surveyors or blended into a sunset, but it lacks a natural look.

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And that’s another 30 colors down, and in my opinion they were a bit disappointing, and without many uses. Next time we’ll be finishing up the set with the final 30 from orange to earth-tones (much more useful) and taking a look at the included crayon sharpener.

Review – Crayola Triangular Crayons

Are regular crayons too small for your hands or prone to rolling off your table and getting all over the floor? Don’t worry, Crayola has your back with triangular crayons that “promote proper writing grip” and are “anti-roll®” (that registered sign isn’t a joke by me, it’s actually on the box). They are available in your standard pack of 8, or, as in my case, 16 (and maybe larger packs, but I can’t find any), and I’ve been seeing them pop up in stores recently*. But are they the right fit for you?

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From what I can tell, the colors here are exactly the same as in all other Crayola crayons so I won’t be going over them here (ColorsReview). The pack comes in a standard cardboard box (a little rough around the edges) with a cardboard tray inside and two plastic dividers to hold the crayons in place. It’s a pretty sturdy system and none of my crayons were broken or significantly worn.

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The bodies of the crayons themselves are quite a bit larger than your average crayon, being triangular in shape (with rounded corners) with each face being just shy of a half an inch wide. They’re wrapped with a craft-paper-esque standard Crayola wrapper and have a step down about a half-inch from the front followed by a triangular point. From the box they are super comfortable, resting nicely in the hand with the paper being both warm-feeling and giving enough friction to prevent the hands from slipping. They work well both for children without fine motor skills and adults with larger hands (though the grip is actually surprisingly small). And they perform just as well as any other Crayola crayons (that is to say, very consistently and pretty good for a wax crayon, but not much use for blending or layering).

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I’d say the gimmick works, if you (or whoever you’re buying them for) were having problems with regular crayons being uncomfortable, held wrong, or in a constant state of rolling off the table. They are a fairly inexpensive solution, though that shows: imperfections in the wax mixture and paper application are readily apparent (with several noticeable chunks of crayon missing in some places). Maybe that’s just my pack, maybe Crayola’s manufacturing standards are going down, or maybe they were always like that and I didn’t notice. In any case, they are effective in design for both children and adults, and probably worth the little extra cost in crayon mass alone.

 

*Despite the fact that I peruse office/art supply aisle frequently I miss things just as frequently, so they might have been there before.

Mini Review – Museum Siam Pencil

I’ve looked at quite a few triangular-shaped pencils recently; they seem to be a trend attempting to make writing more comfortable. While they are obscure, I had heard about them and they make sense. Trending in the opposite direction I have here a pencil from the Museum Siam that is square (with rounded edges). One would think that would be uncomfortable, and maybe that’s why it’s a much less readily available design. Let’s take a look.

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The body of the pencil is super simple. It’s a rounded off 5mm rectangular prism with a nice matte black paint. On the side, stamped, in nice red letters are “Museum Siam” and a pictograph of a worker. The back of the pencil is capped with a red material but this is covered with a quite large eraser that is also in the shape of the logo/worker dude.

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This pencil is obviously a novelty or keepsake, and while it writes like a fairly normal #2, being a bit toothy and on the soft side, it probably wasn’t meant to be written with very much and most of the normal information you’d find on a pencil is absent. The body of the pencil is surprisingly easy to hold, and allows for a good grip without much cramping, though it will dig in a little more than more standard pencil shapes. The biggest problem is the eraser, which makes the pencil massively back-heavy and almost unusable when attached. I didn’t test its performance because I didn’t want to damage its aesthetics but I suspect, like most shaped erasers, it would perform poorly.

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It’s a pretty neat little gift shop item if you’re a fan of weirder pencils, and there isn’t much else to say about it really.

Review – Apsara Extra Dark Triangle Pencil

I’ve been looking at a lot of international pencils recently, and these are no exception. While Apsara pencils aren’t necessarily “hard” to come across in the US, these particular pencils, the Extra Dark Triangular, are virtually nowhere to be found. Are these Indian pencils worth getting your hands on, or nothing special?

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The pencil almost couldn’t be simpler. They have a rounded triangular body coated in yellow paint. The back end is also rounded off and capped with a thin amount of shiny black material. Most of your necessary information is stamped on the side and filled in with black paint, though in lieu of a hardness number (they’re 2B by the way) there is instead the vague “Extra Dark”.

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They are darker than the average #2 pencil, and quite soft/smooth, losing their point very quickly. I wouldn’t call them “extra dark” but you could certainly get away with it. And it’s nice for sketching or filling in scantron bubbles. The wood that the main body is made of is very light and cheap, with paint that is shoddily applied (it isn’t a nice, even coat, and you can see through it in places) but the triangular shape is comfortable and there’s enough friction to keep it in your hand nicely.

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It’s far from the king of all pencils, but it’s comfortable, doesn’t like to roll off tables, and feels like nothing when holding it. It’s a decent test-taking tool (though it lacks an eraser) and an inexpensive* way to get those darker lines when sketching. Personally, the darker lines and triangular shape aren’t my style, but if that interests you and you find one out in the wild you might want to take a serious look. But I wouldn’t go seeking them out until they become more widely available.

*I assume

Review – Simple Pencil Extender

Pencil extenders are something I haven’t looked into very much. I am able to “comfortably” use a pencil well into a stub, and would just as soon have that stub as a backup and get a new pencil when it gets smaller (and now I’ve mostly swapped to mechanical pencils). But that does mean I have quite a few stubs lying around, and maybe with some inexpensive “Chinese” (don’t know for sure, but it seems likely) pencil extenders I can breathe new life into them.

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This one is a bit of an anomaly to me as I didn’t get it myself (it was a gift), it has no identifying markings, and I can’t seem to find it specifically online anywhere. I have found an eBay listing that highly resembles it, but I don’t quite know about it. Still, it is strikingly close to other, more hexagonally shaped versions that can be found all over the place and likely use the same collet.

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The device is immensely simple: a rounded wooden dowel is crimped to a tube of metal with a slit near one end and a separate metal band wrapped around it. When a pencil is inserted into the metal tube the band can be slid down to tighten and secure the pencil stub in place. It’s basically a collet that slides instead of screws, and while it works there are some problems. For example, the pencil stubs that can be used must be of a very specific size. Standard hexagonal pencils fit (think Paper:Mate Americans) but the larger art pencils and every round pencil I’ve found (including all colored pencils) have been too big. In general it seems a coat of paint is all the difference it takes between fitting and not.

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And even when a pencil does fit it isn’t held very securely. Sliding the metal collar does clamp the collet tube down a bit but a good tug and the pencil comes free, though it is held in well enough that typical shakes don’t knock it loose. And the metal tube itself isn’t very well fitted to the wooden body and the two can easily be persuaded to part ways.

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Still, with the cost seemingly being almost nothing, it does a tolerable job. The pencil is held securely enough to write with, and can be used comfortably as long as there is still pencil to grip (the collet is not a nice bit to hold on to). It is fairly lightweight, which is good for portability but bad if you really want your pencil to feel the same as it did when it was longer. And even though the construction is shoddy they cost about as little as a pencil or two so if they help you finish a couple they’ll’ve been worth it.

Review – Vinifan Bicolor Colored Pencils (Triangular)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly have memories of being fascinated by double-ended colored pencils. I actually might still have my first one around somewhere because, even though I ended up with a couple different ones in my pencil pile™, there just wasn’t much use I could find specifically for a double-ended colored pencil. But the box for the one I’m looking at today, the Vivifan Bicolor, has (as best I can make out since I don’t read Spanish fluently) listed uses for each side of the blue and red pencil. The blue side is for “writing” and the red side is for “correcting” (escribir y corregir respectivamente), but is that really a good use scenario?

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Like a few other Peruvian writing implements I’ve reviewed recently, the Bicolor has a rounded, triangular body that helps with grip and prevents it from easily rolling off the table. It’s painted red and blue on the sides corresponding with the color of the lead, coming together in the middle at a surprisingly straight line (I don’t know if that line exactly corresponds to the leads, though). Near the center, stamped in gold letters, are “Vivifan” and “Bicolor” which is enough, but I would’ve liked some more information.

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In the package, the points are very cheaply made with 3 flat cuts, but they are usable (though the points were broken or blunted on some of mine during the trip from Peru to the USA). The writing has a more-or-less standard, waxy colored pencil feeling. Coverage is pretty good when bearing down (the blue covers slightly less completely than the red), and at normal writing pressure they are darker than the average colored pencil. But, in my experience, they become unsightly and uncomfortable after only a few words. The fire-engine red and navy blue colors are unspectacular and almost non-differentiate-able from Crayola orange-red and blue pencils, but they get the job done. Both the waxy-ness and the not-good-for-art colors provided help lead to the very standard problem with inexpensive colored pencils of them not blending very well, but the packages says they’re for writing so that’s less of a concern.

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I’m still not really sure what I would use this for. The red side is good for marking corrections to be made, but the blue side is not good for writing. The color set is too limited for most artistic applications and the difficulty there is compounded by the inexpensive waxy-ness. Still, if you’re looking for a space-saving or easier-to-keep-track-of way to have both a blue and red colored pencil with you, this would be a perfectly adequate (and comfortably designed) way to do that.