Review – Lihit Lab Pen(cil) Case

I might be a little bit late for the back-to-school season, but I do have a pencil case I wanted to talk about. Most pencil cases tend to be of the “dump everything in and fish it out” variety, even if the only hold a few pencils. The rarer breed is the organizational pencil case (that isn’t attached to some other “organizer”). One of the simplest, least expensive, and easiest to get a hold of versions of this is the Lihit Lab Pen Case (I can’t find a certain model name {maybe Teffa?} or number that seems to fit {maybe A7551-24?}). Is it worth it?

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The outside of the case looks pretty standard (mine’s black, but there are lots of available colors), the back is blank and the front has two almost-useless pockets with a small rubber “designed for arrangement” badge. The (double) zipper is roughly in the center of the bag (and it even has the same logo as the front badge on it) and it feels very sturdy and secure, though it has no “brand-name” on it. The hinge is made of a double layer of the same fabric as the rest of the case and shows no sign of wear from several months of use. The whole package comes in at about 8”x4½”.

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The inside is a brown version of the same color polyester fabric (regardless of outside color). On the inside of the front there are two roughly inch-wide bands to hold in pens, and on the back inside there is a simple mesh covering about half the area (to hold other items). There is also a center divider/organizational area that is strangely attached to the inside of the back half and not in the middle. I suppose that would have interfered with the hinge, but its placement near the back (really it just favoring one side) can be a problem at times. The front of this divider has another inch-wide band (higher up this time) and a thin pocket (not mesh) at the bottom, and the back has three mesh pockets, the top two being slightly larger than the bottom one.

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So the configuration of the whole case is to hold pens in the front and other art/office supply things in the back. This works pretty well, especially since the back can hold either. I have 24 pens or pen-like things in mine* and 10 (or so, paper clips are counted as one thing) other things including an eraser, Swiss Army Knife, stapler, pencil sharpener, notepad etc. It fits everything nicely and is very flexible with its organization. I was surprised with what I could fit in it (almost everything I wanted), and I’ve been carrying it around wherever I need pen(cil)s for months now and it shows no sign of stressing the material or really any wear whatsoever.

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My concluding thoughts could just be “it is the pencil case I use, and I don’t see that changing soon”. And that would be true, I really like this case, it is perfect for my exact usage scenario, but due to its popularity and the number of photos of it I see online, it looks like it could fit quite a few usage cases. It’s inexpensive relative to other cases its size (it probably helps that there is no packaging needed, but it does come with a cute little card that folds out as a representation of how to use the case), it’s durable, flexible (both in the physical and organizational sense), and it’s attractive. I’d definitely recommend it as an upgrade to the regular zipper bag most people use.

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* Pencil Case Full Contents List

    • 2 Pentel Pocket Brushes
    • Pigma Brush
    • 2 Tombow Duos (N95, N60)
    • Liquid Accent Highlighter
    • Sharpie Twin Tip
    • Autopoint All American in Blue (Caran d’Ache Sketcher Non-Photo Blue Pencil)
    • Pigma Graphic 1
    • Pigma Micron Technical Pens (005, 01, 02, 03, 05, 08)
    • Le Pen 0.03 (003) Technical Pen
    • Tombow Mono Zero Eraser (Round 2.3, Rectangular 2.5×5)
    • Scotch Tape Roll
    • Pad of Generic Sticky Notes (3”x2”)
    • Twist Ties x2
    • Paper Clips x5 (Insulated)
    • 4 inch Ruler
    • Pentel .5 HB lead
    • Pentel Graphgear 500 .5
    • Swingline Tot 50 Mini Stapler
    • Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser (With Plastic Case)
    • Victorinox Super Tinker**
    • Zebra F-301 (Black, Blue, Green, Red)
    • Paper:Mate Liquid Paper Correction Pen (Signo Angelic White Gel Pen)
    • Kum Pencil Sharpener

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Last two photos from Jetpens.com (http://www.jetpens.com/Lihit-Lab-Teffa-Pen-Case-Book-Style-Black/pd/7665) I just had to include a photo of the "booklet" and originally couldn't find mine.

Last two photos from Jetpens.com (http://www.jetpens.com/Lihit-Lab-Teffa-Pen-Case-Book-Style-Black/pd/7665) I just had to include a photo of the “booklet” and originally couldn’t find mine.

Blog 9-7-16 – September Update

So it’s September, and I said I would update y’all by the first week of the month, and here I am, proving again that I am not dead, and not much has changed in the way of the posting schedule.

I had no idea that the process of my moving would take more than a year, but, as many more productive people will tell you, when you can’t devote your full attention and effort to a single project, it will get done less efficiently. I definitely wasn’t able to get done what I had set out to do in a reasonable amount of time and I am sorry that in doing that I have severely diminished the amount of content that has been featured on this site (hopefully temporarily).

But, things are getting back on track, as hopefully the last few (and next) days of posts will prove. I didn’t do as many exciting things these two months as before, but here are a few photos from another art show “Clarity in Chaos” that I did with the new West Texas Collective (Facebook Instagram Twitter) in Alpine Texas. It was a really fun show, and I hope to do more like it in the future.

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I won’t be fully up and running for a while longer now, but I’m getting close to being back in a position where I can do so. It’s more than likely I’ll have something working by the end of the year. I’ll post another update by November, and be on the look out for that one, because there are a few other really cool things that I’ll also be doing in November. So stay tuned and thank you for reading/watching.

-Austin

Dragoncompany.org   Artsupplycritic.com   Dragonfunnies.com

Review – Dixon “My First” Ticonderoga

I’m not gonna lie; I find reviewing wood pencils difficult. I just don’t see enough difference in them to make it seem worth my while to look at each specific one. Ones like the My First Ticonderoga are easier, but still the discussion of them ends up being brief. That being said, let’s take a look.

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The pencil is almost solid yellow, with green accents on the information on the “barrel” and the metal eraser holder. It is a little more broken up by the eraser’s pink and the wood of the sharpened end. The eraser works well enough, and is quite large since the pencils size is increased. The body is half again to double the circumference of a standard pencil, making it much more comfortable to hold, in my opinion, but harder to store. It is completely round, making rolling quite easy, but its larger mass makes it less prone to ending up on the floor.

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The lead is standard fare for #2. It works well enough for drawing and writing, providing a medium line that can be both quite dark and quite light, though the largeness of the lead skews it to dark. Personally I haven’t used it much for that, but I have used it for marking wood in lieu of a carpenter’s pencil, a job at which this excels.

It’s a good pencil, both for kids and those who don’t want to or can’t hold the smaller standard pencils of today. The quality control isn’t the finest. I’ve found some wood and paint blemishes but these are quite minor and don’t affect the writing ability at all. The set I got also came with a plastic pencil sharpener that does what it’s supposed to, but is nothing special. They’re just a simple, good option for someone who wants a larger pencil.

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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Review – Sharpie Colors Part 2 Blues – Blue, Navy, Turquoise, Sky Blue, and Blue Ice

Now in the second part of my Sharpie color reviews I’ll be talking about the blues, a nice and varied set of colors.

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Blue – Blue is a very classic color and it looks quite a bit like the standard blue we’ve come to expect from various markers and pens. This one is a bit darker, though. The ink is more wet than the other standard colors and bleeds a bit. It’s also too dark to be natural and almost too much to be organizational, it is a bit too close to black in dark conditions, but with good eyes it can work. Still, it is very blue.

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Navy – This color is very close to the classic navy color, a bit close to black in low light, but it looks like a lot of navy colors. It’s a very dry color and has very little bleed and feathering/spreading. It’s a nice-looking color, but not a very useful one.

Turquoise – Turquoise is a difficult color to get down in ink, and none of them look quite like the stone. This one’s a bit dark, but it does make a good blue-green tone. The ink is very wet, and bleeds easily, but has very minimal feathering. It’s a very natural and pleasant tone, great for organization and for artistic purposes.

Sky Blue – This blue, like most of the blues in this set, is darker than it really should be. It’s more of an evening sky blue, or a wispy-cloudy blue. It bleeds a bit more than the turquoise and the blue, and is just as feathery. It’s a very nice looking and easily identifiable color that many office and artistic uses can be found for.

Blue Ice (Possibly Mystery Blue) – This color is the most contentious of the colors in my current review lineup. The package of markers I received was not marked, and of the other blue colors I looked at this one seemed closest. If you believe I am wrong in my categorization, I encourage you to leave a comment. This blue is a cool blue that I would say has no direct natural counterpart (certainly not ice, as this is the least aptly named), but it could be used as a substitute in many cases. I prefer it to the sky blue as a light blue. It can be used in art if one is creative and is very distinguishable from other colors for organization.

Overall, I really like the blue Sharpie colors. They are a bit bleed-prone, but they have a variety of uses and in many cases are work-appropriate. The tones are very natural and appealing. They’re a good set to get, if one can.

Next time I’ll be looking at a few of the greens that Sharpie has to offer.

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.

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.