Review – INC PenMark Permanent Markers

As someone who bolts to the stationery section of every store I enter, every once in a while I just have to dive into one of the budget options there (I say that like cheap crap isn’t something that I have innumerable piles of). And if you do this at Dollar General you’re very likely to end up with something made by INC, a brand I’ve looked at before that produces writing utensils that function. Is their current foray into permanent markers, the PenMark, any good?

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The bodies are a simple design. The body is a cylinder with a foil label that has minimal information printed on it. The cap mostly continues this cylindrical motif until its end, when it slants off at a slight angle. The clip is plastic and unsurprisingly molded into the cap (for safe keeping). At the other end there is a hexagonal step-down for posting, which the cap nicely clicks onto. Underneath the cap is a series of 3 step-downs that lead to a metal tube with a small, stiff felt-tip.

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The performance is as to-be-expected. They smell like permanent markers, and the line stays like permanent markers. The ink causes a lot of bleeding and feathering, even on high-quality paper; the result is a line considerably thicker than the “ultra fine point” stated on the package. The colors are all pleasant and readable, with the exception of yellow, which is, like most yellow, essentially useless, and they do stick to the paper and remain vibrant once applied. Water has no discernable effect on the markings, but alcohol does start to break down the dye/pigment. The lines will break down and feather under regular rubbing alcohol, and bleed through increases tremendously, but during my tests the lines actually remained legible.

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If you’re looking for an assortment of permanent marker colors on the cheap, these technically fulfill that requirement. The bodies are cheap, the nibs are brittle, the ink bleeds and is more-than-likely not archival quality. But they provide a mark that is suitably permanent on household materials (paper, tin cans, and plastic containers; they will fade, but they will leave behind a water-resistant mark) in a skinny, portable body which fits anywhere your average pen will, with a clip that holds them in place.

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Review – Dollar General Utility Knife Blades

Utility knives are an almost ubiquitous tool. They are inexpensive and easy to use cutting tools that are good on the job, at home, and for crafting and artistic tasks. And for most people they are used for jobs that scissors just can’t do. Even people who carry pocket knives can use a cardboard cutter now and then. But there’s a reason the blades come in 100 packs at 10¢-30¢ apiece. This set from Dollar General is about 20¢ apiece. How do they work?

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To start, the packaging says they fit most utility knives, which I’ll believe. Their shape is similar to most other blades I’ve seen, and they fit my knife just fine. They lock into place with about as much precision as one would expect, which is to say not much. There’s play in the blade when installed, but it’s workable. They come sharp enough to cut paper, and strong enough to cut household plastics, which are both really things that are a bit out of the general use of the blade. They don’t dull immediately, either. That being said they don’t last for very long and the blade itself can be dinged rather easily. They are also pretty fragile. When I was testing one on plastic the very tip of the blade broke almost immediately. They’ll last about a hard day (or 2-3 give or take) cutting cardboard, longer in the house, shorter if you’re cutting more or heavier things (like they won’t last literally all day just cutting), and for as cheap as they are I wouldn’t expect much more. And if cutting cardboard cleanly isn’t a necessity they can last longer. Finally, they are smothered in grease in the package to prevent rusting, and while I haven’t left mine out I have no doubt that they would rust really fast.

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So are they great? No. But no utility knife blades are great.  They do about as well as expected, and are at least safe for their main function of cutting cardboard, rubber and the like. If you need the blades right now, or don’t need to buy many blades, these will work, but larger packs or ones with slightly higher quality would be recommended.

Review – Yellow Dollar General HB No.2 Pencils

By: Austin Smith

All right, on to the art-making things. Let’s start with pencils, specifically HB or No.2 pencils. The ones I’m reviewing today are from dollar general and are 10 cents apiece. So they’re the cheap, starting pencil.

The pencils are small and light, roughly 6 and 3/4 inches to start, with about a half inch eraser. The wood is cheap, it’s splintery and rough. The paint is applied poorly, with parts flaking off and wood showing through, but it does its job and the letters are easy enough to read. The eraser is all right, it erases, but not all the way. Usable for sketches and writing. The eraser is hard and sometimes smears the graphite instead of erasing.

But that is all roughly cosmetic. One can get other erasers and the paint does its job. It’s really about the graphite. And that’s hard to screw up. HB’s are a fairly hard pencil, really medium, leaning to the soft end. They’re easy to draw with and give a large amount of control. The lead is not brittle, and stays in its wooden case. The pencil is suitable for sketches and of course writing like its main use in schools.

The wood being cheap makes it difficult to sharpen, making it lean more to one side or the other, the lead is also slightly off center. It’s cheap, but usable.

This pencil is a nice cheap way to sketch. And is useful in creating a draft for a sketch to be inked later. It being cheap it is available but it is also cheap, not the best pencil available. It does its job but it’s nothing spectacular.