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?

photo-184

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.

photo-185

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 – 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.

photo-151

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.

photo-152

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.