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.

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Review – Sharpie Highlighter

At times I feel like there is very little for me to say about certain things. And highlighters are one of those things. I use them, but not so much that I’ve extensively tested many of them to find the best. And I only use them for highlighting, and not some of the more creative applications like using them similarly to a blue pencil. Still, a product that does its job well deserves some of my time to talk about it.

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This Sharpie highlighter was a pack-in with several Sharpie pens, but I’ve seen it on the shelf by itself as well. The body is very simple, being a translucent yellow cylinder with a “cone-shaped” stopper on the end. The cap is a solid piece of plastic with an integrated clip that works well for what it is. The section is also a simple cylinder after a step down from the barrel, and then there is a slight taper and protrusion at the (chisel) tip. Sharpie is on both the cap and barrel in various forms with the only other information being a nontoxic seal and the words “smear guard”.

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When writing, the ink goes on smoothly, and is very bright. So if you want to draw attention to something, this will work. The ink also resists smearing both what it is being applied over, and itself when wet. While it does smear and spread some when dampened, it isn’t too terrible, and during my tests only fountain pen (liquid, dye-based) ink smeared even a bit. I haven’t tested the longer-term effects, but I’d like to think Sharpie has experience with these things.

It’s a highlighter. It’s a good, simple, bright highlighter. If you aren’t looking for anything special from your highlighter, but don’t want smearing, these will work.

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 – 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.

Review – Hot Concepts Illumix 4 in 1 Stylus

Every once in a while you run into a gimmicky, cheap product that’s still a bit of fun. For instance, I wanted a laser pointer (for me and my cat) and was in Walmart one day. On that day I found the “Hot Concepts Illumix 4 in 1 Stylus”. It’s a funky little pen with a light, laser, and touch-screen stylus. And it’s only a couple bucks! Let’s see how it works:

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The light is really just a white LED that’s stuck in the end of the pen. There’s no focus, so it dissipates rather quickly. You could get an idea about the shape of a small room, find a key, or perhaps locate something stuck behind some furniture, but that’s about it. Nothing far away can be seen, and nothing in great detail. But it still works alright. Interestingly enough, both the light and laser can be turned on at the same time. The laser is dimmed significantly by this, but the light seems unaffected.

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The laser pointer works fine. It’s one of the standard cheap ones that can be found almost anywhere. It will hurt your eyes, but isn’t very bright on anything else. It isn’t very well focused and will spread out over long distances. But inside a regular sized room, it is very functional as both a people and cat toy.

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The stylus works with modern touch screens, and it’s fine. It’s so easy to make a stylus that works with these screens now it’s unremarkable. It’s a bit cheaper than the norm and seems like it might wear out, but I’d say the worst thing about it is that you have to watch out and not hit the buttons and blind yourself when using it.

Finally, the pen part. It works, actually quite well. The tip is very fine, but despite that, it writes quite smoothly with little pressure. The inks a standard, almost-black ballpoint ink that’s water-resistant. The cartridge can’t be replaced as far as I can tell, though the batteries can be. So when you run out of ink you’re out and just left with the other features. That would seem to indicate the pen is not a primary function. The sleeve with the stylus has to be removed to access the pen, and this is not held on very well. It slips and can come off with a bit of a shake. There’s also nowhere to put the sleeve when using the pen, meaning it’s a two-handed operation.

A couple of other things: the clip works well, there’s a warning under the laser but otherwise no information printed on the pen, and the white smooth color with “chrome” trim looks nice, but not very professional, and it’s quite slippery.

Overall, every action it performs is done passably, but not well. It’s a fun device to mess around with or have if you want any or all of the 4 uses, but won’t use any of them that much. The batteries don’t last that long, the ink cartridge is small and not replaceable, and the overall tolerances aren’t very tight. The metal construction is nice, but the product seems to be made with disposability in mind. It’s fun, and good for the money. Just don’t expect much out of it.