Review – PaperMate “Write Bros” Mechanical Pencils (48 pack)

PaperMate isn’t exactly known for making the most high quality products in the world. But for the most part they do make products that get the job done in an inexpensive and readily available way. And that philosophy is very apparent in the 48 pack of “Write Bros” mechanical pencils, which generally sells for as little as a 2 pack of more well-regarded pencils. Are these the perfect solution for someone looking to supply a group on the cheap/keep losing their own, or are they too fragile to be worth it?

photo 2-28

The bodies are similar in size to a normal wooden pencil, but a bit shorter at just over 6”. Molded in a slightly pearlescent plastic and one of 5 average colors, they have a ribbed grip section for the last inch and a half of the barrel, followed by a cheap-looking frosted plastic cone that is screwed onto the end and from which protrudes a small plastic “lead-pipe” and lead from inside that. Near the back of the pencil, there is an exposed click-advance mechanism with an integrated pocket clip that moves with activation. On top of that is a small white eraser, which can be removed to expose the lead chamber and allow refilling. Oddly enough at this price point, the item can be further disassembled by unscrewing the frosted cone on the front, at which point the entire advance mechanism will essentially fall out of the back of the barrel. There is nothing useful that can be done from this point, but it is interesting to look at.

photo 4-23photo 3-27

Performance is so-so to average. The 7mm HB lead is what you would expect at the price, a bit scratchy and softer than advertised (prone to breaking). The clip technically does its job but I wouldn’t count on it, and the plastic is brittle enough that it would easily snap. As far as erasing goes, the eraser is superb, but it is a small size and virtually vanishes when put to its task. The feeling of the click mechanism is unsatisfying but inoffensive in any way other than it feels like it will quickly break.

photo 1-31

Basically you get what you pay for, which in this case is not much. Even PaperMate didn’t bother putting a name on these pencils (I call them “Write Bros” because that’s what’s on the box and online, but the items themselves only say “Paper:Mate”, and “0.7mm”). But there isn’t much terribly wrong with them. If they are intended to be essentially “disposable” mechanical pencils, they succeed. Each has two leads (though many of mine were broken and thus less useable) and an eraser, enough to be useful, but little enough that the poor and brittle construction will be able to survive that use. They don’t seem to be meant to be refilled, as they aren’t worth the trouble, and being used much more would likely result in broken clips and eventually mechanisms (but it is a possibility for a little bit). And putting aside environmental or frugality concerns they are an inexpensive and relatively comfortable way to provide functional pencils to a lot of people, or many pencils to one particularly careless person.

Review – Paper:Mate Mongol Tri Pencil

In the US most of the wood pencils you’ll find are either round or hexagonal (at least in places I’ve seen) with emphasis on the hexagons. I personally prefer round for comfort, but they tend to roll off of any but the flattest of surfaces. Apparently people in other places have found this an issue as well, and attempted to rectify it, because I recently received a set of writing utensils from Peru, in which were 4 triangular writing instruments, among them the Paper:Mate Mongol Tri. Is it an upgrade?

photo 1-6

At first glance there’s nothing interesting about their design. They’re regular pencil length: ≈ 8”, with a crimped ferrule holding a pink eraser, and yellow paint with black (stamped) lettering. The printed information is all you need to know and a barcode, there is even a stamped but not colored “woodclinched” which I’m sure means something. It’s an overall similar diameter to standard pencils here in the US, but maybe a millimeter or so thicker. That extra thickness is to accommodate the rounded triangular shape (it’s probably the same volume of wood overall) that doesn’t roll off the desk (for the most part; you might have a very steep desk) and fits quite comfortably into the hand when using a standard 3-finger pencil grip. My fingers are much closer together when using this rather than a hexagonal design, but there isn’t much of the hand cramping you get when using smaller diameter writing instruments, and the paint provides enough friction to hold onto.

photo 2-4

Performance is nothing special and what you’d expect from a #2 Paper:Mate. The lead hardness is middle of the road, more on the softer side of HB, but that really just contributes to it losing its point quickly and not much in how it looks on paper. The eraser is fine, with nothing special about it. Like most integrated wood pencil erasers, it isn’t really enough for the life of the pencil, but it won’t be vanishing on you. In the package they come with a point that was pretty dull when I got it (but it did fly and go through the US Post Office first) and was obviously made with a chisel sharpener (three pretty flat cuts, one on each side) but it does work just fine with a standard rotating sharpener, even if it’s a bit strange to hold.

photo 4-4photo 3-4

If you really don’t like the feel of your average round-ish pencil, this (or similar) might be worth seeking out. I certainly don’t mind using it, and can see how it would be more comfortable under certain circumstances. But it is a fairly standard test/school/general-use pencil, with nothing special about how it writes. I‘ll definitely be keeping one around, and I hope to see products like this in the US in the future, but I’m pretty comfortable with round writing implements and don’t see the need to swap.

Review – Paper:Mate Mates Mechanical Pencil

The Paper:Mate Mates is obviously designed to be child’s pencil, considering that they unusually come in various colors or with various princesses or comic book characters. But the reason I have one is because it was given to me. I’m a thin lead kinda guy (0.5 most of the time) and the Mates only come in one size: 1.3mm. So they’re a cheap way to get the feel of a larger lead for those of us not used to it. But how does the rest of it work?

photo-135

The most interesting thing about this pencil is the body, which is a rounded-off triangular shape. It seems built up from a more standard size. Most ballpoint pens or (non-mechanical) pencils could fit inside of the Mates with no problem. It’s also longer than most other pens and pencils I have lying around. The overall design is very simple; it’s made to resemble a regular pencil. There is a triangular eraser on the back that is plugged into the back of the lead tube. It then expands to fit with the edge of the plastic it is held in by and creates a more “seamless” look. This bit is also the click-advance mechanism. Following that, there is some styling in the plastic that is meant to resemble the metal bit holding the eraser in on wood pencils. And beyond that is a smooth triangular barrel (with enough information printed on it) followed by a taper that is a little roughed up and meant to look like a sharpened wood pencil. There is no pipe to hold the lead here; it simply comes out of the end.

photo-136

Writing is simple, and what one would expect from a #2 pencil: smooth and somewhat dark. Due to the size of the lead, though, a lot more expression can be obtained from this pencil, as the lead can be flattened on one side and then flipped to allow for swapping between a very thin and very broad line. The triangular shape both helps and hinders this, making it easier to precisely rotate the pencil, but hard to exactly flip it over. The shape and the length, though, help the pencil ergonomically quite a bit, making the user in general much less prone to hand fatigue and cramping when using it for long periods of time. The fact that it is quite light for its size also helps with this, but contributes to a float-y feeling that I’m not much a fan of.

This pencil was made for kids as a school pencil. The ergonomics, large lead size, and HB (#2) lead grade all stem from filling in large amounts of scantron bubbles. But it does have other, more artistic (or even some office) uses. The lead is replaceable so it can be swapped for one more suitable for you, but a better eraser is needed. It isn’t the sturdiest pencil in the world, but there isn’t much that could go wrong with it and it should hold up in most use cases. So if you want to try out larger lead sizes pretty inexpensively, or are looking for a more ergonomic pencil experience, here would be a place to start.

Review – Paper:Mate Sharpwriter

Papermate has been making pencils for a long time, and one of the simplest and least expensive mechanical pencils available is one that they make. These pencils are some of the cheapest on the market from a name brand, and always come in packages containing a large number. They are almost universally recognized as one of the lousiest pencils to use, but is that reputation deserved?

20150503-225627.jpg

Starting at the back, it’s got a small, pink eraser that does indeed erase (quite well, actually,) but, like most erasers at the back of pencils, it won’t last very long. Moving down from that, we have a basically straight and plain body, with a terrible “clip” near the eraser (it doesn’t actually clip on most things the thickness of shirt pockets). The basic information about the pencil is physically molded in the side, with no other features on the barrel. It looks slightly slippery but does grip with no problems.

20150503-225632.jpg

At the front of the pencil is the lead-advancing mechanism, which one must twist both to extend and retract the lead. This is inconvenient, but not more so than a top click. This twist mechanism is flimsy and easy to break if one goes too far, but not too noticeable when writing. The lead is technically refillable, but the pencil is almost treated as disposable, so it isn’t worth it.  The lead that comes with the pencil is fine: it’s a #2 and it works fine for most purposes, even erasing well with the eraser. There is also a “shock absorber” in the pencil (I believe it isn’t a special thing but inherent in the design) and it works!  You can press down quite hard and the lead will simply retract a few mm instead of breaking, but writing like this would be fatiguing and still cause the lead to break, since the spring is only absorbing force in one direction.

Is it a great pencil? No. Is it a bad pencil that will explode when you take it out? No. It works.  It’s a bit finicky at times, and I feel like I could break it with my bare hands and minimal effort, but under normal use conditions this isn’t a problem. The clip is the worst part, and if you need a good one I’d steer clear of the Sharpwriter. If you’re looking for the one pencil to have forever this is also far removed. But it is quite versatile and quite inexpensive. (Adam Savage of Mythbusters likes them: https://youtu.be/uN6vptYpo5I?t=2m15s) And if you lose pencils often, or are getting them for an office, I’d at least consider it.

 

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Maroon, Brown, Caramel, and Grey

And now it is time for the final part of my look at the 20 colors of the Papermate Flair pen. This section only has 4 pens, and it’s special because I couldn’t find names for these colors from any official source. So the 4 names presented here are just what I think most represent the colors. Let’s get started and wrap this up.

Papermate flair colors part 4

Maroon – I love a good maroon shade, and this one does not disappoint. It’s easy enough to tell, even amongst other dark colors, what it is, and the tone is nice to look at. It might not be the most natural maroon I’ve seen, but it’s quite good, and sometimes it may even be work compliant. It doesn’t smear much but it’s not the best at resisting water, either.

Brown – The brown is a nice dark, UPS, brown. It doesn’t quite look like dirt, more like bark, and it barely smears. It’s easy on the eyes, blends in with dark colors, and could work in some office settings.

Caramel (error in image where this is labeled as Sepia and Micron Colors are switched) – Caramel is the color I’ve had the hardest time naming. I just don’t really get this light brown. It looks fairly standards, but it’s a bit off from the browns in Micron, Crayola, Pilot, and other such brands. It looks all right, but not the most natural, and most workspaces wouldn’t appreciate it. Although smearing is next to none.

Grey – And the final color is also one of the most boring. Grey is a color I love that isn’t featured in many color sets. And that’s because there isn’t much use for it. In nature I can only think of fog, and in an office only if you convince them it’s just your black pen running out. That being said, it’s a nice dark, even grey with very minimal smudging and feathering.

And there we are, the 20 current colors of the Papermate Flair. I do like them, and even some of the more garish colors are better in these sets than others. There’s a good mix of water resistance, workspace appropriateness, and personality in there. And I would recommend the set if you like tones of colors and like the Flair. But it’s a bit expensive and maybe one should consider the smaller sets if they want specific colors.

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Orange, Lime, Magenta, Marigold, and Pink

Now it’s time for part two of my look at the 20 colors of the Papermate Flair. This section of five is the “Warm” colors section. Mostly some normal colors here, but a few out-liars. Nothing too crazy.

Papermate flair colors part 2

This scan didn’t work the best

 

Orange – The orange is a deep, red-ish orange that is surprisingly natural looking. It’s very subdued, but noticeable, good for organization, but not for documents. It’s dark enough that it can be read at a glance. It fades significantly, but doesn’t really smear when wet.

Lime – The lime likely has the most variance in color, when written with fast it is a surprisingly standard bright lime color, but when taken slowly it is rather dark and subdued. It wouldn’t make a great office color but it is less harsh than a normal lime green, and the variances in tone make it good for art. Another plus is water hardly affects it.

Magenta – I find magenta colors had to classify, this one is pretty, nice to look at, and readable. It wouldn’t suit the office well but it does look like I could see it out my window. Heavy bleeding and smearing when wet with this one.

Marigold – At first glance this pen looks like another yellow, which it is, but much less harsh and more readable. It has a tinge of orange that is very pleasant and flower-like. There’s a lot of smearing, but almost no fading when exposed to water. Perhaps it could be used as an alternative to red to use when marking something important. Just as noticeable, but less aggressive.

Pink – I don’t like this color, it’s a hot-ish pink, not blinding, but not pleasant. It’s standard all things considered, it barely moves when wet and is inappropriate for anything but personal organizing. I’m not judging you if you like it, but I won’t be using if for anything.

And that’s part two. I like the warm colors, but I struggle to find uses for them. Next time I’ll take a look at five more, but this time “Cool” colors.

Review – PaperMate Flair Colors – Black, Blue, Red, Green, Purple, and Yellow

The Papermate Flair is a good porous-point pen; I’ve looked at both the black and red versions in the past. But they do come in a host of colors. I got the largest pack I could find, which seems to be exclusive to Sam’s Club, with 20 colors. And it’s so exclusive that I can’t find official color names for 4 of them. Those 4 will be in the last part of this series, the first 3 being Standard, Warm, then Cool. And now onto the colors.

Papermate flair colors part 1

Black – The black is a fairly standard black (most are): it’s deep and cool. It’s office-appropriate and moderately smear-resistant. While it does smear, it is readable after most spills.

Blue – A dark, office-type blue that is not a very natural color, but a pleasant one. It is legible and unintrusive. It lightens considerably and smudges when wet, but doesn’t erase.

Red – A dull (but still punchy) red, nice to look at, but a bit pinkish. It’s less glaring and hard on the eyes for grading and warnings than comparable pen reds, but similar to most marker reds. Is fairly smear resistant, but does lighten.

Green – A dark green, slightly darker than, say, a crayon green. It’s a deep, grassy, natural color. Noticeably different from the other, more common colors, but nothing that’ll jump out from across the room. It could be used in a liberal office. It smears and lightens quite a bit, though.

Purple – One of the more usual, pops-off-the-page purples. It is noticeable as a purple and isn’t the most natural-looking color. It stands out from dark blues, but could get lost in a page of dark inks. Almost no smudging on this one, though it does feather a lot when wet. It could be used in a similar office to the green one.

Yellow – A super-bright, stereotypical yellow. It’s almost illegible on white paper. It’s the most water-resistant after red and purple, but it all but disappears anyway. It hurts they eyes to look at for a long time (I’m not sure if it’s the brightness or the fact it’s hard to read) and isn’t a very natural-looking color. I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re coloring in books.

And that’s part 1 of my look at the 20 Papermate Flair colors. A good general assortment here, but nothing groundbreaking. Next week I’ll take a look at 5 of the more Warm colors in the set.

Review – Papermate Eagle

All pen companies have a simple, cheap round pen. Bic has the round Stic, Staples has its… pen, and Paper:mate has its Eagle. And it’s the Eagle I’ll be looking at today.

20150218-000755.jpg

The body of the Eagle is nothing spectacular.  It’s simply a semi-transparent cylinder which tapers down slightly just after the section to a tip/refill insert that can technically be removed, but which shouldn’t be because replacing it would be as expensive as replacing the pen. The cap is a standard friction fitting affair, which covers the tip so ink doesn’t get everywhere, and has a clip that’ll keep it in your pocket for a little bit, though I wouldn’t trust it. The information printed on the side of the barrel is minimal but works.

20150218-000802.jpg

The writing is surprisingly smooth for a ballpoint, at least for the red one I’m using. I guess they’re just getting better over the years. The ink is the same color as in the Paper:mate Write Bros pens. It’s fairly dark and unaggressive as far as reds go. And it’s waterproof almost instantly, though I wouldn’t wager on it being fade resistant. Writing comfort is minimal, as one still has to push down a considerable amount when compared to liquid or gel pens, and there is no grip other than the plastic of the barrel. But it’s still quite tolerable and causes no excess discomfort when writing.

Overall it’s a fine office pen.  It works, and it’s cheap. It’s sturdy and fairly reliable. Is it great? No. But they’re fine for what they are, and virtually indistinguishable from similar Bic pens. If you lose a lot of pens, or need to get some for students or coworkers, these should do just fine.

Review – Papermate Mirado Black Warrior

There are a lot of pencils out there, and it seems there are even more cheap pencils (that isn’t possible, I realize, but it made sense when I was typing it). How good can some of these pencils be? Today I’ll be taking a look at the Paper:mate Mirado Black Warrior Pencil.

20141105-010555.jpg

The pencil body is simple and round, which is surprisingly not a standard pencil shape. I always had round pencils at school (a set of leftovers from my father), and people always liked the way they felt when I loaned them out (which is why I lost so many). The shape is quite comfortable, and just that little bit better than a hexagonal pencil. The set of pencils that I received have a satiny finish that make them fairly grippy even with sweaty hands (from what I understand, they used to be more shiny and slippery). The rest of the body is a plain black with “Mirado Black Warrior” in gold on it in a poorly chosen font, as well as HB 2 and the Papermate logo, the hearts of which take away from the “warrior”-ness.

20141105-010601.jpg

The back of the pencil has a standard pink eraser, which does its job and hasn’t dried out in the time I’ve had it. I’d guess it isn’t the best quality and if you always want to erase what you wrote I’d recommend getting a dedicated eraser, but these work fine for most of us. The lead is HB, but feels much softer than most HBs I’ve used. Perhaps that is just me, but I’d say it is at least a little softer and it covers smoothly and well. A good pencil for filling in scantrons or shadows. Because it is so soft it is not too great at holding a point, though.
Is it a good pencil? Definitely, and for the money it’s really just a matter of preference.

There are loads of good pencils in this price range, so if one that is round (make sure your desk isn’t slanted) and has a slightly softer lead sounds good to you; or maybe you just like the “stealth” idea of an all-black pencil, this one is at least worth looking at. And like I said, for the price almost anyone could afford to pick up a box to compare to any other pencil they happen to be using.

 

 

Review – Paper:Mate Design Mechanical Pencil 0.7mm

t’s always nice to try new mechanical pencils, and I’ve been looking at a few recently. One that is around what might be considered “medium territory” is the Paper:Mate Design pencil (7mm #2), which has a few nice features that make it nicer than some others I’ve looked at.

20140909-224744.jpg

Starting at the mechanism, the button is quite small and has a slight angle to the top so that one’s fingers will just slide off that much easier. That being said, it works quite well. I haven’t had any issues with it, and the click is both minimal and satisfying. Removing the metal sheath reveals the eraser, which does its job. Removing the eraser gives one access to the lead, and removing the eraser holder allows one to disassemble the pencil, which is handy (one would need to unscrew the front to do that). Down from that is a clip with the Paper:Mate logo. It needs some finesse to clip on, but both holds well and is fairly easy to detach. The barrel is a medium-sized metal tube with a nice finish that simply says Paper:Mate (personally I’d’ve liked more info, but that is literally only me). The grip is a fairly hard rubber with several lines running parallel that don’t seem to do anything to improve grip. It is a bit slippery, but not to a degree that it will distract you unless you’ve used a ton of pens and pencils. There is a metal cone that leads to a smaller, retractable metal cone tip the lead flows out of. This retractable tip means that the pencil will not scratch the inside of a pocket or something, which is quite nice.

20140909-224750.jpg

The lead is alright. It is standard HB but feels a bit smoother and more break-prone than other brands of HB I’ve used. That being said, it’s broken about the same amount. I was at first apprehensive when using this pencil. It has no shock-absorbing spring and when one pushes down just after clicking, the lead retracts and makes a distracting clicking sound. This is a major problem in pens for me, and hearing the sound again and again drives me crazy, but fortunately this pencil holds the lead tight enough that I only ever hear the sound at the start of a writing session. What it does mean that is annoying, though, is that if the lead is only advanced a slight amount, a problem this pencil tends to have, then one can easily push the lead back into the pencil and be unable to write. This is actually not as major a problems as it sounds, but I feel it should be mentioned.

20140909-224755.jpg

Overall, this pencil exceeds my expectations. The retracting point and stainless steel barrel are nice features. And aside from a few minor things, everything else does its job well enough. The pencil really feels solid and good in the hand without being too heavy, and the writing experience is quite smooth. If you’re looking for a tough mechanical pencil for some mid-length writing sessions, I’d seek one out, though if you’re in an extremely demanding location or are writing for a long time (the grip is poor) you might look elsewhere.