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.

Review – Tombow Mono Zero Erasers

A few years ago I was aiding my brother in the search for a good separate eraser to go with lead holders (that often don’t have their own erasers), and that lead me to review the Sanford Peel-Off Magic Rub, which is essentially a Magic Rub eraser in the same body Sanford uses for their Peel-Off China Markers. And to me that was the answer. I knew there were mechanical erasers, but they were mostly cheap little things, or not available in the stores I frequented. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I found the potential simple, high-quality solution of the Tombow Mono Zero mechanical erasers and I got them as fast as I could. Are they up to the task?

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The body is super simple, being a cylinder about the size of a pencil and a little over 3½” long. It comes in 2 different colors: silver for the round eraser, and black for the rectangular one (it’s made of plastic either way). At the front there is a step-down to the “lead-pipe” of sorts. This “pipe” being cylindrical for the round and flattened for the rectangular is the only other main physical difference between the two. The (lead/eraser) pipe is a nice, stiff metal that cleanly guides the eraser as it extends. On the back, there is a non-removable, simple push-click mechanism with an integrated clip. The clip is good but not superb at clipping, while having the advantage of being very structurally sound (something most plastic integrated clips are not). On the top of this mechanism is a sticker with the eraser’s sizes: 2.3mm in diameter for the round “small” and 2.5mm x .5mm for the rectangular “slightly less small”.

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Performance is good; the click mechanism is sound and has a satisfying feel, retracting and reloading are simple and both done from the front end (reducing the number of failure points but also making disassembly functionally impossible). The erasers are of the white variety and erase very well. They aren’t the absolute best I’ve seen and they won’t get rid of every single mark, but they are both quite tiny and precise, making them very useful in those fine detail areas other eraser wouldn’t even be able to get to.

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They are very good erasers, but more as a set to complement others than on their own. For writing, pocket and backpack sketchbooks, or those who do a lot of detail work, they will be fantastic, especially if one gets both to use in different situations. But for general use, they obviously don’t have the huge, quick-erasing capabilities of a standard eraser, and I’d imagine that in most people’s use cases they’d augment and not replace one. Still, I am one of those people who like to write and do finer-detail drawings more often than other types and they have earned a place in my pencil bag that I don’t see them moving out of any time soon. So if you’re looking for a fine mechanical eraser to easily carry around, fit in with your pencils, or do detailed work, I’d say take a look at these.

Review – Sterling Studio 4-Piece Synthetic Brush Set SS-117

One of the problems with painting miniatures (doll houses, dioramas, war game pieces, etc…) is that it’s difficult to find brushes in the right sizes, and even then, brushes can be expensive. But if you’re not going to be doing a whole lot of work with them, how well would an inexpensive brush set like the Sterling Studio SS-117 work? Let’s take a look.

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Just a bit of a disclaimer, I’m not sure if this set is available anymore or even where one would get it. I got it at an outlet store at a considerable discount and waited to use it a few times before making this review.

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The bodies of the brushes are quite simple. They are a thin piece of wood painted a dark blue with “Sterling Studio” and the brush size written on the side in white. This is followed by a very cheap piece of crimped silver metal, which holds the orange synthetic bristles. The set include a round, two brights, and a spotter. The brights being flat-ish and semi-rectangular while the other two are rounder and pointier. The differences in the round and spotter are very little save one feels a bit stiffer, but I don’t know if that’s from other factors.

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The sizes are quite small, 10/0 (0000000000) and 2/0 (00) {Side note: paint brush sizing is weird sometimes} but they aren’t massively different. While the double zero (2/0) is noticeably larger I’m not sure how much of a difference it will make. The bristles are a pretty cheap synthetic material that is quite springy (which I hear is a bad thing, but my painting skill is not fine enough to really notice) save for one which is very stiff. They seem to wear quickly, but they are quite a small surface area so it stands to reason they wouldn’t take much abuse. I know they aren’t the best quality but I’d say they’re about medium seeing as I’ve used much worst brushes. Since they are so small they don’t hold a lot of paint, but they do work well for very fine detail or fine highlighting. I believe the common wisdom among mini painters is use the largest brush you can get away with, and these in most cases aren’t. And while I have used them, I can’t imagine too many scenarios where I would need to.

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They are quite a cheap set, the wood is weightless, the finish is far from perfect (though fortunately the crimping is not loose), and the brushes will wear out quick. But for the amount of times a brush of these sizes would be applicable (unless you were doing 6mm minis, all of the detail in an already small scale doll house, or all of the detail in an N scale train set) they will do just fine. I can’t say I’d recommend them, but if you might need to paint some fine detail every once in a while, I’d say pick them up if you run across them.