Review – The Fine Touch 3-Brush Set (1-,2-, and 3-inch Flat)

I’m not a painter, or at least, not very often. Painting is expensive, time consuming, and space requiring. But nowadays there are budget products that are easing the “pain” a little bit. Bopping in to your local superstore and buying a set of brushes with a canvas or two for less than $20 is incredible. And “The Fine Touch” is one of the more visible brands (in my area at least) selling inexpensive painting supplies, like a set of three 1-inch increment synthetic brushes. Do they really work though?

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Despite the common wisdom for years being that natural hair brushes are superior to synthetic nylon ones, they have made some improvement in quality over that time. I don’t know if the best synthetic brushes are better than the best natural ones, nor would I claim that these are better than any other brush, but I personally prefer the little extra “bounce” the nylon provides, and they’ve worked quite well for me over several painting projects.

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The basic structure is the same as virtually all paint brushes: a wooden handle with information printed on it (varnished in this case) shaped like a paddle with a ferrule on one end that holds in a set of bristles. Conveniently, these also have a hanging hole at the end for easy storage. Everything about them is cheap; the wood is lighter than the bristles, with brush strokes in its finish and burs on the drill holes; the ferrules are a flimsily metal (which will likely rust) that has either cracked or slightly splintered each handle in the fastening process, and the bristles have a bad habit of falling out during the first few uses.

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So obviously they aren’t “forever” brushes, but for what they are (cheap superstore brushes) they are entirely adequate to paint with. If you only have a couple projects, just want to get some paint down, or feel the need to ease into things you might not know you want to do “forever”, then they will work just fine for that. You won’t become a master using these, and you might get frustrated with the bristles in your paintings, but they work, and for just getting started, that’s enough.

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Mini Review – Hobby Lobby Foam Core Board

Once in a while, every artist or crafter has to schlep down to the dollar store for some foam-core board. And inevitably when it cracks or tears one finds themselves wishing they’d gone for the slightly more expensive option. Could Hobby Lobby have been the savior in this scenario?

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Perhaps; the generic foam core available from Hobby Lobby has a nice smoother (bordering on slick) finish over its cool white paper. The foam filling is rigid but still has a little bit of give. The whole assembly is lightweight and easy-to-cut; and, with a reasonably sharp blade, there is no tearing.

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Depending on the store, this stuff is greater than or equal to the quality you will find in dollar or discount stores. It just feels nicer and holds up better. It may not be the best quality board in the world, but if you’re contemplating an upgrade and are unsure, consider yourself assured.

Comparison – Wite Out Quick Dry/Extra Coverage/Super Smooth

Previously I’ve compared the two major brands of correction fluid: Liquid Paper and Wite Out. Back then I didn’t take a look at the fact that Wite Out comes in a few different kinds (but there is one that is basically “regular”), so I’ll attempt to rectify that this time. Now, the various “flavors” of Wite Out do go in and out of production, with the majors being “quick dry” (regular) and “extra coverage”. I also have a bottle of “super smooth” that I picked up second hand and surprisingly still works (it’s old enough to have the previous graphic design) but that type is currently out of production. How do they compare?

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Quick Dry – The standard of correction fluids and one that I’ve looked at before. Quick Dry is fairly “standard” in properties; it dries shiny and little warm in hue (yellow-ish). It is a bit finicky and tacky, sometimes making it difficult to get a smooth finish with multiple strokes. It covers regular pen, pencil and stray marks well (though it sometimes leaves a divot where the ink “repelled” it. But on darker lines like those made by Sharpies it only minimizes the effect.

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Extra Coverage – The other currently (easily) available Wite Out, Extra Coverage is smoother, dries matte, and is colder (and much more white) in hue. From my experience it layers well, always being fairly flat, even minimizing visible strokes. It covers pens and permanent markers with ease (though it’s still got that weird divot displacement thing going on) but doesn’t blend in as well with the paper. And, though I did no super thorough testing, it actually seems to dry faster than the “quick dry” or at least not remain tacky as long, but that could be because my “quick dry” bottles are older.

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Super Smooth – Being no longer available I have no idea what a “brand new” bottle of Super Smooth would be like, but I would hope it’s better than what I’ve got here. The bottle is old enough that it has a brush (not a sponge) applicator, and that’s not an asset since this particular type is very fond of clumping up. It’s visually similar to “quick dry” but more matte, and it doesn’t cover nearly as well (it just makes things look kinda hazy) forcing one to reapply it, causing many clumps and visible brush strokes. It dries much slower than the other two as well (maybe that’s why it lasted this long) and while it may be “smoother” in the technical sense I don’t see that as much of a positive either in the abstract or the comparison.

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If I had to pick a winner it would be “extra coverage” as the only flaw I see in it is that it doesn’t quite match the color of the average sheet of paper. The “regular” “quick dry” is still a good product but one I will be using less often now. It depends on whether or not you want the correction to blend in or completely cover up the mistake. But if there is one thing to take away from this, it’s that I now understand why “super smooth” was discontinued.

 

Review – Tach-It Metal Tap Knife (Carton Cutter)

Depending on the size or type of art (or craft) works one is doing, carton or box cutters may or many not be on one’s radar or considered a useful tool. But even if one isn’t using them for opening supplies or actually during the art-making process, it still isn’t a bad idea to have one around since they’re cheap and easy to use. The dozen-for-five-dollars that these are priced at might be a bit larger set than most people would need, but it’s still inexpensive enough that it wouldn’t be hard to pick up.

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Tap knives are one of the simplest types of box cutter. On this model, the outside sleeve is a single aluminum piece that has been bent around on itself. Inside is another piece of aluminum that has been folded with a cutout at one end and a flare at the other. A standard single-edge razor blade fits in the cutout end (and can be replace by sliding the insert out of the housing) while the flare prevents the knife from protruding too far forward.

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Use is simple. Tapping the back of the knife against a hard surface will extend the blade until it is stopped by the protrusion on the back. And when the cutting is done, the front of the knife can be tapped on a hard surface to retract the blade. Very little of the blade is exposed making it fairly safe to cut with, and it’s held in securely enough that I wouldn’t worry too much about accidental deployment of the blade. How well it cuts and how long it lasts depends on the razor blade used. And the ones that come in the package are not the greatest. The points are especially brittle, and while they can keep an edge for a decent amount of time, they will crack and split with too much stress.

As far as a cheap, effective, and simple box cutter goes, they work well enough. The fit and finish leave something to be desired: the edges are rough, the tolerances vary quite a bit, and no surface is smoothed and finished, but they are so inexpensive they are practically disposable. They cut, they’re reasonably safe, and they could last quite a long time since there’s not much too them. One could get better quality, but I’m not convinced you’d really need to.

Review – Moleskine Pocket Softcover Notebook

I’ve already reviewed the Moleskine pocket notebook in hardback, but I’ve also used the softback version, and since there are a few key differences besides the obvious, I though I’d highlight them. So this is only half a review, if you want to know about the paper you can look up my other Moleskine pocket review.

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So the cover is obviously soft. It is a lot thinner and as such you can see the binding through it, especially on the back where you can see the attachment points for the elastic band. They are a bit intrusive and noticeable. The cover is blank aside from the name Moleskine stamped rather deeply into the back cover. The look is a bit like the regular Moleskine, but the pages are cut the the same length as the cover, and it looks a bit more shiny. The front cover can roll up on itself and then bounce back, but it never fully regains its former shape. The back is much less flexible due to the back pocket that comes Moleskine standard. The cover also feels almost moist and rubbery, and any minor scratches and such simply bounce out unlike the Rhodia Webnotebook. The softness does mean that the elastic band leaves very noticeable marks on the cover and sometimes the paper. The spine in contrast to the hardcover feels much more durable and able to stand up to long, continued use.

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Which style of cover is better is a decision you have to make. This one is flexible, easily fits in a pocket, and is harder the permanently damage than the hard cover, but it offers less page protection and stability for writing, so it’s give and take.

Review – Royal Langnickel Nano-Liner 02 Red Technical Pen

So, you really need a red technical pen. You’ve heard good things about Microns, but you can’t find them in red at your local store. You instead find a red Royal Langnickel Nano-Liner pen. Is it a good substitute for a micron pen? Let’s see.

First off, the body of the pen is not sleek. It is grippy as a result but feels a bit rough on the hand. All necessary information is printed on the side and is fairly hard to rub off, though it can be done more easily than with other pens. The metal clip on the cap does its job well and the number on the top is easily visible and rub-resistant.

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The ink is a bright red, unmistakeable for any other color. It’s brighter than most other red pens and would most likely have to be diluted to even begin to simulate reality. It is permanent and a bit more liquid than most technical pens. It bleeds through thin paper with ease and pools at starting and stopping positions. With card stock it works just fine, but with a heavy grain paper the line tends to seep out and become wider. Precession drawing is difficult, even with the 02, which would seem to make a line as big as a Micron 05. However, for large sweeping motions this pen seems right at home, just don’t push to hard and destroy the nib.

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So, is this pen an adequate replacement for a Micron? Certainly not! It does have several good points: large amounts of ink are good for long, and sweeping lines, but less so for the precision drawing it is marketed for. It does do the drawing job better than a standard office pen and is cheaper than a Micron. I think it’s really up to personal preference as with all art supplies, but one should really try a Micron first before checking this pen out.

Review – Sakura Micron 005 Technical Pen

Ah, Microns, the main technical pen of the trade. This one specifically is the 005 (.2mm) black version. The body is easy to hold. The finish is glossy, but grip-able. It is just long enough to be comfortable in the hand and is a nice comfortable plastic. The nib size is neatly marked on the side and top, making it easy to find the right pen for the job. After much use however, the makings on both the side and top fade away, with the top going first.

The nib is very thin, good for fine detail work and writing. It does bend easily and one should be careful about how much pressure is applied when using it. When the correct amount of pressure is applied the line is very smooth and even. The ink itself is a nice deep black that is resistant to bleeding when wet but does fade when an eraser is rubbed over it. Other then that minor fading the Pigma ink is very reliable. The ink does not bleed through thin paper and mark other sheets below it.

After heavy use the markings on the pen do rub off as mentioned. The nib begins to wear down and the metal past it begins to mark the paper. The lines begin to become jittery and inconsistent. But that is after a long and useful life. The amount of time it takes to wear the pen down to that point is incredible. And it more then makes up for its price.

The Micron is the premiere technical pen (almost) and does its job incredibly well. They are expensive but amazing (in my opinion) and at the very least write well. And the amount of time that they last easily allows for them to be replaced when they begin to show signs of wear.