What the F is that?

2B, B, 2, HB, F?

I was thinking about pencil grades the other day, as a pencil geek is wont to do on occasion, and it occurred to me that I didn’t know where, in the pencil grading spectrum, the F grade went. What the F?

(image via Jet Pens)

(image via Jet Pens)

So I did a little digging, including Wikipedia where there was a chart placing the F grade between H and HB.  The article also noted that “H” means “hardness”, “B” means blackness and “F” is for “fine.”

So, then what about the whole #2 pencil for Scantronic tests? This was believed to be created by Conté (a name well-known to artists) and adopted by US pencil manufacturer John Thoreau (father of Henry David Thoreau) in the 19th century. This system utilizes just the five core hardnesses and breaks down like this:

Pencil Grade

Comparable #

B

#1

HB

#2

F

#21/2

H

#3

2H

#4

The F grade is supposed to be that sweet spot between hard and soft pencils, just a little harder than those pesky #2 pencils we all relied upon to get us through primary school.

Also, HB and #2 are the same thing. If you are considering venturing into European or Asian pencil brands but want to purchase an all-around good hardness, HB or F may be a good place to start.

Now you know.

Review: Sai Watercolor brush markers

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My friend Madeline of Tag Team Tompkins introduced me to the Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens and within minutes, I had to order a bunch of my own. What makes these so awesome, you ask? Well, for starters, these brush pens have real bristles at the tips so they will behave more like a real brush than any of the brush pens with felt tip or polyester points.

Then, there are the amazingly awesome colors! There are complex colors like the yellow ochre, pale-almost-there colors like the pale orange and vivid brights like the vermillion orange and lime green. Individual colors are $3.50 each but sets are also available in seasonally-inspired sets of five ($17.50 each) or a 20-color set ($70).

Water test with Sai Watercolor Brush Pens

These pens are water soluble which means you can thin the colors with water to make lighter wash or blend two colors together. I used a water brush to blend through and only lightly brushed the color with water to make the color all washy here.

If you’re not falling over in your chair with the urge to buy one or a whole set of these wait until I tell you a few more things.

Sai Permanent Outline Brush Pen

What if I told you there is also a permanent outline brushpen ($5.25) that can be used to create permanent lines like the leaf I drew in the top writing sample and then applied the water soluble colors over it? Now are you excited?

When I flipped this writing sample over… there was no bleed through, or even any show through. Seriously. Keeping in mind this writing sample was done on good quality Rhodia paper stock but still… that’s pretty cool for thick, juicy markers to not show through at all. Or maybe that just speaks very highly of the Rhodia paper?

Okay, one more thing and then I think my case should be made. There is a special assortment of extra fine line pens called ThinLine ($4.95 each or a set of all five for $24.75) that come in a few select colors of deep rich hues that are also waterproof when dry and perfect for outlining. With colors like Greenish Indigo and Sumi Black, how can you resist the temptation?

Are you suitably enticed?

 


DISCLAIMER: This item was sent to me free of charge by Jet Pens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Typewriter Acquisition: Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

I’m an equal-opportunity office supply junkie. Pens? Yes, of course. Paper? Yep. Staplers, paper clips, clipboards? Don’t mind if I do. And the coup de gras of old office goodies, manual typewriters? Oo la la!

This weekend we went out to our favorite antique mall which is often a hot bed of vintage office supplies like old staplers, pocket notebooks with feed store logos and the occasional bullet pencil but typewriters tend to be of the dusty-and-rusty variety and never anything serviceable or useable. Until this weekend when I stumbled across a minty Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

The mall was having a “meet the vendors” night with free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and special discounts on merchandise so this fine piece of mid-century mechanics was 35% off. I grabbed this beauty and hopped to the register faster than you can say “shabby chic” and then we headed over to Skylab Letterpress to do some light cleaning and oiling.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

It cleaned up beautifully and the keys work beautifully. I just need to order a new ribbon for it. It has a switch for two-color ribbon so I’ll keep that in mind when I order a new spool.

Sadly, the typewriter no longer had its carrying case so I’m keeping an old bit of fabric over the top of it to keep it from getting dusty until I find a case for it. Holler if you happen to find one!

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

Do you peruse thrift stores, antique markets or yard sales for vintage office supplies, pens or pencils?

Desk Accessory du Jour: House Mugs and Coasters

House Heath Leather Coaster

Every desk needs a little something-something to make it special. Have you considered the coffee cup or mug you use? Is it something beautiful and appealing to you? What about protecting your work surface with a coaster instead of using an index card or scrap of paper?

House Industries Leather Ornament Coasters

Here’s where typographic legends House Industries might have what you need. They’ve just announced their beautiful type ornament-mandala leather coasters, currently available through Heath Ceramics in San Francisco but soon available on their web site.

black Heath House Hasami Mug

In the meantime, you can cool your heels while keeping your coffee cozy in the House/Heath Hasami coffee mug ($35). Retro cool never kept your beverage so warm.

A Knitter’s Notebook

notebook_pic

All specialty skills have their own languages, knitting is no exception. In fact, it has its own codes to convey patterns and notes in a way that might baffle non-knitters. The new True Brit Knits knitter’s notebook provides a great place for knitters to track projects and pattern notes complete with standard pattern abbreviations and symbols on the inside front cover and a ruler in centimeters on the inside back cover, perfect for measuring your swatches. The kraft paper covers feature red, foil stamped knitting needles too.

It’s compact, A5 size is filled with 28 sheets (56 pages) of 100gms paper with clean white paper, alternating plain sides and 4:3 ratio graph paper printed in a pale blue.  £10.00

(via My Life in Knitwear, shoutout to Laura at The Corner of Knit and Tea for the tip)

Ask The Desk: Less Smudgy Pencils

Ask The Desk Header

Ian asked:

As a student, I frequently have to go back and reference older papers and essays (stored in binders) I have written. Though work in pen poses no problem, work in pencil, especially that older then a month, often becomes an unreadable gray smear due to pages sliding across each other. I use standard HB pencils (both mechanical and woodcase), but have often wondered if a harder grade would help mitigate this issue. Also, I have recently fallen in love with the FC 9000 pencils and am wondering how they are on the smudging issue, especially the HB grade ones.

I called in the pencil experts, the cast of the Erasable podcast to help get you the best answers. Here’s what the boys had to say:

Johnny from Pencil Revolution definitely supports your enthusiasm for the Castell 9000. He says its “definitely smear-resistant, even through some numbered B grades. On binder/office paper, I would not go softer than the B, though, which brings me to what I suspect the problem might be.
Office papers have so much tooth that they take ‘extra’ graphite from the pencil, and it doesn’t stay put, causing it to smear. Certainly some harder pencils will help. But I think a certain amount of smearing on looseleaf and printer paper is unavoidable. Plus, the loose nature of a binder causing more rubbing than a bound book.
Maybe a composition book, where the pages aren’t moving against one another so much, might help?”
Tim from The Writing Arsenal concurred with both Johnny and Andy so there’s a lot of pencil authority there.
My final recommendations are, if you want to stick with loose leaf papers, is to try Hi-Polymer pencil leads, used in mechanical pencils. They tend to be less smudgy than standard woodcase pencil leads available from your local office supply store. Upgrading to the higher quality Faber-Castell 9000 or Hi-Uni pencils might also reduce smudging. You could also try some of Rhodia’s 3-hole punched paper which is not quite as toothy as standard loose leaf paper.
Best of luck and if you try any of this, let us know how it works for you.

April is National Letter Writing Month

(Original photo from Silvebluestar on Flickr)

(Original photo from Silvebluestar on Flickr)

While it might be a bit late in the month to bring this up, April is National Letter Writing Month. In 2001, the USPS released a statement to encourage letter writing by designating April as Letter Writing Month. We all already know and may have participated in February’s A Month of Letters or InCoWriMo but why not use April to reply to all those letters you got in February? That’s what I’m doing.

If you wrote to me in February, don’t be surprised if your reply arrives this month or in the early part of May. I’ve been spending each day writing at least one reply, usually over my lunch break in an effort to finally respond to the many cards, postcards and letters I received in February.

I did receive a few cards and letters without a return address. If you sent me a letter in February without a return address, I assume you were not anticipating a reply. If not, please send me an email using the Ask The Desk link at the top of the page and send me your mailing address so I can send you a proper reply.

There’s still more than a week left in April — plenty of time to dash off a few letters and cards.

Keep writing!

(for more info, check out the post over on the Letter Writers Alliance blog)

Happy Ester(brook) Sunday!

esterbrook-sunday

Spring is the perfect time to pull out the Esterbrooks, dust them off and see which ones need a little spring cleaning. This is my whole Esterbrook collection and I can see a gaping absence of a brown or rootbeer model as well as a need for several more pastel pocket pens to fill out my collection. And I don’t have even one mechanical pencil.

Happy Ester(brook) Sunday!

Of the eight shown, five are in full working order with nibs installed. Two have my favorite stub nib, the Falcon Fine Stub 2442, the gray on the left has the legendary 9128 flex nib, the pastel pink has the 9788, the blue has the 9550.

Of course, while I had the pens out, I felt it necessary to do a little record keeping so I created a little spreadsheet inventory of the nibs I currently have and which pen they are residing in.

nib #

description

box?

in pen?

1550

Firm extra-fine, Bookkeeping

no

2284

Firm Stub, Signature Stub

yes

2442

Fine Stub, Falcon

yes

grey pearl

2442

Fine Stub, Falcon

no

red pearl

2556

Firm fine, Fine Writing

no

2556

Firm fine, Fine Writing

no

2668

Firm medium, General Writing

no

2668

Firm medium, General Writing

no

9128

Flexible Extra Fine, Fine penmanship (Pitman shorthand) 

yes

grey pearl

9550

Firm Extra Fine, Bookkeeping

no

blue pearl

9555

Firm Fine, Shorthand

yes

9555

Firm Fine, Shorthand

no

pink pastel

9556

Firm Fine, Fine Writing, Records and charts

no

9668

Firm medium, General Writing

no

Clearly, I have more nibs than pens but not nearly all the possible nib options that are available:

(image via Rick Binder)

(image via Richard Binder)

I would really like to try the 9314F Master Point version of the Fine Stub, the 2048 or 9048 “Shaded Writing” and several others. Like jelly beans, with Esterbrooks, you can’t have just one!

Happy Ester(brook) Sunday!