Frixion Stamps!

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These cute stamps represent the latest application of the erasable Frixion ink. I wonder how many people would buy these for the properties of the ink itself? To me, they are just cute, portable stamps. Of course, schedules change and appointments shift, so it would be useful to be able to erase anything.

They’re not the usual schoolgirl stuff but for adult journaling, since the range of 60 (30 at the time of my purchase, but very recently expanded!) include signs for “payday”, “drinking party”, “golf” and “business trip” (not included in the picture above, since I bought other kinds). There are also Chinese-character signs for holidays (or days you took off from work) and days you reported for work despite it being the weekend. However, they still lack some important signs – most notably, “overtime (i.e. working late and taking the last train home) and “shopping”, both crucial components of life in Japan ;) A separate sign for “cinema” would have been nice too, but instead they have included “The Scream” by Munch.

image(on a Semikolon Creativo notebook)

image(on a Midori Cotton notebook)

Very few shops outside of Japan carry these stamps (I’m not sure whether they sell it in Korea even), and the shops that do offer a very limited selection at steep prices. This is probably because a lot of the signs are Japanese-specific and so demand is limited. I had the chance to order some with my new Hobonichi planner at the Hobonichi official shop, and the rest I had to source on eBay.

While they seem like the perfect companion to a planner like the Hobonichi, in reality the properties of the ink and paper do not go together that well. The Frixion ink is a bit sticky, and on less absorbent paper like the Tomoe River it tends to pool in dots. I’ve found that however long you wait for the ink to dry, you always have to blot it, otherwise it transfers on to the opposite page. Of course, the great advantage of Frixion is that it can be erased, and the stamps come with a rubberized rim for that purpose. But I advise you not to use that eraser if at all possible. It distresses the paper and leaves marks, especially if the paper is as thin as the Tomoe River. If you must erase something, use the round eraser on any Frixion pen, it’s gentler and more efficient that way.

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The Frixion stamps use this quintessentially Japanese ink reservoir system, in which the ink is stored in the stamp itself. This self-inking system (as far as I know) was pioneered by the Japanese firm Shachihata, which I will write about in a separate post. In theory it should be possible to refill the ink once you use it up, but judging by the price I think these stamps are meant to be disposable.

Pilot Namiki Falcon Meets (Basic) Spencerian

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The Pilot Namiki Falcon (called “Elabo” in Japan) is a pen that should be of more than passing interest to pencil people. The way Pilot introduces this pen is almost exactly the same as the way Mitsubishi promotes its Penmanship Pencil – that is to say, both are said to be capable of producing the finely nuanced strokes that make up the Japanese writing system. However, the Falcon operates on a lot less pressure, and produces beautiful fine lines on Clairefontaine Seyes-ruled paper, whose 2mm lines defy most pens and pencils.

The Falcon became the subject of intense interest a few years back with this video, which showed a specially customized version performing all manner of flexible-nib acrobatics. The model quickly sold out, including vintage stock, and somehow the impression was created that the Falcon could stand in for a vintage flex-nibbed pen. It is interesting to note, though, that Pilot doesn’t seem to think so. It reportedly sent out “directives” to major retailers in Tokyo (to warn novice consumers of hazardous practices?) at the height of the craze, and in any case Japanese pen users are a conservative lot and seem to be wary of anything that might wear their precious pens out.

The most that can be reasonably expected of the Falcon is probably the slight variations in thickness and shading in the strokes, as in this review. As for myself, I’m willing to use it as an extra-fine-tipped pen that has a bit of a spring to it. If I need line variation, I’ll go back to my Tachikawa G nib.

Vintage Mechanical Pencil Leads

I have always wondered why vintage mechanical pencil leads were so much more available than vintage graphite pencils. There doesn’t seem to be that much demand and they can be had quite easily and cheaply on eBay. Is it because lead degrades more over time than woodcased pencils?  Do pre-polymer leads write worse than modern polymer leads?  Or is it because branded leads (Mikado/Mirado, Mongol, Koh-I-Noor etc.) don’t perform as well as the woodcased originals and therefore a waste of money?

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When I set out to try the ones I had, I immediately realized why there wasn’t much demand for them. Size problems!  They don’t fit any of the mechanical or clutch pencils I own!   I haven’t broken out the Permapoint yet so I don’t know, but the “long thin lead” seems to measure around 1.1mm – and it’s just slightly, vexingly bigger than the lead in the Parker 51 pencil, which is the only “vintage” pencil I own. Does this mean I will have to hunt down an old leadholder just to match this lead? Can anyone tell me how this lead writes so I’ll know whether it’ll be worth the effort? I find the original Parker 51 lead somewhat hard and light.

And in the meanwhile, here’s my paltry collection of mechanical pencils – they are few but because there aren’t many of them, I’ve had the time to grow to love each one, and several of them have been gifts too. I’ll go back to them any day, once I’m done with my pencils and fountain pens!

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Happy Halloween!

We are foreigners living in North America and I am so not into Halloween, but there is really no choice when there is a full-fledged Jedi in the house and his costume and lightsabre have to be ordered more than a month in advance. So this is my way of having fun together: Halloween-themed bookmarks for the school library :)

Ink: J. Herbin Rouge Hematite
Pen: Pilot Parallel Pen in 2.4mm

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My First Mechanical Pencil

The title is not true. I probably had other mechanical pencils before, but they are all lost. I’m not as attached to plastic: it’s cheap, trendy and shiny at first but it gets thrown out when it loses its lustre, the cute prints rubbed off and the body cracked. But I tend to hang on to writing instruments made of more durable material.

Also, the title is not exactly true, in the sense that the below is a replacement. I got the original as a primary school graduation gift circa 1984, but then I lost it some years later. I grieved over its loss and never got over it. So when I joined Penhood, I posted a drawing of it done from memory (it has a very particular pattern on its grip) and asked if anyone might know the name of the model. One member contacted the Pilot archives for me and I had my answer within twenty-four hours. (Isn’t groupthink wonderful? Also Pilot customer service is amazing. I love you Pilot 💕)

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And what’s more, thanks to the connection between Penhood and its Japanese counterpart, Wagner (The group is named for the founder of Pelikan, Günther Wagner), and in particular, one longtime Wagner member who retired from Pilot, I was reunited with my unforgettable Trusty mechanical pencil soon afterwards. It was produced until 1990 in two versions, stainless steel and plastic, and the former cost 1,000 yen even back then. It was a pretty good pencil for a twelve-year-old. I’m not losing it again :)

Pilot Color ENO 0.7mm Mechanical Pencil for Colored Lead

I like stationery and have tried to keep up with the industry in general, but I haven’t really shopped for a mechanical pencil in years. I was finished with it, somehow, when I left school. So it is quite refreshing for me to browse the mechanical pencil shelves with my son, and to see how his tastes differ from mine.

And oh my, how things have changed. Even with mechanical pencils.

This is what my son grabbed on our latest visit to the local stationer. Colored lead was all the rage when I was a student, too, but somehow it didn’t occur to me to dedicate a particular pencil to lead of a particular color. Of course colored lead gathered some graphite dust when we pushed it down our regular mechanical pencils, but that was to be expected. But now I find that Pilot actually suggests that we keep separate color-coordinated pencils for each of our colored leads. Wow.

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The lead itself has improved somewhat since I used it, but not much. It is smoother and a bit darker. But the colors are still not as vivid as I would have liked them to be. Still, the idea itself is nice. And nowadays they come with much better erasers and adorable knobs.

* Update 10/05/2014: La Plume comments that the ENO colored lead tends to break inside many of the other mechanical pencils that use the same 0.7mm standard. Therefore Pilot’s decision to manufacture a dedicated pencil with a clutch mechanism that is gentler on the lead may have been necessary (we however need to verify which came first, the lead or the pencil).