The Sanford American No. 2 Pencil

Oh boy, has it been a long time since I’ve posted on this blog! But, work’s busy season is winding down, and now I can actually sit and think for a while! ;o) I’ve mentioned in earlier articles the now-deprecated Sanford American No. 2 pencil, and feel I should at least pay it homage. I found one the other day; it was in my desk drawer. Finding stuff like this is like discovering a treasure. A couple weeks ago my brother found a Tops Docket Gold 3-hole, letter-length notepad; he cheered like a little boy when he saw it! I think I probably cheered at least a little when I saw this pencil.

Why is it that we get so excited about finding such artifacts? I think it’s because we develop a connection to things we used for so many years in the past which are now nearly impossible to find. It wouldn’t be that way if you could run down to Office Depot and pick up a package of them. But these supplies we swore by in the past have usually been put to pasture for good reason. In the case of the Sanford, it was re-marketed as a Paper Mate product. I haven’t tried it under the new brand, but I like to think they corrected at least some of the flaws which existed under the Sanford version (namely, the eraser).

Yet, with all of it’s flaws, I was overjoyed to find it. Not because it’s a superior product; I often find myself still reaching for my Dixon, instead. But it’s nice to have a sharpened Sanford American sitting on my desk again. If for no other reason, just to give me a smile when I look at it. Now, as for my brother’s Tops Docket notepad, I haven’t seen it since. I think he must have enshrined it so the brand would never fully go extinct.

~Jonathan

The Pentel Hi-Polymer Eraser

Having mentioned this eraser in an earlier post (2006 July 3, “The Dixon Ticonderoga Pencil”), I thought it necessary to give it a home of its own. I actually bought this eraser because of how awesome it looks. It’s so ‘80’s Japan. But then I used it. Honestly, I didn’t know an eraser like this existed. Even having used a Dixon to make my test marks, the Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser totally deleted the lines. I thought, “Surely that’s not possible; I’ve never seen that happen before.” So I tested it with an old Sanford American No. 2, and it erased the line even easier! I was hooked. This was without question the best eraser I’d ever used.

The Pentel Hi-Polymer eraser is a pure-white, plastic eraser. It comes encased in a thin, cardboard sleeve. At first I thought this was purely aesthetic, but I realized later that the purpose of the sleeve is to prevent the eraser from breaking in half. The plastic is extremely soft, which is the characteristic that gives it such great erasing ability. This same characteristic keeps it relatively clean, too. Most pencil erasers turn nearly solid black after three or four uses. But the Hi-Poly cleans itself off after each use; you slough off the old, black plastic and reveal a fresh layer that’s ready to go.

I honestly don’t think I’ll find an eraser that’s better than the Pentel Hi-Polymer. I’ve yet to run across an instance where I couldn’t completely rid the paper of markings. Even old marks come off quickly and easily. Please note, though, that the softness of this eraser causes it to grab the paper pretty well, so a firm hand on the page is necessary to keep from ripping it. However, a single use is all that’s required to master the technique. And that single use will leave you all-smiles, as you too will have concluded your search for the perfect eraser.

~Jonathan

Bibliography:

  1. The Pentel Hi-Polymer Eraser
  2. Article on “The Writing Utensil Geek”: The Dixon Ticonderoga Pencil (Posted 2006 July 3).
  3. Paper Mate American No. 2 pencil, the replacement of the Sanford American No. 2 and the reason I switched to the Dixon Ticonderoga; I’ll have to test the Paper Mate to see if this switch was necessary.

The Zebra Zeb-Roller 2000 Rollerball Pen

Zebra Zeb-Roller 2000 in black

I’ve got various writing utensils for various purposes. I never have fewer than four different flavors on my desk at one time. There’s no way to explain this kind of behavior to the non-writing-utensil-geek humanoid. Most people simply assume a pen is a pen, and that is that. However, this is so not the case. Every pen and every pencil has a specific purpose; there’s a void that only it can fill. Enter the Zeb-Roller.

For all points and purposes, the Zeb-Roller 2000 is a great pen. But it’s not the pen I carry in my pocket. The Zeb-Roller shouldn’t be lowered to the status of “pocket pen,” performing mundane, everyday tasks. And, dare I say, it would perform poorly in that environment. The Zeb-Roller is a liquid ink roller, with a 0.7mm ball. And the ink is thick and velvety rich, starting off black as oil, and drying to a deep, charcoal grey (this is, of course, if you’re using the black one.)

The mixture of this ink with this ball means the Zeb-Roller leaves a thick, beautiful line. And the ball almost feels like it’s scraping the page. You can sometimes hear the sound of the metal against the paper. The end result is one imagines he must be writing with a fountain pen or a quill. Yet there are no ink blotches on the paper, no re-filling the well every two or three paragraphs, and it comes in handy three-packs. This is like the Babe Ruth of pens.

Not only is this a swell writing pen, it looks good, too. The paint job is the ever-elegant Champaign, and the barrel is just the right width. The only thing I don’t like aesthetically is the “arrow head” tip. Yet, it is this very “flaw,” if you will, that gives you the generous amount of real-estate to grab hold of. My hand never gets tired while writing with this pen. I sometimes feel like I could go on for hours writing with my Zeb-Roller.

So, you must be asking, “Why don’t you write with it more often?” Well, I’m writing with it right now. And with every stroke and every line, I fall more deeply in love with this wonderful pen. It is like that crystal vase that looks perfect on your mantel. Nothing else would work in that spot. I refer to this pen as my “check-writing pen,” as the signature it produces is nothing short of flawless. So, for signing autographs or roughing out your blog posts, the Zebra Zeb-Roller 2000 is it.

~Jonathan

Bibliography:

The Dixon Ticonderoga Pencil

Most geeks have that one smell they just love. Well, I’ve actually got two, but one is the winner by a slight margin: The Dixon “Ticonderoga” pencil. This pencil has to be the single greatest pencil of all time. It writes so smooth, it erases so completely, and, oh! The smell of its shavings! I’ve long been a writing utensil geek. On the quest for the perfect pen I’ve come across some good ones and some hideous ones. But the quest for the perfect pencil has come to a close.

It didn’t take very many practice strokes with my freshly sharpened 1388-2/HB for me to be hooked. The “lead” is almost at the perfect balance between soft and firm, leaning a little toward soft for my taste. The only downside to this softness is the point doesn’t last as long. However, a terrific bonus is it lends a silky-smooth stroke. The letters flow off the tip of this pencil like butter. And that eraser! Most pencil erasers aren’t worth the effort to turn the pencil over. I think some companies only include them for a counter-balance. I typically end up using my Pentel Hi-Polymer Eraser (which, by the way, is the single greatest stand-alone eraser of all time. That quest is also over.) However, with the Dixon Ticonderoga I can choose to leave the Hi-Poly in the drawer if I so desire. The eraser on the Dixon is not quite as good as the Pentel, but it does a great job for a built-in. However, it’s the wood the pencil is made of that has me hooked.

This pencil isn’t made from your standard pine, or whatever those other guys use. No, this pencil is made of cedar. And when you sharpen a Dixon Ticonderoga, that wonderful aroma fills the air. I’ve got about a third of a box left from my last purchase because I’ll randomly sharpen my pencil for no other reason except that I love the way it smells…that, and I have to have a perfectly sharp pencil. I want it just shy of slicing the paper. Now, if I could just find the perfect envelope, I’d be set.

~Jonathan

Bibliography:

  1. The Dixon Ticonderoga pencil
  2. The Pentel Hi-Polymer Eraser