Welcome To My Thoughts On Pens And Pencils

I will respect your right to disagree with what I have to say about Pens and Pencils as long as you respect the fact that I am an Old Geezer.

My Obsession

My Obsession
A Beauty Every One... And There's More At Home!

All Jammed Up?

If you need detailed instructions on how to clear a lead jam from a mechanical pencil then click this link, "All Jammed Up?" or the link in the pages header.


Please enjoy your stay at my humble blog. Please feel free to leave a comment about any article that you read
. Also please notice that there are four reactions at the bottom of each article. If you find any article funny, interesting, cool or helpful please so indicate. Thank you for visiting my blog.

The Old Geezer
Please Excuse My Absence

I have not blogged since July of 2015 due to the fact that my Lovely Wife was diagnosed with 2 types of cancer. A new case of breast cancer which has metastasized and gone to her bones, mainly her back. She had a mastectomy of her left breast which showed the type of cancer that was in her bones. She has been taking an oral med. every day and she has a port under her skin to receive a liquid med. She has gone through one round of radiation treatments to stop some pain in her back. That gave her GERD and the med for that was nasty tasting. The bone cancer has caused the vertebra in her lower back to pinch her left sciatic nerve causing her pain, numbness and foot drag. She also has skin cancer that has only been partly addressed.

I have been busy taking care of her as the treatments have left her weak and sickly. She can not drive so I have to drive her to her appointments and treatments. I also have to do all the cooking and most of what cleaning we do. So I do not have a lot of time for blogging. However the installment of the review of the Schaeffer Ultrafine 0.3mm pencil marks what I hope will be a new review every month. However some of my future reviews may seem familiar as they may be a review of a pencil or pen that I have reviewed before just in another size due to my limited collection of writing instruments and the economic state of our nation.

I am grateful to George Fox for wanting me to do a review of another one of his pencils. I think that as a reader of my humble blog, may fine of interest as the Schaeffer Ultra Fine is a very unusual pencil.

So please excuse my absence and as a reader of my humble blog I hope that you enjoy the review of this unique pencil.

Coming Soon...

Thank you,

The Old Geezer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ultra Fine Point Gel Pen Comparison Part 2

As requested here is a close up of the writing of each of the pens. I hope it is of some help. Though you can't tell by the scanner images it appears to me that the darkest ink is that of the Pentels, followed by the Zebra, the Pilots and finally the uni-balls.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ultra Fine Point Gel Pen Comparison

Over the past few months I’ve read a lot about how others feel that one brand of ultra fine point gel pen was better than the other. Particularly how the Pentel Slicci was better than the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. I finally acquired some Slicci pens so I could run a side-by-side test myself. For the test I also included some uni-balls, a Pilot and a Zebra just to make it interesting. I picked nib diameters that were either exactly the same size or comparable. I grouped 0.28mm and 0.3mm pens together and 0.38mm and 0.4mm pens together. I did not include the Signo bit line of pens as I have only the 0.18mm version. I did not include the Hi-Tec-C 0.5mm pen because I have way to many 0.5mm pens to run a side-by-side test. The pens that I did include in the test are listed below.

0.25mm: Pilot Hi-Tec-C; Pentel Slicci.
0.28mm – 0.3mm: Pilot Hi-Tec-C; Pentel Slicci; uni-ball Signo DX
0.38mm – 0.4mm: Pilot Hi-Tec-C; Pentel Slicci; uni-ball Signo DX; Uni-ball Signo RT Gel; Pilot G-2; Zebra SARASA Clip.

The test was short and simple. I wrote a short line of text with each pen paying attention to each pens writing characteristics. The two characteristics I was concerned with were how smooth the pen wrote and how sturdy that I felt the nib was. That’s it.

0.25mm – This test included the Pilot Hi-Tec-C and the Pentel Slicci, both in 0.25mm. Both have a needle style point and that of the Slicci was noticeably thicker than that of the Hi-Tec-C. It is also something of a hybrid being a needle point that suddenly tapers into a small conical point. Of the two the Hi-Tec-Cs nib was the most fragile. I could see it wobble and bend under the pressure of writing. Both were equally as scratchy when writing on notebook paper.

0.28mm – 0.3mm – This test included the Pilot Hi-Tec-C and Pentel Slicci, both in 0.3mm and the uni-ball Signo DX in 0.28mm. Of the 3 the Signo DX was the only completely conical point. Here the Signo DX was the scratchiest of the 3. This is really no big surprise as it has the smallest point of the three. But with its conical point it is the sturdiest of the 3. The Hi-Tec-C was the smoothest of the 3 but it had the weakest nib. Like the 0.25mm version it had a noticeable wobble under pressure.

0.38mm – 0.4mm – This test included the uni-ball Signo DX, the uni-ball Signo RT Gel and the Pilot G-2 all in 0.38mm. It also included the Pilot Hi-Tec-C, the Pentel Slicci and the Zebra SARASA Clip, all in 0.4mm. Here the smoothest pen turned out to be the Hi-Tec-C. While not the sturdiest of the nibs it felt a lot sturdier that the other 2 Hi-Tec-C nibs. The Zebra turned out to be the 2nd smoothest while the scratchiest turned out to be the Slicci. All the others were about equal in smoothness, falling below the Zebra but above the Slicci. Of course the sturdiest points were the conical points, regardless.

Bottom Line, the Sliccis have stronger tips than the Hi-Tec-Cs but are equal in smoothness, or the lack there of. The conical points were the strongest of them all with smoothness varying across the board between them. So while the Sliccis may have sturdier nibs they do not write any smoother than the Hi-Tec-Cs.

Correction Tape

Back in the day, when I was a young Geezer, there was a product available called correction tape but it was not this plastic film junk they sell today it was a true paper tape. It was white and came in one, two and three line widths. It had an adhesive back and was backed by a thin piece of plastic coated paper. It came in a square shaped cardboard box not much wider than the tape itself. You pulled off the backing strip and laid down a length of correction tape long enough to cover the mistake. You could then write on it with any type of pen or pencil since it was paper, not plastic film. Todays "correction tape" is a derivative of the correction film used on typewriters but has a surface formulated for ballpoint pen ink, not gel or liquid ink. It won't even accept pencil lead!

Like so many good products paper correction tape seems to have gone by the wayside. I have tried to find it on line and in office supply stores to no avail. I've even tried on line drafting supply stores but I just can't seem to find any. In many ways I miss the "old days" when many products were of better quality that they are today. There are so many things that I once used but can no longer find. Like the old Eraser Stik by Eberhard Faber, then by Sanford. I use them for many things around the house. When I went looking for more I found that they too were unavailable. I did manage to find a dozen on eBay but I paid a hefty price for them. It's a good thing that that dozen will probably last me the rest of my life.

If anyone knows where I can find some of the original paper correction tape please let me know by leaving a comment. Thank you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Replacing A Dislodged Lead Retainer

This is a rendition of a typical lead retainer, highly magnified. It is found in the end cap, at the base of the lead sleeve, in all push button lead advance style of automatic pencils. Its main purpose is to keep the lead from falling out of the pencil when the push button is pressed to advance the lead. Along with the clutch assembly it helps regulate the amount of lead that is advanced with each push of the push button. It also helps keep the lead steady inside the lead sleeve. For these reasons it is a very important and necessary part of the inner workings of the pencil. It is a press fit and is not supposed to dislodge for the life of the pencil. However there have been several times that I have removed the end cap from an otherwise working pencil to find the lead retainer hanging in the middle of the lead protruding from the clutch or have it fall out with the broken lead piercing its heart.

The first time this happened to me I was dismayed. I tried to use the pencil without it only to find that the lead projected an inch or more when I pressed the push button! When I pushed the lead back into the lead sleeve, leaving only enough to write with, the lead wobbled and eventually broke. Thankfully this happened to a 0.5mm pencil. I was able to use a small straight pin and a small pair of pliers to eventually get the lead retainer back into place. The next time it happened it was on a 0.3mm pencil. The straight pin and pliers fix wouldn’t work with such a small diameter pencil as there wasn’t a straight pin, or any other piece of metal rod, available in the house small enough to fit through the lead retainer without expanding and thus ruining the hole in the lead retainer.

Fortunately the pencil had a clean out rod under the eraser. This clean out rod was a straight piece of rod with a pinpoint at one end. The clean out rod was the same diameter as the lead so the lead retainer fit onto the clean out rod snuggly. I put the lead retainer onto the clean out rod, pinpoint protruding through the lead retainer in the direction of lead travel. I then threaded the clean out rod into the lead sleeve from inside the end cap, pushing it through until the lead retainer was resting at the mouth of the lead sleeve. Using a number 52 drill bit I pressed the clean out rod through the lead retainer and lead sleeve before removing it. Using the #52 drill bit I pressed the lead retainer back into place, pressing around the base, off center. It took several tries but it finally stayed put. Another time, with a 0.7mm pencil I had to use a small drop of super glue in order to keep the lead retainer in place.

If you find that one of your pencils has a dislodged lead retainer you an either give the pencil up for dead or you can replace it. You’ll need a few tools and if your pencil does not have a clean out rod of proper diameter you’ll need a short length of wire of the right diameter* and a push rod, a #52 drill bit works just fine for all lead sizes. The tools you’ll need are the clean out rod, a number 52 drill bit (or a metal rod 1/16” in diameter), super glue and a toothpick (for stubborn lead retainers) and a pair of long nosed pliers (for end caps that incorporate the grip as well).

Insert the clean out rod or length of wire into the lead retainer, about ½ the way up the clean out rod. With the small end of the lead retainer facing inward insert the clean out rod into the end cap, threading it into the lead sleeve, pushing it as far into the end cap as possible with your finger. Using the back end of the #52 drill bit press the clean out rod further into the end cap. Once the drill bit contacts the lead retainer, remove the clean out rod, keeping the drill bit in place so the lead retainer does not slip out. Using the #52 drill bit press the lead retainer in place, pressing all around the rim of the retainer as well as the center.

Test the retainer by inserting the clean out rod into the lead sleeve from the opposite end, as if you were clearing a lead jam. If the lead retainer appears on the end of the clean out rod, repeat the above procedure. If the retainer fails to stay in place after a few tries then use super glue. With the retainer on the clean out rod as before first apply a small drop of super glue onto the end of a toothpick. Gently rub a small bit of super glue onto the outside of the lead retainer. Quickly repeat the procedure for replacing the lead retainer. After a moment repeat the test procedure again. The lead retainer should stay in place.

With the lead retainer now securely in place you can replace the end cap onto the pencil and resume normal operations.

* Wire diameters for the common pencil sizes are: 0.3mm, 0.145" or a #79 drill bit; 0.5mm, 0.022" or a #74 drill bit; 0.7mm, 0.027" or a #71 drill bit; 0.9mm, 0.035" or a #65 drill bit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Perfect Pen

The Perfect Pen would be one of modular design. It would have a plastic body that could be customized with different cushioned/non-cushioned grips in different colors. An executive line could also be made, possibly of metal or resin and come in darker colors with silver or gold trim. It would have an replaceable ink cartridge of liquid ink which would be made in as large a capacity as possible within the design limits. It would have replaceable nibs. The nibs would be available in needle and conical points and in felt tip points. As well it could incorporate fountain pen nibs and calligraphy nibs. They would be available in a wide range of sizes and be replaceable while there is still ink in the pen. They would be semi-permanent: washable/reusable (with storage tubes to keep them in) but inexpensive enough to be disposable if clogged/damaged/worn out. This way the ink supply could be sold in lots of a dozen and in as many colors as possible. The nibs could be sold individually and in sets. The cap would be the screw on type, or a tight press on fit, with a rubber o-ring as a seal so the pens could be stored short-term without worry. For long term storage, take the pen apart, clean it and store it (the ink cartridge would have a cap for just such a purpose). Now, if we could just get a major pen manufacturer to make it a viable pen.

Clean Out Rods Part 2

Clean out rods (CORs) are not always supplied with automatic pencils and if my source at one major pencil company is correct then soon we may see all automatic pencils being sold without CORs. And this will be a bad thing. COR's are very important and a vital part of an automatic pencil. Clearing a jammed up lead sleeve simply can't be done without one. As I mentioned in Clean Out Rods, common household items can be found for 0.5mm, 0.7mm and 0.9mm pencils but not for 0.3mm and 0.4mm pencils. However one size can work for all sizes of pencils. A one inch length of 0.014" (+ or - 0.0005") diameter wire will serve all sizes of lead diameters. A 60" length of rod can be found at SmallParts.com for $5.00 plus $4.19 shipping. That's enough wire to make 60 CORs of 1" length.

To make a COR you'll need a 6" ruler, a Sharpie to mark off the length of each COR, a good set of small wire cutters to snip off the wire and a small needle file to smooth off the ends of the wire. You will also need a small pair of flat nosed pliers to hold the wire while filing. Use the 6" ruler to mark off a one inch segment from the rod. snip it off using the wire cutters. Holding the COR in the jaws of the flat nose pliers use the needle file to file away any burrs on both ends of the COR. Once you have made the COR use the flat nosed pliers to hold it while stowing it away by pushing one end into the base of the pencils eraser. DO NOT use your fingers for this as the small diameter wire will act as a needle and puncture your skin if not handled correctly. When the need arises use the eraser as a handle when using the COR.

That's all there is to it. To use it to clear a lead jam simply remove the eraser and COR as well as the end cap and set it down on the desk top, base down. With your finger press the end of the lead flush with the end of the lead sleeve, if possible. Next guide the COR to the end of the lead sleeve and push the lead back through the lead sleeve, pushing the COR all the way into the lead sleeve. Once the jam is cleared replace the eraser and end cap and resume normal operations. That's it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Clean Out Rods

One major pencil maker has informed me that they will no longer be supplying clean out rods (CORs) with their new automatic pencils. The reason given was one of safety. I only have this person’s word for this but I have absolutely no reason to disbelieve them. Why would they lie? I have no practical way of discovering this out first hand so why not take their word for it? But this is a disheartening thing to hear for I believe that CORs are a necessary, yea, an important part of a modern automatic pencil, especially a drafting style automatic pencil. It is true that non-drafting style pencils have never to my knowledge, limited as it is, been supplied with CORs. The reasons for this I believe (just a couple of guesses mind you) are that the lead sleeves are considerably shorter, even nonexistent, on non-drafting style automatic pencils. Also they don’t come in 0.3mm or 04.mm sizes. The larger sizes, 0.5mm to 0.9mm, have COR’s of diameters ranging from 0.22” to 0.35” in diameter. Household items such as small paperclips and various sizes of straight pins fall within these diameters. So making a COR for one of these pencils is not much of a problem. I’ve done so in the past using these objects. But making a COR for a 0.3mm or 0.4mm pencil is very hard to do unless you can find and purchase piano wire rod from 0.012” to 0.016” in diameter. This is neither easily done nor inexpensively acquired.

Why make such a fuss over a tiny piece of wire? Because without it cleaning out broken and jammed up pieces of lead from a drafting automatic pencil, especially the smaller diameters, is hard to do or next to impossible. Why not use another piece of lead to clean out the lead sleeve? After all it’s the right diameter. There is a very good reason for not using another piece of lead as a COR. Pencil lead, that is graphite, is not very strong, even in the larger diameters. There is always the danger of breakage, complicating the problem. I’ve had lead jammed up in a 0.3mm pencil so badly that I would not have been able to un-jam the lead sleeve without the metal COR. This is a rare occurrence but it does happen. Even when the lead is not jammed up tightly inside the lead sleeve using apiece of lead to clean out the lead sleeve of a 0.3mm pencil is a delicate operation at best, I know because I’ve done it. More often than not the lead COR breaks and a second piece of lead is lost and the problem still exists.

If the lack of a COR with a new drafting automatic pencil was just one companies doing I would not be so upset. But I’ve noticed that with 2 other major brands of 0.3mm pencils that I purchased recently lacked a COR. So what do these automatic pencil makers expect us to do when there is a lead jam in one of these small diameter-drafting pencils? I don’t know what they would suggest we do but as for me I plan on finding some suitable piano wire rod and start making my own CORs.

10/17/2008 I stand corrected. Pilot makes a non-drafting automatic pencil in 0.3mm size. It's called the AirBlanc Mechanical Pencil and is available from JetPens. But the lead sleeve is shorter than a conventional drafting pencil. I seriously doubt that it comes with a COR.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lead Retainer

The image to the left is a rendition of a lead retainer, highly enlarged. A lead retainer is a small rubber device that fits into the end cap of an automatic pencil just before the lead sleeve opening. The device is used to keep too much lead from projected when the push button is pressed to project the lead from the end of the pencil. Although tiny it is a very important part of the inner workings of the pencil. The lead retainer is a press fit and held in place by friction. It is not supposed to come out yet over the years I've removed the end cap from one of my many automatic pencils only to find this little device midway along the protruding lead. Fortunately I have always managed to get the device back in place with considerable effort. In one case I had to super glue one in place in order to keep it there.

Recently while working on 2 Koh-I-Noor 5633 pencils I somehow, unknowingly, managed to lose not one but both of the lead retainers from the 2 end caps! Needless to say this caused both pencils to become useless. Besides keeping the lead in place the lead retainer also helps keep the lead from moving around inside the lead sleeve. The pencil's chuck will hold the lead in place as long as the lead is not too short. But since the tolerance between lead OD and lead sleeve ID is greater in some pencils than others the lead can move around inside the lead sleeve causing breakage. I was miffed to say the least.

I tried to replace the lead retainer with a small piece of rubber that I had punched out of a sheet of rubber using a leather hole punch. Using a number 78 drill bit I tried 'drilling' a hole in the rubber piece. I tried holding the rubber cylinder and drilling a hole by hand using a pin vice but that failed. I tried pushing the cylinder of rubber into the end cap and chucking the drill bit into the pencils lead chuck and slipping the end cap back onto the pencil, drilling as I did so. This failed as well. So consequently I put the pencils aside and gave them up as lost.

More recently I received some parts to fix up a couple of Pentel pencils. Unfortunately one of the end caps was missing the lead retainer. This drove me back to try and figure out a way of producing a workable lead retainer. I had a piece of 'Fun Foam', a sheet of neoprene rubber sold in craft stores. I gathered the end caps and pencils together along with the neoprene sheet, my X-acto knife, numbered drill bits and determination to get it right and set off again.

This time I simply cut the rubber into small squares. Placing one square into the end cap of the Pentel pencil, I pressed it into place using a drill bit to big to puncture the rubber square but small enough to lodge the rubber in place. I then put the #78 drill bit into the jaws of the pencil's lead chuck and slowly 'drilled' the rubber piece as I screwed the end cap back onto the pencil. It took a couple of tries before the rubber stayed in place. Projecting a bit of lead from the lead chuck of the pencil I slowly replaced the end cap onto the pencil. The lead came through! When I clicked on the push button the lead did not project too much! Before calling it a success I made sure that the lead would self thread through the makeshift lead retainer. It did so just fine.

I next tackled one of the Koh-I-Noor end caps. It took a bit more work in order to achieve success but I was able to do so at long last. I had now successfully restored 2 of my once defunct pencils! I was to exhausted (mentally) to continue with the 2nd Koh-I-Noor end cap, besides I really had no need for it right then as the pencil it belonged to had died an unnatural death, so I put it aside for another day. But now I no longer fear so much the loss of a lead retainer as I now know that indeed I can at least 'fix' the problem with a workable makeshift solution until I can find a real lead retainer, which is of course the best fix.

Added 11/13/2008. After some time I discovered that my "Fun Foam" lead retainer did not hold up, or rather stay in, like I was hoping. So what I ended up having to do was to super glue the makeshift retainer in place. I DO NOT recommend that anyone do this except as a last resort. I have given up hope of ever obtaining a new lead retainer for any of my pencils so this was not such a drastic step for me. However if there is any possible way that a real lead retainer may be obtained super gluing the makeshift one in place would make it almost, but not quite, impossible to remove. Removable would require the use of acetone (nail polish remover) and maybe several sizes of small, number sized, drill bits and some hard work. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused anyone.