Review – Kum Pencil Sharpener (Magnesium 1-hole Wedge)

For some time, my preferred on-the-go pencil sharpener has been a (older) Kum brass single-holed design. Recently I wanted another (it’s so tiny you might as well put one anywhere within reach), and, as it turns out, the brass ones are hard to find in the States (possibly because of something to do with lead?); so the next best thing was the same design, by the same company, but in a lighter-weight silver-colored magnesium alloy. At the price, this is a pretty good sharpener, but I’m also gonna mentally compare it to the brass version, which I do find is the superior of the two.

The design is a super-simple “wedge” shape; a box with a slanted top where the blade is screwed in. On either side, there are ribbed divots for you to grip when using, and besides that there aren’t a lot of “features” (no shaving containment for sure). The labeling is clear and there is a little bit of “decoration,” but the whole thing is pretty bare.

Sharpening is lovely: the contraption is as small as can be but still easy to hold, everything is machined well for precise angles and the blade is sharp, cutting through all the pencils I tried with ease. The points it produces are slightly shorter than I prefer, but that is a minor consideration: they are still well pointed and easy to use. Here I should note that the sharpener is very light, and feels almost flimsily in the hand. This doesn’t affect the function in any way, and the sharpener is indeed rock solid, but at about 4½ grams when compared to the brass’ 19 grams, it just feels feathery and unpleasant in my opinion. (The edges are also much sharper when compared to the brass version, but that might have to do with wear).

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, no-frills pencil sharpener that gets the job done well, I’d look into picking one of these little guys up. They are hardy, usable, and portable. In some cases they’re cheap enough to be “disposable” (I got mine for $2, which is half what I was seeing them go for online), but they have easily replaceable blades for a guaranteed lifetime of use (though, in some cases it seems like the blades cost more than the sharpeners). And, even though I think the brass version is superior, there certainly isn’t anything wrong with the newer magnesium one.

Review – Mont Blanc Ballpoint Pen Refill (In G-2 Body) (Blue Medium)

In the past, I have looked upon the Pilot G-2 more favorably than some other online reviewers, but I’ve still never used one for any time beyond the review period, and it isn’t exactly a pen I would be recommending to anyone. The best things about it are that it’s cheap and well-built. So, of course, someone came up with the idea of combining those features with a better-writing tip. With a few simple modifications you can get the G-2 to accept Mont Blanc ballpoint refills, but is it worth the hassle?

The actually “modding” process is pretty simple once you have the components. Remove the ink cartridge from the G-2 (obviously leaving the spring inside). Then open up your Mont Blanc pen refill of choice. These refills come with a plastic sheath to prevent accidental markings (and probably some damage); cut a thin, short tube out of this material and to slide around the refill like a collar. Then cut a longer tube out of the rest to fill in the space between the click mechanism and the refill (more detailed instructions can be found with a quick internet search). These two bits should ensure that the refill is long enough to work with the mechanism, and keep it straight enough to operate.

In terms of usability, I like the Mont Blanc refill, but not as much as many others do. Comparing it to the G-2 is a little apples-to-oranges, since my refill is a ballpoint one, and the G-2 is a (gel) rollerball. While the G-2 with its liquid ink and precise point, could feel slippery, scratchy, and blobby, this refill is super-smooth and easy-to-handle. It is buttery, and much smoother than your average ballpoint, but that’s also its biggest problem. Sometimes it feels like the tip is holding you back, or you’re writing in oil. Other problems, like startup issues and some blobbing that are common to all ballpoints are present, but more minimal than you’ll find in pretty much any other pen. It’s a very good writing experience.

If you want the nice feeling of a good Mont Blanc refill for a cheap price, this is about as low as you can go. The actually assembly can be a bit fiddly (there are a few places where the new pieces of plastic can scrape and lead to a sticky feeling mechanism) but at less than $30, even if you need to buy a cutting mat and hobby knife, it’s miles below the nearest Mont Blanc (and I don’t know any other pens that use the refills), with the G-2 still being a super sturdy and comfortable body for the refill to live in. If you don’t believe that Mont Blanc has the best refills ever (like me) or you’re comfortable with your Cross and Parker refill pens (also like me) then you needn’t go anywhere near this trick, but if someone hands you one to try out, I’d at least try it out.

Review – Huion 17.7” Light Pad (L4S)

There have been some huge leaps in lightbox technology in recent years. I’ve owned 3 lightboxes in my time, one being a repurposed dental x-ray box, the second being a traditional style box and the third being this which I bought as a possibly temporary replacement for my more traditional-style box. But I might not be swapping back so soon.

Their photos look a lot better than mine

Their photos look a lot better than mine

The Light Pad itself is a rectangular prism that measures 17 7/8” diagonal and 14 1/8” x 10 5/8” x 3/16”, meaning it covers quite a large area, but is very slim. The workable white/translucent area has markings on the side indicated in centimeters 12 ¼” (31cm) x 8 ¼” (21cm) with a ½cm margin. The non-workable black margin is about ¾“ all the way around the pad and it’s only features are the power button and a logo. On the side of the device next to the power button is a micro USB port that is only used for power (this version has no internal batteries), and a red LED will come on when the device is correctly connected. On the back of the device there is some modest information and nicely padded feet that prevent the pad from sliding around when being used.


Using the Light Pad is a breeze. Simply touching the power “button” lights up the entire workable area to the highest brightness setting (which isn’t very bright, and being shone through a white plastic makes it much less glaring on the eyes). Touching and holding the button will start the pad lighting up, and releasing the button during this will keep the pad at the current brightness setting. This setting is remembered and the next time one starts the device it will light up at the chosen setting unless you hold the button down again. The working area accommodates A4 and Letter sizes well, and the light on the brightest setting easily works with 2 sheets of 110lb cardstock. The plastic the surface is made from is very smooth, but resists sliding and scratches. The feet are also very nice and the device is stiff enough that it doesn’t bend around them under normal use (I still wouldn’t go stacking things on it).


I don’t think I’m going to be going back to the more traditional lightboxes anytime soon. In my opinion the only advantage they offer is an angled working surface, which is a feature I never really used. The Huion Light Pad is a great lightbox; it’s sufficiently lighted and durable enough to be easy to work with, thin enough that is stores easily, and draws very little power. Its overall workspace footprint is very small, and its job is done almost flawlessly. I do find the red LED indicator light to be annoying but I can’t think of a better way to do things and it is much less troublesome than other indicator lights I’ve had to deal with. I also have no use for the multiple brightness settings but I suppose it’s better to have it than not. Still, the device has become a permanent feature of my workplace and I would recommend anyone looking for a lightbox to look at these cheaper and thinner LED alternatives to the traditional boxes.


Review – Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen Brush Manga 6 Color Set

I’m not a Manga artist. And I usually don’t use color in my art. Mostly because it’s hard, like using brush pens is hard. What I’m trying to say is that my perspective on this particular set of art implements might not be the view of the average person who might find them very useful. With that said, let’s take a look at this set of Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens, the Manga 6 Color Brush set.


The pens themselves are fairly plain. There is an indication of the size (“B” for brush, in this case) on the top of the cap. The cap has a set of groves running around it with a shiny finished top and clip. The clip is the same piece of plastic as the cap and does its job in an unspectacular way. The body is straight until the very end, which protrudes as a fluted section for posting, at which it’s effective. The body contains all of the needed information in several languages, which makes it seems a bit too crowded, but I can’t really complain. The section is slightly textured, which is wonderful; it isn’t slippery or uncomfortable. After that is a tapering section for the cap seal and the brush point itself. The cap seals and holds well onto this point.


The brushes themselves aren’t of the bristle variety, but are more like a flexible porous point. This makes them much less finicky, and better for a disposable item like this one, as they would wear out faster than a bristle brush. Their flexibility is nice, going from a medium point to one several millimeters wide with relative ease, and they can be bent to some pretty severe angles without any long-term damage being done. The amount of ink they lay down is good. It increases with the pressure on the tip, and makes a full line. At times it skirts on “not enough”, and layering will definitely change the color significantly. Sharp turns with the lighter colors will leave a darker area on the corner. On office paper this amount of ink will bleed though, especially at the ends, but on cardstock there is barely show through.


The six colors themselves are a decent selection, but not great: Dark Naples Ochre is a nice, natural looking yellow. Orange glaze is a bit pale and not really a color that is found in many places. Pink Carmine is a bit too dark and is hard to use. Purple Violet, besides having a redundant name, is dark and pleasant, but again not very natural. Phthalo Blue is a great looking lake or ocean blue, but is a bit dark for most uses, and Permanent Green Olive is quite dark and olive, which is more suited to deeply forested areas or jungle than to plains or some more common areas. Still, the colors interact with each other very well, and they dry fast, but do mix on the paper, meaning one can get interesting color combinations while still having their pens keep relatively clean.


Overall, the set is a good set to introduce oneself to the Pitt artist brush pens. It has a nice simple selection of colors that allows for experimentation and can be used for the base of a larger set. But I certainly wouldn’t consider it a complete set for creating an art work. Many more colors would be needed, and more tailored to one’s specific purpose. For instance, there is very little here to make skin tones with, which would be very important in Manga. They’re very good pens, but the set is incomplete.

Addendum: I failed to mention the water/smear proofing of these pens when I first completed this post. Both of which are very good. When interacting with other inks or materials the lines generally stay solid, which is good for resilience but bad for blending. When hit with water the lines don’t move, but they do bleed a tiny bit of pigment.

Review – Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub

These days most pencils have their own erasers, but some still don’t, especially older models that have been in production for years and are still very good at their jobs. And even many of the new pencils don’t have enough eraser for the life of the pencil. Separate erasers are still a large market. But what if the eraser came in a more convenient package? The Sanford Peel-off Magic Rub intends to solve that problem.


The main body is simple: it’s a tube of paper that is continuously wrapped around itself and sealed with a sticker. On the sticker is the main information for the product. There is a string attacked to break the sticker seal and allow for the paper to be peeled back when the product is used. The paper and eraser tip can also be sharpened, but I wouldn’t recommend this. The core of the utensil is a tube of Magic Rub, which is a very good white eraser. Sanford’s Magic Rub erasers are easy to use, resist drying out, remove quite a bit of graphite, and aren’t as hard on the paper as some other erasers. They aren’t the best erasers out there, but they are very good ones.


And that’s really it. The entire “pencil” is slightly thicker and shorter than a standard pencil. But it fits in most of the same places and works very well. If you have a lot to erase, and don’t like the potential of breaking mechanisms with a mechanical eraser, I’d give this one a shot.