In Primary Six to about First Year [so about 1979 to 1981], the thing to have was a Papermate Replay, the first real* erasable ballpoint. Despite their waxy purplish-blue ink (which had a strong piney aroma) it was the one thing all the cool kids had. The Replay erasers were gritty and smudgy, and left black crumbs on the page. I remember the gummy click of the ball on the paper, and the rising fug of Replay ink from thirty desks. When it eventually dried, Replay ink could stick pages lightly together, a bit like paste-up wax.
With the Liquid Pencil, Sharpie probably hopes to repeat the (at least initial) success of the Replay. The technology feels similar — slightly less sticky, and the smell of the ink is different, but there’s still an unusual high note to it. The ink looks curiously as if it’s been photocopied and is of an uneven weight, just like the Replay used to be. Leaning on a freshly-written page from the Liquid Pencil smudges the ink on your hand and partially erases the text — just like the old Papermate Replay.
While the Replay really didn’t like regular erasers, the Liquid Pencil is better with them. If the LP were a real pencil, a heavy trace would conduct:
I’m pretty sure the Sharpie Liquid Pencil is just the naff old Replay, repackaged for a new generation. After all, Newell Rubbermaid owns both the Sharpie and Papermate brands. I bet the old news stories about Replays being used for cheque-fraud will resurface. Even writing this has given me the old Replay ink smell headache — déjà pew!
——— * there were the chemically erasable kind available before, which had a yellowish felt tip on one end that bleached the ink and prevented you writing over it.
Unscrewing the barrel revealed the familiar old Papermate Replay refill. I think we’ve been had.
Update: a bunch of reviews. The ones that actually tried it came to pretty much the same conclusion:
Yep, another one about pencils. I do like the Dixon Tri-Conderoga, but I don’t think I could quite gush about it as much as Pencil Revolution did. It’s a nice writer, but the first one I tried was a bit gristly for sharpening with a knife. They do smell good. There’s a freshly sharpened one nearby, and it’s doing an excellent “walk through cedar woods” impression.
Just as well the six pack comes with a sharpener. Tri-Conderogas don’t fit a regular one.
So how did my first week of shaving with a plain safety razor go? Pretty well, I think.
I’ve discovered that Weleda shaving cream and after-shave balm work well for me. They have a muted, natural scent, and are very soothing.
What didn’t work for me was Lush Prince shaving cream. This heavy, waxy preparation clogs up the blade, it smells too strongly of neroli, and is a horror to rinse off. I also cut myself the only time I used it. Styptic pencil owies resulted.
Catherine has remarked on the closer shave (I suspect ‘cos I’m spending more time on it). It’s strange, but the stubble seems sharper. I wonder if multiple blades smoothed the razor-cut ends of the hairs, and thus gave an impression of a smoother, longer-lasting shave?
I like my Merkur. Using it for a year will end up cheaper than any cartridge razor, and result in far less trash.
My best music of 2005 list isn’t ready yet, so here are my Great Pencils of 2005:
Faber-Castell 9000 — 125 years old, and still the smoothest writer out there. Still alarmingly expensive; I can buy 8 tri-writes for the price of two 9000s
Ticonderoga tri-write — a great low-fatigue triangular pencil. Writes smoothly, sharpens cleanly, and keeps its point well
Lee Valley HB — there are just nice British-made pencils
Staedtler Mars Lumograph — the efficient German drawing-office pencil
Dixon Primary Printer — meant for little kids, this chunky pencil works for big hands too. Unfortunately, it’s round, so it rolls off the desk.
The Papermate Mirado Classic just missed the cut. It’s a whole load of pencil for very little money, a sixth of the price of the Faber-Castell. Yes, it’s a yellow American office pencil with an eraser, but so’s the tri-write. Maybe I’m getting more used to this continent.
Went to Canzine today after meeting. Can you belive it, an almost full house and it was a silent meeting?
Anyway, Canzine was full. Bought a couple of Spacing TTC buttons to show my commuter tribe affiliation (Kennedy — Union), and also a m@b book. Eveyone’s favourite Bramptonian Friendly Rich was there, being friendly and well-dressed. Jim Munroe looked in his element in his No Media Kings room.
After that, I walked down to the turbine. The warm weather had brought the ladybirds out. They were all over the deck.
Although school in late August for us I always derived the tiniest bit of pleasure from writing the date today, and seeing that it was the same as the year. This shows I was educated in the last century.
As it was the start of the schools year, I was writing with new pencils, and summer holidays were long enough for me to forget their wooden smell. So I remember writing the date, and simultaneously, the smell of new pencils.
I’ve just finished Henry Petroski‘s The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance. While the standard wooden pencil is indeed a marvel of economical mass production, and you know I’m all about the pencils, I found the book to be pretty slow going. Petroski’s To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design is much more fun, if perhaps due to its wider scope.
While packed with more pencil lore than you could ever hope to learn in a lifetime (like the Henry David Thoreau connection to modern pencil manufacture), some of Petroski’s observations didn’t quite ring true. The books is written from a very American perspective, and when he claimed that the whole world is using a yellow-painted No. 2 eraser tipped pencil, I felt that there was something wrong with his usually objective prose.
To me, a good pencil is red or blue, or occasionally dark green or plain wood. A yellow pencil is a scratchy and petulant thing, consigned forever to the grubby bilges of a school pencil case. Petroski repeats the anecdote of how a manufacturer produced a batch of pencils, and painted half yellow and half green. Consumers complained that the green-painted pencils didn’t write well, and broke frequently. Curiously, I remember reading the same anecdote in the UK, except the batch was one quarter each red, blue, green and yellow. It was the green and yellow pencils that broke in Britain.
And a rubber (eraser) on the end? It destroys the balance of the pencil, and at best produces a nasty smear on the page. Rubbing-out is what your Helix Colonel is for!
Man, I bought a lot of pencils this week. There’s nothing quite able to cure that tactile jones than writing with a blade-sharpened wooden pencil on good paper. Let me see:
10 Canadiana Naturals bare wood pencils (which, with irony almost morissettian, are made in the USA).
2 Canadiana red marking pencils
2 Faber Castell 9000 pencils. These are almost worth the 5× premium over Canadianas, as they don’t have those semi-useless erasers on the end that destroy the pencil’s balance.
a Staedtler 0.9mm mechanical pencil (which I’m never going to use the Opinel on, never fear).
So all I need now is a couple of non-photo blues and a bible highlighter or two, and I am the king of pencils!
I’m reminded of the “world’s biggest pencils” that were the coolest things an 8-year-old could have in a Scottish primary school. Brought back from exotic holiday locations, they were enough to win playground approval for a few days by letting your friends have a shot. I always wanted one of these 40cm überpencils, but it didn’t happen then.
When I did get one, it was three years later, and the cachet was gone. To compound the disappointment, the pencil I got depicted the staid provincial crests of Belgium on a cream-of-chicken-soup–coloured background. To write with it was to be a hamfisted infant again; it looped and swayed against my will. Its lead was narrow and the wood was tough, resisting all sharpening. There was no “sharkener” (as sharpeners were pronounced in my primary school) that would point the thing. It was soon consigned to the back of the cupboard.