Vintage Beauty: Corgie 907 and National Pencil Day

It’s National Pencil Day and I decided to celebrate. Last year I picked up some vintage pencils in a stall in Spitalfields market in London, and they’ve been languishing unloved in their box ever since. The truth is I felt that they were too pretty to sharpen and use, which is both understandable (I mean look at them!) and silly. Pencils are meant to be sharpened, period.

So I broke out the “Corgie” (à Paris) 907 pencils, which are natural pencils coated with a thick layer of lacquer that makes them both shiny and satisfying to hold. The French appear to be more restrained in their choice of imprint fonts, but they go all wild when it comes to the wrappers around the pencils. Behold, creativity let loose:

Stunning, right?

Here’s the imprint (it’s hard to photograph, as the lacquer gets in the way. There are basically two fonts in use, and a very charming bugle logo. The Corgié à Paris factory was active from 1923 to around 1986 (thanks Brand Name Pencils) and if I’d have to venture a guess I think that these are from the ’60s, but it’s really hard to tell.

The grain on these pencils is fantastic. Just look at that:

Unlike some vintage pencils whose wood has dried out and become brittle with time, the Corgie 907s sharpen like a charm. They’re not very nice smelling (they just smell old), but there’s nothing to complain too much about.

These are No. 0 pencils, which makes them about 2B-4B, depending on the manufacturer. They’re soft and dark, and a joy to draw with, although they don’t hold a tip for very long. The graphite does smudge, but it doesn’t crumble, and there’s a good amount of feedback while using them. Here they are with some Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils in use:

I had to sharpen the pencil three times to get through this A5 page. Not great for writing, great for expressive drawing. 

Go sharpen a pencil, and have some fun drawing or writing a little something for yourself.

Happy National Pencil Day!

Vintage Beauty: Corgie 907 and National Pencil Day

Jerusalem Pencils “Park Avenue” Copy Pencil

Vintage copy pencils are magic (albeit oftentimes poisonous magic). You take an ordinary looking and behaving pencil and dip it in water and purple, turquoise or blue ink comes out. The Sanford NoBlot is probably the most well known pencil in this category but there were dozens of others made by various pencil companies. The Israeli pencil manufacturer “Jerusalem Pencils” had a copy pencil by the worldly and sophisticated name of “Park Avenue” (very Israel in the ’70s and 80’s). Of the local vintage pencils available in Israel it’s not the easiest pencil to find, although it’s also not the hardest.

Not the prettiest pencil, but not too shabby.

When dry the Park Avenue writes like an F grade pencil, with a bit of a purplish hue. It’s not as hard and light as an H grade pencil, yet it is lighter and harder than an HB. It erases well when dry, and doesn’t smudge.

When wet the pencil lines turn purple, and so much more bold. You can either dip the pencil tip in water, write dry on wet, or for more gentle effects use a wet brush over the dry lines. Just don’t be tempted to lick the pencil tip or chew on it, as there’s a good chance that the lead is poisonous.

The Park Avenue is a deep royal blue pencil with a yellow imprint on it. Apart from the Jerusalem Pencils logo and the 999, I counted four different fonts printed on the barrel of what was meant to be a utilitarian office workhorse. This is in line with many vintage pencils, and this over-design, pride and attention to detail is why I like them so much.

The imprint is worn off but you can still see all the fonts.
Jerusalem Pencils “Park Avenue” Copy Pencil

Retro 51 System and Uni-ball Jetstream SXR-600 Review

The Retro 51 System is what piqued my interest in Retro’s Tornado rollerballs again. It is such a handsome, well designed pen.  There are surprisingly few black Retro 51 limited/open numbered editions, which is in some ways not surprising. The company’s aesthetic leans towards the colourful or the metallic, not so much the “dark/stealth/tactical” side of the pen world.

A handsome, handsome pen.

I haven’t reviewed the Retro 51 System so far because it was such a huge hit when it came out, there were half a dozen reviews of it practically from day one. What did I have to add to the conversation? Plus, there was some confusion after the first 300 pens ran out and Mike Dudek put up another 300 pens for sale: people thought it was a very small limited edition, while it was always sold as a numbered, open edition. I didn’t want to take part in the drama, and I think that this pen is iconic enough to warrant discussion outside the hardcore Retro 51 collectors’ circles. Dudek and Retro 51 took a concept that could have been a “Smithsonian gift shop pen” idea, and turned it into a little work of art.

Pluto is on there, and you can see some of the “dark matter” streaks that Dudek designed into the pen.

The Retro 51 System isn’t cheesy, though it certainly could have been. Retro do design cheesy pens at times (its part of their design aesthetic), and the solar system has been over-productized for the past 50 years. Yet there’s something about the care put into creating this pen, from the choice to put Pluto on the map but to the side, to the choice to leave the texture to the “dark matter” stripes and let the planet designs speak for themselves, that makes it a utilitarian work of art. This pen was clearly designed be people who love everything about space and the solar system, and also everything about pens. It doesn’t glow in the dark, because it doesn’t need to. It has a classic, classy look that will also wear well with time.

One of the favourite things about this pen is the finial/top disc: it’s clear orange, a representation of the sun. It glows bright against the black background of this pen’s hardware, and really makes the pen pop – to whoever is writing with it.

Around the time I got this pen the Uni-ball Jetstream SXR-600 (Parker style) refill started appearing on the market. I was looking for a replacement to the Schmidt refill, and I had yet to meet my favourite Ohto Flash Dry refill, so a Uni-ball refill that made Brad Dowdy happy seemed like a good one to try. The Uni-ball SXR Jetstream SXR-600 in 0.5 is a Jetstream hybrid gel-ballpoint refill, one that lays very thin, neat, relatively dark lines. It’s probably the best ballpoint refill that you can get these days, and it is waterproof, fade proof and resistant to all kinds of fraud. It is not, however, fully a gel ink refill, nor does it remotely feel one, despite what the marketing says. It’s a best-in-class ballpoint refill, which most people will want to buy in 0.7 I think, as the 0.5 refill lays down a really fine line. If you’re looking for a replacement refill for Retro 51s, something that’s less messy and lays down a clean, fine line, the Uni-ball Jetream SXR-600 is probably the pen for you.

Retro 51 System and Uni-ball Jetstream SXR-600 Review

Vintage Beauty: Eberhard Faber Colorbrite

Continuing the theme of “vintage pencils are awesome” today I’m using the Eberhard Faber Colorbrite red violet 2154 (which proudly notes that it’s both “woodclinched” and made in the USA). I counted 5 different fonts on this pencil, not including the 2154.

The fonts are my favourite thing on this pencil, although the end cap is elegant too and the colour is really unique and vibrant.

Go have fun with some pencils and listen to the birds for a while. They sing some hope into these dark times.

Vintage Beauty: Eberhard Faber Colorbrite

Pelikan Ocean Swirl, Sailor Peacock and Last Run Outside

I’m using my pens to cheer me up a little, as we get ready for even more serious movement restrictions, and as the political and economical situation here go haywire. This was written using a Pelikan M805 Ocean Swirl with a fine nib and Sailor Peacock ink. The lighting situation at my desk doesn’t do this ink justice – it’s beautiful.

I managed to squeeze in a 4k run this morning. As I avoided people, I couldn’t run further than that, but I’m glad that I did. The weather is perfect for runs right now, and I really miss my running, but today’s run looks to be the last I’ll be able to go on for a while. I usually run along the waterfront, but so does everyone else, so I ran in parallel streets. This is a temporary goodbye to the sea, and I hope that it’s not a long one:

Stay healthy and safe, and look for the little things and little moments to keep you happy.

Pelikan Ocean Swirl, Sailor Peacock and Last Run Outside

Vintage beauty: Eagle Chemi-Sealed Verithin

This isn’t a review. It’s just to say that coloured pencils and vintage drafting coloured pencils in particular can be used to “spice up” your everyday notes. Also, vintage pencils are often stunningly beautiful, especially the Eagle ones.

Look at that beauty! The “dragee” box is also vintage, as are the market credit coins, so much more elegant than today’s cards and digital payments (if more unwieldy).

Here’s a writing sample and a quick update for today:

“Also ideal for marking blue prints” indeed. Who doesn’t need one of those?

 

Vintage beauty: Eagle Chemi-Sealed Verithin

Retro 51 Buzz Review: The Bee Rescue Tornado

The Retro 51 Buzz bee rescue tornado is probably the Retro 51 I eyed the most before buying. I loved the honeycomb design, but not so much the bees, and when it came out I still hadn’t found a replacement for the Schmidt refill. I solved the refill issue with the Ohto FlashDry, and once Retro51 announced that they’re closing, I decided to finally buy this pen.

I love that Buzz logo and I kind of wish that it was featured on the pen, even though I know that it would have just cluttered it.

The Buzz pen is part of Retro 51’s rescue series, which means that there’s a small donation given to NW Honey Bee Habitat Restoration for every pen sold. It comes in a beautiful pen tube (which makes it, like all Retro 51s, a great gift pen to give), and is a very well designed pen.

Let’s start with the finial/top disc, which is featured in the Pen Addict Podcast Retro 51 Celebration pen. How could it not be? It’s a honeybee themed pen and it features a bear – a classic Retro 51 move.

One of the best top discs that Retro 51 has ever designed.

The pen itself features an acid-etched honeycomb texture with printed honeybees and brushed copper hardware. Some of the honeycombs are filled, and the bees… Well, I think that they come off as a little bit tacky in photos, but they somehow “work” in person. They blend in better with the rest of the design, and actually help tone down its shininess.

The copper hardware fits this pen like a glove. 

The best thing about this pen is the honeycomb etching on it. It glows and really makes the pen pop, with the added benefit of making the Retro 51 Buzz easy and nice to grip.

Look at that glow:

Check out that shiny, shiny glow.

The only nit-picky thing I didn’t like is the finish level. The filled honeycombs aren’t always painted within the lines. If that’s on purpose, I find that it detracts from the pen, and doesn’t add anything. If it’s not, it’s a shame:

Can you see where the brown paint doesn’t go all the way to the edge? 

I still love this pen, and I’m so glad that I bought it while it’s still to be had. The Retro 51 Buzz is not only a beautiful and well designed pen, it’s a pen that only Retro 51 could have designed.

Buzz!
Retro 51 Buzz Review: The Bee Rescue Tornado

Pilot Vanishing Point Matte Black and Colorverse Selectron Review

There’s something about black fountain pens and black ink that make them popular beyond what common sense would dictate. The blacker they are the more popular they are, especially if you add the word “stealth” somewhere in their name or the copy. Apparently everyone wants to be a ninja.

There’s so little nib and so much nib creep that investing in a black coated nib unit for this VP seems pointless to me.

Colorverse Selectron is a pigmented ink that I obtained as part of the Electron/Selectron Multiverse box. Colorverse have lately started to sell some of these paired inks as individual bottles, and so if orange isn’t your thing (Electron is orange, don’t ask me why) you may be able to obtain just Selectron soon enough.

I bought this Matte Black Vanishing Point from Goulet Pens in 2013 I think, but it hasn’t seen much use in recent years. As part of my move to both use my fountain pens more and see if there are any that I might want to part with I dusted this one off and filled it with an “appropriately” coloured ink.

Is this not a handsome pen? Yes it is. Just don’t look too close.

I’ve written about Colorverse Selectron before as part of other reviews. I initially thought that it would be a perfect drawing ink, as it’s pigmented and fountain pen friendly I was hoping that it was also waterproof. As you’ll see later on, it is not.

In terms of the ink itself, there’s nothing remarkable about it. It’s a solid black with some sheen when layered and no variation, which is what you usually want from a black ink.

Ugh! You looked too close and now you can see where the coating has rubbed off! 😦

The Matte Black Pilot Vanishing Point is a VP like all VPs: a pen with a great nib, a body design that you either love or can’t use (depending on how you grip your pen) and a solid click mechanism. It still has a converter that holds about a drop and a half of ink and is annoying to fill, and it still suffers from nib creep.

The novelty here is in the matte finish, which is both very nice and not very durable. I hardly used this pen and already the coating is becoming glossy where I usually grip it. It’s a shame because the coating feels great and looks great when it’s unblemished, as in the body of the pen:

Pretty, pretty matte coating.

Like some other pigmented inks, the Colorverse Selectron is Moleksine friendly: there’s no feathering, spreading and bleed-through with fine/medium nibs (show through is going to be there no matter what). It’s also a fun ink to draw with:

I started watching “The Mandalorian” and I love it, can you tell?

And here are the results of the waterproof test:

Look at this mess… Not at all waterproof. You’ll be able to read your notes after a spill though. 

Matte coated pens are difficult to do well, and Pilot haven’t done a stellar job with this Vanishing Point. Black fountain pen inks are a dime a dozen, and Colorverse haven’t done much beyond packaging and copy to create one that stands out. If I could have tested these in person they would have probably both remained on their respective shelves, but the online hype of the time swept me away. I’m much more wary of it and FOMO in general over the past two years.

Invest in things that will stand out and stand the test of time. And take care of yourselves (and your pens) in these troubling days.

Pilot Vanishing Point Matte Black and Colorverse Selectron Review