Happy Belgian National Day!

Belgium. Home of our president, home of The Pencil Case Blog, home of the chips (and moules-frites), home of SG-1′s favourite toy, home of many fantastic comic artists and comic strips1, home of some crazy music and home to some of the best2 notebooks in the world…

…and today is the Belgian National Day!

In a perfect world I’d now show you a picture of a Belgian pencil sharpened with a Belgian blade. Unfortunately I have to make do with no Belgian pencil, but at least some fantastic Belgian paper. For the photo I could even choose between different brands, but I picked Atoma paper. Regarding the blade, I chose a Dutch one, from Apeldoorn – the Netherlands is a neighbour of Belgium. About the pencil, I chose a German one, again it’s a neighbour of Belgium, plus the National Day “commemorates the day on which Leopold I took the constitutional oath as the first King of Belgium, on July 21st 1831″3. Leopold I of Belgium was born in Coburg, which is in Franconia – and this pencil was made in Franconia, too. Happy Belgian National Day



  1. from Macherot, Turk, Morris, Hergé, Peyo, … []
  2. imho []
  3. see http://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/country/belgium_in_nutshell/symbols/national_holiday/ []

Happy Independence Day!

As a pencileer, molyvophile and molyvologue1 I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Independence Day than to sharpen an American pencil with an American blade.

…but which pencil to choose? In the end I narrowed it down to the Mongol and the Ticonderoga. As these pencils where also made in other countries I obviously only put the American made versions on the short list.

Independence Day Mongols

In the end I did go with the Ticonderoga, just because I thought Faber-Castell takes some of the emphasis on the USA away. So, the chosen pencil is the Dixon’s American Ticonderoga. I did have a few of them in stock, but haven’t actually used them yet. My Ticonderoga experience so far was limited to the ‘Korean’ Ticonderogas, the awful Ticonderoga Renew and the Microban Ticonderogas.

Independence Day Ticonderoga

The knife was easy to choose, my Leatherman Style CS …just because it is the only knife I own that is, as far as I know, made in the United States of America.

Independence Day Leatherman

OK, let’s start sharpening. Because I only have a few of these American made Ticonderogas I want a less acute angle than usual – I just don’t want to waste too much of the nice pencil.

Independence Day Sharpening

I don’t want to go for a proper obtuse angle either, as that would probably be a very strange writing experience.

Independence Day Point

Here way are. By the way, the American blade was sharpened with something American, too: The Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, which could also be used to sharpen blades of pencil sharpeners.

Independence Day Point Close

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Idependence DayAs usual, please click on the pictures to see them in a higher resolution.

  1. See explanation in this blog post. []

Noris of the Woods

More Noris spotting!

I was lucky enough to spot several Staedtler Noris pencils in the BBC’s national and regional news in the last couple of days. One of the regional news clips was even filmed just around the corner.

…but Sean has sent me an even more exciting Noris spotting:
The 6-part series from the BBC called The Story of England by Michael Woods features Staedtler pencils in several shots. Here’s a photo from this series, featuring a Welsh-made Noris.

Image © Maya Vision / BBC

Image © Maya Vision / BBC

I believe that the use of the the screen shot of the Noris pencil, taken from Michael Wood’s Story of England falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

Uncle Noris

As you might have guessed after reading The Noris, then and now or any of the other Seen in the wild posts: I’m always happy when I see the Staedtler Noris on somebody’s desk or in a shop (not really worth a blog post: “Did you know, my local bank is using Noris pencils”) or on telly (probably more interesting for you, so maybe worth a blog post).

Last time I spotted a Noris was in Episode 3 of Uncle. You could admire the Noris in Nick Helm’s right and left hand and in his mouth (maybe the production company  shouldn’t have picked the bacon flavoured Noris).

Uncle (Image © Baby Cow Productions / BBC)

Uncle (Image © Baby Cow Productions / BBC)

I believe that the use of the the screen shot of the Noris pencil, taken from episode three of the first season of the TV series Uncle falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

The Tombow Zoom 707 de Luxe

I’ve been luck enough to have been chosen by The Pen Company, together with several other bloggers, to receive stationery to try out. Here’s my blog post about the Tombow mechanical pencil they sent me, originally posted on The Pen Company’s blog.


Do you remember what you did in 1987?

If you were living in the USA you were lucky enough to be able to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. The UK and Germany got TNG a few years later, in 1990. If you’re more into computers: the Amiga 500 was also released in this year.

..and in the world of pencils 1987 was the year the Tombow Zoom 707 mechanical pencil, designed by Mr Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, was launched in Japan, one year after the ballpoint pen of the same series came out.

Tombow tin


It only took another year before the Zoom 707 was released in Europe – in 1988. Over the next years it won three design award in Germany: the Red Dot Design Award in 1988, the Design Plus Award in 1989 and the Baden-Württemberg International Design Award in 1990.

Despite this pencil being so long on the market I didn’t know about it until recently. I got my Zoom 707 from The Pen Company as part of their programme where they send pens to stationery blogs for review. I even got the de Luxe version, which was launched in 1994. Tombow describes the de Luxe version, which sells for £28.60, around £10 more than the standard version, as being “glossy silver”.

Size comparison: Tombow Mono 100, Tombow Zoom 707 de Luxe, Staedtler Mars micro

Size comparison: Tombow Mono 100, Tombow Zoom 707 de Luxe, Staedtler Mars micro

Expectations and reality

I’ve got to be honest here, I would have never ordered this pen. The slim design doesn’t look very uncomfortable to me, so I didn’t have particularly high expectation when I started using this pen. To my surprise it was much more comfortable than expected. The rubber grip section of the pen has a diameter of 6.5mm and is not too far off a Tombow pencil’s diameter: the Tombow Mono 100 wood-cased pencil has a diameter of 7.2mm.

The grip is only slightly narrower than a wood-cased pencil

The grip is only slightly narrower than a wood-cased pencil

Build quality is excellent, but the red ball at the end of the clip and the rubber at the end of the pen show parting lines, and except the look the pencil behaves very similar to your typical mechanical pencil: with around 10g the weight is similar to other mechanical pencils. One click will advance the by about 0.6mm, which is also pretty standard and it also uses a ratchet mechanism like many other mechanical pencils.

One click will advance the lead by ~0.6mm

One click will advance the lead by ~0.6mm

The pen comes in a nice presentation tin and with a lifelong warranty. It doesn’t come with instructions, though, and since I’ve used mechanical pencils in that past that have to be refilled through the tip I wasn’t sure how to refill this pen. It’s size and  the fact that my careful attempt to remove the push top (I didn’t want to damage the pen)  were not successful didn’t help either. The push top can however be removed, to be refilled. My pen came with three leads, but despite is slim design I managed to squeeze eight leads into the pen.

Tombow refill


The Zoom 707 is one of those pens that ages well. Despite being more than 25 years old it doesn’t look old fashioned.

As far as I know this pencil is selling well. I wonder how most people are using this pencil. Its two main attributes, the slim size and the sturdiness (thanks to its metal body), make it a pencil that is probably more suitable than others to be a diary pencil, the kind of pencil you clip to your diary and leave it there to fulfil this specific purpose.

Tombow standing

I would like to thank The Pen Company for this pencil and Mrs. Balsewicz from Tombow Europe for the information she has provided about the Zoom 707.