I have too many pencils which I don’t take the time to use. Inspired by this episode of the Pen Addict podcast I decided to literally do a random draw: I randomly drew a pencil from the pile, and then I randomly drew something with it. Today’s pencil: the General’s Pacific 365 #2.
It’s a classic looking #2 (or HB) pencil, with for some reason three or four fonts on the barrel, depending how you count the numerals. It’s made in the USA, out of California incense cedar, and has a little red thing on the top that looks like an eraser, but trust me, I wouldn’t try to use it as one.
The green foil imprint quality is not great, with the “Pacific” imprint chipping the pencil’s coating. The coating itself is pretty thinly layered, but the core is perfectly centred and sharpens like a charm.
You can see the available shades that the General’s Pacific is capable of producing in the closeup of the sea turtle above. If you’re looking for a #2 writing pencil that could do for a quick sketch in a pinch, the Pacific ought to do the job. It doesn’t smudge and holds a point very well.
I erased a word between the “S” and the “LATIONSHIPS” on the left side of the closeup above. It erased out pretty well, even though the writing was dark and done with some pressure.
The phone above shows you the maximum darkness I was able to produce with the General’s Pacific. It’s not bad, considering that this is clearly not a pencil made for drawing, but one made primarily for writing.
If you’re buying from CW Pencils and are looking to add a workhorse cedar pencil with a fondness for fonts to your order, the General’s Pacific is a pretty good choice.
While the original Ti Arto is my favourite machined pen, the newer Ti Arto EDC comes in at a close second. Like its older BIGiDESIGN brother, the Ti Arto EDC is a machined titanium pen which can accept hundreds of different refills with no need for hacks or spacers and with no tip wiggle. Unlike the Ti Arto it comes in three different finishes, accepts many more refills, and can be adjusted in length.
The Ti Arto EDC looks a lot like a slightly slimmer version of the Ti Arto, with a bigger step down in the end section, and almost no gap between the section and the body.
Those looks are a little deceiving, because this the Ti Arto EDC has a completely different build. The end of the pen can be extended or retracted, unlike the Ti Arto, where it is static. In the Ti Arto EDC the end of the pen is also what you unscrew to change refills, unlike the Ti Arto, where the grip unscrews. If you assume that they’re the same, as on a cursory glance it looks like the Ti Arto EDC’s grip section unscrews (and it really, really doesn’t).
The body of the Ti Arto EDC is slightly slimmer, and the entire pen is slightly lighter than the Ti Arto. It comes in a machined raw finish (like the Ti Arto), in a stonewashed finish (which you can see in the pictures) and in a midnight black finish (which you can see on my Ti Click EDC). Of the three, the stonewashed finish has the best grip and feel, and it also shows wear and tear the best.
The trick with the extendable end section is where the cleverness of this pen lies, and that’s what allows you to use more refill types in this pen, and to extend or compress this pen’s length (to the limits of the refill size). The two o-rings make the end section action super smooth, and the same dual thread design allows you to cap and post this pen super securely. Nothing on this pen is going anywhere without your permission.
The Ti logo, elegant and understated, is the only branding on this pen. You can see how substantial the clip is and how the pen wear in the photo above. It’s like an old pair of jeans, so the stonewashed name for this finish is totally appropriate.
Fully extended, the Ti Arto EDC is the same length of the Ti Arto. However, depending on the refill you use, this pen can get pretty tiny.
I use the Uni-ball UMR-85N refill in this pen, and this is as far as it will contract. If you use a Parker or Schmidt refill the end section can be screwed in almost all the way. However, even partially extended the Ti Arto EDC is a more pocketable pen than its predecessor.
So why do I prefer the Ti Arto more? For longer writing sessions the Ti Arto’s wider girth makes it more comfortable to use than the Ti Arto EDC, although the difference is minor. The Ti Arto is also slightly less ungainly than the Ti Arto EDC, having a more streamlined design, with no step down. I don’t mind the Ti Arto’s gap between the grip and the pen body, and I don’t need a pen that accepts more refills than the Ti Arto. As you may have noticed by now, the choice between the Arto and the Arto EDC is likely going be one of personal taste and preference. Either pen is an excellent choice for a machined pen, an EDC pen, or a titanium pen.
Leuchtturm1917 entered the busy sketchbook market about a year or two ago, with a lineup of A6, A5 and A4 sketchbooks with white 180 gsm paper.
The covers of the Leuchtturm1917 sketchbooks come in a wide variety of colours, which is a rarity in this market. Usually you find sketchbooks in black, or maybe one or two other colours, but Leuchtturm has decided to offer these in all the colour options available in their regular lineup.
The sketchbook contains 96 pages of acid free 180 gsm paper, and it opens flat. There’s a note in the back packaging that says that the paper is colourfast, and shows a sketch made with a fineliner and markers. More on that later.
There’s a place to write your name and address on the front cover. I recommend writing your name and email address instead. It’s more practical, and more secure.
There is a back pocket. I don’t really think that it’s necessary in a sketchbook, but it’s nice to have.
Leuchtturm offers two unique things with its sketchbook. One is the offer to personalize it with an embossing of your choice. During last year’s Urban Sketchers they personalized the sketchbooks that they gave away as part of the symposium’s package, and the result is very nice.
Now for the heart of the notebook, it’s paper. The pages lie flat with a bit of coaxing, and are thick and substantial. You have to really layer down markers for them to bleed through, and there’s no show through, meaning you can use each page on both sides.
So how does the paper behave? It depends on the medium. This sketchbook excels at dry media (pencils, couloured pencils, conte crayons, etc).
It’s pretty horrible with wet media, including fountain pen ink, watercolour washes, and ink washes. The paper buckles, shows off colour poorly, turns into a grainy mess, and and the ink feathers and spreads. I wouldn’t recommend it even for the lightest washes. All the vibrancy of my schminke watercolours turned into a muddy mess here (the sketch was done with a medium nibbed fountain pen and R&K Emma SketchINK):
Even with fineliners you’re going to have spread. If you like sharp lines, find a different sketchbook.
Again, even from a bit of a distance you can see the spread. That’s just a shame, because if the paper was a little less absorbent then this would be an excellent sketchbook.
This brings me to my frustration with the picture on the back end of the paper band, the one showing a tiny marker and fineliner drawing. This is my experience using markers and fineliners on this notebook:
There’s no option to layer or blend the markers, but that’s OK. This isn’t marker specific paper after all. But even for casual use, or just for use with fineliners/brush pens this paper isn’t great.
So do I recommend this sketchbook? It depends. If the way it looks makes you want to use it, then yes, it’s a notebook for you. I’ve been using this sketchbook for my journal comics mainly to test it out. Will I continue using it? Only because I already have a body of work in it. Otherwise, there are better options out there, ones that aren’t only pencil great, but also work with pen, ink and light watercolour washes (the Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbooks come to mind).
I am on a quest in search for a white, waterproof pen that reliably lays down a thin, opaque line. You’d think that this wouldn’t be so hard to find, but this combination (opaque-and-thin-and-waterproof-and-reliable) has so far proven to be elusive. The closest so far has been the Uni-ball Signo Broad UMR-153 white gel ink pen, but it tends to dry out and blob, so it is far from perfect.
The Uni Do! Posca paint marker in white, extra fine (0.7) is a welcome addition to the white pen field. It’s waterproof, water-based (so not smelly like other paint markers), lightfast, and can be used on a multitude of surfaces. I’m going to focus its use on paper, but if you’re looking for a way to label a dark coloured object, this may be the pen for you.
The Do! Posca’s design is pretty well designed. The pen is narrow enough in diameter for you to comfortably use it like a regular pen, and the square cap keeps the pen from rolling off the table, and looks great. The pen body is much too busy for my liking, but that’s a minor quibble.
There’s a tiny metal ball inside the pen, and you need to shake it well before use to get the paint ink flowing. When you use the Do! Posca for the first time you need to prime it by shaking the pen thoroughly and then pressing the plastic tip in several times until the white paint flows. I had no problem getting the pen to start up after a good shake, but I’d recommend keeping it horizontally and cap it immediately after use.
The Uni Do! Posca doesn’t blob, and it’s excellent for small details. I wouldn’t use it to fill in large expanses of white, as it offers pretty poor coverage and doesn’t layer well. If you’re looking to use it for highlights, correction or detail work, this is the pen for you.
I drew this journal comic on a Clairefontaine Paint On Naturel A5 pad.
The Uni Do! Posca extra fine paint marker in white was available for a time at Jetpens, but now you can find it easily enough on eBay. If you’re looking for an opaque, extra fine, waterproof white pen, I highly recommend it.
My latest flea market find is a red/blue Union No. 84 pencil from The “Master” Pencils Ltd, the English pencil company that also created the Golden Master pencils that I reviewed in the past.
The Union No. 84 is an oversized pencil, with a red and navy core. I love the choice of font for the imprint: it looks clean and professional.
The pencil is thick, built like a children’s pencil, and so the cores are extra large as well.
The navy core, almost black in appearance:
Finding a sharpener that can sharpen this pencil was a challenge. You’ll need one that’s designed for children’s pencils, yet is high quality enough to handle wood that has toughened over time, and a core that is still soft and brittle. I went with the M+R double brass sharpener Nr. 0603. Beware of the red core when you sharpen this pencil, as it can stain your hands.
Here’s the Union No. 84 next to the Caran d’Ache Bicolor 999, the golden standard for red/blue pencils. You can see their size differences quite clearly.
The navy tip of the pencil:
The red tip of the pencil:
The red tip of the pencil was much softer and more crumbly than the navy tip, but even though I was worried about it, it didn’t break with use.
I tested the Union No. 84 against the Bicolor 999, and discovered a few interesting things. The Union’s blue is indeed a shade darker than the Bicolor’s but it’s not as dark as I would have expected. The red shades of both pencils are virtually identical. The Union feels more like a pencil than the waxy Bicolor, with more feedback, and more shading possible when some pressure is applied. Both pencils erase poorly, but the Union erases better than the Bicolor, particularly the Union red, which doesn’t stain the paper.
I tested the pencils on a Baron Fig Confidant, my go-to pencil testing paper, and erased them with the Maped Technic 600.
The Master Union No. 84 is a lot of fun to draw with, beyond being useful for highlighting and correcting text. It feels like a proper pencil, and not a waxy crayon, and it shades enough to allow for doodles like this one:
The Union No.84 is great and fun, and so was the Spiderman movie. I highly recommend them both.
It’s strange that I haven’t yet reviewed the pen that I use most, but that’s life, I guess. The Ti Arto is a titanium machined pen that accepts 200+ refills, and it has been my EDC and journaling pen since November 2016. There’s no pen I use more, and no pen I like more than this one.
Since the Ti Arto bashes around freely in my bag, it’s got quite a few scratches on it. I personally like that it shows some wear and tear, but as not everyone feels the same, I thought I’d take a few photos that show how the Ti Arto looks like when it’s not brand new.
The Ti Arto is made out of solid titanium, and doesn’t get dented even if you drop it. It does, however, show micro-abrasions and scratches.
None of these scratches is deep enough to be felt – they’re at surface level only. So it really is just an aesthetic thing. If you like your pen to look brand spanking new, the Ti Arto comes with a protective felt sleeve. I personally wouldn’t bother: this isn’t a fountain pen, but a tough, machined, EDC pen. It’s built to tumble around in your bag.
Now to the review proper: the Ti Arto was originally launched on Kickstarter, and became available on the BigiDesign site sometime in 2016. The pen is machined out of solid aluminium, and made to easily accept 200+ refills with no tip wiggle or need for spacers.
The Ti Arto is well balanced, both capped and uncapped, and very comfortable to use, even for someone with small hands that likes to write a lot. Unlike some other machined pens, the Ti Arto’s cap will stay on, even after years of use and after the threads start to wear out a bit. See that semi opaque silicone ring just below the threads? That’s the magic that makes sure the cap closes nice and tight. No refill is going to dry out or leak in this pen.
If you want to post the Ti Arto you can, by threading the cap to the back of the pen. The resulting pen is a bit longer, but still well balanced, and the cap doesn’t rattle when you write. It does take time to screw the cap on, so if you uncap and post often it will become a chore. Since the Ti Arto isn’t a fountain pen, though, there should be no problem leaving the pen uncapped for a while.
I use the Uniball Signo UMR-85N refill in this pen (the same refill that goes into the Signo RT). To change the refill you unscrew the section, pop the refill in, screw the section almost all the way back on, then tip the pen body forward until the refill tip protrudes, and then you tighten the section. Since you probably aren’t going to actually use 200+ different refills in this pen, I recommend finding a refill that you enjoy and buying replacement refills in boxes of 10 or 12 on Amazon or eBay. I go through a box and a half to two boxes of UMR-85N refills a year in this pen, and it takes less than a minute to switch out the refill.
Here’s are a few points about the Ti Arto, drawn and written with the Ti Arto:
If you are looking to own just one good pen, or if you’re looking for an EDC or machined pen, the Ti Arto is the pen you should buy. I’ve tried a good number of machined pens so far, including all the other (non-stylus) offerings from BigiDesign and nothing comes close to this pen.
I have been using the Deleter Neopiko Line 3 felt tip pens for a while now as myjournalcomicspens, just to trythemout. I didn’t bother buying all of the lineup (pro tip: you never need all of the tip sizes in felt tip pens), instead choosing to focus on the tip sizes that I would use the most.
First thing first: the barrel design. These are wide enough and light enough to be comfortable for long use, but otherwise the Neopiko Line 3 has a terrible design.
You can’t tell which pen is which without looking at the cap, which is a fatal design flaw in these kinds of pens. I normally use several felt tip pens at the same time, and can oftentimes accidentally cap one pen with another one’s cap. That’s no big deal with the Staedtler, Copic or Faber Castell felt tip pens, as you just look at the pen body when using them to know which is which, but you just can’t afford to make this mistake with the Deleter Neopiko’s. You won’t mix up the 2.0 with the 0.2, but try telling between the 0.3 and the 0.5 when you’re in the middle of a drawing.
Another design drawback is also related to the cap: it’s requires a lot of force to use. This means that you can’t easily cap it with one hand, and if you draw to any extent with felt tips you know how bad that is.
These two choices on Deleter’s part meant that when I was using these pens I had to change my drawing method, working not panel by panel as I usually would, but pen by pen. You’ll see what I mean in a moment, when I review each individual pen.
The Deleter Neopiko Line 3 comes in the following tip sizes: 0.03, 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8, 1.0, 2.0, and Brush. These are pretty common tip choices in this kind of pens, with perhaps only the 2.0 tip size being unique to Deleter. I recommend not buying the 0.03 or 0.05 because they are much too fine (in any maker), and skipping the 0.2, as these pens do allow for some line variation (as all felt tips do), so you won’t be able to tell the difference between the 0.2 and the 0.3 in use.
To showcase the pens in use, I decided to create a journal comic and show step by step how and when I use each of these pens.
The Deleter Neopiko Line 3 2.0 pen is what made me try out this pen lineup. It’s a fun and unique tip size that’s just perfect for comic borders or if you like big, bold lines in your drawings. This is the only pen in the Neopiko line 3 lineup that I recommend buying, despite the barrel design flaws.
The 0.8 tip size got very little use in my first journal comics with this set. Normally I would use this tip size for the panel borders, but I was using the 2.0 for that, so I had to remind myself to use it in other places. This is my least favourite of the lineup, as it was scratchy and gritty, and offered a lot of resistance, especially when drawing vertical or rounded lines. It was as if the tip had split, although in reality it hadn’t.
The 0.5 Deleter Neopiko Line 3 (wow to Japanese companies like long names for their products) is one of their most useful tip sizes. You can basically do with the 0.5 and the 0.1 for very fine detail, and the 2.0 for absolute fun, and you’re set for 99.9% of what you’d need for comic line work.
The 0.3 Neopiko is the second most useful pen in this lineup, and one that I used probably the most. If you don’t draw super small, it can probably even replace the need for a 0.1 tip pen for you.
As you can see, the 0.1 Neopiko Line 3 didn’t get much use in this comic, but when you need it, you need it. This is as fine as I would go, though, as already the tip is tiny and fragile, liable to break with too much pressure.
The Deleter Neopiko Line 3 brush pen is useful for filling in black areas, and not so much as a brush pen. It’s very firm, offering very little line variation or brush-like qualities. The only reason to buy it is to get big areas filled with black that is identical in shade to your other line work.
So, is the Deleter Neopiko Line 3 a contender against the Staedtler pigment liner? No, not even close. It is, however, worth giving the 2.0 a go, and if your drawing method is already a pen size by pen size one, then you might want to give these a go. They are waterproof, marker and eraser proof (once dry), and archival.