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Reviews Written by mikeshoffman

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Nomadic PE-08 Easy Classification Pencil Case - Yellow - NOMADIC EPE 08 YELLOW
  The square cross-section..., April 4, 2012
The square cross-section provides maximum volume with minimum apparent size. The main compartment opens up and forward, keeping the footprint small, forming a stable V-shaped holder, where you can see much of the items. The vivid yellowish orange color outside and strong orange color inside makes it unusual, lively, and fun. In contrast, a simple, low-height, tray-shaped case was faster to load and retrieve items from, but was boring, and had a bigger footprint. A small footprint is ergonomic, for dividing table space among laptop, binder, book, and papers.

In contrast, the PE-07 has a tall rectangular cross-section, so you have to dig way down to fish-out items at the bottom, and it looks unstable, falling over, forming a bigger footprint. With this PE-08, you never have to dig down very far. The PE-09 flap-type case is ridiculously big, so it is more of a niche, specialized case for carrying around a large collection of items -- and lacks elegant symmetry. The 07 and 09 pouch- or purse-shaped cases look like they tend to lie down, forming a bigger footprint, with the opening aimed horizontally rather than angled toward you, thus spilling rather than holding the contents presenting them toward you.

The PE-08 genuinely solved the problem of tangled items in the bottom of my deep, dark backpack pockets: it protects small, delicate items, and I'm no longer digging around my overloaded backpack, but now, my wonderful stationery items are presented to me brightly and invitingly.

I'm not embarrassed to put the PE-08 case on the table in the coffeehouse or library: it doesn't at all remind one of a purse; it doesn't look specifically masculine or feminine, but looks interesting and thus cool. Neither does it put your items too much on display like a stand-up shape or tray-box shape, and neither is it fiddly, ostentatious, or big-footprint like a roll-up case. It's a moderate yet worthwhile size; it doesn't hold so much as to raise the question of "Why do you need so much?" or hold so little as to ask "Why do you need a case at all; isn't that gratuitous and affected?" This right-sized case is small enough to be low-key, yet big enough to be intriguing: what fun and cool things are surely in that pencil case?

The other most-sensible model might be the compact PE-06, but it's not compartment-shaped or mouth/cup-shaped like the PE-08 main compartment, so it's not good for free-form holding the maximum number of items in a small space; it doesn't use its volume as efficiently, and it doesn't look quite as fun, except for the compactness. I'd like to see a compact version of the PE-08, with a similar pouch/mouth main compartment, rather than book-like with pen slots like the PE-06.

I had a really great time buying the red (orange inside) PE-08 for a friend and filling it with surprise gifts. She immediately said "I'll be able to find this red case in my luggage!" This tasteful and fun design is good for guys and girls, where the potential embarrassment or silliness of having a pencil case is overcome by the coolness of this design. This case really makes sense and is helpful and uplifting, just as many reviewers have reported. This model would make a great gift for anyone, for general use, especially if filled with some JetPens and college bookstore stationery items.
Uni Noble Metal Metallic Gel Ink Pen - 0.8 mm - 8 Color Set - UNI UM120NM8C
  Noble Metal won 2nd place..., March 29, 2012
Noble Metal won 2nd place in my metallic gel pen shootout, behind Sakura Gelly Roll Metallic, and tied with Y&C Gel Extreme, followed by the 3 Pentel variants, Maxum, and then Sarasa Clip and Write Dudes.

Metallic pen sets should provide lines in various vivid, useful shades, that appear metallic/shiny/sparkly/reflective whether viewed directly or at an angle. Those are the most important factors, potential deal-breakers.

Brand -- Model -- Ball Size -- Apparent Line Width -- # Colors -- Reflectivity -- Shade -- Pen Casing -- Set Container -- Consistency of Output -- Black Paper Ability

[notes] = comparison across all brands.
Standard 8 colors = purple, blue, green, yellow/gold, orange/copper/bronze, red, pink (breaks the rainbow+white theme), silver.

Sakura -- Gelly Roll Metallic -- 1.0mm -- 1.1mm [widest] -- 14 colors [widest palette]: the 8 standard colors + black, blueblack, dark green, sepia, burgundy, emerald -- high reflectivity [best] -- shade is ideal; gold and copper are ideal [best by far] -- ultra-utiliarian casing (2/5) -- comes in square case of 16 (2 gold/silver) or smaller (both all-plastic clamshell and cardboard/plastic packs) -- minimal skips/globbing -- ideal on black paper: bright/shiny, clear color differentiation, more reflective than Pentel but not as vivid colors when reflecting. Overall rating: 5/5 [best brand].

Uni-Ball -- Noble Metal -- 0.8mm -- 0.8mm -- the 8 standard colors (but "red" is good dark pink) -- consistently high reflectivity [brightest silver] 4/5 [2nd best] -- good dark non-pinkish purple, good darkish blue, good slightly darkish green, good shiny med-yellow reflective = passable as "gold", 2nd best copper, "red" isn't red but is outstanding shiny foil rose pink, most reflective silver [best] -- good pen casing, 5/5 -- by far the best set case: tin & plastic multitray, metal clips -- well-controlled, 5/5 -- poor color differentiation on black, 2/5. Overall rating: 4/5 (has outstanding rose-pink instead of red) [tied for 2nd-best brand].

Yasutomo Y&C -- Gel Extreme Metallic Rollers -- 0.7mm -- 0.6mm -- 7 colors (no pink, which isn't on rainbow's palette) -- 3rd place for reflectivity/shinyness -- shades are spot-on: non-pinkish purple, middle blue & green, shiny yellow & orange, middle-red, gray/white/silver, and no pink to disrupt this balanced, useful rainbow -- simple all-clear 1-piece casing (clear tip) with pearl colored end and clip, the pearl-shine packaging comes with more vivid than pearl ink; shiny and not pastel-leaning -- good clear soft-plastic pouch -- a pleasure to write with; highly controlled and controllable for writing neat and fine metallic text; well-regulated, almost no globbing -- poor color differentiation on black (it's all silver, unlike Sakura and Pentel). Overall rating: 4/5 [tied for 2nd place].

Pentel -- Metallic -- 1.0mm -- 1.0mm -- 8 -- the standard 8 colors (and white available) -- reflectivity same as Slicci (below) -- ink shades are same as Slicci but stronger due to increased flow -- good broad casing 3.5/5 -- no set case -- a little gloppy, 3/5 -- On black: same as Slicci. Overall rating: same as Slicci.

Pentel -- Slicci Metallic -- 0.8mm -- 0.8mm -- the 8 standard colors -- reflectivity varies alot per color -- too-lavender purple, good blue, good shiny green, darkish yellow "gold", strong brownish copper/bronze, vivid red,
too-faded pink, faint silver -- slender designer casing, hard to hold; good case of 5 (should be 8) or cardboard/window pack of 8 -- 4/5 consistent perf. -- 5/5 on black (strong color differentiation except between purple, pink, and silver). Overall rating: 3.5/5; inconsistent vividness, tone, and reflectivity.

Pentel -- Sunburst Metallic -- 0.7mm -- 0.6mm -- the 8 standard colors -- reflectivity same as Slicci -- ink shades are same as Slicci but paler due to too-restricted flow -- pen casing is chaotic with 6 typefaces, 4/5 -- cardboard/plastic pack and reflective color foil sticker that overpromises -- output restricts ink flow, so less vivid (green is more generous, gloppy, and shiny) -- on black, same as Slicci. Overall rating: same as Slicci.

Staedtler -- Maxum Gel Metallic -- 0.8mm -- 0.7mm -- 8 colors, but shiny black instead of silver -- In the middle of the shiny/reflective range, 2.5/5 -- good shades: purple is not pinkish; pink is rose, not baby; silver would've been better than black; 4/5 -- colored semi-translucent plastic, like Uni Signo DX with chromed plastic tip; 3.5/5 -- cardboard/plastic pack -- some globbing issues despite a thin, somewhat weak line (not punchy vibrant shiny color) -- no color differentiation on black. Overall rating: average; 2.5/5.

Zebra -- Sarasa Clip -- 1.0mm -- 0.7 (thin, faint) -- the 8 standard colors + shiny orange (distinct from copper/bronze) -- low reflectivity on most colors -- skewed toward understated lighter shades/tones; relatively pastel, toned down just like the packaging implies; mild colors with mild/slight reflectivity -- nice casing with great pearl-like clip (4/5); product aims at pretty, gentle pearl-like tone rather than metallic effect -- good quick-tuck case -- writing performance 4/5 (rare globbing but only a thin, light-colored line) -- poor color differentiation on black (2/5). Overall rating: 2/5. Pretty, enjoyable as color gel pens, but modest, subdued, understated, semi-shiny.

Write Dudes -- Super Gel Metallic -- 1.2mm -- 0.8mm -- 8 colors, but light blue instead of silver -- Most colors are little reflective, 1.5/5 -- Most shades are good, just not reflective -- cross between Uni Signo DX and Slicci, chromed plastic (incl. tip) & clear; colored grip, 4.5/5 -- cardboard & 3D window pack (tip: with scissors, cut flap in back of such packs) -- generous glopping, 3.5/5 -- little color differentiation on black. Overall rating: 2/5, limited by low reflectivity: need shinyness in the ink more than on the casing (budget product with flashy packaging). Enjoyable as a semi-metallic gel pen.
Pentel Sharp Drafting Pencil - 0.5 mm - Black Body
  I first bought the Pentel..., March 10, 2012
I first bought the Pentel P205 from my university bookstore around 1983, for classes in Engineering, Science, and Math. I also bought the P203 (brown, 0.3mm), for open-notes exams.

The P205 is available in metallic red, metallic violet (purple), metallic green, metallic blue, metallic pink, black, green, red, marble blue, marble red, marble green, and marble bronze (brown). JetPens should carry the Pentel P205 Pencil Metallic Special Edition and the marble colors. This is an advantage of the simple, clean barrel type of this pencil: it's a large, uniform surface that can vary in color. You can get them imprinted by Pentel. Wooden barrels are also available, from craftsmen.

I have the basic collection of the 4 P20x sizes: P203 (0.3 mm, brown barrel), P205 (0.5 mm, black barrel), P207 (0.7 mm, blue barrel), P209 (0.9 mm, yellow barrel). The P209 is like holding a hunk of lead; it lacks a "cut" into the paper; it just rolls over the paper. It is good for shop-work.

Pentel should make the P203 in more barrel colors and distribute it again in the U.S. It is ironic that the 0.3 mm P203 has restricted distribution, when the trend in pens is toward thin lines.

Pentel should make a P204; 0.4 mm would be the perfect balance of thinness and lead strength. I will probably get the Pentel Graph 1000 0.4 mm pencil, which is almost as light as the P205; it's the closest thing to the P204, which would be colored green like the 0.4 mm Graph 1000: it would have a green barrel (in the standard model), paired with a green-capped case of 0.4 mm leads.

The line thickness depends on turning the pencil to chase the sharp spot, and depends on the paper. A very thin line results from writing smooth or slick waxy textbook paper, tiny text, light pressure, turning the pencil to pursue the sharp spot. A thick line results from subtly rough, generic printer paper. Therefore, one might prefer a P203 for slightly rougher paper -- rough printer paper causes the thin P203 to be surprisingly thick. Smooth textbook paper causes the relatively thick P205 to come out surprisingly fine. I wish there were a P204. On good (smooth) paper, the P203 lacks some character ("character" = varying thickness in each stroke).

Even as popular as this pencil is, it is still underappreciated, largely because it is so perfectly understated, efficiently low-key, and streamlined -- a faithful, unassuming workhorse, universally flexible ranging from everyday heavy writing, to fully technical work. I've used the P205 for all kinds of work, including Philosophy, Cognitive Science, Engineering, and design of electric guitar equipment. P205 is the official pencil of the Egodeath theory, a major breakthrough theory of religion which I developed especially in 1986-1988; I have hundreds of pages developing this Theory, using the P205. The P205 is an intimate part of my life and identity.

Why is this pen so popular? It is very lightweight, so it disappears; it stays out of the way. It's solid, sturdy, streamlined, doesn't tire the hand when taking notes all day. The sturdy rigidity of this light-weight pencil gives full control and feedback, and the tip is thin, making it fast to turn it to pursue the sharp spot. It is highly respected and familiar in the technical world. It's got metal where needed, but light-weight plastic on the body. The eraser-cleanness protector is easy to take off and put on. It advances in small increments of 0.5 mm, not 1/8" like cheap pencils, to produce the ideal protrusion. It has a distinctive elegance. This elegant black-and-chrome design is immune to trendiness. It stylistically ages gracefully, timelessly: no one would ever design a pencil to look like this today, but it is inarguably a great, effective design: streamlined, organically curved; almost as if the situation designed it optimally, rather than mere human designers trying to calculate what would sell based on merely what looks cool by some superficial, short-lived standard.

Another of the many unconscious and underappreciated reasons this pencil is popular could be the utility of its 4 mm tip as a small thin tool: the thin tip of the P205 has come in handy countless times when I need a small, thin rigid poker shape to tweak something. I'm always reaching for this pencil, even for non-writing related tasks.

My P203 (brown) is vintage: it has a green eraser, with clean-out pin. My vintage tube of green erasers doesn't work, however; they dried up/broke down. I understand and support Pentel's decision to switch to the white eraser and omit the clean-out pin, since a workaround to fix the rare jamming is to use a piece of lead. The price of entry for this workhorse pencil is a bit of can-do ability to take it apart and clean out a jam. A part of the whole P205 experience is pulling and tossing the last half-inch of lead and clicking to advance the next.

The barrel holds many leads, but if you cram too many in, it is more likely to jam, and probably is not using the pencil as-designed. I think some of the few experiences I had with this rare jamming are due to storing too many leads.

The Pilot eraser-pin hack, I discovered: Use the two cleanout pins from the Pilot green box of 5 erasers, "Pilot MS-10 Mechanical Pencil Eraser Refill". Buy several of the "Pilot MS-10 Mechanical Pencil Eraser Refill" sets, one for every two P20x's you have. 1 pin is 0.3 mm, 1 pin is 0.5 mm. They can be cut and inserted into the eraser for a vintage cleaning pin. I remember over the years occasionally needing to clean out a stuck lead fragment: it rarely happens but you have to resolve the problem when it does. For 0.5mm, I've done fine using a piece of lead as a clean-out tool.

You have to be ready to take apart the pencil to some extent, which did present a problem once when trying to take notes in a meeting when my P205 jammed - I wanted to spend a few minutes repairing it (don't know if I had a clean-out pin in that case). It might be a good insurance idea to put a cut clean-out pin in all your P203 and P205 erasers. Hold the straight part of the pin and let the loop-handle go flying away when you cut it; don't hold the loop-handle and let the straight pin go flying away. The P203 (and mythical P204) must use the thin clean-out pin. The P205 can use the thicker clean-out pin. The P203 especially benefits from adding a clean-out pin: it's easier for the lead to break, and harder to use a piece of lead to clean out.

I've had a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil with me almost every day. I've briefly tried out alternatives, but they only increase my appreciation for this revered classic, which always has a reserved parking spot in my backpack and desk.
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