Staplers

20180810_staplers Do you ever feel as if you need some help to hold it all together? A stapler may be the friend you are looking for! While most stationery supplies come and go, one item that is a constant is the stapler. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of planned obsolescence in their design as they can be refilled and used for many years. My husband keeps a classic black Swingline on his desk while I have an orange one from my mom’s first office after returning to work in 1972. Both work great (although the no-name orange one is a bit beat up looking) and use the same standard staples. These staples can be removed by another office stalwart, the staple remover. The one I have is also made by Swingline. Modern staple removers are almost identical to one patented back in 1944 by Frank R. Curtiss. For those of you who are movie buffs, Swingline is the brand of stapler so beloved by the character Milton in the movie Office Space that he threatens to burn down the building if they take it away from him.

If you want to take the eco-friendly concept of the stapler one step further, I also have a plastic stapleless stapler. This ingenious little gadget holds a few sheets of paper together with a buckle stitch, punched out of the paper itself. It actually works quite well as long as you don’t try to fasten more than five pieces of paper together and don’t mind the small hole in the paper. I have also found if you are flipping through the papers a lot, the little buckle does come loose.

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If staplers were people, the standard stapler would be a steadfast office worker, minding their own business, there when you need them, and holding things together while others come and go. No management fads for them. The staple remover would be their shorter buddy. They always have their back but get even less attention. The stapleless stapler would have a superiority complex when it comes to environmental issues. They are always pointing out the waste of others but not getting quite as much done at the office.

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Vintage Garage Sale Finds

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It is garage sale season around here and although I am trying to get rid of things, not accumulate more, I love to check them out just in case I find something I need. Recently I came upon one that seemed to be clearing out a lifetime of stuff, including a box that looked like they had just dumped the contents of a junk drawer into it. I rummaged through and found a few vintage stationery items I got for 50 cents (CDN).

  1. Eagle pencil

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20180728_110311This unsharpened pencil is the grandparent of the Berol Turquoise pencil I have written about before. It has a nice art deco style eagle logo and the words Eagle “Chemi*Sealed” Turquoise Drawing HB Pencil written on one side and Made in Canada “Electronic” Lead – Super Bonded Patented 1951 on the other. I love the idiosyncratic use of quotation marks. Are they quotes? Are they being ironic? It harkens back to another time where getting something “chemi-sealed” and “electronic” were real selling points.

  1. Promotional pencil

20180728_110329This very skinny promotional pencil has Western International Hotels written on it in brown. Western International Hotels was name for the Westin Hotel chain from 1963 to 1981. I am guessing this pencil is from the 1970’s with its gold and brown colour scheme but I don’t know for sure. I could have used this pencil when I was writing about promotional stationery items or hotel stationery.

  1. Two boxes of labels

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I liked the old-timey look of these boxes of labels but I only opened one of them. When I got home and opened the second box I realized it was just round white circles like the one on the cover that says “1000 A81”. I’ll be hard pressed to come up with a use for these ones.

Both boxes of labels are from the Dennison Manufacturing Company. The Dennison family business began in 1844 manufacturing paper jewelry boxes in Maine. By 1863 they added tag making to their growing enterprise. I am not sure exactly when labels were added to the product line but in the 1920’s, the Drummondville, Quebec factory, where these labels originated, was built. Drummondville was also where Eagle pencils were manufactured so it seems to have been a hub of Canadian stationery supplies manufacturing. In 1990 Dennison merged with another big name in the label industry to become the Avery Dennison Corporation. Then in 1996, Advantag Canada took over the factory and is still manufacturing tags there but not labels.

  1. Gummed paper shapes

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These Butterfly Brand London gummed paper shapes were a trip down memory lane for me. I was in hospital for a long time with broken legs when I was a child and was given something like this along with a little scrapbook to keep me entertained. What is really amazing to me is I discovered you can still buy them today. It makes me wonder how a modern child would react when given these tiny little shapes and told to lick them to make them stick. Probably about as thrilled as the child who had been given this box as it appears to be almost full. Unfortunately, it must have been exposed to some humidity as many of the shapes are stuck together.

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  1. Notebook

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I really don’t need another little notebook but this one had such a sweet retro floral design on the cover I just couldn’t resist. I almost always carry around a small notebook (this one is 10.2 cm x 7.5 cm or 4″ x 3″) so I will replace a boring old one I have that has become a bit tatty with this one. The inside pages are blank and quite nice quality. It was made by John Dickinson Stationery Limited, a British firm that goes back to when John Dickinson himself founded it in 1804.

  1. Sheaffer pen cartridges

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These ink-filled Skrip cartridges are the type used in Sheaffer calligraphy pens. The cartridges seem to be sealed quite well as I have used old ones before without any problems. I currently only have black ink so I’m glad to expand my colour selection.

If these vintage garage sale finds were people they would be a group of oldsters reminiscing about the good old days. They still enjoy being useful, or in the case of the gummed shapes a bit fun, but they find themselves called upon less and less.

Uni-ball Signo 207 Retractable Gel Pen

20180719_141938 The Uni-ball Signo 207 Retractable Gel Pen is a standard in many office supply cupboards but somehow I missed it when I was discussing coloured pens. It is made by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company of Japan, a company that goes back to 1887 when it began as the Masaki Pencil Manufacturing Company. The Mitsubishi Pencil Company is not part of the Mitsubishi Group of car fame, but rather part of a giant American group of companies, Newell Brands Inc. This conglomerate owns such diverse brands as Rubbermaid, Coleman outdoor products, Sunbeam, Crock-Pot, and Goody hair care accessories. Aside from Uni-ball, their stationery brands include Sharpie, Expo Markers, PaperMate, Dymo, Elmer’s, Krazy Glue, Liquid paper, Mr. Sketch, Parker Pens, Prismacolor, Xacto, Waterman, and Berol.

Long before they became part of Newell Brands, at the time the company changed their name from Masaki to Mitsubishi (1966), they began making pens they called the “Uni-pen” and “Uni-pen Deluxe”. Then in 1979, the Uni-Ball rollerball pen was launched, becoming what the company claims to be the first water-based pen in the world. Rollerball pens are different from the earlier ballpoint pens in that they use gel ink. Pigment is suspended in a water-based gel rather than the oil-based inks ballpoint pens used. The gel is smooth to write with and because it is water-based, allows for a large number of pigments to be used. The Uni-ball alone comes in black, blue, green, light blue, orange, pink, purple, and red.

A downside to gel inks is they dry out faster than oil-based inks so they need to be recapped right after using. In 1997, the Mitsubishi Pencil Company introduced the world’s first retractable gel pen, the Signo Gel retractable pen, which took care of the recapping issue and provided those who like to compulsively click their pens a way to irritate their classmates and coworkers.

This particular pen has blue ink and a 0.7 mm medium point. Like all their inks, it is acid-free and of archival quality. In fact, the company calls it Uni Super Ink and says it “helps prevent against cheque and document fraud” as it “is specially formulated to become trapped in paper, helping prevent criminal check washing and other document alteration”. I’ll have to take their word for it as I don’t want to test whether or not I can successfully carry out cheque fraud using this pen.

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As for the Uni-ball’s other qualities, I found the rubbery finger grip comfortable to write with and although I personally don’t use pen clips much, this one seems sturdy and nicely designed. The Uni-ball must be designed to last as you can purchase refills for them. It wrote smoothly without blotching or bleeding and it didn’t need a little scribble to get it going like so many ballpoints seem to require. Overall this is a good, basic pen.

If this pen were a person they would be a competent office worker. They may appear boring but don’t under estimate them. They know things and like the archival ink that flows in their veins, they never forget.

Dip Pens

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A while back I wrote about my crow quill dip pen but that is not the only type of dip pen I have. (Dip pen is a bit of a misnomer. While you can dip this sort of pen into ink, I found I have less trouble with blobbing if I use a cheap paintbrush to brush the ink onto the nib.) I have some other pen holders to use with a variety of interchangeable nibs. Different sized and shaped nibs give different lines.

Of the holders, I think my favourite is the Koh-I-Noor No. 127 N Cork Tip Penholder. It’s made in Germany of black plastic with a cork finger grip. This finger grip and its larger size, in comparison to the crow quill pen, make it more comfortable to hold. At the wide end of the penholder is a metal collar with metal grippers for inserting a nib.

I also have an inexpensive oblique pen holder, made in China. Oblique pen holders have a flange that allows you to keep the nib parallel to the writing slant so you are able to exert even pressure on both tines of the nib when doing pointed pen calligraphy. Plastic ones like mine can’t be adjusted but you can get ones with attached brass flanges to allow you to customize it to your grip and the style of calligraphy you are attempting. I’m still trying to master this and am wondering if a better quality oblique pen holder might be worth it.

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I have a variety of nibs, some I got at a garage sale in a box of miscellaneous calligraphy supplies and others I acquired through the Edmonton Calligraphic Society. Not all nibs have reservoirs but those that do allow for more ink to be held from each dip so you don’t have to keep dipping quite so often. I tested all of the nibs with a Japanese type of calligraphy ink called “gakusyo” on Greys paper. For some of the nibs, in particular the very pointed ones, I think I would have got better results on smoother paper.

My M. Myers and Son vintage nibs have an interchangeable, removable reservoir that slips on and off the end of the nib. In addition to their number, each nib is inscribed with:

MYERS & SON LTD.
ROUND WRITER
MADE IN ENGLAND

The M. Myers and Son company was founded in 1837 in England but as Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History reports in “1985 the company was sold to an American label company, Avery International, who wanted to expand their European office stationery business. The old Myers directors quickly retired and the business transformed virtually overnight from a typically English family firm to part of an international conglomerate, which sold the factory and its land in Langley Green, and like many other long established British companies, it is now a housing estate.” While it could be argued that housing has more social utility than manufacturing archaic pen nibs, it always seems a bit sad when multi-nationals take over small businesses only to close them.

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My Speedball nibs all have reservoirs. If you read my blog about my Speedball crow quill pen, you will remember the Speedball brand began with the Howard Hunt Pen Company. There are still Speedball nibs being made today with the Hunt name on them and these are some of them. The A-5 and B-5 both are inscribed with:

ROSS F. GEORGE
SPEEDBALL
MADE BY HUNT MFG CO.

The C-2 seems a bit newer and is inscribed with:

ROSS F. GEORGE
SPEEDBALL
U.S.A.

Ross F. George started off as a sign painter and began designing pens for the Hunt Pen Company in 1913. He shared his knowledge about lettering and sign painting through a periodical called the Speedball Text Book. I’m glad his name is still on these nibs.

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My Hunt nibs without reservoirs are also made in the U.S.A. by Speedball. This is how the company describes them:

Hunt Pen Nib, School No. 56:  Fine, bronze finish drawing pen for art and writing – stiff action.

Hunt Pen Nib, Extra Fine No. 22:  Bronze finish pen for ornamental writing and fine ruling – medium stiff.

Hunt Pen Nib, Ex-Fine Bowl Pointed No. 512:  fine pen for ruling and lettering.

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I have two Joseph Gillott nibs. This is another old British firm, even older than M. Myers and Son, having been established in 1827. However, these nibs are still made in Britain although as of 1967 they joined with another early Birmingham pen company, William Mitchell Ltd. As James Ward in The Perfection of the Paperclip relates, although an American patented a “metallic writing pen”, it was Birmingham, England that became the worldwide capital of steel pen manufacturing. My Gillott nibs are not in great shape so it is difficult to read the inscriptions on them.

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I have one Japanese-made nib, the Tachikawa G nib. This is sometimes referred to as a “Comic Pen Nib” because its flexibility makes it good for drawing with, not just writing. Although it doesn’t have a reservoir, the pointed end is somewhat ridged which I assume is designed to hold ink better.

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The last nib I have to share is stamped “Chicago Public School“. I wished I knew the history about this nib but it appears to be a topic on which the internet is silent. I can only assume there was a time when Chicago Public Schools ordered specific nibs for use in the classroom.

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I am still figuring out how to get the most out of these pens but it has been fun learning more about them.

If dip pens were people, they would be stiff and a bit uptight but with a certain old-fashioned charm and grace about them.

Staedtler Ergosoft Pencil Crayon

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I have a new light blue pencil crayon (coloured pencil to some) to compare to some old standbys. The Staedtler Ergosoft has an appealing triangular barrel coated in a matte paint that is soft to the touch and matches the colour of the lead almost perfectly. The shape and feel of the barrel make it very comfortable to hold but not as easy to sharpen. The 3 mm lead has a white coating that is supposed to adhere it to the wood and prevent lead breakage. This may be true but it also reduced the amount of coloured lead available for colouring. I have only seen this type of lead coating on one other type of pencil crayon, its cheaper cousin, the Staedtler Norris Club. Both the Ergosoft and the Norris Club are much better than the really cheap Staples Staedtler although they all could be considered student-grade. I always think including a little space for writing a name, like the Ergosoft does, shows who you are aiming your product to.

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The Ergosoft is made in Germany and like many products produced in Europe they strive for high environmental standards. The wood is from certified, sustainably managed forests.

Colour-wise, the light blue Ergosoft compares well to several other light blue pencil crayons. I have listed them from best quality to lowest:

  1. Vintage Berol Prismacolor Scholar 303 (made in the USA some time between 1969 and 1995);
  2. Vintage Eagle Canadiana sky blue 511 (made in Drummonville, Quebec before 1994);
  3. Crayola sky blue, this colour is found in all standard packages of Crayolas (made in Brazil or Costa Rica);
  4. Staedtler Ergosoft (made in Germany);
  5. Staples Staedtler (made in Indonesia); and
  6. Conté Evolution 93, a wood-free coloured pencil that strangely made no attempt to match the colour of the barrel to the pigment of the lead (made in France).

Keep in mind this list is very subjective. I asked another person to do their rating and they preferred the Eagle Canadiana over the Berol Prismacolor, although we agreed on the rest.

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Thanks to Elisabet Ingibergsson for providing the beautiful picture of the pencil crayons in the sky and for taking time to provide her input on the quality ranking.

If the Staedtler Ergosoft were a person, they would first appear to be a bit non-conformist and easy-going but actually they are fairly hard-hearted. This may just be the way they were raised but it could be from working too long with children.

Hotel Stationery

With summer vacation season upon us, I turned my thoughts to hotel stationery. This week’s blog post comes with a soundtrack, so feel free to listen to Chilly Gonzales’ Hotel Stationery while you read (https://soundcloud.com/chillygonzales/interlude-1-hotel-stationery).

There was a time that in the desk drawer of every hotel room nestled beside the phone book, Gideon’s Bible, and in the case of Lethbridge, Alberta hotels, the Book of Mormon, you could find hotel stationery. Usually it would be a few sheets of nice paper with the logo and address of the hotel as well as an envelope or two, and in some cases, a postcard of the hotel. This was provided for promotional reasons presumably so that you would write to friends back home wishing they were here. Other people kept these as souvenirs only to show up on Etsy years later. As people stopped writing letters in general, hotel stationery began to disappear as well, leaving only a skimpy notepad and stick pen in its place. These seem to be provided for in-room use only as I can’t imagine anyone wanting to pocket them as a souvenir. Apparently high-end hotels still provide nice stationery but, as I don’t stay in high-end hotels, I cannot independently verify that.

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An example of hotel stationery from the early 1980’s. Even though this is from a modest airport hotel, it is still excellent creamy paper with a watermark that says “Classic Laid”, referring to the texture of the paper.

There are examples of famous people using hotel stationery. Last year a note written by Einstein on hotel stationery was auctioned. According to the story, he gave it to a courier in lieu of a tip saying that he hoped it would be more valuable in the future, as it indeed proved to be. He wrote in German on the paper, “A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.” Wise words for all of us.

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Examples of the current paltry offerings found in Canadian hotel rooms in the past year.

If hotel stationery were a person, they would only hang out in exclusive places. Although they are initially quiet, given the chance they love to brag about where they have been.

Radar Plastic Eraser

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I have two items left in my good-bye gift bag. One is a Stalogy Editor’s Series 365 Days Notebook but I don’t want to discuss it until after I have used it for awhile and I was thinking of waiting until the new year as it seems to be a planner more than just a notebook. That leaves the Radar plastic eraser. At first, I didn’t think I could come up with enough to say about an eraser to create a blog post but as I have discovered about other seemingly mundane items, when you look more closely there is something to learn about everything.

First off, I like the name Radar as it is a palindrome and I find the retro look of the package appealing. I suspect the design has not changed much since it was introduced in 1965. It is still being produced by the Seed Corporation of Osaka, Japan whose company slogan is “A Technology of Erasing”. They don’t just make erasers for writing but also a series for cleaning, such as removing scale or rust on walls and sinks. Although the company is based in Japan, the actual eraser was made in Vietnam.

The cardboard sheath protecting the eraser has small notches on the corners to minimize eraser breakage. I haven’t usually found that is a big problem but it is nice that they have thought that through.

I tried the eraser out on four different pencils, a Kimberly 3H, Berol Turquoise HB, Palomino Blackwing (the hardness is not stated but usually considered a 2B), and a Staedtler Mars Lumograph 8B. The Radar did an excellent job of erasing all the pencils except for the 8B. That is really dark graphite and I just couldn’t remove it. It left a nice tidy crumb that sort of stuck to itself to make strings rather than crumbling completely. The eraser itself stayed nice and clean with no graphite residue left on it. This is a better than average eraser that’s for sure.

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If this eraser was a person they would be small and effective with a distinctive style that is retro, not old-fashioned. They are always pleasant to be around.