The Best Pencil Eraser

I am a fan of mechanical pencils, but continue to be underwhelmed with the minuscule erasers they provide with them (almost as if they expect you not to make a mistake?). I’m tired of buying overpriced refills, and am more interested in finding something that could be used in addition to the pencil.

What’s the best pencil eraser out there? Are there significant differences amongst the materials?

– oliver h

Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser - Color: White.jpegMars plastic erasers are the best. Abrasive erasers tear up the paper surface too much, and unless you have mastered pressing really hard without breaking the lead a mechanical pencil doesn’t draw that deep anyway.

The plastic erasers can also be cleaned with a wet thumb or a rub on scrap paper for neat work. I always find the “gritty” or “gummy” erasers get so dirty you spend half your time rubbing out their own mess. The Mars compound is stiff enough that corners can be used for fine work, or large areas erased with the flat end. The dirty, used portions just roll off as you use it and are cleanly blown/swiped away. I like the idea of putty/moldable erasers, but they get filthy, crumbly and horrible if kept in a pocket or bag.

-- Alan  

[I have since ordered a pack of the Mars erasers, and they really are the smoothest and most effective eraser. I can't imagine I'll need another for a few years as long as I can avoid losing them.--OH]

Staedtler Mars Plastic Eraser
Pack of 4
$5

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Staedtler



Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil

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I’ve been testing Pentel’s Sharp Kerry mechanical pencil for over a year now, and I’m ready to give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. I’m a graphic designer by trade and, in addition to everyday use, I find it to be an excellent tool for sketching out ideas on a tracing paper pad. (I’m partial to Bienfang Parchment 100 Fine Tracing Paper.)

This is a precision-made instrument: fairly heavy, made from metal and plastic. It’s unique in that it features a removable cap that when placed on the other end still functions to advance the lead with a click of the button. You pull the cap off and click it back onto the opposite end of the pencil; an action that makes me feel as though I’m about to draw something brilliant.

I found it by searching around for a mechanical pencil that was well-balanced, moderately heavy, and handsome to look at. Do the same and you’re likely to find the Sharp Kerry is mentioned by more than a few pencil aficionados as one of the best.

-- Chuck Green  

[I promptly ordered this pencil after reading Chuck's review as its cap solved a significant problem I have had in the past where sharp pencils tear through pockets. After a week of heavy use, I have to agree that this is one of the best pencils I have ever used.--OH ]

Pentel Sharp Kerry Mechanical Pencil
Available in 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm lead sizes
$15

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Pentel



Naked Binder

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For years I have used two-ring European-style binders from Leitz simply because it was very difficult to find a quality binder sized for US standard paper (8-1/2″ x 11″). However, I recently switched to Naked Binders, and I find them remarkably well made and thought out.

Unlike the readily available, poorly made, vinyl binder with the covers only bonded at the seams, the paper and book cloth covers on these are fully bonded to the board underneath. The result is that a minor tear does not cause the whole thing to fall apart, and they feel like they are built to last. The D-rings are attached to the back cover rather than the spine so the pages lie flat and index tabs line up making a neat and clean presentation.
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The fact that they are environmentally responsible and made in the USA are bonuses. I bought a couple as a test case and quickly ordered more to replace all the binders in my home and office.

-- Scott Hintz  

Naked Binder
$8.50-10.50

Available from and manufactured by Naked Binder



Swiss Army Replacement Pen

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Recently, the previously reviewed Derringer Wallet Pen caught my eye. The fellow recommending it said he found it really handy, and that he always had something to write with since he’d started carrying this pen.

I got my ruler out to see if it would clip into my wallet and found that the 4″ long stainless steel Derringer wallet pen would protrude from my 3.88″ wallet. That is unlike the pen I’ve already got in my wallet, which is almost invisible unless you know it’s there. I use — and have done so for many years — a Swiss Army Knife pen refill, Victorinox model number 30422.

It costs $2.95. It’s a replacement pen for the one that comes as original equipment in Swiss Army Knives. 91mm (2.75″) long, with a gray, curved top that fits snugly into the body of a Swiss Army Knife, these handy little pens come in blue or black ink. There’s also an even smaller (2″ long) version that fits the smaller, key-chain size knives. I don’t recommend it because it’s very difficult to grasp and write with.

Now, you are not going to want to copy out Moby Dick with my little pen, but for quick notes, sudden flights of fancy or inspiration, phone numbers, and the like, you can’t beat it. And I always have a pen. So often no one does, and I don’t think I do, until I realize hey, I do have one. People smirk and scoff but they’re very glad when they see it writes just fine. A life-saver.

Joseph Stirt

Years ago, I lost my Swiss Army knife and when I went to replace it, I found a model I hadn’t seen before. Instead of the toothpick, this one had a retractable ballpoint pen!

A pen? I’m excited about a pen?
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Yes. After years and years with this (and having to replace it when I went to the airport and forgot to take the knife off my keychain), the pen is the tool I use the most. I have a Fisher Space Bullet pen but it’s not always in my pocket. The Swiss Army knife is.

The pen is small and not very comfortable but always-there trumps comfort in this case. I use the pen often, but not for long, so the ink lasts a very long time. Refills are available, if a bit hard to find.

The model with the pen is not available everywhere, so you may need to search around a bit. It’s also a bit of a conversation piece — hardly anyone has seen it before and they always want one.

– Moe Rubenzahl

 

Swiss Army Replacement Ball Point Pen
Blue Ink
$4
Available from Swiss Knife Shop

Swiss Army Signature Pocket Knife (w/ pen)
$20

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Victorinox



PocketMod

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PocketMod is a website and freeware program that helps make 8-paged mini-booklets and organizers out of a single sheet of paper. You can make them online by selecting from a series of templates of what goes onto each page, including calendars, graph paper, to-do lists, etc. Then print out your design on a sheet of regular 8.5″x11″ paper, follow folding instructions and voila!

You can also make your own templates by downloading the PDF converter application. Or, search around forums or Google to find templates that others have posted. I have seen some that automatically sync them to different calendar applications, and someone has even created a PocketMod that troubleshoots OS X computer problems. The possibilities are limited by your own creativity.

I carry a bunch on me, all within easy reach so I can just whip ‘em out and record whatever idea before I forget. I even set up ones for particular projects so I can share them with clients. I hold them together with a rubber band in my back pocket, and then when I’m done with the project I just bind them all together.

-- M. Katz  

[Note: Mac users can download a piece of freeware called PagePacker that mimics the Windows-only PocketMod PDF converter.-- OH]

PocketMod Free



Slice Safety Cutter

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This tiny ceramic blade makes opening plastic packaging and cutting coupons a cinch. It’s tiny enough to slip into your travel kit (and it’s safe for air travel) and can be used to open all manner of packages. To round it all off it seems difficult/impossible to injure yourself with it and it’s magnetic so you can stick on your fridge or PC.

– Chris Hecht

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This tool is great for clipping newspaper articles and any other paper related media. With a bit more effort it slices through tough scissor-resistant plastic packaging. Just be sure to cut paper on a surface you don’t mind getting scratched as this can easily damage wood and glass.

– Oliver Hulland

 

Slice Safety Cutter
$8

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Slice



Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500

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I once left a box of important files out in the rain and wasted a lot of time reviving them. Ever since then I have been digitizing all paper in my life and then tossing the paper. This nirvana is possible using the auto-feed Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500.

I used to scan documents on my HP scanner-printer-copier, which is mind-numbingly slow and had a buggy driver that crashes my computer, forcing a reboot about 25% of the time I use it. Now with the Fujitsu ScanSnap I set a stack of up to 50 two-sided documents into the sheet feeder and it whips through all 100 pages in two and a half minutes. I was honestly surprised that my laptop was capable of accepting data at
such a fast pace. This scanner doesn’t hog a lot of precious desktop real estate, either. It’s surprisingly small — about 11.5 inches wide and 5 inches deep, with the feeder and output flaps folded in.

I configured my SnapScan to send scanned documents as PDF files to my Evernote account, although this is not required. (If you don’t know about the previously reviewed Evernote, it’s an outstanding online service that accepts images, sound files, notes, scans of documents, and just about anything else you want to throw in it. It saves these files on your computer and on Evernote’s servers so you don’t have to worry about losing your data. It also runs a character recognition routine on your documents so you can search for them later.) This first few times I scanned to Evernote, I carefully checked to make sure that both sides of each page had been scanned correctly. The SnapScan software discards the sides that are blank and has a sensor that detects when two pages go through the feeder at the same time (which rarely
happens).

Evernote’s character recognition is almost flawless. That means my documents can be found by entering keywords into Evernote’s search field from my Evernote phone app. The other day I had to search for a mortgage document from my files while I was away from home and I pulled it up on my phone in less than a minute. It is so easy to scan
stuff, and its “transcription” of text is so good, that I now scan business cards, menus, any paper document I might want to look at again. Then I throw the paper out.

Since I got the ScanSnap, I’ve been processing about 100 pages of documents per day. The software straightens out the images and orients them right-side up. The only time it jammed was when I tried to stack too many of the water-damaged documents through it. The downside, if you can call it that, is the high price tag: it’s $419 on Amazon. But when I think about the hours and hours of time wasted waiting for my HP flatbed scanner to creak across a document, the price seems very low.

I am finally on my way to a fully paperless office.

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500
$532
Available from Amazon

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M (for Mac OSX)
$460
Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Fujitsu



PageKeeper

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I’ve used a PageKeeper bookmark for several years and love it. Once in place it stays put. You don’t have to do anything until you’ve finished reading whatever book you’ve put it in. It keeps your place for you without you having to move it, or dog-ear the page. Best of all it won’t fall out of your book, so no more flipping through trying to find where you were when stopped reading.

I’ve never seen anything similar to PageKeeper, and being a life long bookworm I’ve seen and used A LOT of bookmarks. I actually have two that I use, as it’s not uncommon for me to be reading multiple books at once. When I’m not using both, I keep one in my purse in case I pick up a book to read while I’m out.

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-- Laura C.  

Pagekeeper
$8

Available from and manufactured by Page Keeper



Jet Pens

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Japanese pens are simply the coolest pens on the planet. Whether for writing notes, manga, or drawing, Japanese pens are the best. The finest are .18mm while the widest are brush pens that will allow you to practice your kanji. They also come in colors that will never see the inside of a Staples or and Office Depot.

The best place to get them is a web site called Jetpens.com. Given the exotic character of the merchandise, the prices are fine, but the extras, such as Japanese stationary, erasers, pen holders, and notebooks are simply amazing. Where else can you buy erasers that are also a game of balancing the erasers in an ark on your desk? And the colors, ranging from yellows and pinks to the office standards, are just awesome.

In the end, it is a very cheap way to gain a bit of understanding of a very different culture, while also getting some really cool pens.

–Michael Aaron Dennis

Like many others I have an unhealthy obsession with office supplies, especially mechanical pencils. I’m always looking for the perfect pencil. JetPens.com offers a great selection of mostly Japanese pens, pencils, highlighters and supplies. Many of the name brands they offer are familiar in the U.S. (Pilot, Pentel) but you won’t find any of these at your local office supply store. JetPens also carries the hard-to-find Uniball Paper Clipper and Clips – a reusable paper binding system.

– Amy Kahle

 



SKB Pens

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This is the only pen I have owned that is suitable for writing technical notes. It has a .5mm point, which allows me to write small details such as subscripts and fractions. It is a ballpoint so it doesn’t bleed which is an annoyance I’ve encountered when writing small details with other pens. It doesn’t gum up as my Zebra ballpoints tended to do and so is suitable for drawing diagrams. It can write continuously without drying up and flows well over the paper. Most .5mm pens I’ve used dry up after writing for a while and are so sharp that they end up scratching the paper.

It’s also affordable. Unfortunately, while it only costs $1 a pen there is only one supplier in the US (that I’m aware of) and you have to buy twelve pens at a time.

You can buy it in black, blue, red, purple, or green with a .5mm point. You can also get it in black with a .7mm point.

-- Daniel Woelfel  

SKB Pens
.5 mm
12 pens
$12

Available from SKB Pens