Bic Duo – Ballpoint Pen and Highlighter

17 01 2014
Do not be deceived by the scan---the highlighter color is the ordinary screaming fluorescent yellow of most common highlighters

Do not be deceived by the scan—the highlighter color is the ordinary screaming fluorescent yellow of most common highlighters

My local pen store carried these for a while, and though I don’t normally make a habit of buying BICs, this was enough of an oddity to be worth throwing down a couple bucks.

You can see the highlighter lifeblood pulsing beneath the pearlescent skin. Is it alive?

You can see the highlighter lifeblood pulsing beneath the pearlescent skin. Is it alive?

The matte black/pearlescent mix body, with this streamlined flare-out to a wider curved cap…it’s a surprisingly attractive combination for a cheap pen.

Pretty, but hard plastic. Advantage: no debris! Disadvantage: ow, hard plastic.

Pretty, but hard plastic. Advantage: no debris! Disadvantage: ow, hard plastic.

The matching grip looks nice with the securely posted cap up top, but the hard plastic won’t be doing your hands any favors in the comfort department. This is not a marathoner pen—it’s a study pen. Here’s why:

Look at that live twist action!!

Look at that live twist action!!

Twist the grip, and you deploy a hollowed-out, fully functional highlighter around and past the fixed ballpoint tip. The highlighter sort-of clicks securely in place. The ballpoint pen, though far from the best, performs well enough (a little slow, not jet-black, but no skipping or blobbing). This is the perfect pen to go with a pdf printout of some material that you’re supposed to read for class—make little notes in the margins, highlight the important bits—just you and some pieces of paper and the Bic Duo out on the quad.

Maybe Bic Duo will ask you out to that sweet mixer you've been hearing about

Maybe Bic Duo will ask you out to that sweet mixer you’ve been hearing about

The Bic Duo isn’t perfect, but it is unique and useful. Finding one might be a bit tricky, but if the price is good (as in, NOT the $45 for a 6 pack offer on Amazon), I’d say grab one.

Bic Duo Product Page





OfficeMax Private Brand Writing Products – Review & GIVEAWAY!

27 07 2013
It's impressively difficult to accurately capture the neon vibrancy of those highlighters. Scans didn't work, and even pictures don't do it justice

It’s impressively difficult to accurately capture the neon vibrancy of those highlighters. Scans didn’t work, and even pictures don’t do it justice

A massive review, what madness! OfficeMax approached me to do a review of some of their new private brand products—they’re expanding their offerings, and sent me the trifecta of office supply supply basics to take for a spin. Thank you to OfficeMax for the free samples! We’ve got here the OfficeMax Retractable Gel Pens, Mechanical Pencils with Grip, and Pen Style Highlighters.

Blister pack of 0.7mm retractable gel pens comes with 2 black, 1 red, 1 blue, I just didn't photograph the redundant items

Blister pack of 0.7mm retractable gel pens comes with 2 black, 1 red, 1 blue, I just didn’t photograph the redundant items

I’ll start with the gel pens, since they’re my favorite of the lot. The design is clearly in the same vein as other basic level gel pens—simple, similar, and safely within that particular standard.

And as per usual, the G2 craps out. Ladies and gentlemen, can there be a pen worse for your office than the Pilot G2?

And as per usual, the G2 craps out. Ladies and gentlemen, can there be a pen worse for your office than the Pilot G2?

The ink colors are intense. I’d like to see more colors roll out with equal vibrancy, just as I’d like to see 0.5mm and perhaps even—dare I dream?—something like 0.38mm tip size. The ink flows well; no skipping or start-up problems. And though there hasn’t been blobbing, the strong ink flow is leading to some thicker lines in some of the curves. This ink also isn’t quick drying. Lefties beware. I can easily see this pen replacing Pilot’s G2 in an office (and very much hope any misguided offices that still use the G2 as their basic supply stock STOP DOING THAT), but for me the slow dry time is probably going to keep this pen out of my regular personal rotation.

Box comes with 12 assorted color #2 mechanical pencils, 0.7mm, top advancing

Box comes with 12 assorted color #2 mechanical pencils, 0.7mm, top advancing

These are the kind of mechanical pencils just made for giveaways. They aren’t fancy, but the matching eraser and grip is just the sort of touch that endears you to a freebie. I could see businesses ordering mass quantities of this pencil, getting their own company logo added on it, and giving them out to promote their company. I could see parents getting a couple boxes and throwing one of these pencils in a color-themed party favor. They are perfectly reasonable pencils (we all know that the Uni Kuru Toga has pretty much ended all competition in the pencil area, and everything else is just vying for lower tiers; this is obviously no Kuru Toga). The lead sleeve retracts, the better to protect it when thrown in a bag. The lead is held firmly in place when in use. The grip is very grippy, though it smells remarkably like a bag of cheap balloons.

Pen style chisel-tip highlighters come in a pack of 10: 3 yellow, 2 each of orange and pink, and 1 each of green, blue, and purple

Pen style chisel-tip highlighters come in a pack of 10: 3 yellow, 2 each of orange and pink, and 1 each of green, blue, and purple

There’s really not much I know to say about highlighters. Do they highlight? Yes. We’re done. The neon colors pop, in a way my mere pictures cannot capture, and you can read text beneath all the colors. The spring loaded cap reminds me of the Pilot Preppy cap, though I worry that, like the Preppy, the cap may be prone to cracking. Time will tell. The highlighter lays down a solid, juicy line with no skipping—though there is some concern with the dry time needed for such a wet line. Don’t use it to highlight in a glossy textbook unless you want to risk a mess.

Not pictured: 1 gel pen, 4 highlighters, and about 7 additional pencils.

Not pictured: 1 gel pen, 4 highlighters, and about 7 additional pencils.

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THE GIVEAWAY RULES!

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Now for the part you’ve been looking forward to: the giveaway! OfficeMax is generously providing a sample package (set of retractable gel pens, pen style highlighters, and mechanical pencils with grip) directly to one lucky reader here. Your rules as follows:

  1. To enter, just leave one comment on this post explaining why you’re excited to try OfficeMax’s new private brand writing products—any time between now and Monday, August 12th 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Sadly, this contest is only open to U.S. residents.
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Only one comment per person! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. Because my blog doesn’t seem to number the comments on its own yet, and I STILL don’t have time/the willpower to fix it, I will probably just hand-number all the entries in Photoshop like I did here because this is the kind of solution that sane people come up with. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on Tuesday, August 13th. Winners will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar. I’ll forward your info to OfficeMax so they can send you your pens, pencils, and highlighters!

Good luck, and thanks again to OfficeMax!

Disclaimer: I received the OfficeMax products mentioned in this post from OfficeMax in order to facilitate my review. The items featured in this giveaway are also provided by OfficeMax and will be sent to the winner directly. Opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own. I have not been compensated for this post in any other way.

 





Office Supplies and More – Sharpie GIVEAWAY!

28 01 2013
My local pen store!

My local pen store!

Perhaps you recall mention of my local pen store, Office Supplies & More. I was in there the other day telling the owner, Alan Cohen, about the Pentel Libretto giveaway I was doing, and he decided he wanted in on giving away something too, so he hands me two Sharpie items, fresh out of the box.

Two original Sharpie fine point markers and two Sharpie gel highlighters

Two original Sharpie fine point markers and two Sharpie gel highlighters

I love the store, in spite of Alan’s refusal to get an online presence going, so for all you old-school types, if you’re ever anywhere near the capitol of North Carolina, swing by the town of Chapel Hill and hunt down the store: 1129 Weaver Dairy Rd, Timberlyne Shopping Center, Suite Q, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. The selection is huge, spanning high end to low end, pens, pencils, fountain pens, and a huge trove of Clairefontaine and Rhodia products. If North Carolina just isn’t in the cards for you, Alan has booths at multiple pen shows. This year he’ll be at the Baltimore show in March, the Atlanta show in April, the Raleigh show in June, the D.C. Supershow in August, and the Ohio show in November. Heck, if there’s something you specifically want him to bring to the show for you to buy, here’s the store’s number: 919.929.8595 — he’s got some of the best prices on pretty much everything.

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THE GIVEAWAY RULES!

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  1. To enter, just leave one comment on this post any time between now and Monday, February 11th 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time. Since I’ll be sending this myself, and I’m not made of loot and dough,and Office Supplies & More is pretty much never going international anyway, I’m limiting this contest to U.S. residents only. Sorry!
  2. One winner will be picked at random from the comments section of this post. Make any kind of comment—but only one comment! Comments in excess of one shall be deleted. The comments will be numbered in the order they are received, i.e. the first comment is #1, the second #2, and so on. Because my blog doesn’t seem to number the comments on its own yet, and I STILL don’t will probably never have time/the willpower to fix it, I will again hand-number all the entries in Photoshop (or GIMP, or on my tablet or cell phone or somehow) like I did here. The Random Integer Generator at random.org will be used to pick the number of the winner.
  3. I’ll post the contest winner on Tuesday, February 12th. Winner will have one week to email me. There’s a link to my email at the top of the right sidebar.




Smooth Sticks Gel Highlighters 4 PK

2 07 2011

Time for something else I've never tried before: dry highlighters.

The Write Dudes were kind enough to send me a box full of exciting samples to try. I went with the Smooth Sticks Gel Highlighters first, since I’d never used dry highlighters before. And the packaging promised “NEW TRANSLUCENT;” I assume the old, opaque highlighters were just rebranded as crayons.

These would be much better suited to life as a company-logo-branded giveaway item at conferences and conventions.

I have developed pretty exacting standards for the design aesthetic I like in a writing utensil (I think that aesthetic could be described as “designed for a Japanese market”); the Smooth Sticks fall into the category most American-targeted products I see fall in: I say in pained tones, “Mm. Isn’t that nice,” and make a very strained, concerned face. The only design advice I can offer is “pretend you want to sell this in Japan”. It’s worked very well for most big pen/pencil companies, who two-facedly sell the most fantastically designed products in Japan, and sell the most early-90s inspired design fiascoes here in America (there are some exceptions. The Pentel Jolt comes to mind).

There they are, mocking you for thinking you'll just be able to highlight things.

Let’s put this right up on the table: these should not be sold as highlighters. There is no category conceivable at which these Smooth Sticks excel as highlighters. I tried them on several types of paper, starting with the type of paper I’m pretty sure spawned the entire need for a dry highlighter—books written on almost transparently thin tissue-like paper.

I wanted to highlight something that everyone could agree with.

Sure, they don’t bleed through the page. And yes, you can line the constantly misshapen end up, if you’ve got a good feel for what the tip of the Smooth Stick has become under your repeated highlightings, and manage to highlight some rather small bits of text. But it isn’t always very easy to line up. In fact, I often felt like the experience of attempting to highlight in a straight line was akin to attempting to put on lipstick while driving down a gravel road at 45 miles an hour.

Do the wave! Wait, no, that's not something I want my highlight line to do.

Since the surface area of the end of the highlighter is constantly being worn down and changing shape, it was often easy to miss where I wanted to highlight, or for the line to be wavy due to the stick being a little too smooth. I feel like an unchanging chisel-edge highlighter reduces the amount of line wobble when highlighting.

Glossy textbook paper, something students might want to highlight on

But one of the biggest problems you’ve surely noticed by now. Look at all the little crayon-like leavings. Some of the flakes are small, but some are veritable nuggets.

If you learn nothing from this post, learn that dishes are the epitome of tightness.

Look at that thing! You could send that to a jeweler and have it made into a cocktail ring, and then put in a museum when you die.

All these little flakes and nuggets are bad news for highlighting in books. They stick to pages, in places you don’t want them to have stuck, and make a mess. This wasn’t an occasional problem. This was just about every time I highlighted anything, I would have flakes, streaks, leavings of some kind beyond the highlighting I wanted. I find that unacceptable in a highlighter.

But I told you these shouldn’t be sold as highlighters. What these are, they are neon, translucent, twistable crayons, and that’s what they should be branded and sold as. I’d have been much more satisfied with the performance of the Smooth Sticks if you’d told me they were crayons. Expand the color line, Write Dudes, and start selling Smooth Sticks Twistable Gel Crayons. It’s a good market to get into; twistable crayons and colored pencils are cool, they’re novel, and people will be willing to pay more for the thrill of TWISTABLE CRAYONS than they’d ordinarily pay for ordinary crayons. But stop telling people to use these as highlighters.

Smooth Sticks Gel Crayons. Now (and only) in COOL NEON COLORS!

SMOOTH STICKS Gel Highlighters 4 PK from The Write Dudes (/The Board Dudes)








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