Nataraj HB Marble Pencil

My favourite continent for stationery products is Asia, particularly because of the wonderful Japanese and South Korean products I regularly use. (Shameless plug: I mentioned this during my question and answer session on the Pocket Notebooks blog). The Nataraj HB Marble pencil also hails from Asia but is one of the first Indian products I’ve tried.

Barrel with printed branding.
Barrel with printed branding. This side of the pencil has more of a vibrant yellow and red marble.
Reverse of the pencil so you can see the differences in the marble effect.
Reverse of the pencil so you can see the differences in the marble effect. There’s more pink and white on the reverse!

I was drawn to this pencil because it was affordable (I picked it up for £1.50 from Choosing Keeping) and a unique, colourful object. I also favour HB wood cased pencils because I mostly use pencils for writing and the occasional drawing.

Close up of the pencil cap and contrast between white cap, black branding and marble lacquer.
Close up of the pencil cap and contrast between white cap, black branding and marble lacquer.

Look and feel

The Nataraj Marble comes pre-sharpened and is about 7 inches long. It’s eraserless and in place of the usual ferrule and eraser there is a long white tip, ever so slightly glossy. The remainder of the pencil is a delightfully colourful marbled lacquer, blending reds, yellows, pinks, greens and blues. It reminds me of a psychedelic art project or the colourful swirls found in a pool of petrol. A bit of research on the Nataraj Marble indicates that each pencil is actually unique. The most noticeable colours in mine are reds, oranges and yellows but I’ve seen images on the internet with dominant blues, whites and pinks. I think this uniqueness is a nice element to buying this pencil and adds a little bit of surprise particularly if ordering it online.

Close up of the pencil cap and contrast between white cap, black branding and marble lacquer.
Close up of the pencil cap and contrast between white cap, black branding and marble lacquer.

 

The Nataraj branding is stamped simply and effectively in black along a single side of the barrel. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not too averse to a printed barcode but those of you among us who are will be pleased to know that there is no barcode and only one barrel side with any printing on. The lovely marble lacquer is the star of the show on the rest of the hexagonal barrel. The Nataraj Marble measures up in width similarly to my trusty Staedtler Mars Lumograph.

I think one of the loveliest things about this pencil though is the colour of the wood casing. It has a natural grain left to see when sharpened and is a great, vibrant pink-red hue. I read on the CW Pencil Enterprise blog that the pencil is made from Indian vetta wood. I can’t find much out there on vetta wood so I’d love to know more if anyone has any information. The Hindustan Pencils website which manufactures the Nataraj brand clearly have a strong sense of corporate social responsibility and only use wood from their own plantations which they replenish to ensure they aren’t deforesting, which is a really admirable statement to make. Anyway – the vetta wood used looks gorgeous in this pencil.

Look at that gorgeous pink-red woodcasing.
Look at that gorgeous pink-red wood casing. I really like that the natural woodgrain can be seen too.

Performance

Firstly I would say that the Nataraj Marble is more of a B grade, or possibly even 2B, than the HBs I usually use. It smudges fairly easily and produces a smooth black line. I think this would make it a good pencil for drawing and outlining. It’s also good for writing and doesn’t require sharpening too often – rotating the pencil provides the good sharpness required for writing. When I have sharpened it though it sharpens very well – very smooth with no breakages.

Writing sample with the Nataraj Marble on a Rhodia dotpad.
Writing sample with the Nataraj Marble on a Rhodia dotpad. Can you see the smudging in the second paragraph?
Close of up of graphite smudging. You've got to be careful if you're left handed or if you like to brush any residue off the page.
Close of up of graphite smudging. You’ve got to be careful if you’re left handed or if you like to brush any residue off the page.

I really like writing with the Nataraj Marble. It’s smooth without blunting too easily although the smudging issue may be something to note if you’re a leftie. There isn’t any scratchiness or strong resistance on the page when writing (although I have to admit sometimes I find a bit of scratchiness quite pleasing). It erases well with my Milan synthetic eraser – which is rapidly becoming my favourite eraser – and can be layered to produce a really black effect.

Eraser and smudge test.
Eraser and smudge test.
Close up of eraser test with a Milan synthetic eraser.
Close up of eraser test with a Milan synthetic eraser.

In summary

This has been a really easy and simple review for me to write. The Nataraj Marble looks lovely and unique. I love the lacquer, reddish pink hued woodcasing and the fact that it has no eraser. I find pencil erasers generally rubbish to use a technical term and sometimes I wonder why anyone really bothers adding them! I think it really stands out on my desk and in my pencilcase. I’m also really pleased with the blackness and smoothness of the pencil to write with and I think it may be an even better companion for someone who draws more often with pencils. Be warned if you’re a leftie because of the smudging issue, but otherwise for approximately £1.50 in the UK and even cheaper in the US I would definitely recommend that you add this to your toolbox.

Mark’s Tokyo Edge Mechanical Pencil Review

Sometimes I feel like a slave to free shipping! Having recently ordered some limited edition Field Notes I found I was close to the free shipping minimum spend and decided that it would be wise spend the money on an extra product rather than postage. I added a Mark’s Tokyo Edge purple mechanical pencil to my basket.

I have seen Mark’s Tokyo Edge products on several of my favourite stationery websites and I think their range of products is pitched at a fairly young demographic; there is lots of block lettering, prints, colours and textures. As a fan of Japanese brands though I thought I would give one of their pencils a go.

Design

Clearly the unique selling point of this mechanical pencil is that it is designed to resemble a wooden pencil! Which, in fairness, it does do well. The ferrule in particular looks very realistic and is the pencil’s push button. The barrel is slightly wider than a traditional wooden pencil and hexagonal in shape.

Realistic ferrule push cap.
Realistic ferrule push cap.

What gives it away is the end cap and lead sleeve! I wonder why they haven’t elongated this part of the pencil, a la Staedtler 777 or Pentel P205 to continue the wood cased pencil disguise. It seems a little strange to design a pencil to look exactly like a wood cased pencil and then not put any thought into the end cap.

End cap length of the Mark's Tokyo Edge mechanical pencil is very stubby and I'm not sure why this couldn't have been longer to keep up the wood cased pencil disguise.
End cap length of the Mark’s Tokyo Edge mechanical pencil is very stubby and I’m not sure why this couldn’t have been longer to keep up the wood cased pencil disguise.
Width of the Mark's Tokyo Edge mechanical pencil compared to a Staedtler Mars Lumograph B grade. As you can see it's slightly wider all round.
Width of the Mark’s Tokyo Edge mechanical pencil compared to a Staedtler Mars Lumograph B grade. As you can see it’s slightly wider all round.

The deep purple colour of the barrel is attractive and the pale green is a nice contrast. On each of the hexagon’s sides there is a day of the week and combined Saturday/Sunday with an idea of what to do on that day. Monday: watch a film, Thursday: write a poem, Saturday and Sunday: go on a little trip. This makes me feel like Mark’s Tokyo Edge is pitching itself closer lifestyle brand than a quality stationery brand and makes the barrel look quite busy. I don’t have a deep aversion to printed barcodes; this pencil doesn’t have one on the barrel but it does have a sticker with a barcode on which I found ridiculously difficult to remove and managed to indent the barrel doing so (very annoying).

Indentation left on the barrel where I removed the label.
Indentation left on the barrel where I removed the label.

The Pros

  • It’s lightweight. Compared to some mechanical pencils I think this is a lightweight choice and feels similar or even possibly lighter than a wood cased pencil.
  • It’s refillable. If the lead performance is something of a consideration to you then you can replace these easily and cheaply.
  • The hexagonal barrel is comfortable and similar in feel to a wood cased pencil. I like the purple and green colour contrast.
  • The design is quite funky and I do think it’s a fun touch to disguise it as a wooden pencil. *see continuation of this point in the cons section below.

The Cons

  • *The fact that it’s a novelty that it’s a mechanical pencil that looks like a wood cased pencil is something of a non-consideration for me though, similar to my feelings about the Muji erasable 0.4mm pen I talked about in an earlier post. If you want something erasable, why use a pen? Why not use a pencil? I think it’s the same with this product – if you want something that looks like a wood cased pencil, go for a wood cased pencil!
  • The eraser is pitiful. To be fair I have never yet tried an eraser-tipped pencil though and marvelled at the effectiveness of it.

  • You’ll only be able to use 0.5mm leads in this pencil. This is fine if that’s your preference but I prefer a sharper point which is why I enjoy mechanical pencils with 2mm leads that you can actually sharpen to a point. I found that I had to apply a strong pressure to achieve the line darkness I wanted from the leads that come with the pencil. This is one of the reasons I see this product as a “lifestyle” addition rather than a specialised stationery product; the leads included are quite generic compared to a better performing lead.
Close up of some companions with sharpened wood cased pencils.
Close up of some companions with sharpened wood cased pencils. Note again the poor eraser performance next to my blog title – I originally thought I’d put my Instagram username down but replaced it with the blog!
  • The label it originally came with was so tough to remove and my efforts to get it off left an indent on the barrel. I could have left the label on but I think this made it look a bit plasticky.
  • The Rattle. I’ve put Rattle with a capital R because it’s the overriding impression I’m left with from this pencil. The ferrule / push cap rattles noisily and continuously while writing. It’s tremendously annoying and unfortunately is the reason that I wouldn’t reach for this pencil often.

In summary

My impression is that the Mark’s Tokyo Edge mechanical pencil is a little of the old style over substance. It’s a bit of fun and novelty on the desk but at the end of the day it performs the same as any generic mechanical pencil would. It costs around £5-6 which I feel is pricey for what you get and for the same price you can get some great quality mechanical pencils such as the rotring 300 or the OHTO Promecha. Also – that Rattle; I can’t get over such an oversight in the testing of this product before it went on sale. You may have noticed the pros I’ve noted of this pencil are similar to any widely available mechanical pencil and I think this says something – there’s no one great quality about the pencil that makes it stand out in a busy market. Overall I’ve been left a bit indifferent and I wouldn’t recommend you buy it before other, better quality mechanical or wood cased pencils for the same or much cheaper cost.