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Product Review: Tom Bihn Cafe Bag

It’s been about two weeks since I have last posted a pencil review (or any review for that matter), but I am back.  This time it’s with a bag review.  A  lot of us pencil nerds are either students, professors, teachers, tech professionals or office workers that are always on the search of a perfect EDC bag.  You know– something not too big, but not too small, has ample storage and looks good to boot.  After taking an informal poll via the Erasable Facebook Page (find it and like it!), I decided that Tom Bihn Bags would suit my needs.  The bags had a nice clean design and came in great colors.  This week I will be reviewing the Medium Cafe Bag, but this style of bag comes in three sizes: small, medium, and large.  Now, on to the review!

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The minute I got this bag, I was truly skeptical of its ability to fit everything I needed to carry with me on a daily basis.  This opinion soon changed when I began to load the bag and realized that even after I put everything inside, I still had room left.  I was able to fit a 13-inch Chromebook, a 10-inch tablet, 24-count colored pencil case, a Swell water bottle, a 10×10-inch coloring book, and 2 pencil rolls.  I still had room after all of that stuff!

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Storage space aside, this bag is well made.  Constructed of 1000 denier Cordura® exterior/420d HT nylon Classic Parapack lining, this bag will last a long time.  I have used this bag for a solid month and it looks brand new with no scuffs or frays anywhere in the fabric.  The shoulder strap is plenty long and is made of thick nylon webbing.  There is also a nylon handle stitched to the back of the bag in case you want to carry it briefcase style.  There is a back pocket on the bag and a front zippered pocket that resides under the flap of the bag.  Both pockets are nice and roomy and can fit up to a 10 inch tablet or e-reader.  Inside the bag the main compartment is nice and roomy and there is a small organizer stitched into the inside that can accommodate some pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and a Field Notes-sized notebook.

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I have carried this bag around and while the shoulder strap is nice and long, it can become a bit uncomfortable.  I’d suggest purchasing the Ultrasuede shoulder strap; it seems that that strap would offer a bit more comfort.  The clasp is made of a hard, sturdy plastic and makes a satisfying “snap” sound when closing.  The Cafe Bag also has three “O-rings” inside that allow you to clip on keys or a variety of cases they sell in their store.  Everything about this bag screams quality.  With the minor upgrade of a new strap, this bag is perfect.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided the bag for free in exchange for a review of the product.  The fact that the bag was free did not impact my opinions in any way whatsoever.)

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Palomino Blackwing 24

The Blackwing 24 is the fourth installment of Palomino’s limited edition pencil line.  Four times a year, you can have a dozen (plus one archival pencil) limited edition Blackwings delivered to your door along with additional goodies that correspond with that quarter’s edition.  If you are not a subscriber, you may buy a box of the pencils for $24.95, but you do not get any of the collectibles that you receive with the subscription.  Usually, the featured pencil uses one of Palomino’s three Blackwing cores (Pearl, 602, Blackwing/MMX).  The 24 on the other hand, uses a brand new graphite core that is “slightly firmer than the 602 without sacrificing the darkness.”  The entire story behind the Blackwing 24 can be found here.

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Image Courtesy of Palomino Brands/Blackwing 602.com

 

The moment I opened my first box the the 24, I was enamored.  The super glossy finish, black ferrule, black eraser, and blacked out stamping won me over instantly.  I am so glad that Palomino did not decide to dye the wood as well since my experience with dyed wood pencils has been a bit meh.  Plus, the natural cedar makes the black gloss pop even more.  Speaking of the black gloss finish, I found it made the pencil super comfortable to hold albeit a bit slippery when my hand got sweaty.  This is not an inherent flaw, I think it is just my intense grip and sweaty hands that made the slippage happen.  Normal, non-Hulk gripped individuals should not face the same fate.

The 24 sharpens up nicely and has a perfectly centered core.  As always, I enjoy the rich fragrant smell of cedar that Palomino uses and have to admit I am a bit spoiled by it.  I expect the best and consistently receive the best with every Blackwing pencil I use.  I just have one bone– or should I say eraser– to pick.  The eraser sucks.  Now an eraser does not make the pencil and in fact, half the pencils I use do not come with an eraser, but I guess I expected a bit more from my favorite brand.  This is by no means ever going to change my view of the Blackwing, and in fact, I’d much rather Palomino put money into developing cooler designs and different graphite formulations.  I just am disappointed.  The best way to sum up the eraser performance is this: NO.  Stick with your Boxy or Sakura eraser.

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Writing with the 24 all week has been great.  I had a lot of continuous writing in a psychology class I am taking (involves client/helper observation) and the 24 lived up to its promises.  I was writing on standard copy paper and I sharpened the pencil once in a 50-minute class.  With my gorilla grip that is amazing performance.  The darkness of the 24 is just right and the graphite glides smoothly across the paper with little effort.  I have compared the 24 to another one of my favorite pencils for writing, the Semi-Hex.  As you can see from the (poorly lit photo) writing sample, the darkness of each pencil is about the same and the differences are negligible.  Where the 24 wins out is its smoothness.  The Semi-Hex is a lot scratchier, but it is not as smudgy as the 24.  You can see in the photo below that the the first “Sara” that was written with the 24 is a bit smudged.  Smudging is by no means a deal-breaker for me, but its definitely something to note.  Especially for lefties.

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BW 24 on top/Semi-Hex on bottom on Mt. Tom 6×4

All in all, the Blackwing 24 is a great addition to the Blackwing Subscription and I suspect these will sell out pretty quickly.  Head over to blackwing602.com to subscribe or grab a box.