Musgrave Round-Up

Musgrave Round-Up

The Musgrave round-up is first in a series of reviews I will do about all pencils (that are currently obtainable) in a specific brand.  I often wonder if pencil companies that brand pencils with different names really have differences within each pencil.  Besides aesthetics, do these different pencils have different cores?  To test this out, I will take each pencil and write one full college ruled page and compare how each pencil feels while writing and how well it performs when it comes to erasing, smearing, and darkness.  Before we get to the actual reviews, let’s talk about Musgrave as a company first.

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Musgrave has been making pencils in Shelbyville, Tennessee since 1916.  Supplied by Tennessee red cedar and a system of recycling cedar rail fences for more modern wire, Musgrave had all the resources it needed.  Musgrave not only bartered with farmers for the old cedar, but their crew installed the new wire and pole fencing that would be replacing that cedar.  Since the cedar rails had been outdoors for an extended period of time, they were already weathered and in perfection condition.  The cedar was cut into pencil slats that were sent from Tennessee to German manufacturers like Faber.  In 1919, the Tennessee red cedar had been depleted and a new source needed to found.  Luckily, a wood with similar characteristics from California, California Incense Cedar was shipped it.  This new wood was fast growing, plentiful, and renewable.  Musgrave held on as a company through the Great Depression and during World War II and still operates today in Shelbyville.  One the few pencil manufacturers left in the United States, Musgrave is an example of how ingenuity and dedication to one’s product can last the test of time.

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The pencils I will be talking about today are the ones that are easily available for purchase.  There are other pencils in their lineup that I would have liked to try, but I am still waiting for a response from the company about how I can acquire those.  I will update accordingly if that ever comes through.  All pencils reviewed today were purchased via CW Pencil Enterprise.  Please note that I am not comparing these pencils against each other– that would be unrealistic as these pencils have a variety of purposes.  Instead, I have used each pencil for a period of time and have provided some feedback and thoughts on how each performed.

Bugle ($0.25)

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The Bugle has a very simple design.  It has a round, unpainted barrel with a thin clear overcoat with the word “BUGLE” and 1816 stamped in white.  There are also two little bugles stamped on the pencil which make it completely adorable.  There is no eraser and the pencil is very light in your hand.  Based on the smell test, I do not think this pencil is made of cedar, but I could be mistaken.  Writing with the Bugle produced a very loud scratchy sound, but not a scratchy feel.  I felt it was a bit light for a number 2 pencil and because of this lightness it was very easy to erase.  Point retention is amazing and I was able to fill an entire sheet of college ruled notebook paper before I had to sharpen again.

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I would recommend this pencil for a few reasons.  Aesthetically speaking, this pencil is great.  I really like the bugles stamped into the side and I am a sucker for natural looking pencils.  I personally don’t like round barreled pencils, but that’s just me.  Also, the Bugle has wonderful point retention even though it is a bit lighter than I like for a number 2 pencil.  As a furious note taker, I find myself having to sharpen a lot.  This was not the case with the Bugle as it seemed to just keep going and going.

Harvest #2 ($0.35)

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At first glance, the Harvest is your typical looking yellow school pencil.  Upon further inspection, you can see that it is so much more than that.  I have to admit, I am in love with the design of this pencil.  It has a nice sharp hexagonal barrel (some hate this; I love it) and a thick coat of yellow lacquer.  The typography of the word Harvest is wonderful and the other gold foil stamping has a nice, retro look to it.  The Harvest advertises that it has “bonded lead” which means the core is glued right onto the barrel.  This increases strength and decreases breakage.  The ferrule of this pencil is great as well with a crimson brown stripe in the middle of it.  It holds a bright pink eraser (that performs very meh).  It appears the Harvest is made with white ash as it is much lighter in color than the other pencils in Musgrave’s line-up.

Sadly, the core of my pencil was a bit off-center so it sharpened unevenly, but not so much so that it impacted its performance.  The Harvest wrote as dark as a number two pencil should and had average point retention.  I was able to fill up an entire notebook page, but towards the end I found myself rotating the pencil a lot to get a sharper edge to write with.  Don’t let my off center core dissuade you from picking up this pencil.  It is beautiful!  I would recommend not using the supplied eraser as it is pretty bad and feels as though you might rip your paper while using it.

Test Scoring 100 ($0.40)

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The Test Scoring pencil produces a love/hate sentiment among users.  Some like the sharp hex edge and shiny graphite lay down while other abhor it.  Say what you will, but the Test Scoring pencil looks pretty rad.  I like that there is “100” on the side of it almost encouraging you to do your best.  The graphite composition of the Test Scoring pencil is artificial and is actually called electro-graphite.  The reason this formulation is used is because it puts down a more reflective mark so the grading machines can pick up on it.  It writes nice and dark and has a smooth feel while writing.  Of course because of this darkness, point retention suffers.  This may be fine for grade schoolers, but for post grads taking tests, sometimes pencil sharpening is not allowed so I’d bring a dozen or so pre-sharpened just in case.

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The eraser is shit.  Seriously, it almost ripped my paper,  I wouldn’t dare use this eraser on a Scantron for fear of ripping a hole right through the sheet.  I wouldn’t recommend this pencil for heavy note taking since it dulls pretty quickly and smears a great deal.  I do enjoy the sharp hex it offers, but I can’t see myself ever using this outside of its intended purpose.  This pencil would be perfect for jotting down short notes or lists.

Ceres 909 ($0.40)

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The Ceres is another one of Musgrave’s standard yellow school pencil offerings.  It has the usual stamping of the Musgrave brand and then the word “Ceres” in a font that I know I’ve seen before, but I can’t remember what it’s called.  It has a standard number two pencil kind of darkness and I’d place it somewhere in between the Bugle and the Harvest as far as darkness is concerned.  Writing with the Ceres can be a mixed bag; at times it wrote pretty well with very little feedback, but at other times it was very scratchy.  It was almost as if there were some kind of little chunks of something within the graphite because the scratchiness would go away after writing for a little bit.

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The graphite it does lay down is easily erased, but not by its own eraser.  I mean you could erase it with the built-in eraser, but it is very rough on the paper.  Also, the eraser disintegrates, but does not create any dust and instead kind of tears off in chunks.  I wouldn’t say that this pencil is trash, but if it were in a pencil cup with others I would not reach for it unless I had to.  It certainly is better that the garbage most offices order from Staples or WB Mason, but marginally.  Musgrave really needs to work on their eraser game.

News 600 ($0.40)

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The News 600 is not your standard writing pencil.  You will have frustrating results if you try to use it for note taking– just don’t.  It is super dark and soft; I’d say it would be around a 4B or so and it has a larger than normal core.  Be careful with handling this pencil as pencils with larger cores can break if the pencil is dropped.  Having a broken core inside a pencil will render it pretty much useless since when you sharpen it, the point will simply fall right out of the pencil.  I would only recommend this pencil to be used by artists or if you are doing a newspaper crossword puzzle.

Final Thoughts

Musgrave is one the oldest pencil manufacturers still making pencils in the US.  They offer a pretty large line up of pencils, but their main business seems to be in novelty pencils.  I would say that for the cost of each pencil, you get what you pay for.  If Musgrave made some small improvements like improving their erasers and moving back to using California cedar, they would be a contender for one of my favorite pencil companies.  I love, love, love a sharp hex and Musgrave seems to be the only place that can offer that.  Too bad small, easily remedied things make me not want to carry much of their stuff in my daily rotation.  I mean, I love the Bugle, but it’s a round pencil, so unless I was all out of hexagonals I will not use it.  One final thing for Musgrave: please update your logo.  It’s bad.  Please.

 

CW Pencils Pencil Box Subscription

These days, it seems as though everyone is getting in on the subscription business.  The latest entry into the arena is CW Pencil Enterprise.  The quarterly subscription service is $120 for a year, but it is paid in four installments.  This model is unique in the stationery subscription service model since it allows you to cancel mid subscription.  Also, for those that have a hard time coming up with a large chunk of money at once, $30 at a time makes it easier.  According to the description on the website, the pencil box is guaranteed to contain:

  • At least 3 pencils
  • At least 1 pencil accessory (sharpener, eraser, extender, etc)
  • A wild card item (notebook, pencil case, more accessories)
  • Exclusive ephemera
  • Whatever else we are excited about

Now that the details are out of the way, let’s get to the contents of the box.  I will list each item and its fair market value.  Afterwords, I will talk a bit about my thoughts on the subscription service itself.

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General’s SEMI-HEX #1 – $0.67

Papermate MONGOL 480 #2 – $0.17

Caran d’Ache Technograph – $3.00

Koh-i-Noor Original Magic FX – $3.00

Stationers Inc. Reporters Notebook – $1.98

Faber Castell Double Hole Sharpener – $4.95

Doppel-Laufer Universal Eraser – $0.37

Exclusive Postcard/Pamphlet – $2.00

Shipping/Materials – $10.00

TOTAL: $26.14

Now let me state the obvious and get it out of the way here: the value of the items in the box does not equal $30.  BUT.  You are not just paying for items in a box.  You have to factor in materials and labor to pack the box as well as shipping costs.  You are paying for the thoughtful, intentional selection of pencil paraphernalia.  You are paying for an experience.  Also, this is the first subscription box from CW, so I am sure there are exciting things in the works.  I’d like to revisit the whole cost/value issue after a year’s worth of boxes.  I would like to see more exclusive stuff like enamel pins, patches, stickers,etc.  And as far as themes go, I’d love to see a Japanese box, a vintage (with actual vintage items inside) box, and (well this is Dee specific) an all things neon box.  My final verdict on the subscription: BUY IT.  This little collection of items are things that I would not have tried out otherwise and love how everything stays related to the theme.  Nowhere else can you find a personal pencil curator to satisfy your pencilly needs.

***NOTE: I paid for this subscription with my own monies***

 

Massive Mechanical Pencil Lead Review

Massive Mechanical Pencil Lead Review

This post seems to be the antithesis to what I preach all day: “The only good pencil is a wooden pencil!  Wooden pencils for life!”  Even though 95 percent of my pencil usage is in the form of wood cased pencils, there is still room for a good mechanical.  I actually have quite a few mechanical pencils and enjoy using them from time to time.  For testing purposes I am using a Tombow MONO graph 0.5mm mechanical pencil and writing on standard printer paper.

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Pentel AIN Stein ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

The Pentel Ain STEIN lead was nice and smooth and had a moderate darkness.  Point retention with this lead was moderate.  The case it comes in is nice and sleek and the lid stays attached.  You twist it to expose a hole where you can get the lead out.  STEIN stands for “Strongest Technology by Enhanced SiO2 Integrated Network” (whatever that means).  It has an “enhanced reinforced silica core” which claims to make it smooth, strong, and smudge free.  Lefties rejoice!

 

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Uni Kuru Toga ($3.30 for 20 pcs.)

The Uni Kuru Toga lead was smooth with a moderate darkness and point retention was a bit better than average.  I believe it probably has to do with its special formulation.  The Kuru Toga lead has a “soft outer layer around a hard inner core” and they claim that one can easily shape the lead into a point.  It comes in a round, cylindrical case with a removable lid.  While it is round, there is a small nub on the lid that makes it so it doesn’t roll off of a table or desk.    This is important to note since the Kuru Toga mechanical pencils do just that.  The pencil rotates the lead ever so slightly each time you lift the point off the paper.  If you don’t have a Kuru Toga pencil, you should buy one!

 

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Pilot Neox ($3.55 for 40 pcs.)

The Pilot Neox lead is nice and smooth ad a bit darker than most other HB lead grades I have tried out.  When writing with this lead, it glides across the paper effortlessly.  Point retention is on the low average side.  Pilot claims this lead contains “high quality graphite with few impurities, and the bond between the carbon atoms is strong than ever.”  Pilot makes some bold claims here stating that their lead uses lubricating properties of graphite crystal to ensure a smooth writing experience.  The canister has a sliding mechanism up to that opens to allow you to pour out the lead.

 

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Uni NanoDia ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

The Uni NanoDia Low-Wear lead glides easily over the paper as you write and feels very strong and durable.  Point retention is very strong considering it is so smooth.  The Uni NanoDia Low-Wear Pencil Leads are infused with nano-diamond pieces to create an unusually strong and high-quality lead.  The canister has a sliding mechanism in its lid that allows you to dump lead out.  I really like the overall design of this container.

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Zebra DelGuard ($3.25 for 40 pcs.)

The Zebra DelGuard is moderately dark, but felt kind of scratchy which was disappointing as I usually enjoy Zebra’s products. Point retention was average.  The case features a clever mechanism that opens a trap door and pushes out leads automatically when you use the slider on the side of the case.

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The Pentel Ain STEIN Hard and Soft ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

I was really excited to see if there was much discernible difference between the soft and hard versions of the Ain STEIN leads.  Much to my delight, there was.  The soft is a dream to write with as it slides right across the paper and legitimately feels like you are writing with a stick of butter (ok, maybe not that soft).  What was interesting was that it seemed lighter than the regular Ain STEIN and hard versions.  Perhaps this had to do with how it was laid down on the paper.  On the other hand the hard version was semi-scratchy as to be expected, but was slightly darker.  Obviously the point retention on the soft was poor and the hard was excellent.

 

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Rotring TIKKY ($3.00 for 12 pcs.)

 

The Rotring TIKKY lead was beyond disappointing.  It was very soft and point retention was awful.  What made me ever more frustrated was that you only got TWELVE leads for $3.00!  Also, the opening mechanism up to was really hard to fiddle with.  The canister is an ugly brown.  Avoid this at all costs.

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Tombow MONO Graph ($3.25 for 40 pcs.)

The Tombow MONO Graph leads are one of my favorites on this list.  They have a hard feeling to them when you write and the lead is nice and strong.  Point retention is slightly better than average.  These high-quality leads offer smooth writing, crisp lines, and great break resistance. The case features an innovative cap design: sliding it one way allows a single lead to come out a time, and sliding it the other way allows several leads to come out at a time.

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Hi-Uni Hi-Density GRCT ($4.95 for 40 pcs.)

I really couldn’t find much in the way of a description for the GRCT leads, but I did wander across this great vintage commercial for them:

The Hi-Uni GRCT had the most “pencily” feel out of all the lead I tried.  It was also the truest to an HB.  Point retention was right in the middle.  The case has a sliding mechanism on top that allows you to dump the lead out.

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Tombow MONO WX ($3.30 for 40 pcs.)

The Tombow Mono-WX lead was nice and smooth and laid down a medium line.  Its point retention was better than average which was surprising considering how smooth it wrote.  Also, it felt very strong for a smoother lead which was nice.  The top of the unique dispenser opens to the right to dispense a single piece of lead at a time, or can be pushed to the left to extract multiple lead pieces at a time.

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Lamy ($4.30 for 12 pcs.)

Another huge disappointment here.  I couldn’t really find any description about these leads anywhere.  They come in an ugly, plain case and have a lid that comes completely off which is annoying because it is small and slippery and can easily be lost.  The lead itself is super hard and light.  It has a great point retention, but for $4.30 for 12 leads, this is horribly expensive for what you actually get.  Avoid.

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Staedtler Mars ($2.00 for 12 pcs.)

Staedtler’s Mars Micro Carbon lead glides smoothly across paper, producing dark lines. It is kinda flexible and pretty break-resistant. Point retention is a bit below average.  According the Staedtler, the lead is also environmentally friendly, composed of more than 90% natural raw materials. Plus, it is produced using unique ecologically-responsible manufacturing processes without PVC or softening agents.  The design of the canister is a bit odd and it has a very tiny top that is difficult to remove.  You also only get 12 leads and while it is still expensive at $2.00, it is not as sinful as Lamy or Rotring.

Wrap-Up

Overall, it was fun trying out many different leads.  While I didn’t rank each one, I have a top three: Tombow MONO graph, Pilot Neox Graphite, and the Pilot Ain STEIN soft.  All of these leads were purchased by myself from JetPens and I was not compensated for my opinions at all.

 

 

 

 

Write Notepads: A Year in Review

Write Notepads: A Year in Review

For the uninitiated, Write Notepads is a small, local business based in South Baltimore, Maryland that makes pocket (and other sized) notebooks.  For every notebook you purchase, one goes to an inner city student that needs one.  From the packaging to the actual notebook, everything is designed with meticulous attention to detail.  While Write sells standard notebooks that are always available for purchase, they also have a subscription option where you receive a new limited edition every three months.  Along with the limited edition notebooks, you receive limited edition pencils that match.  I will take a look at all four editions in this overview and comment a bit on their aesthetics and choose a favorite.  I’d like the send out a huge thank you to Kathy Rogers, a member of the Erasable group for providing the samples I reviewed.

Lenore

Write’s first edition was a an ode to Edgar Alan Poe.  Inspired by the darkness of Poe, each notebook has the simple word “Lenore” foil-stamped on its cover.  The inside of the notebook is 70 lb. small graph paper.  I am not sure how I feel about the tiny squares– I prefer a larger grid so I can make easier checklists.  What I do like is the matching pencil– there is a raven foil stamped on the barrel.  The ferrule, eraser, and wood of the pencil is also black which stays within the dark theme Lenore has going.  While I like the pencil a lot, the notebook is not my favorite.  I’d rank it 4th due to the small graph paper inside and the minimalist cover.  The pencil get 1st place hands down.

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Kindred Spirit

Write’s second edition Kindred Spirit, was inspired by the idea that us notebook and pencil enthusiasts are all kindred spirits and share the same feelings about our niche hobby.  The notebooks have been packaged as “Charcoal Bookettes” as a play on the idea that each notebook is like the beginning of a fire with the charcoal resembling the potential fire that is formed when we put our ideas to paper.  The outside of the notebook is a light orange-yellow with the slightest of marbling and the word “Write” stamped inside of a black flame.  The 70 lb. paper inside is lined like a ledger notebook which is a feature I like since I use a lot of my pocket notebooks for lists.  The pencil that came along with it was a natural wood-grain pencil with a pinkish-red eraser and “Quickstrike – Safety Pencils” stamped in red on the barrel.  I like this notebook a lot– the bright cover and the ledger-lined paper inside does it for me and puts the book 2nd on my list.  The pencil is a creative design and I have a thing for natural wood pencils, so it gets 2nd place as well.

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The Royal Blue

This Fall edition features the B&O Railroad and was created to honor The Royal Blue, a train that shuttled passengers from Washington D.C. to Jersey City.  The notebooks are a Saxony Blue and gold– the railroad’s traditional colors.  A crest in gold is printed on the cover and “The Royal Blue” is at the bottom in the original font of the train line.  This edition also has 70 lb. paper with the ledger lines I so love.  The pencil that comes with this edition is also blue and has a round barrel.  Stamped in gold is a picture of the Royal Blue train, the words “The Royal Blue” and “Write”; there is a sliver ferrule with a white eraser.  This notebook gets 1st place due to its design and ledger lined inside.  The pencil gets 4th place because I hate round barreled pencils (sorry).

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In the Pines

Write’s final edition of their inaugural subscription year was titled “In the Pines” and was inspired by a “cold walk through a dense pine forest.”  According to Write, the title pays homage to an “eerie hymnal originally attributed to Lead Belly, and popularized by Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session.”  As a lover of trees, I wanted to love this edition.  The detail of the dark green embossed cover is beautiful with a silver pine tree and the words “In the Pines” on the front.  Inside is 70 lb. dot grid paper which I am not in love with as the dots seem a bit more spread out than I am used to.  The pencil that goes along with this edition is also in dark green with silver stamping on the barrel.  I really like the detail of the number 2 inside a pine tree.  What is disappointing is I feel like the quality control on these pencils is not the same of the others.  I ordered a few and some have chips in the paint and sloppy stamping.  The chipping is not a big deal since it is at the end of the pencil and will be sharpened away anyway, but still disappointing.  I give the notebooks and pencils from this edition 3rd place on my lists.

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The Pencils

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Shahsons Pencil Company

Shahsons Pencil Company

This post has been a few weeks in the making and I apologize for its lateness, but school and life seem to have gotten in the way of most of my obligations lately.  This week I am going to talk about Shahsons Pencil Company.  Shahsons is based in Pakistan and has been making quality pens and pencils since 1953.  Caroline from CW Pencils helped out a bit with some history:

The Goldfish Autocrat was their first branded pencil. It was originally scented to smell like sandalwood–though they don’t to that anymore because it’s too expensive. Shehzhad (original owner’s grandson) isn’t sure where exactly the name came from, though he’s pretty sure ‘Autocrat’ was supposed to be ‘Aristocrat’. They only really do two lines of the pencils, the Goldfish, which was since been expanded with lots of different branding and the Piscasso line, which is mostly drawing pencils and artist materials.

I always love trying out pencils from other countries as I enjoy the different wood and graphite formulations they have to offer.  There are three pencils that I will be discussing: the Vista, Autocrat, and Blue Bird.  I have spent considerable time with each, so without further ado:

Goldfish Blue Bird

I am a fan of pencils that have fun names and the Blue Bird surely delivers.  The blue barrel and silver foil stamping make this pencil quite attractive, but where it excels in aesthetics, it falls short with performance (this is compared to the other two Shahsons pencils, not the entire pencils universe).  The graphite core is a bit light (I’d say HBish) and scratchy on most of the papers I have used.

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Goldfish Vista

The Vista is the middle of the road pencil here; it is a bright red pencil with gold foil stamping.  It has a similar darkness as the Autocrat, but did not write as smoothly.  This pencil performs well, but due to the scratchiness, I would avoid it if you like smoother graphite laydown.

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Goldfish Autocrat

The Autocrat is the Cadillac of the Shahsons offerings.  It is smooth and dark and point retention is on point (sorry, had to).  I really like the design of this pencil as it has a natural wood veneer and gold foil stamping.  The Autocrat’s graphite core reminds me of the Nataraj Neon core or the Walmart Casemate core.  Of the three pencils, the Autocrat wins by a long shot.

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Overall, the three offering from Shahsons perform well, for their price point.  I would suggest trying out all three pencils, but know that you may be disappointed in the Vista.  You can head over to CW Pencil Enterprise to get a hold of all three.

 

Musgrave Ceres

Musgrave Ceres

There is something to be said for a classic yellow pencil.  After being inspired by episode 60 of Erasable, I decided to dig into my pencil case and try out a pencil I have yet to review/use.  I was immediately drawn to the Ceres due to its sharp lines and unique script that was stamped on the barrel.

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Musgrave produces four grades of this pencil and I am using the #1 grade for this review.  Immediately upon sharpening the Ceres I was greeted with the smell of good old cedar.  The Ceres sharpened very easily and the graphite was perfectly centered which allowed for even sharpening.  Interestingly enough, about a third of the way through the pencil, I found a knot in the wood barrel.

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I had never seen this before and though it was pretty interesting.  The small imperfection made the next few sharpenings difficult as the graphite was exposed unevenly, but once I sharpened my way out of it things were fine.  Writing with the Ceres was great and the pencil laid down decent lines.  The graphite was nice and smooth and I’d say the darkness was comprabale to a 2B (this is totally just eyeballing it).  The eraser on the Ceres was below average at best.

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The rubber was very gritty and when I did try to erase with it, it wore down very quickly.  Don’t plan on using the eraser if you don’t have to.  The black paint on the barrel began to wear off pretty quickly with normal use, but that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me.  I prefer a well-worn writing instrument.  Overall, the Musgrave Ceres is a great little pencil that is completely affordable (40 cents a piece at CW Pencils), but did not entirely win me over.  While I stated the graphite was smooth and not scratchy, it did not have the buttery smoothness I prefer in my graphite.  Also, not only is the eraser pretty crappy, but I had a hard time erasing with my everyday block eraser as well.  The graphite comes off the paper, but not as cleanly as I like.  If I had to give a rating it would be a meh.  average.  Stay tuned, because next week I will be reviewing the newest CW Pencils acquisitions: The Goldfish Autocrat, Blue Bird, and Vista from Shashon Pencil Company.

Product Review: Tom Bihn Cafe Bag

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.)