Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Office supplies to unstink your kitchen.

If you like to use sponges in your regular cleaning activities, and I know a lot of people do that you know you are supposed to sanitize them regularly and get rid of them fairly often.  The biggest problem that everybody has with sponges is that they don't take long before they start to seriously stink.  Most of that stink comes from the fact that you lay your sponge down and the bottom never dries properly but instead starts to gather a wonderfully mildew and must smell.  One user on imgur found a novel way to solve the uneven drying problem by using a simple Binder Clip.

Whoever this person is they really have their stuff together.  You can tell by the bright orange color of the sponge that it is clearly an O-Cel-O Sponge by 3M.  They are known as some of the best anti-microbial, anti-bacterial sponges, but as much as you and I both trust all 3M products you'll still need to replace them just as regularly as any other sponge.

Look at that extremely fashionable binder clip.  You can't easily tell exactly what color the clip actually is because the clip it self is reflective and on a reflective sink with a radioactive orange sponge, but you can tell it is red.  Upon a closer inspection you can see that the clips have a rubberized coating on the steel wires so it was easy to track down a reasonable replica.

Comparing the red between the two clips looks like the match is pretty much spot on.  Of course, if this was my kitchen I wouldn't have gone for the red binder clip.  The metallic red binder clip, the toxic orange sponge, the granite counter top, the sea-foam green soap and the chrome sink are just too many colors at once for my puny brain to comprehend.  I probably would have just stuck with the green clip since it kind of matches the soap's green hue.  That's just me though.  I have been accused of being color blind on more than one occasion.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tape Stop-Motion/Time-Lapse

Before you venture down this path, you must first watch this video...

Each of the big setups easily contains more than 100 full rolls of tape.  With that many rolls of tape in use you know that Johan Rijpma didn't splash out and spend money on the high quality Scotch brand tape, but probably went for something more generic.  Looking at the tape you can see the rolls aren't very transparent at all so he didn't even go for the fully "invisible" tape.

This video did start a bit of an inner office conversation about what is Stop Motion and what is Time Lapse.  Which we basically decided that Time Lapse and Stop Motion are almost identical with the differentiation that that Stop Motion involves an outside force moving or altering the scene that is being filmed.

One could argue that most of the video here is Time Lapse, but the portions starting around 1:30 clearly take place as the base is rotating.  You can notice at those particular times that the tape does seem to stop ascending as well, so not much actual time lapsed.

If you just need some inexpensive tape and don't need it to be invisible, you don't need to look any further than the Highland Brand Transparent Tape.  It is manufactured by 3M just like Scotch Brand Tapes but it is more utilitarian for offices and times when complete invisibility isn't a necessity.  Judging from the video, the tape used there isn't completely clear, and sometimes even has a yellowish tinge.  Unless you are wrapping Christmas presents or doing scrap-booking a little yellow color in your tape won't hurt anything.

If you've stuck with me this far and Time-Lapse really isn't your thing you deserve a reward.  Here's a bit of Stop Motion for you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Post-it Watch

How many times have you ever written a note on your hand because you needed to remember something and you were sure you'd lose any other kind of note you might try to write yourself? Well, a French design firm came up with the perfect way to keep your self-applied notes in a semi-permanent status.

Yes, it's pretty self explanatory. It is a long watch-shaped Post-it note that you write on and attach to yourself by sticking the two ends of it together. For 9.80 you can get 100 of these Post-its. Google tells me that is equivalent to $13.50 using the current currency conversion. Of course, if you lived in Greece or Italy your Euros might be worth slightly less. If you live in the United States these would probably cost you a pretty penny to ship as well.

Just for the sake of comparison, a standard pack of 1,200 Post-it Notes can be had for less than $6. That is an incredible savings per piece of paper. Granted it won't be as easy to stick these to yourself to create a note to remind yourself you need to buy milk, but you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Anybody who has ever written a note on their own hand knows that you should never use any washable markers as your natural sweat and action can easily erase whatever you are trying to remember. You can always write on yourself with permanent marker, but that's no fun.

Here is what I propose: take 3 or 4 (depending on the size of your wrists) standard Post-its and connect them to each other to create a full wristband of Post-it madness. Wristbands are cooler than wristwatches right? I'm guessing so anyway. So after you make your Post-it wristband you'll have a lot more room to write important notes to yourself. They might fall apart a lot more, but not only will you have more space to write, you'll have a lot more wristbands available. If I assume your wrists are larger than mine and you need 4 Post-its, you'll have 3,000 Post-it wristbands for half the price of 100 Post-it wristwatches.

Friday, October 28, 2011

John Gruber's Favorite Pen

If you don't know John Gruber, you aren't missing a whole lot.  He's a minor Internet celebrity.  He is not on the level of Wil Wheaton or Felicia Day, but he is kind of like a less creepy Richard Stallman.  A lot of people turn to Mr. Gruber to learn why the Yankees are awesome or why WordPress sucks.  He is generally regarded as a person who does take time to make well reasoned analysis on all things Apple from time to time, but that's all boring mish-mash when you are visiting a blog about Office Supplies.

On October 11th he posted to his site, Daring Fireball, about his favorite pen.  Anybody who takes the time to write anything about a pen is okay in my book.  He claims that the Zebra Sarasa 0.4mm Push Clip is his favorite pen and anybody who is not buying pens imported from Japan is not using a very good pen. While I agree with him on many things I have to disagree on this particular issue. There is no reason to waste money buying pens imported from Japan for $2.20 when an almost identical pen, for the average user, is available for less than $1 (when bought in a box of 12).

I would like to first go on the record as officially stating that I have never used the particular pen that Mr. Gruber is referring to, but that I have use many pens, and many are similar in style to his favorite pen.

First, I agree that no pen, dollar for dollar, beats a Zebra Sarasa.  I accidentally took the last Zebra Sarasa that I had at the office home and gave it to my waitress that evening.  The next day I tried to just use a Pilot G2, but it didn't take long before it put a nice big blob on my paper that I stuck my hand in and smeared all over.  In a fit of rage I threw the pen (lightly) to the carpet on the other side of my office and went scavenging for a replacement Sarasa.  Luckily, I found a few sitting unused in my neighbors drawers that they'll never miss (shhhh).  Coincidentally, when I came into work the next day there was a Zebra Sarasa multi-pack waiting for me.

The extra big clip on the imported Sarasa is kind of cool, but is it really worth it?  How often do you actually clip you pen to a small book?  The standard single plastic clip piece works for me just fine.  With a 0.4mm tip is the imported pen's tip really that much different from the 0.5mm version?  Not enough to convince me to pay double.

Everybody gets to have their own favorite pen, but the important thing is to make sure that if you lose your pen you won't feel like your world will come to an end.  So when you accidentally give your pen to the tow truck driver do you want to be out $2.20 or $0.89.  I'll gladly take two of the 0.5mm standard Zebra Sarasa pens over one 0.4mm fancy Zebra Sarasa any day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Office Makeover Giveaway

Look, I know you are busy.  We are all busy people.  But sometimes you have to take a break from all that hard farming you are doing on your farm-related Facebook games, turn off the television from your New Jersey-related Reality Show, and do something proactive for your work space.

Take a look at your hands.  Are they on a keyboard or a touchscreen?  Great!  You have an Internet device.  Does that Internet device usually stay in one room?  Awesome! You have an office.

Now look at your wallet.  Is it bulging with money because of all the cash you have?  Sweet!  Go find an envelope and mail it to me. I'll wait.  Okay, now everybody's wallet is on the same level.  Wouldn't it be great if you could spruce up your office without having to worry about the fact that your wallet is empty? Of course it would be.  So here's the deal. is running a Giveaway for an office makeover.  The grand prize is worth over $4,000.  That means you could have an office setup on par with the Vice President of the average medium-sized company.  A desk, a chair, a bunch of organizers and a free TouchPad.  That's all the things you'd need to really give your office the professional feel that you deserve.  You could really get some farming done if you had an ergonomic chair, couldn't you?

I know what you are thinking.  That sounds great, but I never win anything. The cards are always stacked against me and so I shouldn't even waste my time entering because it'll just be a waste.  Well, today your luck is going to change.  Somebody has to win this prize and so far there have only been 24 contest entrants. If you enter right now you will be the 25th entrant so you'd have a 4% chance of winning (if the winner was picked randomly).  A 4% chance is like a million times better odds than winning the lottery.  That's better odds than finding a quarter in your jeans after they come out of the dryer.

Here's the deal.  Take a picture of your office.  If you don't have an office take a picture of the room that you keep your computer or Internet device in.  If you don't have an computer or a room you keep it in, then take a picture of the space that you'd like to setup an office.  If you don't even have that, then just take a picture of your chair.  Now upload that photo to the Office Makeover Giveaway App and tell all your farming buddies to get on the bandwagon and vote for you.  There are buttons on the page so you can spam share the link with them constantly.  Just don't tell your friends that you have a 4% chance of winning because they'll want in and decrease your chances. What have you got to lose?

Still not convinced?  Okay, fine.  You win.  I'm pulling out all the stops now.  This is total used car sales man style now.

Look at this:

Yes, Portal.  That game that all your non-farming game friends talk about whenever they say the cake is a lie.  Why is the cake a lie?  You need to play the game to find out.  You have to solve a lot of puzzles.  You like puzzles right?  Great.  Now head over to Steam and start downloading it.  It's not a small download so it might take some time.

So what are you going to do while you are waiting for the download to finish?  You could do more virtual farming, but that'll just decrease your download speed.  If only there was something fun you could do that was mostly uploading.  Uploading doesn't affect your download speed.  I've got it!  Upload a photo to the Office Makeover Giveaway!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Obama's Binder Clip Causes Outrage

Apparently some people are really picky.  Obama came out with his American Jobs Act this week and there are lots of people weighing the pros and cons of his proposal.  There are also people who want to talk about his usage of office supplies.  The New York Post came out with an article titled O gives jobs ‘clip’ service calling it a "chintzy fastener" and an "enormous paper clip" in the headline and opening sentence, but the rest of the article actually talks about the jobs bill.  Why would they tease me with that great introduction and then launch into boring lectures about economic theory?  Yuck!  Talk about the binder clip people; that's the news!

Luckily, the Huffington Post was up to the challenge and ran an article about the article that should have been about a binder clip, and actually did a better job of binder clip reporting.  They link to a product page from Staples with the information that they are quite affordable.  The Huffington Post is not an office supplies blog so I can excuse their lack of knowledge on the subject but a 1" capacity binder isn't going to easily hold all 155 pages of the Jobs Act when printed on standard paper.  They also wouldn't realize that even the generic Staples brand binder clips are not the most affordable.

The people who rate binder clips live in a strange world of actual capacity vs ease of use.  Everybody who has spent some time in an office knows that different weights of different papers (see previous article about paper weights as it pertains to actual binders) so nobody wants to say a specific binder clip will hold an exact number of pages.  However, I do know that a large clip can physically hold the 155 pages of the Act.  The binder people would probably advise against it as the binder clips are being forced nearly to their breaking point at 200 pages.

Of course I didn't actually see Obama with the paperwork so I can't tell you if he was performing an act of treason against office supplies.  It's possible he printed the paper double sided and it would fit easily.  It's possible he printed on a lightweight paper that would fit easily.  It's equally possible that he only had 100 pages of the 155 page document actually in the clip at the time.  Like finding out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, we may never know.

It does go without saying that once you are binding more than a 100 pages with one clip you have to know the pressure on the inner most pages is greatly decreased and may not stay put as well as you would like.  Buyer Beware!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Staple City

Can you imagine a city of staples?  Not a city of Staples, the big box store (that would be frightening and expensive), but a city made entirely of staples, the kind that go in a stapler.  Well I assume like most every other human being you have already notice the image right below this paragraph, but some of you may have not.  Anyway, checkout the photo below of a city made out of staples.

The linked page states it is an art installation from 2010 and that it was made from exactly 100,000 staples and took 40 hours to setup.  I have no clue where it was setup or how long it was actually ran as an installation.  This is the Internet, not an actual encyclopedia.  The important thing is that it was made from 100,000 staples.  That is one hundred thousand staples and forty hours if you are adverse to reading numbers.

I was initially impressed by these numbers until I realized that 40 hours is only a standard work week.  5 regular 8 hour days isn't much for creating a true and lasting piece of art.  100,000 staples sounded really cool until I remembered that staples come in boxes of 5,000.  I've got more than 20,000 staples just sitting in my desk drawer right now.  Since you can buy 5,000 staples for $0.60 getting 100,000 isn't even very expensive.  That's only $12.  Twelve dollars isn't even enough cash to buy food for a couple healthy Americans at McDonald's.

Each of these staples has a sheet capacity of 20 so one box is capable of holding 100,000 sheets of paper together in 5,000 different groups.  Now that's a number.  If you have 20 boxes of these staples, that means 2,000,000 sheets of paper.  That is 2 million.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Buy Wacom Inkling Refills

Wacom recently announced a new product to their line of digital drawing paraphernalia.  The Inkling is a device that allows you to draw on your favorite drawing surface (notebook, paper, whatever) and with the special pen and special receiver it allows you to digitally capture your drawings for simple transfer to a computer.
Refills Circled in Red

Because the Inkling at its core is just a regular pen with a bunch of electronics strapped to it, you do still need to draw real lines on your real paper.  So you are going to be using real ink.  Luckily the people at Wacom were smart enough to realize nobody is going to be replacing electronic pens regularly, and their ideal customers are not going to be interested in some old Bic Stic ink so they designed the Inkling to allow easy replacement of the ink reservoir. 

They claim it uses a standard mini 1.0 mm ballpoint ink refill, but I have no clue what they mean by that.  Nobody in the refill business will tell you that their refill will be universal because they want to make sure you buy their pen, so you are left guessing.  Just what is a standard mini ink refill?

Since I don't actually have a Wacom Inkling I can't tell you exactly what refills will and won't fit it, but the Cross CRO85184 sure looks like a dead ringer.  It looks a lot like the refills pictured in the product imagery and the product specs seem to match.  Amid several references to ball point pens and compact and mini refill size,  I don't know if I can find a better solution.

Does anybody out there know more about this setup and which pen refills specifically fit it?  I can't seem to find any easily available accurate info.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Don't Confuse Your Markers

While attending a meeting and dutifully creating a multitude of Venn Diagrams on our white board I noticed a different marker among our usual colored markers.  It was one of the nice chunky Pilot BeGreen markers with replaceable ink cartridges when they go dry.  I immediately recognized it (they are hard to miss) but I confused it with a different Pilot BeGreen marker I already have.

Notice the similarities?  Notice the differences?  There aren't a lot.  One marker (top) is a permanent marker and the other is a white board marker.  They are no doubt easy to confuse, but you'll want to make sure you don't confuse them so your cost/benefit analysis chart isn't permanently emblazoned on your dry erase board.

Just because the white board marker is easy to confuse with the permanent marker doesn't automatically mean you should avoid purchasing these markers.  I have had the same black Pilot BeGreen marker for several years now and it still writes as good as the day I first unwrapped it.  I've used some of the cheap black permanent markers on many occasions and sometimes they are great, and sometimes they are awful.

Here you can see the chisel tip version of the refillable marker.  Not surprisingly, it looks a lot like the photo of the marker I posted above, only it was taken with fancy photography equipment.  It is a straight ahead glossy photo shoot.

The marketing gurus at Pilot made sure their imagery for their permanent markers and their didn't look as similar as they do in real life.  Note the different placement of the cap, and the greatly decreased shininess of the photo and you can see it was even at a slight angle to give it a little more depth.

Of course, different styles of marker photo shoots doesn't mean everything is intentional.  It might be just two different freelance marker photographers (I assume somebody has to do it).  Of course the Permanent Marker Refill and Dry Erase Marker Refill are different products, but they look suspiciously similar.  What are the chances you could put a permanent refill in the dry erase marker or a dry erase refill in the permanent marker?  Is anybody who has both markers willing to experiment and possibly ruin one or both markers in the name of science?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Retractable Dry Erase Marker Takeapart

If you are a dedicated reader you might remember my previous post Retractable Dry Erase Marker: From Skepticism to Joy from April of this year.  I'm pleased to report that after several additional months of usage my enjoyment of BIC's Great Erase marker held strong.  Unfortunately, it started to get lighter and lighter.  I first assumed that this was the work of a co-worker who was playing with my marker in an attempt to get it to dry out, but soon came to the realization that it was more than that.

After my marker had transitioned from black to gray to an illegibly light gray color, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.  I needed to see why this marker had decided to go belly up in what seemed like a relatively short time, and tore it apart.

BIC Dry Erase Marker Whole and Pieces

The marker has a good weight and a solid feel so I assumed there would be a fair amount of ink included.  Unfortunately as I remove the felt portion of the marker I was disappointed to find it actually was not designed to hold much ink at all.  When compared to the typical tank style dry erase marker you can easily see why I was disappointed.  Those markers are just ink ink and more ink with a little plastic holding it together.  This marker is plastic, plastic, and more plastic with a little ink in the middle.

Knowing what I know now would I purchase these markers if given the option?   The jury is still out.  The marker does a great job of delivering strong, thin lines, and it works extremely well, but given the extra cost of the marker and the relatively small amount of ink in the reservoir it's a tough decision.  If you have a tight office supply budget these markers probably aren't for you, but if you are the kind of office who values convenience and usability over cost then it's a no-brainer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Office Supply Spaceships

Some people in some offices (not you or me), have a little bit to much free time, and a few too many office supplies.  So they go about building stuff.  We've covered the construction of guns previously, but here we are talking strictly decoration.  So without further ado, I present to you the Office Supply X-Wing.

If you, like me, have spent some time with some supplies you know what most of those supplies are.  The only one that threw me for a loop was the purple rectangle behind the cockpit (it is a group of unused staples).  So if you want to build one of these for yourself I've collected your shopping list below.  I went for the absolute cheapest things available (though pricing may change) so it might not be the same color as shown above.

So for $10.75 you can build your self a funky little X-Wing model.  If you can convince your boss that you need these office supplies as part of a larger order of other things you can probably sneak it in for free.  Or for about $20 you can buy yourself a real officially licensed X-Wing model.  Of course you'd probably get fired if you were building that at work.

If you are more into Star Trek than Star Wars there are similar plans for building models of the Enterprise from Office Supplies.  One version that relies heavily on Paper Clips and another that relies on Binder Clips.  So decide if you prefer the Rebel Alliance or the Ferengi Alliance and get to building you office supply hoarders.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kids Don't Need Expensive Toys

Kids don't need expensive toys- they just want Office Supplies.  If I had a dime for every time I heard a parent, aunt, uncle, or grandparent talk about how their most cherished youngling preferred the box or the wrapping paper to the actual gift, I would have a good sized jar of dimes.  You might be shocked to realize that boxes are office supplies and paper is an office supply.  Whoa, did I just blow your mind?  Welcome to the future my friend.

One intrepid blogger in an attempt to encourage his kids to discover wonder in the world (and all that kind of stuff they talk about in the Baby Einstein commercials) recently found that one of his kids took a shining to an old adding machine.

Feel free to click through and read about how kids who don't care about arithmetic use and abuse an adding machine, but the long and short of it is that kids love paper.  They loved paper so much that he bought his kid another dozen rolls of paper from Amazon.  Bravo to him for not just buying his child another Batman action figure, but if he really, really loved that kid he would have bought him 100 rolls of paper.

I'm not advocating that all parents go out and purchase a box of adding paper to prove their unending love, but I am telling those parents that their children will love them more when they buy them more paper.  Take a good look at your kid, or a photo of your kid, or a photo of your boss's kid.  Is that kid adorable?  Do you want that kid to be happy?  Do you want that kid to love you more than any other adult?  Then don't walk, don't run, but click through and buy 100 rolls of recycled paper.  The lovefest will last until the paper runs out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Post-It Prank

What do you do when you have a some neon yellow Post-it Notes, a Sharpie, some free time and access to a fire alarm?  Why play a prank of course.

Of course, a prank like this is probably against dozens of building and fire codes, but it is amusing none the less.  Of course, no adult would ever actually confuse a fire alarm with a candy dispenser, but it wouldn't stop some buzz-kill from removing the post-its.

If you want to go for a real fire warning prank that is generally harmless, go and buy a half dozen or so Fire Extinguisher signs and mount them around your office (preferably with a permanent adhesive) pointing to places and things that are obviously not Fire Extinguishers.  Point at a plant.  Point at a computer.  Put it above a table where it can point at a glass (half full) of water.  The possibilities are endless and endlessly infuriating for any building manager.  When you can buy a Fire Extinguisher sign for three dollars, why not go hog wild?
Of course, if you do decide to pull off any of the pranks here, you do so under your own free will.  I won't be held liable in the court of law for anything you do.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Notecards

Today Woot posted a notecard primer for those of you unfamiliar with notecards. Their guide, titled Sean University: Notecards, is intended for those of you headed off into the exciting world of Buisnessy Enterpriseness Buzzword Management. The same rules apply to those of you heading back to school wondering just what these notecard things are that your new teacher is requiring you to use. You should head to Woot and read the entire post, but just in case you are running low on time, here is the Reader's Digest version.

#1. You should only use 3x5 sized notecards. If what you need to convey doesn't fit on said notecard size and shape you need to rewrite it.

#2. If you were not sure what a notecard looks like, they included a diagram.
#3 When asked the serious question: "I’ve got to give a speech about notecards to executives of a notecard company. Can I write notes about notecards on notecards, or will that tear a hole in the very fabric of the very thing we know as reality????" they attempted to give a humorous answer. The correct answer the preceding question is "no."

Woot, however, neglected to answer the most important question: "Where can I buy notecards?" The correct answer is "everywhere." They sell notecards everywhere. I've seen them at Dollar Stores and at Grocery Stores. They sell them at Drug Stores, Convenience Shops, and Department Stores. Of course they also sell them at the Big Box Office Supply Retailers, but none of those places will give you the kind of variety you'll want if you are a notecard aficionado. After just a quick check I found 28 different kinds of 3x5 notecards available (commonly called index cards in the industry). There are cards that come with a color coded bar for organization, cards that come in neon colors if you want to blind your grandmother, and cards that come printer ready if you hate reading your handwriting. My favorite is the cards that come with a pen and specially modified binder clip.
Notecards with Binder Clip and Pen

Yes, you saw that right. Your eyes are not deceiving you. This is a pack of notecards with a specially manufactured binder clip that allows you to keep a pen attached to your notecards. Most people carry around a grip of notecards held together with a rubber band. They'll throw a pen in the rubber band to keep it from flying away, but you've got a pretty good chance that the whole thing will end up as a mess in the bottom of your bag. With Oxford's customized binder clip solution, you'll keep your notecards and your pen held together securely until you need them.

Of course, feel free to mod this setup with your favorite notecards and your favorite pen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Winning Combinations

As back to school preparations begin, there are many things that high school students need. Binders, calculators, mechanical pencils... really fun stuff that everyone gets excited about. Combination locks have never been in that category. They're one of the many necessary evils of high school. Everybody gravitates to the exact same model and the sole factor in how comfortable it is to use is how easily the combination can be remembered.

Master Lock, producers of seemingly every combination lock ever created, is determined to offer some fun and simplicity to the device. For their Speed Dial locks, they have done away with the numbers and allow the user to set any combination of directions.

Sounds great, right? No number combos to remember and a code that can be entered with nothing but a thumb. There is, however, one thing that troubles me about this: what would you set for your combination? Quickly, think of one. A series of ups, downs, lefts and rights that you could recall automatically. Got one? Good.

All right... so who picked the relevant part of this?

I'm sure enough of you did. Enough of us in the office certainly did. And if I had some significant and justified reason to break into your locker, it's the first combination I would try. It's one of those things that we either remember from childhood, wished we remembered from childhood, or see randomly in unexpected places (typing it on certain websites trigger some interesting effects. Direction-based combinations immediately make people think of video games, and a lot of people have played video games. They often play the same ones.

It's an interesting new product and should do very well in schools, but I have to caution against using popular and beloved cheat codes for inspiration. It's like making your online password “password.” Put some thought into it and come up with something that is distinctly you

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Using a Tom62202 without a Tom62201

I don't know how many people have ever been in the predicament that I was in a few weeks ago, but I was working on a crafty project and was on a tight budget and was looking to save any bit of cash I could. Everybody knows about Tom62201 (Tombow's flagship adhesive dispenser) and just about everybody also knows that Tombow offers refills in the form of Tom62202.

 Any Tom, Dick, and/or Harold can look at the Tom62201 and see that there isn't a whole lot there.  Some translucent plastic bits, some transparent plastic bits and two rolls.  It's kind of like a Blueberry iMac, and a cassette tape got into that transporter from The Fly and this is what stepped out from the other side.

Now if you are like you me you see the Tom62201 and the Tom62202 next to each other and think, man it's only missing the encapsulating plastic bit.  I can buy a Tom62202 and save myself a dollar.  Well sir, I'm sad to inform you that there are some extra bits that the Tom62201 have that are not easily replicated just by holding it firmly.  Attempting to use the refill by itself will fail just about completely.

But if you have already gone over the deep end and need to get something done ASAP and you only have a Tom62202 at your disposal you aren't out of luck.  I found that if you just use the roll of adhesive and take it off the plastic bits you do end up with a convenient roll of double sided tape.  Peel off enough of the end for a tab, roll out your tape sticking it to the surface as necessary.  Tear your tape off from the role as necessary.  When you are ready to affix your two items, put the tape roll aside and remove the backing from your item.

If you follow the Tom62201-less method it does have an advantage on large surfaces as you won't have any side of your double sided tape exposed to the elements for much longer than necessary.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Comparison Shopping Foam Board

Foam Board, sometimes called Foamcore, Foam Core, or Foam Core Board is a necessity for all modern craters or people who need to build structures but require something a little nicer than cardboard.  The standard Foam Board for everyday use is 3/16 of an inch thick (or just shy of 5mm).  Lots of local stores have it in some quantity.  From corner drug stores like Walgreens to Office Supply stores like Staples to Big Box Super-centers like Walmart.  Last weekend I needed some Foam Board to build a Mat Board so I went on a trek from store to store looking for the best bargain

My first stop was Walgreens.  They had Crayola brand Foam Board for $3.99.  Measuring in at 22 inches x 28 inches I knew it wasn't going to be my best bargain so I pressed on.  You can see their selection here.

I stopped over at Walmart and they had a large selection of Foam board and at a discount.  They had the Elmer's brand Foam Board for $2.97.  Measuring in at 30 inches x 20 inches it is technically less Foam Board but at a dollar cheaper the decrease in price more than makes up for the decreased size.  I even did the math.  At Walgreen you pay $0.0065 per square inch while Walmart charges you $0.0050 per square inch (math rounded for ease of use).  You can see what Walmart offers here.

My final stop in the land of Brick and Mortar Foam Board Suppliers was Staples.  The carried the same 30 inch by 20 inch Foam Board size as Walmart but instead it was Staples Brand.  Oddly enough it was priced the same as Walmart but the price tag said it was originally $3.49.  I assume that was just marketing at it's finest.  Staples did carry the widest variety of Foam Board.  They had it in a variety of colors for an additional dollar or so.  You can see what Staples offers here.

I have heard that if you keep an eye out you can find some really cheap stuff at the big craft stores like Micheales or at Dollar stores but the quality may suffer.

Lastly I had to check the Online only retailers to see what kind of pricing they had.  I found that the Elmer's Brand EPI900802 Foam Board seemed most closely match what I saw in the stores and was well reviewed.  At this moment I see the pricing on the Foam Board is $34.37 for 10 boards.  So you can do the math and see that they are more expensive than picking it up in Walmart or Staples stores.  I'm sure if you waited and watched promotions you could find a worthwhile coupon code or wait for the price to drop and get it at an additional discount. I also noticed they have Foam Board available in larger sizes and some of the highest quality Foam Board, but as I see it pricing wise online pretty much matches what you can pick up in a store.

If you buy it in a store you have the advantage of picking through the pieces they have on hand and hopefully finding a piece without banged corners or crumbled edges.  If you buy online you aren't limited to stock on hand in a store.  You can easily buy a thousand or more pieces, and you should see quite a savings at that point.  So if you just need a sheet of Foam Board run out to your local Big Box retailer and pick one up.  If you have special needs from your Foam Board like an odd size or mass quantity you should shop online.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Exotic Origins Of The Plain Yellow Pencil

In a world where mechanical pencils are taking over both the office and the classroom, there is still one time of year that the classic #2 wood pencil is still beloved- finals week. Well, beloved might be a strong word: between retrieving them, sharpening them and bringing spares in the event of untimely breakages, college students are often reminded why they switched to mechanical pencils in the first place. Still, filling in those little bubbles on Scantron forms is one of the last bastions for the classic Dixon Ticonderoga #2 and its brethren. So today we honor them.

Dixon Ticonderoga #2 Pencil

They don't give off an air of complexity, but between the core, the casing and the eraser, pencils aren't exactly primitive. You wouldn't think they'd be more than a couple centuries old. Skipping the ancient stylus, once a metal rod used for writing on papyrus (and now a plastic rod used for writing on smartphones), the modern wood-cased graphite pencil actually dates back to the 1600s. Once the Industrial Revolution happened, the whole thing just took off.

So the million-dollar question: why are pencils yellow? It's ingrained in our heads that pencils are supposed to be bright yellow, even though it's not heralded as a professional nor particularly studious color. They look pretty cheap too. Hard to believe that the ubiquitious yellow color was chosen by a high-end manufacturer looking for an exotic color to set their pencil apart from the generic brands.

It wasn't even the Dixon Ticonderoga you know and love but Koh-I-Noor- a European brand named after a diamond and now known more for calligraphy and drafting supplies. At the time, yellow was considered an exotic color that hinted at Chinese origins. Because nothing says quality like something made in China. It was such a big hit that everybody jumped on board and did the same thing, to the point where yellow became an industry standard and lost pretty much all its meaning. It's no surprise that Koh-I-Noor got out of that gig.

Distant Descendants of the Original Yellow Pencil

So for those slaving away at finals, now you know why the pencils you use for tests are yellow. Although, as an added punchline, it's worth pointing out that test scanners now read and accept some mechanical pencils. In fact, almost all Bic mechanical pencils are Scantron-certified.

And Look, They Come in Yellow!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Retractable Dry Erase Marker: From Skepticism to Joy

It has probably been a month now since a pack of BIC Retractable Dry Erase Markers hit our office. I tend to not question why boxes of random products show up as often as they do, because you should never look a gift horse in the mouth (unless the horse is full of Greeks). Last week a bunch of cans of Organic Sweet Leaf brand Tea showed up, so we did our duty to God and Country and drank most of it. Many moons prior we had some dry erase boards installed in our offices to help curb our addiction to covering walls with post-it notes. Approximately 3 fortnights after the dry erase boards were installed, I was given a Neon Orange Dry Erase Marker. After some lengthy internal monologue, I put that marker where it belonged, in the trash. So when another Dry Erase product hit my desk, I was skeptical. Low Odor? High Performance? A fine tipped Dry Erase Marker? I doubted that this product could live up to the hype surrounding it.

I cast the Dry Erase Marker aside knowing that the previous "advancement" in Dry Erase Marker technology was none of the sort and went along with my day to day business. At one point however I was writing some excruciating boring technical jargon on my Dry Erase Board and realized that it was way bolder than it needed to be. My conventional Sanford Dry Erase Markers only knew how to scream text and I needed something more conversational so I begrudgingly picked up my BIC, clicked it (was satisfied by the retractable technology used to keep the marker from drying out), and began to write.

After the day was through I was a convert. If I need to write on a Dry Erase Board, I need my BIC Retractable Dry Erase Marker. It turns out the marker is definitely Low Odor. I don't know if that's just a byproduct of a narrow tip not slathering my board with the ink that needs to quickly dry and spew forth the aroma of a New Jersey Chemical Plant, but I approve none the less. Nobody's getting high off this marker any time soon. High Performance? I don't know how you judge a marker on it's performance, but it has worked whenever I needed it to. It draws pictures and writes text on demand. The retractable feature works well and means you'll never have to worry about losing or damaging your caps (around our office we have broken 2 different standard marker caps leaving the markers unusable). Should you buy some of these Dry Erase Markers for your office? Yes. Yes, you should.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hey Spies, Don't Forget the Scotch Tape

Hey all you James Bond wannabes, ready to pack for you next mission as you venture down your career path and gain a license to kill?  Don't forget your funny jet pack, your inflatable coat, your shoe phone, or your radio watch.  Add a new item to your list of spy supplies, Scotch tape.  Just get some of your standard every day tape.  You can get name brand tape or generic tape but just get some packing tape because you need wide tape.  Now as you are sneaking about an office building, if you see some frosted glass you'd like to peak through and have access to the side that has been treated, simply apply the tape to the treated side and you'll have mostly translucent glass.

The science behind it isn't very interesting.  Frosted glass is usually created by treating one side so it is no longer smooth.  The bumps and ridges in the treated side don't allow light to shine through perfectly.  Applying the adhesive from the tape to the bumps and ridges gives the glass a smooth surface again and allows you to see more clearly than before.  People report, and I believe them, that using any liquid on the surface will give the same general effect.

We don't have any frosted glass in our office.  We don't have windows in the bathroom, and there just aren't many interior windows to begin with that would need some privacy.  But I really really wanted to try this out.  Luckily I had some beach glass on my desk and of course I had a role of transparent tape.  So I dutifully attempted to apply tape to both sides of a curved piece of glass and see the results.  Unfortunately, I didn't make a whole lot of headway and small piece of glass doesn't do much when you try to look through it, but I'd say it seemed to help light through a little better.  I'm not a scientist or anything.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sushi Memo Pads

Here's something novel.  A set of memo pads that look like sushi.  It looks really cool, but beyond that there isn't a whole lot going on.  These are memo pads, not note pads.  Office Supply insiders know that memo pads are just bound with glue on one edge, but note pads are bound with a strip of adhesive along each piece.  So note pads are exactly like 3M's Post-Its while memo pads are those pads of paper that are handed out at conventions and end up in junk drawers.

The "in action" photo shows exactly who they are trying to sell these memo pads to, people who don't use their desk, but just look at it.  He's got a Rolodex right in front of the keyboard, and there's no way anybody should keep something that size between their body and their keyboard if they are planning on using it regularly.  Who honestly would attempt to keep a phone, hipster camera, expensive pens, and computer remote all perfectly aligned and square.  That just looks foolish.  After you've used the top of the memo pad and gotten down to just pieces of white paper it wouldn't be special any more so you'd have to throw it out.  Notice how approximately 2/3 of the pad is white.  Smart marketing, you would have to buy new paper 3 times as fast as if you had purchased some standard economical memo pads.

It is earth week though so really I shouldn't be telling you about products that encourage waste just to make more profit.  Here's a great way to save the earth, some cash, and your sanity.  Some great 100% recycled note pads from Sparco.  Sure these aren't Post-it brand recycled notepads, you'd pay a premium for those, I did say I was going to save you some cash didn't I?  As for saving your sanity, well these are adhesive backed notes.  The sushi notes don't have any adhesive so after you write yourself a note and rip it off the block you will promptly lose it.  With some adhesive you've got a better chance that it will stick to something and you'll remember it when you need it.  Some people might prefer the flash of a fancy memo pad, but I'll stick (get it) with a good old reliable note pad.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Exciting Voting Pen Experience

This Tuesday my wife and I were performing our civic duties and voting in our local Spring Election. We got to our local polling place, got our ballots and proceeded to our individual voting cubicles to cast our private votes. She finished 2 minutes earlier than I did, and when she asked why I had to tell the truth. They had a Pigma Micron 08 pen and I was enjoying using it. Not only did I take the time to neatly and cleanly fill out the bubbles for my choice of Supreme Court justice and school board members with the smudge-proof pen, but I even voted for the local Court of Appeals judge and municipal court judge who were running unopposed.

My wife was not so impressed, it was just a pen to her and I was just dragging my feet and keep us from a hot breakfast. I appreciated the pen for what it was though- a beautiful, well-crafted instrument of Democracy. I was only the 10th voter from my precinct at 7:10am, so there were not many people who had used the pen earlier. Still, I could tell this pen had been used and abused previously. The tip that was once an average 0.50 mm, had expanded to something that felt closer to 1.2 mm. The tip didn't split with age, like my Sharpie Pens liked to do, but just expanded very organically. Even though the pen had been to hell and back in the hands of unknown thousands of voters, it filled those bubbles perfectly and cleanly.

I'll admit it to you, my loyal readers, and no one else, but I even made sure the bubbles were slightly over-filled just because I wanted to write with the pen a little more.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Our Picks For Filling Your Bracket

We know that Office Supplies Talk is not the first site you'll check for advice on filling out your NCAA tournament bracket this year. Except for picking all four Final Four teams in 2009 (and still losing the office pool to our warehouse manager), my record has been less than outstanding. But although we can't help you decide who will win that crucial Vanderbilt-Richmond game, we can still help you fill out your bracket by answering the most important question: which pen or pencil should you use?

Like many people, I fill out about a dozen brackets while trying to determine which one is worth entering in the office pool. This year, I tested several different writing instruments to find one ideal for picking winners. As the choice between pencil or pen is a personal decision, I tried a good sample of both.

Unfortunately, my pencil test was somewhat flawed as some of my stock are 0.7mm and some are 0.5mm. Some of the slots have very limited space, so 0.5mm is preferred. Other criteria included how well the lead disperses, the eraser erases and your hand holds up. Hand cramping must be avoided to have a deep tournament run. Otherwise you may pick BYU over Florida just because it has fewer letters.

Despite only having a 0.7mm on hand, Pentel's Twist-Erase CLICK impressed me the most. It writes well, features a latex grip for comfort and lead advances with a side click instead of through the eraser. The eraser is sturdy, effective and can be replenished with a twist at the top. Best of all, it is available in a 0.5mm to make sure you can fit "Connecticut" in that little box. Honorable mention goes to the Uni-Ball Kuru Toga, which has strong, fine lead and writes smoothly. As mentioned before, it does have a small eraser with a troublesome cap, so the indecisive should be cautious. It is, however, lighter than the Twist-Erase, so consider it if you fill out several brackets in pencil.

For pens, the important factors were smoothness, legibility in small spaces, lack of smearing, weight and strength of schedule. While I don't normally prefer them in everyday writing, needle point pens became the clear choice for all bracketing needs. The needle point allowed detailed writing in tight spaces with no noticeable smearing. None stood out more than Pilot's Precise V5 RT, which is light and keeps your hand fresh for several brackets. Best of all, it is available with an extra fine point. While a little heavier, Pentel's EnerGel Needle Tip is worth a flier as well.

If you must know who I have winning the actual tournament, mark me down for Kansas.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Zombie Stationary

So, in Germany they have a channel called 13th Street that's owned by the NBCUniversal Conglomerate, and according to their literature they are well known for their crime and horror offerings.  A German design firm designed some award winning stationary for them addressing everything from stapled documents to optical disc holders.  Going off the horror angle rather than the crime angle that 13th Street currently favors they created a series of zombie heads in various states of destruction.  My favorite is the two hole punched paper.  When viewed as an individual piece of paper there are holes in the zombies heads, but when placed in a binder the zombie heads are now pierced.  The official description is: "Invoice: When filing this sheet the zombie-heads get skewered."

They also have an envelop which they describe as: "Envelope: Ripping the envelope open tears out the zombie's eyes."  You can click through to see all of the blood and gore if you so desire.  While this kind of creativity can go a long way toward keeping the young people in your office interested in filing paper work and can get your company some good press, most people prefer the a more professional approach for their businesses.  Just about anybody could be happy with standard white envelopes or if you want to be really fancy you can grab self adhesive envelopes with windows.  The whole forced ripping open of the envelopes only requires more effort as you'll have to track down some envelopes with tear strips that are affordable.

Equally interesting to me as the zombie stationary is the two-hole punched paper.  You can find tons of two-hole paper punches or tons of three-hole punched paper, but I couldn't track down any paper with just two-holes that looked like the zombie stationary.  I found a five-hole punched paper that looks to be compatible with the paper in the above picture, but they all seem to think anything different than three holes and you are working for a hospital or law office.  I couldn't even find a good two ring binder anywhere.  They seem to be readily available if you live in Europe or Australia, but in the good old United States of America we've done an excellent job of standardizing ourselves to paper with three holes and binders with three holes.