Save over 45% on this Italian designed inkless pen that writes forever

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/06/12/save-over-45-on-this-italian.html

So they are selling a pen that burns paper?

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After many years of not finding the right pen for me I eventually found out that what I wanted was a good 2B pencil.

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Nope. It’s just a piece of lead alloy. I.e. literally a lead pencil, albeit one that leaves an extremely faint mark because it deposits so little material and thus lasts practically forever. (Or actually forever, because I imagine most people stick them in a drawer and never use them.)

I remain confused as to why Boingboing’s shop keeps flogging these (though I have an idea*) but even more confused as to why these keep getting described as “pens” when they’re pretty much the opposite in terms of how they work (no ink) and the effect (i.e. you use a pen because you want to make a dark mark, not a very light one).

*My idea being that the mark-up on these things must be enormous, as they’re literally just a piece of lead that probably costs less than a dollar in labor and materials.

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here we go again

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It does not last forever, of course if you use it. It will wear down as you drag it across paper.

You’re right, it’s a pencil, and a faint pencil at that. So it will end up in a drawer forever, probably.

Boing Boing knows that it’s not a pen, knows that it’s a rip-off - and this is at least the third time they’ve offered a pencil like this. They claim it’s not lead - but don’t say what the alloy is. That’s irrelevant - it’s false advertising all the way around.

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In this case it looks like the whole stylus, minus the wood inserts, is made out of the material and is thus a drawing surface, so it could potentially last quite a while. Of course, it’ll be an even more crap drawing tool once the pointed ends have blunted, but that just guarantees it’ll end up in a drawer and stay there forever.

Last time these got sold, I scoured the internet, trying to figure out what they were made of. Very pointedly, almost none actually mentioned the material they’re made of. Only one copped to being made from a lead alloy, and since they all appear to the same, I’m guessing that’s true for all as well. So anyone claiming it’s “not lead” I suppose is technically correct as it’s actually a “lead alloy”…

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So… technically, just a super shitty pencil…

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Yeah, but 800 times more expensive than a good one.

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image

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I’ve not been able to identify the patent (it may not be a US patent). However, they do have a video aggrandizing their inkless pencil pen by comparing it to da Vinci using a bone handled silver stylus. When they extol over the virtues of their alloy they throw some specs on the screen without mentioning the actual metals in the alloy:

Unfortunately nobody seems to have conveniently posted a web page with reference to an alloy with a density of exactly 8545 kg/m^3 and a hardness of 2.10 Mohs. Definitely not pure lead, though, if those figures are true since lead is denser and softer. But it could be all sorts of other things. Not my field, so I don’t know how to narrow it down.

Also to be noted, this “pen” only works properly on uncoated paper:

The ETHERGRAF® tip microscopically “scratches” paper, oxidizing it and thus leaving a light but precise mark. Thanks to its porosity, common paper - that is to say paper in non-treated cellulose - perfectly reacts to the passage of the metal tip.

The presence of bonding agents, mineral fillers, dyes or additives in paper compromises its natural absorption capacity, thus making oxidation partially impossible at the contact with the ETHERGRAF® tip.

That’s why our styluses never aimed at replacing common writing tools, but go beyond the concept of pure function, transforming themselves into the perfect design accessory for those who always like having a story to tell.

[emphasis added]
So, what you are saying, is that they don’t actually function that well but you are trying to sell that as a feature rather than a bug.

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I dunno, those limited edition blackwing retro pencils that you see articles here on BB aren’t cheap either…

(says the guy who just bought a surplus bulk pack of mechanical pencils for $5 for the kiddo to use/destroy…)

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The fact that one manufacturer admitted to it being a lead alloy, and everyone else goes to great lengths to avoid mentioning the material completely, but they all appear identical, convinced me that they’re all lead alloys.
Also, I just saw this:


Obviously it’s not made of silver. So it sounds like a lead-tin or lead-bismuth alloy, perhaps?

I had forgotten this, but this particular brand sometimes claims that the “pen” doesn’t work by depositing metal on the surface, but by “oxidizing” the paper. Which is clearly utter nonsense, based on the silver mark being left. So whatever they say about the make-up of the material is also bullshit.

That seems to be fundamental to the sales pitch, in multiple ways. (E.g. how it “writes forever” - but only because it deposits so little material you’ll never actually use it)

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The link posted earlier to Pininfarina specifically claims “zero lead”. I don’t know if that is true, but if they really do have a patented alloy then other similar looking products might actually use completely different alloys. That link also claims the tip oxidizes the paper fiber by “scratching” it. I can’t tell if that explanation is BS or not or if it just sounds wrong because of the translation.

Tha’s not the same brand of inkless pen. That’s a Kmizera, which is explicitly a lead tip, not an Italian Pininfarina, which is explicitly zero lead. The tips look similar and might be identical, but they could also be completely different in composition.

It’s a claim they’ve made in various places, and they’ve been pretty clear about the claim, so it’s not a translation error. What it is, is totally, obviously BS - if it were oxidizing the paper, the stylus would be turning the paper yellow/brown/black (and different kinds of paper would have marks of varying darkness depending on e.g. the existing acid content of the paper), but that’s not what happens, at all. Just like every other one of these silverpoint styluses, it leaves behind a silvery trace of the material it’s made of. Oxidation clearly doesn’t come into it. (Also, I don’t remember my high school chemistry very well, but “this metal causes oxidation” seems like nonsense to me, fundamentally. An acid would cause oxidation, not a metal.)

Given what blatant nonsense that claim is, I wouldn’t believe their “no lead” claim either. Whoever is making the claims for the product is a bald-faced liar and/or utterly clueless about the product (and misled by someone else). If we’re being charitable, someone told the marketer that it was made of an alloy, not 100% lead and they turned it into “100% lead free!” (Though that still doesn’t explain the weird oxidation claim.) It’s theoretically possible it’s an alloy of something else traditionally used for silverpoint styluses (e.g. tin), but there’s no reason to think so, especially since it’s identical to the ones with lead in them. I’m unconvinced by their claim that it’s a trademarked, patented alloy they call “Ethergraf,” as it only seems to exist in marketing copy.

It looks to me that they took the same kind of (Chinese-made) lead-alloy pencil that everyone else has, branded it with the name of a famous Italian automobile design company, and hugely increased the already obscene mark-up.

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PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE no awkward rich guys telling me stories about their fucking metal pencils

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