The proliferation of housebrands and private labels by retailers and distributors is testimony to the profit there is to be made with them. A few years ago Office Max introduced their private label, TŪL. Initially limited to writing instruments the claimed aim was to bring the experience of a $30 pen to the public, but with a $3 price tag… to be a BMW but with a bit of fun and not so pricey. With the addition of a mechanical pencil and other items, the range now consists of eight writing instruments. I found one website where a company spokesman stated, “That brand (TŪL) is the most successful writing instrument brand in the company. It’s private label but it doesn’t look like an OfficeMax housebrand. It’s a sophisticated product.”
Office Max are big boys in the world of stationery, and if anyone should be able to get contract designers and manufacturers to produce a good product at a sharp price point then it should be them. Obviously we should expect quite a lot from a TŪL brand writing instrument.
(click to enlarge photo)Personally I quite like the TŪL brandname and its logo. It looks and sounds strong, foreign, efficient and tough.
I believe you pronounce TŪL like “tool”, but I prefer to pronounce it like I imagine Ahh-nuld the Terminator would, “I’ll be back. I just have to get my TŪL”. Taking the fun irreverent theme a step forward, you can go to the TŪL website to learn about their products and have graphologist Dr Gerard Ackerman analyse your personality via your writing style, and then suggest a pen for you. I don’t know, but I imagine that only pens are suggested, and the mechanical pencil isn’t in the running. Still, I took the test, and clearly Dr Ackerman is a genuine graphological expert, correctly categorising me as having “great inner strength”, and being both “efficient”, and “a wonderful lover”. Still, graphology is both a science and an art so and he wasn’t 100% correct, and I am still chewing on his pronunciations of me being “quick, callous, vindictive and vengeful”, and having “unfulfilled sexual expectations”. Hmm, younger readers please ask your parents for guidance.
A big long plain matt black barrel, silver metal trims…plain but classic styling again reminding me of efficiency and reliability. The black insert at the end of the pocket clip and the interesting method of attachment of the clip to the body all show the influence of design. The TŪL logo is tastefully positioned on the body and the clip. Overall then I like the look of this pencil. To my eyes, the only thing that lets the side down is the clear sections in the eraser cartridge which let the white of the eraser core be seen.Apart from the top end section the whole main body has a rubberised coating on it. This is one of those rubber coatings that I can accept. Sure, it’s not my favourite thing, but it’s plain, stylish, and actually improves the grip without being slimy or icky-squishy, or ribbed and contoured, or garish and bulbous. Another advantage is that you can grip the pencil anywhere you like as it’s all the same up the length of the body.
The pencil is fairly lightweight and feels neutrally balanced. The pocket clip is a piece of steel, lightly engraved with TŪL, and is attached to the body by an interesting moulded clip section. Down at the end of the pocket clip there is a black plastic insert to press against the body. The whole assembly looks good and works well; this is a pretty classy piece of design and manufacturing.(click to enlarge photo)
Also up at the top end of the pencil there is a twist out eraser. As I said earlier, I don’t really like the look of the eraser cartridge, and the twist out mechanism on mine was a bit of a weak point. Many times the twist action was smooth and easy, but other times it was uneven, sometimes clicking or being hard to twist. The eraser itself is a vinyl or PVC-free type and erases quite well. It is about 5mm diameter with 23mm of usable length. You pull the whole eraser cartridge out to access the lead magazine.
The eraser cartridge is the push top button for the ratchet lead advance mechanism. Ten clicks will get you 8mm of the 0.5mm lead. I believe a 0.7mm lead option is also available. The mechanism feels nice and smooth to operate. The TŪL website says this is a semi-automatic lead advancement system. I'm not really sure what that means, and they don't explain it.
The lead sleeve is a short cone suited for general writing. It is retractable for pocket safety. The lead has a lot of spring cushioning to help prevent breakage – you can really push it in and out a long way. There is a small amount of wobble of the lead sleeve within the front tip piece, but nothing out of the ordinary.
So, you folk out there who live in the homeland of OfficeMax, ever seen any TŪL products out in the wild? Are they prominent within the OfficeMax stores?
- Best Points – The looks, the interesting pocket clip attachment and strange but true, the rubberised body.
- Not So Good Points – The twist out eraser cartridge.
- Price Range – Low.
- Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – Worth a thought, but No.
Dimensions – Length 152mm, diameter 10mm. Balance point about 65mm up from the tip.