WHEN I head out to the worksite or workshop, I usually have a pocketful of markers and pencils – just in case, I tell myself; absolutely nothing to do with having too much choice and being slightly disorganised(?), writes PETER BRETT.
The pile of markers also owes a lot to the fact that my work trousers all have holster pockets that accommodate all the markers quite easily and I like having a choice to deal with the variety of marking tasks that I encounter in a day’s work.
For simple marking, I have the traditional carpenter’s pencil – in fact, a couple with different sharpened points – for use on wood and plaster. I also have a Marxman for easy marking of things that hang, like blinds and coat hooks, and a permanent felt tip marker for plastics and such. Oh, and sometimes just an ordinary round pencil too.
But what if I could get away with having just one or two markers that had multiple uses and were genuinely so easy to use that I could dispense with the pocketful of pencils?
The ACER choices
Choice is good and in the ACER case we have two markers – a retractable pencil and a double tipped marker pen. They are available separately or as a pair and each one deserves a bit of print to explain their USPs.
The retractable pencil is about as long as a standard pencil but is slightly thicker with a 45mm-long chromed shaft that contains the lead. The lead is advanced in small steps by simply pushing down on the green button on the top of the marker. This system works very well for simple marking where the soft 2B lead can mark a point on commonly used materials. If you push down on the button and hold it down the lead can be advanced in bigger steps, taken out or replaced – just like a standard propelling pencil, but tougher. The bright green hi-vis button is also a sharpener – simply pull it off and sharpen the lead to a nice point should you want a nice thin line. Despite the fact that the pencil was subject to my trouser pockets for several weeks the sharpener is still in place. If you were to keep the marker in a shirt pocket, the possibility of losing the sharpener probably wouldn’t arise.
ACER claims that the pencil will make a mark up to 100mm in depth in a tiny 3mm hole – which is true if you extend the lead right out by pressing the button. This extension makes the lead quite vulnerable, but they are stronger than other leads I have used in the past. In a bigger hole – 6mm and up – the length of the metal shaft can be added to the lead length to give a marking depth of 145mm. In reality I rarely needed to mark these depths and often the length of the metal shaft gave me enough length and access to do the job.
But I found that it was other things about the marker pencil that appealed to me more. There is a practical clip for attaching to pockets that works well – it is easy to clip on and take off and looks like it won’t break off easily. I also liked the fact that it comes with a couple of yellow leads which are easier to use on some darker coloured materials. There is also an option of getting the site holster – in effect an outer case that clips onto pockets, trousers, etc. Simply slip the pencil into the holster to give the point excellent protection without sacrificing ease-of-access when working. My work partner and I both agreed that the site holster would be a key choice in our continued use of the pencil.
Double tipped marker pen
Graphite markers are not always the best ways of making marks on plastics and some metals, and an ink tip is the answer here. The ACER Double Tipped Marker Pen is a similar shape to the pencil and will give a marking depth of up to 30mm in a 2mm diameter hole and around 45mm in a 5mm diameter hole. Selecting the thin or wide marking tip is simply a case of pulling out the pen tip and reversing it.
The marks left by the pen dry quickly and are long lasting, but can be cleared off with an industrial wipe if needed. My guess is that this pen might also be used as a general marker on site and on plans, for example. I used it quite a lot for making marks on the fence of my mitre saw when making repeat cuts – quicker than a stop when pinpoint accuracy is not needed for the cuts.
I would argue that the site holster is a requirement for users of this pen in order to avoid ink marks in pockets, but that is no hardship.
Keep it simple
The motto ‘Keep it Simple’ very often applies on the jobsite, so any new piece of kit needs to find its niche if it is going to be widely adopted. Since I am always trying out new things there is often a sifting process that takes place. There is a lot to like about these markers – they both proved to be up to the rigours of regular site use. If I organised my pockets and they were easily to hand I found that I used them a lot because they were easy to use and efficient. The site holsters were very helpful in ensuring that they were in the right place all the time and were replaced again.
The fact that the pencils come singly or as a kit with box and spare leads means that users can have options to suit their preferences.
I really liked the narrow shafts that enabled deep marking into holes as it saves an enormous amount of hassle when hanging things or screwing battens to walls, for example.
Looking at my holster pockets I find that I have ditched a couple of pencils and the thick felt tip marker. The ACER markers have taken up residence in their place.