WHEN it comes to everyday marking, I confess I most often make do with a carpenter’s pencil, and yes, it is sometimes stored behind my ear rather than in the neat little slip pockets provided in the holsters of my work trousers. The truth is, I am often just cutting bits of timber roughly to length ready for preparation, so I don’t need anything more sophisticated.
But I am always sure to bring along some other markers when I go on site – usually two or three different types – because you never know what materials you might come across and what level of accuracy will be required in the marking. Very often, any marker that improves accuracy is not only to be welcomed but embraced.
Some readers will be familiar with the ACER markers reviewed in these pages some time ago. But in the tool trade, as in life, things change, so the new TRACER markers should be seen as an evolution and development of the originals.
As we can see on closer examination, the TRACER markers incorporate a lot of mini-improvements that are the result of consumer feedback and further development work by the Royd Tool Group team.
I would characterise the new TRACER markers as more grown-up and accomplished versions of the ACER markers that makes them easier to use, more efficient and more versatile.
The new TRACER designs keep all the subtle bits of design that made the ACER version easy to use. For example, you still have the pimpled finger grips on the cases and the tiny, but important, barbed hook on the pocket clips that keeps them in the pocket when the pen is pulled out for use.
Different pens for different marks
The TRACER marker that I used the most was the deep hole pencil marker. It has the virtue of being a simple pencil marker as well as having the potential to mark through a hole up to 50mm deep, and a lot deeper if you are prepared to risk the lead and extend it by pressing the button on the top of the marker. For my common usage, a marking depth of 50mm is enough for marking through the thickness of most battens that I fix to walls.
But it is the subtleties of the design that add to the user-friendly qualities of the pencil TRACER and make it a go-to.
Firstly, the case has been made just fat enough to fit snugly into the slit pockets on the front of many designs of work trousers. The snugness of fit means that when you pull the pencil out, the case doesn’t come with it and makes the possibility of losing it as you clamber around on site that much less.
But if you are wearing the pencil in a shirt pocket with a case, the subtle dot design on each side of the pocket clip means that fingers can grip the case easily as you pull the pencil out. I have already mentioned the tiny ‘barb’, common to all the markers, on the inside of the pocket clip that prevents the case from being pulled out of the slit pockets easily. Such detail in a ‘simple’ marker product – it is hard not to be impressed.
In a further refinement, showing how subtle the designers have been, It is possible to clip the pen to a shirt pocket because it too has a small clip. This of course risks getting pencil marks on the inside of your pocket, but that is up to you. I also really like the way the last few millimetres at the top of the marker flares out, making it easy to grip, even for gloved fingers.
The leads seem to be soft enough for making easy marks but hard enough to last a while without needing sharpening. TRACER designers have solved the problem of the disappearing lead sharpener by making it integral to the top of the pocket case clip. I think it’s a great idea simply because, on reflection, I have lost all the sharpeners on almost every marker pencil I have ever used, so I rely on a sharp utility knife blade to do the honours. This can lead to some crude pencil points and lots of wasted leads.
Of course, it is always handy to have a spare lead around for replacements. Housed in a case that is very similar to the markers, users can buy a selection of leads in a couple of different colours, and these are easily dispensed via the revolving top.
I like this pencil and it has gone straight into my daily ‘must have’ tool workbox.
Deep hole marker with ink
Sometimes when deep hole marking (like onto glass or other very smooth surfaces), a pencil is no good because it will not make a mark. It is then time to reach for the deep hole ink marker, which is very effective at marking on laminates, glass, etc. As I write, my right forefinger still bears the mark of an encounter with the pen tip. A quick ‘swipe with a wipe’ will get rid of it, but the point of this marker is to provide a clear, longer lasting and visible mark, and it does this very well.
Clog-free markers – Never mind the dust, rust and dirt
The three clog-free TRACER markers I was sent to try look, at first glance, exactly like the pencil marker. But a comparison reveals that the pocket case has a shorter point to allow for a thicker pen body and the ink reservoir for the sturdy felt tip marking point. Since felt tip pens need a case to hold the ink and protect from drying out, the pocket case needs to be sturdy and effective – which these ones are.
The markers come in three colours – black, red and blue – so users can choose what colour is most likely to show up clearly on whatever material they are using. The marks on my fingers after playing around with the pens on different surfaces, show that the ink is semi-permanent, but will come off quite easily with soap and water or a multi-wipe.
I tried marking on dirty, rusted, dusty and slightly oily surfaces and the pens came up trumps – they do deserve the name ‘clog free’ because dust and other stuff simply doesn’t seem to affect their ability to make a usable mark and the marks dry quickly enough so as not to smudge too easily.
I have never doubted that evolution can often be better than revolution. ACER to TRACER is a case in point – a basically sound product has been thoughtfully improved, and I am sure this will make end users even more likely to choose it.