For the record.

There were a number of accusations levied against the Revolution last week, and since a few hundred people read them before we were able to take them down, I suppose it’s appropriate to address them here, in a non-belligerent spirit, since we are a peaceful Revolution.

First, no, this site was not created as a joke, and many hours a week do not go into it as a joke. If some folks do not like pencils and prefer pens or computers, they are perfectly free not to be a part of our community.

It was suggested last week that we are promoting the killing of the planet’s trees through promoting the use of pencils. This is completely false. None of the manufacturers that we recommend go out and cut down trees for pencils that are not grown for that purpose and are not replaced. This is akin to claiming that meat comes from cows shot down in the forest. The fact is that some companies (like Faber-Castell and Staedtler) grow their own wood for their pencils on land where there were no trees before. Our friends at Cal Cedar are the largest pencil slat manufacturer in the world, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more responsible grower. Plainly, a pencil company that did not replenish its supply of wood would be committing corporate suicide. What some manufacturers did in the 19th and early 20th centuries is irrelevant.

No, Thoreau would not roll over in his grave because we promote the killing of the planet. Most Thoreau fans are aware of his innovations in pencil manufacturing and the fact that his family’s money came from making pencils and superior graphite. He never loved pencils but viewed them at best as tools, and usually as a way to make money for his father’s company. He didn’t sit around thinking about how great pencils are, so we could not “justify” the deforestation of the planet by how Thoreau felt about pencils. Besides, Thoreau never ventured far enough from Concord to actually see any wood that was made into pencils anyway. He never went to the South to see Red Cedar or to the West to see Incense Cedar (which wasn’t being used yet). And his ethic of simplicity would surely not shun pencils and probably not even blogs and gel pens.

No, we will not be promoting products from the likes of Proctor and Gamble, etc. First, they don’t make pencils. Second, we do not promote products from any company that engages in animal testing. California Republic doesn’t. Dixon doesn’t. Sanford doesn’t. The Germans don’t. Promoting pencils from companies that test on animals (parent companies, too) is not an issue now that Gillette no longer owns PaperMate and Parker anyway. Even Bic has a moratorium that has been in place for several years.

Our editor (me) was called a “corporate goon” and “a sad, sad corporate sellout.” While we very happily promote products we like and very gladly accept samples to review, we do not take money for our reviews. Period. This site is run out of my own pocket and never from any company. We would be very foolish indeed to take money from the manufacturers of what we review if we coupled this with the expectation that anyone trust what we say. Yes, we promote some pencils like the Palomino moderately aggressively, but that is soley because it is such a great pencil, made by great people, that more pencil lovers should try. We are spreading the word, not lining our pockets. Name-calling is just mean. If I am a sell-out because I freely promote pencils that lots of people think are great and not well-known enough, then sell-out I am.

A thousand apologies if we offend whoever anonymously posted the original list of reasons why Pencil Revolution is “stupid”; that is not our intention. However, the record must be set straight, and every effort has been made to be straight forward and not vindictive. We have no intention of being contentious.

22 Replies to “For the record.”

  1. I wonder if the enthusiasts for pens, computers, and other plastic based products know the plastic in them is petroleum based. When the world runs out of oil, pencils will still be around. Viva la pencil..

  2. I must have missed the hubbub that necessitated a defense of the Revolution; be that as it may, I think PR is an awesome site and recommend it to lots of people!! Thank you for spending your own time and money to introduce new pencil products, provide comprehensive reviews and luscious photos to delight true pencil lovers everywhere! THANK YOU!

  3. That’s upsetting. It seems so silly to have to defend a simple site dedicated to the love of pencils, for god’s sake. Keep up the GREAT work and don’t let the naysayers squelch your enthusiasm. We need you.

  4. I don’t know what went on here last week, but this is a gem of a post: polite, thoughtful and apparently well-researched.

    Well done in responding to whatever criticisms were directed your way.

    And I hope you’ll be able to laugh at the “corporate goon” comment – if not now, someday. ;)

  5. Yet another situation that proves that no good deed (Pencil Revolution) goes unpunished or uncriticised.

    However, I would like further inquiry into the issue of animal testing of pencils.

    Would they have to be cloven hoofed in order to hold the pencil?

    Would the testing include both writing and erasing?

    It goes without saying that sharpening would be the most cruel form of PETA perversion.

  6. Many many thanks. I think the post in question was sort of a joke and I think it was from a friend of mine, but I didn’t want anyone to think that we get paid to write good reviews of the pencils we write about. I think that’s important. To be sure, if we test a pencil that sucks, we’ll say so. :)

    SourDuck, I’m already laughing a little. I got fired from a job once, where I was told, “You’re just not corporate enough.” Not that there’s anything wrong with being “corporate” — just that we are not in the practice of getting paid for good reviews at Pencil Revolution. That said, it is very pleasing to help spread the word about the pencils we like, in hopes that companies will continue to make them (and they won’t go the way of the Blackwing) and others like them.

    Ray, I think the issue of animal testing only comes up with pencils when the parent company tests on animals, as in the former case of Gillette (who used to own PaperMate and Parker) — or maybe in some toxicity testing. But some Photo-Shopped photos or illustrations of various animal Comrades being made to write with pencils would be hilarious! Can anyone come up with these?

  7. I must say I missed the hubbu too, but I would be remiss if I did not say how much I appreciate your time and effort in the Pencil Revolution’s name. Keep up this exceptional site. I love it.

  8. Hey John, don’t let it distract you from the path your on with PR. It’s a good path.

    As the saying goes, some people wouldn’t be happy if you hung them with a new rope. There’s always naysayers out there. The fact you’re drawing these types is part of being an increasingly popular site. Trolls are an unfortunate artifact of the Internet. If you don’t feed them, they’ll go away. ;-)


  9. Your response was well thought out and extremely elequent. Great writing! It is a shame, though, that you had to write it in the first place.

    Now, back to some more reviews, please!

  10. I, too, missed the attack on this wonderful site and if that was from a friend, then one might reconsider the definition of the relationship.

    Love the idea of animal testing, if we could get my cats to leave notes and take messages.

    Onward with the pencil mania!

  11. Pencil Revolution is one of my favorite blogs within the blog community. It’s so good that you wouldn’t even know it was a blog. Keep up the great work young lad and those reviews. I haven’t used a pencil since ’99 and now I use one because you have inspired me to do so. Many thanks!

  12. I missed whatever it is you’re responding to, here, as well.

    Don’t let that kind of thing bother you. Everyone has different preferences. No matter what you like, someone will think you’re crazy (or worse) for liking it. In the real world, you rarely hear from them on things as harmless and inconsequential as choice of writing instrument. But on the Internet, some people go looking for a fight.

    Ignore ’em.

    I like it here. And it seems I’m far from the only one.

  13. A serious attempt to criticise PR on the basis of cruelty to animals would be a sad thing, so I hope it was an attempted wind-up on the part of a friend. Perhaps said friend needs to try a bit harder to come up with a truly preposterous claim against the benign pencil.

    For example, one might claim that a blog devoted to pencils cruelly disregards the animals who cannot read it, and that only a concerted effort by literate animals to share the contents with their non-literate comrades would provide a just resolution to the disparity.

    All you chicken farmers out there should know that the hens are waiting to hear the latest news.

  14. John –
    I wouldn’t worry about all this. A little controversy goes a long way to getting the word out about what a great site PR is and just gave us all a bit more to interact about.

    For what it’s worth the only area I can guess that there may be any potential for animal testing is in production of cosmetic pencils. So far as I know none of our customers are involved in such testing. I’ll check into it when I next talk to any of them and let you know.

    Without your site and kind support through your reviews I would have never bothered with setting up our ebay site to make the Palomino and some other secialty items available here in the US. I wouldn’t have great Pencil Revolutionaries like Frank C. and other new fans trying out our products. We wouldn’t have great photos being posted on the Flickr site to further build our connections. You provide a great service for anyone interested in pencils from any walk of life and in my book should win an award for what you’ve accomplished in the blogging community for one of the best new blogs of 2005.

    As for negative comments on wood use in pencils all I can say is “keep on sharpening”. All species of trees used for pencils (and all commercial species for that matter) have multiple uses for wide product ranges. One less tree consumed due to lower pencil demand doesn’t change the fact that the tree would still be used for another purpose bulding somebody’s home, fence, deck, furniture or whatever. Reduced demand across a wide range of products would just stimulate lower prices which then drive demand back up to normal long term sustainable harvest levels from any well managed forest.

    It’s simple economics and has nothing to do with “social or environmental judgement” until or unless you get non-market interventions by politicians cow towing to the environmental vote to remain incumbent in their office.

    And guess what happens then, supply gets artificially restricted and prices go up for the consumer until some new substitute wood joins the market from another developing country with less sound management principles and poor governance over harvest policy to meet that demand. Then the Chinese, Indonesians, etc. replace the US. Latin American and European jobs in the industry. The end results:
    – the consumer gets a cheaper but inferior performing product with greater risk of some toxicity issue
    – the developing countries get richer and westerners lose their jobs
    – a net increase in negative environmental impact globally due to less efficent use of resources and poorer environmental practices in developing countries.

  15. woodchuck,

    Great post. Your understanding of ecomomics is second to none…

    Now, when are you going to start selling those new items you mentioned in another post on your ebay storefront?

  16. Frank C –

    Thanks for the compliment, but I’m no Milton Friedman.

    The Palomino 2B, B, H & 2H samples just arrived and I’m doing a little testing right now. The Palomino Acquarelle pencils will be arriving in another couple of weeks. I expect to get these all listed on Pencil World store by mid November along with a couple other surprises in the Palomino line.

  17. Woodchuck, that’s excellent news! I was going to order some Prismacolor Watercolor pencils, but I was holding out for the Palomino Watercolors. If they’re anything like the colored Palominos in the gorgeous box and pencil finish, we’re in for a treat with those!

  18. Woodchuck, good argument on most points. But consider this point a bit further:

    – the developing countries get richer and westerners lose their jobs.

    It’s quite likely that Westerners get richer as they own quite a bit of the industry in question, and the profit margins are higher when environmental, labour, and other costs are kept down by ignoring concerns about deforestation, loss of habitat, increased runoff, absence of job security, lower wages and so on.

    The caveat is that I don’t know the specifics of pencil production as it pertains to a globalising industry, and it’s clear that plenty of people here do know, so maybe I’m blowing the wrong end of the straw.

    But even with the caveat, I’d rewrite your sentence as ‘developing countries bear the brunt of environmental degradation, western shareholders get richer, former employees get shafted, and the consumer gets a pencil at a lower price, but at what cost?

    One more thing. Cow towing sounds like fun, just like cow tipping, but I think you mean kowtowing, from the Chinese (Mandarin) kòu tóu, a kowtow: kòu, to knock + tóu, head. Head-knocking in order to show deference. I do wish more politicians would do that.

  19. e-tat –

    I appreciate your comments on who owns the production and for the language lesson. I would propbably agree with your re-write as a generalization across a range of industries.

    With respect to the Pencil Industry & the timber/lumber supply chain in China. The vast majority are owned by Chinese interests particularly in the timber/lumber part of the value chain. While there has been more Western investment in pencil slat production and some in finshed pencil production (us at CalCedar, Dixon and a few others), the great majority of capacity in this segment is again Chinese owned and controlled at this point.

    The Indonesians have a mixed base of domestic and German producers.

    You might say that Western (or perhaps more appropriately developed country) producers & marketers for the most part are purchasing finished product from these Asian producers. To the traditional manufacturers are doing so at delivered costs lower than domestic production costs and they are not forced by the powerful big box retailers to give away all those gains, then yes the traditional manufacturers and marketers may be reaping the gains. In reality most of the profit gains are going to the steamship and transportaion providors of the longer supply chain from Asia, to the ever powerful retailers and passed on as savings to the consumer.

  20. I thought your response was very professional. Although I did not see the original blog, I do urge you to continue your efforts. As a member of the fountain pen network, in addition to the pencil revolution, I find your information very informative and helpful. I also like the professional and positive approach and tone of this site.

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