Interview with Mr. Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand (Part 1).


Mr. Aaron Draplin, of Field Notes and design fame, was kind enough to do an interview with Pencil Revolution.  Below is Part 1 (of 2) of his answers to some very pencil-specific questions.

1) Pencils are strongly represented in the DDC “longhand” series, and the Field Notes pencil seems to follow the eponymous notebooks in adventures all over the planet.  What do you like about pencils so much?

There’s just something simple and soothing about them. I mean, I don’t want to get too existential about bonded lead or anything, but, hell, there’s just so much possibility in each one! It freaks me out. That little pencil…the tool aspect…is this little gateway to a million ideas. I think about that kind of stuff with each one I crack into. In a world where things are more and more compacted, complicated, sped up and digitized, a regular old wood pencil is always there for you. Never needing to be recharged, you know?

The more I think about it, the more pencils—on some weird level—represent “complete freedom.” Freedom from digital ubiquity and predictability. There’s something cool about how you feel human when using a pencil. That feeling goes way back to guys shaping rocks into cutting tools and stuff, I’d reckon. Or, maybe only in my head!

I like feeling one with the paper. Like this odd sense of “get it down now, or it’ll be forever gone” fills my head and hands, and I just go to work. Impermanent. Graphite can be erased. Imperfect. My hands screw up all the time. Interesting. The lines vary and never come out quite like you expected them to. I hope I’m making sense, readers!

2) What are some of your favorite pencils?  Vintage, current, perhaps a great individual find?  What do you look for in a pencil?

Basically, anything that’s natural wood, and, hexagonal! Now, for the readers, who are undoubtedly “masters of the genre,” this might sound a little vague. Basically, anything that feels good in the hand. I usually go after softer leads. Just so I can sketch and keep shit freed up. Also, if the thing is “Made in the U.S.A.” that always sends a little jolt up the wrist. And finally, there’s just something incredible about an old pencil that’s seen 60 years whip by. Never, ever throw out an old pencil. Respect yer elders, citizens!

To try and get brand-specific, I had a good run with a pack of pencils by Papermate called “American Naturals.” Unfinished wood, made in the States and hexagonal. Good feel to those little guys. Still using the last one of the litter.

3) What is your preferred way to sharpen a pencil?  Blade-type-manual-sharpener, crank model, Bowie knife?

Forever, I’ve simply used my pocket knife to keep things sharp. I like the little pile of shavings it makes! I grew up with a wall mount Berol that hung over the stairs down to our basement. So there was this sense of floating when you’d lean around the wall, and hang on the pencil sharpener while sharpening. I haven’t thought of that one in a long time. Awesome. That’s what I remember.

In my junkin’ over the years, I’ve amassed a healthy collection of vintage pencil sharpeners. In fact, that’s one of the first things I look for when I enter an estate sale garage or basement workshop. And shit, I just pry that thing right off the wall and put it in my pile. Rescued! Even if I don’t use it, it’ll go to a buddy who needs one. The idea of some half-ass estate sale worker tearing it off and throwing it out just makes me sick to my stomach. So I always grab them!

Stay tuned this week for the second half of the interview, and MEGA thanks to Aaron for agreeing to do this!

[Images, A.D. Used with permission.]

21 Replies to “Interview with Mr. Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand (Part 1).”

  1. Great stuff. While he looks at new pencils as full of potential, I like to collect short stubs for an opposite yet similar reason – they’ve been used to write, draw, record, and share so much.

  2. Excellent. Especially the part about the Berol wall-mounted sharpeners. My last bastion of procrastination through all my school years. I can almost smell the musky shavings.

    Much respect to Mr. Draplin and the interviewer.

  3. i adore pencils for all these reasons and more. I love the interaction with paper and your idea- very evolutionary. I like the need for sharpening devices as a way of stopping to consider your work. As an aside I like the way you can leave one (or several) on your desk without fear of theft by co-workers.

  4. I’ve always preferred mechanical pencils myself. I guess that puts me in an odd no-man’s land. I like the freedom and immediacy of tracing graphite on paper with the flexibility of do-overs. And the line is always consistent. I just can’t bear stopping to sharpen to avoid those thick, transparent lines while I’m in the groove, rapidly firing off a sketch post-haste.

    Great article, by the way.

  5. I’m trying to make out what is in the box? Are they a covered pencils or pens?
    <3 field notes!! I use pencils at my job all the time and I have a fondness for the Mirado Black Warrrior, which was bought by Papermate about 4 -5 yrs ago. Curious how the field notes pencils matches up. I also like to collect pencils in my daily travels, and NEVER throw them away. Great Profile!!

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