Interview with Mr. Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand (Part 2).


(Continued from Part 1.)

4) I’ve read about your extensive bullet pencil collection, with considerable jealousy. What attracts you to this type of pencil, and how did you build your collection?

First off, it’s the compact quality. I love having a tight little drawing tool in the front pocket at all times, and I’m here to tell ya, these little sonofabitches have saved my butt many a time…on airplanes, in meetings, in a pinch, wherever. I always keep one in the front, left pocket of my 501s.

I’ve kind of given up on erasers of any sort in these little guys, as the kind you’d score from a junk store or estate sale are old, old relics and the erasers are dried way up and dead. Rock hard, usually. So, there’s this certain model that didn’t come with an eraser, and just had a plastic tipped end. I collect these ferociously, with a good 20 or so hoarded away. Now, the classic type with the erasers, shit, I’ve got a couple hundred of those bad boys.

What I love about them the most, is how banal they were back in the day. Simple, cheap advertising tools given away at local businesses. Feed-n-seed joints, car lots, insurance agents, what have you. Just crappy little promo items that packed a real wallop. I’ve got a couple old salesman sample sets. Old and beat up, and a look into what it was like to have a guy sit down and say, “Here’s what we can do for your company.” So good.

I’ve built my collection junkin’ across America—scouring the dirtiest of estate sales, garage sales, junk stores, antique malls and the occasional eBay lot. You can score them in the Midwest pretty regularly, across the rustbelt and great plains. Farmers used these things. I guess a lot of them are collector’s items. I could care less. I use the things, and never pay more than eight bucks or so for them.


5) Despite the return of the famous Blackwing, pencils in America seem to be on the decline today. Models are canceled, and most companies have moved their production out of the USA. Can you comment on the current pencil offerings available in the United States in 2011?

I’m no authority on this stuff, so I’ll tread lightly here. I know this much, it’s harder and harder to make an American Made promo pencil. And, with good imprint applications that aren’t stock type crap. I was lucky enough to get a monster order in just before Christmas and man, love these things. Hex pencils, people!


6) The Field Notes pencil is downright gorgeous. With its round shape, lack of paint and green eraser, it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into it. Can you tell us a little about the design process and what made you choose its current form?

Like all Field Notes products, we started with the direction that the thing had to be natural at all costs. Finding the source with the green eraser was a happy accident. Plus, the cedar wood just smells so nice. Those things take a beating, just like our memo books! I have a pile of them all beat to shit, still kickin’ after a couple years on the scene. Those pencils WILL NOT disappoint.

7) Are there any upcoming pencil accoutrements from DDC and/or Field Notes to which Comrades might look forward? Pencil clips? Bullet pencils? Brown sharpeners with black Futura print on them?

After an exhaustive search for the perfect pencil sharpener from existing sources, we gave up on that shit and started drawing up plans with a couple Midwestern Tool & Die manufacturers to craft the ultimate hand held sharpener unit. We’re still at the point of initial CAD drawings, blade strength options and ballistic grade metal sourcing. If we can pull these little buggers off, man, they are going to rule. Just you wait. They’ll be something to marvel at. And, get the job done for the ages!

We’ve got some leather stuff coming down the pipe for Field Notes made right here in Portland by our friends at Tanner Goods. Very, very excited about this project. And yes, there’s Futura Bold on these new items. You can take that one to the bank.

MANY MANY thanks to Aaron for helping to spread writing/noting/drawing joy, the world over!

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

8 Responses to “Interview with Mr. Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand (Part 2).”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Stolte, Draplin Design Co.. Draplin Design Co. said: DDC1371: Part 2 of our interview with Pencil Revolution is up! Let's talk "bullet pencils," America. http://bit.ly/eNjG1D #compact #forever [...]

  2. logan says:

    I didn’t even know bullets existed until recently, very cool. It’s interesting that the Faber Perfect holder/extender is basically just a fancied up bullet. I’m definitely on the lookout for bullet/referee pencils now.

    Wonder when some enterprising pencil blog will order an imprinted batch from an ad specialty company. I’ve seen them in catalogs for around $1 each if you get 250+. No idea about the quality. Probably horrible.

  3. Shane says:

    Mr. Draplin is passionate about hexagonal pencils.
    Part 1: “Basically, anything that’s natural wood, and, hexagonal!”
    Part 2: “Hex pencils, people!”

    But the Field Notes pencils and the Draplin pencils on his site are round. Did he design round? Seriously curious question, no disrespect intended.

    I personally prefer round pencils. I wish I could find a natural wood finish, round, #2.5 (F) or #3 (H) pencil! Like the Field Notes pencil but harder.

  4. [...] Interview with Mr. Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand [...]

  5. hen says:

    Awesome interview John! I love the photos of his bullet pencil collection. I never knew that they existed. At first glance I thought they were hack jobs – the bottom half of old ballpoint pens fitted with short pencils. Almost like a lead holder of some sort. Hmm…. maybe I can make something work?

  6. [...] Mr. Aaron Draplin, Draplin Design Co. and Field Notes Brand (Part 1)”, February 21, 2011.Read Part 2 as well (published on February 23, 2011).(Photo by Aaron Draplin, used with permission)Aaron [...]

  7. ana says:

    Thanks so much for the interview! I’d love to see the bullet advertising pencil revived! Maybe a Field Notes bullet pencil will be a future endeavor?

  8. Ryan says:

    I love bullet pencils & would like and help with replacing the erasers on older pencils where the eraser is intact but all dried out. I’m trying to pull out old ones and put back in new ones w/o tearing them all to pieces. Thanks for any advice you can give. Great interviews!

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