Field Notes Pencil in Action.

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One of the projects of my summer has involved putting in a new laminate floor at my parents’ house with one of my brothers. This is a frame house in Baltimore that dates back to at least 1880 and didn’t have plumbing, electricity or heat when it was built. Having houses of our own, it is difficult for Joe and I to find time (and energy) for this project. But it did provide a great opportunity to try my Field Notes Carpenter Pencil in The Field.

We also tried a promotion carpenter pencil we found in my mother’s antique desk (that’s been there since for nearly two decades, I’d imagine) and a USA-made Home Depot carpenter pencil with the date 2003 (bought in 2006).

The promotional pencil is now two inches long. Nothing would sharpen the porous wood and crumbly lead. My brother was attempting to use this on the first day before I got there with better pencils. He was relieved that it was not his sharpening efforts but, rather, a truly junky pencil that was frustrating him. The naturally-finished Home Depot pencil was actually very good, the best “commercial” carpenter pencil I’ve used. The wood (not cedar; I doubt it) was very…waxy from a successful treatment to make it easy to sharpener with a knife or utility blade. The lead left a bit of a light line, but it didn’t crumble or break. It was smeary though, leaving graphite all over the sharpened wood of the pencil. This surprised me for a pencil that made such a light mark.

I might have been biased because the Field Notes pencil was the most expensive and the one I wanted to work best. But it performed very well. The wood sharpened as well as the Home Depot pencil, and the lead was very strong. Even better, the lead was darker and didn’t seem to stain the wood and our project. The line stayed put. It performed on wood like a soft Castell 9000 does on paper, producing a sharp, dark line. The wood is not cedar, but the finish of the pencil is pretty nice. The black paint and white lettering are sharp, though we did lose it a few times because it was dark on the opposite side and hid itself in shadows while we had the ceiling fan and light down (before installing the new one).

Also, envy my wonderful sharpening job (accomplished with a very sharp blade and a few minutes of careful cutting)!
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Finally, I gave sharpening a carpenter pencil with an oscillating tool a shot, just to see what it was like. Don’t do it! In addition to doing an even worse job of sharpening the pencil than I thought I would, I am probably lucky to still have all of my digits. This could largely be because I do not have a lot of skill with this tool. But I don’t think this is a good way to practice to perfection skills with a tool I do not actually like.

The Field Notes carpenter pencils are available in three packs for $4.95. I bought these the first time I saw them this winter. (There are white and red ones floating around, for the collectors out there.) While you’re there, could someone please explain to me how there are still America the Beautiful editions left? That edition has probably the most graphite-friendly paper Field Notes has ever used. I am down to my last notebook from my last set of those, which I have been using very sparingly. Try one! This is one of my three favorite editions, I think.

5 Responses to “Field Notes Pencil in Action.”

  1. Cory Rothlisberger says:

    A) Why are you not just refinishing those beautiful 100+ year old floors?!?!?!
    B) If that house is anything like my 100+ year old house, then have fun squaring things up!
    C) I’ll have to post shots of my FN carpenter pencil in action as I work on my son’s closet this weekend…

    • John says:

      The floors are in VERY bad shape. There are gaps between the planks and some sagging here and there. I am not a huge fan of laminate, but the floor is becoming much more…quiet now. :)

      Squaring has been very challenging. We went into a closet that was not built as a closet, next to the dis-used fireplace. The walls were flexible. Rather than framing and drywalling the closet from the inside (!!!!), we ran the planks in the closet perpendicularly to the rest of the room and then screwed them down. Now it acts as a nice edge for the main planks of the room. But we’re about to hit the radiator and associated exposed pipes that run upstairs — gracious!

  2. whatchamacallit says:

    John, you hand-sharpened that Field Notes pencil!? Look at that perfectly straight perpendicular line of paint you left at the taper! I hope David Rees sees this.

    • John says:

      I did that on purpose to keep my lines straight and then cut toward the point from there — totally cheated. :)
      I certainly don’t have Mr. Rees’ skills. :)

  3. Cory says:

    Clearly, I have to work on my sharpening skills to obtain that perfect cut line…

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