I am coming off of a Pencil Drought, during which I “won” NaNoWriMo using only gel pens for speed. As I mentioned on the podcast, my brain doesn’t relax around pencils, no matter how much I prefer them. True to form, I got sick literally two hours before the month was over, but my words were in, and all was well. With NyQuil, that is. I am happy to have found new blogs, as I come back down to the world of graphite and writing at a normal speed.
In no particular order, here are two great new additions to The Stationery Blogosphere.
Pencilism, by Luke Sinclair, author of the great hand-sharpening guide featured here. There is some great writing already on Luke’s blog, including a great post that is a moving piece on the meaning of pencils.
For some reason, I had no idea that this blog existed until tonight, when I renewed my Thoreau Society membership dues (which were late): The Roost. Check out the post about sleeping on hot and humid nights here. Coming off of our first official heat wave of the summer, I feel like some very un-Thoreauvian planet-killer; we have central air conditioning that I am not shy about using on nights like this, though I suspect central Maryland was far hotter and stickier than Massachusetts was.*
With Mr. Thoreau’s birthday coming up and my trip to Massachusetts coming up next month, Henry is on my mind a lot lately. What would he think of a pencil blog? Would he just be happy people do things without computers? Would he be appalled that I prefer a wedge sharpener to a manual knife?
Would Henry listen to our podcast?
*At least the few years I lived there were not as terrible as a Maryland summer.
Ron from Pen Chalet contacted we Erasable guys about picking a cool mechanical pencil to review. I think we all picked the same pencil, in the same color: the Monteverde One Touch Stylus Tool Mechanical Pencil. My only previous review of a mechanical pencil was the blue knock-free pencil that I enjoyed. I find that I prefer mechanical pencils (and pens) that echo the shape of a hexagonal wooden pencil. So this heavy yellow pencil was a natural choice. Bear with me if my terms are terrible or if my understanding of mechanical pencils is less than basic.
This pencil is heavy, metal and features various measuring standards along the yellow lacquered barrel. The point is exposed by twisting the gnarled metal at the business end. The lead is 9mm. There is a stylus on the end where you’d expect to find an eraser, and there are screwdrivers hidden underneath of it.
I’m going to start with the non-pencil attributes of this pencil. First, the screwdrivers. This might be a bit…confessional. But I really (!) like to have a small philips screwdriver with whatever pencil kit I might be carrying to the coffeeshop, while traveling, etc. Why? That little screw on manual/blade pencil sharpeners! I do not know why this is so important to me. But that little purpose justifies not finding an eraser where I thought I would. The bit is two-sided, with a flathead screwdriver on the flipside. This is useful for prying staples and stuck pencil box lids.
The stylus works very well. It’s soft and really flows with the design of the pencil. I’ve seen many such styli that put me in mind of a giant Santa Claus in a stickpen. This is a sort of Stealth Stylus, and it works very well on my Android-powered phone. A Comrade visiting HQ when the package arrived marvelled at this feature as much as the impressive heft of the entire instrument.
What I like best about the stylus is that one is not stuck using it with the pencil held upsidedown, with the clip in your way. I stared at the threading around the point of the pencil for a while before I figured out that the stylus screws onto there. Then you are in business to comfortably play touchscreen games to your rubber-tipped content. You an also attach in there while using the screwdriver to replace your aging KUM brass wedge so as not to misplace it.
Speaking of the point, it comes off. I admit that I only found this out after looking at a website which explained how to access the green eraser. This is a simple friction fit.
The eraser works well in removing graphite from paper. But its flexibility and its concealment would have me reaching for an External Eraser, truth be told. Removing the eraser reveals the extra leads also.
Now, the point. I really like the feed mechanism, which merely involves turning the gnarled portion of the point until the amount of lead you prefer is exposed. Gone is the guesswork involved in the click mechanism:
Three clicks are too many;
Two are too few.
I don’t want my point to break;
What’s a guy to do?
The leads are 9mm, which are pretty thick. I prefer 7mm and 9mm to thinner leads for several reasons, not the least of which is that using a lead that thick often involves The Turn (turning the point for a better/sharper surface), as I am accustomed to having to perform in using wooden pencils. The provided leads are soft and smooth, running at least near a B or even a 2B. In testing this pencil out, I joyfully ran off several sheets worth of Morning Pages, and I enjoyed the feel of this lead very much. While I still have a particular fondness for cheap Bic mechanical pencils, the leads in this tool might make a mechanical pencil snob* out of me yet. There is some odd play which acts as a sort of cushion for the lead that took a while to get used to. But I probably wore down half of the first lead trying this out, and I never broke a point. So whatever that cushioning is, it works.
This pencil is certainly heavy — perhaps doubly so if you are used to the weight of a wooden pencil. However, even with an old hand injury** acting up, I did not find using this pencil to be uncomfortable at all. In fact, the hexagonal shape and wide barrel were a natural fit in my ailing right hand. I was skeptical with myself regarding whether I could intelligently review such a fine pencil, or whether I could even appreciate it. But this is certainly the most fun I’ve had reviewing a mechanical pencil, and it has become a Jewel of my toolbox. In fact, not owning a “real” Blackwing myself, this is the most valuable pencil I own. Still, it is currently on sale for a mere $32.00. If you want an exquisite tool that solves several problems related to writing, this is a must-have.
I hope this review does justice to Ron’s generosity and to the really cool design of this pencil. Check out Andy’s review for better pictures (and a GIF!) and some seriously detailed Reviewsmanship. Many thanks to Ron, especially for his patience with a pencil that got lost in the mail.
* Certainly, I use that term here purely in jest.
** From cycling. You should see what my gloves looked like!
Our special National Pencil Day episode is up for your Enjoyment and Consideration. Congrats again to our winners!
Hogyun Lee has recently written one of the most detailed descriptions of Pencil Fighting I have ever read.
“This involved a set of tightly regulated rules whereupon a boy would challenge another to a ‘“pencil duel.’ After some preliminary positioning, two boys would take turns thumping with a single swing using only the wrist and fingers the other’s pencil held firmly and horizontally squeezed inwards firmly by the thumpee being dealt the blow. It was a destructive game, as the two took turns until one or both of the pencils developed cracks to the point of shattering apart to uselessness. The defeated was relegated to sharpening up a salvaged half of his pencil if fortunate enough to have a useable remnant.”
Read on, but don’t go breaking up your Best Pencils in fights that are for less than All the Glory, Comrades. We aren’t so young anymore, with an entire lifetime of pencils ahead of us.
(A spring 2011 pocket notebook that served me well when I left working at the university for being a full-time SAHD.)
Via Paperblanks’ blog.
These turned out awesomely! Head over to Andy’s blog for more info on the genesis of these great vectors and information on how to get your hands on them.
On the heels of the excellent post about the history of the bullet pencil comes this piece, with instructions for restoring bullet pencils into working condition:
“If you’re a collector of these old commercial bullet pencils rather than an end user, please read no further because this post will most likely distress you. I am taking a 1930s bullet pencil and stripping all of the collector’s value out of it – every last drop. This quirky little writing instrument may have survived the ravages of the past 75-80 years, but ultimately it couldn’t survive me with its original finish and character intact. If it makes you feel any better, this bullet pencil is but one of 13 that I have acquired recently. The rest are safely packed away in their original condition and hopefully they’ll remain that way for posterity.”
See also this article on hacking a notebook to hold a bullet pencil.
Palimpsest is also four years old this week. 2009 was a great year for stationery blogs!
Please do go and vote for your humble Baltimore-based Pencil Blog in the Mobbies, the Mobtown best of blogs. You can vote once a day, and if you do, you will bring much gratitude forth from This Guy. And maybe I’ll take you to the party with me if you’re in Charm City. VOTE HERE EVERYDAY!
Heather has been reviewing pencils for quite a while now, and I have been thoroughly enjoying her reviews — being a reader of her blog for literally years. A recent post really struck a chord with the Pencil Lover in me:
“For whatever reason, pencils have a charm for me that pens, even fountain pens and inks, just don’t. They seem friendlier, somehow. Homelier. More comfortable. You can always count on them to write. You don’t have to worry about the ink drying up, or about tricky issues like feathering, bleed through, drying times, fading, or waterproofness. You can break them in half and they still write. You can forget about them for a decade or two in the back of your desk drawer and they’ll still write. If you take notes in pencil, you can count on them to last, unless someone burns them or goes after them with an eraser. You can’t always count on that with ink.”
I feel like I should add some sort of commentary in an Academic way to justify this quotation. But Heather’s piece is very well-put, perfectly, already. Check out the rest of the post here.