NaNoWriMo First Days Pencil Update.


So far, I have been using each pencil until it is blunt and then I switch to something different. Like many readers, I suspect that I am subconsciously in search of The Ideal Pencil. I have had good experiences thus far with my pencils. This is not surprising, since the NaNoWriMo pencils I put into my box weren’t exactly chosen at random.

To name a few: I used a Chinese Dixon Ticonderoga right after using a General’s Cedar Pointe Friday — felt like butter! That Cedar Pointe put down nearly 1,000 words before it even hinted at needing a sharpening, though. Also, I’ve noticed pencils that have surprised me with their smoothness on the semi-cheap paper of a Carolina Pad composition book: Staedtler Noris (HB) and Musgrave My Pal. A Ticonderoga kids’ pencil was a nice break when my arm started to cramp, though the point retention was not very good — also for the round PaperMate Earth Write “Premium” (the black one). I have also been impressed by the smoothness, if not the darkness. of General’s Draughting pencil.

This gives me good testing grounds for some upcoming reviews of the Noris, Draughting and Earth Write.

As of Sunday evening, day three, I am at 5,874 words, even with a busy weekend. I hope I can keep this up. Hemingway’s advice — to never stop at a stopping point, always stopping when there is more to come, so that one can pick up the next day — has been working so far. Probably also a steady stream of coffee and Irish breakfast tea.

I Think I Should Carry Mr. Rees’ Torch.

Mr. David Rees, our favorite Artisanal Pencil Sharpener has hinted that he might hang up his Sharpener Hat:

When Rees started, he hoped every busted tip would lead the writer to pay for a sharpening. Instead, most customers order David’s pencil points and display them as artwork.
“The whole point of the business is to remind people to appreciate yellow, No. 2 pencils because they’re really cool and interesting,” he said. “And to make a ton of money.”
But at this point, work feels like work.
“You do anything long enough for money, it just starts to become a job,” he said.
So as he nears the nice round number of 2,000 sharpenings, Rees suggested that soon he’d like to clean out his sharpeners for good, leaving the world a much duller place.


I am not going to kid myself and assume that I could do quite as sharp of a job as Mr. Rees does, but I think I could come close with enough practice. Of course I have one of his specially-sharpened pencils (which I should write a post about one of these days). It is a point to which one might rightly aspire! I think I could do it, while still accomplishing everything I manage to Get Done in a day. One more cup/pint of coffee a day could enable me to Transcend the normal amount of hours in a day and become an Artisanal Pencil Sharpener. As it is, I generally flutter above my chair.

(Check out our review of Mr. Rees’ fantastic book.)

And, General’s, if you are reading this, you should totally send this apron to HQ! We LOVE (LOVE LOVE LOVE!) General’s Pencil Company at Pencil Revolution. I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t received some of your fine pencils from me at some point. I am not being ironic or snarky or sarcastic when I say that everyone in my hipster neighborhood will see my smiling face in this apron.

Finally, check out this video of the neighborhood in which Comrades can find Pencil Revolution HQ. Indeed, most of these locations are within a two-minute walk, and my personal favorite restaurant is featured (Golden West Cafe’).

Harry Potter Pencil Box.

This is the Harry Potter pencil box I mentioned, pictured here in response to community requests. (Apologies if they are dark it’s night-time in Charm City.)

The top tray/layer/tier:

Both compartments:

Top Tray:
Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB (2004-5 stock)
Ticonderoga Groove
General’s Test Scoring 580
PaperMate Earth Write “Premium”
General’s Layout (well-loved)
Palomino Prospector (current USA model)
Faber-Castell Castell 9000 4B
Staedtler Wopex (North American market version)
Halloween pencil from my family (Target 2011, pretty nice, actually)
General’s Draughting G314

Bottom Tray:
Chinese Dixon Ticonderoga
USA Gold “Natural” (2013 model with blue foil)
Field Notes pencil
Forest Choice pencil
Ticonderoga EnviroStik (no C)
General’s Kimberly B
Palomino Blackwing Pearl
Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB
Faber-Castell Castell 9000 B
General’s Cedar Pointe (very old and well-loved)

I wish I could take a picture of what it smells like. My odor-removal efforts took away the stale smoke smell and even the smell of metal. So the cedar and eraser aroma-combination had quite a blank canvas to fill. It’s like opening a treasure box.

Pencil FAQ, with Vikram Shah.

Vikram Shah sent us the link to a video he created:

Hi Comrades! I’ve made a Pencil FAQ video taking submissions from my friends on Facebook and answering their questions about pencils. Although it’s a bit long at 30:17, I think it would be educational to those who wonder, for example, why pencils are yellow, or why most are hexagonal. Please take a look if you have the time!

(If the embedded video doesn’t work for you, you can view it on YouTube here.)

Many thanks to Vikram for his Service to Pencildom. I can only imagine the patience involved with a project like this, in addition to the shear generosity involved with this kind of sharing.

A Little Staedtler Noris Handicraft.

Following in the footsteps of Matthias, some simple handicraft.

I am a big fan of the Noris, but they are not available in the USA normally. I found ten unpackaged versions from a domestic seller on eBay. They were packed very badly, and five showed up with the red end caps cracked, to varying degrees. To be sure, the envelope (white and paper — not for packaging pencils!) was full of red paint chips. I didn’t feel like dealing with a return and all that.


I thought of what I could do to repair the five bad units. I considered eraser caps. But unless I could find very very red ones, that would ruin the aesthetics of what I consider to be a beautiful pencil. I remembered some enamel in the house: my daughter’s nail polish. She said she wouldn’t mind Daddy “stealing” some for pencil repair purposes. I took the closest thing to red and tried it on the pencils with the most red paint left on their tops. I should have read “Bubblegum” on the label before I used it: hot pink with subtle sparkles. Against the background of the black granite counter, it really did look red to me at the time. But, I am not bothered by this. It’s Crayola and scented to boot. The ones with really bad paint? I used purple, for my daughter and for the Ravens. I even added a sparkle top-coat (not pictured yet). I am not kidding. The results tickled the dickens out of a 3-year-old. She’s got one with her princess pencil and markers right now.


The Process:
Apply a bit of the polish with the pencil’s business end pointing down. Smooth it out, until you’re satisfied with the volume of paint. Next, hang the pencil with the point facing the ceiling/sky. Turn it slowly, and blow on it for a few minutes. Realize you should have opened a window or otherwise not done this project in the kitchen. Leave it to dry, being careful not to stick three of them together, needing to re-do them all (ahem).

Enjoy your repaired German pencils!

(Apologies for the bad photos. I’m not sure why the light in my kitchen is so weird.)

Early Autumn Notebooks.

While walking around one of my favorite shops (Trohv) on Labor Day, I spotted Word. notebooks on the table near Field Notes books. We reviewed Word. books a few months ago, and you’ll recall the I loved them. I’m sure lots of Comrades are waiting for the new fall Field Notes to come out. But I needed some notebooks! And this orange is far more…earthy and autumnal in person than it is in most of the photos I’ve seen online. Paired with one of these pencils, it’s an early autumn Pocket Notebook Combination to put one in mind of chai tea and reading Poe outside under a light blanket.

Speaking of Trohv, there is a release party for Scout Books and some local Baltimore-based artists this Friday night, before Saturday’s Hampdenfest. Assuming that The Infant and The Toddler are behaving themselves, I’m hoping to go. Are there other Charm City Comrades who might be there?

(Pencils: General’s Kimberly; General’s Cedar Pointe; Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni – all HB. Also: Dig the Word. leaf and flower books! Hope they keep up making interesting new covers.)

“Oh, no, I spilled shavings!”

Thus shouted my daughter this morning, while she over-did-it with the sharpener I brought her from my way home via the art shop a few days ago, a gummy-bear KUM unit. Kids make messes. Yesterday, it was a broken glass at our local Sardigna joint from the three-year-old and a small bucket of vomit all over the front of me while in line at the post office to mail off some pencil goodies. Today, there were pencil shavings all over the living room floor at HQ, along with the aroma of coffee and cedar in the air on a fall-like day.
Life is good at HQ. Very good.

And, just because I like this passage, from Thoreau’s Journal, 13-Aug-1854:

First marked dog day; sultry and with misty clouds. For ten days or so we have had comparatively cool, fall-like weather. I remember only with a pang the past spring and summer thus far. I have not been an early riser. Society seems to have invaded and overrun me. I have drank tea and coffee and made myself cheap and vulgar. My days have been all noontides, without sacred mornings and evenings. I desire to rise early henceforth, to associate with those whose influence is elevating, to have such dreams and waking thoughts that my diet may not be indifferent to me.

Sharpener Winner: Take Two.

Our first winner was unreachable for over a week and forfeited the prize. We randomly selected another winner, and it is Antonio, whose entry consisted of an original quotation (which I really like!):

“If only people could be sharpened as easily as a pencil, so many people are so very dull.”

Congratulations to Antonio, who will probably have his sharpener this week.

Pencils and Early April Camping.

Not pictured: my mandolin and a nice fire.

Not pictured: my mandolin and a nice fire.

I mentioned that a couple of us at Pencil Revolution HQ went camping early last month. I learned a few things about pencils and about camping.

First, if you are prone to cracking fingers (and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, count yourself lucky!), take a fat pencil with you. My pocket-knife sharpened My First Ticonderoga came in handy when I was bandaged one night.

US Army issue messkit with said roughly-sharpened pencil.

US Army issue messkit with said roughly-sharpened pencil.

Also: pencil shavings are way way way more flammable than I thought. Comrade Dan shaved magnesium from a block designed for the purpose of making fire. There was too much wind Friday night (and we were hungry) to get it to light. We resorted to matches. Saturday, just for fun, he shaved a nice pile of magnesium shards into a box of a few months’ worth of pencil shavings from my house. Despite fierce sparking, none of the magnesium lit. But the pencil shavings did, and we lit a fine fire that way — which burned for about 20 hours until we thoroughly extinguished it.

Pencil shaving Tinderbox.

Pencil shaving Tinderbox.

Finally, (and I think I knew this), naturally finished pencils are perfect for camping. They grip well, get nice and dirty, and when you get home, they smell like fire forever.

Writing Makes Us Smarter?

Via Comrade Brian.

Don’t trade in your pencils and paper for a keyboard just yet.

A new study that compared the different brain processes used for writing by hand and typing has found that there are cognitive benefits to putting a pen to paper. These findings give support to the continued teaching of penmanship and handwriting in schools.

Children who don’t learn the skill of handwriting, like generations before them had to, may be missing out on an important developmental process. Compared to using two hands to type out letters on a keyboard, writing with one hand uses more complex brain power.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

Review of USA Silver Pencils.

Also in our box of review items from Write Dudes: the USA Silver pencil. In short, these are very good for budget pencils. In fact, I find them to be the very best very cheap pencil I’ve tried. Ever. I have to admit that I wasn’t excited about reviewing these pencils, but I was taught the old lesson about appearances soon enough.

The wood is not cedar: “The wood comes from all over (from sustainable sources) and they are assembled/manufactured here in the USA.” (email from WD), to distinguish them from the cedar-cased USA Gold pencils. I was confused by the name of these pencils for a while, since most are not silver. The original version of the USA Gold is a yellow-gold; I don’t think I was that crazy to make that assumption. Either way, the wood sharpens very well, almost as nicely as cedar.
I’ve seen USA Silver pencils in black that are finished very well, perhaps better than the USA Gold. The yellow review samples we were sent feature “Write Dudes” instead of the URL (which will be removed from the USA Gold). The finish various from good to acceptable. Again, at this price, it’s actually not bad at all. The ferrule is plain and attractive and complements the pink eraser and yellow finish very well. The eraser feels…dry, but it works well enough.
The star of this pencil is the core. It’s smooth and soft and durable. In a cheap pencil! This is the best writing cheap pencil that I have ever used. Ever! I can’t tell if it’s the same as the USA Gold, but it feels softer to me somehow — maybe it’s just in my head.

There are a lot of very bright pencils that would appeal to children in this series (USA Silver). Big deal? These are made several notches above most novelty pencils, and they are, largely, made in the USA. Shopping for party favors for my daughter’s upcoming third birthday, she picked some glittery pencils (think Princess Party) that not only look like they are made pretty well and have pretty nice cores – they are USA made, which a few of the parents I know will appreciate. In fact, we picked some USA made pencils from this manufacturer for birthday presents for my daughter’s friends’ birthdays this spring (to go with pencil sharpeners and books).
When I started to be really interested in pencils, part of the fascination came from their, well, cheapness. Of course, back then, truly cheap and good pencils were less rare, in same ways. But the American Naturals went for something like $1 a dozen in 2004 (and I wish I had bought more, since they are gone). I suppose we’ve been a bit…snobbish lately with what we review on Pencil Revolution. But it’s wonderful to encounter a pencil that is, plainly, cheap, American and also very good to write with. If you see these locally, definitely grab a box. A big box. (Ours had two dozen.)

Office managers: If you have to stock a supply cabinet with store brand pencils, try these instead!

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