Hen’s Love for Pencils.

We love Rad and Hungry at Pencil Revolution. Those good folks are continually spreading The Pencil Message and gathering pencils from afar to share with Like Minded Individuals. Plus, Hen sent my daughter a box of really cool pencils last year that Charlotte still uses and talks about. So my ears were already open to Awesomeness when this was posted, and I was, well, moved. Please, Comrades, read Hen’s post about how she got into pencils. It will strike a chord with a lot of Comrades.

Harpers Ferry Sharpener.

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(Please excuse the bad phone picture.)
My Dad and I took a daytrip to Harpers Ferry the day after Thanksgiving (we always sort of go on a retreat). In the Harpers Ferry Historical Association‘s Bookstore, I looked for more of the “cedar pencils” I had bought there three years before. No reproduction pencils. But there was an oddly-placed wall-mounted sharpener on the shelf where the pencils were in 2010. I wanted to use it, but I was already drawing funny looks from the elderly lady running the register.

A Christmas Story, In Pencils.

This year marks 30 years of A Christmas Story, and I thought we’d celebrate with some pencil highlights from the film.

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“Oh, rarely had the words poured from my penny pencil with such feverish fluidity.”

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Ralphie, using pencil and paper in an attempt to get The Universe to grant him his present.

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The Old Man, as he works on his famous puzzles.

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The Mug of Stubs on the kitchen table. I think I will copy this for my dining room.

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The man who brings the Art, I mean, The Lamp, who is sporting what appears to be a Mikado (pre-WWII Mirado) for The Old Man to sign the shipping slip.

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Ah, the famous, “A crummy commercial? Son of a BITCH.” (And we’ve finally cursed on Pencil Revolution!)

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If you’re my age or older, you might have had teachers who used red pencils to grade your work. They still remind of of Sr. Teresa Mary and her firm handwriting lessons.

Happy Holidays, from your Comrades at Pencil Revolution! We’ll be back later this week with some reviews we have at the ready.

Smead Folder Gear Review.

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The folks at Shoplet sent over a box of office supplies for review, and we’ve been a little behind. In the Days of Yore (Okay, 2001), your fresh-faced Editor was a new college grad and living in Boston, where I worked in the Development Office at the university for a short time while I was at work on my MA in philosophy. Among my myriad duties was labeling the hanging folders for two big-time Gift Officers. I preferred using the vast amount of information we had on our graduates and their parents to help win over large financial contributions. To my Eternal Shame, I foisted labeling hanging folders onto the heads of some undergraduates in my and my officemate’s care. I wonder if one young lady in particular still thinks badly of me when she sees green cardstock. And, to this day, I refuse to label those heavy green hangers.

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So you can imagine how much I would have liked to have these hanging file folders with built-in labels, similar to the tabs on a regular file folder. These hanging folders are, frankly, killer. Made in the USA, they are lighter green than I am used to. Think Retro Mint. They are also a little more flexible and a lot more reinforced. And if you read this website – and have read this far into this review – then you probably appreciate little things like folders that don’t require filling out tiny slips of paper which are then stuck into sharp plastic tabs and bent onto the whole thing (no, thank you).

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The Super Tab file folders look like regular manila folders. Except that the tabs are larger and they are much much much heavier. Ever had the spine/crease of a folder give out on you on a rainy day? You need these. We would have fought one another in AmeriCorps for these babies.

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The Expanding Pocket is something I’ve never seen before. I usually think of these as a means to carry a lot of papers. But this one is designed to fit into a hanging folder. It features a grippy area to pull it out of the hanging folder in one piece. This is basically a Super Folder, for use where a regular folder just won’t cut it.

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Finally, more TMI (more too?). My father was an officer in the military whose duty was to manage supplies. He oversaw the transition from paper-based to digital systems. I mentioned having to write this review on a recent visit. He said, “Well, hanging folders are pretty much worthless unless they’re the good kind.” “Which as those? I have to write about Smead,” I said. And then he asked what I was doing with them after the review.

Restoring Bullet Pencils (The Jungle is Neutral).

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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.”

Read on…

See also this article on hacking a notebook to hold a bullet pencil.

Review of Staedtler Noris HB.

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I have held off on reviewing the Staedtler Noris for over a year. It is not officially available in the United States. But, if our traffic statistics do not lie, then a large portion of our readers read from Western European Outposts. Add the number of sellers on eBay who will ship packs of these German Beauties to our shores, and this pencil is far from a stranger to our little community – at least potentially. My daughter loves this pencil (see handicraft piece), and, finally, Staedtler sent some (as result of that piece) to HQ last month. It has become semi-ridiculous to have not reviewed this pencil by now.

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I am fortunate enough to have great Pencil Friends like Matthias and Gunther, both of whom have sent me wonderful Noris gear. The beautiful vintage Noris pencils in the photos are from Gunther. Matthias sent the sharpener (which is the envy of my peers who pass through Pencil Revolution HQ) and multi-grade Noris packs. I would be foolishly remiss not to mention that Comrades interested in the Noris (or pencils in general!) would do well to visit the wonderful posts about and photos of Noris pencils at Bleistift and Lexikaliker.

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I will be confining myself to the red-capped HB version of the Noris for now. This hexagonal pencil features two black sides and four yellow, with a black stripe running the length of the yellow sides’ intersections. The effect is striking. The ends are dipped in white lacquer and then (in the case of the HB) into red lacquer, resulting in a layered cap that further sets this pencil apart. The gold stamping is as fine as the haloed Mars Lumograph, though the texture and quality of the Noris’s paint job is certainly not as smooth or glossy as the top-tiered Lumograph. But that is neither the market nor the price-range of this pencil. Every Noris I have seen comes pre-sharpened and ready for action.

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A note on the print. Some of the German Norises I have on hand say:

MADE IN GERMANY [Mars logo] STAEDTLER Noris HB [boxed 2]

while others say:

MADE IN GERMANT [Mar slogo] STAEDTLER Noris school pencil [boxed HB]

I do not discern any quality differences between the two, though the former’s lead seems somewhat more waxy. I assume that the difference is in marketing, since the Noris (unlike the Lumograph) is billed as a writing pencil, not an art pencil. (Please, Comrades, do amend any mistakes I am making here, honestly.)

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I cannot tell what kind of wood this pencil is made of. I have read of the Noris being made of cedar and of jelutong. But none of mine smell like cedar or look like jelutong. (Perhaps this article by the always excellent Pencil Talk could be helpful.) The pencil’s wood is light-weight and is treated to sharpen very well. Despite not having the incensed aroma, whatever wood it is of which these pencils are constituted performs well as a pencil casing.

I like the core/lead very much, especially for what I understand is currently (?) a budget pencil in some markets. What it lacks in the smoothness of its Blue and Black Cousin, it more than makes up for in darkness. This core exhibits a nice balance of smear-resistance and erasability. Often a mark’s resistance to smearing makes erasing difficult, and, at other times, pencils whose marks are easier to erase make a smeary mess of a notebook. Point retention is average at best, and I find myself sharpening this pencil more often than any other German pencil I use in the HB grade. So my Noris pencils do not retrain their original measurements for long. Perhaps I was inspired by this photo of Gunther’s. But this is a pencil that looks good short! As I finally have more than a few stashed away in The Archive, I find myself reaching for this pencil, no matter how stubby the current one gets. To be sure, there is a very short Noris in my NaNoWriMo pencil box this year.

I heartily recommend the Noris, especially to American Comrades who might not be familiar with this pencil. It is available via a few eBay sellers who will ship overseas, some of whom even have reasonable shipping rates. I get a lot of comments when I use this pencil, whereupon I tell folks that it is commonplace, in, say, England – which I still find surprising — with a little jealousy that the common pencil depicted in our country is certainly not this distinctive.

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.

Construction Markings.

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We have a Dispatch from Comrade Dan, featuring graphite markings from a garage’s construction:
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“Found these markings under door stop strips on the interior side of a garage door. They were probably written some 75 to 80 years ago and appeared as if only scribbled on yesterday. The first and last pics are of measurements and the second and third are, I believe, either the signature of the carpenter or the carpenter’s name penciled on by the yard for his order. I run into this quite often but this was the first time I thought to take a picture of it.”
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Many thanks to Dan, and I hope we get more of these in the future!
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On Memory, at the Pratt Chat.

Here is a very interesting piece on memory and poetry from Comrade Brian on Pratt Chat:

How is your memory? When it comes to certain things, my memory is like a steel trap; but otherwise, it’s more like a soggy noodle. I’ve always been impressed by my friends who can quote things verbatim, especially long works of poems. My one friend can recite Poe’s The Raven from heart, and I had another friend who recited Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner while we were sailing on the Chesapeake one day (a perfect setting).

But memory and poetry have a long, interlinked history—and some may even argue genesis—together, going back to the first poets, who most likely sang the epics from memory accompanied by a lyre. And during Shakespeare’s time, it was pub game to begin reciting a line of poetry from memory, and your partner had to finish the poem, or so I remember one of my English teachers telling me. (More here.)

Note: The friend who can recite “The Raven” by heart is Yours Truly. I double mastered it when my daughter was small and didn’t like the light on for reading sometimes but still wanted to hear poetry.* But Coleridge by heart — that’s impressive!

I think an interesting feat of Pencil Memory (and I can think of a few Pencil Bloggers who can probably do it; I can’t) would be to recite the Pencil Dynasties from the great German pencil companies!

[*I am also known to spout very loud renditions of Shel Silverstein poems at people named Paul.]

Another Kind of Perfect Pencil.

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My friend Paul brought me this when he came to meet Henry a few weeks ago: a vintage novelty pencil that bills itself as the Perfect Pencil. Rather than a Business End which can be sharpened, each end of the pencil looks like this:
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Perhaps most hilarious is the card from the case, which lists this pencil’s perfect uses.
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Curiously, the case the pencil comes in has hinges and a closure like those hardshell cases we had in the 80s which held a few dozen baseball cards (this was back when you could touch your baseball cards with your hands).
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I am tempted to utilize the case, but I remember how durable those cases were back then: not at all.
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I’m not sure how old it is. Any clues?

Another Blackwing 602 Ode.

This article was very interesting and made the stationery blog rounds this week — and I’ll admit to reading it each time it came up. Comrade Brian just sent us another Ode to the Blackwing 602. I will admit that I’ve never even seen and original 602 in person, let alone used or owned one. And I hang my head in veritable Pencil Shame.

Also: the idea of having boxes of a favorite pencil (as Mr. Capote is said to have done)  in one’s nightstand appeals to me immensely. My nightstand is designed  to sit low to the floor (I have a low bed) and to hold books. But I do keep a black ceramic pencil cup next to my bed with various pencils for notes while reading, and I have an old “fancy” box that contains some of my most prized pencils on the same surface. I think there are some sharpeners around there, too.

Anyone else keep pencils dangerously close to where they sleep?

Hemingway Scrapbooks Made Public!

EHC385tApologies that this took so long to get out (and many Comrades probably already know about it, but just in case…). But, as Brian tells us, Hemingway’s family scrapbooks are not just available to the public. They are digitized and available to view for free online via the JFK Library, home to the Hemingway Collection! Check out the scrapbooks, where it looks like many passages are written in pencil. (And look at how that ink has faded!)

[Image credit.]

From the Archives, Early Sharpener Reviews.

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For one reason or another, we haven’t reviewed very many sharpeners (and no erasers?) on Pencil Revolution in all these years. We’ll give more frequent sharpener/sharpening posts a shot. In the meantime, here are some of our earliest sharpener reviews, in honor of our 8th blog birthday.

Our first sharpener review, of the Trooper, the KUM wedge.


The Dux Inkwell sharpener review, by Ana.


Review of General’s 3-in-1 sharpener, by Gary.

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The Boston Bulldog review, by Gordon.


The T’Gaal sharpener review, by Bill.

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