“Another use for the mighty pencil: To clean the track on the Christmas train garden, I use a pencil eraser and rubbing alcohol. Works like a charm.”
I have to remember this when I pull out the train which will circle our tree.
I’m sure there is someone out there who has already filled the latest season edition of Field Notes notebooks. But does he or she have a pencil blog on which to prove it? I give you: The Burp Local Pile (because beer makes you gassy). I finished my last book during naptime today. I think I deserve a prize.
(And I am not kidding.)
And, yes. That is a fat kids’ pencil with a clip. They just came today. The clips. Made in the USA to boot. Like the Pencil Revolution House Bottle Opener in the picture, which I’d use to open notebooks if I could figure out how.
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.
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.
Staedtler Mars Lumograph HB (2004-5 stock)
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
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.
Just like some folks enjoy Field Notes that are well-loved (and I do, too), I love pencils that have shortened themselves (or, rather, have been shortened or had themselves shortened) in the Service of Work and Art and Other Worthy Pursuits and even Totally Worthless Pursuits. My current pencilbox of choice is a battered Harry Potter case (don’t judge) with two levels*, both of which are full of pencils with a little more than half of their useful life left. The odd New Pencil that makes its way into the box stands up and proves the adage true: it gets dulled and sharpened promptly. This could explain why my pencils hit the four inch mark quickly and then take considerably longer to become too short to grip in my bent fingers.
Last week, I was admiring Elizabeth’s pencil photos, and I remembered a few other sites full of photos of pencils that get Utilized very lovingly and thoroughly. Both Gunther and Matthias have posted photos of well-loved pencils in various stages of length. And there are myriad other Pencil Users with such photos of Useful Pencil Goodness for the browsing. Comrades can get started with Elizabeth’s ongoing Chronicle of Pencil Utilization.
Are there photos that Comrades have which they might like to share? We could do a whole series of posts on Pencils that Have Seen the World and Lived to Tell the Tale.
*(I passed up an expensive new one on eBay for a cheap battered version that wound up costing me only a few bucks. It came smelling like the ashtray in a 1982 Ford Fairmont. I got the smell out and can help anyone else who has a smell that they’d like to replace with the Heavenly Aroma of Cedar and Eraser, for the asking. But this is a bizarre footnote.)
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.
Mr. Vero Ricci wrote to us recently, telling us about rediscovering pencils and asking about a good electric sharpener for use with colored pencils. Alas, I only own one, and I don’t think I’d recommend it. But I had to share this essay on a life in pencil. If you grew up in the 80s, you almost certainly encountered Vero’s designs of such things as coffin candy (which a semi-creepy kid like I was couldn’t get enough of) and burger boxes, which I really enjoyed as well. Below, please find Vero’s essay (and be sure to check out the site devoted to his designs set up by his son Steve here).
Pencils, I guess we can go back to early childhood, say about 4 years old. I’d watch my aunt Gilda sketch while she played cards with my folks. She had a way of making amazing things appear on paper. With my eyes reaching just above the kitchen table, I copied her every move. She taught me how to make a straight line without the aid of a straight edge. This aside, I became attached to pencil and paper. God’s gift of allowing me to draw was evident when we replaced wallpaper in my home. My parents constructed the house in 1938-39. I was then 5 years old. I couldn’t resist the fresh plastered walls that took a year to dry. I sketched a 1939 Dodge automobile in all its splendor with my trusty soft lead pencil, 4 feet above the floor, smack in the middle of the wall. Evidence of this act came when the old wallpaper was stripped off some 50 years later. There it was in all its splendor, for anyone to see, my 1939 Dodge. The most amazing thing to me was the wonderfully accurate detail made by a 5 year old. God’s gift came when I was very young.
From that day on I sketched quite a bit, but it wasn’t the most important thing in my life. Baseball, football, basketball and the Cowboys and Indians lead the way. In High School my teacher pulled me aside and taught me to paint with oils. She taught well because I won 1st prize two years straight in the Philadelphia Gimble’s Art Exhibit.
Most of my work was done when it was expected from me. While in the Army they nabbed me and I ended up drawing and painting just about everything imaginable. By profession I became an Industrial Designer. The tools that earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for me were my creative mind, a soft pencil, an eraser, a 3-inch triangle and a white 8 ½ X 11 pad of white bond paper. I prefer, to this day, soft lead. Most of the time I used the No. 2 Dixon Yellow Boy pencil with the endless aid of a rubber eraser. I enjoy simplicity and well-thought-out drawings that possess intelligent use of line.
In recent days I joined an elderly group of artists that holds drawing classes every Friday afternoon. I embarked on the use of colored pencils and have not yet come to terms with it. The points break too often, and sharpening the things breaks the points just as well. I know there are good answers out there and I’ll eventfully find the solution. Great pieces of fine art have been made with colored pencil. So hopefully there is a chance for me to enter the arena. Unfortunately, colored pencils don’t result with the contrast I seek. The black pencils are not dark enough. As a result, I started to use a 6B lead pencil to achieve the desired darkness. Unfortunately, the soft dark lead smears the soft pastel color work.
My life can be defined by drawing, painting and product design. All being inter-connected into a single 80-year-old human, and distinguishing one from the other is not possible.
Read more about Vero Ricci on the website created by his son here. If those little plastic coffins are a design by Mr. Ricci, then I have eaten my own weight in sugar from one of his creations.
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.
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.)
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?
Happy Charmz are charms for your pencils, attached via a small ring of what appears to be silicone. (It’s shinier and harder than rubber and hasn’t stretched out at all.) You attach them to your pencil, and they are happy. It sounds simple enough, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. In fact, they are actually really well made, and the ring doesn’t slip around on the pencil at all. To boot, their pencils make a nice, dark line and match the charms nicely.
You’d think the package sent over to Pencil Revolution HQ would have been raided by my 3-year-old daughter who loves Pink, Princesses, Fairies, Animals and Sparkles. And some were. However, my better half, possessing a PhD in History and not usually toting around anything with glitter, made the strongest claims to particular items.
I suspect these will appeal to the target audience and beyond. To be sure, the rainbow lightening bolt is lighting up a spring-themed pink pencil my daughter gave me. I am keeping that one. (If there are some left after this package has been raided, maybe we’ll do a give-away; stay tuned!)
You can find them online, and Debbi tells us that they are available at “a whole bunch of brick and mortar stores. Currently, every Justice store, Books-A-Million, Hastings, Learning Express and a couple hundred independent toy stores. Also, Toys R Us will be carrying them soon.” I wish I’d gotten this up before back-to-school shopping drew to a close. These little charms are pretty cool.
[Today's review comes from Comrade Gary Varner, long-time friend and contributor to Pencil Revolution.]
Where and when do your ideas come? And do you always remember them later when you want to use them? If you’re like me, it’s usually when I’m wet and about to get soapy. And that’s why I started using AquaNotes®.
AquaNotes® is 40 waterproof 3-1/2 x 5-1/4 inch pages bound in a pad with rear suction cups to adhere to your shower or tub walls, along with a water-resistant pencil with it’s own special suction cup holder. Not only are AquaNotes® made and assembled in the USA, they’re eco-friendly as well. From their Web site:
“…waterproof paper that is totally recyclable, environmentally friendly, and non-toxic. Each pencil is water resistant and is made with Incense Cedar wood, a responsibly harvested renewable resource meeting stringent environmental requirements. Even the ink used to print the logo and company information on the notepad is soy based.”
In the past I’ve tried Rite in the Rain and other waterproof pads, Fisher pens, and even waterproof pencils. But invariably when the idea comes I can’t find the pen or the pencil or the pad. With AquaNotes, it’s on the wall at the ready when your next great idea strikes you during lather or rinse (and sometimes both!).
There’s definitely a lot of science behind why ideas come more easily to us when in the shower. This great article from the Bufferapp.com blog gives some details on brain science and creativity and why showers are a great incubation place for ideas. And as the video below shows, its common for the relaxing effects of water on the body to open up the flow of ideas, and I for one don’t like relying on my memory to capture those gems! With AquaNotes® I’m ready when the ideas decide to show up.
Gary Varner writes about communication, productivity, and core skills at garyvarner.com, and on Twitter @GaryLVarner.
We have a Dispatch from Comrade Dan, featuring graphite markings from a garage’s construction:
“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.”
Many thanks to Dan, and I hope we get more of these in the future!
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).
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.