Earth Day Giveaway.

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I’ve meant to do this for years, and I’ve finally amassed enough “eco” pencils to give it a go. The lucky winner of this giveaway will receive a selection of pencils which are billed as Earth Friendly in some way (whether truly or not). There are some very nice pencils in this category, like the Wopex, Forest Choice, Ticonderoga EnviroStik*, O’Bon, etc. I promise that this will be a very cool prize.

Rules:
Usually, we go with a theme. This time, simply leave one (1) comment to be entered. Contest is limited to wherever I can send a small package via the US Postal Service, which is probably most places on Earth. I’d like to get the package out before April 22nd. So we’ll end the collection of entries on Easter Saturday/Sunday at midnight, which is really late Saturday night to my fellow Night Owls. I’ll contact the winner by Sunday night, April 20th. If we can’t get a response from the winner in one week for some reason, we’ll pick a new one.

*Which is, apparently, minimalistic enough to not need the C to spell it correctly.

Granny’s Pencil Cottage.

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Recently, we received a message from Jaina Bee, who lives in a house in San Francisco that is covered with pencils! There are 185,252 pencils here, all installed between 1997 and 2002 by Jason Mecier. I seriously doubt I have ever laid eyes on that many pencils in my nearly 35 years on earth. Check out more about the pencil house here, complete with photos that made me wonder how to do this to the stairway in the 1900 rowhouse that is HQ.

Wopex Pencils at Staples.

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Thanks to this helpful comment at Pencil Talk, I learned that Staples carries Wopex pencils in 18 packs. They were listed at $4.99, marked down to $3 in the store. Gracious! I stopped by today with my daughter in tow, and packs of Wopexes (Wopexen? Wopexi?) were piled on a rack as we come through the door.
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I have a few of these eraser-topped versions from an over-priced pack I bought on Amazon a few months ago. But $3 for 18 pencils is a budget pencil price — for premium pencils? There is even a layer of foam protecting the sharpened cores in the plastic box. I wonder if Staedtler will bring over the attractive yellow versions and some of the colors I have only seen in photos? In any case, the color is less important to me than that they are here. I have been obsessed with this pencil since Matthias sent me a few in 2012.

Now I have lost all of my excuses not to review this pencil.

Capped Pocket Pencil.

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I have a Magic Box of Awesome. (I should really do a post about it and stop my Lazy Blogging, but think of David Rees, and use your imagination.) Looking through this box is a staple request from Charlotte. Recently, she opened it and asked to have this very tiny pencil. I told her it can be her Pocket Pencil, and she liked this idea. Then I told her, in a very Parental Fashion, that she needed to use a point protector. A miniature argument ensued. This argument could only happen in my house, and perhaps some select other Outposts. I only won, I think, because one of the runs of General’s protectors had sparkles in it for some reason.

Fat Pencil Sharpener for Kids Solution.

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This is another Broadcast from Comrade Dan in the Medfield Outpost:

“Attached is a the solution I came up with for the kids’ sharpener you gave Mickey and Jack. One, they always lost it; and two, it would take them 5 minutes to sharpen a colored pencil, due to the hand mechanics of a three year old. I super-glued it to one of their art boxes.”

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[Sharpener pictured is an Eisen double-hole, distributed by Dixon Ticonderoga, from a recent package of My First Ticonderoga pencils.]

Did I Empty the Beer Books First?

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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.

NaNoWriMo First Days Pencil Update.

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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.

Why Pencils: A Penchant for Paper.

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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.

Harry Potter Pencil Box.

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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:
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Both compartments:
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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.

Pencils: Shortened and Well-Utilized.

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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.)

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.

Vero and Pencils.

"As a young man just out of the Army and attending Mechanical Arts School, the teacher asked for a detailed drawing (of a mechanism) and I felt like doing a self portrait.  I got an 'A' for the class." - Vero

“As a young man just out of the Army and attending Mechanical Arts School, the teacher asked for a detailed drawing (of a mechanism) and I felt like doing a self portrait. I got an ‘A’ for the class.” – Vero

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.

This was another idea that was similar to the snappy gator from Topps Chewing gum.

This was another idea that was similar to the snappy gator from Topps Chewing gum.

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.

Boy, do I remember these?! Candy out of a trashcan was pretty fun.

Boy, do I remember these?! Candy out of a trashcan was pretty fun.

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.

A Little Staedtler Noris Handicraft.

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Following in the footsteps of Matthias, some simple handicraft.

Background:
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.

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Solution:
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.

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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.)

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