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.
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.
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.
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!
I am off to the woods for the weekend, for some spring temperatures, shortwave radio, fire and hiking with Comrade Dan. Sans pencil sharpener or sharpeners. I’ve got my knife sharp enough to have made a nice, clean, little cut on my finger that healed in twelve hours. I think it can handle some cedar.
How many pencil aficionados does it take to have an excellent camping trip in Central Maryland? Hopefully just two.
We’ll be back this coming week with a review of USA Silver pencils and a report from the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.
[That's a 1990, USA-made Camillus BSA "Official" knife I won for selling the most popcorn.]
This is another post from the Enoch Pratt library, the public library system in our Home Base of Baltimore (HON!). Pencils seem to mix with literature which seems to mix with walking which leads to wandering, and we were wondering, Why not put this on PR for the benefit of Comrades not lucky enough to inhabit Charm City? (there’s far too much coffee and too little punctuation in HQ this weekend, as you can see).
Read the entire article here, written by frequent Pencil Revolution contributor and featured writer, Brian.
A little over two years ago, Field Notes introduced the Steno, a 6×9 stenography pad made with just truly excellent paper (and I should make a dozen of them my birthday present this year, yes). There are hobo symbols on the inside of the heavy cover. I toyed with the idea of hobo symbols for my door, but we lived in an old apartment. Now that we have a house and a door (an old wooden job) of our own, I think I have to get out the chalk.
What’s the symbol for “Pencils and memo pads for helping me vacuum?”
From Comrade Dan:
“In Parkville, in a basement by a work bench…I thought it was a neat, well loved sharpener. Unfortunately it looked as if it hadn’t been used in a while.”
Do other Comrades have strategically placed sharpeners, mounted or otherwise? (I keep a single-burr in my dining room on a bookshelf, where it’s easily accessible from the kitchen or living room.)
During a posting dryspell, in July 2011, we made a trip to Boston (our home from 2001-2003) for a week’s fun. A shop I really like in Cambridge and Boston, Black Ink, featured some interesting pencil gear. They had both flavors of Blackwing in a pot at the counter, for sale as singles. They had the green sharpener we love so much. And they had a steel and glass pencil dispenser full of General’s Test-Scoring pencils. We were packing lightly and had already gone on a bit of a spree at the Shop at Walden Pond (Charlotte’s first visit and all) and at various bookstores. So I thought I’d get them next time.
With moving this summer and the new baby on the way, we haven’t been back to Boston since, and I sort of forgot a bout them. Then, my Valentine’s Day gifts this year included the very cool dispenser and even better: a dozen General’s Test Scoring pencils. (Also another pack of Red Blooded Field Notes.)
You pull up the top, which reminds me of a French press, and the pencils come up. The jar is starting to smell like pencils a little. I’ve switched the pencils it came with for some more…colorful pencils. I was worried it would topple easily, but it’s pretty stable. I keep it on a bookshelf in my dining room, filled and ready for dispensing pencils. It’s become one of those things I like to show off when someone who appreciates pencils and “useful things” comes over. To be sure, an old can would do the same thing, almost. But I’m still pretty enamored of this little dispenser.
I’m pretty sure this is the same dispenser, and one of the customer images features some neat-looking Write Dudes natural pencils I’d love get my hands on. The included pencils are also available via General’s ($18/3 dozen) and the Museum of Useful Things ($7.50/1 dozen). I’ll write a review of them, too, after some more testing. I’m really enjoying them.
I certainly don’t mean to open a Hipster Shooting Gallery, firing at hipsters or other people. Nor — given the fact that hipsters seem to adopt things I like (beards, rye whiskey, bikes, etc.) and the subsequent fact that I probably look like an older and wider hipster — do I necessarily exclude myself from the School of the Hip. Even if I’d rather be counted out.
But I have noticed something that I’m sure many Comrades have noticed. There’s this whole “artisanal” and “craft” and “small-batch” movement going on. There’s no question. But I’ve noticed that pencils are fitting into this in bigger and bigger ways. Pencils are showing up more and more in advertising for products and services aimed at the hip crowd. I read somewhere (I forget where) that a lot of the low-fi stationery trends are “hipsterish” and that brands like Field Notes have been extra successful as a result.* To be sure, the shops that seem to cater to hipsters around my house all have a decent stationery section.
If paper is cool, certainly no ordinary writing implements will do. No Bics or gel pens. Wood and graphite and the accoutrements/accouterments thereof all the way! Take this ad (above) from a local watering hole in Baltimore. There are myriad examples I will let Comrades find on their own, for enjoyment and/or scoffing and/or edification.
I live in a pretty hip spot, and there are benefits (good coffee shops, stores with stationery) and obnoxiousness (kids telling you about the neighborhood in which you grew up like their discovered it). I’m waiting to hear someone in expensively battered boots wax philosophical about the benefits of using a “simple” pencil’s eraser as a smartphone stylus in our of our hipper coffeeshops.
I’ve been known to employ Blackwing erasers on my non-smart-but-touch-screen-phone. But never in public.
*[I might point out that Field Notes have also been successful because of their level of service.]
[Please excuse the bad phone picture.]
Seen while taking a nice three-mile stroll on a lovely day in Baltimore (lower Charles Village/Old Goucher). Dawn’s used to have really interesting window displays. They have either stopped doing this or were between displays today. I’m not sure any person can go in and browse (or if there is browsing to be bad), though I might reach out and see what kinds of pencils they have just for fun.