Chew Toys.

When you turn around for a second, and your toddler chews up your pencil and notebook. In this case, the summer 2016 L.L. Bean Field Notes and a Blackwing Volume 1. The point was stuck to her chin. The notebook is wetter than it looks.

A Box of REAL Blackwing MMX Pencils.


I’d been having a stressful few weeks, with school being back in session, a death in the family, my son starting his first day of pre-school, someone damaging my new Subaru (and then getting the windshield cracked on the way home from getting an estimate! yay!), sickness descending on the family early this year. I came home to a box from CW Pencil Enterprise. I’d ordered something, but my package had already come. This was a surprise.

So I hurried to open the box and found a wrapped package with a gift tag. Inside I found a box of Blackwings, the ones I am a crusade to get renamed the MMX. Someone had written “MMX” in gold on the box, but I still wasn’t ready for what I found inside.

My friend Lenore had ordered a box of Blackwings with “MMX” stamped on them with the Kingsly machine at the pencil shop by Alyx. I sat in my dining room chuckling for a long time before dropping Lenore a message to thank her, whereupon I sharpened one immediately.

We talk a lot on Erasable about how great the community that’s sprung up around Pencil Life is. So I feel silly repeating it maybe. But because of these activities, I have made a lot of wonderful friends, one of whom would order some Blackwings made just for me with “MMX” on them — the only REAL MMX BLACKWINGS in existence. Thanks again, Lenore!

Back To School 2017.


My daughter started the second grade yesterday, and of course we snapped some images of her out-going pencil case. First, this year, no boxes, only cases. She has the Yoobi cat case, which is lined in blue inside.

The list called for ten Pink Pearl erasers. We found a very satisfyingly heavy box of twelve on Amazon and sent that in instead. The newer version of this eraser is softer and actually works, rather than merely sanding your paper.

Running on the assumption that the four dozen pencils we sent in were for the classroom stash, I made sure Charlotte did not go in empty-cased. Hearing the Ticonderoga recommendation, she wanted these neon Tics and a few choice yellow ones. We put them all through the Dahle 133, and this was a fragrant pile.

I also let her pick from a box from the last time we went to New York, and she chose the Apsara Steno (with Arrow topper) and a Blackwing Pearl.

Also included:

Yoobi sharpener with Emojis all over it. I’m not always clear on what happens with sharpeners at school, but I make sure she’s equipped with her own. This one doesn’t look like it will last the year, but she likes it. And it’s good practice.

Yoobi triangular pencils for the classroom. Students were each supposed to bring 48 pencils, with the recommendation being Ticonderoga: “a good investment.” I understand why they suggested these, but I also, ahem, know at least as much about pencils as whomever made this list. I like how “Yoobi gives,” and Charlotte likes their colors. So we brought these for he Big Pile. For the record, they were about the same prices as Ticonderogas and USA Golds on the day that we bought them.

Super cute and alarmingly sharp scissors. Charlotte always loses those silly caps, and these have a nice texture on the handle.

(Posted these photos from my phone and went overboard on the filter. Sorry!)

48 Sharpened Ticonderoga Pencils.

Charlotte’s school says that I am to bring in 48 pre-sharpened Ticonderoga pencils, because they are super high-quality. The current Chinese-made ones are very nice, but I really resist the idea that the brand makes something special in this situation. I am extremely tempted to send her to school with 48 nice pencils, none of which are Ticonderoga, just to be a poophead. 

Either way, of course, she’s going to school with her pencil case loaded with very excellent, hand-picked pencils from Daddy’s stash.

Portable Sketch Kits.

We have a playdate tomorrow to go to zoo with our Pals, and we thought we would design some portable drawing kits.

We took some empty mint tins from Trader Joe’s and then stuck on these name tags that we found at Target in the dollar bins. I trimmed down pencils by hand with a sharp utility knife and then sharpened them in the Dahle 133, using its Auto Stop feature.

We included some tiny sharpeners that we found at the shop, along with some tiny 💩 erasers and some rainbow erasers.

Finally, we made some tiny little notebooks to fit inside. My kids are super excited, and I am busy eating more of those delicious vanilla mints so that I can get more tins. I want one for myself!

Matchy Olive Boot Perfection.

My pretty old and beaten-up Castell 9000 Perfect Pencil pairs perfectly with this LL Bean boot edition Field Notes book. I’m wearing olive shorts to match, as I head Outside today between the heatwaves into only the usual July In Maryland Misery. 

Do you ever “accidentally” match your pencil and paper to your outfit?

Pencil for Long-Term Writing, Part 4: Accoutrements.


(Continued from 2010, Part 2: Pencils, and Part 3: Paper, and the original post in 2010.)

We will conclude our series of posts about maximizing the performance of pencils for long-term writing with a short look at pencil accessories.

Sharpeners
For journaling, I almost always prefer a long point. I like a point that starts sharp and is able to continue making neat lines without having to stop and sharpen every paragraph, or even every page. And the concave point produced by a crank sharpener like the Classroom Friendly model fits the bill perfectly. On the go (or if you prefer more control of your point), the KUM Masterpiece makes an insanely long point/longpoint and does not draw as much attention in a cafe’ as cranking a large metal contraption might.

Erasers
The best erasers for preserving pencil writing will not smear, will erase completely, and they will not mar the paper. Generally speaking, some kind of plastic eraser fits the bill for all three of these requirements. This blog is lacking in eraser reviews, but I generally reach for the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser or the Faber-Castell version for journaling.

Blotters
As mentioned earlier, I prefer a piece of an old map, a cut sheet from a Rhodia pad, or some other smooth and flexible paper for my blotter sheets. This helps to keep your journal neat in the first place, and stationery nerds seem to gravitate toward maps. Win-win.

Do Comrades have other tips or pieces of gear they use for keeping pencil writing safe for future Revolutionaries?

Pencil for Long-Term Writing, Part 3: Paper.


(Continued from 2010 and also Part 1: Pencils.)

We have established that pencil is the perfect medium for preserving your writing for the future. We recently examined what to look for in a pencil for journaling and/or long-term writing and some examples thereof. Today we will look at paper for keeping your pencil writing safe.

There are several details on which to reflect when selecting a notebook or journal if you plan to fill it with pencil, and this is even more true when one wants to preserve the writing forever.

Binding
Spiral bindings  can allow pages to rub against other other, creating smearing and thereby affecting the legibility of your writing for the future. Write Notepads & Co. solves this with an enormous rubber band. Generally, if I am going to carry a notebook around for more than a week, I prefer something with an elastic closure like this or like a Moleskine. A staple-bound Field  Notes book lasts only a week; so there’s little time to smear. The Write Notepads pocket books are tightly-bound with the PUR spine, and they do not rub much either. Also, consider that an notebook crammed into  your pocket will not move very much against other paper, that the fabric of your pocket (and your butt/leg/etc.) will likely keep the pages together anyway. For bouncing around in a bag, I never use a book that can open a even a little on its own, allowing the pages to mingle. Graphite is not to be trusted in the open like that!

Tooth
I avoid papers with too little or too much tooth. For instance, anything with more tooth than (and sometimes even including) a Scout Books pocket notebook will collect more graphite from the point of the pencil than the marks which one seeks to preserve. This results in dust and smearing and a generally untidy notebook. This is fine sometimes; pencil is not always tidy. But for writing which we seek to protect, smearing can render words, lines — even pages — illegible. Even worse is paper which is too smooth. The writing never even has much of a chance to stay put. The paper on Rhodia pads, for instance, is a lovely and smooth surface on which to skate a piece of graphite. However, I would not trust words meant for future generations to such glassy paper.

Ruling
An overly-tight graph or narrow lines can cause one’s writing to bunch up, resulting in less crisp lines. Something around the line-spacing of a Moleskine and 1/4 inch is my own preference, though I often just forgo any guide whatsoever too. Try to go line-free with pencil and the intention that your writing with last forever. Be bold!

Archival Quality of the Paper
These days, most major-branded books (Moleskine, Field Notes, etc.) are bound with acid-free paper. Since graphite does not react with paper anyway, this is, I assume, slightly less of a issue than when using ink. However, brittle and yellow paper can cause an issue for any writing medium.

Balance
As in pencils, the key is balance. I like a paper with a medium tooth, light (or no) lines, and a binding that will not allow the paper to rub against itself. As with pencils, this is harder to explain than it is to give examples of.

Write Notepads & Co. – This is probably my favorite notebook paper right now. The 70# stock takes graphite wonderfully, and the minor stiffness of the paper combines with the PUR binding to hold the pages still. The texture is nearly perfect, and they use a nice 1/4 inch line-spacing which is a great balance of efficiency and comfort. Plus they are made in my hometown, and Chris is a friend IRL. But I still claim not to be biased. Their books really are that good.

Moleskine – I swear that Moleskine has been quietly (because loudly would be admitting the paper was inferior before?) improving their paper. The texture is lovely for your less soft pencils, and the elastic keeps everything in place. If you hit Target at the right time of year, you can steal one for a few bucks from the clearance section. I like to remember that a Moleskine in 2002 led me to being lucky enough to co-host a really fun podcast.

Paperblanks – I have not used one of these in a while, but the paper is very stiff for nice pencil lines. Some of the covers get a little…LOOK AT ME for my taste, but the subtly-designed ones work well. Ghosting/graphite transfer is very low on this paper, even without a blotter.

Baron Fig – In speaking with Joey and Adam, I learned that this paper was designed, in part, for pencil, and it shows. The texture is lovely, and the themes and special editions they produce appeal to me greatly.

Field Notes – The newer 60#T version of the Finch Paper Opaque Smooth is lovely for pencil. I’m not sure why it works so much better than the 50# version, which I find to border on too smooth. These do fall open and allow pages to rub together in a bag. I generally get only a week of pocket carry out of them, however; so I do not experience this issue.

What are some papers/books Comrades like to use for long-term writing and/or journaling in pencil?