I am coming off of a Pencil Drought, during which I “won” NaNoWriMo using only gel pens for speed. As I mentioned on the podcast, my brain doesn’t relax around pencils, no matter how much I prefer them. True to form, I got sick literally two hours before the month was over, but my words were in, and all was well. With NyQuil, that is. I am happy to have found new blogs, as I come back down to the world of graphite and writing at a normal speed.
In no particular order, here are two great new additions to The Stationery Blogosphere.
Pencilism, by Luke Sinclair, author of the great hand-sharpening guide featured here. There is some great writing already on Luke’s blog, including a great post that is a moving piece on the meaning of pencils.
Remember when we used digital cameras and uploaded the photos to Flickr? We had to plug them in or use a card reader. Remember when you didn’t have the entire Internet in your pocket all of the time? I remember when we had to write down blog posts on paper if we were away from a computer. Now I can just literally talk to an app, and it will post for me (I never do that though).
At any rate, you might enjoy the Pencil Revolution Flickr group, founded in 2005 and still going strong. It is almost entirely pencil art these days, and some of it is really excellent work.
I miss using Flickr, though I supposed Instagram is the new Flickr?
Prompted by both a thread on the Field Nuts group and a great post on The Finer Point, here are my pocket notebooks from late 2010 to the present, not counting the ones I am still using. Pictured above, 114 Full Field Notes. Below, other branded books, including the number/alphabet books that might be too large/thick to qualify for this category.
I have been meaning to do something like this for a while. But:
1) It feels like bragging.
2) It feels like confessing to a problem.
3) I am lazy.
I have a small stash of empty Field Notes and assorted other pocket notebooks around, but they will soon move to the full pile. I keep them in a Sam Adams box that is literally splitting because I am a creature of habit and have stuffed way more into that space than really fit.
Well, sharpening of pencils, by knives. In case you missed it, we were lucky enough to have David Rees on Erasable last week. In preparation, I had been trying my hand[s] at sharpening pencils with knives. I am getting pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. Excuse the shoddy Instagram shots, but here are some from right around the time of our recording last week.
From a press release we received at HQ:
Drawing With History: AOL’s This Built America Covers New Jersey’s General Pencil Co.
Jersey City, New Jersey (August 6, 2014) – This Built America, a new multimedia platform from AOL exploring the companies and people reimagining American manufacturing, comes to Jersey City this week to profile the General Pencil Company — a company built on family and dedication that has been going strong since Edward Weissenborn founded his second pencil endeavor in 1889.
In this episode, the fourth, fifth and sixth generations of the family discuss why keeping General Pencil in the family is the key to their business success. It hasn’t always been easy to keep the company afloat, or to turn away offers to buy General Pencil, but the Weissenborns feel a connection to their long running, made in America company.
For General Pencil Company, being chosen to represent New Jersey in This Built America is proof that founder Edward Weissenborn made the right decision banking on family business all those years ago, no matter the circumstance. “We believe in America,” says Jim Weissenborn. “We are proud of our employees and the quality products they produce.”
To view the full episode and more on General Pencil Company, visit http://www.thisbuiltamerica.com/new-jersey/.
General Pencil Company joins a national movement in This Built America that is devoted to supporting American companies and American-made products. AOL is proud to support the effort along with sponsor Ford Trucks. Through the year, the editorial and video teams will explore 50 states in 50 weeks to bring 50 stories of the people who are bringing back manufacturing to America. The platform is produced in coordination with Man Made Content.
If this is half as fun to listen to as it was to record, you’re going to enjoy it ==> Erasable, Episode Ten:
The Graphites of Wrath.
If you are enjoying our Erasable, you might also enjoy a listen to this program which features some fine Comrades of Pencildom.
Also, have you heard episode 8 of Erasable yet? There’s information about a nice giveaway at the end. We present the first round of Pencil Heroes. I picked Hemingway, of course.
Finally, do join our new Erasable Podcast Pencil Community group for the growing discussion of All Things Pencil.
A few weeks ago, I joked with Dixon Ticonderoga on Twitter that they should send us one of their new electric pencil sharpeners for review.
@pencilution Can you send us your address?
— Dixon Ticonderoga (@DIXONTICPRANG) May 5, 2014
So now we have our first ever review of an electric pencil sharpener. I should probably mention two things right at the start. I do not generally like electric pencil sharpeners; I do like Dixon Ticonderoga very much.* This sharpener is pretty basic, and I mean that in a good way. You put your pencil into the hole; the burr rotates around your pencil; it stops rotating when it feels no friction; you have a nice, long point on your pencil. But there’s much more to say than that, of course.
First, I really like Dixon’s design choices here. The yellow and green really pop, with a bit of chrome trim to polish it all off. The left green side is covered with a grippy material, while the right side is the shavings tray. The plug even has a subtle Ticonderoga logo on it.
The shavings container is easy to remove (I did not need to consult the instructions) and fits securely to the body. It’s not an especially large space for shavings, but it is very easy to empty without spilling Cedar Shards and Graphite Dust all over your office, house or Outpost. I prefer this to my, ahem, other electric sharpener that will hold a year’s worth of shavings, only to cause them to cover your legs as you sprint to the nearest receptacle.
The sharpener is fitted with four Rubber Toes on the bottom, resulting in the possibility of one-handed sharpening. This makes this sharpener a good choice for Marathon Writing, where a blind drop of the pencil into the sharpener with one hand gives Comrades a quick point.
Now, the Point itself. This sharpener gives you a long point, similar in length to the point achieved with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener. This is excellent. The point is different, however, in that it does not curve inwardly toward the point the way that the Classroom Friendly sharpener does. The “Black” Ticonderoga was sharpened with the Dixon Ticonderoga sharpener in this photo, with the yellow Dixon being sharpened by the Classroom Friendly Green Machine. The Ticonderoga sharpener produces a straight point, as I hope is more obvious in this manipulated close-up.
This leaves less “point” along the length of the exposed graphite, but it also makes a stronger point. Comrades will have to decide for themselves which they prefer.
The lack of aperture means that there are no bite marks on your pencil. It also means you have to be careful to center your pencil within the Input Shaft** of the sharpener. The shaft is wider than standard pencils, but it does not accept jumbo or mini-jumbo pencils. So there is some movement which requires holding the pencil very still and centered. If you do not, the pencil rotates within the holes in a way that tricks the auto-stop mechanism into thinking there is more cutting required — it won’t stop.
There are advantages to this manual drop-in sharpening method. It is easy to stick your pencil in and take it out. This means that Comrades can easily stop the sharpening process before an overly sharp (for some applications) point results. This is great for quick touching-up. When I use a very sharp pencil for a short time — not long enough to require sharpening but long enough to have dulled the point a bit — I sometimes like to perform such a touch-up before putting the pencil back into the cup, box, case or behind my ear.
Certainly, this sharpener is not perfect. The logo could be stamped on a little more clearly. Unlike some sharpeners with metal gears, this sharpener’s gears appear to be made of plastic. I had no issues with slippage, through a few weeks of testing.
But one never knows how this could play into long-term durability. While our unit was provided free of charge, I feel like the price tag on this sharpener is a little steep. However, it could work for years, and then I would say otherwise. I will say that it’s my favorite of my two electric sharpeners and the only one I actually have plugged in and use.
In the end, I like this sharpener very much. I like even more that Dixon Ticonderoga seems to be experiencing some kind of surge of energy lately that they haven’t shown for some time here in the United States. There are some new erasers, this sharpener and even a blog by the CEO. I’ll be watching Dixon with anticipation in the future. I was unhappy when they outsourced their production a few years ago, but they do continue to make quality products. If you like Ticonderoga pencils and longpoints, this might be the sharpener for you.
*Can you say, “You had me at green and yellow plastic”?
** I officially propose to contribute this to Mr. Rees’ lexicon.
There are lots of different kinds of pencil sharpeners. One can do no better than to read David Rees’ How to Sharpen Pencils to learn all about them. My list is less specific than his and certainly not as…good, but I thought I might share how I actually sharpen my own pencils at the end, since I hear time and time again that the process gives some folks a bit of trouble.
These are sharpeners into which a pencil is inserted, which produce a point on the pencil by means of a blade or burrs which rotate around the pencil via a manual crank which is activated by the individual doing the sharpening. The Classroom Friendly sharpener is a great example of this (see here, here and here for a few reviews). These sharpeners sometimes have mechanisms that prevent over sharpening, but most I have encountered in schools and workplaces do not. As such, they tend to eat pencils. They also tend to have old, dull blades/burrs which prevent anyone from really using them effectively. I would not trust an untested crank sharpener to put a point on anything expensive or precious unless my life depended on it. And when I fear that my life might depend on a sharp pencil (!), I have a pocket blade sharpener or knife on me.
Manual Blade Sharpeners
These are sharpeners that require the user to rotate the pencil inside of the sharpener body, against a blade. Standard wedge sharpeners and Snoopy sharpeners fit into this category. These are generally my favorite, since I can control how much of the point I actually sharpen more easily. They are easy to use but not to master.
These can be “controlled” knives like The Little Shaver, a machete, short sword, pocket knife or purpose-built pencil sharpening knife. This is an intimate way to sharpen pencils that is generally frowned upon aboard airliners and some city buses. To use a blade, one simply cuts the pencil’s business end into a spear, blunt cone or wedge. This is not for beginners. Or maybe it’s perfect for beginners.
Electric Pencil Sharpeners
These work like crank sharpeners, only they have motors which drive the gears. I own two and more-or-less hate one of them. I find these the most difficult to use, despite their alleged convenience. I am working on a review of a yellow and green model that I like a little better.
For pencil sharpeners whose cutting mechanisms rotate around the pencil, it is imperative to hold the pencil perfectly still. Most such sharpeners have no aperture into which to insert the pencil which matches its shape. As such, the cutting mechanism will not rotate around the pencil evenly and produce an even point without the pencil being held stationary, directly in the center of the chamber. I make such an aperture out of my thumb and a finger or two and then insert the pencil into the sharpener through my grip, with which I pinch the pencil in place. Try this with the wobbly sharpener in the library or the electric beast at your office, and you might be pleased at your new results.
For a manual sharpener, just jam that sumbitch in there, directly in the center of the hole, and turn the pencil against the blade. Hold it firmly and steadily, and cut the wood – don’t shave it in splinters. We are looking for strips of cedar to scent your pocket here. Any good sharpener of this type will have a shape which will sharpen your pencil evenly if you feed the pencil into it evenly. Do not be tempted to lean the pencil against the blade, as this will warp your point. Keep it centered, firm and straight. You’ll nail it every time.
Our special National Pencil Day episode is up for your Enjoyment and Consideration. Congrats again to our winners!
Our second podcast is live! It went a little long, but it’s worth all of your time! Listen all of the way through for an excellent give-away, and we’ll be back for National Pencil Day (March 30th).
Also: learn who that dude is.
From the Primordial Ooze of inky stationery websites, the Pencil Bloggers have spread our Message on the web for years. Now, led by Andy, Tim and This Guy, we are happy to bring you Erasable, the Podcast. Episode one is up for the listening, and episode two, The Pencil Glossary, will follow in the next two weeks.
The fine folks at Word. sent over a couple of packs of their new Stealth Camo edition for us to give away to two lucky Comrades. Unfortunately, we have to restrict this giveaway to addresses in the United States.
“Cunning, careful, and mysterious. For your private dealings that happen under the dark of night, there’s the new Stealth Camo Notebook from Word. The latest camo pattern from Word. Notebooks is an ode to life’s more covert affairs and secretive matters. Every notebook is designed and made in the USA and features our unique organizational system to keep track of your to-do lists and tasks. Pick up a pack and start your clandestine note-taking now.”
In keeping with the theme, we’ll need a Secret. This give-away will run until 12 noon EST on February 18th. We’ll pick two entrants and notify them by Wednesday.
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post with A SECRET.* Don’t worry. We wont’ tell.**
*[Only one entry per person; check the email address you give us; after a week, we’ll pick new winners if we can’t reach the Lucky Winners; US-addresses only this time; pencils and implements in photos not included, but I’m sure I’ll find some cool pencils to slip into the envelopes.]
**[Kidding. But. Seriously. I have Dirt on everyone I know.]
HOW TO SHARPEN PENCILS from Pricefilms on Vimeo.
For some reason, I though (and hoped!) this was a full-length feature and have been waiting for the home release. However, you can simply watch it online, in it’s 9 1/2 minutes. Be sure to check out David Rees’, especially if you enjoyed his book as much as I did.
Hmmm, I wonder if I could get sued for actually starting my own Pencil Sharpening Business?
(If you’re at work and have kiddies in the vicinity, you might want to turn the volume down a bit.)