Pencil illin.

Philofaxy writes about mechanical pencils and the love and comradery we feel for our mechanical Brothers and Sisters, not to mention our inky Cousins:

“Some days, I worry about world peace. Some days, I worry about my family. Most days, though, I worry about what writing implement I should carry in the lone pen loop in my Filofax. To date, I’ve been using a nondescript, black-barreled Uni-Ball (blue ink). But, as I’ve noted before, ink carries with it a price: the price of permanence. A choice made in ink cannot be undone. A choice made in pencil, however, is inscribed only in dust. And we know how permanent dust is. (It blows in the wind.)

I’m a man of impermanence, not permanence. So I’ve switched to pencil. The problem with the usual wooden pencil, though, is twofold: (1) You have to have access to a sharpener at all times; and (2) it doesn’t stay in a typical planner pen loop, because it is a cylinder of uniform diameter. Problem No. 2 is probably decisive; Problem No. 1, however, is no small matter. In combination, they left me with no choice for general planner usage: mechanical pencils. The folks at Pencil Revolution have assured me that mechanical pencils are not necessarily evil. (They say that, but I note a conspicuous lack of mechanical pencil porn on the site.)”

Read the rest of the post here.

[Text, Philofaxy. Image, J.G.]

Simplicity in a pencil?

A good friend and colleague of mine gave me permission to quote from an email she sent me about pencils, Thoreau and a Mars Lumograph 100 that I left in her mailbox. I’ve been thinking about environmental issues and how they relate to throw-away (non-refillable) pens, etc. And the issue of quality versus value pencils comes up often in our little community, so I thought I’d post this:

“I know I’ve teased you about the extent of your fascination with pencils, but I understand where it comes from. These are the tools of our trade, if we’re doing philosophy correctly. We might need the laptops to do academic philosophy, but to really think and explore the meaning of life, we need quiet time to ourselves, away from the hum of electronics; time alone in nature, with a means of recording our thoughts as they come to us. Most pens are disposable, and their use reflects our attitudes toward the environment, others, and ourselves. Pencils are finicky, and they need care. If we don’t sharpen them, they won’t write, and if we don’t use caution, they will break. Using pencils — in a strange way — cultivates stewardship.

Also, it’s encouraged me to take note of the quality of the things that I usually take for granted. There is a demonstrable difference, and we should aim for quality. And all too often, the quality gets disregarded, especially as we search for good deals. I’ve almost gotten to the point of doing searches for quality chalk for my classes, since there are some years that the school’s chalk simply doesn’t work. What’s kept me in check is the fact that I know I’m nowhere near organized enough to keep it on me. I’d have a crate of the good stuff in my office and nothing on me when I got to class.

And I get the same looks from my family that you’ve gotten over the pencils. When my aunt and I get to talking about spices and various brands of olive oil, it’s as if we’re speaking Outer Mongolian. One of my uncle’s called me a pseudo-intellectual snob because I knew what Earl Grey tasted like.”

[Text, Tanya J., used with permission. Image, J.G.]

Review of Boston Bulldog Sharpener.

Gordon Coale was very kind in writing the review of the Boston Bulldog sharpener for us (which also appears on his site here).

Technical Information
Type: Blade.
Material: Plastic.
Shavings Receptacle: Barrel.
Point Type: Long-Point.
Markings: “BOSTON” (body).
Place of Manufacture: Made in China, by Hunt Mfg. Co.
Availability: Office Max stores and Mister Art, among other sources.

“The heartbreak of a pencil sharpener.”

This is the second time I’ve written this review of the hand held Boston rotating lid pencil sharpener.

The little Boston hand held sharpener has a lot of things going for it. This biggest thing is that it has a container to hold the shavings. Even better, it has a rotating top that keeps the shavings inside.

It’s big enough to hold a fair amount of shavings but small enough to fit in a pocket. It also puts a nice long point on the lead and the barrel shape makes it comfortable to hold while sharpening. However, there was one teensy drawback. I wrote the first review as I did this one, with my California Republic Palomino HB in my Moleskine notebook. I was almost finished when the little Boston sharpener started to eat my Palomino. The blade had gone dull.
No continuous curls of shaved wood — just sawdust and a broken lead. Oh, heartbreak! Was this relationship to end when it had barely begun? Apparently.

The blade was attached with a screw which means that the blade could be replaced if only I could find a replacement. I Googled high and low, and not a single replacement blade was to be found. I was looking for a long term relationship with my pencil sharpener, and now it appears that I will be forced into a series of short term relationships and one night stands as I search the seedy environs of drug stores and supermarkets for the cheap plastic thrills they offer. I can’t do this. I want a good sharpener that I can settle down with and make shavings.

So I Googled for a sharpener with replaceable blades. There isn’t much. Staedtler had some hand held pencil sharpeners with replaceable blades but I couldn’t find anyone who carried the sharpener and the blades. What has this world come to?

Then I found the hand held sharpeners at Alvin — a fine assortment of spiffy sharpeners and their replaceable blades. Unfortunately, Alvin only sells the sharpeners in blister packs containing many sharpeners. I’m afraid I can’t afford a polygamous relationship with many sharpeners. I am a one sharpener kind of guy. But they did sell the blades in affordable 3 packs. Alvin has Alvin and Kum sharpeners. The Kum sharpeners had a variety of models with containers. The Alvin brand has some nice metal ones including the sublime Bullet, a sharpener reduced to it’s essentials.

I searched the web for an Alvin or Kum sharpener and it’s replaceable blades. I only found two sites, and the selection on both sites was minimal. Oh, where will I find the sharpener meant for me? Maybe there is hope. I had an exchange of emails with Charles Berolzheimer, aka WoodChuck the pencil pusher, President of California Cedar Products Company, from whom all Palomino pencils flow, and I spilled my heart out to him about my fruitless search for a long term relationship type of pencil sharpener. He is going to see what he can do at the Pencil World Creativity Store. Good luck WoodChuck!

Maybe some day in the near future there will be the pencil sharpener of my dreams nestled in my pocket ready to make shavings. A guy can hope.

Many many thanks, Gordon! Be sure to check out Gordon’s other post about pencils and Moleskines.

[Text and images, G.C. Used with kind permission. First image, J.G.]

More Pencilmation.

Ross at Pencilmation let us know a few weeks ago that he’s got some great new cartoons up at his site. Brighten up your Friday by checking out some really cool little films — especially the adventure of Infinity Snail!

(Flash required to view the little movies.)

[Image, Pencilmation.]

Sharpeners banned.

We do not make a habit of politically-charged posts, but we certainly will not shy away when politics involved pencils and pencil gear:

“A student at Waterloo Primary School in Ashton under Lyne dismantled a pencil sharpener and used the blade as a weapon, slashing another student across the neck. The school’s response? Nothing short of unbelievable.

The attacker was suspended for two days and is now back in school.

Police, who were notified two days later, have spoken to the young attacker and his parents.

Headteacher David Willis has now banned all pencil sharpeners.

They have banned pencil sharpeners. Banned pencil sharpeners. One more time – they banned pencil sharpeners.

The problem here was not the pencil sharpener. It was the wannabe Jack the Ripper who manipulated an ordinary tool to craft a weapon. Would the absence of a pencil sharpener have prevented this kid from his meticulously planned assault? Do they think that a kid who figures out how to use a pencil sharpener as a weapon will have any difficulty in using another tool in a similar fashion?”

Read the rest of the article here.

[Image, J.G.]


We received word from pencil Hero Doug Martin that the Classifieds on the Pencil Pages are up and spam-free:

“I would like to let your visitors know that I have taken measures to reduce the spam entries at The Pencil Pages classifieds. Over the past several months the pages were hit with large postings that crowded out the legitimate posts, and a number of my visitors have complained. As a result, some people may have stopped using them. The spammers may hit again, but I now have the ability to tweak my filters and fight back. Also, some may have noticed that The Pencil Pages haven’t changed very much in a long time. Updates are in the works…..”

If, for some mysterious reason, you haven’t been to Doug’s Pencil Pages, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It is — by far — the most comprehensive pencil site on the internet, and one of the oldest (if not the oldest). The classifieds are a great place to find rare or antique pencils, and to share yours, too. Check out the Classifieds here.

George Langenberg.

Greetings! We hope everyone had a great holiday break, or a great week either way. Resting was good, but it’s even better to be back in the pencil world.

Long overdue, is a post featuring Dutch artist George Langenberg, who was kind enough to send us a special message about his work and his pencils:

“Dear Pencil Revolution Readers,

I find it very hard to commit myself to a certain style or theme. I feel inspired by colours and texture of the drawing material and the paper. I often use watercolour paper as it has a nice feel which adds to the characteristics when a drawing is finished.

I build the surface hatching in different directions and I almost always use more then one colour. So that during the day when the light changes the colours in the drawing change with it. Colours made with pencil are very sensitive to the surrounding light. Day light is best of course.

I know you’re comparing many brands and qualities of colour pencils at Pencil Revolution. Here in Holland there aren’t that many good pencils available. Most known are probably British Derwent. But I like to use the U.S. made Karisma pencils. These are very soft and sometimes a bit sticky. I use a small breakable knife to sharpen, as the pencils are so soft they tend to break very easily. After the knife comes the sharpener to make it really sharp.

In time Karisma Black no 935 tends to oxidize if you put it very thick, thus giving it a whitish film. I regret the fact that Lemon Yellow isn’t available any more. It is a primary colour in Ittens colour circle so I found it ridiculous to get it out of production in the first place. Now the brightest yellow is Canary Yellow no 916. Apart from it’s silly name it’s a hard colour and not so fresh and subtle as Lemon Yellow no 915 was. I hereby plea to get Lemon Yellow no 915 back in the Karisma colour spectrum again. Any other Karisma lovers joining the petition?

My favourite colour must be Hot Pink no 993 but that is a very personal choice. I think because it makes such fresh contrasts opposed to other colours. And it’s such a vivid colour to blend with. For the future I try to make my art more and more contrast full, more and more Hot Pink.

I hope you enjoy the drawings in my portfolio.”

Many many thanks to George, and you can check out some of his great work at his website, here. Click “gallery” at the bottom, and click the stripes.

[Image, G.L., used with kind permission.]

Holiday break.

With a thousand apologies, posting on Pencil Revolution will be sporadic or put on hold entirely until next week. I’m out of town, and I’d rather just plan on a week-long break than I would to break promises about posting.

On the bright side, there are lots of goodies coming up, with some great stuff from some great artists.

And, to tide you over, check out Woodchuck’s latest post about mechanical vs. wood-cased pencils, as well as the latest California Republic gear!

Wright shirt.

Frank Lloyd Wright pays homage to the pencil – the humble tool that’s made the fortunes of countless writers, artists, architects and designers.”

Thanks to Mari for the link! Check out her blog here.

Review of California Republic Prospector.

For the review of the California Republic Stationers Prospector pencil, we have our Comrade and veritable pencil hero Frank C.

Material: Specially-treated Basswood.
Shape: Hexagonal.
Finish: Natural/Glossy grass green.
Ferrule: Brass on the natural/Silver metal on the green.
Eraser: Soft rubber, pink on natural, green on green.
Core: HB (#2) graphite.
Markings: XXX. “California Republic Prospector.”
Packaging: Varies. Packs of ten and tubes of fourty.
Origin: Manufactured in Thailand by California Republic Stationers, a division of Cal Cedar.
Availability: In the US, exclusively through the Pencil World Creativity Store.

Before reading any review, I believe its important to know what a reviewer’s biases are before you read one of their reviews. With pencils, my biases are simple. I like pencils that write a dark line, pencils such as the Blackwing, GRIP 2001, California Republic Palomino and Forest Choice pencils. These four pencils are my favorites, and any new pencil I buy has to compare favorably to them before it enters my regular rotation.

Since that’s out of the way, here’s a review of the California Republic Prospector Graphite HB pencil. In the California Republic line, the Prospector is their “value” pencil. In this case, that’s “value” as in good value, not “cheap.” While not made to the standards of the Palomino or the Forest Choice, the Prospector holds its own against the high standards set by those two pencils.

Interestingly, though, is that, although the Prospector is an “HB” like the Palominos, it writes a fairly light line. Given my bias toward pencils that write a dark line, you would think I would immediately disqualify the Prospector from consideration. However, it’s hard to dismiss a pencil that’s as well made and doesn’t need to be sharpened every few lines (unfortunately, this is the one and only fault I can find against the Palomino). While the finish isn’t the equal of the Palomino, it’s fairly close and better than most pencils on the market. The eraser is top-drawer, too, one of the best I have tried. Regarding the lighter line, it’s not too light and sets a decent balance between too light and just right. Given its other strengths, I can live with the lighter line.

So, if you’re looking for a well-made pencil with a great eraser that writes a relatively light line but doesn’t need to be sharpened every few lines, consider the Prospector. This pencil has been a pleasant surprise, and has actually made me reconsider my biases. Maybe I do like pencils that write a lighter line, after all. Well, if they’re as good as the Prospector my bias towards pencils that write a dark line just may change, after all.

Many thanks to Frank!

[Images and text, Frank C. Used with very kind permission.]