Cliff Clavin and Dixon.

Seems there was a program on television lately about companies that have not out-sourced much of their production and still make their gear in the USA, including the Dixon Ticonderoga company. The show is called “Made in America.” Seeing as how I’m sitting here chewing on a Tri-Write, I wish I could have caught it.

Making pencils (and other products) over-seas is a hot topic, certainly, but we pass no judgment here at Pencil Revolution. There are certainly foreign-made pencils that are much better than some American pencils, and vice versa. We’ve found both gems and junk from the US, from Europe and from Asia.

Still, given that making pencils in America has always been a part of Dixon’s approach and that this approach was certainly instrumental in strengthening the American pencil industry during the first World War (when good German pencils were getting hard to come by), this is still something admirable. The American pencil industry was and is beneficial to the industry as a whole, if for no other reason, then for the mechanizations made standard here.

(Thanks, Armand and Ronin1516 for the link!)

Happy Labor Day!

Two more pencil buildings.

Halib sends us information about “Le Crayon” in Lyons, France: “Here is another ‘pencil building’….The “Crédit Lyonnais” tower in the Part Dieu neoghbourhood of Lyon, France. Its local nickname is ‘Le crayon’, the pencil.” (View original photo here.)

And Luca writes in: “Hi, Just to let you know that in Genova (Italy) there is a Building called ‘Matitone;’ that means ‘big pencil’. (View original image here.)


Many thanks to Halib and Luca and everyone else who sends us suggestions and posts. Keep ’em coming!

[Photos copyright Coolfrog and Foto.It.]

Loftgeeks.

Rob Harrison of Loftgeeks submitted this post this week:

The more that I type and use my computer, the worse my writing gets with pencils or any other implement. I don’t even own a pencil sharpener anymore, and have great difficulty finding pens. Whenever I’m on the phone and say “wait, let me grab a piece of paper” I actually am rushing to my laptop to open NotePad and type up a quick note. Even I can barely understand my own handwritten print, and my cursive is quickly going down the tubes as well. Yet my typing speed has soared over 150 words per minute and since my PDA (a Sony Clie) joined the daily contents of my pocket, the need to write by hand diminishes more rapidly each day. Only my PDA need recognize my attempted scrawls in the Grafiti 2.0 language, and I’ve begun to handwrite printed letters in the Grafiti style instead of my own. In the digital age, I wonder if pencils are quickly becoming a dying breed and will soon be replaced by smart paper technologies.

We certainly hope not. You’d be amazed at the technology that actually goes into making pencils, from developing non-toxic paint to getting ferrules on more effficiently. There is a veritable plethora of information at Timberlines about pencil manufacturing and the pencil industry, and we cannot recommend our friend Woodchuck enough as a source of amazing information and great pencil stories.

Treasure desk.


This was sent it this week from Dave in Virginia:

“Greetings — My Wife was cleaning around a homemade desk that was left in a home we recently purchased and found a box of pencils. The pencils were in pristine condition and never used. We thought it was pretty cool and decided to contact Faber-Castell. They responded quickly:

You have found a very old pencil box. It dates back to about 1860 and was produced by A.W.Faber in Stein near Nuremberg. The combination of pencils in different degrees was a very successful idea of Lothar von Faber, the owner and manager of the factory.

Sincerely

Renate Hilsenbeck, Faber-Castell, Archives

I hope that those who enjoy pencils, enjoy this brief post. Remember, always dig deep in ’empty’ drawers, you never know what will turn up.

-Dave — Richmond,VA”

Thanks are due to Dave, and we certainly encourage The People to send us your stories and pictures. We cannot guarantee that we can publish everything, but we can try.

[Photo copyright Dave N. 2005. Used with permission.]

Pencilmation.

Ross has tons of really cool animations from a pencil-line-drawing slant at his great site, Pencilmation, home of Happy Little Toons. Be sure to check out our favorite toon, “A Sad Swim,” which features a soundtrack that reminds us of Wes Anderson‘s films. Of course, you have to check out “Pencilmation #1” — the original.

[Screenshot content copyright Russ at Pencilmation, used with permission.]

Rotterdam.


Thanks to Martine and Max for each sending us information about the Pencil Building in Rotterdam. There is a block of flats in the large city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands called Potlood that is contained in a huge building that looks like a pencil. Max tells us:

“Great blog. This building is called ‘Het Potlood’ which is Dutch for The Pencil. The Potlood is in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It is next door to the public library of the city. Het Potlood is an apartment building.”

I suddenly want to move to the Netherlands. That building would make a great headquarters for the Revolution.

[Photo from here.]

Blackwing 602 at Ninth Wave Designs.

Lisa at Ninth Wave Designs writes about her beloved Blackwing 602s:

“I began using Blackwing 602 pencils as an art student years ago and have never found another pencil to compare with the richness of the lead. They give a deep dark black without being overly smudgy, and all the silvery range of greys are there too. The feeling that comes to mind is ‘smooth’ and it is a pleasure to put this pencil to paper.” (Read on.)

The Revolution is without Blackwings to speak of and hopes against hope that Sanford will get that ferrule machine fixed or replaced. Maybe if enough members of the Revolution step up and write to Sanford Corp. it might help? It should be obvious to them that the fans of the Blackwing are willing to pay good money for it. Here is their contact info. In my experience, they do actually write back or at least read what people send them. Perhaps this is a job for the power of the Pencil People.

Review of Dixon Ticonderoga Classic.


Our review today comes from Tom Leininger, a professional writer and photographer based in Lafayette, Indiana. Tom also has a blog on which you can see some of his amazing photos. We know that Tom is a huge fan of the Dixon Ticonderoga, so we asked him if he would review them for the Revolution, and we want to thank Tom at the outset for a great review and wonderful photos.

The technical stuff:
Material: Incense cedar.
Shape: Hexagonal.
Finish: Non-toxic yellow, high gloss.
Ferrule: Dixon’s famous green with yellow stripes.
Eraser: Soft pink rubber.
Core: HB (#2) graphite.
Markings: Green Foil. “U.S.A. Dixon Ticonderago 1388-2/HB Soft.”
Packaging: Varies. The box I have had 10 in it. Also available by the dozen and multi-dozen.
Origin: Manufactured in USA of California cedar; Company is based in Heathrow, Fla.


It was not until college that I understood how vital a pencil is to my chosen profession. I was sitting in my first journalism class at Western Kentucky University when the professor said we should always carry a pencil with us. Or, just use pencils all the time. They work in the rain, when ink runs. They work in the cold when ink freezes.

So, I have always had a pencil at hand, I just never really wrote with them all the time, until recently.

Before I found this blog I had been trying to go back to the fountain pen I bought when I was in college. I liked the fact it was messy and pretentious. It must have gotten lost in all of my moves. The disposable ones I tried did not always work. Since most of my writing is done in small notebooks standing up, I needed something simple.

The pencil. It was staring me in the face all along. I always kept one in my car, for when it rained or was extremely cold. I thought this might be what I am looking for.

So, I grabbed a generic one from the drawer at work, but was disappointed. A couple of people mentioned the Pilot G2 mechanical, which I tried. These let me down.

Coming home one day I found the rather patriotic box of Dixon Ticonderogas sitting on the desk. My wife, a former first grade teacher, said they were best for her kids. “I know you are reading about pencils,” she said with a smirk. “They are the best.”


So I sharpened one to a nice point. Unlike the mechanical one, the lead does not break easily. With pencils and keyboards, I am a little on the rough side. It works well writing in small notebooks standing up, or crouching down on the ground.

I gave one to a pencil wielding editor at the newspaper I work at. Maybe it is even better when used at a desk. “It’s a good pencil,” he said. It required one sharpening for a day’s worth of work. The generic he had been using needed to be sharpened every five minutes. He also noted that pencil has a more rounded feel to it. It does not leave creases in your hand.

“Another thing about that stupid pencil,” he said leaving the office. “It is strong and does not break.”

I have realized it can’t write on everything. My hand or checks to be cashed for example. At times it is not always easy to carry. These would be the biggest drawbackws to the wooden pencil.

Most of the time I will tuck it behind my ear, leading to the phantom pencil syndrome. At the end of the day, I still think it is behind my ear when alas, it is not. Luckily, it tucks into my Newswear chest vest and Mountainsmith Tour lumbar bag easily.

I do wish it came in a size that would fit a shirt pocket well. Sharpening is a breeze. The point is solid. They taste like wood. The eraser works well. And they can write on napkins. What more could one ask for? For one thing, these are right handed pencils, I am left-handed. So, all of the printing is upside down when I am writing.

The Dixon Ticonderoga has earned a spot in my kit. That is saying a lot, since I am kind of picky.

[All photos and text copyright T. Leininger 2005.]

Bigger and bigger.

From the ever-informative Timberlines:

“Those of us in the pencil industry are all quite proud of the origins and traditions of our companies. Many of us like to tell our historical tale of product innovation and organizational development. A number of us even claim to have produced the world’s ‘___est’ pencil. Pick your adjective.”

(Read on.)

Dalton Ghetti.


Dalton Ghetti carves sculptures out of the points of pencils, literally. This is amazing work that you should definitely check out.

At school Dalton always sharpened pencils by hand, and would sometimes peel the paint from the pencil and carve intricate designs into the wood. He noticed that a good blade cuts through both the wood and through the graphite, leaving behind a nice flat and shiny surface. He began working on them until they were perfectly round and cone shaped, then removed more wood as the graphite started to become part of the carvings. He had found the perfect material for his miniature sculptures.

(Thanks for the link, Hans!)

[Image copyright D. Ghetti.]