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.]

Spine.


“CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Ordinary materials – from paper cups and pencil stubs to tires, twist ties and playing cards – are transformed into extraordinary art in a new exhibition at the University of Illinois’ Krannert Art Museum.”
Read on.

(Thanks for the link, Hans!)

[Image copyright J. Maestre 2000.]

Review of PaperMate American Naturals.


Personally, I have always been a sucker for pencils, but I really got interested in them last summer after reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Walter Harding’s biography of Henry David Thoreau, The Days of Henry Thoreau. I immediately got the urge to write with some graphite. There were some junky yellow pencils around the apartment, but I wanted something nicer and not yellow. So I popped out to the shop and picked up a dozen Papermate American Naturals pencils, because I liked the lack of a finish on the wood and the blue foil lettering. So it is only natural that this review comes next.

The technical stuff:
Material: Some non-cedar, white wood that smells like grade school.
Shape: Hexagonal.
Finish: Unfinished.
Ferrule: Plain metal.
Eraser: Pink vinyl.
Core: HB (#2) graphite. Ceramic, non-waxed.
Markings: Blue Foil. “PAPERMATE AMERICAN NATURALS.”
Packaging: Varies. Usually a cardboard box of ten or a dozen. Also avaiable in twelve dozen (one gross) boxes.
Origin: Jelutong (or Pulai, similar species; both grow in Indonesia), manufactured in Lewisburg, Tennessee, USA.
Availability: Widely available in office supply stores and online. Office Max is your best bet.


Considering that the target market for this pencil is “children and schools” and that some companies seem to (for some reason) market junk to kids for pencils, these pencils are a pretty nice find. The core is dark, and as my friend Dan in Baltimore puts it, “They feel right in your hand.” The plain wood, blue letters and plain ferrule combine to make one attractive pencil. The sanding is not as smooth as some unfinished pencils, but it is made up for by the fact that you can get a serious grip on this pencil. Whether you are sweating or whether you just ate half of a pizza, the raw wood will stay put in your paw. I’ve done some long writing with these, and they work just fine. Sharpening is smooth and clean, almost as much as cedar.

The two major drawbacks of this pencil are the smeariness of the core and the terrible eraser. While considerably dark, the core tends to smear onto your hands, the opposite page, and anything else that comes near it. While pencil marks will last until you actually erase them, this is not always so with this graphite. It is also considerably brittle and dry and almost feels like charcoal at times. The eraser is probably the worst pencil eraser I have ever tried to use. It is billed as being smear-proof, but all it really does is smear the graphite around the page and make a mess of itself. Of course, one could object that this is because the core smears. But I tested erasing the markings of this pencil with a nice Pink Pearl, and it did just fine. Similary, I erased some Forest Choice with the eraser, and it made the same mess, which we know is not from the Forest Choice core.

However, for the price ($1-2) a dozen and the ease of availability, American Naturals are still pretty good pencils, largely because of the finish. I tend to like them for putting behind my ear while reading a novel or running around the library, and I almost never read Hemingway’s more adventuresome novels without an American Naturals pencil behind my ear or between my teeth.

April 2006 appendix:

Comrade Ashley has this advice to offer:

[Comrades] have mentioned several times the deplorable, inexcusable excuse for an eraser that is found on PaperMate American #2 pencils.

Recently in a pencil pinch (on vacation), I bought some of these pencils. As
pleasantly surprised as I was by the lead (dark and soft), and the matte,
easily gripped lacquer, I was nevertheless devastated by those erasers! I came
up with the following two solutions:

1) Remove the bad erasers and replace with good erasers from other pencils that I do not like or use.

2) Place the ferrule of the PaperMate pencil beneath my heel, I snap it off
and replace with an eraser cap. I remove the ferrule to compensate for the
imbalance and weight of the eraser caps.

[Photos copyright John 2005.]

Jefferson: hella meta.

This comes via Journalismo, via 43 Folders:

“Among his collection of pocket-sized devices were scales, drawing instruments, a thermometer, a surveying compass, a level, and even a globe. To record all these measurements, Jefferson carried a small ivory notebook (pictured) on which he could write in pencil. Back in his Cabinet, or office, he later copied the information into any of seven books in which he kept records about his garden, farms, finances, and other concerns; he then erased the writing in the ivory notebook.”

Read more.

I really thought I read somewhere that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence using a pencil and then went over it in ink, but I cannot find anything to prove this one way or the other. Does anyone know anything about this?

[Photo copyright Monticello(?).]

At One Remove.

From At One Remove:

“Mars Lumograph EE. Great pencil. Discontinued. Why do they do this? Last remaining stub. The tonal range would put a silverprint to shame, with a dmax darker than charcoal. The EB version at least, is still sold as 8B. Why did Staedtler make this pencil?”

[Photo copyright AOR.]

Timberlines.

We’d like to welcome to the Revolution our friend Woodchuck at Timberlines. Woodchuck comes from honest-to-goodness Pencil Royalty (the only kind allowed in a Revolution). His great- grandfather was the legendary Heinrich Berolzheimer, who immigrated to the United States after 40 years of pencil making in Germany. Heinrich “founded the Eagle Pencil Company, which introduced the famous Eagle and Mirado brands.” It was Woodchuck’s grandfather Charles who ventured west to bring us CalCedar. Royalty indeed!

To boot, Woodchuck is the President of California Cedar Products Company, the manufacturer of Forest Choice pencils. And, despite his position otherwise, he seems to us to possess considerable artistic talent, which we certainly hope he will continue to share with the readers of his new blog.

And it turns out that we each played a role in the birth of one another’s blogs. The timing of the births of The Revolution and Timberlines could not be more fortuitous.

In only a week, we already have some great posts from Woodchuck about pencils and the pencil manufacturing world. Here is a post about pencil certification, and here is another highlighting the ways in which we use pencils. To be sure, Woodchuck is an ambitious blogger and is as passionate about pencils are we are — maybe even more so! And we are lucky to be have such a great source of not only information, but also a source of inspiration in our own pencil adventures.