From At One Remove:
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.
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.
I am 76. I recall that when I was young, we used to have available a metal , rocket-shaped item, ending with a dullish point. The purpose was to put this over the sharpened tip of one’s pencils so that they would not break, hurt someone, or by accident mark up something….they have since vanished, in part because pencils have been replaced (for walking about) with mechanical pencils, so that real pencils now are alomst always kept in offices, rooms, desks, etc., and there no longer is the need to cap the tip. I have out of curiousity looked all over the place for any remains of this metal protector but, alas, have not found any. Most folks either have forgotten about them or are too young to have known about them.
I know that General’s Pencil Co. makes some plastic caps called Sav-A-Point that go on the tips of pencils and that Cretacolor makes a metal cap for woodless pencils. But Fred and I wonder if anyone out there knows where to get some metal pencil caps like they used to make?
I’m thinking that it might be interesting to have some custom Pencil Revolution pencils made. The problem with customized pencils, of course, is quality. I for one would not want to write with a junky pencil just because of what it says on it. I think I’m going to try to look around for some printable pencils that are worth having made, or maybe I’ll try a quick dozen from this company to be fair. I wonder if Sanford Corp. would make us some nice Mirados? Or if we can find some other nice model with Pencil Revolution on it?
The coolest thing about sketching, though, is you can do it anywhere…almost. Knowing that photography is disallowed in the Currier, I couldn’t imagine that sketching could harm anything until a friendly guard approached me while I was standing, sketchbook in hand, in front of the Picasso. “Is that a pencil?” he fretted, alarmed by my Pentalic woodless graphite pencil, which admittedly doesn’t look like a pencil from across the room. After I assured him that I was using pencil and wouldn’t dream of drawing in pen, he confided, “You wouldn’t believe how many people do,” adding as an afterthought, “We even give out pencils if people don’t have them.” And then as if to demonstrate that there were no hard feelings, he quietly reappeared with a stool for me to sit on. “That’s why we have them,” he explained.
(Continued from part I.)
It seems to me that handwriting is associated more with pencils than with pens these days. Maybe this is because we learned to write in pencil. Maybe it’s because our first pens were Bics or Papermates that did not produce as thick and expressive lines that pencils can live up to. Maybe it’s something I would never think of myself.
But there are a lot of people out there writing about it. Here’s a good one: Memory Keeper on Handwriting.
This is the very first review featured on PRevo. It has been reserved for Forest Choice, namely their cedar graphite pencils — because of their generosity and because I have personally always wanted to try their pencils and finally got to this week.
Some General Information:
Material:Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified Incense-cedar.
Finish: Unfinished cedar, sanded extremely smoothly, no varnish or lacquer at all.
Ferrule: Solid green metal, thin paint.
Eraser: Soft pink, non-smudge.
Core: HB (#2) graphite.
Markings: Dark green gloss. On one side, the FSC insignia and “FOREST CHOICE.” On the flip side, “www.forestchoice.com.”
Packaging: Ribbed kraft paper, by the dozen and the gross.
Origin: California (wood); Thailand (manufacturing).
Availability: Forest Choice online store.
That’s the technical information. Now for the good stuff.
It is certainly fortunate that the inaugural review on PRevo is of such an excellent pencil. The shape is a pleasantly rounded hexagonal barrel. The colors of the ferrule, the paint, the woodgrain and the eraser play on the senses in such a way that one would wish to have something important (but earthy) to write with one of these fine pencils. The touch and appearance factor are definitely to the advantage of this pencil.
Writing with a Forest Choice pencil is just as pleasurable as holding or beholding them. The core is as smooth as the sanded wood and considerably dark. If you have used some cheaper pencils with unwaxed cores, then you know how black an HB pencil can be. The core of the Forest Choice pencil achieves this darkness and somehow does so without adding the smear/smudge factor. What you get is a nice dark line that remains a line if you touch it, rather than turning to a grey blob upon getting disturbed in any way. I used them to hand-write the larger part of a term paper, and I did not have the trouble I sometimes have with reading pencil writing from the keyboard. It stood out against the page like gel ink would. To be sure, the core feels more like a smooth B grade lead, almost a 2B. It is rich.
The eraser, while extremely soft, is still a good match for the dark lead and takes the lines off the paper easily. The wear-down is minimal, and it does no damage at all to the paper so far as one can tell.
Sharpening is a breeze, of course, since the cedar has a long and straight grain. And it exudes that subtle cedar fragrance as the shavings hit the saucer or the table.
The texture and smell of unfinished and sanded cedar is really something that online photos and words cannot really convey. You have to try them. Forest Choice pencils are a little more expensive by the dozen than your average pencil, but they are also made of a higher quality wood, with a darker core and with a softer eraser that actually works. You will more than get your money’s worth, with writing pleasure to boot. I sure did.
(Edit, July 2017: Since I was asked, I did buy the pencils used for this review. I had reached out to FC in 2005 to ask about the shipping rates for their “lovely unfinished pencils.” They sent me a huge box of literally unfinished, round pencils for free that I used with great pleasure for years. I immediately ordered a few packs of Forest Choice pencils and have been buying them ever since.)
[Note: Reviews of Forest Choice’s colored pencils and carpenter’s pencils to follow in a few weeks, when I get around to ordering them. Review of PaperMate American Naturals next Friday! These photos copyright J.G. 2005.]
From Chemical and Engineering News, “The newsmagazine of the chemical world online.” Steve Ritter recalls:
Most adults probably realize that there isn’t any elemental lead in a pencil. But I worried about that when I was a kid after I had the point of a freshly sharpened No. 2 lodged in the palm of my right hand. It’s still there, 30 years later.
I actually have a graphite bit under my watch that’s been there since 1991, when I was in the seventh grade. But that’s a story (and photo) for another post.
Personal anecdotes aside, there’s some great information in there about pencils and graphite, including some things that not everyone knows about our humble wooden warrior.
[Photo copyright Doug Martin.]
“There is a lot less fear in writing with a pencil. Mistakes are easier to correct and there are never ink-flow issues. I can let my guard down with pencils and my handwriting is much more relaxed. It’s similar to going on a date in a dress (pen) and going to the market with a friend in jeans (pencil). I’m not going to be fussy about my jeans, I’m just going to relax in them. Pencils are comfortable, they keep us real.”
[Photo copyright N.G., used with permission.]