Learning Cursive.

Kids don’t learn cursive in school any longer. It’s a useless skill, apparently, unlike Algebra, which I use twenty times before I’ve finished my third cup of coffee.* For a year or two, the death of cursive writing is at least a monthly topic I have read about on social media, complete with outrage and negativity.

Someone is doing something about it, though, rather than bellyaching. Cursive Logic is a straight-forward system which teaches cursive logically and quickly. After twelve years of Catholic school, I don’t think I could learn more about cursive, being steeped in some bad habits born of rebellion in college, where I could print in gel to my heart’s content. But having a daughter who turns five this spring and who wants to learn cursive, I can see by reading this workbook that she’ll be proficient in cursive writing quickly enough to astound her teachers, as soon as she’s ready to begin this workbook.

And, of course, I checked out the paper in the workbook, for it’s suitability for pencil. Conclusion: they picked this paper on purpose for its pencil friendliness. I know it.

You can back this system on Kickstarter. With seven days to go, the goal is achievable with some endoftheline help from Comrades like you. If you want to contribute toward kids learning cursive, do contribute to this project. Pledges start at only $25, which is a small price to pay for helping kids’ brains. And we all benefit from smarter kids.

*Of course, I kid. The French press is an art, not something which requires precision, to be duplicated.

(We received an advanced copy of the workbook for the purpose of review/promotion.)

Mechanical Pencil to Last a Lifetime.

That’s how this pencil on Kickstarter bills itself.

This is a solid pencil, machined in the United States, out of raw brass or aluminum. We are a little late to the party, since we just got our prototype this weekend, but I had to get this out. I love this pencil.

This is a solid pencil, as solid as a Space Pen — perhaps more so because there is no heavy brass refill rattling around inside. And the raw aluminum is wonderful. Because there is no coating, it seems to have a low specific heat. Mine gets very cold in my cozy house and then warms up quickly in my warm hands. And the naked metal, machined as it is, lends itself to a nice grip. This is something I don’t find in most metal writing tools.
The plunger and clip are very attractive, extending the simple design of the pencil. I really like the black eraser and clip. The clip comes separated from the pencil, but I found it more useful with the clip attached and appreciated it’s inclusion. The click action is pleasant and feels like a Bic mechanical pencil made of aluminum. I assure you; that’s not an insult. I have trouble finding fault with that pencil myself.
There are a few gripes. First, I am not usually a fan of .5mm leads, and the lack of retracting needle makes the pencil rather sharp. Finally, the innards are plastic. But I think this pencil more than makes up for these few issues.
First, the business end of the pencil — it’s perfect. It is machined so precisely that it does not need a needle. There is no lateral movement of the lead whatsoever. One of my pet peeves about mechanical pencils in general is that the leads move. Because of the shape of the nosecone, the lead feels more like a .7mm to me in that it does not feel sharp. The tip of the pencil itself is a little sharp, but I don’t make a habit of stabbing myself in the chest or arm with my writing implements — not lately anyway. The plastic innards are my least favorite thing about this pencil. But I wonder if the solid build would protect the mechanism somehow? At any rate, designer Andrew Sanderson promises that he’ll fix it or make you a new one. And that’s a pretty serious guarantee.

You have three more days to back this on Kickstarter. If  you like mechanical pencils at all, especially ones designed to last forever, definitely check this out. I was really surprised to find that I reach for this pencil pretty often, largely because I really like the feel of the metal. I’d definitely buy a brass one in the future.

[We received this prototype at no cost. Opinions are our own.]

Baron Fig on Kickstarter.

This might be one of the most simple and beautiful looking notebooks I have ever seen: Baron Fig. Read more about the specs here.

“There isn’t a sketchbook or notebook out there that we feel truly understands how those of us use them on a daily basis. After a lot of searching over nearly two decades we decided to make the book that we want to use. We’ve created many prototypes and are ready to place our first order for manufacturing—and that’s where we need your help. Without a significant amount of orders the manufacturers cannot make any books at all.

We’re a small group of thinkers (designers, illustrators, writers, entrepreneurs and the like) that love to sit down with a notebook or sketchbook and give birth to interesting thoughts and ideas. While today’s digital age is fantastic—we love technology—we’ve found that our best work always starts on paper.”

Check out their Kickstarter, which is close to having the goal met already.

Jar-Based Pencil Sharpener.


Inspired by this Mason jar pencil sharpener I forwarded to a few Comrades recently, Brian has created a jar-based pencil sharpener in less than a day. I was hoping one of the Creative Minds to whom I sent that email would attempt this, seeing as how I am…not very good at things like that or, at least, not confident in my competence. Beyond, a jar-based pencil sharpener by Brian in Baltimore:*

Well, here are some pics of my attempt to make a jar sharpener. Not too bad for a 15 minute first attempt, and shelling out a total of $.40. The trickiest thing was drilling the appropriate sized & spaced holes, and finding small enough screws. (I repurposed screws used to hold together a old audio cassette — a trick I highly recommend.) It works fine, but I would prefer a metal sharpener. Also, the one screw is a hair too close to the pencil hole — I’ll have to correct that the next time around. I am also not too sure how durable the set-up is — only time and use will tell if the screws will hold the plastic. If I were serious about making these I would contact the Dux Co. and try to buy some in bulk from them, with the pre-drilled screws. Also, I didn’t use a Mason jar this time around for fear of messing it up. What do ya think?

Personally, a large-ish clear container to hold a month’s shavings is attractive to me. I collect mine in a stoneware vessel my wife brought back from a trip this fall. (Then I store them for tinder.) My method is not pretty. It’s actually a little sooty. Brian told me this is a Faber-Castell sharpener he picked up at our local Plaza Art in Mt. Vernon. I can’t find a link, but I have two. They are very good little sharpeners, though the opening is a little narrow to accommodate Japanese pencils (Palomino, Hi-Uni, et. al.).

*Makers of the famous Inkwell Sharpener, a very fine jar sharpener indeed.