Portable Sketch Kits.

We have a playdate tomorrow to go to zoo with our Pals, and we thought we would design some portable drawing kits.

We took some empty mint tins from Trader Joe’s and then stuck on these name tags that we found at Target in the dollar bins. I trimmed down pencils by hand with a sharp utility knife and then sharpened them in the Dahle 133, using its Auto Stop feature.

We included some tiny sharpeners that we found at the shop, along with some tiny 💩 erasers and some rainbow erasers.

Finally, we made some tiny little notebooks to fit inside. My kids are super excited, and I am busy eating more of those delicious vanilla mints so that I can get more tins. I want one for myself!

Review of Sprout Pencils.

The herd pack, lined up.
The herb pack, lined up.

The kind folks at Sprout sent us a pack of their plantable pencils recently for review (gratis), and I am in love with these pencils. These were originally on Kickstarter, and I missed them totally.

We received the herb pack, which reads like a list of the contents of the little garden in our small yard here at HQ. These are round pencils, made of cedar, in the USA. The logo is laser-etched, which made them smell like a campfire for the first week or two that I had them. And that’s a good thing.*

Before my pack was gutted, I scored one of these patriotic notebooks.
Before my pack was gutted, I scored one of these patriotic notebooks.

The ends are capped with a dark green plastic which dissolves in water. This contains the seeds. Do not chew on it. How does it work? Let’s borrow Sprout’s graphic:

Click for larger goodness.
Click for larger goodness.

Detailed instructions are also here.

These arrived a little too late for planting in Central Maryland, but I have another plan in mind. I am going to use these up before next spring and plant them then, for some Pencilicious Planting Action (PPA). I hope to report back then on how well they work, with photos of lushness galore.

I love when pencils come in a box.
I love when pencils come in a box.

In action, these pencils are very nice to write with. The unfinished wood and round shape are very comfortable, and the cedar sharpens perfectly. They come unsharpened; so you can get out a little Compost Cedar from the get-go. The leads are smooth and a little on the light side. This makes them great for writing on rough pots and textured plant-labels. The moisture sensitive caps do make me leave these inside during the muggy Maryland summer. But I can’t say that I venture outside to write as much in July as I probably should anyway. The lead is smear-resistant and seems to be lightly waxed. Erasing is impressive, and ghosting is not bad at all. They feel like a modern Ticonderoga core to me.

Versatile core.
Versatile core.

I have to say that I would really like these pencils even without the seeds in the caps. A round, naturally finished cedar pencil with burned on logo is very appealing to me. However, giving them another life next spring/summer, after use has rendered them stubs, is a nice way to honor such pretty pencils.

Thanks to Democratech for the sample pack, and I hear you can find these around Boston and Cambridge (where I’m headed on the 20th) if you’d like to avoid having to buy them online. They are available at Amazon also, for $19.95 a box.

*Ha! Find a pen that does that!

Review of Sun-Star Safety Pencil Knife.

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We received one of these Pencil Knives free of charge from Jet Pens a few weeks ago at HQ for reviewing. I have used this little knife for a while and have probably taken it to inappropriate places in my pocket over these weeks. So believe me when I tell you that this is a cool little knife, one that has been tested.
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First, it is a safety knife, but it is still a knife. Don’t give one to a toddler or someone with tiny fingers. That said, it is difficult to cut yourself with it if you are careful and use it for what it is meant for — sharpening pencils. I am a man who brings accidents down upon himself, and I haven’t cut myself with it yet.* This is a very pocket-friendly knife. It takes up about as much Volume Real Estate as a pocketknife, but it is very light. I literally forgot it was in my cargo shorts pocket on several occasions, almost leading to a Washing Machine Test. The blade assembly slides out and locks into place with a satisfying click, and there is a thumb indentation for ease of use.
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I want to stress that using this knife is very unlike using a regular pocketknife to sharpen a pencil. The blade is thinner and is curved. Because of the safety guard, you cannot chop off large hunks of wood or graphite from your pencil. This knife works in a sort of semi-shaving action, taking off small pieces of the pencil with each cut. This means that it takes some time to bring an unsharpened pencil to Readiness for Action. But it also means that there is a lot of room for error. Because it is so unlike a pocketknife and because it takes off so little of the pencil at a time, this is an ideal sharpener for someone who is interested in taking up knife sharpening but perhaps is nervous about losing a digit or is intimidated by slight difficulty of sharpening a pencil with a knife.
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After several weeks of use, my review unit is still working very well, without significant dullness or any rust. Certainly, replacement blades would be a boon to this system, but the $6 price tag is not so steep. I really like this knife for touching-up points while I am out, when the pencil just needs a little nudge back to sharpness. It is lighter than some brass pocket sharpeners, but the volume keeps it from falling out of my pocket.

Plus, did I mention that this knife is just cool?

* Knock on wood.

Of Pencils, Pads and the Road.

At Home Kit
This essay is from Wayne H. W. Wolfson. It is a detailed musing on writing and drawing kits that will surely facilitate the formulation of Kits for Comrades everywhere. I, for one, am rethinking the use and contents of my vintage (it was my Dad’s) US Army Map Case…

I groped for the idea from last night which I planned on using for a story. Like a fisherman who spots something just below the surface of the water, its shape making it seem worthwhile to go after while still not revealing exactly what it is. Usually I have my trusty pad next to me in which I could have quickly jotted it down. But having gotten in late last night and somewhat whammied by jetlag, I had not unpacked my book bag. It would come back to me, its temporary absence spurring me on to unpack.

To varying degrees all artists are pagans in that we all seem to create little rituals which superstitions then attach themselves to. If I feel a story percolating but not quite there yet or I am unsure of what I want to draw next — If I then go out without a (sketch/note) pad then I know inspiration will hit or I will encounter subject matter whose presence is fleeting and cannot necessarily be returned to the next day, when better equipped. As inconvenient as this may sound, it can actually be worked to one’s advantage too, knowing the cause and effect, choosing to go out unequipped, so as to bring things to the surface.

For the most part though, I always have some manner of pad and pencil on me. What I am equipped with depends upon where I am. Continue reading “Of Pencils, Pads and the Road.”

Off to the Spring Woods.

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I am off to the woods for the weekend, for some spring temperatures, shortwave radio, fire and hiking with Comrade Dan. Sans pencil sharpener or sharpeners. I’ve got my knife sharp enough to have made a nice, clean, little cut on my finger that healed in twelve hours. I think it can handle some cedar.

How many pencil aficionados does it take to have an excellent camping trip in Central Maryland? Hopefully just two.
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We’ll be back this coming week with a review of USA Silver pencils and a report from the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC.

[That’s a 1990, USA-made Camillus BSA “Official” knife I won for selling the most popcorn.]

Hobo Signs and Traveling.

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This is another post from the Enoch Pratt library, the public library system in our Home Base of Baltimore (HON!). Pencils seem to mix with literature which seems to mix with walking which leads to wandering, and we were wondering, Why not put this on PR for the benefit of Comrades not lucky enough to inhabit Charm City? (there’s far too much coffee and too little punctuation in HQ this weekend, as you can see).

Read the entire article here, written by frequent Pencil Revolution contributor and featured writer, Brian.

A little over two years ago, Field Notes introduced the Steno, a 6×9 stenography pad made with just truly excellent paper (and I should make a dozen of them my birthday present this year, yes). There are hobo symbols on the inside of the heavy cover. I toyed with the idea of hobo symbols for my door, but we lived in an old apartment. Now that we have a house and a door (an old wooden job) of our own, I think I have to get out the chalk.

What’s the symbol for “Pencils and memo pads for helping me vacuum?”

 

Glass Pencil Dispenser.

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During a posting dryspell, in July 2011, we made a trip to Boston (our home from 2001-2003) for a week’s fun. A shop I really like in Cambridge and Boston, Black Ink, featured some interesting pencil gear. They had both flavors of Blackwing in a pot at the counter, for sale as singles. They had the green sharpener we love so much. And they had a steel and glass pencil dispenser full of General’s Test-Scoring pencils. We were packing lightly and had already gone on a bit of a spree at the Shop at Walden Pond (Charlotte’s first visit and all) and at various bookstores. So I thought I’d get them next time.
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With moving this summer and the new baby on the way, we haven’t been back to Boston since, and I sort of forgot a bout them. Then, my Valentine’s Day gifts this year included the very cool dispenser and even better: a dozen General’s Test Scoring pencils. (Also another pack of Red Blooded Field Notes.)
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You pull up the top, which reminds me of a French press, and the pencils come up. The jar is starting to smell like pencils a little. I’ve switched the pencils it came with for some more…colorful pencils. I was worried it would topple easily, but it’s pretty stable. I keep it on a bookshelf in my dining room, filled and ready for dispensing pencils. It’s become one of those things I like to show off when someone who appreciates pencils and “useful things” comes over. To be sure, an old can would do the same thing, almost. But I’m still pretty enamored of this little dispenser.

I’m pretty sure this is the same dispenser, and one of the customer images features some neat-looking Write Dudes natural pencils I’d love get my hands on. The included pencils are also available via General’s ($18/3 dozen) and the Museum of Useful Things ($7.50/1 dozen). I’ll write a review of them, too, after some more testing. I’m really enjoying them.

Logan’s Pencil Box.


After the discussion of graphite dust in pencil boxes from earlier this week, we are happy to present Logan’s pencil box.

“It measures approx 4.25 x 5 x 0.5 inches.  The pencils are Prismacolor Turquoise H, B and 6B, and general 6B charcoal, cut in half to fit.”


I really like this set-up.  I have a few pencil extenders sitting around, but it never occurred to me to use them to carry shortened pencils in a box.  Usually, there’s just a very short Palomino in my Kutsuwa pencil holder, turned around backward to protect the point — and my leg.  Keeping an extender in a small sketch or writing kit can allow Comrades to carry really short pencils and even use them comfortably, no matter how big one’s hands are.

Thanks to Logan for sending us these images and sharing!  See more of Logan’s images on Flickr.