Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pencil - My thoughts


These are not esoteric products that are exclusive or expensive or hard to find - these are pencils that we use everyday. That we should use every day.

There is something grounding in the action of taking the pencil from behind your ear and jotting down a note or a fleeting thought on a piece of paper or in a notebook. It's a grounding experience that you won't get when you wiggle around on your cell phone screen, or type in your laptop. It's there and you can see it. You can do it without looking. You can do it while driving without getting a ticket.

Even using paper is a primal experience that grounds us back to our roots. It's important and it matters.
Have you seen the pencil drawings of Matisse? Have you ever read Truman Capote, Steinbeck, Henry David Thoreau or Nabokov? Well then you know the power of the pencil.

Thoreau was even born into a family of pencil-makers and worked in the family factory when he was young. He is credited with inventing the early American pencil.

A pencil has to offer you choice. You need to be able to choose your favorite hardness of lead.
The higher the number the harder the lead.
#2 is considered a good middle ground. For me, it's too hard and scratchy.
I like a softer lead that feels better on the paper and requires less force to make a nice black line.
Give me a #1 any day.

Engineers used to prefer a #3 because the harder point would stay fine longer. Musicians prefer softer leads because they need a light legible line that will erase easily. They have to make notes from the conductor who is often known to be wrong or confused and they may have to change their notes a million times on a sheet of music.

Sharpening is important of course. I prefer a simple razor sharpener that I carry with me everywhere. It takes very little wood off the pencil and doesn't break the lead. The crank handled or motorized sharpeners use a burr and remove a lot of wood and often break the lead so it falls out when you are writing. They are just a complicated, expensive and clumsy solution to a simple problem.

If you are good with a knife and know how to keep the edge sharp, and I do, then you can use the pen blade of your Jack knife to shave your pencil. That's a very respectable way to go about things and may give you some happiness.

The Blackwing 602 is often cited as the finest of all pencils. I can't wait to try it.

3 comments:

  1. Ticonderoga 1
    http://www.artisanalpencilsharpening.com

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your link. He definitely has the spirit.
      I do love and special order the Ticonderoga 1 - that is my daily driver.

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  2. Yes, yes, yes! Think I'll find my metal sharpener and throw out this cheap plastic one that I carry around with me! oxo

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