Monday, November 24, 2014

Fountain Pens

I have always loved writing and writing instruments. For a good long while I was enamored of Fountain Pens and searched them out in the new and used market, pen stores and swap meets. I fell in love with old Parker Vacumatics and the 51, had a new Duofold, a Montblanc and many others.

Most were drippy and finicky and pretentious. Those aren't character traits I want to associate myself with. I'm much more a functional, easy and useful kind of person and I want my life and objects to reflect those characteristics.

After decades of misadventures and ink leaks in my breast pocket I have now succumbed to the simple elegance of the pencil.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blackwing 602 Revival

If the world needs a Hipster pencil, this is it - the Blackwing 602.

It was a wonderful pencil that had a lot of acolytes extolling its virtues in its day.
It has a nice replaceable rectangular eraser, feels nice in the hand and is wonderful to write with.

The manufacurer, Eberhard Faber, was acquired by Faber-Castell and the pencil's production was ceased in the 90s. The Palomino Blackwing line was started anew in 2011 and now we have three beauties to choose from;

The Blackwing - very black and soft, a great art pencil,
The Blackwing 602 which is a great writing pencil with a sumptuous dark and soft lead,
The Blackwing Pearl which is in between the two.

The Palomino Blackwings cost about $20.00 a dozen. You will find them in fine art stores or online.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Another beauty

The Staedtler norica.
This pencil is just a very satisfying beauty.
Maybe I just like all pencils but this one is a real delight. I picked up a pack of two dozen for about $8 at Staples. What a deal.

Very pretty. Writes nicely with a firm but dark lead. Keeps a sharp point for quite a while while feeling very smooth.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014


We need to sharpen our pencils and there are a lot of ways to get the job done.

Our image of a crank operated wall mounted box is a great memory but in fact I don't like them.

They have grinding burrs in there that grind off a lot of wood and graphite. They make a lot of noise and you don't know when to stop. With softer lead pencils they just crumble them into dust. Not my favorite.

The electric pencil sharpeners are more of the same with the advantage that they don't have to be bolted down to a desk or wall. Not for me.

You can sharpen with a knife or razor. It's a nice contemplative way to get the job done and gives you a sense of pride when done well. That's nice.

My preference though is a simple sharpener like in the photo. Small, inexpensive, easy to carry and effective. They remove a very small amount of wood and shave the graphite to a nice point. Simple and effective. It makes me smile everytime.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Greatest Pencil Ever.

This pencil is a game-changer. The concept is a graphite stick with no wood sheath. Some other companies have done this but not with such wonderful results.

Behold the CRETACLOR MONOLITH 2B. This has a better lead feel than any pencil I use. It creates a dark line like a soft pencil but the graphite isn't soft so it stays sharp and feels sharp. It is heavier than wood pencils and has a very solid hand feel.

It is really great and very recommended. I got mine at Blick Art Supply and they are about $1.47 each. HB - 9B.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Mechanical Question?

I know that those who appreciate the wooden pencil might not like mechanical pencils, but I do. I think they are wonderful to write with and easier to transport. Certainly they lack the magic connection to the Earth that their woody brothers have but they are absolutely useful and efficient with all the feel of graphite to paper that is so sensual.

I like that you can choose the hardness/softness of the lead you want to use and have a pack of replacement erasers on hand. You can go into a Staples and get some B or BB leads for them much more easily than trying to get a #1 Ticonderoga which in fact you have to special order from the website.

Your big choices are the width of the lead. 0.5mm is the thinnest and excellent to write with. 0.7mm is a bit bolder but not messy. 0.9mm starts getting to be a bit much and I don't really recommend them. This is a personal choice or course but I recommend sticking with .5 or .7.

This pencil has been with me for years and I like it a lot.
I do detest disposable mechanical pencils. They just take all the fun out of the game and feel like awful pieces of plastic and, worst of all, they lack character.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mega Artisan Hand-Crafted Pencil Sharpener

Nothing states your attitude about our friend, the common pencil, like your sharpener.
Here is a very gutsy statement for you made by my favorite craftsman Morgan Ross.
I'm biased, he's my brother.
This beauty is for sale for $5.00/pound. We think it weighs about 70 pounds.
Contact him at

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Meet our Product Tester

Say Hello to Doris, our new product tester.
She says this vintage Dixon product is made of aged California Incense Cedar with a fine Graphite and Clay blend center. Light-bodied with a non-pretentious but ironic flavor. Pairs well with blanched almonds and banana.

Is this my Favorite pencil?

One pencil has to be my favorite and this may be it.
It's made in the U.S.A., it's made of wood, has a round barrel, and was given to me free.
It has a great, dark lead that is not too soft. It keeps its point a long time yet isn't scratchy. Wow!

I've done some research into this desirable beauty and found that it is relatively inexpensive but is not retailed. It is designed to be readily imprinted in quantity.

I'm thinking about what I should have imprinted on mine and what I'm going to do with 5 gross of these when my order arrives.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ticonderoga 1

This is the venerable and excellent Ticonderoga pencil. It is great and readily available everywhere. This is the one you think of when the word Pencil enters your mind.

I love that it is available in a range of hardnesses.

1 / B - (extra soft / black)
2 / HB - (soft / hard black)
2.5 / F - (medium / fine)
3 / HF - (hard / fine)
4 / 2H - (extra hard)

Number 2 is what you can get everywhere and perhaps it is acceptable to some. I prefer a darker line and I get that with a Number 1/B.

This is a pretty great pencil and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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.