Birthdays, Spirits, Erasable Notebooks, and Moleskines

Birthdays, Spirits, Erasable Notebooks, and Moleskines

General Pencil Company Turns 127

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Source: parade.com

General Pencil Company has been creating pencils since 1889 and is located in my home state of New Jersey.  Not only is it a great feat to have an American-run business last for 127 years, but the fact that a wooden pencil company has lasted that long is incredible.  I enjoy General’s products and have reviewed them in the past.  While General pencils are not Tombow MONOs, they are great for what they cost.  I’d recommend trying the Pacific, Cedar Pointe, and the Supreme.

shin sharpens your spirit

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Source: designboom

Um, OK.  I am always a fan of sometimes overly priced pretentious bullshit, but this sharpener makes some intense claims.  From the description:

The Shin sharpener is a whetstone-style pencil sharpener that turns the ordinary task of sharpening your pencil into a meditative practice. The repetitive task of sharpening the edge of your pencil is supposed to support concentration, inspiration and inner peace…

While I have to admit that there is something zen-like about getting a point to perfection, my spirit has never been sharpened by the act.  At $165, I’d much rather put it towards and el Casco or a handful of Polluxes.  The sharpener itself is a great conversation piece, but to me it looks like they repurposed a stick incense holder and shoe-horned a sharpener into it.  I shouldn’t be surprised that this product is listed on a site that sells a $320 brass fertilizing syringe for gardening.

Everlast Notebook

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Source: Kickstarter

The Everlast Notebook is the antithesis to everything I look for in a notebook– you cannot use pencil and it is made to be a digital product wrapped in a loose shell of an analog format.  The concept of having one notebook may be appealing to millennials (the Kickstarter for this thing is almost at a million dollars!), but I like my notebooks to be permanent.  There is something to be said for a stack of well-used notebooks that I can flip through and see what pen or pencil I have used.  Writing in a traditional notebook is such a tactile experience, I’d be horrified to erase my scribblings after I have essentially taken a picture of what I spent time on writing.  I think one positive of this product is how it can automatically catalog what you have written by ticking off a symbol on the bottom of each page.  While I am first an analog junkie, being organized comes in a close second.  Because one of my New Year’s resolutions is to unplug, I’ll have to pass on this one, but it’s a cool concept anyway.

Moleskine Has a Banner Year

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Source: Dustin Wax

Even though this new story is written on Yahoo Sports! (I have NO IDEA why; perhaps notebook writing could be a sport), it is nice to see some coverage about analog writing in mainstream news sites.  Even though I feel like the analog movement is still a niche group, I welcome any boost to my most loved hobby and passion.  I wish other, more quality, notebooks got some coverage (Write Notepads, Field Notes, Baron Fig) since I have noticed the overall quality of Moleskine notebooks to be declining since I first started using them years ago.  I am sure that this is a product of a need to cut costs and increase profits, but I think for the market they want to attract they miss the mark.  For the same price I could purchase something that is locally produced with better quality.  For a niche hobby like stationery and notebook using, Moleskine’s approach falls short.  I do realize that an uninitiated individual has no clue as to what else is out there, but I suppose that is why the universe that surrounds our hobby is so small.

New Year, New Direction

New Year, New Direction
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Source: happynewyears2017.org

Hey all!  Welcome to 2017!  As I reminisce about 2016 and the challenges I have faced, I am renewed and determined to have a year full of creation and new ideas.  When starting this blog, I did so to emulate those that have come before me.  As I became more comfortable in my own blogging skin, I developed my own style and way of approaching things.  I had initially set out to review one pencil a week– hence the name The Weekly Pencil, but then life happened.  I am in college full-time and work part-time and posting to this blog became sporadic.  I felt as though I let readers down as well as myself down.  I took a long break and towards the end of the year almost shut down the site completely.  Before doing so, I dug into the statistics of my blog– how many views, visits, Facebook likes– and found that people actually cared about what I had to say.  This led me to thinking about what kind of direction I would like to take the blog in.  Here’s what I came up with:

Expand My Coverage to More Than Just Pencils

Pencils are wonderful and fantastic, but reviewing a pencil a week becomes rather stale (especially when you have blown through all of the main pencil brands).  Now we all know that the rabbit hole that is stationery runs deep, so while I would like to expand, I don’t want to stray too far from my main objective.  That brings us to paper/notebooks.  Many times, I use a particular notebook or paper to review my pencils, but it barely gets a mention.  There have been a lot of awesome things happening in the paper world as of late (I’m looking at you Write Notepads), and I would like to bring that stuff to you.

Aggregate News of the Paper and Pencil World

One thing that is constant and always different is news.  I think that tracking down all of the news of the pencil and paper world would be a unique endeavor.  There are blogs already out there that do this, but on a much larger scale.  I still want to keep my focus as small as possible and while this may be limiting at times, it will allow me to really go into depth with what I choose to write about.  The name of this site also fits this model.  The Weekly Pencil reads like the title of a newspaper and suggests (obviously) that something should be happening weekly with the site.

Focus More on Our Diverse and Wonderful Community

This may sound cheesy, but it rings so true: I don’t know where I would be without some of the members I have met through this community.  I came into this thinking it’s just about pencils, but in reality, it’s so much more.  I have made real life friendships and connections I never thought possible through a pencil Facebook group.  Not only am I enamored with this community, but I am proud of this community.  Because of that, I would like to feature a community member once a month and ask pertinent questions and let them direct the dialogue.  I would love nothing more than to shine a spotlight on those individuals that make the pencil community thrive.

Other Ideas

I would love to bring multimedia into this site as well, but am afraid that it might be a long time investment that I wouldn’t be able to deliver without the proper funding.  If I were able to find a way to replace my part-time job income, I would be able to devote time to vlogging and perhaps a podcast that can bring this site to life.  This will probably never really come to fruition, and I am the last person to ask for money, but if I decided to try I would set up a Patreon account of some sort to fund this.  If I have enough interest I will do it, but that would require about $500 a month for me to do so.  In other words, not happening.

I hope this New Year brings all of you some kind of fresh start and new perspectives for the year ahead.  And thank you for reading and supporting me with likes and comments.  It means a great deal to me in more ways than all of you know.

No. 2: Story of the Pencil

No. 2: Story of the Pencil

This is my first (and probably only) movie review that I will do on this blog.  As soon as I heard that there would be a documentary produced about my favorite writing implement, I was excited.  Up until now, the story and use of wooden pencils has only existed in small, close-knit groups and this documentary would provide more exposure to something I hold near and dear to my heart.  Let’s get to it:

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No.2, overlooked as a common tool, continues to lose dominance in a media saturated world. However, history tells a different story.

The Pencil changed everything. Invention, craftsmanship, art, engineering, manufacturing, government, history, and business are a result of the pencil. Although the Pencil technology provided a way to move thoughts to a tangible form, technology is never static.

As technology is a key focus to every aspect of society today, the pencil begins to lose its significance. With so many aspects of society existing in binary code, the pencil needs to be honored. We are in a battle against time. If we move away from using this analog piece of technology, what is society losing? How significant is the pencil to ingenuity? Should we care if the pencil shifts to the backseat?

Source

I wanted to love this documentary, but I walked away feeling meh.  Let me address the pros first.  As I have mentioned earlier, just having a documentary about the pencil is awesome in itself.  I also loved seeing Caroline and her shop featured, how the filmmaker traveled to various locations to document the history of graphite, and Petroski’s commentary.  That’s where my love affair ends.  First, the music.  There was constant music playing throughout the documentary which I found distracting.  I was hoping it would cut out, but it didn’t and really took away from the message some interviewees were trying to deliver.  Also, it was a bit pretentious at times.  I think for the layperson this would ring especially true.  What would have been an ideal setup would be the history, a lot more of the manufacturing, the players in the pencil community, and– most glaringly omitted– the Erasable community.  I enjoyed the commentary, but I KNOW about pencils and all the nerdy things about them.  I guess what I am trying to say is to make it a bit more approachable to all.  Also, my opinion may be entirely invalid because I enjoy seeing things being manufactured and learning about the different elements of said manufactured item.

Overall, I don’t think this film was entirely crap.  It hit some good notes with me, but fell short on a lot of others.  I’d give it two out of five pencils.  It’s definitely a rent and not an own.  I am glad that the object of my beloved hobby has been featured in a full length film, but it could have done so much more.

Shahsons Pencil Company

Shahsons Pencil Company

This post has been a few weeks in the making and I apologize for its lateness, but school and life seem to have gotten in the way of most of my obligations lately.  This week I am going to talk about Shahsons Pencil Company.  Shahsons is based in Pakistan and has been making quality pens and pencils since 1953.  Caroline from CW Pencils helped out a bit with some history:

The Goldfish Autocrat was their first branded pencil. It was originally scented to smell like sandalwood–though they don’t to that anymore because it’s too expensive. Shehzhad (original owner’s grandson) isn’t sure where exactly the name came from, though he’s pretty sure ‘Autocrat’ was supposed to be ‘Aristocrat’. They only really do two lines of the pencils, the Goldfish, which was since been expanded with lots of different branding and the Piscasso line, which is mostly drawing pencils and artist materials.

I always love trying out pencils from other countries as I enjoy the different wood and graphite formulations they have to offer.  There are three pencils that I will be discussing: the Vista, Autocrat, and Blue Bird.  I have spent considerable time with each, so without further ado:

Goldfish Blue Bird

I am a fan of pencils that have fun names and the Blue Bird surely delivers.  The blue barrel and silver foil stamping make this pencil quite attractive, but where it excels in aesthetics, it falls short with performance (this is compared to the other two Shahsons pencils, not the entire pencils universe).  The graphite core is a bit light (I’d say HBish) and scratchy on most of the papers I have used.

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Goldfish Vista

The Vista is the middle of the road pencil here; it is a bright red pencil with gold foil stamping.  It has a similar darkness as the Autocrat, but did not write as smoothly.  This pencil performs well, but due to the scratchiness, I would avoid it if you like smoother graphite laydown.

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Goldfish Autocrat

The Autocrat is the Cadillac of the Shahsons offerings.  It is smooth and dark and point retention is on point (sorry, had to).  I really like the design of this pencil as it has a natural wood veneer and gold foil stamping.  The Autocrat’s graphite core reminds me of the Nataraj Neon core or the Walmart Casemate core.  Of the three pencils, the Autocrat wins by a long shot.

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Overall, the three offering from Shahsons perform well, for their price point.  I would suggest trying out all three pencils, but know that you may be disappointed in the Vista.  You can head over to CW Pencil Enterprise to get a hold of all three.

 

Musgrave Ceres

Musgrave Ceres

There is something to be said for a classic yellow pencil.  After being inspired by episode 60 of Erasable, I decided to dig into my pencil case and try out a pencil I have yet to review/use.  I was immediately drawn to the Ceres due to its sharp lines and unique script that was stamped on the barrel.

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Musgrave produces four grades of this pencil and I am using the #1 grade for this review.  Immediately upon sharpening the Ceres I was greeted with the smell of good old cedar.  The Ceres sharpened very easily and the graphite was perfectly centered which allowed for even sharpening.  Interestingly enough, about a third of the way through the pencil, I found a knot in the wood barrel.

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I had never seen this before and though it was pretty interesting.  The small imperfection made the next few sharpenings difficult as the graphite was exposed unevenly, but once I sharpened my way out of it things were fine.  Writing with the Ceres was great and the pencil laid down decent lines.  The graphite was nice and smooth and I’d say the darkness was comprabale to a 2B (this is totally just eyeballing it).  The eraser on the Ceres was below average at best.

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The rubber was very gritty and when I did try to erase with it, it wore down very quickly.  Don’t plan on using the eraser if you don’t have to.  The black paint on the barrel began to wear off pretty quickly with normal use, but that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me.  I prefer a well-worn writing instrument.  Overall, the Musgrave Ceres is a great little pencil that is completely affordable (40 cents a piece at CW Pencils), but did not entirely win me over.  While I stated the graphite was smooth and not scratchy, it did not have the buttery smoothness I prefer in my graphite.  Also, not only is the eraser pretty crappy, but I had a hard time erasing with my everyday block eraser as well.  The graphite comes off the paper, but not as cleanly as I like.  If I had to give a rating it would be a meh.  average.  Stay tuned, because next week I will be reviewing the newest CW Pencils acquisitions: The Goldfish Autocrat, Blue Bird, and Vista from Shashon Pencil Company.

Marking Pencil Round-Up

For those of you that are unaware, I work part time in a community college writing center.  I find myself reading and editing papers for hours and have been searching for the perfect marking pencil.  While my list is not exhaustive, I tried to explore a variety of brands that are easily available to anyone.  I have used each pencil for about a week and have been able to form what I feel is a solid opinion on what to try and what to avoid.  First, here is a general overview of each pencil and a writing sample for each:

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As you can see all six pencils are quite different when it comes to color and hardness.  I will address the list top to bottom.

Tombow 8900 Vermilion ($0.85)

The Tombow 8900 wrote smoothly and the point retention was one of best of the pencils.  The ability to keep a sharp point on the Tombow allowed the maximum amount of correction with a minimum amount of sharpening.  For me, this is key when working with a student.  Less sharpening means a longer lasting pencil as well.  I could see myself using this pencil on a regular basis for correction.  I found the Tombow 8900 at a Kinokuniya bookstore, but Ebay tends to carry them occasionally.

Caran d’Ache 999 Bicolor ($2.80)

The Caran d’Ache 999 is vibrant and one of the truest to the color red behind the Mitsubishi 772.  The core is super smooth and much to my surprise point retention is above average for such a smooth pencil.  I also like that the 999 is a hex pencil as it is much more comfortable (for me) to hold and rotate while writing.  The only drawback is the price of this pencil.

General’s Red ($0.40)

The General’s Red has the best point retention of all of pencils I have ever used, but it is the worst as far as pigment is concerned.  It is way too light to be effective and feels horribly scratchy.  This pencil is a disappointment and you shouldn’t buy it.  I struggled trying to make my marks noticeable on papers for students and halfway through a session I picked up another pencil it was so bad.  Just don’t.

Musgrave 525 Hermitage ($0.29)

The Hermitage is a great middle of the road pencil.  The core is dark enough to be effective, but is not so soft that you feel like you are writing with a crayon. I found myself using this pencil more and more as the weeks progressed and was not disappointed with the results.  For this reason, I was pleasantly surprised as a lot of my experience with Musgrave products has left me feeling meh.

Mitsubishi 772 Vermilion ($1.00)

The 772 is vibrant and works very well for making small grammatical edits to 12-point font.  When editing papers, clarity is key and the Mitsubishi 772 is as clear as day.  The core is a bit softer than others, but as long as you rotate the pencil ever few marks you make, it seems to wear down just as much as an average pencil.  If I had to pick a winner it would be this pencil.

Mitsubishi Red “Smooth Writing Taste” ($1.65)

This pencil is smooth alright.  So smooth that you feel like you are writing with a crayon.  I love the color it lays down, but the Mitsubishi Red is not for making small edits or writing within the margin.  I’d say this pencil is perfect for making “checks” and “x” marks on papers or maybe even for underlining text, but not for the work I do.  It does get bonus points for its slogan though!

Overall my top two are the Mitsubishi 772 and the Caran d’Ache 999.  Both pencils have great, vibrant color without feeling too waxy.  The Hermitage comes in a close third (I’d even say a tie for second) with its point retention and affordability.  Either way, I hope this has helped those of you that are looking for marking pencils.

 

 

Back to School Special

Back to School Special

The time has come upon us; it’s September, the leaves are changing (in some parts of the US), school is back in session, and I cannot resist the urge to purchase school supplies.  Ever since I could remember, the need to go out and purchase school supplies represented a new beginning– a way to re-invent oneself for the new school year.  Heather Rivard of the Art Supply Posse podcast, really nailed the feeling and excitement around school supply shopping:

“School supply shopping was an emotional experience for me. School supplies represent the part of life that made sense to me, like doing homework and what I was told. School clothes shopping represented the things that didn’t make sense, like social hierarchy and how to fit in and how to feel like an acceptable human being. School supplies! That is a source of so much warmth and comfort and excitement.”

This passage hits home for me.  Some years, life was great and my parents had the money to indulge my growing obsession with school supplies.  Other years, time were tough and I was forced to re-use items or buy the cheapest stuff.  I never thought about it at the time (because who does), but the act of school shopping tied directly into my self-worth.  Now that I am an adult with a decent amount of purchasing power, I find myself in a different race: Keeping up with the Joneses.  I’ve been distant from the group the past month or so because as a full-time student and part-time worker, I am unable to jump at every new stationery item that comes out.  I am not subscribed to any stationery or pencil service and do my best to buy at least one box of the limited edition Blackwings.  Again, I am faced with the need to keep up.

Now don’t get me wrong, our community is incredibly giving and I myself have given away countless pencils and other paraphernalia, but as with any hobby this gets EXPENSIVE.  Which brings me to this year’s school supply shopping experience.  Besides some folders and red marking pencils (which I will review in the coming weeks), I have purchased nothing.  Well, OK, my recent trip to CW Pencil Enterprise was an indulgence, but for the most part there has not been a ceremonial “school supply shopping” excursion.  I like it this way.  It has allowed me to pore over my current collection of pencils and supplies and rediscover some real gems.

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I have filled my pencil roll with some oldies and newbies, but I am content with my choices.  I am not sure if I am going to use a different pencil every week, bu I’d like to use all of them this semester at some point.  I will get back to blogging on a weekly basis now and will not only write about pencils, but stationery stuff and maybe some personal stuff.  Stay tuned all!