Colleen Woods Pencils
The Colleen Woods series represents an exciting vision of woodcase pencil manufacturing. The series is also a profoundly simple and beautiful pencil set. Pencils have been made from cedar for a century or more, and more recently from jelutong, pulai, and basswood. Pine and fir have also been used.
Yet – out of thousands of global tree species and raw materials – why have so few been used?
Altering a core aspect of a pencil isn’t done lightly. There have been some experiments with shape, and many with a pencil’s finish. But what about the pencil’s core materials – specifically the type of wood?
Twelve years ago, Colleen recognized that pencil slats could be made from any wood that the machinery could cut, and created a varied set as an artistic exploration.
Though others have competently explored the pencil’s potential, Colleen seems to have mined a much deeper vein, changing the pencil’s wood.
The presentation is modest, and probably quite different from how a North American company would present a luxury product – a plain cardboard box.
Twelve pencils are presented – each marked with the number in the series, the HB grade, the bilingual (English and Japanese) wood species and country/area of origin, and a most unusual number – the specific gravity of the pencil’s wood. Some species are familiar, and some are more exotic.
Specific gravity is a measure of density relative to water at 4 degrees C.
Meaning – woods with a specific gravity greater than 1.0 will sink in water! The ebony pencil weighs a remarkable 8.7g – more than double a modern cedar pencil, which typically weighs around 3.8g. It is a memorable experience to hold. In fact each pencil is an amazing delight, and together they form an incredible set.
Here is a chart listing the pencils, place of origin, specific gravity, and links to additional sources of information about the tree species.
I’ve not found anyone who has seen the set in person to not be amazed.
My sincere and deep thanks to Kero556 for this amazing gift.
[UPDATE, June 9, 2009] Thanks to a flattering post at Yellowgoat (thank you!), I rediscovered Kero556′s Flickr photos, including this one, which appears to show the slats used to create these pencils.
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