Charlie Brown’s pencil pal

Charlie Brown's pencil pal

Charlie Brown had a pencil pal. This pencil pal was originally a pen pal, but Charlie Brown had a lot of troubles with his fountain pen and started to use a pencil, occasionally making attempts to pick up the pen habit.

The story line appears over a decade or more. According to Peanuts Wiki, a return letter from the overseas pal has appeared in the strip: “In the letter, the Pen Pal revealed that he or she had read Charlie Brown’s latest letter to his/her class, and that they all agreed he must be a nice person and someone who is pleasant to know. In response to which, Charlie Brown uttered a vigorous “Ha!” to Lucy.”

Over four decades after their original publication, the craft and perception shown in these cartoons still amazes and delights.

Charlie Brown's pencil pal

Penmanship is a frequent theme in the cartoon, and the characters (and their off-panel teachers and parents) often communicate with one another via notes and letters.

Recommended reading: “Schulz and Peanuts” by David Michaelis.

Wagner Pencil Co.

Have you heard of the Wagner Pencil Co.? Based in Bakewell, Tennessee, they are mentioned in the Chattanooga Times Free Press for achieving an industrial safety award.

The safety award is impressive, but for pencil talk readers, the story of this company is probably even more interesting. I admit to not having previously heard of them. They appear to make advertising rather than retail pencils, which is probably why they are not in the spotlight.

What is most impressive is that they make their own slats from Eastern White Pine, and produce 75,000 to 100,000 pencils a day with a plant staff of twenty-three. They appear to be remarkably self-sufficient.

If I can learn more about them, I will report back.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil – 8

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

A regular gripe regarding Faber-Castell’s perfect pencils, even the basic plastic version, has been regarding the price. I don’t disagree, yet also note that there don’t appear to be many alternatives. KUM has tried to offer an extender, and there are some artisan made extender caps in Japan, but Faber-Castell’s products are the only items in this category that which appear to have wide distribution.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

I wonder if there was a marketing meeting full of animated debate which led to this – it seems to be Faber-Castell’s knockoff of their own product. It is “Made in China” rather than “Made in Germany”, and the styling reflects other new products rather than tradition.

The finish is acceptable. The sharpener in the cap seems to work well – addressing a regular complaint. The price is also a fraction of predecessor products.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

While the item has a disposable feeling, it might also sell in volume and generate some revenue.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

What do you think?

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil – 7

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

One more perfect pencil.

It looks like the original green plastic version has been updated.

The newer version has some minor cosmetic differences and a major functional difference – the pencil is now held in the extender by friction or tension, rather than a screw on mechanism.

It is also offered in Japan in a black version, shown in the photos here. The black version comes with a round pencil, black with black dyed wood.

Something else I hadn’t noticed is that the Castell 9000 pencils supplied with the green version (and in the refills) are marked in silver, while the general Castell 9000 pencil has gold markings.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

Some side ribbing seems to be the main surface difference.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

It is hard to say this authoritatively, but I sense prices have been reduced in most markets compared with the original.

See also: Faber-Castell Perfect Pencils at pencil talk

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil – 6

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

Almost two years ago, I thought I had written my last word on Faber-Castell’s fantastic Perfect Pencil series. Well, quite unexpectedly, I recently saw an unusual variant.

I think I recall it or something similar from about a decade ago, and I definitely recall a recent post at Lung Sketching Scrolls about this edition.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

The product is a whimsical children’s version of the perfect pencil, with a brightly coloured round pencil and pencil extender adorned with a stylized rooster comb.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

The pencil is held by tension, and the cap removes to reveal a black plastic sharpener.

Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil

I like the sense of fun.

Stabilo Opéra pencil

Stabilo Opéra pencil

At just 155 years old, Stabilo is the youngster among the Nuremberg (Nürnberg) pencil companies – Faber-Castell is the eldest at 249, and Lyra and Staedtler are in the middle at 204 and 175 respectively.

A pencil maker in origin, Stabilo now includes cosmetic products and backpacking gear in their corporate umbrella.

Their stationery products definitely display trendy and youthful themes aimed at a young demographic, and I suspect woodcase graphite pencils are now a very small portion of Stabilo’s business. Of their eight or so pencil lines, I’ve only seen the all-purpose “All” line for sale in person. In contrast, their highlighters and markers seem almost ubiquitous.

The Opéra seems to be a writing line, offered in HB, B, and 2B. The pinstripes on the pencil edges echo the better known Othello line.

Stabilo Opéra pencil

With white lettering and striping on a light burgundy body, the pencil strikes my eye as one of the most appealing on the market, and trumping the Othello. The restraint and simplicity are commendable.

Stabilo Opéra pencil

The details:

Name: Opéra.

Full name and model no: STABILO Opéra. The pencil does not display a model number, but the packaging indicates “285”.

Manufacturer: Schwann-STABILO of Heroldsberg, which is apparently about 20km from Nürnberg. The pencil packaging states “Made in CZ”, and Stabilo’s website indicates that their woodcase pencils have been made in the Czech Republic since 1992. (Some of the newer Stabilo pencils such as the Exam Grade state they are made in Indonesia.)

Stabilo seems to be doing some innovative things. They have launched a flagship store in Vienna (Wien) that looks really amazing. Notice the pencil shape!

They have put some of the construction online at YouTube:

If you browse further via that video, you can find television commercials by Stabilo for various markets such as Brazil and Malaysia.

They also have various localized websites such as this one for Stabilo Japan. They sell some interesting items I like such as this desk pad.

Background: I can’t find much on the background of this particular pencil line. There is understandably no trademark attached to the “Opéra” name, and I wonder why it would have been chosen.

Stabilo Opéra pencil

Weight: About 3.9g.

Dimensions: Rounded hexagon with finished cap. Standard (~175mm) length.

Appearance: The pencils are hexagonal and sharpened. The factory sharpening is quite good – none of that scraped look that many other manufacturers seem to offer.

The pencil is marked:

Stabilo Opéra HB=21/2 (white coloured text)

The reverse says:

EAN No., Bar Code (white coloured text)

Grip: Nothing unusual to note.

Sharpening: The pencil sharpens easily. I am not sure of the species of wood used.

Writing: This is a relatively inexpensive pencil, even when procured via mail order. I was very happy to find a smooth, dark line readily produced by the lead. Each grade seems a shade different. I think it’s an excellent writer on a variety of paper types. The 2B really pops on an Exacompta Bristol card.

Erasure: A Pilot Foam eraser had no trouble with erasure.

Overall: The pencil looks great, writes well, and is inexpensive. A hard to beat combination. I’m very happy to have discovered the Opéra, and look forward to exploring Stabilo’s other graphite pencil offerings.