Whitelines isometric graph paper

Isometric graph paper is still manufactured and sold in 2011, and has become an expensive specialty item.

I recall seeing engineering notebooks from decades ago that had isometric patterns, often facing a ruled or blank page. The tasks that require isometric graph paper (along with polar graph paper) long ago transitioned to computer software.

So, let me state that it was an immense surprise to see pads of a new isometric graph paper for sale at a brick and mortar stationer.

Alvin, who might be considered a traditional drafting and engineering supplier, claim isometric graph paper is “Ideal for mechanical drawing or design needs, especially machine design, architecture, and patent office drafting.”

Whitelines, the Swedish stationer known for using white ruling on grey backgrounds, are the creator of this new product, and state that “isometric graph paper helps you visualize ideas and draw in 3D for design, mathematical illustration and just sheer play.” It sounds like a slightly different market segment.

Isometric graph paper

Shown with two of the most technical drawing leadholders I could find: a Caran d’Ache Fixpencil 22 with roughened grip (purchased at Phidon Pens) and a Rotring compass pencil.

Isometric graph paper

I’d like to also see the Alvin paper – it is about the same price per sheet as the Whitelines paper.

Isometric graph paper

The “sheer play” purpose seems just right!

J. R. Moon pencils

The J. R. Moon Pencil Company was founded in 1961 by James R. Moon. Moon was a pencil industry veteran, having previously worked at both the Linton and American pencil companies, following a career as a school teacher.

Some background information on the company:

Mr. Moon (born in 1912), passed away in 2002, and a scholarship in his name at Columbia State College is a testament to the mark he left on his community.

In 1999, the company name changed name to Moon Products, Inc., possibly reflecting the wider range of writing implements and supplies being sold at the time.

In 2003, crayon maker RoseArt Industries Ltd. of New Jersey purchased Moon Products Inc., claiming to become the second largest pencil manufacturer in the US. It isn’t clear how such a calculation was made, as Dixon and Newell Rubbermaid’s Sanford division were widely acknowledged as being the largest American pencil manufacturers of the time.

In June 2005, Mega Bloks Inc. (a predecessor name of Mega Brands) acquired RoseArt for $350M.

(In March 2008, Mega Brands announced they might sell the unit.)

Today, Dixon (acquired by FILA of Italy) and Newell Rubbermaid (who seem to have dispensed with the Sanford name in the US, in favour of the Paper Mate, Parker, etc. brands) have both moved US manufacturing abroad. Due to the historical prominence of the Dixon Ticonderoga and Paper Mate Mirado brands and products, the two companies are still the most associated with recent American pencil making.

Some industry followers and pencil aficionados, and probably many pencil talk readers, are aware that two smaller family owned companies, General and Musgrave, continue to operate in the US.

Moon Products factory.

Yet there is another manufacturer. This manufacturer has no website, garners no press, and seems to operate in a stealth mode, with no brand or identity management. That manufacturer is Moon Products, which today operates in Lewisburg, Tennessee as a division of international toy conglomerate Mega Brands.

With great thanks to Pencil Me In, who supplied the pencils shown here, let’s take a look at the offerings of Moon Products and the larger Mega Brands organization.

The first possible surprise is in the branding – the “J. R. Moon” name still exists on a product, as do “Moon Products”, “RoseArt”, and “Mega Brands”. It gets even better – the company appears to use original imprints on some products, producing delightful new pencils that appear vintage. Lyra (in Germany) is also known for this practice.

Try-Rex B21 and B23

J. R. Moon pencils.

The Try-Rex is distinguished by an unusual shape – an equilateral triangle with rounded corners. This in contrast to other triangular pencils which are more like a three sided curve of constant width or a Reuleaux triangle . The shape comes from the Richard Best Pencil Company, which was purchased by J. R. Moon.

J. R. Moon pencils.

This pencil format is surprising similar to Mitsubishi’s triangular “Penmanship” pencil.

The Try-Rex B23 is just a bit larger than a modern standard pencil, and wouldn’t fit in some sharpeners I tried. It has a white imprint on a very dark navy blue finish. The B21 is an oversize pencil in the same shape with a red finish. Both share an oversize 4mm graphite core.

“Big-Dipper” 600

J. R. Moon pencils.

The “Big-Dipper” brought to mind the Musgrave Choo-Choo – delightful jumbo sized pencils for learners. This pencil includes the text “J. R. Moon Pencil Co.” Round, it is topped by a gold ferrule and ruby eraser.

Crown Cedar

J. R. Moon pencils.

Simply marked “U.S.A. Moon Products Crown Cedar 2”, this appears to be a standard yellow office pencil.

USA Gold

Please see an interesting comment by WoodChuck about this pencil’s background. The packaging says “Made in the USA” and “Made from American Cedar.” The pencil is labelled “www.megabrands.com U.S.A. Gold 2 HB” and also appears to be a standard yellow office pencil.

USA Green

We mentioned this pencil here. It appears to be a sibling of the USA Gold.

Recycled Denim

A fun pencil, we previously saw it here.

Recycled Newsprint

A rolled newspaper type of pencil. Included for completeness.

J. R. Moon pencils.

RoseArt Colored Pencils

Made in Indonesia, these represent the RoseArt name, though Mega Brands is mentioned on the packaging.

The Write Dudes #2

Made in Vietnam, this appears to be a “deep discount” pencil.

The colour pencils won’t be evaluated today, but the breadth of the graphite pencil offerings from this little known company is compelling. I can say that there were some distinctive differences between the products in terms of performance.

Sharpening

J. R. Moon pencils.

I used a new Faber-Castell Contour sharpener for the test. There was no trouble distinguishing that the three pencils with the old imprints, the Try-Rex B23 and B21, and the “Big-Dipper”, use a different and superior type of cedar. They all sharpened exceptionally well. The Crown Cedar, USA Green and USA Gold, were in a second tier, and noticeably less pleasant to sharpen. The Write Dudes (presumably basswood) pencils were distinctly rough.

Writing

The two Try-Rexes are both nice writers. Very smooth with moderately dark, rich cores. I couldn’t decide if the two ungraded pencils were the same or not. Perhaps as a side effect of the greater weight, the larger seemed to leave a darker mark.

J. R. Moon pencils.

The “Big-Dipper” was a welcome surprise. Musgrave’s Choo-Choo, as an example, does not use the same quality lead as that company’s standard sized pencils. Fortunately, Moon Products didn’t skimp, and the “Big-Dipper” is a great writer.

The USA Gold and Crown Cedar seemed so-so – I doubt they would be anyone’s first choice. I have to note that samples of both were slightly warped, perhaps (sadly) par for the course from today’s office pencil. The Write Dudes pencil is a disaster – gritty, scratchy, almost not writing.

Overall

J. R. Moon pencils.

The Try-Rex and “Big-Dipper” are almost worth buying just for the style of their imprints. But the quality of the wood and graphite is superior, and makes them recommended items.

The USA Gold and Crown Cedar, which probably deserve some regard for their last ditch stand against cheap imported competitors, are rather disappointing.

My thanks to Pencil Me In for her kind support of pencil talk, and considerable work in assembling this amazing collection from a little known manufacturer.

Staedtler Rally pencil

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“Made of wood.” “Pre-sharpened.” If those were the only selling points, one would really have to wonder. But these pencils come from Staedtler, so the expectations are higher.

The Rally seems to come from an alternate Staedtler universe, with different centres of production. I’m not sure if the two versions represent different generations or not.

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There is also a “Cadet”, which is available online.

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The Rally is mentioned by Staedtler at their website. My guess is that it is a discount school pencil meant to compete with other discount school pencils.

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Have you used or seen this pencil?

Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth Cesky Krumlov pencil

First, an apology. I only recently became fully aware that since a hosting change, the blog has lost full support for international languages. This is unfortunate, since a number of previous posts and comments that discussed the translation of pencil nomenclature (often Japanese to English) no longer make sense. If you might know the solution, or have a clue or hint, it would be appreciated.

The immediate problem is that it seems that the blog can’t 100% accurately render the name of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the home of Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth.

Koh-I-Noor is a major and important pencil company that I regret has received insufficient coverage at pencil talk. In the blog’s defense, their products are often quite difficult to obtain in Canada. Koh-I-Noor is a rival of Bic/Conté in being able to trace their history back to the origins of modern pencil making. I don’t know what records or archives they have been able to maintain, but hope a professional historian will someday be able to recount their story.

These pencils came from the best online source for European pencils that I’m aware of, Bundoki.com. Bundoki staff visited a number of European manufacturers in 2010, and picked up several goodies they have kindly made available to the rest of us.

This particular pencil is a special “home edition” or some something along those lines. Hexagonal and oversized with an oversize lead, with natural finish, it is a very impressive pencil.

Ceský Krumlov

Details of the imprint:

Ceský Krumlov

Pencil news

Starting at home, David O. just left the 5000th comment at pencil talk! Thank you David and everyone else who has contributed!

2011 is looking like a year of nostalgia in the pencil realm.

As noted at Bleistift, Staedtler will be introducing pencil tins with retro/nostalgic themes, as well as a pencil making kit. That kit has been released in Japan in the past. (See Volume 1 of Stationery Magazine.)

Faber-Castell is now in their 250th anniversary year. Happy anniversary! Faber-Castell public relations staff are a class act and always represent their firm well. I am sure (without having confirmation or any insider knowledge) that they will be releasing a special pencil this year – how could they not? But maybe I am wrong. But what is announced is – a book!

Porsche Design has released their first Pelikan made writing instruments. 2500 Euros for a cartridge/converter pen? I’ll let the fountain pen and Porsche fans decide if either domain is done justice. There is a nice looking mechanical pencil as well.

And something I’m possibly even more excited about. CalCedar has announced what they call “Palomino-quality” private label pencils. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this one. I’ve already made some mental calculations about the pricing. Going back to 2005, I’ve been aware of regular requests for quality custom pencils, from many realms. Unless you are a large corporation, this type of service has remained very elusive. CalCedar’s announcement could really shake things up. I hope our friends in California launch this service soon.

Correction: The result of the Staedtler pencil making kit, a finished historic appearing pencil, has been sold in Japan, but not the kit itself.