Paint it Blue: The Caran d’Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

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In late 2020, Caran d’Ache announced a limited product line featuring the very special colour International Klein Blue.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

According to The Secret Life of Color by Kasia St. Clair, the artist Yves Klein loved the intensity of ultramarine pigment, but was disappointed with the paint it created. He worked alongside a chemist to create a resin that exposed more of the pigment’s lustre. (Klein sadly passed away at 34. He patented Klein Blue at age 32.)

Patenting a colour is an interesting notion. Rights to a colour are typically only applicable in a context. Klein’s patent is apparently for his process, not literally for the colour.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

The original International Klein Blue is still only made by Klein’s original collaborator and available at the very same art store that served Klein in Paris: Adam Montmartre.

Caran d’Ache announced the adaptation of seven of their products as Klein tributes: At the very high end, Leman fountain and ballpoint pens. And at more accessible price points, a Sharpening Machine, Fixpencil, 849 ballpoint, and two woodcase pencils.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

The Fixpencil and Leman Fountain Pen are differentiated in the offering by possessing the ability to write in ultramarine – the Fixpencil has water soluble ultramarine leads, and the Leman a limited edition ultramarine ink. Given the use of Klein’s name and the “®” symbol throughout the advertising and packaging, it is presumed that the Klein pigment isn’t in the ink or lead as this claim isn’t made. All the products share the use of ultramarine surfaces or highlights, and Klein’s signature.

The Fixpencil is an iconic writing instrument, honoured by a Swiss stamp and familiar withing writing culture. It has been mentioned at pencil talk in 2008 and 2017.

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

This particular model is distinguished by the surface colouring, and comes in a metal case. It ships with a 2mm B grapite lead, and a tube with three ultramarine water soluble leads. One of the leads in my tube arrived broken in half. The blue leads are just a few mm shorter than the graphite lead.

On some very special mulberry bark paper from Hanaduri, I tried the pencils and the blue lead, wet and dry:

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

I also tried them on writing paper that I regularly use, Rhodia R:

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

It isn’t really the colour depth or reaction I expected.

I am not happy that there appears to be no refill available. The blue lead seems like a very special accessory, and though the leadholder will continue to function with graphite, this ultramarine lead enhances the association with Klein.

The 849 is another classic. I don’t have a lot to say about it. I think ballpoint cartridges may be receiving small incremental improvements over the years – they may have been pretty awful some years ago, but this one does not skip or dispense lumps of ink. The Caran d’Ache Goliath refill generally has a excellent reputation.

A smear of the blue on HP photocopy paper:

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

Two pencils have been released. First, the MAXI is a jumbo sized hexagonal pencil with a very thich 4.5mm graphite lead. The pencil is matte and a deep ultramarire – truly striking. The cap is a very slight dome, unfinished.

Second, a set of four pencils simply called “Set of 4 Graphite Pencils”. These are a notch larger than most standard pencils, and possess a 2.5mm HB core. They are about one third coated in ultramarine, and the remainder in clear lacquer. The four pencil box packaging appears to reprise the Exotic Woods packaging.

Both pencils are made of “FSC Mix” cedar. The regular pencil is said to be of 8 plys, and the maxi of 6 plys. Official pencil standards tell us that this refers to the number of pencils produced by the pencil sandwich. Probably not interesting to most consumers, but it piqued my interest.

The MAXI lead seems a little smoother and richer than the regular lead. I wish the MAXI’s lead was also in the regular pencil.

Some Final Impressions

This is a thoughtful and properly licensed commercial product created in association with the estate of a major twentieth century artist. The work involved in acquiring the rights to use Klein’s signature likely rivalled the amount of work involved in production. I salute Caran d’Ache for doing this, and hope there will be more. May I humbly suggest Le Corbusier as someone who might be worthy of similar treatment?

Caran d'Ache Yves Klein Blue Collection

My critiques are minor. The pencils, at their price and given Caran d’Ache’s environmental and social commitments, should be 100% certified, not just “FSC Mix”. FSC certification includes human rights criteria, not just tree ecology, and I think that’s important. The MAXI pencil is probably the standout product to me. If the end was dipped in the same colour, it would be slightly nicer. The regular pencil could have a smoother and darker lead. And the Fixpencil should ship with more than three blue leads, or have refills for sale.

Overall, I feel a delight at seeing this rich deep blue in a time of grey.

Mirado pencil discontinued after one century

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pencil talk has learned that the famed Mirado pencil has been discontinued.

From correspondence with Newell Brands Office Products:

[T]he manufacturing of our Mirado Classic Pencils are already discontinued and we do not have a direct replacement at this time.

The Mirado is a global classic. It and the predecessor Mikado have over a dozen mentions in the definitive pencil book, The Pencil by Henry Petroski.

The Mirado line has been the subject of several pencil talk posts:

Goodbye, Papermate Mirado Classic pencil (2009)

Mirado Black Warrior pencil (2008)

Last large American pencil factory to close in 2009 (2008)

Eagle Mirado pencil (2009)

Papermate Mirado Classic pencil (2010)

A blog reader, “B. Johnson”, sent some information about this several days ago, but I wanted to confirm the information with Newell / PaperMate before sharing.

The business logic is elusive. These pencils probably aren’t a revenue leader for Newell, but with such brand recognition, they must still sell. They have been regularly seen at big box stores for years.

[Update]

Please see these excellent posts at Orange Crate Art:

Farewell, Mirado

“Catch” of a Lifetime

Graf von Faber-Castell Magnum Perfect Pencil

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Graf von Faber-Castell Magnum Perfect Pencil

The Graf von Faber-Castell Magnum Perfect Pencil. Top: Sharpened with a Caran d’Ache Sharpening Machine. Middle: Sharpened with an El Casco M-430. Bottom: Factory sharpening. The pencils rest on a Doane Paper moon camera journal.

The Graf von Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil line has a new edition. While I’m a big fan of Faber-Castell’s various premium pencils and extenders, the prices, like many consumer goods, have increased considerably over the years. Since only this specific refill would fully utilize the extender’s capabilities, I decided to first try some refills to see how this pencil works.

The challenge of jumbo pencils is that the volume of wood required quadruples as the radius doubles – so manufacturer shortcuts to save money seem inevitable. Fortunately, this pencil is an exception – a creamy dark 4B 4mm core is encased in straight grained cedar, with the signature fluted finish. I have already ordered the extender!

Caran d’Ache Pencil Peeler

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Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

It is not a vegetable peeler, nor a magnet. It is a curiosity, a design object created by Oriol Gener. It claims to be able to sharpen a pencil.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

It is fun, and surprisingly miniature – from photos, I imagined a full-sized kitchen vegetable peeler – but it is comparable to the size and weight of a large coin.

The packaging has instructional photos that I don’t find helpful.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

As one would imagine, you peel away at the pencil with the peeler’s blade.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

(An MD pencil.)

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

I’m quite ambiguous in my reaction. It just can’t be as consistent as a quality regular sharpener. It costs roughly $USD25. It benefits from softer woods. But it is a lot of fun.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

What do you think?

The backyard pencil [Updated]

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Staedtler 771 1.3mm mechanical pencil

Something more casual today. This pencil, the 1.3mm Staedtler 771, has bright Noris colouring. It is a large chunky triangular pencil, and has no trouble surviving and being found after a wind gust. It feels sturdy and solid, and at about $CDN10 ($USD8, 7 Euros), has an unexpected wealth of features – a clip, a retracting cylindrical guide, a rubbery grip area, and a twist-out eraser.

Today is a provincial holiday where I live, and some time in the backyard makes me realize that at least in certain circumstances – the visibility of a pencil is an asset.

A small sticker tells me the pencil is made in Japan. My only misgiving is that 1.3mm lead is not commonplace here.

[Update: August 8, 2017]

This blog is fortunate to have some very informed readers. One of them is Gunther, the author of the erudite Lexikaliker weblog. Gunther has shared some interesting history regarding the Staedtler 771:

The Staedtler 771 is made in Japan, and was first presented at Paperworld in January, 2008. The pencil commenced sales in Germany in May, 2008.

Early 2014 saw the pencil’s discontinuation in Germany. In Japan, the 771 continued, and was joined in Fall 2014 by a white and black version, the 771-0. Both versions continue to be offered in Japan.

Gunther mentions that “Staedtler Germany still offers 1.3 mm leads because they were also used for the graphite 760.” The 760 was discontinued, though the 925 appears to still be around.