Announcement: August is New Zealand/Australia pencil month!

Pencils of New Zealand

It’s with great excitement that I am able to announce New Zealand/Australia pencil month here at pencil talk. Thanks to Dave at Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, I have a nice assortment of woodcase pencils from Auckland, New Zealand. None of them are generally available in North America, so this will definitely be of interest to many readers of this blog.

This is the review schedule:

August 1 Stabilo Othello 282
August 6 Stabilo Schwan 305 & 306
August 8 Generic Pencil
August 13 Staedtler Pacific
August 16 Staedtler 132
August 20 Staedtler Tradition 110
August 23 Faber-Castell Goldfaber 1222
August 29 Faber-Castell 1111

Question: pencil for photo paper

I just received an interesting question. Can anyone help? The question is:

What type of pencil would be ideal for writing on the back of glossy photo paper?

The individual is hoping to avoid using a pen.


Bruynzeel High Grade 1605 Pencil

Bruynzeel Pencil
It’s always great to find a new pencil brand. Though I had heard the name long ago, it was quite a while before I found some pencils made by Bruynzeel in the Netherlands.

They came in a tin of the sort that’s found at art supply stores, with a range of pencil grades. There are eleven grades from 4H to 6B, with two of the HB included. The tin itself is generic, with a sticker as the only marking.

The pencils are a bright yellow, with stamping in gold or black. I couldn’t see a pattern in the stamping colour choice. The two HB pencils came with one in black, and one in gold. The hard pencils have blue caps, the soft pencils red, and HB in the middle gets black. Overall, the presentation and appearance of the pencils is sub-par. They also suffer from the adherence of graphite dust to the pencil. Having chosen a bright yellow finish, the dust stands out quite a bit.

Bruynzeel Pencil Tin

Trying them out, it doesn’t take too long to make a judgement – they are scratchy, scratchy, scratchy! A Sanford Mirado is more pleasant to write with. Even the 2B and 3B are markedly less smooth than almost any quality pencil one would want to use.

Unfortunately, this 1605 isn’t a pencil I can recommend.

The pencil is not a commodity – Economist article on Faber-Castell

It just came to my attention that the March 3rd Economist “Face Value” column had a full-page article on Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell and the Faber-Castell business. It’s a good read for anyone interested in the pencil business.

A few quick facts:

* F-C annual revenue is $US530M

* The Count owns 88% of the firm

* production is 2 billion pencils/year

* the debt to equity ratio is 50%

* there are sixteen manufacturing plants

* the expected growth market is in drawing as a hobby

On a personal note, happy Easter to those who are celebrating the holiday.

Buying old pencils.

Old Pencils.
Left to right: LYRA Dessin No. 2, Eberhard Faber Magazin, LYRA No. 92 Steinhauerstift

One thing about pencils is that they sure don’t make ’em like they used to. Oh, there are still excellent pencils to be had, like many of the ones I write about in this blog. But you can’t get them at a regular office supply store, or a department store. You can track down obscure Japanese stationers, or specialty online retailers, but even they often have limited selections.

But one other way to get some great pencils is to buy old pencils. Not used pencils, but pencils that have just been hanging around, maybe put out at a garage sale, or for sale on Ebay. Many (most?) of these pencils from a few years ago are of excellent quality, and some are outstanding. They’re not like today’s office supply store cheapos.

In Canada, a quality pencil like a Faber-Castell 9000 or a Staedtler Mars 100 ususally goes for $C1.75 at an art supply store. With 14% tax that’s $C2.00 even. (That’s $US1.75.) It’s a lot more than most people care to pay for a pencil. At a big box office supply place, that type of cash can buy two dozen no-name pencils! But the ten-cent pencil is usually scratchy, badly finished, and a poor writer.

I mention this because my spending limit for a good old pencil is the cost of a good new pencil. But they’re usually less. And this has to include any shipping costs, since I can walk to the places that sell the Staedtlers. I’ve usually been delighted, though occasionally felt ripped off. Someone who seems to be cleaning out an attic … often is, and pencils from them may be mis-described, and in a foul state – stereotypical Ebay junk. And packaging – it’s kind of amazing how shoddy the packaging often is, even though the seller is charging for this.

The good side is getting something like the LYRA No. 92 Steinhauerstift. This is some sort of carpentry or craft pencil, I suspect. It’s beautiful, and it looks like it stepped out of a history book. Plus it cost less than a modern Lyra, which I can still easily buy.

I don’t want to start “collecting” or buying more than I can appreciate and use, but an occasional older pencil is really a joy.

Anyone else out there enjoying some older pencils?

paper and pencil 1st anniversary: The Rhodia Pencil

This blog is now one year old! The first post was on an iconic stationery item: the Rhodia pad. A year later, we’re happy to welcome an accompanying Rhodia pencil.
The Rhodia Pencil
The pencil is painted in Rhodia’s famous orange. It’s very distinctive, with a triangular body, black dyed wood, black ferrule and black eraser. The imprinting is minimal: each side has Rhodia’s two fir tree logo and name.

I’m not sure how well the photo reflects this, but the pencils were covered in graphite dust when they arrived. And not just a light dusting – enough that I’m not sure they can all be fully cleaned up. It seems very odd for a pencil at this price point. The Palomino is the only other pencil I’m aware of with this presentation issue.

The pencil handles nicely, and the lead is rich and dark. I’m not a huge fan of erasers being on a pencil, but these seemed sleek, and are very effective at erasure.

There is no country of origin stated, though I have a suspicion.

Overall, they’re nice pencils, and ideal for jotting notes in your Rhodia pad.