Caran d’Ache has continued their “crayons de la maison” series with a sixth edition. The pencils are a visual delight, and a bit of a construction mystery.
The appeal is obvious – rich, amazing wood patterns from exotic species. They echo the 1990s Colleen Woods Pencils that are quite admired.
This set is somewhat monotone and features:
I wish the individual pencils had a small numeral or marking to note which pencil is which.
The pencils come in a sliding cardboard box, and an external sticker indicates:
Caran d’Ache 0361 414
Bar Code: 7 630002 334990
Made in Switzerland
FSC Mix wood from responsible sources FSC C005365
We can look up the FSC number. Nothing too interesting here. Sometimes we can discover a manufacturer or subcontractor’s name by looking up this code.
A second sticker says, “Crayons Parfumés Par Mizensir”. In other words, these are scented pencils.
The scent is strong! In contrast with Viarco’s scented pencils, which require me to approach them closely before any olfactory warnings start signalling, I can detect the Mizensir scent from several feet away. Fortunately, it does seem to dissipate with time. (Mizensir is a Geneva perfumer.)
Since last featured, we know much more about this pencil series, and the vendor’s own description has been updated. Particularly informative are the comments at a 2014 post at Lexikaliker.
The pencil box notes that these pencils are made from “reconstituted wood” which they also call “essences”. ALPI is the manufacturer, and are a specialty firm in wood tasks such as creating an oak look from the woodchips of another species.
The pencils are not made from the represented exotic woods. I think even using the word “essence” is going too far – ALPI is clear that they use Poplar, Limewood, or Ayous. There is no Hemlock, Oak, Teak, or Ash in these pencils. And they weren’t made from glued together pencil slats. It is some other process, perhaps extrusion, that constructed the pencils.
Yet, they’re nice, they are innovative, and they distinguish themselves quite well from ordinary pencils. It is also quite amazing that Caran d’Ache has continued the series over three years – there is obviously a market for innovation in pencils.
Les crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache
Les crayons de la maison Caran d’Ache, Edition No. 2
It has been three years since the ‘Final Post’ at pencil talk.
After announcing the end, I took the blog offline for several reasons. I don’t really like seeing blogs floating around that don’t function as blogs, with no new posts, no commenting, no interaction. The hosting costs seemed to only be going up. And, it just seemed appropriate to turn off the lights after leaving.
I’ve continued to keep in touch with many people interested in pencils, and appreciate the queries from readers. These interactions have been persistent enough that I feel the impact of the blog was quite significant. From the other side, going offline didn’t cause costs to decrease by much. Using a prominent hosting company, everything is metered, and maintaining virtual servers, storage, etc. seemed to cost more than the bandwidth – i.e. there were few savings found by turning the blog off.
The last three years have been an adventure. I’m from Toronto and started the blog there, but lived in nearby Kitchener many of pencil talk’s nine active years. In 2013, I accepted a job offer in the US, and lived in the San Francisco Bay Area until two months ago. I’ve just returned to Canada.
I brought the blog back online for a couple of reasons – I didn’t really want the content to be lost – it lived inside the WordPress database on an operating system too old to get updates – and, at some point, a revival would become unfeasible. But more importantly, the blog isn’t solely mine – discussion with and between readers was one of the things the blog did well, and the many thousands of comments deserved to live on. The blog never reached first place in search engines, but it always seemed the be the place for people to talk about pencils.
This post is about a revival – I want to bring the blog back. I’m still thinking carefully about this. The online landscape has changed. There are a lot more stationery blogs and websites now. Many are decidedly commercial. The three blogs I mentioned in ‘Final Post’ have all continued to thrive, and I’ll note in particular that Contrapuntalism has risen to unprecedented heights – featuring interviews with both the late Count A.W. von Faber-Castell and Eberhard Faber IV that have delighted and amazed me.
I want to carry on the exploration of the art and science of pencils, and hope you’ll join along!
November 1st will mark this blog’s ninth anniversary. It will also be the blog’s final day.
Nine years is a long time. Over this span, the blog has been a hobby, sometimes a burden, often a consuming passion, occasionally a second job, and always a great forum for those interested in exploring the art and science of pencils.
There have been wonderful discussions that I’ve truly enjoyed. I’ve met people who I’ll be keeping in touch with, and learned quite a bit about both blogging and pencils. There have been some fine fellow travelers in this journey, and I will mention Lexikaliker and Blackwing Pages as blogs whose passion and original research into pencils has regularly exceeded my own efforts.
The circumstances and costs of running an independent website have changed since 2005, and these are real factors, but in the end, the timing is right for this decision.
Thank you to the many readers, commenters, and correspondents who made this a special place.
Congratulations to Tombow, who are celebrating their 100th anniversary in 2013. The company has a special site with many photos to commemorate the anniversary.
As part of the celebration, Tombow has issued a recreation of a vintage pencil, complete with packaging. The pencil is internally a Mono 100, possibly the world’s finest pencil, so there was no skimping on quality. In Japan, the product sells for about $15. Alas, the price in other countries reflects several additional costs. (As an aside – the top Japanese pencils are reasonably priced inside Japan. If only they had better global distribution channels!)
I initially balked at the price I first saw for this anniversary pencil, but read that only 100 boxes were made, so it really is a limited edition. Fueled by a love for Tombow’s pencils, I decided to indulge. (I’ve since seen that Tombow USA sells the set for $15 – I wish I had known.)
There is an outer sleeve with a graphite rendering (in progress) of the pencil box’s design. I think this is one of the best parts of the recreation:
The metal box:
Inserts, etc. all reproduced:
The product is great – a tribute to the past while using modern production techniques. I am grateful that Tombow took the effort to create something for themselves and us – the citizens of pencil nation. (I cannot imagine that there is any financial return for such a small run of a specialty product like this.)
I am also pondering the number – 100 sets for 100 years? Or is 100 the realistic number of people who will purchase something like this? Or is a distributor who acquired 100 sets making an exaggerated claim? This blog has advocated for historical pencil recreations for years, and it was a disappointment that a major pencil company anniversary a couple of years ago didn’t give a nod to the past. But maybe they knew something?
And a note – despite what I’ve read from Tombow, this thing called the web informs me that a set in grade 4B has been issued in some Asian countries.
The Pencil (possibly, The Pencil Set) by Staedtler is a new generically named multi-functional pencil product.
The product is housed in a black cardboard box (mine was crushed in the mail, but I can imagine that a pristine store bought version would look rather nice) and contains three pencils and an extender. The pencils are black, round, and composed of Staedtler’s new WOPEX extruded wood product. Each pencil is also capped with a non-removable capacitive stylus.
The extender has a rounded square cross section, a clip, and features a sharpener and replaceable eraser.
The pencils have a unique appearance. Round in shape with four paired lengthwise grooves, the combination of graphite/grey/black is unlike any pencil I’ve ever seen. The styling is cool, fashionable, and current. The pencil is capped with a silver coloured cap that houses a capacitive stylus for use on capacitive screen smartphones and tablets. (“Capacitive” is used in contrast to “Resistive”, which is the technology that was used by the Palm Pilot.) The pencils are about 135mm stylus to tip – quite comfortable to hold.
The extender fits somewhat loosely on a pencil. The extender has three parts – the pencil fits into a sharpener (the first part). The sharpener is housed in the exterior container (the second part), and the container has a cap that houses an eraser (the third part).
The pencil can be sharpened with just the bare sharpener – or, owing to the exposed rectangle in the exterior section, a single sharpening turn can be taken with the exterior attached, expelling the pencil shaving from the rectangle. Another feature – a smaller rectangle on the other side of the extender allows for viewing the point while the cap is on.
So the pencil – it writes very well with a medium dark lead that seems to respond nicely to some pressure. The WOPEX is probably still a product under development, and I believe this pencil writes much better than the first Wopexen that I tried in 2010. The pencil body is dyed black – it looks great, and I wonder if we’ll soon see other colours?
As to the stylus – a Monteverde pen with stylus that is in the household never really worked well enough to use. It seemed to be formed from a solid rubbery substance. The Pencil is different – the stylus seems to be a balloon over an air pocket that houses a solid nub in the interior. I tried the stylus on my BlackBerry Z10 and Sony Xperia Z tablet – it worked as well as I’d hope. Thinking back to the learning curves associated with these devices, the stylus did well. A full evaluation would no doubt take quite a bit of time.
The sharpener is acceptable in a pinch, but seemed too cheap and plastic based for a product at this price point. Perhaps weight minimization was a design consideration.
The eraser worked well. In fairness, I believe the WOPEX lines are not known to be as erasable as typical graphite lines.
As an extender, that silvery piece on the pencil is used to form a grip – this is a nice feature.
The extender seemed fragile and unsubstantial. I realize Staedtler probably didn’t want to create a metal extender, but there are so many high quality plastics and carbon fibres today that I feel there must have been better alternatives.
Overall, this is an interesting product, and hard to assess – an innovative design, new materials, and a new marriage of pencil to stylus. Could the stylus be produced as a standalone pencil attachment? It almost looks so.
I think this is a product for early adopters to try, and for most of us to observe – it could very well reappear in a new iteration with improvements.
Caran d’Ache has released the second edition of their pencilmaking masterwork. This edition features pencils made from Guyana Palm, Blue Zebrano, American Cedar, and Lati Grey. (That last pencil is a repeat from the first series. Why the double Lati?)
Both editions shown together:
The walnut, blue zebrano, and cedar pencils are the ones that catch my eye.
Get them while you can. Caran d’Ache says the series is tremendously successful.
See also: Edition No. 1