This morning, the New York Times published the obituary of Professor Henry Petroski.
Duke University’s obituary is here.
Petroski was the author of The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, the authoritative history of the pencil.
My thanks to Michael from Orange Crate Art for sharing the news with me.
In 2020, Prof. Petroski told me that he had read this blog, which continues to humble me.
Last week, a Thoreau pencil sold by online auction for $USD2200.
The auction, arranged by the Thoreau Society and Thoreau Farm Trust, offered a single pencil from the famous Thoreau & Company. This pencil maker, associated with the earliest organized pencil making in the United States and a family business of Henry David Thoreau, is described in the chapter An American Pencil-Making Family in Henry Petroski’s The Pencil.
I accept the provenance of the pencil, and the price seems reasonable to me. I do wish there was a better photo of the pencil itself.
For added interest, note the famous donor.
Last year, Caran d’Ache released an unusual product, a pencil with a lead containing coffee grounds. This blog took a look at the pencils, and deemed them innovative but having problems.
Caran d’Ache recently released a second version, officially called a Set of 3 NESPRESSO graphite pencils Limited Edition 5th Edition. This is a series that includes both ballpoints, clutch pencils, and woodcase pencils. Editions 1, 2, and 3 were ballpoint pens, while 4 included both the original pencils and a 2mm Fixpencil.
This pencil has some significant differences – the wood is “FSC™ certified cedar” rather than Swiss beech, and the lead is smooth and no longer crumbles. I would say the mark is fainter. Also gone is the unusual aroma. The end caps are “ochre, green and gold” according to Caran d’Ache. This version is an attractive, approachable, and very usable quality pencil.
For me, red and blue pencils are special. They are practical and hardworking, yet fanciful and a specialty product. I love having one on my desk, and I’ve loved sampling the many varieties that exist. But they’re not an eveyday pencil for many.
Even less common (and “common” is relative – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red and blue pencil for sale at a non-specialty store) are other formulations of mixed-core writing/office pencils. Fifteen years ago, this blog took a look at the Tombow LV-KEV, still an outstanding pencil. I thought that was about it for this type of pencil, but a great post at Lexikaliker reminds us that there have been a few. Still, they are few in number – vintage, a few made for the Turkish and Mexican markets – and the more recent Caran d’Ache Graphicolor and the CW Pencil Enterprise “The Editor”. A very interesting comment at Lexikaliker suggests the red in The Editor is water soluble – I will have to test that if I locate one.
Today, we’ll take a look at the Dixon Duo, a pencil from the Fila conglomerate produced by Dixon Mexico for the Mexican market. Called a “lápiz entrenador” (training pencil), it is aimed at children, though in my mind it seems like a very adult writing implement.
A rounded triangular shape, it sports a 3.3mm core. Sharpening with a handheld Möbius+Ruppert was simple.
So here is what I wasn’t expecting – both ends write well. The red is vibrant and the graphite is pleasingly smooth.
Official product listing: Dixon Mexico
Two years ago, I noticed that a very interesting handmade pencil was listed for sale at the now closed CW Pencil Enterprise. CWPE was sold out of the product, but I quickly discovered the manufacturer Numen Design and an interesting retailer named Apuntes.
I was able to acquire some Numen pencils, and a photo posted at the pencil talk Instagram account remains popular:
A visit to Apuntes was naturally at the top of my list for a visit to the City of Mexico last month. Apuentes is in the Roma Norte neighborhood. Roma, like Polanco and Condesa, is a very trendy and highly walkable neigborhood in Mexico City. The altitude (2240m) will be a consideration for some. Apuntes is on a narrow side street near the Estela de Luz monument, an impossibly thin soaring tribute to Mexican independence.
The front window makes a nice impression.
The compact interior displays many interesting products, but it is not a generic stationery store! Perhaps matched only by the shops on Paris’s Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe, everything is made by Apuntes, with many products both designed and manufactured within the City of Mexico! It is truly a special store.
I bought two A5 notebooks, two A4 pads of paper, two “half A4” pads of paper for lists, and some interesting paperclips, stickers, and pencils. The paper products were made in the City of Mexico.
An absolute must visit for the stationery aficionado!
Goods for the Study is a stationery store in New York City. Their website tells me they have two locations. I visited the “West Village” shop at 50 West 8th Street in late 2022.
The neighbourhood is really interesting. It’s close to Washington Square Park. There are pop-up art galleries on West 8th, and I found a cheerful Venezuelan restaurant across the street.
(Apologies to the random guy)
Almost every specialty stationer that I’ve seen tends to be a small boutique, and they are often empty. Not so with Goods for the Study! This store was packed, even with a long line to the cash register. It has an impressive depth of paper products and writing implements. Rollbahn for example – they seemed to stock every colour and every size, a big contrast from boutique stationers.