This morning, a complete set of the original 1997 Colleen Woods pencils sold at an online auction for ¥110,000.
The price is a validation of the importance and rarity of these pencils.
Please see the previous posts on the Colleen Woods for more information:
Colleen Woods Volume 1 (2010)
Colleen Woods Volume 2 (2009)
For a relatively affordable reinterpretation from some of the same creators of the original set, please take a look at the Bosco Woods which are still available at retail.
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
Just a very short note. Staedtler has announced pencils made from “upcycled wood”. Upcycled wood is defined as “wood chips produced in the wood processing industry.”
The upcycled family includes the colour Noris 185 and 187, digital stylus pencils, and the graphite Staedtler Neon 180 and Noris 183.
These pencils (at least the 180 and 183) were previously known to use WOPEX. Perhaps this is a rebrand?
On October 15, 2021, the US Patent and Trademark Office published the news that Newell Brands had cancelled their trademark for one of the world’s most famous pencil brands, the Mongol.
Eberhard Faber IV was interviewed by Sean Malone, and Mr. Faber suggested that the name came from Purée Mongole soup. An update notes this story as being apocryphal.
(I’m really happy that Contrapuntalism remains online, though at a different address. It has a remarkable sixty posts that mention the Mongol pencil!)
I reached out to Newell, but did not hear back. They spoke to me last year about the Mirado, but I didn’t hear back about the Mongol.
So why the cancellation? I don’t know, but I’ll speculate that in 2021 Newell don’t want a trademark that can readily be interpreted as an ethnocultural or racial term.
There are still Mongol pencils in other countries – Colombia, the Philippines, and Venezuala.
Truly the end of an era, this pencil brand will not be quickly forgotten.
It is rare for anyone other that the CEO of a pencil company to address the public regarding pencils. It is particularly unusual to hear from the knowledgeable craftspeople and engineers who produce pencils at large scale.
Henry Petroski let the world know about the centuries of engineering that form the basis of pencil making, and Faber-Castell has very kindly featured an interview with their technical product manager Helmut Zeilinger in the latest online Faber-Castell magazine.
Mr. Zeilinger offers many insights:
Sharpening problems result from mismatched halves of the pencil.
How would one resolve this issue? “For the wood alone, our specifications at Faber-Castell are almost as detailed as for individual parts in car production,” says Mr. Zeilinger. Unfortunately the subject of which wood species are ideal isn’t explored (but another article on Faber-Castell’s plantation likely provides the clues).
“Hardly anyone thinks about sharpening,” says Mr. Zeilinger. Maybe not. But don’t tell David Rees.
How often should a sharpener’s blade be replaced? Apparently after fully sharpening 12 pencils. Umm, has anyone ever seen a replacement Faber-Castell blade?
There is much more in the information rich article. I’ve like to thank Faber-Castell for this excellent article and Mr. Zeilinger for sharing his considerable knowledge!