Tombow versus Mitsubishi

Please allow me to call attention to the essay The Golden Age of Japanese Pencils, 1952-1967, published by St. Louis Art Supply.

I’ve not previously been aware of this art supply company. I learned of the essay via a post at the Reddit pencil forum.

The conclusions are very interesting to me. Are the Tombow Mono 100 and the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni the greatest pencils the world will ever see? (And I’ll mention that the Mono 100 is no longer made in Japan.) Very possibly. Super high quality OEM pencils such as those from Pentel were on the market only briefly. And as the article notes, we haven’t seen the “Hi-Hi-Uni”.

But let’s note something else – the pencil market is likely still growing at a global level, due to population growth and increased educational opportunities. There are $10 (even $20) woodcase pencils that can be bought today from Musgrave (USA) , Faber-Castell (Germany), and Caran d’Ache (Switzerland). These expensive pencils are more in the collectible/luxury segment, but why wouldn’t it be possible to try a new super-high quality pencil?

The Gmund Bauhaus Dessau paper cube

Gmund is a quality paper maker that originated in 1829. Online searching and discussions with stationery enthusiasts suggest that today they mainly operate as a paper industry supplier. They have regularly received attention for providing the golden envelopes used at the Oscars.

Gmund also produces a few consumer products. Here is a video from Matthias at Bleistift regarding one of their notebooks:

Something else that made an appearance at Laywines here is Toronto is a Bauhaus associated paper cube. The cube is part of a larger series. This isn’t just a “tribute” – it is a product that was developed in conjunction with the official Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.

The paper cube has a front with a geometrical design that uses five quadrilaterals and one triangle. One of the colours appears twice.

Do you know more about this design? Please feel free to share!

The cube now sits on my desk, and I want to use these notes rather than sticky notes when it makes sense. You can find the official product page here.

The Carl Auböck egg paperweight

“On the desk of the German architect and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius sits a solid-brass egg.”

From Perfecting the Paperweight by Victoria Woodcock in the November 20, 2021 How To Spend It, the weekend magazine of the Financial Times.

This paperweight egg shared the desk with companion objects such as pre-Columbian artefacts given to Gropius by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The Financial Times says the desk was designed by Marcel Breuer, while Historic New England credits Gropius himself. The desk broke when shipped from Germany to the US.

The desk remains at Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts. A clear photo doesn’t show an egg.

Click the image to go to the Historic New England site. (c) Historic New England

(Can you see a pencil?)

The original 1952 egg is now made by Auböck’s grandson, and available at London’s Sigmar for £170. I think that’s a pretty reasonable price for a famed design object of such provenance.

(c) Signum

The general Auböck catalogue is well worth browsing. Another stationery object – a giant paperclip – is also for sale at Mark+Fold.

Thank you to the Financial Times for illuminating this interesting stationery item.


A recent trip to Toronto’s Marlborough’s Stationery revealed that they have gone out of business.

This wasn’t a store with any sort of prominent internet profile. It was a neighbourhood store with basic stationery, and over the years began stocking children’s toys and greeting cards (and recently, masks). They had some nods to quality – notebooks from Clairefontaine and pencils from Staedtler.

Marlborough’s was founded in 1922. They were 99, and almost made it to their centenary. This is so sad.

Newell Brands cancel Mongol pencil trademark

Mongol pencils

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.

Mongol trademark