Happy 100th anniversary, Blackwing clamp!

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Blackwing clamp
First paragraph of US patent 1373062.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of a very important part of the famed Eberhard Faber Blackwing pencil: the patent for the pencil’s distinctive ferrule and eraser, originally called a clamp. (The name changed over time.)

Blackwing clamp

The clamp patent was awarded to Lothar W. Faber on this day one century ago. The mechanism was shared with the Van Dyke and Microtomic pencils, mechanical pencils, and stand alone erasers. The Blackwing itself was launched a decade later. The clamp did have predecessors, but the 1921 patent was the most successful and widely known model.

The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company clearly took pride in the invention, noting the patent date on the box of Item 1281, their four eraser plus one clamp refill kit:
Blackwing clamp

Also on some versions of the clamp itself:
Blackwing clamp
(c) Swann Galleries

For more on the clamp, please see “Clasp to Clamp” at Contrapuntalism and Patent 1373062 at Google Patents.

Pencils and humidity

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Seven previous posts at this website have mentioned the potential interaction between pencils and humidity. The Staedtler 190T and Tajima carpenter’s pencil have specifically claimed to address certain humidity concerns.

With help from the Wayback Machine, we have some specifics courtesy of a brief article in the 2003 Pentel Library. (The page loads slowly.) Pentel suggests that a 2B lead in humid Okinawa performs like an HB lead elsewhere! The idea is that paper becomes softer in high humidity, with the lead adhering less to the paper. A 2B lead in humidity is thus needed to make a mark similar to an HB mark in an arid environment.

Pencil news

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Years ago, this blog featured occasional posts with pencil news. I know of a few current events and links that I would like to mention.

Moon Pencil

The founders of Moon Pencil have repurchased the company. The company was sold to toy company MegaBloks, then Mattel. Back in the Rosen family, I hope the owners will consider emphasizing some of their own label pencils, similar to General and Musgrave. The press release notes that they are “America’s largest pencil factory.” pencil talk looked at their product line in 2011.

Kirin Pencil

Known for a very innovative product line, one of Japan’s smaller pencil producers has gone out of business. Following the death of the chairperson, no path forward was found and the company dissolved.

Vodka Soaked Pencils

From the Austrian design school FH Joanneum, we have a 200 page book on red and blue pencils. It is conceptual and exploratory from a design and artistic perspective.

Aztec Scoremaster 101 Pencil

This post at the blog of composer Gavin Bryars is a remarkable companion to the 2017 Contrapuntalism post on the Alpheus Music Writer and the 2020 Blackwing Pages post on Judy Green Music. It is a great read.

Notarial String

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German Notarial String

This post follows in the tradition of The Treasury Tag at Bleistift, a post which discussed a specialty stationery item.

The Princes of Paperwork (sorry, there may be a paywall) at The Economist discussed the Notary profession – in some European countries, notaries are embedded in the real estate process and earn a small percentage of the sale price for notarizing the sale documents. Being a notary in such an environment thus pays quite well. There is also – the stationery! In Germany, notarizing a document involves binding the document with string and sealing it with red wax. It even gets better – each German state has their own colour pattern for their string.

German Notarial String
A Public Domain image showing the Bavarian version of the string with a notarial seal (but no red wax).

To my surprise, Montréal stationer Papeterie Nota Bene sells this string! (This blog visited Nota Bene in 2013.)

The colour coding (Blue and White for Bavaria, Green and White for Saxony, etc.) scheme can be found in the PDF catalogue of the 102 year old manufacturer Willy Heckmann GmbH & Co. (My thanks to Gunther from Lexikaliker for locating that catalogue.)

It can of course be used as office/household string. I think the colour combinations are nice. A long running German-English legal translation blog suggested in 2003 that translators may also be users of notarial string. An image search also shows quite a bit of historical use, particularly the red and white string.

Pencil Manufacturers: Many are over one century old

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A remarkable aspect of the pencil industry is the longevity of the manufacturers. In a selective sample of 23 of the largest and best known manufacturers, nine are less than a century old, ten are between one and two centuries old, and four claim over two centuries of existence!

To be clear, here we are accepting general statements from company websites. We know that Dixon didn’t make pencils on day one, that Dixon and Lyra are no longer independent, and that Koh-I-Noor has a discontinuous history that doesn’t cleanly trace back to Hardmuth in 1790. And there are other companies who may also claim a descent from forerunners that could be challenged. Further, some are more brands than manufacturers today.

Yet, it is extremely impressive. Particular congratulations go to Faber-Castell, celebrating their 260th anniversary in 2021!

Company Created Age
Staedtler 1835 186
Faber-Castell 1761 260
Lyra 1806 205
Stabilo 1855 166
Dixon 1795 226
Newell 1856 165
Moon 1961 60
General 1889 132
Musgrave 1916 105
Tombow 1913 108
Mitsubishi 1887 134
Kitaboshi 1951 70
Camel 1939 82
Eyeball 1972 49
Derwent 1832 189
FILA 1920 101
Viarco 1907 104
Koh-I-Noor 1790 221
China First 1935 86
DOMS 1974 47
Camlin 1931 90
Hindustan 1958 83
Maharashtra 1972 48