Pencil shavings collage

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Pencil shavings collage

Last week, I received a beautiful gift from a very creative person. It’s a collage which uses pencil shavings as material.

Pencil shavings collage

A glass frame made it challenging to photograph, but I hope that some of the essence is conveyed. In person, it is quite wonderful to behold.

Books on Pencils (I)

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Sorry for the delay since the last post. The entire editorial staff was under the weather this week.

Following up on the excellent contributed list of children’s books on pencils, we’re going to take a look at three adult-oriented books on pencils.

Marco Ferreri, Editor. Pencils. Mostre Georgetti, Milan, 1996.

Bill Henderson, Editor. Minutes of the Lead Pencil Club. Pushcart Press, Wainscott, NY, 1996.

Henry Petroski. The Pencil. Knopf, New York, 1992.

Books on Pencils

Pencils is a beautiful and inspiring tribute to the pencil.

Alessandro Ubertazzi writes in the introduction:

One of the reasons for the pencil’s appeal is a latent analogy with the human existence – it’s inevitable end. The pencil is used, it gets sharpened, consumed and disappears.

The volume is a catalogue of an exhibition that occurred in Milan in 1996/1997. It has not just beautiful prose, but stunning, amazing photographs of the pencils in the exhibit.

My favourite photo shows a set of 24 pencils, each made from a different wood. I would love to own this set of pencils!

Every category of pencil is given tribute as part of an exhibition that promoted the “minor arts”: note taking pencils, non-writing pencils, yellow office pencils, black pencils, pencils with rulers, pencils with names, Mussolini’s pencil, unfinished pencils, decorative pencils, advertising pencils, indelible pencils, working pencils, red/blue pencils, Marotte pencils, compass pencils, pencils with caps, mechanical pencils, precious metal pencils, 4-colour pencils, Mordan pencils, celluloid pencils, vulcanite pencils, mechanical pencils disguised as woodcase pencils, pencils that look like pens, aluminum pencils, and many others, all with beautiful photos.

The book mixes photographic tribute with contemplation of this everyday implement.

The ritual of sharpening is of paramount importance since it embodies the concept of regeneration. The point of the instrument becomes sharp once again, the wood dirtied by hands and time regains its natural colour and releases a vague but enticing smell of resin.

As essay in pictures, accompanied by words, Pencils is very adept at probing the fascination of these special bits of wood and graphite.

Children’s Books on Pencils

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January 27th will be Family Literacy Day. As a small contribution, pencil talk is delighted to present this guest post, a researched list of children’s books that feature pencils and other writing implements. The books are arranged by readership age range.

Title: Let’s Make Rabbits
Author and/or Illustrator: Leo Lionni
Age range: Babies and toddlers
Description: Scissors and a pencil “make rabbits”. The pencil draws, the scissors cut. When the rabbits are hungry, the scissors cut out a carrot from orange paper and the pencil draws a carrot.

Title: Simon’s Book
Author and/or Illustrator: Henrik Drescher
Age range: 2-5
Description: After going to sleep, a boy’s dip-pens and inkwell take a character he has drawn out on an adventure.

Title: If You Take a Pencil
Author and/or Illustrator: Fulvio Testa
Age range: 4-6
Description: A fantasy counting story, told by a pencil.

Title: Magpie Magic: A Tale of Colorful Mischief
Author and/or Illustrator: April Wilson
Age range: 4-8
Description: A child’s hands draw a bird and the mischief it gets into, using pencils including pencil crayons.

Title: Harold and the Purple Crayon
Author: Crockett Johnson
Age range: 4-8
Description: The classic and much-loved children’s picture book about a little boy who is lead on a grand adventure by his purple crayon one moonlit night. (Celebrating it’s 50th year).

Title: Grandfather’s Pencil and the Room of Stairs
Author and/or Illustrator: Michael Foreman
Age range: 5-9
Description: A pencil writes about its experiences and memories along with the house, floorboards and the table that all originate from the forest.

Title: I am Pencil
Author and/or Illustrator: Linda Hayword
Age range: 7-9
Description: How a pencil is made, distributed and used.

Title: The Good Luck Pencil
Author and/or Illustrator: Diane Stanely, Bruce Degen
Age range: 9-11
Description: A magic pencil brings a young girl more luck than she wants. The pencil helps her write a biography for a school assignment that she then must live up to. She trades her pencil in for a more apt instrument that truly reflects her life.

Title: Marianne Dreams
Author and/or Illustrator: Catherine Storr
Age range: YA
Description: Marianne’s drawings come alive in her dreams. Adapted into the film “Escape into Night” and an operetta by the author, reviews list it a bit on the scary side.

Pentel 120 A3 DX drafting pencils

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Pentel 120 A3 DX drafting pencils

A recent trip to a local university provided a chance to visit their engineering supply store, where I picked up some Pentel 120 A3 DX drafting pencils. They were one of two brands sold, along with the competitor Staedtler Mars micro.

The pencils come in four versions, 0.3, 0.5, 0.7, and 0.9 mm. While I have various 0.5 and 0.7 mm mechanical pencils, the thin 0.3 mm and thick 0.9 mm varieties aren’t familiar to me, and seemed like they would be fun to play around with.

Pentel 120 A3 DX drafting pencils

The pencils have a metal tip, rubber grip, plastic body and cap, and metal clip. The lead is advanced by clicking the cap. The cap also lifts off to reveal a very tiny eraser.

The internal mechanisms have some variations – the length of lead dispensed by a click corresponds to the diameter of the lead, with a click of the 0.9 mm pencil dispensing the most lead, and the 0.3 mm pencil the least.

Pentel 120 A3 DX drafting pencils

The grip looked like a seasonally appropriate winter tire to me, and I liked it. It was comfortable and grippable.

After a few days of trying them out, I think they are a nice set, and a reasonable and inexpensive introduction to the category.

Round pencils

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Round pencils

Round pencils were by far the least popular format in November’s poll. I had a look around my pencil box (okay, boxes) to see what I could find.

The pencils in the photo are (top to bottom): The Kita-Boshi Hit 9900, Nava pencil, Derwent Sketching pencil, Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth Progresso 8911, Mirado Black Warrior, and the PaperMate Primer Print.

Not everyday names? I’ve only referred to two of these in the past. The Derwent and Koh-I-Noor are specialty art pencils, the PaperMate a learning/children’s pencil, the Nava isn’t widely distributed and might be called a boutique pencil. The Hit is not widely available outside Japan, and only uses the round shape for the softer artist-oriented pencils. The Black Warrior is the only general purpose pencil in this lot.

Promotional pencils are usually round – but round is the cheapest format for printing.

So what gives? Is there really only one general purpose round pencil on the market, and why? Would people use round pencils if there were more choices? Or do we really, really not want our pencils to roll away?