Short break, right back.

Woodclinched has taken a short break for the holidays! It doesn’t have anything to do with spending more time with family, or reflecting on the year past or the year ahead. It’s almost entirely because, as of December 1, I started a job at Facebook as a content strategist. Although I’m not even three weeks in, it’s proven to be exciting, overwhelming, and really interesting so far.

It also means that I’ve been living in temporary housing 2300 miles away from home and my pencil and paper collection! Over the next three or four weeks, my stuff, my wife and my cats will be joining me out here, so until then, I won’t have a lot of time or, well, stuff to talk about. In the immortal and concise words of public radio talk show host Diane Rehm, short break, right back.

I have a few cool pencil-related photos to tide you over, though, from my last few weeks:

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Facebook, it seems, has a love affair with analog print. We have an Analog Research Lab, which is really cool, silkscreened and letterpressed posters all around campus and even vending machines that sell stickers! This one came out of one of those machines.

I got a chance to go to the Maido store at Westfield Mall in the SOMA district of San Francisco. It didn’t have a large selection of wooden pencils, but it had really good ones. So many Tombows. And Palomino Blackwing 602s and Pearls sold by the single!


One of those Tombows is an FSC-certified pencil they call Kimonogatari pencils. They’re natural, uncoated wood that’s untipped on the end. It’s super smooth with some stripes running down the side. I loved these so much I bought a dozen.


On the paper side, Facebook has so many cool little custom notebooks. There are a bunch of varieties of custom ScoutBooks, but this one was a custom Moleskine cahier. I got it during my design orientation. It looks really good with my Golden Bear.

So thanks for bearing with me, friends, and I will be back with more interesting stuff in the new year!

Dudek Modern Goods “Divide” Review

I’ve long been a fan of the pencil cup. At work, I have an old mug from my local public radio station from back in the early 80s — although I have lots of mugs from various pledge drives, this particular one was from the Goodwill — a really cool find by my mother.

At home I have two or three mugs hold pens, pencils, rulers and other various long, stick-like utensils that I want to store upright.

So I never really thought about any kind of decorative desk holder — until Mike Dudek came along.

Mike’s a stalwart in the pen community — his blog, The Clicky Post  is a great place to find pen, paper, and interesting product reviews for the analog-minded. His photos have always stood out to me; he’s a really talented photographer of small, round, long objects, which are, in my experience, pretty hard to photograph.

He sells a series of handmade wooden pen holders made out of solid blocks of walnut (I think) that he cuts, sands, polishes, stains, and drills holes into. They’re absolutely gorgeous, and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Look at this beaut, the Display

He’s really been getting into pencils lately, which is awesome. In fact, Mike posted a philosophical discussion about woodcase pencils on his blog last week. My favorite part:

With the digital world consuming a lot of how people’s thoughts are recorded out of “convenience”, this is bad for even basic click pens, but imagine how this has to be for the wooden pencil!   Let me explain: To use a pencil not only do I have to carry around a seemingly fragile stick of wood but I also have to carry around an apparatus with a blade to actually make the stick usable.  And then, to continue writing with it I have to keep sharpening the stick.  And then, I have to find a place to dump the excess debris (shavings) to dispose of them.  Within this context the pencil doesn’t even stand a chance against the hardcore digi folks. But, the truth remains that the pencil is living on and they are being made by probably the millions every year.  We live in a digital age and yet we still produce tools to write with that could probably trace their lineage back to the cave drawings of the Paleolithic Era.  Usually with “antiquated” products, they end up on Etsy or specialty shops for high premiums being styled after vintage or retro.  Not the pencil.  You can still buy a dozen pretty good pencils for less than $5.  So, if you really want to get your retro on, pick up a pack and start sharpening.

Well said, sir!

He may have been thinking about pencils hard because of the new product he released two days later! It’s called the “Divide”, and is made especially for a wooden pencil user in mind:

About this product, Mike says:  

With The Divide, the pens and pencils on your desk can have a place to live in harmony being partitioned by a few pocket notebooks.  There seem to be graphite and ink camps in our community, so now people have no excuse but to let their writing instruments of all kinds play nicely together in an attractive, handmade walnut pen holder.

It’s based off a custom block Mike made for Tim Wasem from The Writing Arsenal (and my friend and Erasable co-host!). And, he was kind enough to send one to me!

It has six skinny holes on one side of the blog, perfect for a standard-width woodcase pencil. On the other side, there are three large holes, for Sharpies or fountain pens, and three medium-sized holes for regular pens. Each of the holes have a small point holder at the bottom, so a sharpened pencil, inserted point-down, will stand upright. Mike really thought about the details.

Here’s mine, right out of the box:


And here it is, filled with writing accoutrements:


This thing is so nice, it’s going to be around for a long, long time. Generations, even.

The Divide is $60, over at Mike’s blog. Check them out, here

Happy Fountain Pen Day, everyone!

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I may be a pencil blogger, but I do love a good fountain pen. This is one of my favorites, a blue Esterbrook.

I meant to write a big, researched history of the Esterbrook Dollar Pen, because they’re fascinating to me, but then stuff happened. So, read Brad’s excellent review on Pen Addict instead!

A big, big congratulations to Cary from FountainPenDay.org for all of his hard work and cool swag. Be sure to hit that link for a list of participating blogs and shops.

Number 2 (Pencil Shavings) Perfume Review

I’m a very visual person — it’s generally hard for me to talk and write about something that I can’t see or read. I don’t usually write about music, the taste of food or drink, or other non-visual stuff.

That’s why I never thought I’d be writing about a scent — especially on a pencil blog.

One of our amazing Erasable listeners and Facebook group members, Mica Thomas*, sent Johnny and me some samples of a perfume her friend, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH Perfumes, created. It’s called “#2 (Pencil Shavings)”.

That’s right — a pencil-scented perfume.

Where do I even begin? First, wow. This is right up there with the pencil/wine pairings that David Rees put in his book, How to Sharpen Pencils (when we interviewed him on Episode 15 of Erasable, he told us that was completely legit — a friend who owned a wine shop sat down with him and helped develop that section!).

After receiving a cool little package in the mail, I opened it and found some goodies from Mica.

The scent came in one of those little glass vials they pass out of perfume at a department store cosmetics counter.

The smell, though

Right after unpopping the cap, the smell was too intense to really discern any particularly woody scent. It smelled really odd — bitter, maybe, and slightly unpleasant. After applying to my skin, or to cloth, the intensity of the scent stayed for a few more seconds, and then it fades into something a bit more familiar.

As Johnny described it on the most recent episode of the podcast, it smells more like red cedar than incense cedar; more of an old fashioned pencil. I’d have to agree, though I don’t think my experience with cedar is as rich as his.

(I wish I had some kind of visual to show you here, but I don’t.) 
I feel like, though, there’s a touch of something else in it. Something more sharp or mineral-y. Graphite, maybe? After all, that’s present in the pencil shavings too. It’s not unpleasant at all — it smells a bit like being in grade school and emptying the container of shavings from the old Boston crank sharpener on the wall into the trash can.

The bottom line

Dawn says that the scent will be available as both a wearable essence and as an ambient scent in, say, a reed diffuser. I can defintiely see the latter being more popular than the former — retired elementary teachers, maybe, could scent their living room if they miss the atmosphere of their classroom.

I’d like to thank Mica and Dawn for this really interesting experience! And, of course, I’ll update this post with a link as soon as it is available for purchase in a couple weeks. In the meantime, check out the rest of Dawn’s scents on her website, DSH Perfumes.

(By the way, Mica is the general manager of a really cool company that makes and repairs guitars — by hand! — called Alembic, and they were recently featured in Rolling Stone Magazine!)

 

 

New Kickstarter: The Twist Bullet Pencil

It seems like just a year ago, the world hardly remembered bullet pencils. There’s been a lot of talk about them over the past 12 months, and we’ve seen our first-ever bullet pencil Kickstarter project, for the Bullet Pencil ST.

(Since the time I posted an article about it while the Kickstarter was going on to when it ended in late August, they’ve been fully funded, ended the campaign successfully, and are due to be produced and mailed to the funders by the end of this month.)

I’m here to tell you about another campaign that launched last week to build a bullet pencil! I’ve actually known about this one longer than I have about the ST — it’s for the Twist Bullet Pencil, a collaboration between Huckleberry Woodchuck, an artisan who restores old bullet pencils, and MetalShopCT, an independent machinist who makes cool things out of aluminum and steel.

Twist Bullet Pencil in base colors and tip styles. Photo from @MetalShopCT on Instagram.

Twist Bullet Pencil in base colors and tip styles. Photo from @MetalShopCT on Instagram.

Over the summer, Jay from Huckleberry Woodchuck (who we’ve mentioned on Erasable before) contacted Tim and asked if we’d be interested in field testing a special prototype bullet pencil that he’s been working on. Of course, Tim said yes, and between him, me and Johnny, we carried that thing to work, to the lake, to the airport, et cetera. It was a lot of fun, and we got to talk about it on the podcast.

From my Instagram in July, the prototype bullet pencil along with a Word. notebook.

From my Instagram in July, the prototype bullet pencil along with a Word. notebook.

All the while, Jay was in contact — what did we like about it? What didn’t we like? What sort of pencils did we use in it? What were our favorites? We gave him as much feedback as we could.

Well, last week, it all paid off! Jay and Jon Fontane from MetalShop CT launched the Twist Bullet Pencil, a beautiful, improved (from the prototype) machined aluminum sheath for a pencil. I’m happy to say that they made their goal in just three days, so it’s definitely going to be funded.

The pencil will be available, for sure, in silver and matte black, and there are two different tips (the part that attaches to the pencil inside) in two different styles available — an aluminum or a brass tip, available in either a blunt, rounded style, or a pointy, more bullet-like style.

Twist Bullet Pencil Varieties

With pledge levels starting at $28 (which buys you one Twist bullet pencil with one style of aluminum tip) and going to $300 (which buys you ten, each with any tip in any style), they have a wide variety of prices. They even sold the original prototype for $125. I joked that the prototype has been in the pants of Tim, Johnny and myself, so it should be worth a lot more.

What’s really exciting and where the drama resides is in the stretch goals. They want to offer a few anodized colors, too. Because the anodization shop (is what what you call it?) requires a minimum of 150 pieces, they have stretch goals all the way up to $14,000 in order to get to all three additional colors — a cherry red, a forest green and a royal blue.

The Twist Bullet Pencil by Huckleberry Woodchuck and MetalShopCT, now on Kickstarter.

My pledge was at the $55, which will get me two pencils with my choice of either tip. I’m not sure which variety I want yet, but if I have my choice of colors, I’m thinking black and blue, with a round brass tip and a pointed aluminum tip.

How does this differ from the Bullet Pencil ST?

What I love about both of these projects is that they’re so different from each other in so many ways, even though they’re both bullet pencils. Jeff Grant’s Bullet Pencil ST, with a pocket clip, a barrel with a uniform width, fancy mechanisms in the pencil to snap the tip to the barrel, and even the fact that it has a capacitative touch stylus, mean that it’s a very modern interpretation to a bullet pencil. It’s a nod to the modern — this is for making scribbles on your iPhone as well as in your Field Notes.

Jay and Jon’s Twist Bullet Pencil is more of a tribute to the old, original bullet pencil. Sure, there are plenty of modern innovations — it’s machined instead of stamped, out of a thin — it’s anodized instead of wrapped with a design. The vast majority of old bullet pencils were held in place by tension, not by screw threads. But the shape and the simplicity of it is much closer to the original.

Bullet Pencil ST and Twist Bullet Pencil Comparison

Bullet Pencil ST and Twist Bullet Pencil compared, to scale (with each other), in closed position. Photos from the respective Kickstarter pages.

Which is better? I can’t say. I like them both a lot. And I think, objectively, they each will appeal to different kinds of people. I haven’t had a chance to try out the Bullet Pencil ST yet, and there has been several improvements to the Twist since I tried the prototype over the summer.

But it’s like the difference between an automatic and a manual transmission vehicle, or shaving with an electric razor versus a safety. One design offers lots of features the other doesn’t, but the simplicity in design and the (presumed) fact that the latter does what it does really, really, well, still makes it a strong contender.

Welcome to the world, Twist Bullet Pencil. I’m overjoyed you’re here to help satisfy and grow the rising bullet pencil popularity.

Twist Bullet Pencil. Vintage Meets Modern with a Twist. | Kickstarter

POSSIBLE SPOILERS: Field Notes Unexposed Edition Unboxing Video

Warning, if you don’t want the new, mysterious Field Notes edition spoiled for you, don’t want this video. If you do, then, ONWARD!

There are a few more observations I’ve had, after looking at the Field Notes for a bit longer.

The first is that I think this is the first time Field Notes has had a registered trademark symbol (®) next to the Futura’d “FIELD NOTES” mark on the front. That bums me out a bit, partly because, well, it means that some lawyers got ahold of it, but also because it’s moving one more step away from the original intent of a pocket notebook like this. It’s more of a brand now.

I completely understand why they did it, and if this was my product, I’d probably do it too.

The notebook comes in six varieties:

  • Purple with green words,
  • Green with orange words,
  • Orange with blue words,
  • Blue with pink words,
  • Pink with yellow words, and
  • Yellow with purple words.

Here’s a photo. SPOILERS:

Field Notes Unexposed complete set. Photo by Mike Finneran, posted to the Field Nuts group on Facebok

Field Notes Unexposed complete set. Photo by Mike Finneran, posted to the Field Nuts group on Facebok

They’re all very bright, made from flourescent soy-based inks printed on a white 100# silky paper. The inside color is the inverse of the outside.

One of my favorite things about it is that it resurrects the paper used in the “Night Sky” edition — a 50# bright white paper with a light grey application of their “reticle” graph — basically, it’s a dot grid, but instead of dots, they’re little “+”s.

Here's a Night Sky Field Notes I'm in the middle of, and its "reticle graph" paper. This paper is identical to what the Unexposed edition uses.

Here’s a Night Sky Field Notes I’m in the middle of, and its “reticle graph” paper. This paper is identical to what the Unexposed edition uses.

What I was expecting

When Field Notes sent the email teasing the edition, they included this image:

Field Notes teasing email

And then when they announced the name of the edition, “Unexposed,” I naturally thought about photography. After all, this is a very “art school” photograph, and it’s almost like a pinhole camera. They said the edition was sealed in an opaque paper, so I was hoping that the cover was photosensitive — maybe they changed color when opened and exposed to light.

That would have been so cool, wouldn’t it?

Schrödinger’s Notebook

Schrödinger's NotebookOkay, bear with me here, because I’m going to wayy overthink something.

A friend and I had an interesting discussion about this edition on Facebook. When Field Notes announced it earlier this week, they didn’t give away any details of each notebook. But they did say that each three-pack will be sealed with an opaque paper, and the colors in each three-pack will be chosen at random.

That’s right: no one will know which three of the six colors are contained therein — only by opening it (and thus devaluing the set), will they know if they have all the colors.

This sets up a conundrum: Do collectors keep them sealed, maintaining maximum value, or do they open them, and trade until they have all the colors?

I theorized that this is an anti-collector’s edition: that Coudal and Draplin are trolling the collectors by introducing this conflict into their acquiring.

My friend brought up an interesting counterpoint, however, and rightfully so — that in fact, this is the ultimate collector’s edition, and because collectors will be tempted to open the sealed packs, the number of the sealed pack will seriously lessen over time.

This would create a meta-collectability — that eventually, those who don’t care about the colors, but care only about the sealed notebook packs, would pay top-dollar.

For those collectors, the unknown factor of what colors are inside is a bit thrilling — the colors are unknown, for as long as they are in that meta-collection, they cannot be known.

Erwin Schrödinger might say that the colors on the notebook both exist and do not exist.

Regardless, these notebooks are a joy to look at, to touch, and eventually, to use (I have a Night Sky to work through, first).