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

Get your Erasable stickers!

The Erasable Podcast now has stickersUpdate 08/20/14: We are now sold out. Let me know with this form if you’d be interested in being notified when/if we stock more!

Besides customized pencils, this is the most requested piece of swag we’ve gotten, and it’s really cool. Celebrate your love of woodcase pencils:

The Erasable Podcast Sticker

Each sticker is 2.5″, (slightly bigger than, say, the Apple logo on the front of a MacBook), and features four pencils from the Woodclinched Vector Pack (although the yellow-and-green faux Ticonderoga was customized specifically for this sticker).

Slap it on your pencil case, your tabletop pencil sharpener, your car window, or heck, put it with the other stickers on the back of your laptop like me!

Erasable Sticker on Andy's Laptop

We’re selling them for $2 each, or $5 for three (plus $1 for shipping) over here.

If you live outside the US, you may notice that it doesn’t give an option to ship internationally, which I didn’t realize before I set up this shop. So, if you aren’t in the US of A, and you want to get ahold of some of these stickers, email me. We can bypass this whole thing and go straight to PayPal.

Scribomechanica, an impressive stationery blog with a great name

I’m tickled pink to see the launch of a new pencil blog, Scribomechanica!

Scribomechanica: Regarding all kinds of writing technology

If the name of that blog sounds familiar to you, it may be because I’ve been trying to coin that word for five or six years now. It began after my gig at PencilThings ended, and they decided to do away with their in-house blog (that I ran). I decided to start a couple blogs, one about social media (which was rapidly becoming an interest of mine), and my own blog about pencils, paper, typewriters, fountain pens, et cetera. I didn’t want to narrow myself down to pencils. Also, I really wanted to register a .ca domain name.

I ended up registering mechani.ca, and started a (terrible) social media blog at socio.mechani.ca, and a(n equally terrible) stationery blog at scribo.mechani.ca.

The stationery blog, at least, failed because I soon realized that I needed a niche topic to write about. After a few more month of deliberation, I registered Woodclinched.com, and the rest is history.

But, I kept on with the term. I even submitted it to the Urban Dictionary.

A few people have used it over the years, but I figured it was mostly just me — until last week!

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p style=”text-align:left;”>Vikram Shah, a mechanical engineering student, started the blog Scribomechanica.com and has already posted an impressive array of really detailed reviews of woodcased pencils, fountain pens, mechanical pencils and rollerball pens! I like that he’s really honoring the idea of the term — he’s widened his net to include lots of writing instruments. I hope to see some typewriter reviews and even some word processing apps, too.

Thank you for embracing the term scribomechanica, Vikram, and keep up the awesome work!

Get your Erasable t-shirt!

tl;dr: We’re selling t-shirts!

If you’ve listened to Erasable (and I hope you have!), you’ve probably realized that we’re not podcasting professionals. Johnny, Tim and I are recording via Skype, talking through our standard smart-phone earbuds-with-attached-microphone. When we have guests like Brad Dowdy, with a real for-sure microphone setup, you can tell that he’s been doing this for a while. His voice is crisp and clear.

Our first, limited-edition t-shirt! We're never printing this design again, so place your order!  Click the image for the campaign page.

Our first, limited-edition t-shirt! We’re never printing this design again, so place your order! Click the image for the campaign page.

So, we made the decision some time ago to raise a little revenue to invest in some decent podcasting mics. Eventually we’re going to accomplish this with a small sponsorship opportunity on the episode (interested in details? Let me know), but until we can get the logistics for that set up, we’re raising some money selling t-shirts!

With a a simple, elegant pencil design from the Woodclinched Pencil Vector Pack along with something Johnny said in an early episode: “Pencil is Forever,” you can show off your pencil pride and support the podcast.

(That quote referred to how although graphite is erasable, it doesn’t fade over time.)

$22 gets you this tri-colored shirt, in a fine Canvas-brand tri-blend t-shirt. We have a cerulean blue in a uni-sex-fit size, and for women who want a more fitted look, an alternative in an indigo blue women’s fit.

This campaign is run through Teespring, sort of a Kickstarter for t-shirts. In order to meet the minimum production requirements, we need to raise a minimum of 20 orders by September 3 (at the time of this writing, we’re already up to 14, and the campaign has only been live for four hours!), so tell your friends!

We have all sorts of plans for other t-shirts in the future, so this particular design won’t be printed again. So, like Field Notes COLORS editions, get in while you can!

The Erasable Facebook Pencil Community

Because 90 minutes once every other week isn’t enough time to talk about pencils, Johnny, Tim and I set up a group on Facebook! Check it out.

It’s at about 175 members right now, and is growing every day! I’m amazed at what sort of things emerge from the group members — pencil swaps, buy/sell requests, information requests, or even just pictures of interesting pencils they found on vacation. Charles Berolzheimer from Pencils.com is a member, and he’ll occasionally pop in with really interesting industry insight. It’s a private group; only so posts don’t show up in everyone’s regular feed — as Tim put it, it’s a safe place for people to let their graphite freak flag fly (try saying that ten times fast).

Come request to join! Someone will approve your request shortly thereafter.

The Blackwing Slate: The pencil-optimized notebook

It’s a really exciting day today, folks. It marks the ninth anniversary of my friend Johnny Gamber’s first pencil review on Pencil Revolution! He wrote about Pencils.com’s ForestChoice pencils.

It’s speculated by Pencils.com’s Fearless Leader (and CalCedar president and CEO) Charles Berolzheimer, this is the first pencil review, ever, on the internet. (And to celebrate that, Pencils.com is having a one-day-only sale on ForestChoice products — 25% off!)

Congratulations, Johnny! Long live the Revolution!

Blackwing Slate

Yesterday marked the first day the Blackwing Slate was available for purchase. If you get emails from Pencils.com, or have been reading the blogs at Pencils.com and Blackwing602.com (there’s a lot of websites nowadays in this franchise), you may have seen teasers for this product. It’s a Moleskine-like notebook, but improved for co-branding with the Palomino Blackwing. And, in my opinion, way nicer than a Moleskine.

It seems that the devil is in the details with notebooks nowadays. The Baron Fig, reviewed here back in April, excelled in the little design choices that set it apart from its rivals. The same thing applies to the Slate — there are numerous little improvements that really make it stand out.

The Exterior

It’s size is quite similar to the Palomino-branded journal line at 5” by 8.25”. The cover is a bit thicker and softer,though, and very matte — more of a shark skin feel to the harder, shinier Palomino hardcover. I’m not sure about this softness — I hope that it means it won’t scratch easily. Only time will tell. Besides that, it’s quite nice to touch.

Blackwing Slate Cover Closeup

It has a really nice thick elastic loop on the spine for a pencil, which is a great feature. This isn’t a dinky little piece of elastic either — this thing looks like it’ll hold its stretch for years.

Blackwing Slate Spine

Speaking of spines, the really innovative thing (in my opinion) about the Slate is the spine. because there’s a pencil strapped close to the spine, the two thick covers stop at the edge, and then are bound together with a substrate (I think I’m using that word correctly here). Essentially, the spine is reinforced, not with an extension of the cover board, but with the cloth that binds the cover to the signatures of pages inside.

It results in a very flexible cover — the first time I opened it, it wasn’t stiff at all. And I can even open it with the pencil still in the loop, which is great. It seems like it might make the notebook less durable — if the cover’s not protecting the spine, will it tear easier? Again, time will tell.

The Paper

Writing in the Blackwing Slate

Man. I love, love this paper. It boasts a 100gsm paper, compared to the Palomino luxury notebook’s 90gsm and Rhodia’s 80gsm paper. It’s so thick and plush, you guys.

It’s available in both lined and plain. Since the guys at Pencils.com know I am not an artist, they sent me a lined one to try out. The grey lines are set apart 0.25” on an off-white paper. The paper is smooth, but not as smooth as Rhodia paper. It has a little tooth on it, specifically engineered — I hope — for pencil. It’s the perfect amount to grab your graphite but still feel smooth.

Closeup of Palomino Blackwing 602 writing in Blackwing Slate

I tried it out with a medium-nib fountain pen, just to see how the paper held up to ink (though it would be sacrilege to use anything but pencil in this notebook!), and it worked great! No bleeding of note at all on the opposite page.

Closeup of a medium-nib fountain pen ink in Blackwing Slate

The opposite page from the fountain pen wriiting. As you can see, there is virtually no bleed-through! This is some thick paper.

The opposite page from the fountain pen writing. As you can see, there is virtually no bleed-through! This is some thick paper.

The Details

Besides the spine, this is what really gives the Blackwing Slate its distinction, and contributes greatly to those details I mentioned earlier. It has all the Moleskiney amenities, but all a bit nicer than the Moleskine’s — a satin bookmark, an elastic strap to keep the cover closed, a paper pocket in the back to hold stuff.

There are two different pockets in the flap in the back!

(That pocket is interesting — it’s actually a double pocket, with a small flat on the front for small things like, say, a driver’s license or credit card, and a wider one behind to hold things slightly smaller than the cover)

It even comes with a shiny new Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil tucked in the pencil loop on the spine!

It’s the details.

The Price

The Slate sells for $22.95, a full $9 more than a Moleskine Classic notebook sells at Barnes & Noble. The included pencil is worth about $2 of that price, so at $20.95, is the notebook worth it?

Depending on a lot of factors, of course, in general, I’d say that yes, it’s worth it. I’m not trying to bash Moleskine here (we actually had a discussion on the most recent episode of Erasable about how it’s become fashionable to look down on Moleskine), but the Slate is much better constructed, the paper is so much heavier and nicer, and for a pencil user like me, that elastic loop on the spine is wonderful.

Go check it out!

The Blackwing Slate | $22.95 at Pencils.com

Disclaimer: This product was sent to me, free of charge, for review purposes. No monetary compensation or additional direction was provided to me.