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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.