Why on earth would I want to use a Pencil? My guest post on The Cramped

Thank you, thank you, Patrick Rhone for letting me talk about pencils on The Cramped! Readers of Woodclinched don’t need convincing, but sometimes our other analog brethren might need some apologetics about why they should use wooden pencils.

One of the moony-eyed reasons why pencils are great:

Pencils offer a lesson in temporality. Life is fleeting, and so is your pencil. My grandmother’s 70 year-old Esterbrook, if I keep it in good condition, will probably go another 70 years. But even the best pencil, no matter how well I take care of it, will disappear with use. It’s fundamentally selfless — in order for me to create, it destructs. And if it has an eraser, it absolves me from my mistakes with literal pieces of itself.

(Don’t worry, I won’t take this metaphor to a Messianic level.)

There are some practical reasons, too. Go check it out and see for yourself.

Mary Tyler Moore sharpening pencils

Mary Tyler Moore Show Sharpening Pencils

As I mentioned in my recent mechanical pencil review, I just got a new app to make GIFs out of videos. My partner, a big fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, suggested I make a GIF out of this scene from the pilot episode, where Mary tries to keep busy by sharpening her pencils. And then when they’re all sharpened, as in this video, she continues by breaking the point and sharpening them again.

1946_Morrisharp_Silver_OMThough I’m not typically a fan of electric sharpeners, I’m in love with this one she’s using. With all that chrome, it looks like a Kitchenaid Mixer or something. I’m not sure of this, but according to some Google image searching, it looks like this is a Morrisharp sharpener, from as early as the late 1940s (Citation. Scroll down a bit to find it.)

(When I image searched “electric pencil sharpener 1960s,” It took me a while to land on the Morrisharp, but — holy cow! — look at these beauties!)

New Field Notes edition: Arts & Sciences

I don’t know exactly when the quarterly Field Notes COLORS edition was something I anticipated and looked forward to every three months. It may have been when they started making little “making of” videos for each style. Or maybe it was the tremendously unique Shelterwood edition. Or maybe it was this one, when they started teasing the hell out of it. (Have you seen this series of videos, for example?)

But I have started looking forward to it, as I might with a new Apple announcement event or the release of a new episode of Adventure Time. Just last night, in fact, I had a dream that the new Field Notes edition was edible — that its cover and pages were made of a paper-thin graham cracker-like cookie. That’d pretty fantastic, but they definitely wouldn’t last very long. And I bet the graphite markings I’d make all over it would not be tasty.

That’s why I was relieved  for what they did announce:

The Arts & Sciences edition!

FN23AS8sm

At 7.5″ x 4.75″, it’s a bit bigger than the standard Field Notes cahier:

FN23AS9sm

And the layouts feature one blank page and one with the specialized layout (lined for “Arts”, presumably for writing that great American novel or poetry, and a 5×5 grid for the “Sciences” book, for, uh, charting the stars or something?)

While this doesn’t set me on fire, I think it’s a good, solid edition. I can definitely find use for the larger size and the grid paper.

FN23AS5sm

Also, I love these buttons!

FN23AS6sm

They’re selling for $9.95 for the two notebooks over at FieldNotesBrand.com. And, of course, you can get a subscription for about $100 a year, which includes two packs of each quarterly edition, and some other goodies.

Shout-out to Johnny from Pencil Revolution for correctly surmising the edition from the teaser videos over in the Field Nuts Facebook group! You, sir, are a visionary.

All photos from FieldNotesBrand.com.

My father-in-law’s old notebooks

My wife and I recently stayed at her parents’ house for a few days while the first floor of our place was being re-ceilinged. While a disruption in one’s life like that is never particularly fun, I did enjoy a change of scenery—there’s something that can be reinvigorating in changing the stuff that surrounds you. I was amongst a collection of belongings accumulated over decades, but weren’t our belongings.

This fact was never as apparent as when I closed myself in my father-in-law’s office to record Episode 3 of Erasable (have you heard it yet?).

My father-in-law reminds me a lot of Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec. He’s very libertarian, fairly private and extremely independent. He’s a civil mechanical engineer by trade with lots of interesting hobbies—he builds boats, he makes wine in his basement and he collects antique guns.

And while not an official collection, he has lot of interesting notebooks—old notebooks—laying around.

Keuffel & Esser Field Book

My favorite is this one, which caught my eye right away:

K&E Field Book by Keuffel &  Essel

K&E Field Book by Keuffel & Esser

Look how cool this is! Made by Keuffel & Esser, a US-based drafting instrument and supply company. It was founded in 1867, the first of its kind in the US, and lived on until 1987 when it was bought by the AZON Corp in 1987.

So this notebook is at least 27 years old, right?

Let’s look at the inside cover: orange-open

This A5-ish notebook is filled with data tables, formulas, conversions, and other useful data for engineers. I can’t imagine how handy this kind of thing would have been to someone like my father-in-law in a day before this information was available through a smart phone. Some more reference goodness from the back of the notebook:

orange-formulas

The back pages of the Keuffel & Esser Field Book are filled with data tables, conversions, formulas, and other information an engineer would find useful. Forgive my fingers in the shot — this book has difficulty staying open.

My favorite thing about it? The grid paper:

Keuffel & Esser Field Book grid

I’m not entirely sure of the particular function of this paper (a coworker suggested it’s for lots of tabular data, much like an Excel spreadsheet is now), but the grid on the left is separated into six columns by pink lines, which I believe are three times wider than the horizontal line hight. The right side of the spread is separated into two columns by a pink line, with smaller vertical blue lines that make a grid that’s twice as tall as wide.

Boorum & Pease Memo Book No. 6565

As I mentioned earlier, my father-in-law built a boat. We all thought it was an improvised affair; with PVC pipes lashed to two-by-fours and duct tape. But he’s apparently been planning it for quite a while. In fact, he has a whole notebook where he planned it out and documented his project:

Boorum & Pease Memo Book

Boorum & Pease Memo Book

Boorum & Pease Memo Book

I blurred out my father-in-law’s name because I assume he wouldn’t want to that out floating around on the internets.

Boorum & Pease adThis notebook is branded with the “Boorum & Pease” name, which sounds to me like something Click and Clack from “Car Talk” would come up with. The Boorum & Pease Co (Blank Books and Loose Leaf Devices) has been around since, it looks like, the 1870s (as this 1904 ad boasts, “for more than half a century”). They sold specialized notebooks for laboratories, ledgers for accounting, receipt books, et cetera.

Boorum & Pease memo book lined paper

A close-up of the cloth binding on the Boorum & Pease memo book.

A close-up of the cloth binding on the Boorum & Pease memo book.

I’m a fan of the binding on this book — it’s cloth-bound, reminescent of old, mid-20th century hardcover books. How handsome would the cover be with a big foilstamped signet or simple illustration?

The paper is nothing to write home about, but it’s a nice, plain college-ruled page. It’s thin, but not too thin. Since this isn’t my notebook, I wasn’t able to test it with pencil and fountain pen, but I imagine it might handle a dry to medium fountain pen without too much bleeding.

In fact, the still around, though it’s unclear to me who owns that brand name. I don’t think they are their own company. They still make columnar books (kinda gaudy looking, if you ask me), and while this particular model is not still in production (#6565), they still make something that looks reallllly close, #6559. I doubt it’s cloth-bound, though.

Here’s a pretty great history of Boorum & Pease by Walter Grutchfield.

Other old vintage memo books

I’ve seen lots of great memo books like these over the years that just seem like they’re made better than your typical notebook serving similar purposes. Sure, there are small independent ventures that produce great ones now, but these were in mass production, and no doubt costed much less than indie craft notebooks now.

Do you have any interesting ones to share?

The Baron Fig notebook: worth the hype?

The Confidant, a notebook by Baron Fig. Photo from BaronFig.com.

The Confidant, a notebook by Baron Fig. Photo from BaronFig.com.

When it comes to the Baron Fig notebook, I totally missed the boat. I definitely heard about it the day the Kickstarter launched, but when it came time to pledge, I either didn’t have $20 I could spend on a pledge, or I just had other stuff going on. Excuses, excuses.

Long story short; I’m excited that they’re about to sell their notebook! According to the website, the Kickstarted product is called the “Confidant” and will be on sale for $20 starting Tuesday, March 4. Continue reading