Happy International Left Handers Day 2014! I’m a lifelong leftie, and I have the graphite marks to prove it.
I’m tickled pink to see the launch of a new pencil blog, Scribomechanica!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Its 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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 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.
There’s a new Kickstarter campaign that launched last week that I really, really want to share with you all.
It’s funny how things get into the collective consciousness of the internet. At some point late last year, I and a few other bloggers started writing about bullet pencils. Speaking only for myself, I couldn’t shut up about them for months.
That’s why I’m super excited to see this hit Kickstarter. Amidst all the campaigns for customized pens (seriously, folks. There are so many of them), we have a tribute to the bullet pencil.
Check it out: the Bullet Pencil ST.
Jeff Grant, the creator, is responsible for a few other successful campaigns, like the Field Assistant, a titanium carrying case for Field Notes, and the very popular Metal Comb Works custom metal comb, which ended at more than 500% of his goal.
Like his other products, this pencil is a modern take on an old product. At $33, the pencil (model name: TT) includes a pocket clip, a Palomino Blackwing stub, and a hole in the top specially designed to fit a Blackwing eraser! And, at the $39 level, he takes the modern interpretation even further and includes a capacitive stylus tip on the opposite end of the wooden pencil, so when the BPST is closed, the user can use a smartphone or tablet with it.
Jeff says on his Kickstarter campaign page:
I decided to create a writing instrument accessory that would allow me to use my favorite writing instrument, the trusty No. 2 pencil. A device to protect the pencil tip while in a pocket, backpack or bag…but also a useful tool for today’s smart phones, tablets and touch screens.
I thought back to what my grandfather would carry in his pockets and on his person. For sketches and note taking he would always carry a No. 2 pencil behind his right ear or his shirt pocket. This wasn’t any old pencil, he used a “Bullet Pencil” that he undoubtedly got as a giveaway at the local hardware store he frequented.
The original intention of the bullet pencil is lost in this interpretation of the product; this is too fine a product to give away at the hardware store or as souvenirs at, say, the Niagra Falls gift shop. But Jeff is honoring the functionality of it — a handy, protected little pencil that will slip right into your pocket. The handiness is extended just a bit further for this era with the stylus.
Not having had the opportunity to try it out, I can’t comment on the design and construction of this device in any great detail. There are a few things I’m hoping will change between the design of this prototype and the final production model:
- It looks like the stylus/pencil holder piece fits into the sheath via friction. I imagine that after some wear, that will become looser and looser. Unlike an old bullet pencil that can be bent slightly to tighten up a loose fit, I doubt this is as pliable. Perhaps a couple turns worth of screw threads can solve that.
- The Peebs is just a tiiiny bit larger of a diameter than a standard hex pencil, right? (Please, correct me if I’m wrong about this.) I wonder if I’ll be able to use other pencil stubs in this pencil.
- Since he’s using the Peebs eraser, Jeff has the opportunity to correct a small design flaw that the pencil itself has — the fit of the eraser. The Blackwing Ferrule itself fits the eraser clip loosely enough that it can be removed with ease, but in doing so, it’s hard to keep an extended eraser in place when erasing — the pressure and friction on the paper just pushes it back down inside the ferrule. The BPST could correct that for itself.
I love the fact that this weighs less than half an ounce, and that it’s just under 5 inches long when closed. I like that the eraser is replaceable — unlike many of the old, midcentury bullet pencils — as is the stylus tip.
I even like the “Ancile,” available at the basic pledge level of $22, a pared-down version of the BPST. It works as a point protector (or a shield — an ancile!) for a pencil.
My Erasable co-hosts and I are excited to see how this Kickstarter goes — at the time of publishing this post, it’s at 42% of its $8,900 goal, with 25 days left to go. There’s another prototype bullet pencil we’ve been watching on the horizon, too, though I don’t want to talk about it too much until it’s ready. It seems like we’re in a bullet pencil Rennaissance right now, and that’s really exciting.
To see more photos, a video, and to pledge on this Kickstarter, go to the Bullet Pencil ST Campaign page.
We just recorded a great episode of Erasable last night! We’re on our eighth episode (and going strong!), and we discussed a lot of stuff: the new Field Notes, some reviews, et cetera. But I loved the main topic: Pencil Heroes. Johnny picked Earnest Hemingway and Tim picked John Steinbeck, both of whom are prolific pencil users and graphite advocates.
I took mine in a slightly different direction — while in the future I want to pick a hero from literature (either fictional or a creator), this time around I picked the first person — someone who I know personally — and who popped into my head when the topic was first broached: Don Bell.
In 2007, Don was the proprietor of PencilThings.com, the site from whence I bought my first sampler pack of pencils, and wrote a review on my personal blog. After sharing that with Don, he asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing products for him.
Of course I said yes.
After that, he called me and we spoke for an hour about creating a PencilThings blog. It was a grand initiative: we kept it at a separate domain and ran it as a publication independent of the e-commerce site. I posted, basically, whatever I wanted (with occasional guidance by him), and we built an audience. Many of my pencil friends I established there I still keep in touch with today.
In 2010, Don sold the business to the current proprietors of PencilThings, and they took it in a different direction: Amazon and eBay sales. That’s what prompted me to strike out on my own, with this blog.
Don and I still kept in touch a bit, but I haven’t heard from him the last two or three years. I don’t know if he’s still got a finger in the pencil game, or indeed, if he’s still alive.
Any of you keep in touch with Don? Let him know I said hi.
Anyway, you’re going to want to listen to this episode. Stick around until the the end when we announce the giveaway. It’s pretty great.