Bullet to bullet: the Midori brass pencil vs. the bulk, blank “umpire pencil”

This winter — I tell you what. It’s really kicked my butt so far. Between a record-setting month for snowfall, and several days of -12° (or less) weather, I’m ready to leave Indiana behind.

Being stuck at home has given me ample time to work on a big writing project, however, and that writing project has given me an opportunity to test out a few new products for review!

three-pencil-comparison-2

Top to bottom: Midori Brass Bullet Pencil, bulk “blank” umpire bullet pencil, and antique Fort Wayne Johnston Stock Yards bullet pencil (not reviewed)

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Breathing new life into an old bullet pencil

I added a Palomino Prospector pencil to this bullet pencil.

Inspired by the excellent tutorial over on The Jungle is Neutral on restoring bullet pencils (a follow-up to a great post about the history of bullet pencils), I decided to whip out the Dremel and do a little work on one of my favorites.

I started by sanding the glaze off the eraser. I should have used a finer grain on the sandpaper for a smoother finish (and also a steadier hand), but it’s functional now! I’ve seen better, but I can now erase a pencil mark from a piece of paper with this eraser.  Continue reading

Bullet pencils: Pocket-friendly utensils from a bygone era

Agricultural bullet pencilsFor reasons I can’t explain, I usually only talk about half of my pencil collection on here. I talk about new products, mostly — pencils available to most everyone that is for sale now.

But I also have a lot of advertising and souvenir pencils. Probably ten cigar boxes worth. They’re not particularly known for being good quality pencils, but they appeal to me in their uniqueness. Many of them are decades old; and I can only imagine that there are not many left in the world.

One subset of that collection are several agricultural bullet pencils. A good friend of mine gave them to me a few years ago after her grandmother died and my friend was in charge of cleaning out her farmhouse in Illinois. There was a drawer full of these old pencils — given to her by salesmen from seed supplier, feed yards, stockyards, and more.

I love these things, but they're pretty old.

I love these things, but they’re pretty decrepit.

I treasure them, though I never use them, mostly because they’re so old. The erasers have petrified and often, the pencil barrel has run down to no more than a nub . And I don’t have dozens and dozens like Aaron Draplin, perhaps known best among this community as the designer of Field Notes. Pencil Revolution interviewed Draplin back in 2011 about this very subject. Draplin loves these little guys. And for good reason:

First off, it’s the compact quality. I love having a tight little drawing tool in the front pocket at all times, and I’m here to tell ya, these little sonofabitches have saved my butt many a time…on airplanes, in meetings, in a pinch, wherever. I always keep one in the front, left pocket of my 501s.

What I love about them the most, is how banal they were back in the day. Simple, cheap advertising tools given away at local businesses. Feed-n-seed joints, car lots, insurance agents, what have you. Just crappy little promo items that packed a real wallop. I’ve got a couple old salesman sample sets. Old and beat up, and a look into what it was like to have a guy sit down and say, “Here’s what we can do for your company.” So good.

(See his entire interview on Pencil Revolution, in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2)

They are indeed so good. One of my few issues with wooden pencils is that when they’re new, they don’t fit easily into a pocket — they’re too long! If I need to easily carry around a pencil in a shirt pocket or pants pocket, and I don’t have a pencil halfway through its life, I’ll turn to the Zebra #2 mechanical or even — gasp — a Fisher bullet pen (though I can’t find mine as of late! I think it fell into the depths of the couch).

From a utilitarian perspective, bullet pencils are great. They’re really no more than 4 or 5 inches long when sheathed, but they extend out to full pencil length when in writing mode.

The trouble is, I don’t think you can get them anymore. (Pencil Talk doesn’t think so. Neither does Field Notes.) A friend of mine who owns a company that makes promotional products says that she was looking for those a couple of years ago, and came up dry.

From JetPens.com. Click image to follow the link.

From JetPens.com. Click image to follow the link.

JetPens.com has something similar, the Midori Brass Bullet Pencil, but to me, it doesn’t count. It’s $21, and made of brass. This isn’t the vintage, plastic cheapie thing that is given away free. (On the other hand, though, the description says that the brass develops a patina after multiple uses, which is pretty cool. And you can buy replacement pencils and erasers to go with it)

If the promotional bullet pencil is just a relic of the past, so be it. While they’re far from the main course of my pencil collection, they’re a delicious, delightful appetizer. Whenever I see one, I’m thrilled to run across it. And if they are becoming more and more rare, I have all the more reason to treasure the few that I have.

Kickstarter Rainbow Pencils: What does it MEAN?!

Kickstarter is such an interesting place. From documentaries about Juggalos to more 3D printers than you can shake an extruded plastic stick at, anyone with an idea, cursory video production skills and an internet connection can sign up for a project.

And I love it.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of scribomechanica fans out there who have Kickstarter projects. I won’t go into all of the pens you can find being made there (Brad at Pen Addict has a really great list already assembled — I am partial to the gorgeous Render K by Karas Kustoms), but our inky brethren can pledge to their hearts’ delight.

While pickings are admittedly slimmer, pencil lovers can still find some gems. I’ve written about a few of them before, like a pencil ruler or the Sprout pencil. Why, just yesterday, Pencil Revolution shared this gorgeous notebook with a funny name that just reached its funding goal.

So I’m excited to share this one. This pencil’s only purpose seems to lie in its novel aesthetics, though it’s utterly charming.

It seems simple enough — it’s a rainbow pencil:

Lisa Frank pencils

Oh god, not these. Lisa Frank has nothing on this project. It’s much more understated. Like a kiwi.

Yeah, a kiwi.

When you buy your Kiwi at the supermarket, it’s just a simple, brown hairy thing, right? But you slice it open, and there’s an unexpected shock of color.

Rainbow pencils by Duncan Shotton Design.

These pencils are similar. They have a plain, matte white (or black) barrel. Very tasteful. Then when you start sharpening with your handheld blade sharpener…

POW.

Rainbow pencils by Duncan Shotton Design.

I love me some GIFs, so I was extra excited to see that the Kickstarter page had one of this pencil!

Made with layers of recycled paper, this pencil creates a rainbow as your sharpen it. According to the designer:

Rainbow Pencils function like regular wooden pencils, and are the same size and weight, but they’re not made from wood, they’re made from layers of recycled waste paper. In the United States alone, over 7 million cubic feet of wood are used every year to manufacture wooden pencils. With rainbow pencils, not only do all those trees not need to be cut down, but the huge amount of paper that might otherwise be thrown into landfill, can be recycled and put to good use. Each pencil has a 6-layer rainbow core and comes finished in either black or white.

What a fun way to be environmentally friendly! Most of the recycled paper pencils I’ve used before involved newsprint, so aesthetically, it either looked like newspaper, or mottled gray paper. It definitely lacks the aesthetics of a cedar pencil — no fragrance and no tight woodgrain look.

This rainbow pencil helps with that. I certainly can’t speak to the performance of the pencil, but if delight is in the details, then sharpening this would be a joy.

Head on over to their Kickstarter page to check out the pledge levels and to watch the video!

Rainbow Pencils by Duncan Shotton | Kickstarter.com

A Palomino Blackwing Pearl review

I’ve been a bad pencil blogger, folks.

Pencils.com introduced the Blackwing Pearl back in early May — more than two months ago. I posted two different preview articles about them then, but have been silent since.

It’s not through lack of interest. I’ve used the Pearl almost exclusively since then, switching away to a different Blackwing or a Golden Bear just to compare and contrast.

Box of Palomino Pearl pencils by Pencils.com

I’ve gone through three pencils, and I finally think I’m ready for a review.

Aesthetics

I have to admit, the Blackwing Pearl is gorgeous.

The owner of a local winery (and a client of my employer) took notice of this pencil and bought several dozen to use in the wine tasting room. It compliments the minimalist style of the facility, and a good friend of mine who works there tells me they are running out — patrons keep taking them!

Two-EEs Winery bought a bunch of these pencils because of their style.

Two-EEs Winery bought a bunch of these pencils because of their style.

Visually, this is a logical follow up to the PB Classic and the PB 602 — the pearlescent lustre (that’s right, I spelled that like a British person) looks really nice next to the grey sharkskin of a 602, which sets off the matte black of the original PB.

The Palomino Blackwing family

You can tell which of the Blackwings is most loved in my arsenal.

I have a little bit of an OCD eye twitch that goes off when I think about how, from darkest to lightest, the color of the barrel is:

  • PB Classic
  • PB 602
  • PB Pearl

Yet, from darkest to lightest, the marking of the graphite is:

  • PB Classic
  • PB Pearl
  • PB 602

One thing I got wrong in my (otherwise amazing) mockup of the Pearl was the words stamped on the side. Rather than gold foil, it’s stamped with black, which provides a strong contrast to the barrel paint. And, it matches the black eraser, which brings a little continuity. It’s the little things; I love that.

The barrel of the Palomino Blackwing Pearl

The element that feels out of place, though, is the brass ferrule. I think a steel one would look better, and make the barrel look more pearly. The ferrule here isn’t too gold, though — it’s more subtle, so it still looks really, really good.

Performance

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl writing test against its siblings.

Pencils.com refers to the Pearl as “balanced and smooth”, as a medium ground between the soft PB Classic, which is great for sketching, and the harder PB 602, which is best for writing.

I’ll definitely agree with this assessment. It feels like a great balance between the two previous pencils. In fact, I’d say that it tends to run almost as dark as the Classic, but holds a point much longer, close to the 602.

The eraser does leave dust, but it erases pretty clearly.

The eraser is the same as what comes with the 602 — a black, pumice-like “dust free” eraser. It works great (though it’s not dust free), and it looks beautiful; in high-contrast glory with the white barrel.

Conclusion

I’m a big fan. For my purposes, it’s miles ahead of the PB Classic.

My go-to Blackwing of choice is still the 602, however. I’m more than happy to sacrifice a bit of darkness in my markings to keep the tip as sharp as possible for as long as possible. But then again, I use pencils almost exclusively to write. Coworkers who scribble notes as well as sketch have remarked that they love this; it truly is a great balance between the other two.

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl can be purchased from Pencils.com for $19.95 per dozen, or if you’re feeling ambitious, you can get a gross (that’s 144 pencils) for $163.98.

Elsewhere

There’s a few other pencil and scribomechanica bloggers who were on top of reviews. Check out their posts: