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

New on Kickstarter: The Bullet Pencil ST

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.

The Bullet Pencil ST on Kickstarter

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.

The Bullet Pencil ST: Stylus View

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.

For a smaller pledge of just $22, you can get the Ancile ST, a shield for your pencil point.

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.

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