The old Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory in Brooklyn

Have you ever listened to 99% Invisible? It’s a fantastic podcast with features about, primarily, architecture and design (and starting in 2014, thanks to their Kickstarter, they’ll be producing episodes weekly!). The newest episode, “All the Buildings”, features James Gulliver, an artist on a mission to draw the buildings of New York City — all 700,000 plus of them.

One building in particular that they talked about was at 61 Greenpoint Avenue in Brooklyn — an old pencil factory:

Drawing by James Gulliver at AllTheBuildingsInNewYork.com. Click image for original post.

Drawing by James Gulliver at AllTheBuildingsInNewYork.com. Click image for original post.

After a minute or two of Googling, I found a photograph of this building:

Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory in Brooklyn Check out the story-tall terra cotta pencils at the top of this building: Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory

(Photographs are from Scouting New York. Check out the original post for lots of great information and more photographs.)

How cool is this? It’s the old corporate offices of the Eberhard Faber corporation, maker, of course, of Eberhard Faber pencils. Built in in the 1920s, it was vacated when the company shut down its Brooklyn factory and moved to Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1952. What they left behind was an amazing six-story art deco building with FREAKING PENCILS on it.

Print Magazine has an interview with a few graphic designers who has developed a relationship with this building. Read it when you get a chance; it’s a fun interview.

As of a couple years ago, other buildings from the factory campus were being turned into condos. The Pencil Factory Condos had a website that now seems to be defunct, so it’s unclear as to what is happening with them. I found an interesting (though cheesy) video on YouTube with a walkthrough of the building in question, showcasing some great looking loft spaces:

Next time I’m in NYC, I need to get to the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn to check this place out and get some pictures of my own.

Any Woodclinched readers have any stories about this building? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Great pencil discussion going on at Lifehacker

Walter Glenn, a contributor at Lifehacker, posted a new discussion thread over there yesterday (I can’t believe I missed it until now!), called “Show Us Your Favorite Pencil“:

There are a few innocuous little things in the world on which people harbor disproportionately strong opinions. Maybe it’s your choice of operating system, the best paper notebook, or your favorite pen. Then again, maybe it’s your pencil—the feel of the barrel, the way it holds a point, or even the way the eraser doesn’t choke you when you get too carried away thinking about those beautiful words you’re going to write next. Whatever it is, snap a pic of your favorite pencil and share it with us below.

There were lots of mechanicals mentioned, of course, but wooden pencils had it’s day. And it wasn’t just all Blackwings and Ticonderogas, either — the Chinese Chung Hwa was mentioned:

Chung Hwa pencil

(I know I reviewed the Chung Hwa before, but it may have been lost on the Pencil Things blog before I started Woodclinched. I’ll try to find it and post it here.)

A day late and a dollar short (quite literally on both counts), I threw in my vote:

I love the Palomino Blackwings, too, but the best performance for the money is the Palomino Golden Bear, by the same manufacturer, California Cedar. They perform pretty solidly, slightly better than a Dixon Ticonderoga, I’d say, and they’re less than $3 per dozen. And they’re gorgeous — look at this blue with an orange eraser! They have an orange one, too. And they’re made in the USA

Here’s my post recently about the Golden Bears, now made in the US.

Go on over to Lifehacker and weigh in!

Show Us Your Favorite Pencil | Lifehacker.com

This article has forgotten more about the Trapper Keeper than I will ever know

There’s a fascinating article in Mental Floss published last week with an exhaustive history of the Trapper Keeper. Because I’ve written about Yikes! pencils before, and I used Trapper Keepers around the same time as Yikes, this is definitely relevant to my interests.

Trapper Keeper

I definitely learned things from this; facts that make me feel dumb that I didn’t know it before. Like: did you know that a “Trapper” is Mead’s name for their pocket folder with vertical pockets rather than the horizontal pockets in most folders? Therefore, a Trapper Keeper is the binder that lets you keep all of your papers together.

Duh. I knew that all of my Trapper Keepers had folders with vertical pockets, but I had no recollection of them being called “Trappers”. Doesn’t this seem like something I should know?

If I would have seen this commercial, I would have known that:

Turns out, this commercial is older than I am. Which brings me to my second facepalm moment:

Trapper Keepers are way older than I thought:

Launched in 1978 by the Mead Corporation (which was acquired by ACCO Brands in 2012), Trapper Keeper notebooks are brightly colored three-ring binders that hold folders called Trappers and close with a flap. From the start, they were an enormous success: For several years after their nationwide release, Mead sold over $100 million of the folders and notebooks a year. To date, some 75 million Trapper Keepers have flown off store shelves.

That’s at least a full ten years before they ever entered my consciousness (Well, and a full five years before I was born, in 1983). I don’t recall trapper keeps ever looking like this:

The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article. The Trapper Keeper Prototype: one with the logo and one without. Photo by E. Bryant Crutchfield and from the original article.

I remember the ones that looks like they were designed by Commander Mark from Imagination Station: like this or this or, famously, this one featured prominently in “Napoleon Dynamite”:

It's pretty much my favorite Trapper Keeper.

I had this exact Trapper Keeper.

Oh, and I had this one too:Red dots IN SPAAAAACE

You don’t know how thrilled I am to have so many things in common with Napoleon Dynamite.

I had a very close relationship with my Trapper Keeper. It was with me six hours a day, five days a week, and kept m life organized. Eventually, I moved onto other binder organizers that were more collegiate-looking and less youthful. Gone were the lasers and psychedelic 90s spacescapes, replaced by navy blue fabric.

If you, like me, had a Trapper Keeper, you should definitely check out the full article. It’s fascinating, and brings back so many memories.

The History of the Trapper Keeper | MentalFloss.com

Old Staedtler factory footage

Screencap from "STAEDTLER pencil production in 1950 Part 2". I love old pencil packaging. Why can't they wrap them up like this anymore?

Screencap from “STAEDTLER pencil production in 1950 Part 2”. I love old pencil packaging. Why can’t they wrap them up like this anymore?

Speaking of Pencil Revolution, there was a great comment thread on a post where we discussed the bevy of How It’s Made videos on YouTube about making pencils! Sean from Contrapuntalism linked to these fantastic old 1950s silent films from the Staedtler factory on how they made pencils back then.

(UPDATE: Sean first saw it linked from the great German pencil blog, Lexikaliker, back in 2010.)

There is no sound, and the intertitles are in German, but I think you get the idea, especially after watching the more modern video posted with English narration.

Here they are, in two parts. (Warning: be prepared for the bizarre music playing during part 2)

(Sean warned us when he shared the link, but I still wasn’t prepared for Christian rapper Soul P to start blaring in an ancient black-and-white film about making wood case pencils.)

It surprised me that this film is from 1950 — with the production quality, and the general look and feel of the factory, I would have guessed that it was much earlier, like from the 1920s or 30s. But then I realized I was looking at it through an American culture lens; it looks, to me, like it took place during the Great Depression. And the decade preceding this film was rough on Germany — the government lost a war, unprecedented in scope, was toppled, and the entire population had a huge financial, political and moral mess to deal with. This was a bad time for Germany.

The films are fascinating. Thanks, Sean, for pointing them out!

(In case the videos didn’t embed for you, here are links to YouTube: Part 1 | Part 2)

The Atlantic loves Pencil Revolution

Comrade John, the proprietor at Pencil Revolution, scored a big victory for Pencilism last week when The Atlantic online wrote about his site in their article, “The World’s Best Website About Pencils“.

Gamber says that part of the joy of pencils is the “physical experience” of them: “sharpening them, wearing them down as they sort-of-scratch across a page, making a minor mess erasing their marks.” And there’s the smell too, with its Madeleine-level nostalgia power. “Cedar pencils smell wonderfully, and such a scent from childhood always seems to affect us strongly. I get eager for recess and a chocolate milk sometimes when I smell my pencilcase,” Gamber writes. [Link]

I’ve been a faithful reader of the Pencil Revolution ever since I discovered it back in 2006, before ever blogging on my own, and sites like John’s set the bar high.

Congratulations, John — this is some well-deserved mainstream recognition!

Check out the article:
The World’s Best Website About Pencils | The Atlantic