Eberhard Faber Transfer Ink Pencil No. 751


Copying pencils have a long and storied history. Along with the Noblot and the Blu-Blak, the Eberhard Faber Co. also made the Transfer ink pencil, which may have been one of their original ink pencils. Though I don’t know their exact age, the advertisement above comes from 1914:


Each pencil comes with a protective cap, which are all embossed with “E. Faber”:


Most striking are the ferrules, if they can be called that. The gold-colored metal has two stripes of what looks to be black enamel paint:


I couldn’t resist doing some more cross-ferrulizing, and it looks quite at home on the Blackwing 602:


Another beautifully crafted pencil from times gone by:


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Is That A Castell In Your Pocket?


This A.W. Faber pocket (or waistcoat) pencil is similar to those made by the other Faber brothers, Johann and Eberhard respectively:



Among the Faber houses alone there were countless varieties of pocket pencils, be they short or long, round, hex, or flat:


You would also find them offered in stationery sets, suggesting they might have been popular with students. Many other manufacturers offered similar pencils as well, so they were likely more than just a gimmick or some kind of novelty. I wonder what they were primarily used for: simply to have in your pocket for jotting some notes? What was the niche they filled that hexagonal pocket pencils didn’t (or couldn’t)?

This set from A.W. Faber (+1 for the period after Faber on the cover) comes in a small cardboard box whose printed design is meant to suggest textured fabric:


The lid is slightly padded which adds a nice touch:


This set consisted of six Castell HB pencils and a metal holder:


On one side of the pencil it says: “A.W. FABER. HB”, and on the other: “CASTELL“.


Just as you could find ornate and expensive versions of these pencils there were plenty of the inexpensive sort too, which makes me wonder to what degree they may have been considered “disposable”. Then again we’re talking about the turn of the 20th century, when even pencils were well-looked after and cared for.



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Easting and Northing

In contrast to the recent pencil and manuscript paper drought I experienced in Central Europe, some time spent in the American Northeast has made up for it. While in Rochester I paid a visit to Eastman, and its bookstore:

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There was a nice variety of manuscript paper, folders, and binders (as well as a nice selection of scores from Henle Verlag):



The Carta 18 x 12 staff paper is nice, not least because it is bound on the left rather than at the top:


Not much by way of pencils but to be perfectly honest, I have plenty of pencils. That didn’t stop me however from picking up this pencil extender from an independent art supply store in New York City:


I like that the handle is made of wood, which is similar to the kind of extenders you’d see from the first half of the twentieth century. Though I prefer the Eberhard Faber Clamp extenders, they are a little too short to handle small stubs like this Van Dyke:


The wood handle feels like you’re holding a wood-cased pencil:


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Anniversaries (6)


Den Freunden des Hauses A.W. Faber Castell gewidmet. Firmenschrift zum 1975 jährigen Jubiläum.

This book, 31 x 20 cm with a corrugated board cover embossed with the corporate coat of arms, was published in 1936 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of A.W. Faber-Castell:


Inside there are 36 pages of handmade paper, which have a consistency similar to construction paper:


The texture of the paper and the printing have all the hallmarks of letterpress, and the body text is dark green in color (difficult to discern in the photos):


As you would expect the text focuses primarily on the family histories of the Fabers and Faber-Castells in Germany, but there is also the occasional illustration.


There isn’t much to see in terms of products though, mostly historical drawings of people and places, including an illustration of the factory in Stein in 1861:


Toward the end of the book you can see the contemporary state of operations at the factories in Stein and Geroldsgrün:


While the family history reaches back to 1761 there is an emphasis on more contemporary advancements, such as the Castell pencil line introduced by Count Alexander Graf von Faber-Castell:


All in all a very interesting and beautifully manufactured publication; it would be interesting to find out how many were originally printed.



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The Red-Winged Flightless Mongol

I try for the most part to use only photographs of my own taking for this blog. This is done as part of an attempt to offer as much original content as possible rather than being just another echo in a sea of aggregators. There are some exceptions e.g. company photographs or like the following— items I wouldn’t otherwise be able to photograph myself:

Photograph © Mel Birnkrant

The photographs and the items are part of the Mel Birkrant Collection (something you just need to see rather than have me describe). Based on the logo and the design of the ferrule I’d say these cardboard cutouts are from the early 20th century, though I’m not sure about the ornithological connection. This didn’t stop the Eberhard Faber Co. though from also rendering a free-standing version in wood, except instead of a Mongol it’s a Van Dyke:

Photograph © Mel Birnkrant

The Mongol is older than the Van Dyke, but I don’t have an exact date for either one. I have a catalog entry for Van Dyke pencils that dates back to the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1918 when they were “relaunched” so-to-speak as Eberhard Faber’s high-end, full-range line of drawing pencils. The Mongol would continue to be offered but in 5 degrees and positioned as a “business pencil”, as well as several varieties of other Mongol colored- and indelible-pencil lines.

Why the bird motif? I’m not sure—perhaps it was something akin to an early mascot. Clearly the “character” wasn’t brand-dependent; it seems just as happy being either a (presumably) flightless Mongol or Van Dyke. As late as 1921, when the Van Dyke would be further differentiated by being fitted with a Clamp eraser, advertising materials existed for both lines with little if any overlap:

It seems like they weren’t meant to function in any way other than to be eye-catching, where the “nose” of the bird could be positioned to direct the customer’s eye to the product.

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Less Waste—Longer Wear


Even slightly damaged this Eberhard Faber Mongol display is striking. I’m not sure if the white void on the right side is meant to be used for anything in particular (e.g. a retailer’s address) or if it is simply a graphic device, but I like how your eye is drawn from the top of the placard toward the right side.

There are several slogans, including the claim that this pencil provides “Twice the wear between sharpenings.”*


And the familiar mention of their proprietary “woodclinched” technology:


As to the date I’m not sure, but there are some clues. First is the price of 5¢, but this was a price point for a rather long time. Another clue is the ferrule—instead of the brass-colored band it’s painted:


This is reminiscent of some the clamp erasers found on their Van Dyke pencils:


And even on their Blackwing pencils:

Michael's Moving Day

But I’m still not sure as to why they were done this way. I can imagine it being an early attempt at what became the “usual Mongol band”, which also matched the yellow polish used for the barrel. But I can also imagine painting the ferrule this way was a cost- or materials-saving effort during the years leading up to America’s entry into the Second World War. Perhaps paint was used on ferrules that were first made of less desirable metal rather than the usual brass, until all non-essential use of metal was eventually prohibited by the War Production Board.

2030Further supporting these pencils being from the 1940s is the stamp on the barrel mentioning “complastic” lead. This advertisement from 1940 mentions the same, and the logo stamped on the barrel matches that found on the pencils in the display, though the ferrule in the advertisement is the brass-type, not painted:


The painted band on the ferrules remains a mystery to me, one whose explanation I hope to discover at some point. I’d like to know whether it was a short-lived design choice or a response to material scarcity, or something else altogether.


There were countless beautiful displays like this one, made by the Eberhard Faber Co., as well as every other pencil manufacturer. I don’t know about you but if I saw something like this in a store today—even one with cheap, terrible pencils in it—I’d still probably buy one.


*I’m O.K. with the period inside the quotation marks here, because there is more to the sentence contained between them.

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So Falls Spokane Falls

No pencilry or music in this post, just a few photos of Spokane—including the falls and a very interesting set of sculptures:

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There are some intriguing buildings in downtown Spokane, which at times remind me of New York City:

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And there is also a Radio Flyer to beat all Radio Flyers (perfect for a Big Idea):


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Giger Counter

Tucked inside a skate park, and nearby the Centre d’Art Scénique Contemporain in Lausanne, Switzerland, is a small exhibition of works by the Swiss artist H.R. Giger.


There were a handful of original prints and a piece or two of furniture, but that’s about it. Not much to see but it was a surprise encounter and I’m glad to have stumbled upon it. Short on time, I was out and about searching for any music store(s) I could find with the hopes of locating some of my favorite manuscript paper. It’s manufactured in Germany and not available in the U.S. But just like my experience in Bratislava (and in Spálené Poříčí, Czech Republic after that), I arrived at this store 15 minutes after it had closed for the day:


Convinced now that I must be an unwitting participant on some European hidden-camera reality t.v. show, I just assumed that looking for some Canteo notebooks would yield the same results. Walking back though, my disappointment was assuaged upon my (first) glimpse of Lake Geneva. Click the photo below for a larger view:

DSCF0026GAll that Switzerland yielded vis-à-vis pencilry was a four-pack of Caran d’Ache HB pencils, purchased at a gas station.

The following day (today) in Dessel, Belgium, was like most of the others—nothing close enough to explore on foot. Still though, there was work to be done during my downtime and for today at least, an Eberhard Faber Mongol No. 1 worked best—it’s not as dark as I would like but it holds a point very well and the eraser still works. Together with the pencils and paper were some additional helpful tools, such as some Coke, a little bottled (stille) water, and of course some European sugary blue stuff that wasn’t half bad; I can’t vouch for the Sprite.


Later on, I was off to spend a little time with a few of my closest friends:


Now it’s time to venture back to the Ship Grave, for an early flight to Washington then on to L.A. Though I did not come to Europe simply to buy some stationery, it was a near wipeout in that regard. I’m hesitant, then, to mention I hope to spend a few hours at Powell’s bookstore next week as I pass through Eugene then Portland, Oregon, for fear of jinxing it. This time at least, I should be able to get there before they close.

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Bleistifting in Bratislava

After waiting more than an hour for this music store in the historic district of Bratislava, Slovakia to reopen, I had to move on empty-handed. Perhaps I’ll find some manuscript paper elsewhere.


However, a few doors down there was a small shop with this interesting item:


I’m not sure if this a decommissioned Soviet-era pencil launcher, or a repurposed pencil holder. Either way, it puts an entirely new spin on “pencil fighting”.*


*I’m sorry, but I just cannot bring myself to place the period inside of the quotation marks.



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Dutch Treat


A few hours to spend at Luchthaven Schiphol in Amsterdam, Netherlands. So naturally, and in order to blend in, I’m doing what I’m sure everyone else here must also be doing while they’re are waiting: looking into the etymology of the name schiphol.

I’ve read several accounts, and perhaps it’s all the more interesting that no one is exactly sure about the name’s origin and exact meaning. What everyone can agree upon though, is that this airport began as an army base during the First World War. Apparently, the site of the airport was once a lake where ships were known to have sunk. One translation of schip hol is “ship hole”, another is “ship grave”, each supporting the sunken ship idea. However when this lake was reclaimed to be built upon, there were no ships found. Another possibility is that schiphol is a corruption of scip hol, meaning an area of low-lying land where wood suitable for ship-building can be found.

Whatever the explanation it has made my five-hour stay seem a little shorter. With Dutch’s close relationship to English (and especially the Frisian languages of the north) you’ll frequently come across cognates and word stems that look familiar, so even if you don’t speak the language at all you can still work things out and arrive at a basic translation.

There’s lots of time left though, so I’ll get back to work on some much-needed revising.


Graf von Faber-Castell desk pencils are up to the task, but I brought along some of the usual suspects too just in case.


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