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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Eugene Awed Again


A double rainbow in the skies above Eugene, Oregon. I left disappointed however, not having discovered even one of what must have been (as logic would dictate) a minimum of four available pots of gold.

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Eberhard Faber: American Fine Art in Reproductions


One of the best ways to advertise the pencils you make is to show people the very things you can make with them. This portfolio from the Eberhard Faber Company is a collection of reproductions, created with their Van Dyke graphite and Mongol colored pencils.

The return address says Greenpoint, which was the company’s main location until the mid-1950s:

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Opposite the cover is a description of the illustrations and the original artists who created them:

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A flap on the right-hand side has two plastic loops, each holding a small Mongol sample pencil:

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There were many such portfolios issued by the Eberhard Faber Co., and they were often free—all you had to do was ask for one.


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A.W. Faber Castell Nr. 1233


Another ruler/straightedge made in Germany by A.W. Faber Castell. This one is about 12 inches long, which makes me wonder for which market it may have been made. A quick search revealed that Germany’s metrication began in 1872, but since this ruler has “Castell” in the company name, its earliest possible date of manufacture would be 1905.


A more likely explanation: 12 inches is nearly 30.5 centimeters, so it may very well be that this is a metric straightedge to begin with.

Like the ruler from a previous post, the edges are reinforced by strips of brass, inserted at a 45˚ angle.

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And like the hexagonal ruler, this one still works too:


Thanks to Michael for the post-war Castell 9000.

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Three Points in Five Points


Waiting for some slices at Little Five Points Pizza in L5P, Georgia, allows for a few moments to jot down some notes. (You can see the restaurant’s exterior in the first photo on the Wikipedia page.)


(Thanks to Memm for the Trinity College manuscript jotter, and A Reader from Paris for the Castell Steno, Mittel.)

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Annapolis is the de facto capital of Maryland, though Baltimore sometimes receives the nominal designation. Both are beautiful and I miss them, having lived in a suburb of Baltimore for a few years.


NB: I would have preferred a period at the end of the title of this post, but I’m not Wohn to quibble.

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