No. 1548


This Eberhard Faber flat pocket pencil has got me wondering something. It’s similar in design to countless other versions made by the company but this one has a clamp eraser, and the patent date for the clamp is embossed on the body of the holder. This means that 1921 is the earliest possible date for its manufacture (NB: the eraser is slightly larger than those used for clamp-bearing pencils like the Van Dyke and Blackwing.)


Here is an advertisement for an earlier version of the 1548, which had a slightly different finish, but take a look at the eraser:


It looks like there is a clip holding in the eraser, just like with the clamp design. The thing is though, the advertisement is from 1902.

It’s not unusual for products to enter the market prior to their patent or trademark date, but 19 years ahead of time is a bit much. There were previous designs on the lead-up to the clamp, such as this one:


And it may be that the illustration is of something similar, but it has me wondering how long it took Lothar Washington Faber to finalize his design.

This also means that flat pocket pencils were being manufactured at least up until 1921; when did they finally fall out of favor?


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Eberhard Faber Hevi-Check 6339


I had always thought of the Hevi-Check as being a colored pencil: either red, blue, or half of each. It turns out there was a graphite version too.


It’s an oversized pencil, and so has a large lead core. I assumed it would probably write something like the Editor pencil or others in the same category, such as the Draughting 314RavenSpecial BlackNewsEbony, etc. Instead it’s more like an American No. 1—more powdery than waxy, and it holds a point for a long time.


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Jotting At Mach 2


I can resist the siren song of a new notebook or jotter most of the time, but this one had a bit of history associated with it: a jotter from Concorde.


They were part of a kit each passenger received, which also included things like postcards, information about the aircraft, some loose stationery, travel log, etc. Included with the jotter was a pencil that tucks into the spine. The white plastic cap harkens back to a time when some pencils were tipped with ivory or bone:


The pages are unlined and perforated, and the cover is some sort of faux leather embossed with “Concorde” and “British Airways”:


This artifact of supersonic flight is the closest I ever got to actually traveling on Concorde, though I did taxi past the SST on display at Manchester airport in the U.K. a few years ago.

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Not Any Old Faber Will Do


In a previous post I mentioned that there are minute differences in dimension found between the flat cedar pencil refills manufactured by Fabers Eberhard, Johann, and Lothar. So there’s no guarantee things will fit properly just because the holder and the pencil have the name “Faber” on them.

I was told that this box of Eberhard Faber flat pencils was found in the back room of a mom-and-pop general store that was closing its doors—apparently it had been around in one form or another for some 100 years. On the box there is an indication of which holders the pencils are compatible with, and it also mentions that they are finished in yellow. However, upon opening it:


If I’m not mistaken these pencils are pre-Castell, meaning, that they were made prior to 1905/6. I don’t know for certain however if they may have continued to manufacture blacklead pencils with just “A.W. Faber” printed on them alongside the new Castell range for a time. Even if they did, these pencils are quite old.

There could be several explanations for how some A.W. Faber pencils found there way into an Eberhard Faber box: it could have been something as simple as a store employee needing an empty box to put these in; they could have been the store owner’s personal pencils, etc. But since Eberhard Faber sold A.W. Faber products up until the late 1800s in the U.S., I don’t think it’s impossible that some products could have been mixed, combined, or substituted.


But if Eberhard Faber did in fact offer A.W. Faber flat pencils as refills for their own holders, it means that the holders’ dimensions would had to have been compatible. Perhaps there was a time when the sizes were closer to being universal.


Or perhaps someone just needed an empty box 70+ years ago.


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“A.W. Faber’s New Drawing Pencil”


What does the beginning of a legacy (or perhaps a dynasty) look like?

A.W. Faber Polygrade pencils were by all accounts of unprecedented quality and very popular. They eventually gave way to a new range though—the now-familiar “Castell” line of pencils—in 1905/6. It’s quite remarkable when you consider that the new proprietor of A.W. Faber at that time (Count Alexander of Castell-Rüdenhausen) had no experience in pencil-making, yet the line he helped to launch continues to be a best-seller more than 100 years on.

The following notices all come from the same 1907 issue of The American Stationer, announcing the new “Castell” pencils. First is a description of the new pencils, including the switch from sourcing Siberian and English mines to availing themselves of chemistry for the purpose of purifying clay and graphite:


The advertisements were placed by the American branch of the company, who were likely responsible for this ‘poem':


Then a glance at the first version of the Castell pencil:


Last was this repetition of the ad copy:


To a contemporary reader these advertisements may have gotten no more notice than did those for Hardtmuth’s Koh-I-Noor, Staedtler’s Lumograph, Tombow’s MONO, or Eberhard Faber’s Mongol, etc. So it’s interesting to look backward and to consider what it was about these or any other of the “legacy” pencils that set them apart from countless—and now forgotten—others.


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A.W. Faber’s Graphite de Sibérie de la Mine Alibert

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An Interesting Subject (3)

It’s true of both books of The Well-Tempered Clavier that some preludes don’t quite seem to fit with the fugues they are paired with. For those that do appear connected, or at least bear some kind of family resemblance, the criteria one might use to characterize their relationship could range from detailed motivic and harmonic similarities, to simply an intuitive sense that they have both emanated from the same creative impulse, or have a shared inventio. There are little clues too, and sometimes they are the most revealing.

The subject of the first fugue from The Well-Tempered Clavier I shares aspects of contour with its prelude, though it may not be immediately apparent on the surface. By doing a voice-leading reduction of the prelude’s outer voices, the relationship becomes clearer:


This fugue has many notable elements—a small sample includes: the concentrated use of stretto throughout; that the subject appears at least once on each scale degree of C major; that the number 14 (B+A+C+H = 14) permeates both the surface and structure (e.g. the subject—if you are inclined to agree it ends on b. 3 of m. 2—consists of 14 notes; the piece consists of two large sections divided at m. 14; there are 14 entrances of the subject from m. 14 onward, etc.). But it’s relationships like those in the example above that, for me at least, glimpse most behind the veil.

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Some Rachs


Variations on a meme.

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Eberhard Faber Dart 1172


I suppose it looks a little bit like a dart, but past that I’m not sure where the name comes from. The design for this pencil dates back to 1937/38; the designer, H.J. Roth, assigned the design patent to the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company:


This pencil is distinguished by its eraser, and it’s a substantial one. It is glued-on, ornamented with a brass collar, and its weight makes it feel rather unbalanced:


Later versions of the Dart were issued with a removable eraser cap, like the ones you see today; I imagine this likely reduced production costs. As for the polish, I’m not sure if Schwan was the very first to feature two-toned edges but it’s a design I associate with their products. (Their company history mentions this design resulted from a manufacturing error; The American Lead Pencil Company tells a similar story for the iconic crackle finish of their Venus pencils.)



This doesn’t go far enough to be considered a novelty pencil in my mind, but it seems like a design inching in that direction.


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Van Dyke Brown. And Blue. And Green…


Of Eberhard Faber’s colored pencils the Mongol line is probably best known, but these are some of the lesser-seen Van Dyke colored pencils:


And while Mongol pencils were designed so that they could blend by using water and a brush (e.g. “Paint With Pencils”), Van Dyke colored pencils were touted as being “weatherproof”.


The cardboard case folds out and can be used like an easel:


Eberhard Faber had a separate line of “waterproof” pencils but I’m not certain whether they came first, or if they were a spin-off from the Van Dyke line. I get the impression that these pencils might have been marketed more to engineers and the like rather than to artists.


I think this set dates back to the ’40s. Since the endcaps are those associated with Mongol pencils (i.e. black with a middle band of gold), I wonder if they were produced long enough to have gotten one with a different design.

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