Passing The Barre Exam

bc

The trees are turning in Wilkes-Barre and neighboring Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, where I recently visited for a few days. This is my third trip but I’m no closer to knowing the definitive pronunciation of “Barre.” It was a little easier to know when to switch to Missourah when I was living in Missouri. The funny thing is, of the three different ways “Barre” is often pronounced none reflect (what I presume to be) its French origins.

I was surprised when a little searching revealed that the “Barre” in Wilkes-Barre comes from an Irishman, called Isaac Barré (1726-1802). Nothing Irish about “Barré”, but his father Peter was a Huguenot who eventually settled in Dublin—French after all.

Speaking of French things, if you happen to visit Wilkes-Barre do yourself a favor and try Le Manhattan Bistro downtown.

Posted in Pencils | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Graf von Faber-Castell: Magnum

img_0529

Graf von Faber-Castell’s new magnum-format Perfect Pencil is as great as its name suggests.

img_0531

The small linen pouch is always a nice touch; I feel more comfortable placing the pencil in my pocket or book bag if it’s not in my writing case.

img_0533

Like the current Perfect Pencil, the magnum has a platinum-plated extender/sharpener. I admit that I’m still partial to the silver-plated items that were discontinued some time ago, but the platinum version has a brilliant luster that needs little in terms of polishing.

img_0534

Compared with the Limited Edition Perfect Pencil (made of stainless steel) you can see that the dimensions are very similar. This is interesting to me because instead of just using the previous mold or model an entirely new part was made, but just a bit bigger.

img_0536

The difference between the pencils’ diameters shows where the magnum gets its name:

img_0538

The one thing I was curious about was the lead: it’s much thicker and a 4B. Even though German leads tend to be a little lighter as compared with U.S. leads (and even lighter compared with Japanese leads), the Faber-Castell 9000 3B is about as dark and soft as I like to go when it comes to writing. But this lead doesn’t just seem like a sized-up version of their 4B Castell 9000; it wears much more slowly and it seems to me that it’s quite a bit smoother. In fact, I would say it’s very similar to an older pencil of theirs, the Lay Out 2526it too has a very smooth, large diameter lead.

img_0540

Even the eraser has been given the magnum treatment, being both longer and thicker than that found on the standard Perfect Pencil:

img_0543

Several of Faber-Castell’s pencil lines are now available in “jumbo” sizes, so it makes sense that the Perfect Pencil would follow suit (perhaps the classic green plastic version will also be available in a jumbo version). I wonder if this version will appeal to current owners of the Perfect Pencil (it did this owner) or whether there is a target audience who has been waiting for just such an upgrade.

Special thanks to Faber-Castell for their peerless customer service.

Posted in Pencils | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Eberhard Faber: Mongols, etc.

 

Further escapades in pencil B-roll (no audio this time).

Posted in Pencils | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Oh, Canada

So a friend of mine, who lives in Germany, sent me a book recently. Delivery times vary but I noticed that this parcel was taking a little longer than usual. It finally arrived this past Saturday, complete with an explanation:

canada-1

What amazes me most is, this happens frequently enough that a bespoke stamp had to be made. Who knows, maybe there’s an entire set…

Note to self: Don’t forget to write “Please Don’t Send To Canada” on all mail from now on that’s going to Europe and Japan, etc.

Posted in General | 7 Comments

The Castell is 111

castell21907

The A.W. Faber Castell turned 111 this year. If the brand’s longevity is surprising, its origins are even more so. The brand was cultivated by Count Alexander zu Castell-Rüdenhausen, the new head of A.W. Faber (having married Baron Lothar’s granddaughter Ottilie in 1898). He had no experience in the pencil industry, but was determined to create a flagship brand for the company (which, as Petroski has noted, was in response to the success of Hardmuth’s Koh-I-Noor pencils). The first Castell pencils were made available in 1905 but it seems that they took a little while to make it to North America. This article from 1907 sets the scene:

The American Stationer

Posted in Pencils | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Pencils Talking?

talk

Pencil Talk is back online again; fingers crossed that we might see more…

(If it comes down to a vote, consider this my early ballot.)

Posted in Pencils | Tagged | 2 Comments

Befiehl du deine Wege

dsc_0010-2The Alte Kirche in Stein, built in 1660.

My first visit to Stein bei Nürnberg and Faber-Castell was in December of 2012. While visiting the Martin Luther Church (donated by patron Lothar von Faber and erected in 1861), I was told that the Lutheran hymn Befiehl du deine Wege was performed each year in honor of Baron Lothar. The hymn text was written by Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) and there have been several chorale settings based on a melody by Hassler (1564-1612). The church in Stein has used a setting and melody written by Michael Haydn (1736-1806).

After returning home I decided to compose my own setting of Befiehl using Haydn’s melody, and sent the manuscript to Count von Faber-Castell as an expression of gratitude. With his passing in January, 2016, I revisited the score and recorded this performance on a baritone guitar. I added some original video, and the result is this tribute to the Count.

Posted in Music, Pencils | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A View Of Some Rooms

eberhard-faber-factory-brooklyn-1

When you visit the Faber-Castell factory in Stein, Germany, you’ll see it has four floors and is in the shape of a giant “U”, complete with smokestack. This photo was taken from within the building, where I was standing approximately at the bottom of the “U.”

Michael's Moving Day

I can’t say that I walked into every single room but I noticed that along the production line, there were very few walls separating each of the areas. If there was a wall, there was an open double-door to go through, which gives you the feeling of one long floor rather than many separate compartments:

Michael's Moving Day

I don’t know how many different ‘departments’ there are at the Faber-Castell factory, by that I mean, the number of steps that are assigned to either a machine, a person, or both. No matter what the number, I’m sure it is designed with efficiency in mind.

In the minutes of a board meeting of the Eberhard Faber Company dated December 5, 1905, there is a passage with a list of the many rooms involved in their pencil-making process. I can’t be certain if it is a list of all of the rooms, but it was very interesting to read how many separate compartments (and therefore, stages) there were at the time. In no particular order:

  • Dry House
  • Grooving Room
  • Gluing Room (2 strip-gluing machines)
  • Rounding Room (2 rounders, 1 jointer)
  • Varnish Room (4 varnish machines)
  • Hand-Polishing Room (10 double tables)
  • Steel Polishing Room
  • Heading Rooms (shoulder machine, plugging machine, tipping machine, sizer)
  • Stamping Room (bronze stamping machines)
  • Metal Room (two turning lathes, one automatic threader, one knurler)
  • Nickel Shop

I’m making an assumption that by calling something a “room”, it means you likely enter and leave through a door. But even so, it’s easy to imagine that a lot of carrying was involved. And as bespoke machinery was invented and implemented, many of these steps would be combined.

ef03-1

Some rooms from 1903.

Posted in Pencils | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Eberhard Faber Van Dyke Display Stand

stand1929

van-dyke-box-1van-dyke-box-5van-dyke-box-2van-dyke-box-3

Posted in Pencils | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“I, Lothar von Faber of Stein…”

lothar-faber-assignment-3

So begins a little-known handwritten document from 1882. It is an assignment of rights for the trademark “A.W.F.” to Eberhard Faber (the son of Eberhard Faber I, who died in 1879). It is signed by Lothar von Faber, head of A.W. Faber in Stein, Germany.

lothar-faber-assignment-2

The rights to “A.W.F.” were sold and assigned “in consideration of the sum of one dollar”, and applied only to its use in the United States. At the time, Eberhard Faber was the main distributor of A.W. Faber’s goods in the U.S.

At first glance it seems like this document was written and signed by Lothar von Faber, but a closer look at the handwriting suggests it was Eberhard Faber who wrote the document, and was only signed by Baron Lothar. For example, the name “Eberhard Faber” in the document looks very similar to Eberhard Faber II’s signature:

eberhardfabersignatures

Second, the ink used for Lothar von Faber’s signature and “October 7th” appears darker than that used for the main text of the letter:

lothar-faber-assignment-1

Here is where it gets interesting.

Following Lothar’s death in 1896, his widow, Ottilie, sought to secure a trademark in the U.S. for “A.W. Faber.” Her application was rejected based on a mark already on the books by Eberhard Faber:

a-w-faber-1897-patent-8

Apparently, Eberhard Faber had also applied for the mark “A.W. Faber” since at the time he was manufacturing low-grade lead pencils on behalf of the parent company. Through her attorneys, Ottilie von Faber submitted an affidavit attesting to her ownership and use of the mark “A.W. Faber”, and was granted letters patent for the same in 1897.

Ottilie von Faber also stated in her affidavit that Eberhard Faber, upon discovering (or perhaps being told) that he is not the rightful owner of the trademark “A.W. Faber”, assigned such to Lothar von Faber on May 10th, 1882. So why was the above assignment issued to Eberhard Faber in October of 1882? Perhaps it was a bit of a compromise: Lothar would permit “A.W.F.” on pencils manufactured and sold by Eberhard Faber, but would not go as far as allowing him the rights to “A.W. Faber.” Even in these early years of international patents and trademarks you can see how undocumented nuances, such as the difference between “A.W.F.” and “A.W. Faber”, could become the stuff of lawsuits.

But all of this was just a prelude. A few years later the Fabers would be engaged in a legal battle over trademarks that would last more than a decade. Eberhard Faber II ultimately put his experience to good use however, as he would eventually become the president of the U.S. Trademark Association—a position he would hold for more than forty years.

Posted in Pencils | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment