“The other [pencils] are a snare, a delusion and utterly useless.” —Eberhard Faber


In an interview given to the Salt Lake Herald in 1906, Eberhard Faber II offered some sage advice to pencil users. While most of what he said borders on common sense it’s still illuminating to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak; like Bach himself telling you that sevenths should resolve downward by step, or Ted Williams telling you to keep your eye on the ball.

“Never bite the end of a pencil. It ruins the glue used in holding the pencil boards together causing them to separate.”

“Never place the lead point of a pencil in the mouth. It tends to harden and harm the lead.”

…no mention of possible harm to the person on the other end of the pencil.

“Never sharpen a pencil when in a hurry. The result will be that more points are broken and material wasted than if sharpened leisurely.”

As true today as it was 110 years ago.

“Buy only the best pencils. The others are a snare, a delusion and utterly useless.”

To be fair he didn’t say buy only Eberhard Faber pencils, but rather “the best” pencils. I wonder who makes those.

“When buying pencils select grades suited to your work. Too hard or too soft pencils never work well.”

There you have it, and remember, stay away from those delusional pencils.


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Isn’t It Time For An Eberhard Faber Postage Stamp?


Not only is it time, I’d say it’s long overdue. Based on everything that the U.S. Postal Service asks of a stamp proposal, I put together a prospectus and created the samples pictured here. Should the proposal progress, I have someone in mind to help design the actual stamp; these are more proof-of-concept than final product.


So many proposals are submitted each year that the approval process can take up to three years. But even if it’s selected you might not be notified as to when the stamp will appear.

Still worth a try, I think.

If you like the idea, maybe put a +1 or something in the comments section and pass along a link or two; perhaps a showing of support would help influence the committee.

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Basteln mit dem Musikaliker

The title of, and idea for, this post were inspired by stolen from some of my favorite posts at Gunther’s blog; a series called Basteln mit dem Lexikaliker.


The nickel plating on the clamp erasers matches the hardware so well, it’s a wonder they’re not a stock option:


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The Eberhard Faber Mongol Gets Its Stripe


The Eberhard Faber Mongol is an iconic pencil, whose origins date back at least to the turn of the twentieth century. Its most distinguishing feature is the black-and-gold ferrule — a design that the Eberhard Faber Company would eventually refer to it as “the characteristic Mongol band.” But it wasn’t always so.

The following passage, taken from the minutes of the February, 1904 meeting of the board of directors (L.W. Faber, E. Faber, and E.E. Huber), states that all #482 pencils should receive a new metal tip:

Mongol2 (1)Mongol3 (1)

It’s interesting to note that nowhere in any of the minutes (from 1898 to 1911) does the word “ferrule” appear. Instead, “caps” and “tips” are the most frequently used terms. This means that the word “ferrule” would become part of the terminology at a later time (NB: a ferrule is defined as something that either caps or joins).

Following the suggestion at the close of the minutes a trademark was filed for in June, then granted in August, some six months from the time of the board meeting:


The characteristic Mongol band would eventually be found on a dizzying number of products, and would undergo a multitude of design changes over some 80+ years:


Mongol Lengthener 1908


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Cooperation Among “The Big 4”


This was originally going to be a “this date in pencil history” kind of post, but I would have had to wait until October.

The letter above was written by George Smith, who in 1920 was the president of the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company. The letter is addressed to Emil Berolzheimer of Eagle Pencil Co., L. J. Reckford of the American Lead Pencil Co., and E. E. Huber of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Co. Together, they were referred to as the “Big 4” of the pencil industry.

The letter addresses an expressed interest in listing all of the pencil manufacturers in the world at that time:


What followed was about eight typewritten pages of companies and their addresses, from North America, Europe, to Japan. There were no less than 15 pencil makers listed in England, and some 17 in Japan.

Smith closes the letter with a suggestion that the list be distributed amongst the members of the PMA:


It is an interesting example of cooperation between competitors.

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Refill Erasers 1

There’s nothing quite like genuine parts when you’re doing a little refurbishing. These 1282 replacement erasers for the clamp, originally made from the Red Ruby formula, are still surprisingly pliant.

Refill Erasers 5

They were used for the earlier Blackwing and Van Dyke pencils.

Refill Erasers 2

Eventually the Blackwing shared the same eraser as the Microtomic (which was once the Van Dyke), and were similar to the Pink Pearl.

Refill Erasers 6

These remain remarkably soft as well:

Refill Erasers 7

Though to be honest neither were very good at erasing, even during their heyday.

Refill Erasers 4

If the pencil had a softer lead, and if you were writing on smooth paper, the eraser tended to distribute the graphite more than erase it.

Refill Erasers 3

Still, it’s better to have a fresh replacement than a hardened and shriveled eraser—something you often find on vintage Blackwing 602 and Van Dyke 601 pencils.


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Family Tree Forest


If a family tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see or hear it, did all this work actually happen?

The tree in the photo represents only 20% so far, give or take a Lothar.


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A Few Minutes More


Back from another visit to Wilkes-Barre. There’s a lot of reading to do, but soon I hope to be sharing selections from some rather unique documents.


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Pollux Arriving

Pollux 1

I never thought a handheld sharpener would be able to create a point similar to those made by Carl crank-sharpeners. While current two-stage handheld sharpeners have a certain appeal, the points are usually so sharp that you can expect there to be a little breakage on first contact. None of this is the case with the M+R Pollux.

Pollux 2

The cones are slightly concave, which adds to their strength. Worth noting are the incredibly tight tolerances too: a “standard” hex or round barrel fits snugly into the aperture, preventing any yaw from occurring (something that can lead to broken leads). And everything meets at the tip of the graphite perfectly—in other words, blades that are less accurately designed and fitted often leave odd bits at the end which need to be removed before you start writing.

It’s made of brass so it has a nice weight to it, but I hope to find a suitable case or pouch to keep it in—small items of this high quality tend to grow legs very quickly and disappear.

Thanks to Gunther at Lexikaliker for the Pollux!

For more about the Pollux, See Matthias’s post at Bleistift, and Gunther’s original post at Lexikaliker.

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