Searching for information about these old pencil-related items is at best hit-or-miss, at least the way I go about doing it. It comes in fits and starts, and my approach could be likened to an old saying: “a blind man sitting in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.” But brute-force searching and persistence can pay off—after a recent session of poring over more than 1,500 pages of some trade magazines from 1921, I’ve come across what might be one of the first product announcements and ads for this extender:
The text emphasizes that this new clamp eraser design allows for a soft eraser, whereas standard-tipped pencils suffer from the eraser’s tendency to bend or slip out of the ferrule. But the extender wasn’t a stand-alone item, it was paired with a Pocket Mongol:
It’s interesting that the ad copy had yet to reach its more familiar form: the new “clamp” design (patented that same year) wasn’t referred to as such, and “rubber” was still being used instead of “eraser”.
It is a remarkably useful item, but it doesn’t seem to have filtered-down through the decades the same way other accessories did. There was a proliferation of clamp-related items in the early 1920s (more on that in a future post), but perhaps this extender was obsoleted early-on.
It turns out that the “Pocket Mongol”, No. 1582, dates back at least to 1907 but with a different cap:
I’ve also seen this type of cap in catalogs dating back to the late 1800s (4th from right):
“Rubbers” not “Erasers” – how it warms my British heart. 🙂
Extenders are making a bit of a come-back. I have the Derwent ones for my coloured pencils and pastel pencils and I recently found these http://bit.ly/OCfms2 as well as the older kind of wooden extender – no rubbers though,
And there’s the Perfect Pencil range which comes close.
Maybe some entrepreneur out there will pick up on something like these. I’d buy them except for that odd looking pocket clip.
I ended up removing the clip when I cleaned the extender; I wasn’t fond of it either. 🙂
Great findings! Thank you for sharing. – Useful pencils extenders are still hard to find, at least in Germany (most are variations of a wooden model and are only useful with very short stubs). The best ones I have are from Japan, including the Staedtler 925 20 which is also one of the very few that have a replaceable eraser. If these Mongol extenders were available again I’d buy at least three!
May I ask which sharpener do you have used for the pencil in the last photo?
I agree about the Staedtler 925 20, but even as nice as that one is, the idea of essentially encasing the whole pencil can make it clumsy if you need to sharpen frequently. What I like about the Mongol extender is that it truly just extends the length of the pencil.
The point in that photo represents the first and last time I ever used the Mitsubishi KH-20 🙂
P.S. I’m still trying to figure how you reconditioned the blade for your Janus to sharpen so well…
You’re right about the problem of sharpening a pencil which is encased almost completely. However, I haven’t found a smaller extender yet which holds the pencil tight enough so that it doesn’t rotate inside while sharpening so even with these models you have to remove or at least loose the pencil to sharpen it.
Thank you for the information about the sharpener. It’s a pity that the KH-20 is so poor!
I have used a whetstone to recondition the blade for the Janus 4048 sharpener (namely this one).
I wonder whether this or similar items made the eraser-tipped pencil popular in the USA – as a cheaper alternative. Good that Michael mentioned the pocket clip. I was wondering what that bent thing was…
It was but a guess.
I’d have thought the eraser tipped pencil came first. Things to hold pencils were around in the nineteenth century when they were usually called ‘pencil cases’ some were what we’d call ‘leadholders’ but many held pocket length wooden pencils. Faber Castell has quite a collection, some of which are on the history section of their website.
And as if by magic a collection of ‘pencil cases’ appears. I’d go for the second on the left – the one with the red pencil in it.
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