Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pen-conomics Update (The Pencil Edition)

Justin, you inspired me.

I started a new composition book journal about a week and a half ago, and decided to go full pencil this time around.

Pencil of the Week: Golden Bear
Pretty blue California Republic Golden Bear Pencil, courtesy of Speculator.

I've been using the same one for the first fifty pages or so, and it's still alive, despite a pencil sharpener that keeps eating the point and other such challenges. It's a bit the worse for wear, but still, it has proven pencil-efficiency. And done so quite pleasantly.

The effects of a week and a half
The toll a week and a bit has taken, shown with a nearly new pencil for comparison!


Joe V said...

I was writing in comp books with pencil back in the mid-1990s, when I was writing to myself (an audience of one) about the subjects of video art and photography. Those comp books still look good, the pencil doesn't seem to smear at all just sitting on the shelf; it's during the actual writing process where smearing is most likely to happen. My gut feel is pencil is pretty archival, compared to ink. Graphite and clay, pretty stable elements. I liked your post, keep up the good work; it has me inspired to perhaps augment my fountain pen writings with more pencil.

Richard P said...

The length of the pencil is nice evidence of how much writing you've done!

PS: The techno Olympia is yours if you decide to give in to your temptation. Let me know (

Little Flower Petals said...

I've done a certain amount of musing regarding the permanancy of pencil, as evidenced by this post in particular. Really, unless intentionally erased, it's more permanent than many inks.

My oldest journals are mostly composition books from the mid to late 80s when I was in grade school. Mom encouraged us to put down at least a line or two about recent doings or thoughts before we started school. For the most part they're all in pencil, and although the paper is getting so it's in pretty bad shape (yellowed and brittle), the pencil they were written in has held up just fine, even after much handling. On the other hand, I have notes from high school written in ballpoint of some sort (wish I could remember the brand!) that has faded badly, and some fountain pen journal entries from the late nineties that have vanished entirely. We tend to think of pencil as transitory, but it's got gumption!

I'm still a little bothered by some dirty-looking transfer from one page to another, not in handling but when I write on the back of a page that has writing on the other side. However, I've started putting a piece of paper between just that most recent page and the one it faces, which seems to help.

Anonymous said...

You might not have to worry about long term. Somewhere around here I have a small, bound notebook my grandfather used in the 1920s. He wrote in pencil and it is still perfectly dark and legible.

Now you've got me thinking. Time to find a small notebook with good, acid free paper (probably from Levingers) and break out some good #2 pencils I've acquired over the years. Use the notebook for the bits and pieces I try to keep track of for writing.


Justin said...

Nice. It's pretty fun using a pencil, huh? It needs to be sharp to really work well, I've found. I realize now that the transfer issue you were talking about is in regard to the previous page getting marked up. I guess I never noticed because I don't really go back and read my journal entries. I'll have to check them out now and see if previous pages are getting messy.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I just tried a number of pencils from my desk. Black Mirado, Ticonderoga and several others. I didn't expect much difference but there was. The plain old Dixon Ticoderoga 2 HB was by far my favorite. It was the most comfortable to hold and left a finer, darker line and wrote very smoothly. It was almost as smooth and flowing as my Pelikan fountain pens.

Thanks for starting this topic. It's turning out to be fun to play with pencils.


speculator said...

Way to go, LFP!
Glad you're enjoying the Golden Bear pencils!
Graphite holds up extremely well to the tests of time. I've catalogued pencil-written Civil War era letters.

You'll find that if you photocopy your pencil writing, it reproduces boldly. If you're concerned about smearing, use something more like a 2 1/2.

Your handwriting really looks good this way, getting the thicks-and-thins of the way you work the point (a bit like dip-pen writing!)

Justin said...

In response to speculator's comment, I was surprised the first time I made a scan of pencil writing at just how dark it comes through. I also had to make some photocopies of work-related materials. I had filled out some forms with pencil but after being copied it was just as bold as any pen I've copied. Pencils really are quite interesting.

Little Flower Petals said...

Graphite holds up extremely well to the tests of time. I've catalogued pencil-written Civil War era letters.

And there you have it. Coming from an archivist, I'd say that's pretty definitive!

It is fun trying different brands and grades, isn't it? I'd never really paid attention prior to someone sending me a generous sampler, which really opened my eyes to the possiblities. Since then I've also acquired some Ticonderogas, a pack of cheap USA Golds, a few Mars Lumograph 100s, and some of the much lauded Mirado Black Warriors (though truthfully, though they're not at all bad, I'm not blown away by them--at least not in their current iteration). One of these days I'm going to order some more California Republic pencils and such from, I think. I'm very fond of the Golden Bear--it's not super smooth, but it's dark and I rather like the texture of it. And I'd like to try some Palominos. And some Forest Choice pencils. And...well, you get the idea. Maybe one of these days I can send out sampler sets of my own!

My favorite pencil of the moment is probably the Helix Oxford HB, for not entirely quantifiable reasons. Yes, they're smooth and dark and don't smear very easily. Yes, they have nice erasers. But also, I just like the look and feel of them. They're comfortingly solid in feel, and all pink and blue and gold and cheerful in appearance. They are hearty, rosy-cheeked, ever-so-British pencils, and they make me happy.

I think I just talked myself into buying me a box for my birthday.