The beloved $10 Draft-Matic Mechanical Pencil


I worked as an engineering intern for a couple of summers when I was in college. I shared a cubicle with a draftsperson named Laura. She was obsessed with two things - being part of an outlaw motorcycle gang, and her drafting materials, especially her mechanical pencil. I liked her very much, but one time I made the mistake of borrowing her pencil while she was on a cigarette break. When she came back and discovered me using it she was so mad I thought she was going to stab me with it. I remember her describing the pencil as her "bread and butter." I promised I wouldn't use it again and we got along wonderfully for the rest of the summer.

I'm 99% percent sure the pencil she owned was an Alvin Draft-Matic 5mm. They are only $10 on Amazon, and reviewers love them. I just bought one. I can't wait to use it without getting hollered at.

If you want to be truly-bad ass, you can get a set of 3 in various lead thicknesses, stored in a "leather-look" pocket pouch. Read the rest

Spend a summer afternoon with a Fantastic Cities coloring book and Tutti Frutti rainbow-colored pencils


Last week on a particularly hot summer day my 12-year-old daughter and her friend decided to avoid the outdoors and spent the afternoon coloring the pages of Fantastic Cities. Not wanting to interrupt their chatter and flow as they filled in the intricate lines of artist Steve McDonald’s amazing urbanscapes, I waited until after dinner, then spent an hour coloring my own page. Fantastic Cities is a beautiful book of detailed pen-and-ink drawings of cities from around the world, including London, Paris, Toronto, Tokyo, San Francisco, New York, Istanbul and many others. And including some slivers of real places mixed with imaginative cityscape mandalas. With books like this, coloring is as much fun for adults as it is for kids!

The colored pencils I used come from Tutti Frutti, with a box design inspired by Italian packaging. The set comes with 12 double-sided pencils with a total of 6 colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple). I’m not sure why they repeat colors rather than give us 24 different shades, but the feel when pressing color to paper is wonderfully smooth and buttery. Unlike a jumbo box of Crayola crayons, Tutti Frutti doesn’t supply you with a pencil sharpener, so make sure you have your own (an automatic sharpener works best).

Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imagined by Steve McDonald Chronicle Books 2015, 60 pages, 11.5 x 11.8 x 0.4 inches (paperback) $11 Buy one on Amazon

Tutti Frutti Pencils by Princeton Architectural Press 12 double-sided pencils, 6 colors $13 Buy one on Amazon

See more sample pages from this book at Wink. Read the rest

Excellent Japanese pencil case


My older daughter and I both like to sketch. We sometimes go the the Art Directors Guild's figure drawing sessions here in Los Angeles on Tuesday nights (only $10!) or we sit on the floor of her room and sketch whatever we want. (I like to use old black-and-white photos I find online for reference.)

To store my pencils, charcoals, lead holder, erasers, snap-blade knife, and reading glasses I bought a Lihit Lab Teffa "book style" pencil case ($13 on Amazon). It's not large, but it's designed with "pages" to hold your stuff efficiently. Pens and pencils fit behind straps, and smaller stuff can be stashed in the mesh pouches.

Below, a couple of my recent sketches.

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Artisanal pencil shop opens in Lower Manhattan


Caroline Weaver likes pencils so much she has a tattoo of a pencil on her arm. Weaver is the owner of the newly opened C. W. Pencil Enterprise, a preciously tiny retail store in Lower Manhattan. From Molly Young's NY Times profile:

The store is organized with the space-saving rigor of a ship’s cabin. Pencils are displayed upright in glass jars labeled with their origin: Japan, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Tennessee. Framed vintage advertisements on the wall depict the likes of Booth Tarkington shilling his favorite pencils. (Tarkington’s advice to young writers: “Use pencils. Write on thick paper. Sharpen two or three dozen rather soft pencils before you work. Use pencils with erasers on them — and use the erasers!”)

The store has an impressive inventory of dead stock (which you can order online). A 1950s era Blackwing 602 runs $60.

(Thanks, Sally!) Read the rest

Gweek podcast 134: Minecraft Raspberry Pi

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In each episode of Gweek, I invite a guest or two to join me in a discussion about recommended media, apps, and gadgets. This time my guests were Clive Thompson, a science and technology journalist, whose new book is Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better, and Ruben Bolling, author of the weekly comic strip Tom the Dancing Bug, which premieres each week on Boing Boing, and pre-premiers for members of his Inner Hive.

This episode of Gweek is brought to you by:

Hover, the best way to buy and manage domain names. Get a 10% discount when you go to Hover and use the code TREASUREMAP.

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Show Notes:

Clives's picks:

The Gorgeous Nothings, a book that reprints 52 of Emily Dickinson’s poems that she wrote on the backs of used envelopes.

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Excellent old pencil ad in Life magazine (1964)

Michael Leddy of Orange Crate Art wrote about his favorite pencil, the Eberhard Faber Mongol (ad copy: “writers say it actually stimulates flow of thoughts”), and included this attractive 1964 Life magazine ad for the Mongol and other Eberhard Faber products.

My two favorite parts: the Mongol's twin-pack packaging, and the copy for the Colorbrite pencils ("Intense Color at a feather touch"). Read the rest

Intricate sculptures carved from pencils

Cerkahegyzo is a Hungarian tool maker. In his spare time, he uses "needles, razor blades, sandpaper, files, and polishing stones" to carve pencils into works of art. Twisted Sifter has a gallery of his incredible work. Read the rest

David Rees is getting bored sharpening pencils at $35 apiece

David Rees, author of How to Sharpen Pencils: A Practical & Theoretical Treatise on the Artisanal Craft of Pencil Sharpening, has a pencil sharpening service. He charges $35 to sharpen each pencil. To date he has sharpened 1,804 pencils. But he is growing weary of the work and is thinking about closing the business.

"The whole point of the business is to remind people to appreciate yellow, No. 2 pencils because they're really cool and interesting," he said. "And to make a ton of money."

But at this point, work feels like work.

"You do anything long enough for money, it just starts to become a job," he said.

So as he nears the nice round number of 2,000 sharpenings, Rees suggested that soon he'd like to clean out his sharpeners for good, leaving the world a much duller place.

New York man sharpens pencils for $35 a pop Read the rest

Pencil revolution

Here is the best website about pencils. The Atlantic's Rebecca J. Rosen sings its praises:

So, the obvious question is, why pencils? What is it about pencils that merit this sort of attention, this level of devotion? Johnny Gamber, the site's creator and leader, answered that for me over email. What draws him to pencils are "their relative simplicity." But, at that same time, that simplicity obscures an object that, as Gamber sees it, is "amazing," if you just look closely enough. "While mostly made of wood, graphite and clay, they are wonders of engineering," he writes. "Even terrible pencils are made with astounding precision.

Yes, of course, the author loves our house instrument, the Blackwing 602. Read the rest

Perfectly sharpened pencils

I use soft pencils and I bear down hard when I write. As a result, I have to resharpen the pencils frequently. A few years ago I came across this pocket-size two-hole pencil sharpener and now swear by it. It produces very sharp points and does so efficiently.

Hole 1 shaves just the pencil’s wood casing , exposing (but barely touching) the graphite. You are left with a cylinder of graphite sticking out of the pencil tip, as shown below. Read the rest

The "Perfect Pencil"

Faber Castell's Perfect Pencil is described by the ad copy as "the culmination of the history of the pencil", which somehow does not quite prepare one for the eye-watering $240 price tag—or that of the $500 gift set! Don't worry, though: refills are only $50. [via Uncrate]

Previously: The new Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil is a fine tribute to the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602. Read the rest

Underlord with two minions, a pencil sculpture

5star's Lords of Graphite is a series of sculptures made from pencil segments: "The vision that haunts me still is a landscape of dark brooding mystic air - raw rough lines drawn forcefully throughout by the Lords of Graphite." Read the rest

Teacher bans pencils

An elementary school in Massachusetts prohibited sixth-grade students from carrying "any writing implements" not given to them by teachers. Those who carried their own pencils were assumed to be building "weapons." The ban has since been rescinded. [Telegram] Read the rest

Sharpie liquid pencil

Sharpie is to sell a 'liquid pencil,' a pen with erasable ink made from graphite that only becomes permanent after three days' exposure to the air. In the meantime, it may be rubbed out with a standard eraser. It'll hit stores this fall. Introducing The NEW Sharpie LIQUID PENCIL [Sharpie via Wired] Update: WordPressfail. Updated link to point to google cache. Read the rest