The time I risked my life borrowing a 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 a member in good standing 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 available on Amazon, and reviewers love them. I bought one a few years ago and is a pleasure to use and not get 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

A darn good 25-cent mechanical pencil

Carla ordered these cheap Bic mechanical pencils. I tried one out and I actually like it a lot. The lead diameter is 0.9 mm and it has a number 2 lead inside. It also contains one extra lead in the barrel. A 24-pack sells for about $.25 a pencil. They are supposed to be disposable, but why not buy a bunch of 9 mm lead for cheap and keep using the pencil? You can even get colored leads! Read the rest

Great deal on the Rotring 500 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil

Amazon has a good deal on the Rotring 500 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil. It's [amazon_link asins='B00C1YNBQS' template='PriceLink' store='boingboing' marketplace='US' link_id='4f29a100-962d-4299-802a-4b3bc218b0b2'].

Here's a video review of the 500:

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Here are a few different way to use pencils to the very end

Design website Core77 has an article about different ways to use a wooden pencil to the very end. First, though, take a look at this parsimonious person's pencil, which represents the cheapest and arguably easiest way to extend the life of a pencil:


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A post shared by Elizabeth Ingram (@lonestarclassroom) on Sep 5, 2019 at 4:55pm PDT

If you can't deal with a pencil this small, the article has other suggestions: pencil extenders (I can vouch for them), gluing a sub onto a new pencil, and using a remarkable Japanese pencil-joining tool call the Tsunago:

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Hand-making 1,000 pencils from pallet wood

Pallet wood pencils. Genius! Read the rest

Great deal on 36 pack of Crayola colored pencils

I keep a pack of Crayola colored pencils in my bag.

This is a good deal the 36 pack for about the price of the 10. I keep a pack in my travel carry-on, incase I am overcome by the urge to sketch something.

My ability to draw anything is very limited, but not by the pencils.

I also love the watercolor colored pencils.

Crayola Colored Pencils, 36 Premium Quality via Amazon Read the rest

Watch: carving a pencil from a pencil from a pencil

Bobby Duke carved a pencil into magnificent recursion. He calls it "Pencil Inception."

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A lovely leather pencil roll

Organize your pens and pencils rather than poke holes in your pockets! Read the rest

A brief history of pencil lead

Courtesy of the YouTube channel Skunk Bear. Read the rest

This tool connects pencil stubs together

The Tsunago pencil sharpener lets you "chain smoke" your pencils by connecting pencil stubs together. The Tsunago ("let's connect") has three blades. One sharpens like a normal pencil sharpener. Another bores a hole in the bottom of one stub. The third makes a plug in the other stub. All you need is a bit of wood glue to keep the pencil pieces stuck together.

Here's some who used the sharpener for a courageous Blackwing pencil rescue.

(Thanks, Kent!) Read the rest

Low cost mechanical pencil with a hard-to-break tip

My problem with mechanical pencils is that I break the lead tips constantly. I'm not the only one who dislikes mechanical pencils for this reason. In the past, mechanical pencil makers have tried to solve this problem by creating lead formulations that resist snapping, but these kinds of "unbreakable" lead have a plastic feel that's unappealing.

Last year Zebra, a Japanese company, introduced a new $(removed) mechanical pencil with a dual-spring tip that allows the lead to flex under pressure without breaking. In the video below, someone presses a mechanical pencil against a scale and the tip breaks when the scale gets to 1kg. Then they use a Zebra DelGuard pencil and the lead doesn't break until the scale gets to 5kg.

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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 $(removed)!) 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 ($(removed) 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

Your browser doesn't support the HTML audio tag. You can still download the show, though!

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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.

99designs, the world’s largest online marketplace for graphic design. Visit and get a $(removed) Power Pack of services for free.

GET GWEEK: RSS | On iTunes | Download episode | Stitcher

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

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