The Pencil

I inherited a love for stationery from my dad; I’ve made no secret of that over the years.  I’ve had an affinity for writing instruments–ballpoint pens, in particular–since I was a young boy.  My dad instilled in me a love for the Parker Jotter, a fine ballpoint if ever there was one.  As a schoolboy, I favoured the classic Bic–sometimes straying into Papermate territory, but always returning to the Bic.

Over the years, I accumulated quite the collection of both “fine” refillable pens (Parker, Cross, Schaeffer, etc.) and cheap disposables.  I was always in search of the perfect pen, but that journey always brought me back to the Parker Jotter and the Bic.

In recent years, I have begun to recognize the pointlessness of collecting–in fact, I realized I had a deep distaste for accumulation, which (ironically) was vexed by my concommitant compulsion to buy more pens.  So I worked at losing that habit.  But I’m not stationery sober.

As I write this, I anxiously await the arrival of a box of 12 ForestChoice #2 unpainted Incense-cedar pencils, which I purchased online.  Apparently they write like (almost) no other pencil.  Where did this new compulsion come from?  I’ve always liked pencils.  My handwriting is noticably better with a pencil than a ballpoint pen (fountain pens are nice, but I find they need to be positioned awkwardly to write) and there was just something about a plain old pencil…so simple, so earthy, so malleable.  But people didn’t write with pencils–certainly not in professional and academic settings, or so I thought.

I’ve dabbled in the pencil world–trying out and liking very much the classic Dixon Ticonderoga and the Mirado (which I recently discovered has a wax-infused core for smoothness!).  But what sparked this?  I confess: I think it was Murray, band manager (Flight of the Conchords), who always has a Ticonderoga in hand for band meetings (“Brett?”  “Present.”  “Jemaine?”  “Present.”  “Murray?  Present.”)  That got me thinking again about the pencil as a primary writing instrument.  And then I read somewhere about pencils and pads being given out for high-profile executive meetings and that sealed the deal.  Who cares if a pencil can be erased?  Why does the pen get all the prestige? It’s a legitimate primary writing tool, folks!

So I eagerly await the unasssumingly packaged set of 12 #2 unpainted Incense-cedar graphite pencils by ForestChoice.

And in the meantime, I’ve also ordered (don’t tell Dixie) a package of six Palomino pencils, which are also, apparently, quite something.  They are crafted in Japan by a renowned pencil maker.  So they say.

And also in the meantime, 14 reasons (woodcase) pencils are awesome:

1. They are natural — wood and graphite.  Can’t get more natural than that.  Pens: plastics, inks, chemicals, etc.

2. They are simple.  Wood + graphite = pencil.  Well, technically, just graphite stick = pencil.

3. They are erasable.  I know there are erasable pens, but how many people do you know who use them?  They must not work well.

4. It ages with you.  What I mean is, you can see a pencil age in a way that the draining ink in a clear-barrelled pen does not allow.  The pencil gets shorter, the print on the sides wears out, it gets covered in teeth marks, etc.

5. Pencils are somewhat edible.

6. No surprise empties.  You’re not likely to pick up a pencil to write something only to discover its out of lead (unless it’s mechanical).  This will happen with a pen, all the time.

7. Pencils don’t dry up.  If you can see graphite, it will write.  Not so with ink.

8. Pencils make that delightful scratching noise as you write.

9. Better handwriting

10. I can use a pencil to underline and mark books in good conscience.  I cannot use a pen.

11. A pencil will not leave a stain in your pocket.

12. A pencil is, arguably, more environmentally friendly (largely made of natural products–I can toss a pencil and feel no worse about it than if I was tossing a branch and some rocks).

13. Any pencil will write upside down.

And, finally, some pencil-related blogs:

8 thoughts on “The Pencil

  1. Ky

    Here’s another pencil pro: the writing lasts longer. Pen fades and runs and can actually damage the material it writes on. That’s why they use pencils in archives.

  2. Toni

    ‘Interesting’ URL from MayB there.

    My ex-MD was sent a catalogue of ‘nice’ things to buy for the well-heeled. It included a box of 4 pencils for the equivalent of about $25. I’m sure they were very nice pencils.

  3. Marc

    Clever, Andrew! There already is such a thing–the Parker Jotter mechanical pencil. I’ve owned a couple. But when I say “pencil”, I mean the woodcase kind, rather than mechanical.

  4. Andrew

    No, I realize they exist – I wondered why your love of both pen and pencil would not result in the natural choice of the mechanical pencil.

  5. Marc

    You’d think it would, wouldn’t you? There’s certainly logic to your question. Strangely, I’ve never really appreciated mechanical pencils–and when I use them, I prefer the cheapie Bics.

  6. Lyn

    I recall hearing a story about Americans spending money to try to develop a pen that would write in the weightless atmosphere of space, while the Russians simply packed pencils to use up there….not sure if it’s fact or fiction, though.

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