Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Bohemia Works Afcan

I found this the other day in my pencil pot - I must have bought it in Prague earlier this year.

Afcan - odd name!  Is it supposed to be African?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Daler Rowney Artists Sketching

A very modern-looking pencil I thing. The paint is thin, and thinly applied which gives the pencil a 'green' feel to it, in the ecological sense of the word. The core is soft and wide, and clearly for sketching, not for writing.  The glossy black hood, and silver rim denote quality.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Cumberland Graphite

These are made by Derwent,who refer to them as every-day pencils. I suppose that's right, certainly they are not ambitious pencils, but they write perfectly well, these F grades being a little hard for me, I imagine the HB would be slightly kinder to write with. However the paint is solid, the silver cap is smart, if a little wrinkled and these pencils do the job asked of them

Thursday, 18 November 2010

More Cheap-and-Nasty Pencils

Well, that's it really. Cheap, and Nasty.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Bought in different shop in last few months, different brand names but otherwise identical.  These are cheap every-day pencils with scratchy core.  Presumably somewhere in China there is a pencil factory where someone amuses themselves by periodically changing the text being stamped on the pencils.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Royal Sovereign ~Wolffs' ~ Iron Duke ~ Hard Copying Pencils

This was a recent eBay purchase which I was very happy with! - it's a box of beautiful Brtish Pencils from early 20th Century.

The pencils are round, with lovely, rich blue-grey metallic colour, with delicate gold lettering, and factory-sharpened with a flat angle, giving a stubbier point than hand sharpening would yield.

And there is something VERY unusual about them: do you see what it is?

The text is right-handed on one side, and left handed on the other.  That's to say each pencil contains both right and left-handed text.  That's something I don't recall ever seeing before.

Here's some close-ups  (note to self, I need a macro lens for christmas, and to find some better way of lighting a pencil)

Stunning. The core is thick and black and is (I would guess) a H or F hardness.

The Iron Duke was of course the Duke of Wellington, victor over Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, placing this pencil firmly in the tradition of military pencils popular in the US (Ticonderoga, General).

Many eBay purchases disappoint (more on that to come in future posts...) but this box I count as one of my best buys for a long time.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Eberhard Faber Van Dyke

Not a pencil that I have in my collection, unfortunately, but I was reminded of by the publicity surrounding the launch of the Palomino BlackWing last month.

Interesting to see another pencil with a pull-out and replacable eraser. I imagine pencil owners chopped up erasers to create a piece that would fit into the ferrule?  I wonder if the ferrules for these pencils were the same component, or manfactured centrally.

So, a question for pencil collectors - are there any other pencils, other than the Van Dyke and the Blackwing, with this feature? If you have an example of both, how do the ferrules compare?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Summer Pencil Shopping

Over the summer I went to the south coast - Rye, East Sussex and Canterbury. In each town I found small stationery shops and intrigued the owners by buying two or three of every different pencil they had for sale.

Here's my summer's total pencil purchases - Twickenham, Rye & Canterbury, summer 2010.  I'll take a closer look at some of these in forthcoming posts, but I thought it would be interesting for any US readers to see the wide variety of colours that are used in European pencils - for it's only in the US, you see, that all pencils are yellow.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Recent Purchases

These are from the same shop in Twickenham that I found the crackle-free Venus: four strange pencils lurking among the ubiquitous Staedtler Traditions

I show them together because they illustrate a pretty standard oddments haul from a UK Stationery shop. I think that independent shops regularly receive samples and previews - and simply sell them off.

The Helix Oxford is an unusual pencil to see on sale loose - the Oxford brand is better known for sets of mathematical instruments to be used at school. This particular pencil doesn't appear on the Helix website, so perhaps it is discontinued (or new?). The wood is a curious red colour, and I will return to this pencil again in the next few posts.

Fox Essentials is (I think) a random 'brand' stamped on some undistinguished Chinese pencil - I have other identical pencils stamped with different names.

Rexel is well known stationery brand - but their website makes no mention of pencils. Considering it is cheap this pencil is actually quite attractive - plain wood well finished and lightly lacquered and a smart navy blue painted cap.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602

I seem to the be the only pencil blogger in the world who hasn't been sent a pre-production version of the new Palomino Blackwing.  :-(,  but the fuss prompted me to have a look and see what old Blackwings I can find.

Just one!  I am certain I have a box of them somewhere, but up in the attic this afternoon I couldn't find it. Here is the only sample I could locate

The colours don't come out well on these picture (taken outside in the shade on a sunny day) but the pencil is grey in colour, with gold lettering.  It's unsharpened so I haven't tested the famous, smooth writing experience that it is famous for.

On thing that surprises me is that the angle of the flattened ferrule doesn't line up with the faces of the hexagonal pencil. That seems a little cheap to me.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

A Venus with no crackle

The Venus pencil is a design classic that all collectors will be familiar with. In my collection I have many versions of the pencil, bearing many manufacturers' brands (an idea of for another post!)

One feature all Venus Pencils have in common is the 'crackle' finish.

Apart from this one of these two - both of which I bought yesterday in Twickenham, UK.

A plain green Venus! Interesting!  Is it a mistake? Are Venus pencils going to lose their crackle? Surely not.

Have you seen any like this where you live ?

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A collection of Hardtmuths

The most common Hardmuth pencils are Koh-I-Noor and Mephisto - but they have made plenty of other pencils.  Here is a selection bought in Prague in 2010 including a Colonel which I haven't seen before, as well as left-handed Eros, and smart-looking aubargine coloured Dessin

As always there are even more Hardmuths on Bob Truby's site (but no Colonel)

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Brevillier Urban

Another unusual brand, purchased in the Czech Republic but made (I suspect) in Austria. The Consul model is not listed in brand-name pencils, but you can see from the models Bob does have that the name fits in well with the collection's Roman theme.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Prague - the one that got away

For some reason I passed up the opportunity to purchase this display item from Hardtmuth; perhaps next time.

The ones that got away


Monday, 21 June 2010

Pencil Heroes #1 : Nicolas-Jacques Conté (1755-1805)

The first of my heroes is Nicolas Conté, the man who can truly be said to be the inventor of the modern lead pencil. Prior to Conté’s time pencils had almost all been made from lumps of pure graphite, mined from the Borrowdale mine in England and sawed into strips that were then encased in wood. In 1794 all this changed when Conté, already a famous inventor and scientist was charged by his patron, Carnot, to invent a substitute for the now expensive and difficult to come by pure English graphite. It took him just 8 days to produce a workable lead. In just over a week he had invented what was to become known as the Conté process: a way to make pencil leads from powdered graphite and clay that us still, essentially, used today

Previous attempts to use graphite in powdered form (perhaps from material extracted from low quality ore in poorer mines, or in an attempt to use the waste products generated by sawing and cutting) had always foundered but Conté worked out how to mix graphite in powdered form with clay, and bake it, in such a way that not only did he produce a usable lead, but was able to make leads in varying degrees of hardness.

Nicholas Conté was, however more than just a pencil maker. He was a painter, chemist, physicist and engineer: a scientist of some repute. His reputation as an expert in balloon warfare ensured his inclusion in the party of some 200 academics and scientists to accompany Napoleon on his expedition to Egypt in 1798. On this expedition Napoleon and his forces conquered Egypt, uncovered the sphinx (which was previously almost buried under the desert) and discovered and deciphered the Rosetta Stone. Conté himself set up workshops outside Cairo where he manufactured saltpetre, bugles and, most impressively, machine tools for use in the factories set up by the invading French.When Conté demonstrated his hot air balloons to the astonished Egyptians they concluded that he was in league with the devil.

As well as his process for mixing leads, Conté is also generally credited with inventing the machinery needed to make round leads, and he can truly be said to be the creator of the pencil. Indeed, for about 100 years, pencils in France were known as the crayons Conté and of course pencils continue to be made with the Conté brand name to this day.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Grafo Conqueror

Grafo is a little-known Czech brand. This pencil dates from 1918-1989 when the country Czechoslovakia existed.

I am struck the by the typography: not CONQUEROR but CON-QUE-ROR.  Presumably this is meant to be reminiscent of the well-known KOH-I-NOOR pencils.

Monday, 7 June 2010

New Czech Pencils

I found one good stationery shop in Prague, where I bought all of these new pencils.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Virginia Woolf goes Pencil Hunting

Virginia Woolf - by CHRISTIAAN TONNIS  
No one perhaps has ever felt passionately towards a lead pencil. But there are circumstances in which it can become supremely desirable to possess one; moments when we are set upon having an object, an excuse for walking half across London between tea and dinner. As the foxhunter hunts in order to preserve the breed of foxes, and the golfer plays in order that open spaces may be preserved from the builders, so when the desire comes upon us to go street rambling the pencil does for a pretext, and getting up we say: "Really I must buy a pencil," as if under cover of this excuse we could indulge safely in the greatest pleasure of town life in winter--rambling the streets of London.
Well, I don't think we can let that first sentence go without contradiction, but in all other respects compelling. The rest of the essay is here .

Many a pencil hunting outing of mine is brought to mind - the narrow streets above Wall Street in Manhattan where still some small independent stationers exist; the flea markets of North Paris; the Old Town in Prague, the magnificent stationery stores of Tokyo.

London is missing a stationery shop - a real, serious one.

Friday, 28 May 2010

I buy and swap pencils

If you have brand name pencils to sell, or to swap I am interested

Buying - I buy brand name writing pencils in all quantities including singles, boxes or entire collections

Swaps - I am working on my catalog and duplicate list... but don't wait, if you would like to swap contact me

Do you collect advertising pencils? I have very large numbers, in many themes and I would be interested in swapping these for brand name writing pencils, possibly even many-for-one.

Pencils of special interest
- any pencils, new or old, from any country outside US and Europe. I have very few Indian, South American or Asia-Pacific pencils and would be very interested in more
- left-handed pencils (where the text runs from cap to tip)
- old pencils

Monday, 24 May 2010

Communist Era Pencil

Narodni Podnik translates as National Enterprise. I am not sure if that counts as a brand. The pencil is unsharpened so I couldn't test it, but the production values evident in the finish don't promise much.
Bought - Prague 2010

Monday, 17 May 2010

Koh-i-Noor British Graphite

A pair of interesting pencils. The sharp edges, as well as the intriguing text, suggest they are fairly old.

British Graphite?  I wonder where that came from, the old graphite mines in Cumbria were exhausted long before these pencils were made.

They bring to mind another pair of pencils in my collection that mention the source of the graphite they contain - the infinitely more glamorous Alibert mines in Siberia. I will hunt them out and put a picture here soon

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Often Imitated

At work this morning I opened my desk drawer and spotted a pencil that looked very like the old Mars Lumograph I posted earlier this week: a MAJISCULE, a blatant copy of the Lumograph colour scheme.

I wondered how many other Lumograph look-a-likes I had in my collection, and a five minute search revealed these:

I guess it's a compliment to be copied.

Here you can see

  • MAJUSCULE H (a cheap pencil, bought in the UK)
  • MARS-LUMOGRAPH (UK, pretty standard)
  • MARS-LUMOGRAPH (Germany, left-handed)
  • MARS-DURALAH (a permanent marking pencil)
  • Paramount Diamond Drawing (I have no idea where I got this from)
I note that
  • Only one of these pencils uses lower case letters
  • Arnold, Paramount and Majiscule are all unknown to Bob Trudy I am doing well for unusual pencils in this blog so far :-)

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


An old Mars-Lumograph - the design has hardly changed since this was made - except that the font on this pencil is more serifed than modern Lumographs. Note that this is a left-handed pencil (text runs from head to tip) as indeed are many Staedlters
Purchased Prague 2010

Monday, 10 May 2010

L&C Hardtmuth Packaging

Bought in a junk shop in Prague, it is packaging for German markets,as revealed by the reverse. No hint of date.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Mephisto Pencils

In Prague I bought a number of Hardtmuth Mephisto pencils

Many, but not all, appear in Bob Truby's on-line catalog

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Good Intentions

This blog is new! I plan to post about once a week. If you were quick off the mark last month you may have seen some of my test posts, they will return.  Regular posing will commence as soon as Google starts indexing this site..

About the pencil: it's a large diameter, triangular school pencil. Linex, is that rare thing: a brand not listed on Bob Trudy's site. Google tells me the brand belongs to Bantex, an Australian company. I bought the pencil (it is new) in Prague.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Pencils from Prague

A brief holiday in Prague last week was enhanced by a very successful haul of old pencils. Just across Legii Most: a junk shop evidently sourced from house clearances and amongst the normal coins, china furniture and so on - some pencils. Most @5kc each, some @10Kc.  To the evident astonishment of the owner I bought almost all of them, and here they are

Prague Haul

Over the next few weeks I plan to write about some of the pencils I bought in this shop.


I started collecting pencils in the 1970s. It was a fairly random choice: I wanted to collect something, pencils were cheap and there are many different ones. Now I have 1000s

To begin with my focus was on places: the pencils were a momento of places we visted. Over time my interests changed and now I collect mainly brand name writing pencils.

This is a blog about collecting and about my collection.