say it with pencils

Bob Truby's Brand Name Pencils is a bit of an enigma. Although it's obviously a serious collectors blog it's refreshingly clean, spiffy and well-designed. We don't get to know much about Bob or about the endeavor of pencil collecting in general, but I sure like what I see: colors! whimsical finishes! odd names! Deco-ish scripts! The giddy delight I have in seeing all these pencils (142 different brands) goes beyond my affinity for anything in gridded multiples, there's something slyly charming going on here. We tend to forget that although the storied "No.2" pencil looms large in the common psyche there are in fact No.1s, 3s and 4s, Hs, HBs, and Bs—a factor of the softness grade of the graphite. There's more to this story. Surely there should be more links to pencil history?!

Update: A friend alerted me to this paean to pencils on Kottke, which in turn pointed me to Pencil Revolution, a website for hardcore pencil aficionados. While I'm not as zealous as they are, I certainly enjoy the feel of graphite on paper and definitely appreciate the details in my own way... Amongst the comments on the kottke piece are references to two pencil aspects I do feel strongly about, the scourge of dried out erasers that skitter across the page leaving smeary trail, and the delights of sharpening. When I was little we had a heavy steel school sharpener (what is the statute of limitations for pilfering from the Board of Education?). I liked everything about it-- the articulated hand crank, the sphincter-like opening that held the pencil in place, and inside, the rotary sharpening blades were a marvel. I liked the delicate tendrils of of the wood shavings and their distinctive smell. It was built like a tank and I got a sense of satisfaction every time I emptied the chamber. Anyone else have pencil memories to share?
[All images from Bob Truby's Brand Name Pencils]

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