Time for an adventure!

Get your kits together, because we are going on an adventure!  I am not going to jump the gun and make the entire rules and tools list now.  I will go ahead and add an item to it, but first… 

 
That’s right, I am going to see CW Pencil enterprises in New York City tomorrow!!! I’ll probably do quite a bit while I’m there but let’s face it, I’m going for the pencil store.

Step 1: ensure destination will be open.  Complete…11-7.  

Step 2: double check the weather. 

 
It is going to be cold, but I can handle cold.  Leads to step 3: get your clothes together.  For tomorrow I will be rocking a base layer from the army, we call them ninja suits, and wool socks, good leather boots, outer wear kuhl Ryder pants, Kuhl Thor fleece sweater, and a good wool pea coat.  Once you are dressed check your pockets for knives.

     That’s right it is time to break rule number 1.  The Amtrak web site says no knives whatsoever.  So we I guess by my own standards, while in New York I am a lifeless man.  Unless… 

 
Go ahead and add an umbrella to your gear list.  A good umbrella can make all the difference between an little rain and a ruined day.  Especially when that umbrella is the walking stick umbrella from Unbreakable Umbrella.  Observe.

That’s all I’m saying.  I’m putting my bag together as we speak.  Large camera that is a bit excessive-check, cash-check, list of ideas for after I have achieved pencil glory-good to go, head phones because no one on a 4 hour train ride likes that guy who forgot his head phones-check, couple of books-that’s a must.  Of course I will be obeying the rules about having pencils and a notebook and live updating about this basically all day.  I am not really sure what else to say.

  I’ve given you the basics of how you start something like this, you just have to put together the means and be willing to throw a couple of books and pipes in a bag and ride the rail, that’s the biggest part is being willing to go and do, get off of the couch and chase your passion whatever that may be. Watch for updates. 

Hrolf the Ganger

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The Blackwing 602 (Palomino)

Welcome back cultists of the crayon!  Today’s subject is the Blackwing 602 by Palomino.

First a little bit of background.  If you google terms along the lines of “best pencil in the world” or “world’s best pencil” or “pencil pricey enough to take two people to the movies for the price of a box,” odds are you will come up with the Blackwing 602.  Now they are very nice, but as you will see in the history portion of this, these pencils have a bit of a cult following, and it may be that following that drives them now.

The Blackwing pencil was originally produced by the Eberhart Faber company.  I did not find a start date for production, but Eberhart Faber opened in 1861 in New York City, the factory was located at the present site of the United Nations.  What we do know is that the pencil was produced up until 1994.  The problem was apparently the very iconic ferule and eraser.

The “paint brush” eraser is held in by a custom clip.  That clip (which you can see) was made by a custom machine, which in 1994 broke (wikipedia the blackwing for this) they may also have been victim to a decreasing market.  Either way the argument is that there were enough of these clamps to continue sales until 1998.  Then that was it, the original Blackwing was gone.  Now It was beloved by the likes of Stephen Sondheim and John Steinbeck, enough that their mention of the tool is enough to have created part of the cult following.  The most excellent article I have ever read about the Blackwing original (contained on a forum solely for posts about this specific pencil) is here.  I will not attempt to out do the author, as I am not here to talk about the old pencil, I am here to say they have been back for over three years and what I think of them.

Palomino resurrected this rather excellent pencil in 2012.  Now I have to be specific, their first attempt was just called the Blackwing and it was a tribute pencil.  Fans of the 602 were not pleased, they felt it strayed too far.  So Palomino came back with what we now call the 602.  They actually have three.  The blackwing (soft), the 602 (firm) and the pearl (balanced.)  I will only be covering the 602 today.

I am a little concerned about the pencils that they believe to be soft and balanced as I find the 602, their firm model to be a little soft.  The Japanese graphite found with in is not a let down, but the pencil does wear down somewhat quickly.  However a note on that, the pencil boasts “half the pressure, twice the speed.” It may be the part about half the pressure that is my issue, I am heavy handed and I know it.  ( I FEEL IT IN MY FINGAS…)  This is an incredibly smooth writing tool.  Also you can customize it by replacing the eraser with different colored ones.  I first sharpened up about half the box of twelve.

This will be fairly standard practice for this blog.  I used the brass bullet, the two stage feature of an M+R Tri hole, a Kum magnesium, and my new double burr hand crank.  Now I was afraid to feed that hand crank a 602 as it is still being broken in, but I suppose the fear drove me to be more careful.  After sharpening I went to work.  The new torture test for new pencils will be thirty minutes of cursive practice.  Yes I am an adult who does not know how to write in cursive, I am working on it.  There will probably be a post about it.

Each block of practice was done with a different point, the winner was the tri-hole as it creates a somewhat flat and not brittle point (similar to what I imagine of the El Casco) with the double burr coming in close second.  I still say these pencils wear down fast, but again that sweet smooth ride makes up for it, and I also wield a pencil like a club.  Ferule and all it measured in at eight inches.  The silver finish is incredibly smooth as well.  Again this is not a pencil you stumble onto, it is something you hear about.  Your perceptions may be influenced by those who told you about this piece of wiring greatness.  It is made of California cedar, and Japanese graphite.  Palomino makes lots of pencils (more reviews to come.)  You have to want it with these, they are about 25$ per twelve.

It rated in at an easy B grade (the graphite) I wouldn’t call it an HB and this lends a little validity to my argument that they wear down quickly.  However I am a junkie of the first order.  I am easy to please when it comes to things I am passionate about, and I am easily effected by the Blackwing cult.  As so this will be the standard of a pencil for me.  This is not your work horse, it is a treat.  They can be found on Amazon (if they are in stock) cwpencils.com, and eBay.  I hope you start spotting them in my photos soon.  Have a happy New Year.

Hrolf the Ganger

The Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB

I have espoused to you before my great love of the wooden pencil.  Now that I am on a short break from school I am going to get down to some straight blogging.  First post will be about one of my great passions, the wooden pencil.  Today’s subject, as the title suggests, is The Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB yellow pencil.

 This is THE yellow pencil.  is what people think of when they think of pencils.  That wonderful school yellow, the smell of cedar, a nice pinkish eraser…brings up great memories of Ms. Norris and Ms. Gentry/Carmona in their various grades at John H. Allen Elementary School, Soddy Daisy Tennessee.

I cannot explain to you the love of pencils, maybe I am just a technophobe (I have some pens as well that are not by any means standard, but its the pencil that I love) this is my drug.  It is like that feeling when a pain killer kicks in, there is a thrill to a new pencil.  My wife got The Ganger a subscription to CW Pencil Enterprises Pencil of the Month club.  The last year they will be doing of the club as a matter of fact.  I have considered going into this enterprise for myself, I will think it over. Anyhow for me pencils are euphoria, and the wonderful ladies at CW Pencil Enterprises, New York City, are a bastion of civilization.  I am planning a train trip to New York soon and that will be worth of a post all to itself.

People discover this obsession in various ways.  For my good friend Carl it was rather by accident.  He observed my engaging my senses with a pencil…in other words I forgot he was in the room when I decided to smell a pencil (most likely a Ticonderoga) what could I do but tell him to smell it.  His response, in true Carl fashion, was to smell the pencil and say “yep that is a number two pencil.)  For my peers at school they either observe my locking pencil case, or in the case of Andrew, he was nearly knocked off the walkway when I crossed by him suddenly to snatch an abandoned pencil off the ground.  For the rest of that class the moment arrived when they found out they would need pencils to complete the final, pencils they didn’t have as they all carry pens, and i was able to shout “MY DAY HAS COME!” while holding up my pencil case.  However the moment comes for you when your friends and family realize that you are a Crayonophile (working custom term) you will learn who truly loves you.

 The Dixon Ticonderoga company was founded in or around 1795 by Joseph Dixon.  They do make other pencils than just Ticonderoga, usually under the name Dixon, but this is all about the Ticonderoga.  The name Ticonderoga didn’t come in until 1815, thats where the Graphite Ore was processed, Ticonderoga New York.  For a long time the packaging sported an awesome picture of a minute man.  I speculate that this is an obvious reference to all the ‘Merica reference to Fort Ticonderoga.  The Ticonderoga pencil began being cranked out in New Jersey (around the time the name came about) and became an American Staple.

 Now for that American part…The pencil is no longer manufactured in America.  However I have not noticed a downturn in quality from the globalization of this pencils manufacture.  I have not found any sources that say that their foreign labor practices are unfair or equate to slavery so with those concerns put to rest, we won’t get into my thoughts on outsourcing jobs, we will just accept that we live in a global world ( you are reading a blog…).

The Ticonderoga’s stats.

  • Length: 7.7 inches
  • diameter: 3 centimeters (best measurement I will improve soon)
  • color: yellow
  • logo: green
  • ferule: this is where the signature of the maker is to be found (at least in this instance) the Ticonderoga ferule is always green with two yellow bands at the top and bottom, making Ticonderoga pencils instantly identifiable. 
  • Material: PEFC certified cedar
  • Special features: one of Ticonderoga’s features is that their pencils finish has Microban, which prevents the growth of bacteria on the pencil (they intend for you to have them for a while.
  • The hardness claims to be HB.  Pencil grading is not an exact science.  I choose to use the HB scale (chart found on pencils.com) and I check my pencils against the scale physically.  I agree this one is close to HB give or take a grade. 

With all the grading scales out there the words “Number 2 pencil” do not really mean a lot.  However in this case the pencil, in my opinion, rates HB as in hard and black.  Later you will see number two pencils that will easily fall into the 8 or 9 range. Basically the harder the pencil the less of a mark it will leave, and the less it will need to be sharpened.  The softer the pencil the darker the mark with less pressure, but the more you will need to sharpen it.

**UPDATE** I forgot to say this earlier.  Fun historical note.  This was the favorite pencil of author Roald Dhal.  When he went back to England he had them shipped over.

The Ticonderoga #2, HB yellow pencil (note I did not say soft) is in conclusion always a winner.  I would call it a 4 star pencil, but I will give it 5 for consistency. The eraser is everything that you need.  I usually keep stick erasers around because I hate to have a pencil with no eraser on it, but this nice pink number will take away the mistake with little streaking. That is the point (take what you will from the pun) the fancy pencils might have some faults or something quirky about them, but the Ticonderoga is almost always consistent and you can get them for a reasonable price…depending on where you look.  The standard I’ve seen is about three dollars to twelve pencils, but at a Walgreens I saw them for eight dollars for 12 which is ridiculous.  This teachers dream can even be found in nice large bulk boxes and one day I will buy one just for the fun of it.  Grab a Ticonderoga and engage your senses.  If you love pencils you will keep this in your arsenal the way that I do.  Get these in your adventure pack.

Hrolf The Ganger

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