The El Casco M-430

Today I joined the erasable podcast community on Facebook.  I began sharing some pictures of Liam and I getting my kit ready for the start of the coming semester.  A member excitedly commented on one of my photos that he had never seen an El Casco in the wild before.  What he was referring to is my El Casco M-430 Desktop Double Burr Handcrank Pencil Sharpener.


Why are they so rare you may ask? The ballpark retail price is around 500$.  That’s a steep price for a pencil sharpener.  Why would anyone engage in this? It is either the best or the cult status of it has everyone convinced it is the best.  I’m going with it is the best.  I learned things I needed to know about my pencils from this pencil sharpener.  Let us start with the beginning of how I learned of them to the end point of owning one.

First I read about it in the book How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees.  I won’t go hunt for the exact quote but Rees described it as one of the three things he owned that cost more than 500$, the other two being his house and car.  This is paraphrasing, hunt the quote if you wish.  He sang this sharpeners praises.  I immediately looked them up and then stopped looking at them.  The price tag was more than I was willing to go in for no matter my great love of pencils.


I started to consistently watch them on eBay and read and Re read the point of the whole thing (pun fully intended) which is that it is the best, it has a window that allows you to watch the pencil being sharpened, it creates a flat and consistent thickness writing point on your pencil, comes with four point settings, suctions to the table, has a telescoping opening for the pencil that will fit just about anything you can feed it and a file on the shavings drawer for customizing those flat points if you must.

 Fast forward some.  It’s on my bucket list to at least try one, one day.  I tell my friends about them as if they are the dream car I will one day but when I’m rich.  I often recieve an “oh geez” from my friend Sarah at school.  My wife went to look at getting one for me for Christmas this year, she saw the price tag and laughed and signed me up for the last big run of the CW Pencil Enterprises pencil of the month club instead, which in my opinion was the better choice, not to impune the El Casco.

I had developed a habit of scanning eBay for them every so often.

  1. There were never many of them, mane three or four at any given time.
  2. They were either perfect or beaten to death, none that were just well loved.
  3. They all started with an opening bid of at least 150$, usually 250$.
  4. They all sold and it was always close to 400$ even for the ones a car had ran over.

Then I came across the one that I have.  Opening bid? 45$.  This can’t be right.  The seller has only 15 feedback, the sharpener was a littler dirty, description read and I quote “good condition” the window appeared scratched beyond repair, and the seller would not respond to any emails about it.  I watched t anyways.  The day came.  I threw a bid in.  One guy bid one time to test the waters.  That was it no more at all, I didn’t even have to fight for it.  In the end I gambled a total of 57$.  I was shocked that I had won.  So imagine my surprise when it arrived in perfect working order and cleaned up with a little windex.  That’s right a fully functioning El Casco M-430 for 57$.  Now for the review.

It weighs 3lbs, you could brain someone with it.  The window is cool, but you can barely ever see the pencils, still cool but you just get a full view of the burrs turning.


There is some pencil on the middle left, that’s about what you see.  The telescoping opening is pretty sweet, I don’t even hold the pencil most of the time.


The suction base works surprisingly well.  It has a lever that you flip over and you can feel it secure to the table as you push the lever down.  Sometimes I have to work to get the sharpener off the table and it leave no damage.


In general the sharpening experience is beyond amazing.  It does what you expect in a perfect world.  It doesn’t continue to eat the pencil like some of the newer ones do, so no wasted pencil, and as you crank it gradually becomes smoother until it feels like you are doing nothing at all.  The best however is the point settings.

It has four.  They vary in graphite exposure length and thickness.  To change them you pull the spring held wheel, rotate the pin into the slot of the pictured point you wish to achieve and that’s it, let go of the wheel.  I will show all four choices.  I am starting with four unsharpened Ticonderoga 2 HB pencils.

Point 1.


Point 2.


Point 3.


Point 4.

As you can see they become progressively shorter and thicker.  Note the flattened points.  This is one of the signatures of this machine.  I have a three hole magnesium hand sharpener that creates something similar.  This is a writing point.  I did not like it at first. Here is what I have learned by putting pencils through the torture test of me learning cursive (a later post).  These points do not break when you put them on the paper where the tip is thin.  These points are thick and strong, less total breaks period, not just less wonky points from where the end crumbled.  These points are not tapered for the most part, so while they start out thicker than a regular point they will remain the same consistent thickness throughout usage, gone are the days of your pencil gradually fattening and destroying your writing style.  Point one is my favorite.  If you feel you must there is a file on the shavings drawer.  It is not a fine grad file and has a learning curve, prepare to experiment.  I have been won over by these points.


No mocking my penmanship, but that point did that for almost three pages.  I am in love with this machine.  Altogether I sharpened 55 pencils with it today.  46 for school, 4 for this review, and 5 because why not.  The metal crank handle will leave you the makings of a callouse if you are marathoning like that.


I do not know what else to say that I haven’t said and I hope this helps your love of this machine or satisfies some of the craving.  If you wish to see one in person stop by CW Pencil Enterprises and observe through the glass the glory that is El Casco.  Enjoy and thank you for reading.

Hrolf the Ganger

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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

Rules and tools.

Welcome back.  It is time to go for the second part of this life is an adventure blog.  This is where the rules and tools of the trades come in.  This will strike you as a little zombieland or NCIS, but it is a good way to live.  My Uncle Fred will attest that I have kept a little note book of reminders since before the movie so laugh all you want, but I am still alive.  You are also about to get a birds eye view into things I spend too much time thinking about.  Anyhow let us get right into the good stuff.  Your necessary gear list starts now.  Feel free to write this down hahahahaha (you’ll understand in a moment.)

Necessary Gear

  1.  A knife.
  2. A notebook.
  3. A pencil.
  4. A bag.

So part 1 is a knife.  This is also rule 1.  Again this is not a tv joke.  Live by the quote  A knifeless man (woman) is a lifeless man (woman).  The best tool you can have is a knife.  Multipurpose endless ammunition survival tool never ending uses knife.  Also make a note this is not the place to go cheap.  Your knife is your life, think that through when you are pricing them.

  

Some of my favorite pieces.  You have the Gerber folding tanto based off the IDF fighting knife, A gerber multi tool w/knife, the ever handy much knocked off Victorinox prize bragging rights of the school yard Swiss Army Knife, Skallywag Tactical dagger (advanced users only), the Gerber Bear Grylls survival knife (one of the best despite the name on it), and the beast of the western fighting force the Ka-Bar fighting knife (advanced users only).  Not pictured is the Case Medium Stockman, and the classic Opinel #8.  One day when Im running short on material I will do an in depth on each and every one of these beauties will get the job done, with a couple of caveats.  1.  do not just rely on a multi took, in fact have one of each if at all possible.  I personally have a fixed blade stashed somewhere with a folder in my pocket.  Congratulations you have now started your everyday carry kit.  Now that I have said it once I will henceforth refer to it as EDC.  These tools are not just for adventuring, it is just life.  It is a wacky wacky world.

2.  You are on an adventure! this is your life! write it down.  You need a notebook!  (also yes this is part of why I thought telling you to write it down earlier was funny.)

I love notebooks.  I have one for everything.  I have a journal (you see it in pictures on this blog) I don’t keep so much of a journal for myself anymore…I will work it out.  Anyhow Journal, rule/gear book, a notebook tracking which books I have read (and when), I keep the books in a notebook, a bucket list notebook, a notebook for when I read the Bible, and one day I will have a notebook to track what each notebook is for.  My notebook of choice is the great Moleskine.  It was the simple product of choice for years of adventurers, artists, writers, and whatever your hobby is they probably have a notebook specifically for that.  In the photo you will see some various choices.  Once you have payed for a nice knife you can rest assured that a simple composition book will do.  Whatever it is, there is not quite any feeling like seeing those pages fill up and knowing that it is your life, your story you are writing down.  The simple and sturdy notebook should you choose Moleskine has what you need and no more, a ribbon page marker, lined pages, an elastic strap to keep it closed, and a little accordion pocket for the odds and ends you pick up along the way.

3.  Along with the notebook comes another one of my favorite things in life is the pencil.  Humble lovable pencil, or as some call it The Russian Space Pen.

The pencil is your stylus of choice for any reason you can list.  Do not get me wrong, I love pens too, but the pencil is the way to go.  Reasons you ask?  The pencil doesn’t quit working despite still having ink, it does not dry out, it is unaffected by weird gravity fluctuations (despite the whole space pen, Russian story being just that), they just have that classic feel in your hand, the ink does run when wet, you can erase (some people say thats a reason not to use them), and when/if it breaks or gets dull you can use the knife that you most certainly have to resharpen your pencil, and you will feel awesome for having done so.  I keep a pretty large stash of pencils with me at all times (with my notebooks).  Whats not to love about a good #2???  Some of my favorites? Ticonderoga and Mirdao.

4.  Last but not least, a bag.  You will need a bag to carry everything with you.  The knife, a small notebook, and pencils can go in your pocket, but you can put more in a bag.  A bag holds your various other goodies, stuff you find, or your whole life when you are out on a journey.  Back pack is my norm, but I also enjoy a good messenger bag for a day at school.

These are my two carry all, be all bags for most every day.  Pictured is a black Goruck GR1, and a line of trade messenger bag.  Both of them are top of the line, and their price can reflect it.  The Goruck is meant to carry more crap than you can come up with, and the line of trade while it holds plenty is meant to carry the bare essentials.  I use the go ruck for everything you can imagine, during the week it carries my lunch, gym clothes and shoes, water bottle, and thermos.  The line of trade carries note book, pencils, and every school book and notebook, and computer for school.

These items are the start of your everyday carry and if you want to be able to pick up and go you will put them together.  Do not do it because I told you to, do it because you want to go where your feet carry you.

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