Graf von Faber-Castell Magnum Perfect Pencil

Graf von Faber-Castell Magnum Perfect Pencil

The Graf von Faber-Castell Magnum Perfect Pencil. Top: Sharpened with a Caran d’Ache Sharpening Machine. Middle: Sharpened with an El Casco M-430. Bottom: Factory sharpening. The pencils rest on a Doane Paper moon camera journal.

The Graf von Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil line has a new edition. While I’m a big fan of Faber-Castell’s various premium pencils and extenders, the prices, like many consumer goods, have increased considerably over the years. Since only this specific refill would fully utilize the extender’s capabilities, I decided to first try some refills to see how this pencil works.

The challenge of jumbo pencils is that the volume of wood required quadruples as the radius doubles – so manufacturer shortcuts to save money seem inevitable. Fortunately, this pencil is an exception – a creamy dark 4B 4mm core is encased in straight grained cedar, with the signature fluted finish. I have already ordered the extender!

London Calling: a trip report

A small trip report. It was a privilege to visit Glasgow and London in September. I loved the trip, and felt very much at home. I was fortunate to meet a Scottish writer and actress who is creating a film project with a strong postal element, an English author and Savile Row tailor, and tour Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen post-dinner, but this report is about stationery.

My first pencil: After taking Virgin Trains from Glasgow to London, my wife and I decided to not plan, fearing we would be quite knackered. We were right. We randomly found Smith & Whistle, where we enjoyed a surprisingly pleasant dinner. To my amazement, there was a small post-cheque treat: a lollipop, a themed calling card, and a pencil! I’ve never heard of a restaurant pencil treat, but it set me up nicely!

Art galleries and museums were delightful. Gift shops typically had branded pencils and notebooks – but usually without attribution to the manufacturer, or recycled pencils, etc. Readers of this blog may imagine that over time – I have enough of this stuff, and declined to purchase these.

These shops excelled in their book selections – super interesting, curated, engaging. I am or have been a member of several museums and art galleries around Southern Ontario and Northern California – and the bookstores at the Tate Modern and Design Museum seem to be a level above.

The Design Museum had an exhibit focusing on the industrial designs of four companies – Apple, Braun, Olivetti, and Sony.

Here is some of the Braun collection:

Braun exhibit at the London Design Museum

They had the famous Sotsass Olivetti Valentine in red, but also blue and white:

Olivetti Valentine typewriter
Olivetti Valentine typewriter
Olivetti Valentine typewriter

As to specific stationers, we found time to visit three. I’ll mention the two worth special trips:

Present and Correct is an internet powerhouse. Their Instagram account may be the most popular stationery account in the world! I was really surprised that the store is the size of a postage stamp! It is chock full of stationery goodness (and also has a great book section). I met another stationery pilgrim who asked me if I knew of her favourite, The Regional Assembly of Text. (I do!)

Present and Correct, London, UK

Choosing Keeping has an exemplary pencil selection – the Bosco Woods side by side with the Lothar Faber anniversary pencils. And they know the field. I enjoyed hearing their perspective on the industry.

Choosing Keeping, London, UK

They are also an exceedingly tiny store.

Did I buy anything? Yes. I hope to feature some purchased items in the future.

Savile Row

Caran d’Ache Pencil Peeler

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

It is not a vegetable peeler, nor a magnet. It is a curiosity, a design object created by Oriol Gener. It claims to be able to sharpen a pencil.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

It is fun, and surprisingly miniature – from photos, I imagined a full-sized kitchen vegetable peeler – but it is comparable to the size and weight of a large coin.

The packaging has instructional photos that I don’t find helpful.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

As one would imagine, you peel away at the pencil with the peeler’s blade.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

(An MD pencil.)

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

I’m quite ambiguous in my reaction. It just can’t be as consistent as a quality regular sharpener. It costs roughly $USD25. It benefits from softer woods. But it is a lot of fun.

Caran d'Ache Pencil Peeler

What do you think?

grids & guides stationery

Grids & Guides stationery

From Princeton Architectural Press, we have A notebook for visual thinkers and 12 pencils for visual thinkers in their “grids & guides” series.

Grids & Guides stationery

The paper wrappers credit the editor, Jay Sacher, and designer, Benjamin English. The notebook is 144 pages, 146mm x 210mm, and features a black linen cover and an interior with a variety of “grids” and “guides”. It is made in China and retails for $USD16.95.

The pencil box features twelve unmarked hexagonal pencils, six in graphite, six in light blue. The box also contains a very thin plastic ruler with circular cutouts. The pencils are made in Taiwan and retail for $USD14.95.

Perhaps because they come from a book publisher, both products have ISBN numbers.

Grids & Guides stationery

It took me a while to recall that I have other products in this series – both notepads and a red linen cover notebook. They were purchased separately and I no longer have the packaging material.

Grids & Guides stationery

Grids & Guides stationery

Overall, the products strike me as thoughtful and that they might be good gifts for the right person. If you actually are a designer or engineer who uses logarithmic or polar graph paper, etc. – I doubt you’d want it presented in the notebook’s semi-random layout. That’s where the novelty side becomes prominent.

Grids & Guides stationery

The pencils are good basics. I didn’t test if the blue is a real non-photo blue. The ruler is a nice extra, but very flimsy.

Grids & Guides stationery

The notebook and pencil set pair very nicely, and I’m glad to see that these products were produced.

The backyard pencil [Updated]

Staedtler 771 1.3mm mechanical pencil

Something more casual today. This pencil, the 1.3mm Staedtler 771, has bright Noris colouring. It is a large chunky triangular pencil, and has no trouble surviving and being found after a wind gust. It feels sturdy and solid, and at about $CDN10 ($USD8, 7 Euros), has an unexpected wealth of features – a clip, a retracting cylindrical guide, a rubbery grip area, and a twist-out eraser.

Today is a provincial holiday where I live, and some time in the backyard makes me realize that at least in certain circumstances – the visibility of a pencil is an asset.

A small sticker tells me the pencil is made in Japan. My only misgiving is that 1.3mm lead is not commonplace here.

[Update: August 8, 2017]

This blog is fortunate to have some very informed readers. One of them is Gunther, the author of the erudite Lexikaliker weblog. Gunther has shared some interesting history regarding the Staedtler 771:

The Staedtler 771 is made in Japan, and was first presented at Paperworld in January, 2008. The pencil commenced sales in Germany in May, 2008.

Early 2014 saw the pencil’s discontinuation in Germany. In Japan, the 771 continued, and was joined in Fall 2014 by a white and black version, the 771-0. Both versions continue to be offered in Japan.

Gunther mentions that “Staedtler Germany still offers 1.3 mm leads because they were also used for the graphite 760.” The 760 was discontinued, though the 925 appears to still be around.