Reviewing a Write Notepads and Co. tablet

My Write Notepads & Co. tablets arrived last evening. Wrote a half a page in ink before bed.

First impressions—pretty nice. Ink went on smooth. No bleed.
Rear cover is quite heavy.

Front cover could be a little heavier but has a good feel.

Paper is a good quality but a little smoother than I’m used to.

Will get a better idea after some pencil tests this morning.

This tablet is beautiful to look at … and it beats my old Mead spiral notebooks by having pages that DON’T stick together.

And, the sturdy binding looks like it won’t be easily bent out of shape.

I’m always griping that I’d be willing to pay for quality if more companies would stop making flimsy junk.

Write Notepads & Co. landscape notebook is up there with the best I’ve used—the only rival is the Peter Pauper Press notebook … but they don’t (that I’ve seen) make a top spiral pad. ☹️

At $20 plus shipping—I got free shipping but I had to order a little over $60 to qualify—I’m not yet sure how I feel about the price.

Especially long term, since I burn through so many notebooks in a year.
But, so far, I’m happy with the purchase.

Vintage pencil review: Eagle Reliable vs. Eagle Scholastic

I rarely shut up about Eagle pencils, and I’ve probably told everyone I’ve ever met that the Eagle Reliable 305 No.1 is my favorite pencil of all time.

Wonder of wonders, late last week, I got a shipment of vintage colored pencils which included a batch of Eagle Scholastic 230 No. 2 and Eagle Reliable 305 No. 2 pencils.

So, of course, I had to give them a test drive.

Both write on the dark side of number two, which I like.

Both are pretty smooth, though the Reliable is a bit smoother.

The Scholastic has just a touch of scratch, which I usually don’t care for but it’s not enough to put me off.

Aesthetically, I don’t love the umber-brown. But, the brilliant silver text is quite nice.

Point retention is pretty good on both pencils and they don’t smudge too badly, though the Scholastic seems to be just a touch harder than the Reliable.

All in all, understanding that I am totally biased in favor of all Eagle brand pencils, these are both winners.

Vintage pencil review: Hardtmuth 355 6B Sketching

There’s no way the L&C Hardtmuth 355 6B Sketching pencil was made for writing but I couldn’t resist giving this very old gem a test-drive.

First, the pencil is oval shaped.

It’s not quite as big around as a jumbo but it can’t be too far off.

After writing a few customer letters, I’m sort of wishing there were some oval writing pencils.

The shape feels good in my hand. And, it’s cool to look at.

The lead on this thing is unwieldy for writing.

I have to sharpen the pencil with my pocketknife, which is fine, but the lead is so soft and oddly shaped that you don’t get to write for very long before you have to sharpen it again.

And daddy is a compulsive sharpener!!!

Don’t get me wrong, I loooove soft dark leads.

This baby is about as soft and dark as I have ever used.

I still write with it once in a while when the mood strikes me.

How good it is for sketching, I can’t say because I can’t draw for squat.

I know, everybody says that, but I come from a family of artists and am the only one who can draw only stick figures.

And those badly.

Mostly, this nice old natural wood-finished pencil sits in my old tin soup can, point up, and smiles back at me in a pencilly way.

Vintage pencil review: National’s Fuse-Tex Test Scoring 7000

Not sure what I was expecting with this nice old National’s “Fuse-Tex” Test Scoring 7000 pencil but I was pleasantly surprised nonetheless.

So many older pencils I find have varying degrees of scratchiness but the Test Scoring 7000 model is super smooth and writes quite dark.

Almost feels like a No. 1 pencil.

Aesthetically, I love the white text on black barrel.

And the font used for “Fuse-Tex” is pretty cool, as well.

Wish I had a whole box of these very vintage pencils!

Making time for your vintage pencils

Has it been a week already?

I’ve been sorting and cleaning and photographing many hundreds of pencils but there are sooo many left to process.

All this and I’m trying to get my Christmas offerings finalized so I can set those scenes and photograph them.

I don’t want to complain but … I’m complaining!!!

After three weeks of intending to, I finally started on a big batch of cool old pieces with terrible ferrules which needed replacing.

I tried cleaning them but they’re just pure rust. So, I’m removing the yuck ferrules and replacing them with the aircraft aluminum caps I’ve been using for my Nicely Appointed Pencils.

Each one will also sport a nice Genuine Faultless Pencil Clip.

Oh yeah!!! The brass string pencil caps I ordered from Istanbul have finally arrived.

So, I’m going to be turning some select pencils into string pencils with solid brass caps.

Pretty freakin snazzy.

Crossing my fingers that they work.

The caps are a bit shallow, so I’m not sure if there will be room for the knot and with enough space left over to attach to the pencil.

But, if it works, they could be pretty pretty pretty good, as Larry David would say.

I’ve been meaning to do a bunch more pencil tests and reviews but, you know how that goes.

Between pencils and my freelance writing jobs, the work just doesn’t seem to stop.

It’s a good reminder: no matter how busy you get, be sure to make some time for your pencils.

They miss you!

Well, here’s hoping you have a Pencilly Day!


Pencil Review: Empire “ARCO” 88

If we’ve chatted in the last few months, you’ve probably heard me rant about my love of the unsung hero of the graphite world—the Empire “ARCO” 88 No. 2 pencil.

This unassuming writer doesn’t have fancy fonts or a particularly brilliant paintjob. There’s nothing remarkable about its ferrule and its shape is fairly pedestrian.

What a salesman am I!

But, it does the one thing well that a good, nay, great pencil must do … it writes like a mofo!!!

I love soft dark leads. My favorite pencil on the planet is a very old Eagle Reliable 305 No. 1, which dates to probably the 1930s.

I wish modern pencil makers would create something along the lines of the ER305 or my even older Daily News of New York pencil, which has a super chunky core packed with soft dark lead.

Alas, number 2 is where it’s at when it comes to writing utensils.

Of course, you can get all sorts of grades in a drawing pencil. And my next big project is going to involve selecting a couple dozen specimens and seeing if I can’t find something comparable to my all-time favorites.

But back to the “ARCO” 88.

Why do I keep putting parentheses around ARCO? Because that’s how it appears on the pencil.

What does “ARCO” 88 stand for?

Good question.

  • ARCO stands for the Atlantic Richfield Company, founded to produce oil in the 1960s.
  • ARCO is a musical term, indicating how a bow on a stringed instrument should be used.
  • It’s also an abbreviation for “Augmented Representation of Cultural Objects.”
  • ARCO is a slang mashup of “architecture” and “ecology.”
  • ARCO might stand for “Angry Rhinos Can’t Ovulate” … but it probably doesn’t.

While I wasn’t able to figure out what the pencil is named after, I have discovered the “ARCO” 88 is a joy to write with. (“With which to write,” may be correct but it sounds dumb.)

After having written a number of letters to pencil pals around the nation, a few journal entries (nothing tawdry), one grocery list for fish tacos, and performing the usual pencil lead paper test, here are my findings:

Standard hex barrel with rounded edges. Good wood that’s rough enough for a good grip at the point but that doesn’t flake when sharpened. The imprint is so large and deep that you feel the indentations of the letters. I don’t care for this but it wasn’t enough to make me put the pencil down.

The “ARCO” 88 No. 2 has good page grab without being aggressive.
Nothing worse than an aggressive eraser. I blame the schools.
There is just the slightest bit of scratch—enough for some satisfying feedback but not enough to drive you crazy. Unless you hate pencil scratch, in which case any scratching is bad news for mother.
Graphite goes down smooth and dark. Could be a touch smoother but then you’d have a softer lead prone to breakage and, gasp, crumbling.

Surprisingly very little smudging. I’m not sure how, considering how dark the lead goes down. Just another wonder of the “ARCO” 88.

As it stands, this pencil has found just the right balance between dark lead and good point retention.
I prefer a short and medium sharp lead, and when sharpened this way, the point never broke once.
I did not attempt a long point because I detest them and will not have long-pointed pencils in my office.

You can find these here and there for anywhere from $15-$20 per dozen.
My shop sells them singly for $3.75 but my pencils come with lots of extras and a hand-written letter.

All in all, I love the “ARCO” 88 as both a collector piece and a daily driver. And I would put its performance up against any top tier pencil—including the vaunted Blackwing 602.

Bring me bouquets of newly sharpened pencils

My favorite early memory of pencils is of me going to the school store in seventh grade. It’s the first I can remember scrounging dimes and nickels in order to procure a fresh writing instrument.

The look of them all long and glossy with their shiny collars and clean pink tops. Sparkly pencils, red-white-and-blue pencils, rainbow pencils, pencils sporting Garfield and Peanuts characters, traditional pencils in regal yellow and mustard yellow thanks to the 1889 Hardtmuth luxury pencil unveiled at that year’s Exposition Universelle.

I was dazzled!

And, oh, the smell.

Sweet cedar and rubber, tang of glue, the mustiness of the clay used to temper the graphite’s hardness—a move revolutionized by Henry David Thoreau—and the tinny odor from those brilliant brass ferrules.

Well, used-to-be brass. Now they’re mostly aluminum.

My first memory of pencils is me 1in kindergarten, sharpening the big red trunk of those styluses made for little hands, hefting the thick wood in my fingers.

They call them jumbos. And that about sums up the size of my love for this writing utensil.

It wasn’t just the trinket delight which drives magpies and woodrats.
But it was also that.



Starting over.

Those were the feelings pencils instilled in me.

Having the ability to draw the pictures in my head, to write the thoughts I could not tell any other person.

Knowing that, no matter how bad yesterday was, or how lousy a grade I’d earned on a quiz, I could sharpen a fresh pencil and put it to a clean sheet of paper and give it another try.

No matter how bad things were, I could have another chance so long as I had pencils to sharpen and an empty tablet of my own.

While I wasn’t as attentive of a student as I should have been, there were some educational activities which held my attention.

My most favorite activity—prior to discovering drama class as a sophomore—was when we were assigned vocabulary words in English class.

What joy!

Searching the dictionary for definitions, and finding other strange new words along the way.

The fun of taking my time to write legibly—not something I’ve ever been known for, since my handwriting is a hybrid of printing, hieroglyphics, and cursive … something I like to call “Serial Killer Sans Serif.”

Putting pencil to paper is still one of my favorite activities, rivaled only by reading.

I’ve written longhand the first drafts of every one of my five unpublished novel manuscripts, two humor essay collections, thousands of essays and articles, and even a hefty religious philosophy tome.

Nothing helps me focus, organize, or even realize my initial thoughts like scribbling into a notebook with a good No. 2 (or No. 3 or No. 4) pencil.

My pencil collection is always growing, filling up glass olive jars and old cigar boxes by the dozen, by the gross.

I have pencils with Star Wars quotes and Andy Warhol quotes, even some with Steve Jobs quotes.

Don’t ask me why I bought those. Oh, wait, because I’m obsessed with pencils.

There are Halloween pencils and Doctor Seuss pencils, yellow-black-red-green-white pencils, striped and glittery pencils.

My favorites are the vintage pencils: Eagle RadioLite 85 No. 2, EF Tinsel-Tint 3081 No. 2, Eagle Reliable 305 No. 1 (absolute fav!), J.S. Staedtler Globe~Trotter, Eagle Alpha, NAPPCO Honor Roll, anything Blackwing, Colleen, Blackfeet Indian 2-2/4, Stewart’s 2400, National Pencil Co. 1208-X … the list could go on and on.

Over 1,000 pics of my growing pencil collection

It would be quicker to list the pencils I don’t care for.

I’m always on the lookout for crazy new shapes and colors.

I even found a set of pencils which contain plant seeds in the ferrule for when you’re finished using them.

While my collection grows, it also constantly shrinks because I’m daily using the pencils I amass.

It’s sort of an ever-rotating stock.

Right now I have tons of Halloween pencils but have sharpened my quotation pencils down to nubs.

A word about nubs—I don’t like throwing them away. So, what I end up with are jars and jars of mini pencils that I simply don’t know what to do with.

Perhaps someday I’ll donate them to a golf course or, if I ever become a famous author, give them away as souvenirs at book-signings.

Who would want such a thing?

My fellow pencil romantics get it.

Speaking of which, in my most favorite of Nora Ephron’s romantic comedies—You’ve Got Mail—Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan:

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

I think that’s just about the most romantic thing anyone has ever said.