'From The Desk of...' is my new segment where I ask some of my favourite people/bloggers/creatives to share their everyday stationery related go-to items. I'm sure you're already familiar with this guy but he deserves an introduction nevertheless. Today I'm honoured to have Andy, one of the guys from everyones favourite pencil podcast, The Erasable Podcast, and his blog Woodclinched. I'm putting 90% of the blame for my love of pencils on Andy, the other 10% falls on Tj's head (if you missed his post last month then go take a read, you'll enjoy it I promise). When you're done reading through this flalwless post head over to his Twitter and Instagram (both @awelfle) to keep up to date with his shenanigans!
At this point, it’s no secret that I’m obsessed with wooden pencils. It’s funny that, while it seems like I have a pretty narrow focus, a whole ecosystem of tools opens up to support my obsession. How will I sharpen my pencil? How will I store my pencil? What will I write in with my pencil?
Here’s a list of my favorite analog writing tools that I use daily. I work at a large Silicon Valley tech company, so I’m not even going to mention the myriad of hardware and software I use every day.
Palomino Blackwing or Palomino Golden Bear
I love the Palomino line of pencils. I’ve watched them evolve from a small, boutique line of four pencils made by a California-based cedar company to an authority on high-quality, high-end pencils. At the top of their line is the Palomino Blackwing 602. It’s Palomino’s tribute to the legendary Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 (yes, a pencil can be legendary), used and publicly lauded by icons like John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, and many more.
This pencil is as high-quality as it is distinctive. In the graphite core, Palomino have found the sweet spot between high point retention and dark, consistent marks on a page (in many cheaper pencils, those two characteristics are mutually exclusive). The eraser, unlike anything out there today, is rectangular and extendible. And the shiny, grey lacquer on the barrel is thick and easy to hold.
It’s also not cheap — at more than $20 a dozen, it’s almost $2 per pencil. Better than the $40 per pencil an original EF Blackwing might go for on eBay.
In this photo, I’m using a Palomino Blackwing 211. It’s part of a limited edition called “Volumes” that they release four times a year. This is the second Volumes edition made, and has the core of the 602, but a natural finish and a custom brown eraser. It smells overwhelmingly and gloriously of cedar.
If I don’t have a Blackwing with me, I may have my other favorite, a Palomino Golden Bear. For the price, I think it’s the best value out there. It’s been in the Palomino line for years longer than the Palomino Blackwing has been around.
Baron Fig Confidante + Pen Loop
Lately, I’ve been trying to take notes in the (many) meetings I have at work with paper and pencil rather than in my computer. I listen and retain better, and I am forced to be strategic about what I write down, since I write much slower than the pace of the meeting.
The notebook I picked out for this is a Baron Fig Confidante. Baron Fig is a fantastic company that figured out how to make an amazing journal. They launched a notoriously successful Kickstarter a couple years ago, and have been building off that success since then.
Mine is the “Three-legged Juggler” series, the first of a few different limited edition colors. Rather than the minimalist grey cover with a yellow ribbon bookmark, mine is a cheerful orangey cover with a mint green ribbon. It’s my favorite edition so far.
While on my aforementioned trip to Portland, I stopped by Powell’s and spent… too much time there (It’s a full city block! Over three floors!). One of the things I found were these little stick-on elastic pen loops by Leuchtturm1917, a moleskine-style notebook maker. Up until this point, I had struggled with how to attach my pencil to this journal, and I couldn’t think of hack that didn’t include a staple or duct tape. This was the answer.
Field Notes + “Stuff Sheath”
I almost always have some kind of pocket cahier with me to catch quick ideas, make little lists, or prep for an episode of Erasable. Lately, it’s been a Field Notes-brand notebook, but before, it’s been a Baron Fig Apprentice, a Word. notebook, or one that I’ve made myself at the print shop where I work.
Right now, it’s the Sweet Birch notebook in a Field Notes Shenandoah pack, the latest limited edition. I’m a COLORS subscriber, so once every three months, they send me two three-packs.
It’s an addiction. I’m trying to get better.
Because I’m always carrying the notebook around in the back, right pocket of my jeans, or as Aaron Draplin (the creator/designer of Field Notes) calls it, “the designer asshole position,” it can get a little beat-up. Typically, that doesn’t bother me — it develops some well-worn character that way — but I go through those notebooks slowly enough where sometimes the cover just rips.
Enter: Aaron Draplin to save the day. Or rather, enter: me into his workshop. I was in Portland, Oregon a couple months ago and meekly asked if I can go visit him and see his space. He was in town and amenable to it (we’ve meet briefly a couple times before and connected over our love of bullet pencils), so I showed up. He’s a generous man, and handed me a Stuff Sheath, a small, thick leather folio that fits a Field Notes exactly. It takes up a little more room in my pocket, but it’s well worth it — that notebook is still in great shape.
Classroom Friendly Sharpener (with a KUM Masterpiece in my bag)
When I write, I like a sharp, long point on my pencil. It feels a bit like a fountain pen.
One of the best sharpeners I’ve found for this task is a Classroom Friendly sharpener. It’s a new take on those old crank sharpeners bolted to the wall in primary-school classrooms. The Classroom-Friendly is quieter and a bit cleaner than the old ones (hence the term “classroom friendly”).
Trouble is, it isn’t portable. KUM, a respected hand held blade sharpener, makes an incredible two-stage, long-point sharpener called a Masterpiece. It’s not available in the States, but thanks to some European pencil collections, my co-hosts and I each got one. It’s fantastic. One hole sharpens the wood around the core, and the other one sharpens just the point. That way, you can refresh your point without needing to sharpen the wood around it, degrading the length of the pencil. Here’s a video of me sharpening a pencil with one.
I know this isn’t what one usually thinks of when they think about stationery items. But because I’m constantly running around from my desk to a meeting to working from some little cubby or couch somewhere, I keep my essentials in my messenger bag. I bought it before I lived in San Francisco, one of the hot spots for US-made bags, so I didn’t even consider some amazing brands like Rickshaw, Timbuk2, Chrome or some of the others around here.
Instead, I landed on Brenthaven. My grey Collins bag is big enough for my 13" MacBook Air, my Confidante, plenty of pencils and pens, a phone pocket on the outside, various and sundry cables, and other stuff. If it’s not stuffed too full, it’s sleek and slim. But it also holds enough so that I can use it as a weekend bag if I pack light for an overnight trip.
The Things We Carry
One of my favorite things about pencils (and unlike, say, fountain pens) is that even the very nice pencils aren’t that much more expensive than pencils that are cheap. The difference is striking, but the price is bearable.
In fact, I have a whole little treatise on why I like pencils.
Thanks, Adam, for letting me rant on your blog! Readers, what are your favorite pencils?