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Filtering by Category: Pencil

Field Notes no. 2 Review

Fr. Kyle Sanders

I have been a Field Notes fan since having heard about the notebook from Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley on the Pen Addict Podcast in the fall of 2013, when I subscribed to their quarterly service to get the Drink Local colors edition. With that purchase and each subsequent quarterly delivery, the notebooks were always accompanied with a pencil or two. Now after two years as a subscriber, I had amassed quite a number of these no. 2's. Until midway through last year, I rarely used them. I gave a few away to friends, but for the most part they multiplied in my pencil cup. When I decdied to use only pencils for Lent last year, the Field Notes no. 2 became the pencil in my office. I had a lot of them so I figured I might as well use them often. Here are my thoughts.

Form

Prior to my conversion to pencils, they had two basic forms: octagonal and yellow or circular and colorful. I found the FN pencil a breath of fresh air. It is circular and natural. It's understated and simple. It declares to the beholder, "I'm not here to be flashy, fancy, or gimmicky. I'm here to be exactly what I am, a pencil, nothing more and nothing less."

The cedar body is uncolored leaving the wood to make its mark. The wood has a nice light color. What I like most about this natural unfinished look is as it is used. The wood absorbs oil from my hand ever slightly darkening the pencil. I love this. It's an anti-patina. The pencil dulls and darkens as time goes on. It lets me know the pencil likes me. It takes a little bit of me into itself making it "my" pencil.

The traditional Field Notes Futura font is imprinted with a non-toxic black ink across the entirety of the pencil, in the simplicity that has become a hallmark of the 'Field Notes aesthetic.' On one side of the pencil, they printed the brand, website (the irony is not lost on me), and type of lead. On the opposite side is an explanation of the green-ness of the pencil, the only time I've seen that on a pencil. The printing is reminiscent of the info they print in the back of their notebooks. It's like they have their window shades up for the whole world to see. It wouldn't be hyperbole to call this pencil naked. 

The green eraser tops off the look of the pencil. It gives the look of a bud sprouting from a limb. Only this end get smaller instead of getting larger. It's supposed to be bio-degrabable as well, although I don't think that's merely because it's green. 

The ferrule completes the 'Field Notes Aesthetic' of keep it simple {expletive deleted}. It maintain the simple lines, fat and skinny. It's a pleasure to look at.

Function

Over the course of the last year, I've gotten more used to the smaller circumference of woodcased pencils compared to fountain pens. This pencil helped. The lack of a lacquer allows my greasy, sweaty fingers (when they're greasy and/or sweaty) to grip the pencil well. The cedar aids in grip without the fear of getting splinters. They've been well sanded. I don't fear fragments. 

This pencil is also one for long writing sessions. It keeps a point for a long period of time. It's perfect for taking notes in class or writing 1,667 words a day for NANOWRIMO. You won't have to stop every paragraph to sharpen the pencil. I call this the idea pencil for that reason. It doesn't halt your thinking process to stop and sharpen. This aspect also gives it great felicity to be used in a bullet pencil. It can become the quick draw (pun intended) pencil. 

On the darkness spectrum, this pencil puts down a light line. That being said, it's not light enough to be bothersome. I'd prefer it to be darker, though.

I like to use my eraser. I will wear down an eraser, and I did so with the FN no. 2. Using it so much last year, I used up the eraser before I'd used up half the pencil. It does a decent job of erasing, but there might be some ghosting. 

Feel

This is a decent piece of graphite. I don't find any scratchiness other than the normal pencil feedback. It's not a smooth as a Blackwing 602, nor is it as inconsistent as the Black Ticonderoga (the newer one) I have.

Financials

I've never actually bought one of these pencils since they come with the Colors Subscriptions. If you wanted to purchase a half-dozen from Field Notes HQ, it'd cost you $4.95. This certainly isn't the premium price of the Blackwings, but it's not as cheap as a dozen Palomino Golden Bears, $2.95, or 30 count of yellow Dixon Ticonderoga's, $5.97. They do fall below a dozen General's Test Scoring #580, $12.60. I would choose it over the two cheaper pencils, so in that sense, they're priced decently. I think there's still a small premium, though. 

Is the Writing Reverenced?

There's not much bad I can say about this pencil. It is a solid writer, comfortable in its cedar birthday suit. Reverenced. 

Paper: Nock Co A4 Notebook

Twist Bullet Pencil Review

Fr. Kyle Sanders

Pencils were never fun to me. The bright colors and the crazy erasers were only temporary salves to my general dislike. Being part of the Field Nuts group on Facebook, I would often see guys and gals post vintage bullet pencils with their Field Notes. I found that an interesting piece of history but had no desire to seek one out. I began to see posts on Instagram of a modern bullet pencil made from machined and anodized aluminum that was Kickstarted by MetalshopCT and Huckleberry Woodchuck (which, by the way, is the coolest name for an American small business). 

When I determined to take up pencils as a Lenten sacrifice, I was worried about my Every Day Carry (EDC). I didn't want to carry this clip-less 2 foot long piece of wood in my breast pocket (that's what it felt like). So I decided this bullet pencil thing was a good idea. I didn't care enough about pencils to purchase a vintage bullet pencil. I'd kindly left those to the peeps that enjoy and collect them. So I turned to the modern made one. It attracted me for multiple reasons. It has a sturdy aluminum body. They graciously (or having good business sense) provide a cut down version of a pencil already input in the casing, which does well for me, who owns no circular saw or fix-blade saw to cut down a pencil I already own. This was the first time I was genuinely excited a pencil product

Form

What gets me excited is the actual design of a bullet pencil. I didn't really comprehend them in those Facebook photos, but once I got it in my hands I realized how cool the engineering was. As a child, I constantly broke points off my pencils. When I was a regular golfer, I would break the points off the provided golf pencils. To engineer something by which you can carry a woodcased pencil and not endanger the point is brilliant.

Here's how it works. 1) You get a pencil nub about the general size of a golf pencil. 2) You fit it into the tip (sharpening the blunt end just  slightly helps) by screwing it in. 3) The tip screws into the metal casing (which looks like a bullet casing). Your pencil point is now protected in your pocket, in a backpack, in a pencil case, on the farm, on the job, on a rollercoaster, possibly in the washing machine (a test I haven't performed at present). 

MetalshopCT offers five different barrel colors: green, red, aluminum, black, and blue. They also offer two different tip types: rounded and pointed. You can also choose to get the tip in aluminum or brass. There are prototypes I've seen on IG of a brass body as well. I choose the green anodized aluminum body with the aluminum pointed tip because I have really been enjoying the CW show Arrow and that visually reminded me of the superhero. It is topped by a larger version of a traditional flesh colored eraser. They also offer an add-on of a clip, which I jumped on. I knew I'd be keeping the pencil in my breast pocket.

Function

Imaged here with a full Blackwing 602, a Dixon Ticonderoga Black Soft, Palomino Prospector

The clip works very well. It fits on a pocket (breast and pants) very well. It is also easy to pull off the pocket. It's simplicity of design adds to the sleek aesthetic of the product. 

I also like the size of the eraser. It assures me I won't use it up for a while. The rubber has great density. It doesn't shed like a molting bird, but it's soft enough to not immediately knock someone out. It erases pretty well. It's not any better or worse than the eraser that comes with a Palomino Blackwing 602. 

The tip remains firmly screwed into the body. I don't want to have to dig into my pocket for the pencil body that's  supposed to protected. I don't have to worry about that. 

Feel

Coming from primarily using fountain pens to using woodcased pencils, I found a great disparity in weight. The Twist Bullet Pencil relieves that disparity by giving the pencil therein greater weight and, for me, comfortability. The extra bulk of the casing fits well in the thenar space (the webbing in between the index finger and thumb) of my hand. It gives my hand a little bit more bulk to hold. This improves as the pencil gets smaller and the casing gains a lower center of gravity. The writing experience depends on the pencil you choose to put in it. 

Financials

What I will pay for fun? This bullet pencil comes in at $37.50, which includes two pencils and two erasers in addition to the pencil and eraser already in the casing. This is certainly more expensive than a box of Blackwing 602's, but compared to other anodized aluminum products it has a pretty good price tag sitting above Retro 51's metalsmith series and below Karas Kustoms products. Add to that the clip which was $13, this product isn't a no-brainer. Its price requires intentional buying.

Is the Writing Reverenced?

The bullet pencil made writing with a pencil enjoyable, for the first time. I looked forward to taking it out of my pocket and using it, even though there was a pencil inside. I probably wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't given up fountain pens for Lent. However, now having it in my possession, I will end up using this pencil more, just so I can use it.

Reverenced

Pencil: Palomino Blackwing 602
Notebook: Doane Paper Flap Jotter Large

Palomino Blackwing 602

Fr. Kyle Sanders

This is my first pencil review. With that I should add the caveat: I am not a regular pencil user. This review will come more from the perspective of a pencil newbie. It won't have the wisdom of comparing to other models, but it also lacks the bias of having a favorite pencil or brand.

My familiarity with the Palomino Blackwing 602 comes from arriving inside the MetalshopCT/Huckleberry Woodchuck collaboration of the machined bullet pencil. The bullet pencil became my pocket carry and was my most used pencil during my fountain pen fasting this past Lent. I had heard of Palomino pencils but had never purchased one because, well, I wasn't a fan of pencils. I had heard nothing but good things about the Palomino brand. So, I was looking forward to see how the pencil would perform. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Form

Coming from two experiences of pencils, either yellow and faceted or brightly colored and cylindrica, the 602 is a pleasant surprise. It has gunmetal painting over the woodcasing. This keeps the pencil classy and understated. The bold lettering of the branding sits in nice comparison to the gunmetal color. It gives the look of a banker’s pencil (if bankers use pencil). It says, “I fool with gold but I’ll kill you if you touch it.” I guess it fits just as well in the hands of a thief.

What sticks out is the ferule (the metal piece at the end that holds the eraser) and eraser. Most pencils have the cylindrical ferule moving to a cylindrical eraser, but the Palomino Blackwing series turns that cylinder into a soft lined box that holds a rectangular eraser. I don’t know if there’s any practical reason for the design, but even so, it looks sweet. It allows the pencil to separate itself from the crowd. I also prefer the black eraser so that when wiping away the eraser particulates, if they fall on my clothing, they don’t immediately become unsightly on my black clothing.

On the ’back side’ of the pencil is embossed the phrase “HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED.” I like the slogan. It is reminiscent of a bygone time when slogans weren’t merely in commercials or ridiculously bright signs, but on the products themselves. It shows the manufacturer takes pride in their product enough to spend time on a slogan for it. That gives me a greater indication I might be holding a quality product.

Function

Because I am relatively unfamiliar with a wide variety of pencils, I can neither corroborate of deny the slogan. I can say that it requires minimal pressure to get lead down. The line does darken as you add more pressure. In that I do find a wonderful similarity to fountain pens. It was one of those welcome surprises during Lent. I definitely enjoy the fact, that like a fountain pen, I don’t have to use much pressure to write. That’s one of the things I really disliked about pencils.

The 602 doesn't put down the darkest line compared to other pencils I've seen, especially when I don't exert much pressure. That being said, it is still a good solid color, almost a matte version of the finish on the pencil. 

Speaking of the finish, although it has a semi-metallic look to it, it sin't as slippery as metal is when gripping. It maintains decent gripability. The facets of the pencil help out with that. A gripe I have with all woodcased pencils I've used is that they are too skinny, even for my small hands. I would prefer something a bit wider. It being thin leads to quicker fatigue of my natural death grip.

The shape of the eraser gives the intimation that you can erase entire words in one motion. That is partly the case. You can erase something with a simple back and forth motion without having to rotate to get the whole word (that is unless you have large handwriting). The rubber is not terribly dense (although overly dense is another probelm), and I could find myself quickly going through the eraser. They do sell replacement eraser packs, but the slope of the ferule also disallows you from putting on a 3rd party eraser, say like the totally ineffective smiley face eraser we all purchased at school book fairs. 

I don't know or understand pencil physics and exactly how lead is erasable, but I do know this. The lead/eraser combination of the Blackwing 602 does not remove all semblance of what was written. It does a decent job, but the eraser doesn't compare to Arnold Scwarzenegger (but then I might be setting my standards too high).

Feel

The paint on the outside of the woodcasing is soft. It isn't harsh or slippery. Compared to many fountain pens and the bullet pencil, it's super light. The writing is smooth with the slightest bit of feedback (which I would expect in a pencil). It's a bit longer than your normal no.2, but that really doesn't mean much unless you're a child. Well, the pencil is about the length of my forearm, so it might psychologically bother someone. The length, though, doens't effect the performance.

Financials

I feel a bit of a hypocrite at this point, but this isn't a cheap pencil at $21.95 for a box of twelve. They would be considered a premium pencil and so cost as much as 2 72 packs of Papermate woodcased pencils (in all honesty though I don't know enough or own enough to even compare the two). Here's where the hypocrisy comes in. I don't think I would buy them again. I don't think it's worth the price. I say that as someone who is not a pencil lover. At this time, my use doesn't justify the cost.

Is the Writing Reverenced?

To date, this is one of the finest pencils I have ever used. With that statement, I still don't like pencils. So I'm torn. Would I recommend this to others? Definitely. Do I consider it reverenced? No. I would still choose a fountain pen, any rollerball, and some ballpoints before picking this up. I don't apologize for my preference and you can tell me why I'm wrong below. All in all, this was still a penance. (the papermate pencil would have probably been moreso though). 

Paper: maruman Mnemosyne 180 5mm squared