Thursday, April 17, 2014
Got this lot of vintage Faber Castell 9000 HB pencils a while back through E-bay. From their markings and graphics, I think they must have been made in the USA around the mid XX century. Unlike the current design where the 9000 pencil has one unfinished end and the opposite end is rounded and painted green, these older pencils are unfinished on both ends and did not have any bands around their barrels until the 1960s.
Their matchbox-style packaging coloring and graphics closely resemble the classic storage tins used with their German version.
Each box holds a dozen pencils neatly arranged in two layers in a cardboard tray and secured with a sliding sleeve.
The pencil sharpened well with a Kum standard sharpener and still proved a good choice for sketching and shading in the bottom half of this sample sketch (top half was drawn with a darker B lead). Vintage pencils from the heyday of the analog drafting era can often be found in garage sales, estate sales, and online auctions. Don't hesitate to shop for them since pencils retain their functionality after decades of storage, and they often outperform the average value pencil that have become the norm these days.
Spotted this Staedtler allXwrite Woodless Pencil blister card at the office supplies aisle at Super Target yesterday.
According to the back of the card, these solid graphite pencils are manufactured in Brazil by extrusion. Thus they feel quite similar to the lead cores in the Wopex line: strong, bit waxy, and pretty smudge resistant. The white eraser in its ferrule works well in removing the graphite from the paper when you press lightly with the pencil, but if you draw with heavier pressure a softer eraser works faster.
Its lacquer coating does prevent graphite from staining your fingers gray. Since there is no wood, the entire cone tip of the pencil can be used for shading and pencil rubbing techniques. If you don't like the idea of trees been felled for pencil production, these allXwrite woodless pencils might be a good choice for you.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
JetPens Blog Sponsorship Lot 8: Mitsubishi Uni 2 mm Leadholders and Graphite Drawing leads with matching lead pointer
For the latest lot of JetPens goodies for review, I decided to stick with an old favorite: the Uni Mitsubishi leadholders line. They have recently expanded the marked clutch pencil offerings to double their previous range to include 4H through 4B plus an unmarked and red leadholder versions (until recently only H, F, HB, and B pencils were available). Their distinct burgundy barrels are stamped with gold lettering while their push buttons, lead retention rings, and matching lead cases are conveniently color coded according to their graphite grade. If you look closely at the leadholders in the picture above, you can probably figure out which is my oldest mechanical pencil and preferred drawing lead grade (*hint: its barrel markings are worn out the most). The Uni 2 mm graphite leads are my first pick for sketching and drawing given their strength, darkness, and smooth feeling even in the harder grades. They seldom break, and their dark marks are pretty smudge-resistant compared to similar grades from other brands. The H-3H leads produce nice consistent lighter marks without scratching the paper surface. Other brand leads in the H range often feel rough, and their sharpened tips tend to skip or pierce soft and thinner papers.
The push buttons are also stamped with their graphite grade in gold lettering for easy identification. Sure, you could just use any of these leadholders and switch the leads as needed, but what is the fun in that? Seriously, I find it more practical and efficient to have different leadholders loaded with each different grade of leads to save time. Yet if you do need to go with a minimalist approach like for a travel compact sketching kit, the graphite lead grades are very clearly marked with white lettering and their color coded rings. Thus you could easily store up to 6 different grades in a single lead case and load a 7th lead grade in the leadholder. For daily use, I would recommend F or HB lead since they are pretty close to your familiar No.2 pencil. If you plan to ink your pencil sketches, you might want to try 3H first. If you want a single dark lead for pencil sketches, I would suggest going with the 2B lead that allows you to go pretty dark without having to press too hard on the paper. Keep in mind that harder leads retain their sharp points longer and produce sketches that stress a linear quality to them. Softer leads produce darker marks and shade areas of value quickly with minimal pressure, but their tips also wear down faster as they deposit more graphite material on the paper surface.
The Uni 2.0 mm pencil lead pointer is a perfect color match and an elegant solution for keeping your drawing leads sharp. Its swivel cap lid and waste container can safely store the graphite debris inside the canister until it can be properly disposed into a trash bin through the sliding panel on the bottom of the sharpener.
Though there are also other lead pointer designs that are a bit more compact and that can accomplish the same task a bit faster. The Uni lead sharpener seems to take a few more turns to restore a sharp point to a drawing lead.
In the sample value chart of my current selection of Uni graphite leads, you might notice that there is just a subtle difference between adjacent graphite grades. So for a starting lead assortment, some artists might choose to skip a grade. I feel that if you enjoy drawing with graphite and mechanical pencils, you will soon find that these Uni leadholders are comfortable and reliable sketching tools. They are lightweight, but sturdy. You can work with them for a long time without getting tired. Their metal clutch jaws securely grip the 2 mm leads for precise control of the drawing tip and keep the leads from rotating while sharpening them. I use them more often than regular mechanical pencils, for my normal drawing pressure often breaks 0.5 mm and 0.7 mm leads. Their knurled metal grips have grown on me, so I no longer use plastic pencil grips to cover them. If you do find them abrasive, you could also wrap them with tennis wrap and give them a wider more ergonomic custom grip in the process. Highly recommended.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Had these supplies laying around since my trip to Florida, so might as well preview them now. Added the Marine set of 20 watercolor pencils to grow my collection of Caran D'Ache Museum Aquarelle pencils, and finally got the next step in waterbrush design (exact same waterbrush is available in a Faber Castell version) that features a piston filler mechanism and a valve push button in the middle of the barrel to control the flow of water to the synthetic bristles. Not seeing much difference in performance compared to conventional waterbrushes thus far, but the barrel is a tad longer when piston is fully extended to fill it to maximum capacity.
Dry color reference chart of the Marine set.
After wetting the dry color samples with the waterbrush. The Caran D'Ache brush head felt pretty soft and flexible like those from Yasutomo Niji waterbrushes. To fill the reservoir, you need a cup of water to dip the barrel and draw the water in by pulling the piston back. This process seems a bit more cumbersome, for I usually fill my Aquash and Niji waterbrushes by placing their barrels directly under running tap water.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Plaque at the Cedar Key mill site recounts the history of pencil-making in the USA during the XIX century and early 1900s.
Some Faber Castell vintage packaging samples.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Quite happy to be able to continue to use my KIN Precision Point lead sharpener thanks to this recent E-bay find of spare hard steel blades. The original set of blades in it have already been turned once, so I still got 2 more cutting edges to go. This unique cutting blade system is made up of the 4 corners of the 4 metal mini-beam blades with a square profile. Might have to make a demo video to make it more clear, but simply put the four blades get inserted into four slots of the taper control button inside the Emca leadpointer. The lead is sharpened by rubbing against the four edges of the blades closer to the central axis of the lead pointer. This particular sharpener can yield 3 different point tapers by changing the slotted disks that hold the blades at different distances from the center. As the blades' edges get dull with use, you can remove them with a pin and rotate them all at once so that a fresh new sharp edge is then closer to the central axis and ready to sharpen the next graphite lead. A rubber gasket inside the leadpointer wipes the loose graphite dust from the freshly sharpened points. Waste graphite dust is collected in the bottom translucent jar that screws to the bottom of the leadpointer body. While it might seem a bit cumbersome to maintain, it does work pretty well. You just have to make sure to carefully remove one dull blade at a time and to rotate them all in the same direction until you have used all 4 cutting edges before replacing a set of blades.