A while ago WordPress informed me that this blog had survived a year. I’m not big on anniversaries – in this case more so because I really don’t understand how I ended up writing a pencil blog. As I’ve mentioned before, I came to stationery fandom through fountain pens, and this blog could just as easily have been about my search for a grail pen or ink, anything from vintage flex to Montblanc editions to complete Iroshizuku sets. But no, it had to be the humble pencil. And maybe this is a good time to indulge in one of those philosophical posts that inevitably come up in these kind of blogs sooner or later.
For me, the biggest appeal of a pencil is that it somehow feels more natural: a combination of wood, graphite, clay, and wax, instead of, for example, plastic, metal and colored water. It’s all about wood and earth, and it achieves even greater harmony when it comes into contact with paper, another woody element. They are uncomplicated and straightforward, and inexpensive to boot.
I find I like vintage pencils better than vintage pens. Old pencils are simple enough in their construction to yield clues about their identity, function and quality upon careful observation alone. Also, even with age the deterioration is often minimal: pencils decades old write like new straight out of the box. With vintage fountain pens, however, you are dealing with a number of technical issues that need to be addressed before they can be coaxed into service. If you’re not the kind who likes fiddling with stuff, vintage pens can be a headache. Pencils don’t need any maintenance, and they don’t have any parts that need to be replaced.
Also (I know this is crazy but I have to admit it), I prefer pencils because of the amount of lettering on them (in this aspect many modern pencils as well as fountain pens disappoint). In the past the sides of a pencil were wonderfully chock-full of letters that were, depending on the time and age, quaint, stately, elegant, playful, or boxy; I find that typography encapsulates the prevailing aesthetic of an era better than anything else. Pencil boxes tell a similar story, and I love observing the transition from realistic pictures to art-deco design to utilitarian stripes and sans-serif logos.
Lastly, pencils seem to do a better job of bringing together a curious brotherhood of fellow enthusiasts. Old pens survive because they are good at advertising their value, even to people who know nothing of them; people keep pens because they assume they are worth something (witness the dozens of pens in antique shops, their nibs beyond salvaging, sporting absurd price tags). But it’s so much harder for a pencil to survive in this world. It could so easily be used up, broken, chewed, lost, given or thrown away. If you’re holding a particularly old pencil in your hands, it’s probably because more often than not another person just as crazy as you thought that pencil worth preserving. Sometimes the very existence of a pencil can move you beyond words; its survival is a cause for celebration.
In the early days of this blog I tried out a number of styles, and I think I’ve gotten a bit better at putting posts together, and especially getting long, thin objects to fit into an oblong frame. This blog gets many more comments relative to the number of page views, and I am grateful for it, because that’s why I started this blog in the first place – not to show anything but to engage in conversation. Thank you everyone :)