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Deb Robson and Tussah

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January 13, 2013


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You find the most interesting books and ideas to share--thank you. Never even thought about an artisan-sharpened pencil. The book is entirely too intriguing not to track down. How many of us, in bygone times, took a break from schoolwork, to go to that elementary version of the water cooler--the pencil sharpener?

Lynn Hershberger

One can not choose one's obsessions. They appear, and we must ride them like a wild horse... wherever they take us.

I had a friend who collected slide rules. Love.

Meg Mahoney

My pencil has been exceptional -- a very good one indeed. Alas, it's shrinking.

Deb Robson

So glad your pencil is serving well, Meg! I think theyre supposed to shrink, if used.


Hah, he missed one important aspect of the wall-mounted pencil sharpener experience. The SCENT. I have one of those wall-mounted sharpeners in my kitchen; nothing could be more evocative in its way than the combined aroma of fine-ground wood and graphite dust.

Valerie Musselman

Obsessions, pondering, curiosity...those are the things that keep us sharp! While pondering the pencil, you might want to glance at Henry Petroski's work, The Pencil: a History of Design and Circumstance: http://www.powells.com/biblio/0679734155
You might also like his book, The Book on the Bookshelf.

Deb Robson

Lynn, if I could remember how to use a slide rule I might collect them, too! They're fascinating devices.

It's true, TsockTsarina, that the scent is ineffable. He mentions it in the book, but I don't think with a strong enough emphasis.

And I look forward to reading The Pencil, and The Book on the Bookshelf, Valerie--as soon as I get this article on sheep written! (Small post about that coming soon, I hope.) I've read The Invention of Useful Things (way back) and Invention by Design. I see, however, that I'm way behind on following his work.

(My current reading, a few pages at a time, is Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information, by Manuel Lima.)

Doug Berch

How wonderful! Lost arts from a lost time. I was telling my wife about this post and she said that when her grandfather taught architecture he would teach the proper way to sharpen a pencil as part of learning to use tools and materials.


an inkier correlative:


a lovely post, one to which i'll refer many friends and fellow bipeds

Amanda Berka

I found it oddly reassuring that when my son entered kindergarten they requested regular #2 pencils as one of their supplies. And we discovered that while Crayons are great, they can melt under seats when on winter road trips...where as colored pencils do not. That was a great discovery as you can imagine. Gotta love long road trips.


I was first made aware of the"pencil subculture" when my husband started collecting Academic Pencils. He has at least one from every university our son and DIL ever applied to, visited or attended. The numbers have added up as they are Students with a capital. However, he will NOT sharpen them or sully the pristine erasers - he keeps them "new in box" so I had to give him a nice packet of Ticonderoga #2s for Christmas along with a sharpener with a magnet for sticking on the dashboard of his truck. Which is plastic :>( He'll have to buy a vintage pickup with a metal dash, I suppose.


What a wonderful post, thank you :) My father gave me one of his biggest treasures when I started drawing in my teens: his pen knife that he used in school in the 20s. I still use it. It's very sharp.

Deb Robson

Speaking of high-quality pencils, a friend has told me that the Blackwing has been revived--actually, in two forms. Here's one article:

and another:

Deb Robson

Maria, I'm enjoying The Pen Addict, when I have moments to check it out. I like decent-quality but not-too-expensive fountain pens. I don't like to have to worry a lot about losing them. I like a fairly thick, not-too-slick barrel. I get along pretty well with Waterman Phileas fountain pens. I think I have two. I know where one is {grin}. I got a fancier pen once, but it was too slippery to write with and I worried about where I'd put it.

Deb Robson

David Rees's tool kit for sharpening pencils (video), featuring Blackwings.


Hi Deb,

have a look at this very intersting pencil sharpener device from 1920, which I found in a weaving museum lately


Deb Robson

Very interesting sharpener, Brigitte! I also like the rubber-stamp rack behind it.

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