“I had forgotten how the fall sharpens pencils, gray and colored ones.”
I’m at the buy fancy pencils based purely on the aesthetics of the box phase of quarantine.
I didn’t really care much for pencils until a few years ago when my friend Clive Thompson (author of Coders and Smarter Than You Think) turned me onto Blackwing Palaminos. I love those pencils and try to always have one on me, particularly for marginalia and marking up books.
The pencil is a wonderful piece of technology. (Did you know that pencil marks in a notebook will survive a washing machine?)
Here’s Sam Anderson:
In an era of infinite screens, the humble pencil feels revolutionarily direct: It does exactly what it does, when it does it, right in front of you. Pencils eschew digital jujitsu. They are pure analog, absolute presence. They help to rescue us from oblivion. Think of how many of our finest motions disappear, untracked — how many eye blinks and toe twitches and secret glances vanish into nothing. And yet when you hold a pencil, your quietest little hand-dances are mapped exactly, from the loops and slashes to the final dot at the very end of a sentence.
There is something so comforting about a blank piece of paper and the lines the pencil can make upon it. The pencil is such a humble object but such a versatile one: It can make very faint marks or the blackest black. It is also very forgiving: If you make a mistake, you can rub it out. A pencil can be anything, and drawing requires no great setup—just a piece of paper and a sharpener, and then it can be kings or trolls, philosophers or grackles.
I’ve become such a nerd I bought pencil extenders, which seem ridiculous, but make every pencil 100% better by extending their life and giving you a big fat grip.
And for sharpening, I use my friend Carl, who brightens any table top:
Of course, some pencils you never want to sharpen, like this pencil my friend Katie gave me in college:
You never know where you’ll find a good pencil! The Blanton Museum doesn’t allow pens in the galleries, so they have these plain ol’ #2 golf pencils, which have an almost waxy lead that’s pretty nice to mark with (I keep a pencil in the elastic band of my pocket notebook):
Here’s a video of how he makes them:
Graphite, it turns out, is a great conductor:
TIL that the graphite in pencils is conductive ??? pic.twitter.com/HqLMRElHcd
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) August 4, 2017
Pencils can tell jokes with unintended messages:
There are all kinds of pencils! Here’s John Waters with his mustache pencil, which he carries with him at all times (photo by Hayley Campbell):
Related reading: “HBs are for architects”