Monday, August 29, 2016

Why I Have So Damned Many

I’ve been trying to get better about keeping duplicates out of my collection, so when I upgrade something I’m happy to take what it replaces to the next show and release it back into the wild.

When it’s a duplicate...

Take this, for example:

This WASP Clipper isn’t one you see very often, and to find it on a price card?  With spare leads and erasers?  Yeah, the paper is a little ragged, but when have you ever seen a WASP product card?  Oh, and with a price sticker???

Wow – a dollar price tag, with fifteen cents’ worth of erasers, plus a container of lead – all for 95 cents?

So, I figured, I’d take the one in my collection with me to the Triangle Show, where I would have no trouble finding it a new home.  Except I hadn’t noticed a couple things:

First off, the example I have is missing the eraser, and then there’s the clips . . .

The one which came with a product card has that neat WASP clip with a stylized “W” at the top, while the example I already had is adorned with a flat clip.  So even though the pencils are otherwise identical, including the imprints, I guess I’ll keep both of them.

Speaking of imprints, this next one was an accident.  I fell in love with it when it showed up in an auction:

When it arrived, I was excited to take it to the museum and see how it looked next to the other colors and . . .

Dang.  I already had one, and the color on the one I had was nicer than the new addition.  But, as I always do before I consign something to the sale pile, I took a closer look, and whaddaya know:

One is a Clipper, while the other is a "Thinline."

And then there was this . . . one of these, I don’t remember which, came from the Philadelphia “Snow Bowl” show of 2016, at which I was a little bored, with cash in my pocket, and buying a pencil knowing it was probably a duplicate but picking it up because it was sooooo cheap:

and on closer examination:

One has the earlier "WASP/Vacuum-Fil Pen Co." imprint.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Demonstrating Something New

A few months ago on Facebook, my friend in Switzerland Guillaume Chappuis posted a picture of a few pencils he had lounging about the Alps, and one in particular caught my eye:

It’s a Superite, made by DeWitt-LaFrance, and the patent pending language on both the clip and the barrel of the pencil indicates a date of manufacture between late 1919  and mid-1920:

The pencil is made of what many manufacturers referred to as “silni,” for silver nickel (Matt McColm corrected me.  Says Matt:  "Nickel silver, German silver, alpacca, silni are all names for a copper-nickel-zinc alloy that resembles silver in color, but contains no silver."), and the three-diamond pattern typical of DeWitt-LaFrance pencils is found on the barrel:

But what sets this example apart is that it is a demonstrator, with carefully placed holes revealing all the business going on inside:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What It Must Be

When this Eversharp turned up online, it was one of those things I looked at, and looked at again, and came back again an hour later, because something just didn’t look quite right:

I think I’ve got it placed now, although the answer doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Remember the Equipoised “Purse” and “Clasp” pencils?

That’s ten out of the eleven known colors -- or maybe eleven out of the twelve (see  The “purse” pencils, the five on the left in this picture, were in “girlier” colors and had a single, deco-decorated band.  The “clasp” pencils, on the left, were found in “maniler” colors and were distinguished by a pair of plain, thinner bands.   I think the clasp pencils are the nearest relatives to this one:

Note that there’s just one difference: on the ringtop, the break between cap and lower barrel falls below the bands, while the clasp pencils break in between the bands. So I guess this was supposed to be the ladies’ version of the manly part in the least manly line?

Speaking of purse and clasp pencils, I've got a nice set to show you as well:

The color on this NOS set is superb, and the only thing more I could ask for would be the lid for the box.  I fished around on Facebook and heard that the lid was cardboard, and if I see one, I’ll post a picture of it.

This is that mysterious color, which may or may not be what was called “Ceylon Pearl” in Eversharp’s 1932 catalog.  The catalog shows Ceylon Pearl, but the color is more of a greyish/pinkish hue than what you see here.  Unless the colors were wildly off in the catalog, this is an unnamed twelfth color.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Why You've Never Heard of the Eagle Ultramatic

When this boxload surfaced online, I had to bite.  The pencils didn’t look that great, but I’d never heard of the Eagle “Ultramatic”:

Inside were a complete dozen Eagles, two each of red, yellow, teal and blue, and four black ones:

The barrels are unmarked, but are decorated with neat lines on each facet:

The clips look very Scripto-like:

And under the caps, the works look very Scripto-like, as well:

Neat as they may look, they aren’t much good as pencils.  The plastic used has shrunk so tightly on all of these that all are forever stuck.   That may have a lot to do with why they never caught on.  I also wondered, given their similarity to Scripto pencils, whether the Atlanta firm might have put a stop to these pretty quickly.

The box had some other information on it which I thought might provide some answers:

1936 is quite a bit earlier than the transparent Scriptos of the 50s these reminded me of.  And there’s two patents listed.  The first, number 1,859,433, was applied for by Isador Chesler on October 18, 1930 and was issued on May 24, 1932 – and it applied to an eraser retainer not found on the “Ultramatic”:

The same day he applied for the patent for his eraser, Chesler also applied for a patent for a pencil, which looks like it might be for our pencil, and the drawings are about the most complicated I’ve ever seen for a pencil patent:

And yet, the damned things don’t work.  Go figure.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Maybe I Should Leave Some Spacers

My system for categorizing Eversharp Skylines is published in The Catalogue on page 72.  Although it hasn’t caught on, it’s held up pretty well for me - nearly all of the Skylines I’ve seen in the wild fit neatly into these classes:

From left, I referred to these as:
Skyline Standard I: striated top section, thin band
Skyline Standard II: striated top section thick band
Presentation: ribbed gold filled top section
Presentation Vertical: gold filled top, lengthwise lines
Presentation Dart: gold filled top, engine turned design
Solid I: single color/material barrel with no bands
Solid II: single color/material barrel, thin center band
Solid III: single color/material barrel, thick center band
Streamliner: simplified clip/derby assembly
Press Clip I: simple clip pressed into barrel, no bands
Press Clip II: simple clip pressed into barrel, single band
Press Clip Twist Model: twist action pencil
Press Clip Moore Patent: feature a Moore patented action (these days, I call these “Lovejoy patent Skylines”).

In fact, since the book was published, the only additions I’ve made to the above have been in the “Press Clip” series, and I haven’t added anything to that area in four years (see

From top, there’s the Press Clip I and II, augmented by the Press Clip III (single wide band), IV (no bands at all) and V (thin center band only).

Obviously I’m bringing all of this up to let you know I’ve got another one to add to the Press Clip clan, and I wonder whether I call it VI or whether I ought to leave a few numbers in between, since it feels like there should be something in between the simple single-band variations I’ve shown you so far and this one:

This one also comes from Rob Bader - with no provenance other than the “junk box provenance” of being found in the wild.   Although it seems to be a one-off, I suppose I’ll give it a VI if/when there’s a second edition of The Catalogue.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

That One Bugged Me

The top example in the last picture from yesterday’s article bugged me:

I’ve had that one for more than a decade; even though the clip has broken away, the unusual plastic has made it worth keeping as a placeholder until a better example comes along:

Nothing better has come along.  Some time ago I picked up a duplicate green one, missing the cap and with a few issues - a crack at the top of the barrel and a tip that was a little goofed up.  Now and then I wrestle with it a bit to see if I can’t get it apart, I get frustrated, and I give up.  After I finished that last article, however, I thought it was time to get serious.  I wrestled the tip off, and what I found is that the nose of that heavy plastic is itself threaded, so the tip simply screws into the plastic:

Since there wasn’t anything holding things in from the front end, I figured everything must be press fit in from the back.  The top knob pried off easily, and I was able to use a knockout block to start banging the mechanism out from the nose – sounds harsh but believe it or not, these mechanisms are robust enough to take it.  Once I had forced the mechanism back enough for that bushing to come out, I could see into the barrel where the clip was attached, and there was no way the lower bushing was going to clear it on its trip out:

To put these together, Conklin pressed the mechanism in first, then installed the clip, then pressed in the upper bushing and mounted the top knob.  Once they were assembled, they were never meant to be taken apart again.  So how did I do it?

I had to remove the barrel down to a point below the clip.  This poor Conklin has been sacrificed in the name of science – and one man’s desire to simply replace a frickin’ clip.   An examination of the clip reveals how hard it is to break one of these from the barrel:

The wings of the clip were inserted through small slits in the barrel, then folded over into a death grip on the material between them.  And I DO mean a death grip - there was no getting a knife blade or anything else under those tabs to pry them loose!  I ended up using my lead drill to drill small holes through the plastic:

Then, I used my flat pliers to gently pry those prongs apart and fish out the rest of that green material:

My first thought was to insert the clip through the hole with the ears bent straight up, then bend them outward to grip the outsides of that hole, but by the time I’d pried things apart it was clear that the metal had had enough, and much more manipulation would break them off.  However, with the flaps bent out, there was more surface area to which glue could be applied:

It isn’t a perfect solution and I won’t be clipping this into a shirt pocket, but at least it is a much nicer display piece!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Visitor From a Fiery Other World

Sometimes I get hit squarely in my blind spot, and today’s pencil is one of those instances.  When this one showed up in an online auction, I bid hot and heavy because I’d never seen one in this color:

It doesn’t look much like it, but it’s a Conklin from the All-American series – the same series from which the Conklin-made Guild pencils were derived (see  The color is even more dramatic when the pencil is viewed from the side:

I knew I’d see Conklin specialist Alfonso Mur at the Chicago Pen Show, so I made a point to pack it in my show and tell folder, hoping to find out some information about this color, which I’d never seen before.

Pen collectors are well familiar with the color, which is known as “flame” and which is also one of the most desirable colors in Conklin circles, overshadowing even such desirable colors as the “halloween” and “zebra” colors I’ve written about here.  Pete Kirby let me shoot a picture of my pencil next to a Conklin All-American pen in flame – I didn’t have my photography stuff out at the time, so forgive the lousy cell phone picture:

Yet all this was news to me for one simple reason: I don’t collect pens.  Since the color is so rare, and no one else recalled seeing a pencil in flame, either, that explains why I never had cause to learn about this before.  What the heck – if I knew it all, this hobby would have bored me a long time ago!

So here’s the new family portrait of this class of Conklin All-Americans: