Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Now That's Salesmanship

I’ve commented several times over the years how much the L.E. Waterman Company despised pencils and resisted making them as long as possible.  When they caved and began offering Gabriel Larsen’s patented pencils in the early 1923 . . . ish . . . the company made it clear that they were doing so only because the public demanded it, not because they wanted to (see “So Great the Vogue” at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/11/so-great-vogue.html).

The Larsen mechanism was a simple thing- touted by Waterman as being so simple there’s nothing that can go wrong with them (made of only six parts, the company bragged).  That meant a simple pin mounted onto a crude threaded plug would push lead through the tip, which was tight enough to hold it in place by friction alone.  Without a reverse gear (which Sheaffer referred to as a propel-repel-expel mechanism), to back the lead up you had to turn the nose cone the other way and push the tip of the pencil onto the table or a finger to push it back in.

I received an email the other day from Jean-Marc Czaplinski, from France, who asked if I had ever heard of the Waterman “Rigid Point,” and attached a few pictures:

This one is marked with the typical Made in USA for export to Britain marks, including the filing of Larsen’s patent as Great Britain patent 226,746 (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/11/three-interesting-watermans-part-two.html).  The box lid reads “Waterman’s Pencil Rigid Point,” and the sheet that was with the box reads, “In order to secure a perfectly rigid point the Waterman pencil is made to propel only.”

What uncharacteristicly delightful hogwash from Waterman!  And thank you, Jean-Marc, for the note.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Minor Mystery Solved

When these were among a pile o’ pencils I bought recently, they reminded me to tell you something I learned about years ago but I haven’t shared here:

These are lower quality pencils; that basketweave sort of pattern is typical of pencils made by the Eagle Pencil Company (particularly under their Epenco brand), while the dark plastic with the blue streaks is that cheap plastic used by Stratford (the successor in name to Salz).  The clips are marked with one of those names I’m sure you’ve seen:

“Kreko.”  I included a few of them in The Catalogue on page 94, but since at the time I didn’t know anything more about them, I described them only as “Kreko pencils.”

After the book was written, I found this:

S.H. Kress & Co. was a chain of five-and-dime stores along the lines of Woolworth, and the Kress Stores adopted the trademark “Kreko” for its house brand of all manner of office supplies, from typewriter ribbons, to carbon paper . . .

. . . to pencils.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

M Is For Mabie

In a recent online auction, I couldn’t resist this one, even though I thought it might not be an American pencil (I still strive mightily to limit myself to one country of origin, even though it’s been a losing battle lately):

At the nose, there’s a tiny hallmark: a block letter M within a square.

I was so sure that the piece was British that I was thinking Mosley, perhaps even Mordan?  But then I noticed how similar it was to another piece in my collection, one I bought a couple years ago and haven’t gotten around to photographing:

That same combination of gently winding flutes in the center section and snail work at either end couldn’t be just a coincidence, and the gold magic pencil is well marked:

“Mabie, Todd & Co. No. 3.”  So I posted the question online to ask whose hallmark consisted of an M within a square, and within minutes David Nishimura came back with an answer: Mabie Todd.

Good, I replied.  I was hoping you’d say that.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Wahl's Car Parts Business

A while back, I posted an article here concerning Wahl’s “extracurricular” activities, presenting evidence including this pencil that Wahl might have been having second thoughts about the writing instruments business towards the end of the 1920s, as its product lines aged and the company was deciding whether to update existing products or try something new (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/10/wahls-extracurricular-activities.html).  That article was inspired by this pencil, which came from Larry Liebman:

The article concluded with advertisements I had found for the “Wahl Spring Brake” shock absorbers, which had me wondering

Enter Howard Edelstein, who pulled me aside at the Ohio Show to look at some pencils he had.  Two of them caught my attention immediately:

Identical utility pencils advertising the “Wahl Spring Brake” and the “Wahl Two-Way Hydraulic Shock Absorber.”

“Holy Cow!” I said.  “You must have read my article!”

Howard just looked at me.  “No.  What article?”

Sigh.  Score one for a fantastic stroke of luck; at least he knew I like pencils . . .

Friday, December 2, 2016

Maybe Not All . . .

A few weeks ago, I’d shared a picture of a pile ‘o red hard rubber Eversharp utility pencils.

Even though these have red hard rubber barrels, normally a quality that commands a premium, these are common enough that I didn’t mind scavenging a clip to complete a rarer model (see http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2016/11/junk-box-nirvana.html).

OK, most of them are common . . .

This one was also in that DC bunch along with all of its “common” cousins:

The short ones are exceedingly difficult to find.  Most interesting of all is what you’ll find in a side-by-side comparison of the full sized and midget versions:

That upper metal band is shorter, and the clip on the midget version is a significantly shorter one specially made for this model, complete with a shorter upper tang.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Back On Its Feet

John Harrison and I got to talking at the DC Show - hard to tell how we got on the subject, but he’s a LeBoeuf fan, and he mentioned he had a LeBoeuf barrel laying about in need of repair.  Over scotch and cigars, he presented it to me for an opinion:

It didn’t need repair . . . it needed the entire insides.  Long story short, it made sense for me to buy the barrel rather than supply replacement innards.  Back at home, I went through my parts and didn’t find anything that would work: even though the LeBoeuf and Cross Alwrite are built on the same chassis (both by Cross), I didn’t have anything that could finish this one.  However, as nice as the color was, I went through my intact examples to see if I could live with parting any of them out.  I had two that are nearly identical to each other:

The color variation probably isn’t enough to suggest these were intended to be two different colors – the plainer of the two only looks so because the other is SOOOO spectacular.  I figured the plainer one could at least share custody of its innards, so with a simple twist of the tip . . .

The entire mechanism just pulls out from the back, and presto . . .

John’s pencil is complete and enjoying a comfortable retirement alongside its ringtop counterpart.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Something I Never Knew Was There

When this Mabie Todd showed up in an online auction, if the seller hadn’t offered a detailed description of the imprint I wouldn’t have given it a second thought:

He indicated that the patent date on it was March 16, 1875 . . . not the usual date of October 3, 1854 you’ll find so often on Mabie Todds.

Unfortunately, when I bid on this one, I had forgotten that I had two examples along these lines from the collection of David Moak, author of Mabie in America.  I really, really REALLY need to get that collection photographed and cataloged.  Fortunately, though, this one is a little different: it’s a little shorter, and the trim is yellow gold, rather than the rose gold found on the other two examples:

One of the ones from the Moak collection  has a simple “Mabie Todd & Co. No. 4" imprint, but the other has the March 16, 1875 in addition:

But wait a minute . . . the “No. 4" part of an imprint would typically denote a nib size, and these look just like conventional magic pencils . . . time to look up that patent.

George W. Mabie applied for patent number 160,924 on February 19, 1875, less than a month before it was issued.  I don’t think it was just a slow day at the patent office – I think this is just that cool, and the drawings don’t really do it justice.  I breezed right past this one when I wrote my first patent book (it is included, by the way), because it just wasn’t practical to read the text of each patent – “pen and pencil case” was a sufficient description for my purposes at the time.   But now that this one had my full attention, what the drawings purport to show is made more clear:

The patent is for a reversible “detachable pen-holding sleeve” which fits over the front end of the pencil.  Come to think of it, the only thing unusual about these is that unusually thick nose. . .

Well isn’t that slick!  Shame on me.  I’ve had David Moak’s examples for what - four years now?  This feature is explained in his book, and I’ve never pulled one of these apart to see what’s inside.