Sunday, June 3, 2012

Something Intelligent to Say

I've had these photographed for awhile, waiting for the day when I would have some thing more intelligent to say about them than "here they are":


Dur-O-Lite revived the "Keen Point" name for this series.  Shown here are two shorter "Scanner" pencils, one of which also has the designation "OCR", and the larger "Film King." 


Scanner lead was specially formulated so that when used to color in spots on cards, the cards could be "read" as they were scanned into an electronic reader.  OCR stands for "optical character recognition."   As for "Film King," I don't know . . . maybe a lead that could write on celluloid film?

Anyway, all three of these pencils have a couple things in common.  They have wood barrels and a distinctive metal ferrule, which is a single piece of metal wrapped around the end of the pencil with a bare exposed seam:


And before last weekend, the article ended here.   As Janet and I were wandering around in the heat in Sunbury on Memorial Day, we encountered a fellow in the last row who had a shoebox filled mostly with sharpened wood pencils, but as I pawed through it I did find another variation on the Keen Point Dur-O-Lite, so I asked how much he wanted for it.

"2 dollars," he said.

I pulled out a pair of dollar bills and handed them to him, and as I started to put the pencil in my pocket, he stopped me.

"No," he said, "that's two dollars for the whole box.   It's five bucks if you only take one."

This guy really wanted to get rid of that box of pencils.  Of course I couldn't resist, and Janet says I really got two dollars' worth of entertainment as I spread that box full o' stuff out on the kitchen table after we got home.    As suspected, mostly sharpened wood pencils (primarily Venus Col-erase colored pencils),  but there were a few other neat things in there - a plastic Esterbrook  "Felt Riter," a wood-cased eraser made by the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation, a neat Autopoint ballpoint.  But there were also about two dozen of these Keen Points in there, and when I compared them, I found there were three different varieties:


Two of them are Model 30-S, while the third is identified as a No. 1:


And on that top example, one other crucial bit of information:


Frank J. Stoeberl applied for a patent for these pencils on July 7, 1960, and the patent was granted on July 16, 1963 as number 3,097,628:

Since I had a couple dozen of these and some weren't in very good shape, I got a little braver than I would ordinarily and pulled one of the beaters apart.  These are about as simple as a a pencil can be:


The spiral is simply pushed into the ferrule, and the ferrule is simply pushed onto the end of the pencil.  The pushrod for the lead travels up a slot cut into the side of the hole in the barrel:


Most of these were badly corroded, and I'm uncertain whether it is the poor construction of the pencils or the poor conditions in which they were probably stored.  It looks like when they don't work, the problem is that the spiral has lost its grip inside the ferrule, so that turning the ferrule doesn't turn the spiral.  There's nothing else on these to break.

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