Monday, December 8, 2014

One Little Detail

I’ll admit I get fatigued seeing double-ended Autopoint pencils. Neat as they are, they were also so successful that they are everywhere. In fact, I’d lay odds that out of all the people who have said "oh, you like pencils? I have a bag of them here somewhere," a majority of them have at least one of them in that bag. I do have a few representative examples that have made their way home with me over the years:


When there’s no ball on the end of the clip, typically it’s an Autopoint. When there is a ball on the end of the clip, it will usually be marked "Realite" (the name of the company with which Autopoint merged in the early 1920s, which the company continued to use as a brand name well into the 1940s). Autopoint-marked examples are far more common. I’ve also included that single-ender in there because it shows an interesting Autopoint ball clip you’ll run across every so often – worth picking up when you get the chance:


During a recent jaunt to Amish Country, Janet and I stopped by one of our usual haunts: the Berlin Village Antique Mall in Berlin, Ohio. Berlin is an interesting place: as Route 62 snakes eastward out of Millersburg (a town frequently referred to in the television series Amish Mafia) the two-lane road runs right through Berlin, tourist central in Amish Country where it’s always rush hour. Craft shops and Amish food stores are clustered closely to the road on either side for about half a mile, and the imposing three-story building that houses the Antique Mall dominates the landscape at the center of the village, where Routes 39 and 62 intersect.

Both Janet and I will freely admit that we don’t usually find much there and it’s pretty much the same stuff every time we visit – but the drive up there is beautiful and the café on the first floor has the best ice cream imaginable. We had our priorities straight and ate first, then spent the next hour or so meandering through the mall while we digested. I wasn’t expecting much as I wandered around, but I did spot a basket with leads and a few pencils in it, one of which was this one:


The ball clip is what first got my attention, but the other detail I noticed was those metal trim rings at either end – I’d never seen them on one of these. So I looked a little closer:


It’s a Dur-O-Lite! Dur-O-Lite and Autopoint were bitter rivals from the outset, when Autopoint executives disgruntled with the Bakelite Company’s increasing influence in Autopoint’s affairs left the company to found Dur-O-Lite in 1925. Products offered by the two companies were frequently similar due to their common ancestry, but beginning in the 1960s the two companies blatantly reverse-engineered each other’s products, creating identical pencils for Bell Systems in particular. The double-ended pencils, however, were something I’ve never seen Dur-O-Lite copy – or rather, emulate:


The Dur-O-Lite’s trim ring, shown here next to the Realite, is a functional bushing that also supports the mechanism inside. And there’s one other difference:


As I set about the task of removing Jim Hazard’s name from the barrel, I learned that the barrel on my Dur-O-Lite isn’t made of plastic – it’s aluminum!

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