This one turned up at the Chicago Show last May:
If it doesn’t look like much, that’s because like so many other weird Sheaffer variants, it looks just enough like what you’d normally expect to see. I picked this one up because I just liked the look of it, even though I was sure I had several just like it at home. Then I put it down. Twenty minutes later, I was back. "He wants it. He wants it not. He wants it. He wants it not."
Then it clicked what wasn’t quite right about this one. Here it is, posed next to what you would normally expect to see:
"He wants it." The smaller of the two is a "normal" Sheaffer working togs pencil – almost so, anyway, since it’s kind of unusual to see the entire lower barrel ribbed like that. Other than the slightly larger stature and much larger tip, these two look very similar, but these doppelgangers share no common ancestry. The larger one is a nose-drive pencil: that’s why the tip is so much larger (it would be tough to get a grip on the small tips on rear drive working togs pencils).
Notice also that the larger one has a one-piece barrel. While the regular working togs pencils have an imprint near the middle joint, either on the top side or the bottom:
This one has a plain "Sheaffers / Made in USA" imprint near the top:
I didn’t have to wonder long about this strange bird. As it turns out, even though this is the first one of these I’ve ever seen, they were well documented in Sheaffer’s catalogs, beginning in 1936:
Although this was on the "pencils to match" page, this doesn’t match anything. Sheaffer gave it the catalog designations "LL," which probably stood for longer lead - these were designed for 4-inch leads. The 1937 catalog shows the same pencil, again only in black.
For 1938, Sheaffer decided to go in a different direction. The familiar working togs middle-joint pencils make their first appearance, designed for new "Fineline" thin leads developed by the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company for Sheaffer:
Interestingly, the pictures show the straight tips associated with normal 1.1 mm leads, not the "fineline" 0.9 mm thinner variety – either artistic license was at work, or these were introduced in a larger lead version prior to the publication of the 1938 catalog.
The larger nose-drive utility pencils make their final catalog appearance at the bottom of the following page in the 1938 catalog:
And for its swan song, the $1.00 "LL" utility pencil was accompanied by an "MM" version . . . in gray pearl.
I have got to find one of those!