Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Long Road Home

I received a Facebook message from my friend Carlos Sanchez Alamo a few weeks ago, asking if I’d be interested in a few pencils . . . obviously, I was. Here’s one of the ones that made that long trek to Ohio from Spain:

I was on the fence about picking this one up, but in person, the color is so much more spectacular than any picture can provide.

And at the top, both the Chilton imprint as well as the higher-end greek key band instead of a simple double band:

At Philadelphia, I asked Chilton collector Hirsch Davis about this color. "If that were on a pen, you’d really have something," he said. I suppose that’s the highest praise a pencil gets from a pen guy!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Goin' to Hell

I love comments from readers, good or bad. Since I try to maintain a mix of stuff here, it’s inevitable that one week Reader A will be fascinated while Reader B sees the first picture and decides to go cut his toenails or something – two days later, with something else on tap, their roles may well be reversed. When I hear from A or B, it’s because I posted something they liked.

And then there’s Reader C, who takes deep personal offense to an article – not because it says anything about them, but for the sole reason that I didn’t write about something that interested them. "Your blog is going to hell," one particular reader said after the article concerning the 1936 Olympics souvenir pencil was posted. "I can’t believe you’re writing about those pieces of **** now. You must have run out of anything good to write about."

Well, Reader C – kudos to you for your passion. I’d give you your money back, but I didn’t charge you anything to read the article. Spoiler alert: you might want to change the channel now, because here comes another one along those same lines:

The thinner example is the one I posted about here about a month ago in "A Very Convincing Disguise," ( The other one showed up in an online auction about the time my article on the 1936 Olympics pencil posted and I was put on notice to write about something better . . . or else.

This new one also shares that same mechanism found on the Brown and Bigelow Redipoint pencils and, like the other example shown, it has some nice enamel work, this time on both sides:

Like the thinner example, this one also has a "filigree" barrel. This example is a little bit less ambiguous with respect to how it was made, and I think I’m right when I tell you these were cast, rather than cut out:

My seller claimed it was sterling and it appears to show some tarnish, but the pencil isn’t marked and I’ve got doubts about the metal content – no worries for me, since I wasn’t buying it for the intrinsic value of the materials. The clip is a bit over the top, with what is probably not a real pearl set in the tang. However, note what went into making it: it features the same open work as the barrel, and the way it is mounted to the pencil is insertion through a slot in the barrel -- yet another variation on the manner these were constructed:

I figure if there’s nothing I want to write about here at the blog about a pencil, there’s no reason for me to buy it.  It’s great if the Reader Cs of the world made it to the end of this article and saw maybe a glimmer of something interesting here . . . and believe me, it’s nothing personal against you if you didn’t.

If not, oh well . . . I liked it and I shared it. Go yell at your TV.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Another Square Peg

I received an email from Keith Prosser a while back, asking if I had any interest in a red hard rubber "Fin-Sharp." Why, yes I did, I answered – I had remembered photographing Joe’s red example alongside mine a few years ago, in the days before I upped the resolution, camera and lighting in my setup and was able to take better pictures:

Keith had sent me a picture of it before I made the decision to bite – I looked at it, said "yeah, that’s the one" and had him send it southbound for some better pictures. When it arrived:


This isn’t right ...

I have a love-hate relationship when things don’t quite fit in. I was really looking forward to having three nice Fin-Sharps all in a neat little row, just like I did when Joe’s pencil visited. But if that was what I received, all I would have accomplished would have been the acquisition of the same pencil in another color – it’s neat to find one that doesn’t fit the mold, and this one does that and challenges what I believed to be the orderly evolution of Eclipse’s pencils.

Let’s back up a minute so I can show you what I mean:

From the top, this is how I had thought early pencils from Eclipse evolved. The top two have a flat clip marked "Fin-Sharp," a pun on Marx Finestone’s name. It’s possible that Wahl Eversharp went after Marx to change the name, since the former tended to believe it had cornered the market on sharpness – it’s also possible that the name wasn’t catchy enough for Marx. For whatever reason, the clips were soon changed to a ball clip marked Eclipse, with no other real changes in the pencils:

At this point, check out the "Unxld" in the index to the right – I don’t know how that one fits in, either, whether before or after the Fin-Sharp, or produced by Eclipse under a different name for another company . . .

Note that in this series, the crown top is used on everything up until the point when Eclipse patented the familiar 1923 script logo clip shown in that bottom example, at which time the top treatment was changed to a straight gold filled cap:

So Keith’s addition to my collection is just a little weird – part looking back to the earlier Fin-Sharps, part ahead of its time, anticipating the more streamlined look of the 1923-1924 edition. Was Eclipse using up old clips? I don’t know. Was the straight top developed earlier than I thought? I don’t know that either.

I do know I like square pegs, though.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More Weird Stuff

Broadly speaking, there were three transitional periods in Eversharp’s history: the mid- to late-1920s transition from the metal pencil era to the Doric, the late 1930s transition from the Doric to the Skyline, and the 1950s transition to . . . well . . . oblivion. Here’s a few examples of the odd things Eversharp did during that second phase.

From the top and most common is the Air-Lite, a low-buddget line which came in grey, greenish gray and black. Next is a "white star" pencil with an anodized aluminum barrel, exhibiting the mark Eversharp briefly used to replace it’s double-check mark in around 1940. The maroon pencil isn’t to my knowledge a cataloged model, and I’ve never heard a definitive name for it: part Doric, part Skyline, and with a clip not used on any other model – these also come in a demi size and in black, with and without gold seals, and I’ve got two examples that appear to be a very, very deep navy blue. That one at the bottom is an oddball I group with my Coronets.

None of these are exactly on the beaten path. So what would you make of an all-star oddball that has elements from each of these?

One of my readers tipped me off that this one had been listed online - I can’t remember who it was, so if someone reminds me I’ll give credit for the tip. For starters, note that this is an advertising pencil for the "Ladish Drop Forge Co." of Wisconsin, and this barrel appears to be molded with their name and logo, rather than stamped:

At the top end, it has the imprint located where you’d see it on the Air-Lite, and that top button also comes from the Air-Lite line (as well as some of Eversharp’s aluminum-barreled pencils of the era) . . .

. . . almost. Note that for whatever reason, the Air-Lite cap has three lines running around it, while our all-star has four – and more obviously, this is the only time I’ve seen this style button in gold fill over brass as opposed to chrome plated.

And the all-star has two bands that match that oddball Coronet . . .

. . . almost. Different spacing, and no gold filled band at the top. Also, the imprint on the Coronet is on the back of the barrel, opposite the clip:

And then there’s that seal, in the same place as the white star logo and which matches the Doric/Skyline transitional model . . .

. . . almost. Don’t squint too hard, you’re right . . . it’s just a little bit smaller. And last is that clip - the clip I’ve referred to as the prettiest one Eversharp ever made, which matches that white star pencil . . .

. . . almost. Our all-star clip is slightly wider and longer, and look closely at the "feathers" at the top:

Everything about this pencil is almost like something else Eversharp did. But not quite.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shared Custody

A couple weeks ago I received an email from Sam Knechel, Jr. in Florida. Sam’s father (Sam Knechel, Sr) had recently passed away, leaving behind a large collection of fountain pens and mechanical pencils. The pens, Sam Jr.explained, were long gone – snapped up by the first dealer he contacted. Left behind were hundreds of mechanical pencils, and the pen guy he had dealt with suggested that he give me a shout.

Thank you, by the way, to my anonymous benefactor!

Sam said he didn’t think there was much there, so he sent me a few representative pictures of the kind of stuff that was there, and I made him an offer on the bunch assuming that the rest were about the same. A few days later, two large boxes appeared on my doorstep:

As I was going through things, I’d pulled out a few dozen things for my collection and added significantly to my parts bins. There were a few really interesting pieces that I’ll show you over the next few weeks, but it’s one of the parts pencils I’m going to start with:

This Autopoint is one of the ones with the round, humped cap like I wrote about here a couple times in recent weeks – what I didn’t mention was that these caps often go missing, so finding a parts pencil with the cap was a sight for sore eyes. If I didn’t use it on one of the examples I had missing the cap, I was sure I’d find a use for that cap on another one.

I didn’t have to wait for long:

I should have taken a picture of this before I cleaned it up, because it didn’t look anywhere near this nice when it turned up in an online auction – that’s why it was so cheap. I couldn’t wait to see it next to the green one I wrote about here recently:

While I waited for the package to arrive and to reunite the right cap with the pencil, I tunneled farther into Sam Knechel’s collection, and I found another great Autopoint parts pencil:

I knew I had a few more along these lines, but I couldn’t remember what the caps looked like. I compared it to the similar ones I had in the collection . . .

Wait a minute . . .

Same cap - so until another one comes along, I’m debating which looks better – this:

or this:

Monday, February 23, 2015

I'll Bet You Didn't Know This

I was pretty excited when Rick Krantz had this unmarked pencil on his table at Philly – it was the missing piece I knew was out there that connected two interesting dots:

I had always heard that this clip was associated with the Moore Pen Company, and this example seems to prove the point. Here it is flanked by a couple others along these lines:

Note the overall shape and size, the two center bands, and the identical tips on the green and burgundy examples.

But connecting this clip to Moore isn't what had me excited about this one. It was connecting Moore to something else. Here’s the new Moore next to a couple of metal Slencils in my collection:

Slencil was headquartered in Orange, Massachusetts, not far off from Moore’s operations in Boston. You are justified at this point to be suspicious if I suggested there was some connection between Moore and Slencil – after all, Slencil was a one-trick pony turning out flat pencils, while Moore offered a wide range of high (and not so high) quality writing instruments. It’s possible, you might think, that similar clips might be all these two have in common.

But I’ve got something else up my sleeve to show you.

The clip on this one also looks Moore-ish, but that’s not what’s important about this one. Did you see the sticker on the side of the box?

"Slencil by Moore."

At this point, you can ask me any question you want – other than "yes, at some point there was some connection between Slencil and Moore," the answer is "I don’t know."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Still Feeling Around for the Walls

I think the reason collecting mechanical pencils has managed to keep my interest for all these years is because the variety still appears infinite. I still feel like a fifteenth-century cartographer trying to draw a map of the world, with the edges of continents trailing off into little caricatures of sea monsters and such – or like I’m sitting in the middle of the convention center ballroom trying to figure out where the walls are with my eyes blindfolded.

So when the Mother Lode surfaced at the Philly show last month, you would think by now, with more than fourteen thousand different pencils in my collection, nearly everything in that bunch of 2,500 would have been things I’ve already seen. And yet, so many were outside the borders of my known pencil world — as the cartographer in me picks up a pencil and sketches out a few more miles of rocky terrain.

I still haven’t had time to completely sort through the Mother Lode, and with all those bags and boxes of pencils sitting around, so when I went to the local antique show at the fairgrounds just a week after Philly, it wasn’t to look for pencils so much as for something to do in January in Ohio.

And there, in the first couple of tables, and for just a couple bucks, was an ever-present reminder that I will never claim to have seen everything:

The pencil is something you don’t see very often - a "No. 33 Duopont." What I’d never seen before was a boxed set. The erasers, I think, were just something someone happened to throw in the box – they don’t fit anywhere on the pencil, obviously. There’s two boxes of leads, too:

Ten degrees of hardness and ten colors, and there’s probably a story behind the name "Sharpont" and that triangularish "o". Were the lead boxes something else just thrown in there?

Nope. Matching boxes of lead, in red and blue, in a box denoting a No. 830 set with red and blue lead. Last but not least, you might have noticed an instruction sheet peeking out from under all this stuff in the floor of the box:

Note the arrows on the word "Duopont" -- I'm sure the Eagle Pencil Company wasn't amused, since Eagle registered a trademark for the word "Pointer" with those same arrows and angular letters.  Lest you harbor any doubt, look at that last line: "Use Sharpont Thin Leads in the Duopont." Here’s the back of the instruction sheet:

OK, that’s more than ten colors. Note the bottom right corner: September 1, 1932.

I will never have seen it all, I will never know it all and there’s no way I can write about it all. Guess that means I’ll keep looking, keep learning and I’ll see you here tomorrow!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Other Conklin Golf Pencils

Some time ago, I posted an article about unmarked "golf pencils" such as these, and how I determined that they were in fact made by Conklin (

There was a second breed of these, and my friend Joe Nemecek brought one along with him when he came to the Ohio Show last November:

I had known about these for some time, and the first time someone mentioned to me that these were made by Conklin I readily agreed that the top looked like a dead ringer for a Conklin Endura ringtop:

Yet I harbored some skepticism, since I hadn’t seen that front end on a Conklin before. Another of my friends, David Glass, was able to dispel my hesitation with his nice display of "All-American" pen and pencil combinations, clearly marked with the Conklin name. Each had this same front end – which, just like the Ensemble from my previous article, is interchangeable with this golf pencil. These combos also appear in Alfonso Mur’s book, The Conklin Legacy.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Mystery Mark

This stockbroker pencil turned up at the Ohio Show:

The overall profile matches that of the Hicks family. The clip lacks the distinctive upturned ball, but it doesn’t appear that it ever had one:

The engine turned pattern on this one is pretty close to Eversharp’s "Dart" pattern, but I think that’s a red herring. The pattern is close enough to the Hicks-marked Cartier I showed off a couple days ago, that I remain confident this pencil’s origins lie in New York, not in Chicago:

However, the hallmark doesn’t match anything else I’ve seen in this family:

I’m not sure whether it’s "DV" or "VD," although the latter might explain why you don’t see many of these around. There was a silversmith named David Vinton, but he traded a full century before this one was made. Clarence A. Vanderbilt used a similar sort of mark, with the CA nested inside the arms of a V, but I can’t find an heir apparent with the initial "D." There’s no silver content stamp or European hallmarks, which eliminates any continental possibilities in my mind.