Friday, September 2, 2016

A Colorful Ending . . . Almost

I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time, so long that I’d given up on finding one:

This is part of a colorful series of utility pencils introduced by Wahl in it’s 1929 catalog:

Montgomery Ward also offered these pencils in its spring/summer 1930 catalog.  A few years ago I ran across a copy at an antique show and the owner allowed me to photograph the pen and pencil pages:

What’s interesting about the Montgomery Ward catalog is that the pencil is shown with a clip marked “WAHL” and the colors include “red,” not “coral” as the color is referred to in the Wahl catalog.  Do these variants exist?  If they do, I haven’t seen them.

Note that in both the Wahl and Montgomery Ward catalogs, the pencils are shown with matching colored tips.  They also came with black tips, and that is what interested me about this pencil, since I’ve been trying to complete a set for a long time.

If I had to guess, I’d say the black tips came later, and I’ll explain why in a minute.   The two yellow examples at the bottom bug me a little, since both are color-matched:

No big deal, I thought – the barrel is the hard part and I’ll just swap out an easier-to-find black nose off of a parts pencil.  I’ve even got the pencil, which I bought for parts to swap out a clip:

But alas, my parts pencil wasn’t much use in this case.  See, this later incarnation of the breed is equipped with an Equipoised mechanism, and the black front end is permanently fused to the colored barrel:

Rats . . . but all was not lost.  There was a transitional step in the evolution of these pencils:

These are mechanically identical to the earlier examples:

Right down to the screw-on tips – this is why I think the black tips came later.  Not only would it have been cheaper to produce all the tips in one color, but the later pencils all had black tips:

So, at last, I can offer you a family portrait more pleasing to the OCD crowd (of which I am a proud member):

Pleasing, but still not complete.  Until I’ve found another black nose, I’ve got two pencils sharing custody of one.   Oh, and there was an all-black one I haven’t found.  Oh, and . . . yeah.  That’s what perpetually keeps me going.


Vance said...

I'm curious about your use of the term "utility pencil." I thought these always had open erasers at the end, and these have covered erasers.

Jon Veley said...

You are correct: that open eraser is underneath all of these caps, which are friction fit over the same bushing found at the tops of all of them.

Vance said...

Hmmm. I assume here that you are distinguishing between the small caps like these from the long caps all (non-"utility"--disutility?) pencils have (most of them with erasers). So are Eversharp Skyline and Fifth Avenue pencils, and Pelikans and Mont Blancs et al, which have erasers under a button cap, utility pencils? I've never heard them so described.

Jon Veley said...

The distinction turns more on the way these were marketed. These pencils, for example, were made at the same time as Eversharp's flagship line of new Pyralin pens, including the top of the line Deco Band models. They were marketed and sold with lower quality trim, with the emphasis on durability, for $1.00. Sometimes companies called these utility pencils, other times "working togs" and the like. I think "utility pencil" is a good catchall, since they were designed to be cheap and utilitarian.