Sunday, November 13, 2016

Already Been Done

Joe Nemecek’s pride and joy from the DC show was this one, which he had acquired from David Nishimura:

It doesn’t look like much at first blush - there’s no markings at all on the outside, and the only bit of visual interest is a nicely detailed top:

What’s interesting about this one is what’s inside:

The rear section unscrews to reveal a hard rubber double helix which, when turned, advances a t-shaped drive pin:

The pencil, according to David Nishimura, is a Waterman “nonproduction” pencil.  David was the first to publicize this pencil over at his blog (the direct link to this article is, and that’s where Joe learned of its existence and began the slow transition from hinting, to inquiring, to suggesting, to begging and finally, to owning it.

The mechanism, according to David, is adapted directly from Waterman’s safety pens, which advanced and retracted the nib and feed instead of a piece of lead using the same parts.  So the forensic examination of the piece itself supports the “nonproduction” authentic Waterman claim nicely.

But there’s no imprint on the pencil, which leads me to ask what else puts this pencil in Waterman’s R&D department.  According to David’s blog, this pencil came from the estate of a Waterman executive or employee, and David says he acquired it from an “older collector.”  I asked David what executive/employee and what “older collector,” and he indicated as to the first, he didn’t know – as to the second, he wasn’t at liberty to say.

While I’ll be the first to say that a certificate of authenticity signed by David Nishimura is second only to a note from Frank D. Waterman himself, and I have no doubts that his conclusions about the pencil are accurate and this pencil is legitimate . . . I’m disappointed.  Provenance – there’s that word again –  is the thin line, in this case, between a Waterman nonproduction pencil and some random guy with fair to good machining skills and a lathe who converted a broken Waterman safety pen into a pencil with a spare piece of black hard rubber.

I would encourage whoever the source was for this piece to step forward and fill in the rest of the history surrounding it.  Which Waterman executive/employee owned it?  When was it made?  And how do you know whatever you know about this?

When I told Joe Nemecek I’d like to run an article about his Waterman “safety pencil,” he had reservations.  “It’s already been done over at David’s blog,” he said.  True, in one respect - something has been written about this pencil.  But what’s been written is conclusory, not investigatory, and this wasn’t said:  a little history is lost whenever an artifact is sold without passing along with it whatever history accompanies it.  Without that history, all that we are left with are old bits of metal, plastic and hard rubber.

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