Friday, October 12, 2018

The Tangled Web

Today’s pencil turned up, like so many extraordinary finds, in someone’s junk box.  It was at the DC show last August – all I remember is picking it up, thinking a casual “huh” to myself and parting with just a few dollars to bring it home and think about sometime.

I’ve thought about it a lot now.

At first blush, this unassuming pencil doesn’t stand out in a crowded box full of metal pencils.  What drew that “huh” and a couple bucks out of me was the name:

“Fine Point / Pat. Apl. For.”  Initially, I thought this might be a Mabie Todd ripoff on “Fyne Poynt” or something, and so it landed into a pile of things I was going to get around to photographing after I finished editing the very book you are reading.

As fate would have it, this is the same book that both makes sense of this pencil and also sends my mind reeling a bit regarding what it means.  I’ve seen the name “Fine Point” before . . .

That’s a page from an undated catalog illustrating products of the General Manufacturing Company, makers of Snapfil pens and Kaligraf pencils; the article originally ran in The Pennant in Spring 2015, and it’s reproduced earlier in this book, starting at page 41.  I’d forgotten all about that – I know, read your own damned books, Jon.

Before I show you a few things about the pencil, there’s a couple points to bring you up to speed on: first, that article originally ran as a sidebar to an article Daniel Kirchheimer wrote in that same issue, in which he established that Sheaffer lifted, borrowed or otherwise appropriated the “Balance” shape, name and concept from General Manufacturing.  On page 42, I noted that the pencil on the left in that catalog page resembled an early Sheaffer Sharp Point, but there wasn’t enough detail to be certain.

Now that I have an example of a Fine Point in hand, I can tell you it doesn’t just resemble a Sheaffer Sharp Point – it is one:

It has the same cap, eraser retainer and mechanism.  Also, there’s some details in the barrel chasing that are telling:

Note that extra ring at the nose end, in the same position on both.  Even though the patterns on these two pencils is not identical, note the way the machining “punches” in at the nose end, rather than being a smooth line.

And there’s more.

In that article on page 42, I was able to better identify some of the other pencils in the General Manufacturing catalog as having been manufactured by Hutcheon Brothers.  When the Fine Point is positioned between the Sheaffer Sharp Point and a Hutcheon “Finerpointe”:

We have a Sheaffer Sharp Point cap and a Hutcheon clip and similar name blended into one pencil.

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