Category Archives: Pens

Rediscovering a Classic – the Pencil


I recently found my pencil box from 4th or 5th grade. It was full of cool old football pencils. I hate football, always have, but I remember wanting the pencils for some reason. Turns out they’re old enough to be the regular, beautiful, cedar wood pencils that are difficult to find these days. I bought a couple of sharpeners and I was off.


Using a well-sharpened pencil is a delight. I’d forgotten how neat it is to sharpen and then write until it need sharpening again. Erasing is a snap. There’s a feel – a resistance – to writing with a pencil. You have to exert  a little effort, but the payoff is wonderful. You get the cedar smell, the slightest drag on paper, and the smudging if you’re not careful. It’s a simple, classic way to take notes. I’ve really enjoyed reconnecting with lead and wood.


The small, round, brass pencil sharpener I bought German-made and a miniature treasure. Of course you need to have a garbage can handy to deal with the shavings, but it leaves the pencil sharp and ready to use. It’s affordable and well-built. This is not the cheap Chinese aluminum sharpener you had in grade school.


The hand crank pencil sharpener I bought essentially a throwback to grade school (although if you’re old enough to be out of school, the one you remember was likely U.S. made – sadly, this is no longer an option). It’s an X-acto, and while it’s functional and sharpens the pencil well, it’s far from a fine mechanical instrument. It’s affordable though, and works well enough. If you order one, it probably won’t come with a strayfoto sticker on it, but if you really miss that feature, send me a SASE (remember that?) and I’ll mail you one.


So buy some pencils! There’s some great US made ones here and here. There’s some US made ones on Amazon here. If you’re lucky, maybe you can go back through your old stuff and find a rare stack of football pencils.

Don’t forget to check out my camera designs at RedBubble!


Skilcraft U.S. Government Pens – Made in the U.S.A. by the Blind

Skilcraft U.S. Government Pens – Made in the U.S.A. by the Blind


I recently came across an old Washington Post Article about the ultra low-tech Skilcraft U.S. Government Pen. It’s a cheap, retractable ball-point writing instrument. Not something I’d necessarily seek after – my taste in pens is decidedly more expensive and trends toward titanium and fountain pens. But with a little research the Skilcraft pen, although not necessarily a fine writing instrument, becomes a lot more attractive. It’s made in the U.S.A. By blind people. I had to have some.


According to Wikipedia, Skilcraft is a “trade name of the National Industries for the Blind”. They make all sorts of office instruments for the U.S. Government, these pens included. I ordered some and found them infinitely affordable.


They’re skinny – a little smaller than an average pen, and they’re really lightweight. It takes a little getting used to. But in the end I like them – they’re easy to use, kind of cool, and they’re made here in the U.S.A. According to the Post article, they’re spec’d to withstand freezing temperatures, really hot weather and can write a mile without blobbing or running out. Check them out and pick up a set here if you’d like.



Thanks for looking.

Big i Design Solid Titanium Pen Review

Big i Design Solid Titanium Pen Review

I got the Big i Design Solid Titanium Pen (or Big Idea Design) for Christmas. I like pens. At first I didn’t like this one so much, but that’s because it ships with a Pilot refill that’s scratchy and too fine for my taste. One of the great things about this titanium pen is it takes almost any refill. I swapped the original out for a broader tip and I’m warming up to it.

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