Monday, 31 May 2010

Prismacolor Col-Erase: Can it be Erased?

During my pen-and-pencil retail therapy some days ago I picked a Prismacolor Col-Erase Carmin Red pencil. I'm informed by PencilTalk that Sanford which have been making these pencils along with Mirado and Mirado Black Warrior was due to close its US manufacturing facilities in 2009 and move to Mexico. This must have happened because the careful eye will discern the word Mexico inscribed on the pencil barrel.

Mexico inscribed on Prismacolor Col-Erase:

The Prismacolor Col-Erase boast that they are perfect for illustrating and animating, that they have a strong medium lead and erase with ease. And here I put the Carmin Red to the test. I made marks on

1. Winsor & Newton Cartridge Sketch Pad, 110gsm and on
2. Daler Cartridge Pad, 130gsm.

I used

1. Winsor & Newton Griffin eraser
2. Derwent eraser
3. the pencil's own eraser.

Prismacolor Col-Erase Carmin Red mark on Daler cartridge 130gsm paper :

Prismacolor Col-Erase Carmin Red on Daler 130gsm paper erased with Derwent eraser:

Same as above but 1/4 (on the right hand side) has been erased with Winsor & Newton Griffin eraser. Slightly better result.:

Prismacolor Col-Erase Carmin Red mark on Winsor &Newton cartridge 110 gsm paper. Erased with Derwent eraser:

Prismacolor Carmin Red on Winsor&Newton 110gsm paper.


And now erased with its own eraser:

Shouldn't one expect complete erasure from a Col-Erase? Or am I asking for too much?
As I have mentioned before the pencil came with a bar code label stuck to it like there was no tomorrow. An anonymous reader has suggested erasing the sticky stuff off. It worked!

Prismacolor have got a wonderful website. Check out Col-Erase and all the rest of their products there and maybe leave your own sketch behind.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Palimpsest's 6th Monthiversary Giveaway

Time flies! It has been a whole six months since Palimpsest made its appearance in the blogosphere and it feels like celebrating and spreading the joy.
So here it goes. A lucky reader will get the following:

  1. Paperchase Eco notebook 
  2. O-Check notebook 
  3. Rhodia pencil
  4. Pencil made from recycled CD cases
  5. Kirin Japan ruler-pencil HB
  6. Staedtler pigment liner 0.3

Just leave a comment below to enter the draw (only one comment per reader, please). Ends Thursday, 3 June 20:00, UK time, or 15:00 EST. I shall of course post internationally. Winner has a week to contact me with their address details at

Paperchase e-co boasts "100% recycled paper and recycled leather left over from the working of natural leathers - Made in the foothills of the Italian Alps". It certainly has got a "recycled" feel with its black speckled cover and orange-lined pages.   O-Check notebook is a product of the Korean-based O-Check Design Graphics, maker of delightful stationery. Here's their website - I found it thanks to joiesh.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Pencil and Pen Retail Therapy. A Taste of Conté

Retail therapy. Who needs clothes and accessories when you've got pens and pencils. London Graphic Centre here I come. Picks of the day were (not in order of importance):
The pens:
STABILO pointVisco fine 0.5
STAEDTLER pigment liner 0.3
The pencils:
Conté 601 B Graphite
Conté 1355 No 41 Pastel, pink
Prismacolor COL-ERASE 20045 Cadmium Red
One bottle of ink:
Pelican 4001 Fountain Pen Ink, Turquoise

I haven't tried a Conté pencil before and I have to say this one offered a very pleasing writing experience. I find the Conté 601 B to have a solid yet buttery feel. I also like the feel of the barrel and I could even get used to the barcode which is engraved at the bottom. I loathe barcodes on pencils. The Prismacolor had one stuck on it so securely that it took a long time to get rid of and there's still glue on the wood which put me off.

Conté Graphite and Pastel

Conté Graphite 601B: Smooth operator.

Conté Pastel pink No 41. What a pleasure to press it onto paper and see it crumble away. Delectable pink.

Monday, 24 May 2010

A Spot of Summer

Over 20 degrees Celsius and everything collapses into itself. Fingers are sweating holding the pen, nib seems to expand, ink dries up or overflows with inane words - maybe it is only my imagination -  but let it be known I am no sun worshipper. Definitely not a park person. Regent's Park on a sunny Sunday was enforced upon me by friends and kids and the ensemble and I joined the myriad others from every faith, age and creed who had descended onto the grass, by the pond, onto the pedalos and boats and in the endless line for ice cream.

Days of May on Flickr

The Rhodia Webbie felt like something that is designed for colder climes. The Lamy Safari rested uncomfortably in the hand. The white wine was warm, the guacamole disintegrating in the heat, the greenery was buzzing with reproductive frenzy. I am writing a story for the Guardian Weekend Short Story competition - a summer theme, they say, has to be a summer theme. Deadline is on 18 June. I hope it has cooled down a bit by then.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

How to Correct Bad Handwriting in Children by Hans Christian Andersen

Enlist the help of Ole Luk-Oie to have even the worst handwriting corrected effortlessly. While your child sleeps Ole shall produce the best handwritten homework you have ever set eyes upon. Want to find out how? It is simple. Just have your children sit very quietly at the table in the evening. Ole Luk-Oie will creep behind them noiselessly in his socks and squirt sweet milk in their eyes and blow softly upon their necks and make their heads heavy. Then you can take them to bed.

Hans Christian Andersen, Ole Luk-Oie. 
Illustrations by Vilhelm Pedersen and Lorenz Frolich

Once the children are asleep, Ole sits down on their bed. He wears a silk coat of many colours and holds an umbrella full of dreams. But what's that he hears from the table drawer? A terrible wail. There is a great lamentation coming from the copy-book.

This is what Ole sees:

The slate is suffering from convulsions for a wrong number had got into the sum; the slate pencil tugged and jumped at its string; a great lamentation is coming from the copy-book: the letters the child has written lay down just as if they had tumbled over the pencil lines on which they were to stand.
"See, this is how you should hold yourselves," said the Copy. "Look sloping in this way, with a powerful swing!"
"Oh, we should be very glad to do that", replied the Letters, "but we cannot; we are too weakly".

Ole Luk-Oie sitting on the inkstand and correcting bad handwriting.

This is want Ole does:

"Then you must take medicine", says Ole to the Letters.
They cry "oh, no" at first but they immediately stand up so gracefully that they are beautiful to behold.
Ole Luk-Oie exercises them "One, two! one, two!" and thus exercised they stand quite slender and as beautiful as any copy can be.

Terms and Conditions: This method corrects bad handwriting as long as the child is asleep and Ole Luk-Oie is present. Once the child wakes up the following morning the letters are as weak and miserable as ever.

 See him sleeping on Flickr

Verbatim from The Complete Illustrated Stories of Hans Christian Andersen, "Ole Luk-Oie", Trans. H.W. Dulcken, Chancellor Press 1983, first published in Great Britain in 1889, pp. 103-4.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Post a Stub: Staedtler Mars Polycolor

Von of The Good Life blog has sent this contribution to Palimpsest's Post a Stub:

What an irresistible invitation for a pencil addict to be asked to share a favourite pencil stub! Of course it was extremely difficult to select just one. I have a box of Staedtler Mars Polycolor No. 3211 Made in Germany, which originally contained twelve left-hand pencils. Sadly, the white one wore away long ago and the No. 9 Light Cadmium and the No. 47 Brick Red disappeared, while in the care of my younger daughter years ago. The set was retrieved when I found her trying to abandon the box - she grew up to become a stationery addict!

These pencils are precious to me because they were given to me by an old family friend on a birthday and I used them with respect and delight as a child and continue to do so today. The quality far surpasses anything newer and they are as smooth and effortless to use as they ever were. I believe that they will now see me out, with carefull use and that is a pleasing thought.
So to choose just one, feels like picking out one friend for special attention from a group of dear, old friends - not quite comfortable. However, if it has to be, it will be due to the colour and has to be No. 35 Carmin Extra fine.

Photos and text by Von of The Good Life.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

"Just a pencil"

The magnetic pencil is found in an old tin box. It must be some 30 years old. Was it part of something bigger? Was the "something bigger" discarded and the magnetic pencil was left on its own? My mother has a capacity of keeping "everything" in an orderly way: an eraser, a pencil sharpener, a box of pins, a magnetic pencil. She is not the stationery enthusiast. Sure there is always stationery to be found in the desk drawer. It is nameless and practical. Basic A4 sheets of paper, white and brown envelopes, some ballpoint pens, an old eraser, some nondescript pencils, couple of lined pads. I am sure that when in a while my mother departs from this world there will be no vintage Mont Blancs or Parkers to be found.

She sits down to write her will. I lend her my Lamy Safari. She is not satisfied. Nib's too thick. She takes an ordinary Bic. A normal blue lined paper. Preparations for dying are also made in an ordinary, practical way.

If there is "old" stationery to be found in my mother's place it is not because she is particularly attached to any such things as writing instruments. The 100 Celluloid Sun pins and the metal-sharpener-in-a-box (with spare sharp bits attached to the lid!) are kept because of a certain thriftiness which is a habit acquired in harder times. Wars, civil wars, dictatorships make for the disposal of the veneer which makes life more tolerable. Practicalities come first - no time for special inks or luxurious notebooks - survival comes first and then thirftiness.

And thus the magnetic pencil remained in the tin box. It is perhaps something that I have discarded long time ago and mother carefully rescued and kept in the spirit of thriftiness. There is also a LYRA pencil. The latter features a silver ferrule and on the barrel a procession of what appears to be ancient Greek men riding horses against a blue background. Under the ferrule there is the inscription LYRA, a... lyra and a date: 1875; and underneath Made in Germany. Amazing, I said. My mother was not impressed: "It's just an old pencil", she said. And so it was.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Post a Stub: Mitsubishi 9000 and Mirado Black Warrior

New kid on the blog. Another pencil enthusiast comes to join the ranks of graphite lovers and bloggers. He signs as Black Sal, the 18th-century smuggler of the finest and purest graphite of the Cumbrian mines. The author of the new blog Pencil Points is as passionate about "wad" as Black Sal was but unlike him he shall share his treasure with his readers for free.

Black Sal contributions to Palimpsest's Post a Stub come from two different parts of the world, Tokyo and New York:

What better way of launching my own pencil blog, than sending a stub to Palimpsest, one of the fine blogs that has inspired me.
Here's the contents of my desk: a Mitsubishi 9000, purchased in Tokyo, and a Mirado Black Warrior, purchased in New York. Both pencils about 7 or 8 years old, both well used, but unequally favoured: while the Black Warrior is a familiar and trusted workhorse, the Mitsubishi is perhaps my favourite ever pencil. Why? Simply for the text on the reverse MADE BY ELABORATE PROCESS. It makes me smile every time I use it.

Palimpsest is looking forward to reading about many more pencils at Black Sal's lair at Pencil Points.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Armand Hammer, Arm and Hammer: Unlikely Coalitions

A proud Hammer "Diamond" pencil, shining yellow, its lead sharpened to the sharpest, serves as mast to a red flag that waves against a sky that would have been dark had it not been for the triumphant streaks of light dividing it in triangular segments and changing night to dusk. Behind the Hammer pencil mast the dark skyline of New York and an expanse of water where a ship advances (and it could have well been Battleship Potemkin) shining its own spotlight streaks on the starry sky. American marketing show meets Workers' Paradise. Talk of unlikely coalitions.

Armand Hammer jokes: I was named after Alexandre Dumas' Armand. You know, the amant du coeur of the Lady of the Camelias. No, actually it was after Arm and Hammer, the symbol of the American socialists. Or was it, says another, after the Arm & Hammer baking soda? The inspiration behind Armand Hammer's name is as controversial as the man himself. The man is a palimpsest.

An American capitalist entrepreneur par excellence born to a socialist father, doing business in the Soviet Union, friends with Vladimir Lenin as he was going to be with Roland Reagan, endorsing advertisements where a proud American pencil is mast to a red flag whereupon the Hammer and Sickle is replaced by the Arm and Hammer logo and the Statue of Liberty. Talk of unlikely coalitions.

 Image from Eddie's Soviet Posters
an excellent collection: from Lenin to Stalin and from adverts to space

I went into a stationery store to buy a pencil. The salesman showed me an ordinary lead-pencil that would cost two or three cents in America, and to my astonishment said the price was fifty kopeks (26 cents)... I decided that here was my opportunity. ~ Armand Hammer
Hammer, who completely lacked pencil-making know-how, recruited disgruntled German Faber pencil masters and Birmingham engineers and within six months his Moscow pencil factory was in business using first American cedar and then Siberian redwood. Demand soared and Nikita Khrushchev told Hammer much later that he first learnt how to write using a Hammer pencil. But in 1930 the economic climate changed and Armand Hammer sold the factory to the Soviets.

Sacco and Vanzetti. Image: Boston Public Library

Armand Hammer went on to other ventures. But his pencil factory added another layer in the palimpsest that was Hammer. Having previously adopted Hammer's capitalist venture, the Soviets now repudiated their "capitalist deviations": they renamed the manufacture "Sacco and Vanzetti Pencil Factory" after the Italian immigrant workers whose execution in America in 1927 for crimes they allegedly haven't committed made them martyrs to the socialist cause.

Henry Petroski, The Pencil, Faber & Faber: London, Boston 1989. For images of vintage Hammer pencils see also Pencils Manufactured by Armand Hammer.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Novelty Pencils by Rubinato and Swarovski

Rubinato's website informs that Francesco Rubinato's father ran a stationery shop in the centre of Treviso, Italy in the 1950s. Mr Rubinato senior catered to lovers of fine writing instruments and accessories attracting customers from the Italian crème de la crème. Francesco built on the successes of his father specializing in the antique writing culture and offering anything from wooden nibholders and quills to handmade inks and sealing wax.

I didn't know any of the above until I came across Rubinato's pencils in an airport stationery shop. They call themselves Rubinato  CRYSTALLIZED™ - Swarovski Elements and they are all-black, no-markings, cylindrical affairs featuring a Swarovski crystal at the top. The display surely looks pretty as the eye feasts on the cylinders of purple, blue, yellow, green, orange, red, white crystals and you want to buy them all. As novelty pencils they make for a nice gift - imagine taking one of these babies out of your handbag - umm, perhaps. But fancy stuff aside Rubinato are decent pencils to write with. They are not graded but I would say they are on the soft side.

At the airport they retailed at 2.30 Euro. I see that the Storage Store in Amazon offers them for $18.99 for 5. It would have been a good gift for Mother's Day but too late now. Perhaps next year. The Francesco Rubinato website is worth a look and a browse too.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ticonderoga Pencil, or else

"You're saved. Ticonderoga is here!"

Back in the mid-1930s the Saturday Evening Post carried a full-page advertisement showing the novelist Booth Tarkington, pencil in hand, at work on a manuscript, together with a testimonial from him to the effect that Dixon Ticonderoga pencils were essential to his writing. Doubtless this explained to numerous less prolific authors why they had been unable to get going on their books; they had been attempting to writing with Ebehard Fabers. I knew a newspaper columnist who fully intended to write a novel, but the typewriter he used at home was old and cumbersome, so before he could settle into the job he would first have to purchase a better machine. As far as I know he never did.

Louis D. Rubin, Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog: On Writers and Writing, U. of Missouri 2005

See reviews of the Ticonderoga in the excellent PencilTalk blog, or/and visit the Dixon website, Home of the  Ticonderoga No. 2 Pencil. Pencil Pages has got some great Triconderoga ads from the 1920s onwards.

 Photo by scaredpoet

Friday, 7 May 2010

Post a Stub: Maths finals success

Palimpsest was sent this lovely photo from Corrada2000 celebrating her daughter's success in her maths finals. Her photostream in Flickr contains many gems - my particular favourite must be Books and Words.

I took this photo rather on impulse after my daughter had called to tell me that she had passed her final maths test at university with the best possible mark – hooray!
As I post a photo on flickr nearly every day, I decided to do so to celebrate the girl's success.
So I went to „her“ room (she doesn't live at home any more), chose one of the maths books from her shelf (the book's title is „Gewöhnliche Differentialgleichungen“ - ordinary differential equations) and took one of the pencils from a pencil box. I decided for a red one to put some colour to the black and white page of the book – the photo shows a detail from „FitzHugh-Nagumo equations“.
 Palimpsest extends congratulations!

Text and photo by Corrada2000 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Post a Stub: Time Flies

My Flickr friend Fernan Carrière is in his own words a scribe, who is currently studying writing in all of its forms: its history and sociology, why we write, learning to write, how we write, the technology of writing, the material aspect of writingFernan is also a wonderful photographer and has an eye for details and perspectives that may otherwise go unnoticed. His Écriture set offers delightful compositions of pens, inks and paper - a must see for the writing instruments enthusiast. 

Fernan contributes two photos to Palimpsest's Post a Stub. He says that these pencil stubs hold no particular stories of interest to anybody. To me they are imprinted with the unspoken stories of usage and memory.

Time flies
like water under a bridge
memories go by...
Never the same souvenirs
since they are shaded with layers of time
Time passes and everything goes by...
But it's always the same river

(with acknowlegements to Heraclius and Léo Ferré)

Photos by Fernan Carrière ©All rights reserved
Not to be copied or used for commercial reasons without the photographer's written permission.

Monday, 3 May 2010

How to Live by the Pen

Many years ago (before the widespread use of email - imagine that) when I was toiling away at my thesis I found a brief respite by taking a little job sticking seminar programs announcements into pre-addressed envelopes. There were two piles, one being the letters, the other the envelopes. The movements involved to accomplish this task were simple: take one letter from one pile, fold it in thirds, take envelope from the other pile, stick folded letter in, peel off removable strip at the back of envelope, press flap onto adhesive to seal envelope. Repeat as necessary.

It was all performed in a tiny, airless, windowless room and it was a task so soothing to the mind that I still recall it as one recalls a day on the beach. Even better. The task earned me a little money too. I do not want to propose peel-and-seal envelopes as the path to intellectual salvation or self-sufficiency. I was just reminded of this small task while reading the following passage from John Stuart Mill's Autobiography:

Books destined to form future thinkers take too much time to write, and when written come, in general, too slowly into notice and repute, to be relied on for subsistence. Those who have to support themselves by their pen must depend on literary drudgery, or at best on writings addressed to the multitude; and can employ in the pursuits of their own choice, only such time as they can spare from those of necessity; which is generally less than the leisure allowed by office occupations, while the effect on the mind is far more enervating and fatiguing. 
For my own part I have, through life, found office duties an actual rest from the other mental occupations which I have carried on simultaneously with them. They were sufficiently intellectual not to be a distasteful drudgery, without being such as to cause any strain upon the mental powers of a person used to abstract thought, or to the labour of careful literary composition.

John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, published by ebooks@Adelaide 2009, The University of Adelaide Library, University of Adelaide, South Australia

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Turn of the Screw, the Turn of the Pen

Seated at my own table in clear noonday light I saw a person whom, without my previous experience, I should have taken at the first blush for some housemaid who might have stayed at home to look after the place and who, availing herself a rare relief from observation and of the schoolroom table and my pens, ink, and paper, had applied herself to the considerable effort of a letter to her sweetheart.

Dark as midnight in her dark dress, her haggard beauty and her unutterable woe, she had looked at me long enough to appear to say that her right to sit at my table was as good as hers.

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw, first published 1898, this edition J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd: London, Everyman's Library, 1988.