Finding the perfect pencil for any purpose will make procrastinators of us all. And what a curious dilemma, made possible by CWPencils on the lower east side, a ‘world-class purveyor of the finest graphite’. They have hundreds of pencils from all over the world, made from different kinds of wood and in various shapes and colours. There are Swiss pencils made from beech wood from the Jura forest, flower scented pencils from an old factory in Portugal, and Musgrave pencils from Tennessee, made from recycled newspaper. There are pencils chosen for their font, and pencils chosen for their history. The Blackwing is a vintage American pencil immediately recognizable by its distinctive tip. The original pencil had a cult following, maybe because the wax added to the graphite made writing effortless, which purportedly gave John Steinback his creative edge. Then there is the HB scale. Hardness and darkness of the lead is a result of the proportion of graphite to clay, but the discrepancies of scale around the world ( a bit like being a size 10 in Australia V’s being a size 10 in America ) mean that you have to try each one for comfort and fit. So one pencil will mark permanently, while another will glide across the page like a watercolor. It’s endless. You can spend a quarter on the popular rounded Bugle No2 or $75 on a vintage pencil. One you can sharpen to adjustable length with a leather pouched sharpener, the other you would think twice about even using. But there is much inspiration either way, and even though I have a drawer full of regular pencils channelling Elvis and inspiring expeditions, there’s always room for one more…!
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