Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tools of My Trade

The mechanical pencil is the tool I use when developing my engineering designs. The computer does the number crunching, but concepts are developed, static schemes examined, construction details designed, sketches made for the draughtsman and ideas communicated using pencil and paper (often scanned and sent by Email or included in a report). For some reason I cannot substitute the pencil with a biro.

Down the years I have collected together a series of pencils that appealed to me, but for the last twenty three years my faithful companion has been this  Caran D' Ache Ecridor.  I have used it so much that the silver plating has worn away in several places and I had the propelling mechanism replaced after twenty years of nonstop  use. The weight and balance of this pencil is perfect.

Caran D' Ache Ecridor
I have another two Ecridor pencils, one with an unusual design that is too nice to use and another standard chevron design that I bought to replace the first one but for some reason did not.
Caran D' Ache Ecridor
Two pencils that come close to the Ecridor are the sleek Lamy 2000 a pencil that has been in production since 1966 and a recently acquired half price end of series blue Waterman Carene. The Carene is a pleasure to write with. I got a real bargain with this pencil or rather pencils because I also snapped up the mottled green version as well after using the blue one.

Waterman Carene
Waterman Carene

A pencil I would love to like but cannot, is the Cross Apogee. I just cannot get used to the propelling mechanism that every so often goes into retraction mode. I like its imposing design and it is nicely balanced.
Cross Apogee
Before I bought the Caran D' Ache Ecridor, my pencil of choice was a Parker 25 that I bought in the eighties. Like the Ecridor it is well worn but still works perfectly. I also have like the rest of the world a Jotter, a curious Insignia with a strange false jewel pattern , plus a couple of others. But apart from the 25, Parker pencils are not amongst my favourites.

Parker 25
3 Parker Pencils, Insignia, 25 and Arrow
Parker Jotter

Parker Insignia

Out of curiosity I have also put together a little of collection of vintage propelling pencils. Vintage pencils do not have the value or status of vintage pens, so it costs very little to collect them. One of my favourites is a little grey marbled 1930’s Fyne Poynt  that I use for note taking in meetings. It cost me about €5 
Fyne Poynt
  I Liked the marbled finish of  this nice little late 30’s Conway Stewart 25

Conway Stewart 25

The most interesting Propelling pencils are those made by Yard O Led. I am fascinated by the incredibly complicated filling mechanism. They also hold 10 spare leads that put together measure one yard. One in silver plate is from the late forties and the other a gold plated example from the fifties.  I want to find a solid silver one eventually.

Silver Plated Yard o Led

Rolled Gold Yard O Led

The clutch pencil is much older than I thought. I have a 1940’s American Eversharp Skyline a landmark in pencil design, and a curious triangular rolled gold Eversharp pencil from the fifties.

American Eversharp Skyline
Rolled Gold Triangular Eversharp
3 Eversharp Pencils

The Schaeffer Balance with its sleek shape from the early thirties was a revolutionary design for its time and rendered most the pencils on sale at the time clunky and old-fashioned.  
Schaeffer Balance
One of the weirdest pencils that I own is the Italian Parafernalia Revolution. This Hi Tech curiosity was designed in the late seventies. I when I saw it I just had to get one as it reminded me of a steel building structure. In fact I later read that it was designed to commemorate the  tubular construction of the Beaubourg Centre in Paris. This led to the acquisition of the Eversharp triangular pencil and the curious William Manton triangular pencil from the 1930’s.

Parafernalia Revolution
William Manton, Parafernalia Revolution and Eversharp Triangular Pencils

The massive Porsche P3110 is so strange that I got it in a sale with a 70% discount. The braded hose finish also acts as the spring mechanism to advance the lead. It makes a nice mach with the more normal but bizarrely named  Caran D' Ache Al CH Emi X pencil.

Porsche P3110 and
Caran D' Ache Al CH Em iX
Porsche P3110
Strangely I have just two or three draughting pencils. A cheap Pentel P203, a classic Rotring 600 pencil which I find rather too heavy and a Japanese Ohto Super Promecha 1500 that you can customize everything from the length of lead dispensed with each click to the length of the guide pipe. By twisting the grip, you can adjust the lead sleeve length from 0 mm to 4 mm. And by twisting the rotating component inside the window, you can adjust the length of lead extended with each click from 0.2 mm to 2 mm. The pencil promises a bit more than it delivers.

Rotring 600
Ohto Super Promecha 1500
Pentel 203

One of my favourite pencil makers is Lamy, their designs are always something special and they are quite inexpensive. I have got several different Lamy pencils including the funny little Scribble

Lamy 2000, Lamy Accent and Lamy Scribble
Lamy Accent
Lamy Scribble
Lamy Pur

Lamy Linea

Lamy’s classic and best designed pencil  is the Lamy 2000 that dates from the 1960’s  in  fibreglass-reinforced polycarbonate. Its nicely balanced for writing and sketching.

Lamy 2000

Early propelling pencils could only advance the lead and. I have a silver plated 1920’s Eversharp with a curious loading mechanism similar to the Yard O Led and a German  Johann Faber also from the 20’s that shows its age.

Johann Faber
Old and New Metal


  1. Hi! I've just bought an eversharp pencil identical to the one you have pictured, and I can't find any other images of this type of pencil online; quite odd! I also can't work out how to operate and fill it, and I know how fragile the mechanic of some of these pencils can be, so I don't want to force it. I don't suppose you can offer some basic operating instructions? I'd quite like to get the thing working!

    Many thanks!

    - James.

    1. Hello

      It is quite simple once you have figures it out.

      Pull the top out until it stops, and then gently unscrew the protruding central barrel until it pops out.

      Drop a lead into the barrel , pull the pin in the central barrel back using the little grip.

      Push the central barrel into the outer casing an screw the last little distance and then twist the top to make the lead protrude.

      I hope this helps

    2. Thanks! I should clarify that I'm referring to the triangular 1950s eversharp - I'm not sure if this one is any different; I tried gently unscrewing, but it makes slightly unhealthy-sounding clicking sounds that don't encourage me to unscrew more! Do these refill in the same way?


      - James.

    3. The triangular pencil is a forerunner of the modern mechanical pencil.

      Push from the top down like a modern mechanical pencil and you will see the front claws protruding and open.

      Keeping the claws open just slide a lead into the pencil from the front leaving enough lead out to write with.

      Release the pressure and let the claws retract.

      From then on it works just like a modern mechanical pencil.

  2. Ah, that works perfectly! I think I was expecting something a little more complicated; many thanks! What sort of lead do you buy for yours? There's a little left in it, but the lead I have for the other older pencils I have looks a fraction bigger.

    Old pencils are a little new to me - I have a few celluloid pencils which I've picked up over the years but really I collect fountain pens..

    1. Google Yard o Led pencil refils - 1.18mm lead.

      Your pencil uses a 1.18 mm lead