Dave Picciuto nerds out for over 13 minutes about pencils

Originally published at: Dave Picciuto nerds out for over 13 minutes about pencils | Boing Boing

I think I’d like to hear more from the cameraman, Dan. He seems pretty knowledgeable. Wait until he tells Dave that the leads are available in a range of hardnesses from at least 4B to 6H, and there are different colors too.


Oh I don’t know… but… MUJI have been doing the super thin clutch pencil super cheep for a while now…

Shall I eat some popcorn while I try and find an eating popcorn gif?


The other thing you have to stay aware of is lead diameter. The ones for drafting use a 2mm lead, which is a size I really like. I bought a 5mm one for carpentry use. I have another for sewing that takes 3mm chalk sticks, but it is all plastic.


My daily driver is and will always be the Ticonderoga, but that clutch pencil has my attention. As @gadgetphile mentions, there is a really wide range of leads available. I was really surprised at the range of colors.

I can’t seem to find them on the MUJI store… any chance you have a link?


I have really been digging Woodless Pencils here lately. They are just pencil-shaped chunks of solid Graphite, generally either with a shellacking or paper cover to keep them from getting messy.

I really like the Creatacolor Monolith pencils, which are available in a variety of hardness levels. You do have to sharpen them, but not nearly as often, and they seem to be a bit more durable. They are great for drawing and for writing. These should cost a bit less than $2 each.

I also really like the KOH-I-NOOR woodless color pencils, they are a little different consistency, but they handle very nicely. They are primarily for drawing, of course, but they are very cool. They should be a bit under $20 for a set of 24 colors.

Lyra also makes a “Graphite Crayon” which is really cool, it’s a really solid, chunky little thing. The only problem is it comes pre-sharpened to a very, very dull point. (Like, the point is blunted.) This is cool for drawing if you can get used to it, but it’s really frustrating to try to write with as-is, and I don’t have a sharpener that would work on it. They make a sharpener which is $5 and I need to get, and they cost under $2 each.


Back when I was in high school drafting class, I remember having a special pencil sharpener that only trimmed the wood of a pencil so that you could use a pencil pointer with a regular, wooden pencil.

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This guy needs to talk to an old draftsperson, if there are any still alive. We had one in the eighties at our small electronics firm, to draw schematic diagrams on vellum with a Staedtler lead holder.
They had the coolest accessories:
A pad of sandpaper sheets with a handle like a file card, to make the tip just ever so
A little rotary sharpener that looked like a can of 35mm film
An electric eraser with a motor, that took 4" long sticks of white eraser
I can see how a person doing sketches would really like the lead holders.
(I have been gleefully using Pentel 0.5mm Quicker Clicker pencils to draw schematics for over 40 years.)

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That size comparison for the largest of the lead holders…

“A dog’s red rocket.”

Clearly he has only known small dogs :eggplant: :dog:

For breaking, you can use softer leads for more flex or a 0.7 for more strength. Also, just get good. Takes a lighter touch to use a fine lead.

The Faber Castell ‘Vario’ has a setting to change the ‘firmness’ of the point. You can make it hard, for drafting, or soft for drawing and writing. ‘Soft’ setting gives the nib a bit more give. Kind of the Cadillac of mechanical pencils, but still affordable last I looked.

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Don’t forget the Skumbag.

They use the term mechanical pencil which I believe is the term for the thin leaded clutch pencil


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I’m not that old. They were still teaching that stuff in the 1990’s. I took four semesters of manual drafting in high school and ended up using in three courses in college. My favorite being analytical geometry.

Ahh that ammonia smell from Diazo copier! Every time I clean the cat box I’m taken back 30 years.

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Takes a 2mm lead, but you can stuff it in a pocket and you won’t immediately draw blood the first time you bend over. Short enough to pack into a notebook, chunky enough to mark on construction material. My hand-writing is so big and blocky that the lack of a fine point isn’t a big deal. Upper case single stroke gothic is the standard which I live by.

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ITT: Engineery, makery type with artist-like needs discovers basic artists’ tool, thinks he has made the discovery of the century.

I mean, I get that knowledge has difficulties crossing (sub)cultural boundaries, but did it ever cross this guy’s mind that “hey, I want a drawing implement, maybe I should go to an art supply store and ask for advice”?

I was being slightly facetious. But only slightly. It’s been a loooong time since I’ve had to provide instruction to a draftsperson for a schematic diagram.

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I guessed what he was going to choose just from the title.

I bought a Staedtler Mars lead holder back in the late 1970s while taking a high school drafting class, and I absolutely loved it. If you’re a pencil person and have never used one, try it. They feel completely different from other writing instruments. The nose is much heavier than the body or tail, giving them a completely different balance than an ordinary pen or pencil. With the center of gravity in your fingertips, it just twirls. The knurled surface gives exact precision on holding and rotating the lead, and the 2mm lead is wide enough that it can take a nice long angle. Shading various parts of a drawing can be almost like drawing with chalk. As long as you’re not constantly grinding the edge flat, 2mm is a lot of graphite, and you run low a lot less frequently than a standard mechanical pencil. And a 2mm graphite rod is a lot more sturdy than your average pencil lead, so they break far less often.

And I don’t know why nobody ever talks about this, but the fidget factor is a plus, ranking right up there with a ballpoint click pen.

It was my daily carry pencil through college and for a long time after. Having less and less use for a daily pencil it migrated from my pocket to my briefcase, and when the plastic body began to split, I never replaced it.

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