The Wood Cased Pencil Addiction (Pt. 2)

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Every addict has one thing in common… They are always looking for the “perfect” something. After uncovering a deep-rooted love for pencils (See Part 1) through the Dixon Ticonderoga I quickly discovered that, like many addictions, it was simply a gateway drug to something a little bit deeper, darker and more consuming.

The search for the perfect pencil began. Amusingly, not long after beginning to look for the perfect woodclinched writing utensil, I came across the somewhat facetiously named Faber-Castell “Perfect Pencil”. Naively believing that it would certainly live up to its namesake and represent the epitome of pencilship, I made the roughly $10.00 purchase almost immediately, without a second thought.

It was disappointing.
Do not get me wrong. The pencil is a fine pencil. A Faber Castell 9000 HB with an eraser. Many would swear by such a pencil. But it did not encompass the mythical characteristics of what I would have deemed to be the ambrosia of the pencil gods. The all-in-one pencil cap/extender/clip/sharpener was also a nice piece of kit, albeit a bit gimmicky. Nevertheless, I quickly became disillusioned by this “Perfect Pencil” and continued my search… Truth be told, I do not even recall what happened to it…

Throughout my search, I grabbed every pencil that I could that seemed to have the potential to be that prize. I went through packs of Mirados and their counterpart Black Warriors hoping that the gold foil stamped adornment would somehow equate a better pencil. Again. I was disappointed. I must have got a second batch when Papermate had started stamping these pencils with the rather prominently atrocious double heart logo. It was a travesty.
I have never touched another Black Warrior since.

Unhappy with my search, I ended up online to see what the internet said.
I quickly came across the rather large community who has been discussing the very same topic for years. I learned of pencils like the Mongol, but no other name was whispered, echoed, and yearned for more than the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602.


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The notably odd shaped ferrule and erase. The buttery smooth writing experience. The motto of “Half the pressure, twice the speed”. The stories of famous writers who could not work unless they hand a Blackwing in their hands. It was the stuff of legends. And it was the kind of stuff that always had a pull on me (and the same kind of things that drew me into Moleskines).

However, despite the mythic and elusive nature of this pencil and the fact that they were becoming increasingly difficult to come by, I could not shake this feeling of familiarity. Of acquaintanceship. I could not get over this idea that I have not only seen this pencil before, but that once upon a time I must have held one in between my elementary school fingers. There was this faded remanent in my mind, like a shadow of an image that I could not focus. The Blackwing has already been a part of my life.

Like many true addicts, I was immediately hooked.
I needed it.
Had to have it.
I fawned over it.
Consumed ever bit of history attached to it.
Yearned for this discontinued piece of art.

And just as suddenly I was snapped back to reality when I saw that these pencils were fetching anywhere from $300 – $600 for a dozen on eBay. Although roughly $30-60 was not an irrational amount of money, for a single pencil it seemed to be outside of my then broke-student budget. Even now that I have a regular day job, I could easily dish out that money for something else, but for a pencil? Though in my dreams it would be easier… It reality, still seems a little difficult to justify. Especially to my wife. I have never brought it up.

I was an addict, yes. But I had my limits. So perhaps I was not a true addict.
Disillusioned and a little heart broken, I soon found that I was not alone. There were others.
Others in search of the next best thing, for want of a Blackwing.

Throughout my search I came across several candidates, many which were still difficult to obtain, but some that were more accessible (and more affordable) Each were rumoured to be Blackwing-esque. If I remember correctly, the first pencil to have been whispered to emulate the Blackwing was a Sanford Turquoise 2B pencil. It was touted by the Sanford company (who bought Eberhard, the original manufacturers of the Blackwing) as having a similar pencil graphite formula.

So without an actual 602 to compare to, I went out and bought one.  I quickly put it to the pages of my Moleskine, imagining how it would feel to be actually using a 602. Nearly closing my eyes to see if I could conjure an out of worldly knowledge of what the 602 would truly feel like. Trying to see if this pencil lived up to the hype. If this was indeed the closest thing to the perfect pencil I would ever experience.

But alas, the Sanford Turquoise seemed to let me down. It was never a fair fight because I was still coming down from my Staedtler high-horse, where I had long given Sanford huffs of disapproval from day 1. No eraser? Smudging? Something did not seem write. I mean right. And I soon realized that those who had tried the 602 before were also let down by the Turquoise.

The dream of owning a Blackwing were slowly slipping away. Others had mentioned pencils like the Staedtler Lumograph 100 2B and 4B, the Tombow Mono 4B. I went back to different grades of the Faber-Castell 9000. Never satisfied. Never fullfilled.

And then I came across a pencil that more than many were deeming the true successor: The California Republic Palomino HB. In it’s blue and orange glory, people were raving about it. And once again I desperately wanted to try it. But I could not. The reality of being a broke-student had once again been my downfall. And using a credit card for online shopping was a dangerous game to play.

So I held out.
For a good couple of years I held out.
Waiting.
Biding my time.
Frequently, VERY frequently, visiting the page and drooling over the colourful box set.
Glorious.

But (not quite) like the returning of the Son, the announcement flashed in the skies like lightning that shines across the east and west. The news hit…


The Palomino Blackwing was here.

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Without much deliberation, this time, I made the purchase. I bought a dozen and very anxiously awaiting the delivery. The holy grail of pencils. The perfect companion. The day had come to finally meet destiny.

Or so I thought…

I received the package in it’s black box with gold foil band.
I gingerly opened the box and pulled one out. Carefully noticing every detail about the pencil before setting it to the sharpener. And when I did, first I was a little surprised how it was not as fragrant as I expected it to be, but I worried not as I knew it would write magnificently.

Taking my trusty MSK I wrote something to the effect of “This is a Blackwing.”

Once I had put down a few lines of initial impressions, I stopped.
After all this time… This pencil was in my hands, albeit not an original 602, but what was supposed to be the heir to the throne of Pencildom. This pencil was supposed to be perfect. And I really, really, REALLY, wanted it to be. I wanted it to be the epitome of all that I had hoped. I desperately wanted, NEEDED to love this pencil. And I tried…

I really tried.

But the lead was just a little too soft. It smudged just a little too much.

It was a bitter sweet experience, where the writing was as smooth and as pleasant as it could be, but the end result was below my expectations. Better than the Ticonderoga it was, in many ways. But I have long used up my original stock of Dixon’s and yet still have 6 of the original dozen of classic Blackwings tucked away, which should give you an idea of where this pencil sat in my mind.

Thankfully all was not lost, as Palomino (must have) heard the dismay in my heart (along with that of hundreds, maybe thousands, of others) and released a new pencil that was to be closer to the Eberhard Blackwing 602, the Palomino Blackwing 602. This did not replace the classic Palomino Blackwing, but was rather a sister product, this one touting the famous slogan “Half the pressure, twice the speed.”

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I immediately bought a dozen, and am running out of these variations quicker than the classics.

Although I am not a massive fan about the grey pearlescent finish (despite this being similar to the original Eberhard Blackwing finish) the pencil seemed to fit closer to what my graphite dreams had imagined. The point lasted better, it smudged less, and it was a buttery smooth writing experience.

I had made my peace.

Much more recently, the Palomino brand release the Palomino Blackwing Pearl. I had not initially made the jump, although I had read that this pencil fell somewhere in between the Blackwing and the Blackwing 602 by the Palomino company. I had to stay my hand to keep myself from jumping into the purchase. But I did come across it in a local art store along with the regular Palomino pencils that I had never tried. I pick up singles of each and they are currently in my regular rotation.

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The original Palomino Blackwing is the most buttery of the four Palomino sisters. It writes with almost no audible sound in it’s silky motion across the page. Consequently, it is the worst in point retention and requires the most sharpening. I found myself constantly rotating the barrel of the pencil as I wrote (as opposed to after every other word) to help keeps my lines somewhat consistent. I feel like a stronger cedar smell would definitely improve the writing experience as the matte finish and gold accents certainly call for more formal use. (The matte finish is also easiest to grip if you tend to have sweaty hands, which I do)

The Palomino Blackwing 602 has an almost silkier feel, although missing some of the butter. It’s something you would need to try for yourself to understand. There’s a satin like undertone in the dance of the graphite on smooth paper. The sound is more balanced than the sounds of a Ticonderoga, and the point retention is good. The cedar smell is there but is slightly understated. My only gripe would be the somewhat glossy pearlescent finish which does not help my sweaty grasp during long writing sessions. This goes for the Pearl and the Palomino HB as well.

The Palomino Blackwing Pearl seem to be a middle ground between the other two Blackwings. A thicker buttery feel with a strongest aroma of the three. I do wish that the Pearl had a solid matte white finish, though that would defeat the purpose of the naming convention. The ferrules of all three Blackwings constantly amazes me. Although at times I stare at them and for a brief moment consider them gimmicky, I quickly find myself falling in love with the simple yet bold statement they make. In moments of day-dreaming and of “hitting the mung” (Anglicized Korean expression, courtesy of my wife) I frequently find myself absentmindedly pulling the erasers apart and putting it back together again. FullSizeRender-10

Finally, the Palomino HB is a pencil that I’ve longed for, for a long time. I was let down by the lack of aroma. But the other sensory characteristics are there. The strokes sound bold, rich and confident, with an almost harmonic high tone. A satisfyingly graphite sound. Although the graphite does not feel super soft, it does justifiably dull quicker than a Ticonderoga as it lays a darker line. If I had the version with the eraser, this may actually be a pencil I would use more often than any of the more obnoxious Blackwings.

And so alas, my journey for the perfect pencil had seemed to come to an end.
Not that these pencils had satisfied every carnal and visceral woodclinched graphite need in my life… But they have been the mainstay in the rotation of the true writers and artist tool. These days, however, I feel myself coming down from my high palomino steed “Blackwing” and with the help of the addictive Erasable Podcast find myself searching again. This time, not for the perfect pencil, but for a more complete experience of that which is out there. And so unbeknownst to me…

My affliction has never healed, and only pushes me farther into the world of wood cased pencils.

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HERE’S TO THE NEW YEAR

After a short hiatus from writing due to the holidays, I’ve been trying to think about what 2015 would mean for my life.
There are quite a few changes that have already happened for me. I’ve left my second vocation in favour of being able to spend more time with family, as well as a few other personal reasons. Amongst those reasons I feel that there has always been a lingering desire to create more.

More art. More music. More content. More… stuff.

However, I have always been daunted by the very same desire. I could never “just create for the sake of creating”. There was a pressure and fear to create something that was worthwhile… and if I could not… Then best that I do not create at all.
At least, that is what I have seemed to convince myself.

This year, I hope to be able to leave that all behind. To have more output in my life than input. To put out into the world more than take in. Spiritually. Personally. Creatively. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.

In an effort to do so, I thought it best to outline some of the topics I would like to cover over the course of the next few months. As an addict to the neat little cool stuff out there, there is a myriad of topics to cover and I wonder if I would ever be able to cover it at all while equally being afraid of running out of things to talk about. But as most bloggers would say, start with what you know.

And so here is an ever-growing list of things (in no particular order) that I have dabbled with in my life, each of which I’d like to talk about at least once (if not a large multiple of times) Though I am in no way an expert in any, they have each stolen many hours (and dollars) from my existence. No regrets.

– Asalato

– DJ/Turntablism

– DIY Electric Guitar Pedals

– Loose Leaf Teas

– Sampling/Beat Making

– Crate Digging/Record Collecting

– Tagging/Graffiti

– Designer Vinyl Toys

– Anime/Manga

– Art Books

– Gaming (Mostly Nintendo)

– Notebookism/Stationery/Pencils/Pens/etc.

– Graphic Design

– Calligraphy

– Yo Yos

– Begleri (this one is only days old)

– Coffee

– Headphones/Audiophilia

– Pen Spinning

– Card Tricks/Throwing

– Coin Spinning

– Gunpla/Model Making

– Aggressive Inline Skating

– Music Production/Recording

– Graphic Design

– Music/CDs/Mp3 Hoarding

– Butterfly Knives

– Swordmanship/Katanas

– Sneakers

– New Era Hats

– Bags

– Beat Boxing

– Watches

– Dogs & Cats & Hamsters & Chinchillas

– Biking

– Coca-Cola (no substitutes)

– All things Pixar

– Apple

– Photography/Instant

– Bible Study/QT

– Journaling

– Drawing/Sketching/Illustrating

– Typography

– Popeyes Chicken

– Tamagotchi’s

– G.I. Joe’s/Transformers

– Mega Man

– Star Wars

… and I’m sure there are more…

I doubt I would want to cover all of these things… and some of them are pretty ridiculous (especially as you move down the list). But we all have those ridiculous obsessions right?

The Clean & Pristine vs The Rough & Worn

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A new Ogami notebook and my first Moleskine

I can not be the only.
There is absolutely no way that I am the sole person to have this constant battle waging inside of me.

There is something inspiring about a new product. A new notebook perhaps, such as the Ogami notebook pictured.
The smell you get when you open up a new book. The sense of satisfaction when you peel the plastic film off of a new phone. That sense of awe you get by obtaining the long coveted item that is finally yours.

It becomes precious to you. And immediately you take every precaution to make sure that it remains in it’s perfect, clean & pristine state. Forever.

Apple does this to me. They create products with such beautiful simplicity and elegance that I want to make sure they remain that way. When I got my first iPhone, the iPhone 3Gs, I took care of it and babied it for months. And it was flawless.

But of course, accidents always happen.

And the moment you get your first scratch, dent or crack becomes a moment of trepidation like no other.
Guilt. Anger. Frustration. Sadness.

It takes me a few days to recover. But I do recover. And when I do, it is usually for the better, as I can finally use the product for it is meant for. To actually BE used.

And eventually you get another scratch or blemish. And all things begin to develop their own personality and character. For leather-goods, this would be commonly referred to as the patina, which my Midori Traveler’s Notebook is now developing. And it is a good thing. The scuffs and buffs show that the product has become a part of your life. It becomes a history of what you have been through. FullSizeRender-3

That was the appeal for many Moleskines that I had used over the years. Images of notebooks packed with receipts, ticket stubs, photos, bit of paper, etc. Essentially creating a scrapbook of all that they thought and did. Filling it with scribbles, covering it in stickers, with the edges becoming frayed and dirty. That was the romance behind them for me. And I tried time after time to emulate that… But often times failed.

Because there would be a voice inside that called for the new.
The fresh. The clean. The pristine.

Part of me envied the people carrying iPhones with cracked screens and backs, more often kept in one piece by tape than I would have expected. The ruggedness it exhumed. The cool factor of having a worn down pair of Converse All-Stars, or a severely beat up “relic” guitar, is undeniable.

But still… There’s nothing quite like having something in it’s perfect state.
In the perfect condition that the creators had envisioned it to be. Unblemished. Sublime. Filled with potential.

This struggle in my mind affects every area in my life. I can’t even decide if I like the industrial vintage style of interior design, or the super simple and precise modern style that is often on the cover of design magazines. It is never an easy decision to make. Because once a decision has been made. You are committed to the condition of the product for the length of it’s lifetime.

You can never go back.

And I have often wanted to go back.

And I have to conclude that it is deeply rooted in my spirituality. The constant desire to be more, have more, show more than I am capable of. Despite knowing that I life and thrive in a broken state, that is made perfectly acceptable through grace. Considered perfect, though tattered and torn.

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When Useless Things Become Precious Things

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If you know anything about the five Love Languages, then my parents’ love language tends to be giving. Although I only get to see them a handful of times a year, they always visit bearing some sort of gift. My mother is a bargain fiend and finds it hard to pass up a good deal. My father tends to build and make things that he would think would be useful for his children to use.

I’m not sure where my father had come across this little tool, but he presented it to me with a quiet elation, confident that it would be something handy. At first I did not know what to think and told my father that I did not have any use for it. Nevertheless, I took it home.

I knew that this type of duster was often used by photographers to blast dust off of lenses, negatives, etc. But that was one addiction I have not yet explored. Besides, my wife always told me that I was bad at taking pictures. (To be fair, she has also complimented me on how I am getting better. I credit that to the endless pictures we take of our little boy.)

This tool was sitting on my desk for a few months, and although I initially thought it did little more then add to the clutter of stuff that I have. Still, I found myself using it to clear the dust off of my turntables, mixers, my vinyl figures, and especially in my keyboard and electronics. My wife had commented that I am giving it a fair bit of use, even after telling my dad that I did not need it. There was certainly some irony there.

After a little while, I grew curious about the product as I began to recognize the solid build quality. It did not feel like those typical bulb dust blowers. The bulb section felt quite thick and hefty. But what really began to draw my attention was the deliberately striking red. The colour choice did not seem random, or as an after thought. It felt like it stemmed from an intentional branding strategy. (Not to mention that it literally looked like a rocket)

So I pulled the product up on the Giottos website which satiated my curiosity.
Then I put the bulb back down and did not give it much though.

Until I saw this post a few months later on the Cool Tools blog where the author describes the product as “…standing upright on its base sidelines as playful desk dressing/stress-relief toy”

This notion of this little rocket being more than just a dust blower.
That it was a was a stress-relief toy.

IMMEDIATELY I grabbed it from where ever it was in the clutter of all my junk and propped it on my desk.
Because I HAD to experience this as more than just a duster. I NEEDED to experience this as a tool for stress-relief.
I do not know for how long it will remain on my desk in that capacity. But for now, it will do.

These are the moments that define my lifestyle addiction. It is the moments when someone out there defines something you have generally known about for months if not years, and sheds a different light on it. A different perspective. And gives new meaning to the mundane and common.

Suddenly, with a fresh breath of inspiration, it becomes much more than it ever was.
What I thought was useless, becomes precious.

It for these types of moments that I live for.

 

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“oneofakind” and the DIY Addiction

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DIY Knit Needles size 20

On Saturday we had the chance to go visit the oneofakind show that’s held at the Exhibition Place here in Toronto every year. This was the second time my wife and I had gone to the show, but this time we were accompanied by our little boy Abel (although he did sleep through most of it)

We have to thank our friend Jenna (http://www.jennaleestudio.com) who gave us some extra tickets to be able to visit, as we had no plans to go this year, nor were we even aware that it was happening. At first we had thought she had her own booth there and was a little let down when we found out she did not. It would have been exciting to get a behind-the-scenes look to how these sellers put together their products and booths.

Before going, my wife had adamantly stated that this year we would be going to get inspired to start our own something, something.

It’s always the same story for us.
We come across a project/business that someone starts, and we begin to fantasize about owning our own brick and mortar stationery store, or coming up with our own products to sell. We ideally talk about whether we could feasibly make a living off of it. We imagine the type of store interiors we would have, or the special services we would provide that sets us apart from the rest of the crowd. But we would always end with the conclusion that we could not do it because we ultimately were too lazy and knew nothing about running a business.

I have to admire the people who come out. Some of the products are absolutely gorgeous. This year I found that beautiful ceramic design is becoming more and more appealing (are we showing our age?). It seemed that all the sellers that came from Quebec seemed to have a better taste than most of the other sellers, who seemed to be very mom and pop style shops. And the cards or stuffed animals that had a very asian “flavour” to it were, of course, sold by asians.

What always seems to blow me away is that some of these people are making a living making the most simple and often times unattractive (at least to me) products. And there are always people who seem to buy their products. Whether it be clothes, food, or anything else really… They seem to still have an audience. And that amazes me.
Then maybe it isn’t too far fetch’d to think that we could pull this off?

In the famous lifestyle addict way, my wife and I both love the IDEA of running a personal business… but lack the initiative to take the dive.

I am not sure this year was any different. The whole time we were there we were sizing up different sellers and their products constantly discussing what it would be like to do the same, and how to do it better.

But to be fair, I have been riding this little burst of inspiration that has come from Midori Traveler’s Notebook users, the Pen Addict podcast, as well as a few other places that have gotten my creative juices flowing. There’s a lingering hope to start a Kickstarter campaign to maybe lead into a life that is a bit more rewarding… But we will see.

My wife has also been wanting to make some things as well. Recently she started wanting to knit a Helsinki type hat that are all the rage in Korea. However the knitting needles seemed to be a bit more expensive than we would have liked…

Now over the years, my father had always been the creatively resourceful type. He used to fix things (like my broken glasses) with as little as some wire, string and glue. He used to even make paint brushes for me (albeit he made them with his own hair…). I had learned how to look at an every day problem, and to come up with a way to fix it with unconventional but readily available resources. He lived and breathed a true DIYer. So in the same spirit (and the inspired passion I must have contracted from the oneofakind show) I set out to make her those needles.

I bought a 20 mm wooden dowel at the local hardware store, cut them to size, and went to work. It took me a couple of evenings to finish the product in the image above, using a utility knife and some sand paper I had at home. Originally I was going to link the two needles with some shoelace, but my wife had the brilliant idea to use some tubing from a breast pump that we were not using.

It was quite satisfying to be able to make something with my hands that my loving wife would find useful.
Especially if they cost us a fraction of the price.

The end product needed a few adjustments (like a taper at the opposite end of the needle that I wasn’t aware had an actual use) but turned out to be OK for now. She’s managed to knit with it for a couple of days. I’m still discovering some things that I need to refine and I’m concerned that the needles may be a little too long… But we’ll see how she feels after a few more days.

But now the question is… What else can I DIY?

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Digitizing My Analogue Mind


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“If the body is the vessel of the soul, then the notebook should be the vessel of the mind.”

My first foray into “analogue idealism” came in the form of journals and notebooks, which perfectly complimented my pencil addiction. As I think I’ve mentioned before, my father was a huge proponent of keeping a journal or diary. For years he had encouraged me to always keep a pen and notebook handy. I’m sure that this mantra had seeped into my subconscious somewhere, only later to rear its head.

For the better part of the last 9 years I have almost always carried around a notebook (more on them later) with me wherever I went, frequently carrying more than one at a time. I have managed to amass a small but meaningful collection of thoughts, notes and doodles (many of which are cringe worthy today, but must have been quiet important then).

When I got my first iPhone, I had initially tried to use that as my main brain dump with very little, unsatisfactory, success. Something about working with a pencil and paper felt so much more complete, personal, visceral and inspiring, than taping the flat screen of a smart phone. I even tried to use the whole Moleskine/Evernote system, but could not be bothered to take pictures of all the pages of my notebooks to store them. I also did not want to pay for the extra storage I’m sure that I would need.

For 9 years I stood ground with snobby pride over my notebookism.
It is perhaps the sole reason as to why I have not convinced myself to buy an iPad.

But the other day I was listening to a Pen Addict podcast and they praised the Doxie Flip, which is a small near pocket-sized scanner that can be used to cordlessly scan and upload their Field Notes notebooks (more later). They also spoke about the software is came with that provided features to organize and even “stitch” notebooks together. Of course, in typical lifestyle addict fashion, I instantly became intrigued with the notion of storing your notebooks in the cloud.

I had thought about it before and quickly dismissed the idea because I was set on never subjecting these beautifully analogue tools to the digital world. It did not make sense to me. It seemed to cheapen the experience of flipping through pages of past thoughts and sketches. And in my resolve… I quickly tossed the idea because another addict celebrated the benefits of having your notebooks in the cloud.

It’s funny how I would not falter in the justifications of my obsessions…
Until someone who is a true addict totally shatters my resolve with just a few words.


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My stack of notebooks and analogue tools vs. the iPhone 5s

It only makes sense…

The trade off of space and weight when comparing all my notebooks to my iPhone should be a no-brainer. But still, I would take writing on paper over typing on a screen any day! Part of me wants to actually do back to a dumb-phone and see if I could simplify my life a little more that way…

But if I really do cherish the precious information on the pages of all my notebooks, it is also logical that I would find a way to at least keep a backup. What happens if there’s a fire? A flood? An infestation of paper devouring insects? The decision to start digitizing my notes came pretty easy with this line of thinking. And suddenly I became overwhelmed with the idea that not only would I have a back up of all the notes I’ve ever taken, but that they could be categorized, colour coded, indexed, organized and searchable, in a way I could never achieve on paper!

After looking over some details about the Doxie Flip, I looked at my wallet and discovered this was not a purchase that I could justify nor make. But it was darn cool. I had to come up with another way of doing this… but because of the cool factor attached to having a Flip, I did not want to resort to the Canon 3-in-1 Printer that I had lying around.


FullSizeRender-10So I pulled out this little gadget that I had once seen in an ad. After posting it on my Facebook page as something of interest, my wonderful cousin in Korea messaged me saying she had one but never used it. She sent it to me without delay and I was amazed by this device… for all of 20 min.

After getting it set up and installed, I ran a few trials which worked fairly well.
It’s essentially a mouse that worked like a one of those rolling scanners that came out years ago.
My dad has owned one and I was fascinated back then, but they were finicky in their use as you had to scan them section by section in perfectly straight lines, or you would result in a poor scan.

FullSizeRender-3This scanner/mouse is different in that you could literally “paint” the mouse across your document or image in swipes, circles or zig-zags and the software would work to stitch it all together to form a complete document. It does it’s job.

I was not a huge fan of the bulkiness of the mouse, but could deal with it for the added benefit of being able to scan.
Although efficient and well designed, something about the scanning experience did not draw me in completely. The other issue was that I honestly did not scan much anymore, as everything was typically just shot with the iPhone camera.

I’ve had this stored away for a good couple of years, where it only saw occasional use… but now it seemed to have been for this very purpose that providence brought this guy into my life.

Or so I thought…

After some trial and error, I realized that the mouse had a hard time at the edges of the notebooks. It would pause and be unable to read to edges because the notebooks did not lie flush to the desk surface. Still, I was adamant in trying to make it work. After several attempts, I began to notice that my constant wiping of the page with the mouse and my hand made me smudge the pages that had pencil notes on them. I soon gave up.

I ended up resorting to the traditional flatbed scanner that I tried to avoid. The cool gadgety factor was gone sure, but
it made quick work out of scanning the first MSK. This made it possible for me to scan through a notebook as I worked my day-job. It was only a matter of setting up the software, clicking scan, flipping to the next page in the notebook, and clicking scan again, ad infinitum…

FullSizeRender-11So far I’ve managed to scan three of my large Moleskins in the course of the last two days.

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Sample page: “Come Home Running” chords

As I continue to get through my notebooks, I’ve started to get jaded with the progress as it is slow and repetitive. Albeit it is interesting to be able take a glance over past notes (which I try to make a habit of) it is a lot of time spent in front of a computer clicking and flipping and clicking and flipping. I’m not sure how I will make use of the digital files though. I am not able to take advantage of the Doxie software that would allow me to stitch my notebooks together. I do not have a sizeable Evernote account to allow me to store all my notebooks in the way that I want. And I never use Dropbox. The only other solution in my mind was the recently released iCloud.

Although it does not provide the same benefits as some of the other storage services, it does let me access all those files synced across all my iOS and OS X devices (no PCs here).

The biggest benefit in my mind is just being able to have access to all my notebooks at any time.
On average, it looks like that one of my large MSK notebooks is at most a 150mb file, which means I could have theoretically over 100 notebooks on my 112g iPhone 5s device alone and not break my bag (or my back).

I am currently at about 25-30 notebooks of different sizes, so I would be only using up a small portion of the available space on my iCloud drive.

I would like to find something that might work better for this, but for the time being I will see how I like this type of a system.

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Mandatory internet cat tax image


The Wood Cased Pencil Addiction (Pt. 1)

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For everyone born before the 90s, we grew up learning to write and draw with the humble pencil.

It was a time when you needed to raise your hand to get permission to go sharpen your pencil at the communal, wall-mounted, double burr, sharpener at the front of the classroom, or attached to the teacher’s desk. I fondly remember how emptying a sharpener filled with finely cut shavings into the garbage can was one of the most cathartic things you could do as a six year old.

My parents had once bought me a large box containing several dozen packs of generic Venus wood-case pencils. And if I remember correctly, they were pretty terrible writing instruments and had a strong smell. I don’t think I got much farther than using a handful of those pencils (I wonder what happened to the rest?)

Back then one of the most formidable challenges you faced was when you had used up the entire erase up until the metal ferrule (Which is the crimped metal sleeve that held the tiny Pink Pearl erase in place) when you still had a good 50% of the pencil left. I used to tackle this problem by sticking the eraser end of the pencil into my Sailor Jupiter sharpener and giving it a single twist. This shaved off a sliver of the metal, which then revealed a, satisfyingly semi-cone shaped, unused portion of the eraser.

It was either this, or biting down on the ferrule to “squeeze” some more of the eraser out.
Which wasn’t a very elegant solution.

I remember challenging friends to see who could break a pencil weaved between the index, middle and ring fingers with a hard slam onto the desk. I remember the taste a pencil left in your mouth after you would chew on it and be fascinated by the grooves and cracks your teeth left in the soft cedar casing of the pencil.

And I especially remember the day I first encountered one of those revolutionary faux-wood plastic like pencils that left behind an almost perfectly curled, single piece of shaving after each buttery-smooth sharpening.

Then came the era of Yikes! pencils.

They started as black-dyed wooden pencils with a large protruding black erase, carved grooves for the grip, and a holographic silver paint finish. I’m pretty confident that I was the first to own a set in my class.
Yikes! soon began to take over as they released different version in psychedelic colours and different names.
There was one in particular dubbed “Knucklehead” that had a large studded plastic eraser. True to it’s name, they were sadistically suited to giving your friends a painful whack on the head.

However, by grade 3 or 4 we entered the age of mechanical pencils, which opened up a whole different obsession (more later).

My interest in wood pencils was hardly sustained by my drawing habits. I had always coveted my older brother’s Korean bought drawing pencil set that included pencils of various grades (the typical 2H-6B). It must have been years before I finally got my first set of Staedtler Lumograph 100 pencils which set me off on a pretentious obsession for all things Staedtler, where nothing else was good enough and I guffawed at the thought of using any other brand.

I must have owned 2 or 3 sets that I hardly used as I had begun drawing more digitally than on paper. I did always carry around a sketchbook with me, but resorted to the cleaner lines of mechanical pencils so that they would scan better so that I could colour the drawings digitally with a Wacom Graphire2 Tablet in Photoshop or Painter.

And so my pencil use had already peaked by the time I left grade 2 and I all about forgot about them.


Enter the Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB wood-cased pencil. Touted as the “World’s best pencil.”FullSizeRender-12In university, I came across the Moleskine notebook which began a whole other addiction (more later). As I got sucked into this world of perpetual note taking, that has taken the world by storm in the last few years and has been something my father has always advocated, I soon realized that the “perfect” notebook was nothing without the “perfect” writing instrument.

Only then would the entire writing and drawing experience be complete.

So I spent a larger amount of time searching the web for the perfect pen(another topic for another day) than I would be comfortable sharing. And I firmly believed that I had found the world’s best writing companion in the Pilot G-2 gel ink pen.
My writing experience could now be complete!

Or so I thought… Until I came across this post from August 2005.

I don’t remember how I came across it, and as I read it now, I am unable to really pinpoint what got me so unbelievably enthusiastic about this pencil. But within minutes I had a huge longing to get my hands on these yellow wooden sticks of beauty.

The author wrote about the faithfulness of these deceptively simple tools. He wrote about how it would never fail him in the cold where ink froze or in the rain where ink ran. He wrote about how it was a strong and good pencil and that he no longer goes anywhere without one. I was instantly hooked.

I went out as soon as I could and eventually purchased a pack of every variation of the pencil I could get my hands on: the Ticonderoga, the Tri-Write, the Erasable, the Woodgrain (which came with a pack of the original pencils) and the then newly released Tri-Conderoga.

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Various Ticonderoga Pencils on Rhodia paper

Partnered with a KUM Sharpener (arguably the best sharpeners out there. Perhaps more later?) I began my glorious downhill decent into Pencil Addiction. I became an avid fan and follower of the Pencil Revolution blog, which I have visited almost every single day since I came across that post.

I quickly found that there was a massive community of pencil lovers out there. They spoke of the different feels of different pencils. They spoke of how the pencils smelled. How they tasted. How easily they sharpened. The quality of the eraser. The strength of the lines the graphite put down. If the marks erased well or if they smeared.
They even spoke of the satisfying sound the pencil makes as you write. All of which are tiny nuances that one loses when they opt for a colder metal or plastic mechanical pencil or pen.

I was no where near as attuned to the finer points of pencil craftsmanship, but I quickly became a student. Revelling in the works of people like David Rees and his claim to be an Artisanal Pencil Sharpener, charging people $40 to have their pencils sharpened. (watch his entertaining video). There is also people like Dalton Ghetti who do these AMAZING sculptures by carving into wood pencils.

And I quickly began to study my Ticonderoga pencil.
FullSizeRender-11It is a bit of a symbolic pencil that can be found all over the place. In my use of it I found that the lead could sometimes be a little gritty and slightly inconsistent, but it seemed to be more of a batch issue. Once you run the point down a little after a fresh sharpening the graphite tends to run smoother. The graphite itself holds up well and reduces the amount of sharpening needed than some other pencils. The finish of the pencil is somewhat flat, with rounded corners which makes it fairly comfortable to hold in my smaller hands. I would think that someone with larger hands might find the pencil a little thin for extended writing.

Now the smell… The Ticonderoga is by far the best smelling pencil I own. It’s strong cedar smell is a pleasure to take it, especially during the almost therapeutic and ritualistic sharpenings.

The eraser holds up well and cleanly erases the lines the pencil puts down. However the erasers do tend to dry out in the open air or when in direct sunlight for long periods of time. This results in a very hard plastic like eraser that does little more than smudge your markings all over the page. Sometimes just giving them a few passes against your jeans or on a carpet can save them from being completely useless.

The sound the graphite makes on high quality paper (Rhodia in this case) is pleasant, but a little shrill. It lacks the deep-end sound made on the paper that generally harmonizes with the high-end sound of the graphite that you would find on other pencils.

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My current stock of Ticonderoga pencils

I found that the Woodgrain variation was slightly different (again a batch issue?) where the sound was a little deeper. The graphite grade, though more consistent, was a little harsher. There was no cedar smell from my particular pencil. I would also would have liked a more matte finish, as the woodgrain seems to be covered in a semi-gloss lacquer. This makes it harder for me to enjoy longer writing sessions as I tend to have sweaty hands.

The Tri-Conderoga is much smoother than the other two pencils. It produces a darker lines and has a more consistent feel on the paper. As a trade-off, the point doesn’t hold up as long as it’s brothers but does hold up well against other darker pencils. The cedar smell is there but fainter than the classic Ticonderoga. This particular version claims to also be the World’s Most Comfortable Pencil. I don’t know if it stands up to this title, but it is more comfortable to write with than the other two, although slightly too thick for my liking. Having said that, the rubberized finish coupled with the triangular shape helps with the comfort and I would love to see the thinner Tri-Write version get the same grip.

I currently don’t have a Tri-Write as I’ve used them all up many years ago, but from what I remember, I actually preferred them to the standard Ticonderoga pencil. If I had some left, I would certainly be using that variation the most. But for the time being, the standard version is the one I go back to the most and is in constant rotation with my other writing tools.

The Ticonderoga pencil was the perfect pencil.
The smell tends to win me over more than anything else.
And in terms of cost, they are of excellent quality for the price you pay, which is pretty cheap. (A box of two dozen would set you back about $6). If you want to experience a quality wood-cased pencil experience, the Dixon Ticonderoga is an excellent place to start.

It was the only pencil that I would use…
Until I came across a pencil of legendary proportions with a cult following: The Blackwing by Eberhard Faber

(to be continued…)

Knolling One Part of My Life

I’ve always suffered from 장비 욕심.

Roughly translated it means a never ending greed/love of gear, tools, and just stuff.
So it is only natural that whenever I uncover a new lifestyle that draws my attention, my first thoughts go to the tools they use.
In fact, I can only emulate these obsessions through acquiring the best tools that I can afford.

As a designer at heart, I am always looking for the next pencil or pen to further my craft rather than to actual practice my craft. This is one obsession that I have not been able to abandon, although it’s strength will come and go in seasons.
It is a detrimental condition, this greed for “stuff”. But it is something I believe most people can relate to.


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Above you will see an image of the contents of my, now discontinued, PlePle leather pencil case, organized neatly in classic knoll fashion (the process of arranging like objects in parallel or 90 degree angles as a method of organization).

You will see elements of current and past flings that I’ve had:

– Pentel Brush Pen (brought on by an appetite for all things Yoji Shinkawa – artist for games like “Zone of Enders” and “Metal Gear Solid”. I could never emulate the style)
– Pilot Parallel Pen (which is a tool that Ashley Wood uses to sketch and draw. He also drew “Metal Gear Solid” art for the comics)
– Palomino Blackwing and 602 & Dixon Ticonderoga Pencils (which drew me back for a spell away from anything other than the best of wooden pencils.)
– Midori Traveller’s Notebook (which is a current system I have begun using only a few months ago after YEARS of Moleskines. More on this obsession later.)