Friday, November 18, 2005
Wood Cased vs. Mechanical
A little while back there was an interesting debate among Pencil Revolutionaries regarding the various benefits and drawbacks of wood cased vs. mechanical pencils. (See "Can't Corral that Palomino") I was of course happy such a passionate discourse resulted from a post on our new Palomino Mixed Grade Graphite pencil set, but the real benefit for me came from the comments themselves.
As an industry participant I was intrigued by the detailed consideration of performance characteristics of these alternate pencil types. It was somewhat like sitting in on a focus group discussion and though certainly a limited sample size of true enthusiasts I did find some ideas that we manufacturers and marketers could further explore. Of course, many of these ideas have already been addressed in various forms by manufacturers of both styles of pencils. However, the challenging aspect for me is to think about what performance benefits and objections people expressed regarding wood cased pencils and how creative product solutions to those might expand the wood cased market through new customer conversion.
One of the key "objections" about wood cased for mechanical pencil fans is the need to continuously sharpen pencils versus the simple clicking action of mechanical when doing extended writing or note taking as opposed to drawing or sketching where most seemed to favor wood cased. Harder grade leads are certainly one option to reduce frequency of sharpening. This has it's limitations though as it negatively effects the darkness many pencil users prefer from softer leads, which by the nature of their physical properties simply wear at a faster rate. Naturally, it seems that perhaps a "sharpenless" wood cased pencil might find a niche of new converts if it combined the ease of use of a mechanical with the attractive feel an emotional sache of a good wood cased pencil.
Other than simply encasing a mechanical type pencil with a wood casing, which is not a new idea, I can't say that today I have a real design concept for a truly unique sharpenless wood cased pencil. Whether such a concept is achievable or there really would be an attractive demand is uncertain. The world is full of interesting product concepts that don't really achieve mcuh commercial success. Recently we received a proposal to market someone's design for a pencil with about 1/2 of the total length made up of a long eraser. The concept allowed the user to peel back the "cardboard type" ferrule to expose more eraser as needed. We declined as I could not see the economics working well for this combination versus the simple use of an eraser topper wihch is reusable with other pencils and more cost effective. More often than not the typical pencil eraser is not fully utilized and is wasted anyway, so why make it longer.
In the meantime I can announce our first eBay auction listing in our new "Vintage & Collectables" Category on the Pencil World Creativity Store. This is a single Palomino Wood Cased Ball Point Pen which is one of a limited set produced as Premium gifts when we first initiated our California Republic product line. Unfortunately, I don't have any of these which are mechanical pencils with a Palomino quality lead that I might call the "Sharpenless Palomino Pencil". Perhaps one day.
Finally, I am pleased to note that following an important Revolutionary's detailed technical analysis our Palomino HB and 2B pencils has resulted in their selection as the winners of the most favored replacement to the famous Blackwing 602 pencil which is no longer in production. In addition, we are pleased to announce that the Palomino HB is now also available as part of the new Moleskine Gift Sets at Ninth Wave Designs eBay Store. Ninth Wave Designs has become an authorized dealer of our California Republic and ForestChoice pencils and we look forward to seeing more combination Moleskine pencil sets using our Palomino and ForestChoice pencils in the future.