Thursday, April 26, 2007

This Guy is "Mad, Crazy"

I would like to introduce to you the interesting misadventure of Tyler Farrer who’s new blog Make One Pencil chronicles his efforts to make one pencil all by materials and tools made and acquired only by himself. This effort is inspired by the famous essay entitled I, Pencil first published by the Economist Leonard E. Read in 1958.

Tyler describes himself as follows:

I am a self-proclaimed "Free-market", "Free-Trade", and "Capitalism-loving", "globalist". I also believe that it was probably impossible for one man to make a pencil in 1958. Will it be impossible in 2008? I don't know, but I want to be the one to try.

Another description might be simply he’s “mad, crazy”. I told him I’d like to help with raw material supplies given my involvement in the industry, but that would defeat the whole purpose of “one man, one pencil”. He can’t just buy the pre-manufactured components and assemble them either, to follow the concept of Read’s essay he has to produce the tools to produce the pencil and then the final product all by himself. As it is he’s at least benefiting from the internet as a resource on how to make the pencil since he doesn’t have to invent it just make it from scratch. He’s asked for financial contributions on the website, but doesn’t that defeat the “one man, one pencil” credo also?

But what real basis do I have to claim Tyler is “mad, crazy”. Simple, he’s working against some of the greatest principles of economics. He’ll either end up broke producing one pencil for some outrageous cost if he succeeds at all or he will have a breakdown ending up needing major therapy and probably pharmaceutical treatment as well. What’s more he knows all this to start as a good a good "Free-market", "Free-Trade", and "Capitalism-loving", "globalist”. If he’s not really insane now he may well be after this effort.

If you’re unfamiliar with I, Pencil I encourage you to read it. It’s essentially a lesson in these great economic principles best summarized by Milton Friedman in his Introduction to the essay on the Library of Economics and Liberty website. In Milton’s own most eloquent words:

I know of no other piece of literature that so succinctly, persuasively, and effectively illustrates the meaning of both Adam Smith's invisible hand—the possibility of cooperation without coercion—and Friedrich Hayek's emphasis on the importance of dispersed knowledge and the role of the price system in communicating information that "will make the individuals do the desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do."

Milton even used this essay in his popular TV Show “Free to Choose”. Anyway Tyler’s Make One Pencil quest strikes me as very coincidental timing as I have recently been re-reading various Milton Friedman works. So I guess this post can serve as a bit of my own memorial to Milton.

Finally, if you need any further support for my prediction of Tyler’s fate I encourage you to read this post at the Reach Upward blog. This is where his flash of brilliance to begin this odyssey got its initial spark. In any event I am very much enjoying Tyler’s prolific posts so far and intend to follow his progress and offer my moral support. It’s really all great fun and I’ll leave the decision to make financial contributions up to you. All the best of luck to Tyler.

Image Note: Particularly fitting for this post the drawing above by Dan Mignano was a runner up in one of our Incense Cedar Institutes Pencil Doodle Contests from the mid 1990s. The theme "No. 2 Pencil, Still No. 1 in a High Tech World."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pencils: Popular in Any Language

One of the most common questions I receive from those who learn I work in the pencil industry is "How do you get the leads into the wooden pencil?" This leads to any number of further questions and discussion about different aspects of the pencil business according to what any particular person finds interesting. There is no shortage of interesting and related topics depending upon how detailed and how technical one wants to get. In reality I have only touched on a very few areas in all the posts about industry issues over the past 18 months or so, whether it's anti-dumping duties, environmental aspects of forestry management and FSC certification, etc. FYI: Today I've added Labels to most of my posts so it should be easier to find different posts by subject matter.

Yesterday I came accross the following post "¿Cómo se meten las minas en los lápices de madera?" which answers just this question on the general interest Spanish language blog Ya está el listo que todo lo sabe (Here is the list of everything to know). The post includes a brief history of the development of the graphite pencil and a description of the pencil manufacturing process. This post as many other websites I have found over the years has liberally borrowed the photo from our How to Make A Pencil page on our Incense Cedar Institute Pencil Pages site on how pencils are made.

What I found most interesting about this post was the "commentarios" left by readers and in particular a long treatise on the wood used in pencils by Dr. Amio Cajander who provided a knowledgeable discussion of the use of Incense-cedar ,other pencil woods and even composite substitutes in his long comment in addition to describing some of the technical factors that make for a good pencil wood. He even generously noted my Timberlines blog as a resource for his information for those who wished to practice thier English. Additional comments indicated readers seemed generally interested in learning about how the pencil was made. This is not unlike my experience with reactions to my Timberlines posts and our feedback over many years from information provided on the Incense Cedar Institute Pencil Pages.

While my Spanish is just okay, I was able to make my way through this post relatively easily and it was good practice. So for those interested in testing their Spanish, practicar aqui.

Honestly, it's nice to see that there is such interest in the manufacturing process and the pencil itself from all over. I would take the time to link to a few other foreign language sites on the topic of how pencils are made that I've found over the years, but unfortunately I never bothered to save any of those links. So if you're visiting from another country and know of any such web pages in your native tongue please feel free to link to these in a comment to this post.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring Cleaning Sale Kicks off with Palomino Bulk Pack Offer

It’s been a busy Winter and Spring and I haven’t had much of a chance to be active with new Timberlines posts or to address new items for the Pencil Word Creativity Store @ eBay. Since we’re trying to do a bit of Spring Cleaning we’ve come up with a couple new listings as special offers. When you do this at home in your study or kitchen you typically find pencils and other writing instruments tucked away in some drawer somewhere. Well we’re no different here so over the next several weeks we’ll be offering a number of Spring Cleaning Sale Items.

A number of our repeat customers have asked about possibility of buying Palomino products in higher bulk quantities. As luck would have it we found some basic sample packaging for a 72 count item lying around and have decided to run a test. So while listed supplies last we now have the following 4 items available in 72-count bulk quantities at a price offering something over 10% savings on a per pencil basis versus our normal graphite 6 pack counts. Each is packed with 6 banded dozens in a ½ gross box. Click on any of these items to link to that item in the store.

Palomino HB Orange – 72 count Bulk Pack
Palomino HB Orange w/ Erasers – 72 count Bulk Pack
Palomino 2B Orange – 72 count Bulk Pack
Palomino HB Blue – 72 count Bulk Pack

We do have some 36 count packaging as well and will look at listing these after the 72 count volumes sell through. Following these tests we’ll evaluate whether a full time addition of a 36 or 72 count Bulk pack option for certain Palomino items makes sense. We appreciate your feedback and interest in spurring us on to try out these bulk packs.

Next we’ve now added a simple Palomino Orange 2B - 6 pack offering so customers don’t need to go to trouble of ordering a Variety pack and sending us a message just to say they want 6 2B pencils since a 6 count pack in 2B has proved to be a popular request on our variety pack offering.

As our Spring Cleaning process continues we’ll be adding other special one time offers with a few combo sets of a variety of KUM sharpeners, some notebooks and journals with our pencils and perhaps a new series of Vintage & Collectable pencils that we have on hand.