Monday, October 30, 2006

Berolzheimerianum: 100 Year Anniversary Celebration

Back in March I wrote a post titled “Lieber Philip: A Letter Lasts 100 Years” that discussed the final letter my Great-Great Grandfather Heinrich wrote from his home in Nürnburg, Germany to his son Philip, my Great-Grandfather in New York before he passed away about one month later. I introduced a bit of family history in the pencil industry to my own son Philip through this letter.

As it turns out there is another recent 100 Year Anniversary related to Heinrich Berolzheimer’s accomplishments. My wife, son and I have just returned from a week in Germany where we participated in activities celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the construction of the Berolzheimerianum in Fürth, the city of Heinrich’s birth and original founding of the pencil company, Berolzheimer und Illfelder. Donated by Heinrich with assistance of his son’s Emil and Philip (then running the Eagle Pencil Company in New York) the Berolzheimerianum was established according to the foundation document as a “home for popular education in the town of Fürth”. Tis document stated that it should “serve the whole population of town of Fürth, regardless of social class, religion or political opinions”. The building included an extensive library with over 10,000 volumes (later growing to over 20,000 volumes) as well as an auditorium with 800 seats for performances and various cultural events and included a number of works of art both interior and exterior art.

Unfortunately Heinrich passed away a month prior to the completion and inauguration of the building. The photos in this post show the Berolzheimerianum both at it’s completion in 1906 and as it looks today. The painting of Heinrich was commissioned when he was named as an Honorary Citizen of Fürth for his patronage towards the city. Other famous Honorary Citizens include Ludwig Erhard who served as the second Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1963 to 1966 and Henry Kissinger, who I was told recalls studying as a child in the Berolzheimerianum.

The Berolzheimerianum has an interesting history. A few of the highlights include:

- Attendance at the building inauguration by Prince Ludwig III of Bavaria (later the last king of Bavaria)
- Functioned as a military hospital during the 1st World War through 1919
- The building was renamed by the National Socialists during the period of the Third Reich erasing for a time the recognition of the Jewish Philanthropist Heinrich Berolzheimer
- Following post war repairs in 1945, the Berolzheimerianum name was restored and the building continued to function for it’s original purpose of supporting education and the arts
- In 1998 following extensive renovations the Berolzheimerianum was reopened as ComÖedie Fürth, one of the leading comedy clubs in Germany including a restaurant and bar.

As a part of the 100 Year Celebration my wife, son and I were honored to be the guests of the City of Fürth along with other of Heinrich’s descendants (3rd and 4th cousins) whom we met for the first time. In conjunction with the anniversary celebration a four month exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Franconia, entitled “Benefactor Berolzheimer: A Family Tradition of Philanthropy and Patronage”. While our families converted to Christianity several generations back, we very much enjoyed learning more about our Jewish heritage in Germany during this visit. The entire staff of the museum did a very nice job with the exhibit and with additional activities scheduled over a three day period.

In addition to the Berolzheimerianum, Heinrich also made important financial and artwork contribution to a library in Nürnburg, known as the Luitpoldhaus, as well as to the Nürnberger Künstlerhaus art institute and supported the Natural History Museum in that city as well. For his contributions to Nürnburg where he lived the final years of his life he was also named and honorary citizen there as well. This I understand makes him one of only two people who have been named honorary citizen to both of these cities. This tradition of supporting education and the arts in our home communities has been continued by Heinrich’s descendants to this day, first by Emil and Philip and down to current times.

I am slowly adding to my Flickr site here a a new set of historical, current day and other photos associated with the Berolzheimerianum and the 100 year Anniversary Ceremonies. Some of these are captioned to tell more of the story of the building.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Japanese Design Pencils

I am certain you have all seen, admired and perhaps even purchased"fancy" theme or holiday pencils before. Such decorative features are produced through a variety of techniques which include 4 color offset printing, transfer, foil or paper wrap, roll-on imprint, silk screen, etc. The proper combination of lacquer base color with a design overlaid and other finishing touches such as unique eraser color and style or end dipping can create quite interesting pencils for general use or collectable.

I can say with no hesitation that no one part of the pencil industry produces the quality and variety of "designer" pencils comparable to those produce Japanese pencil industry as a group. Starting with extremley uniform dimensional characteristics and a high quality base pencil is the first step to assuring an exceptional product. The quality, creativity, detail and variety of designs produced by Japanese manufacturers is truely amazing and surprisingly not often duplicated to such extent by other producers. One theme pencil trend recently in Japan was the advent of "game" pencils in which the 6 sides of a hexagonal pencil each represent a different result for the game when the pencil is rolled like dice.

Often such design pencils are viewed as purely of interest to children, although many knowledgable collectors appreciate these pencils as well. One of my own favorites from my collection is a 15 pencil color set in a tin. The set commemorates the Japan Railway System and each pencil is rectangular in shape with each of the four sides printed as if it was one side of the train. Each of the 15 pencils represents a different type of train in the system. As a part of a limited edition the set sells of about $200 at retail.

While relocating our corporate offices recently we have come up with a group of pencils that we plan to auction as part of our "Vintage & Collectables Series" at our eBay Pencil World Creativity Store. The first of these is a beautiful and unique collection of 1400 such Japanese Designer Pencils. Click here to visit this auction. These are pencils produced to the same quality of our Palomino graphite pencils with respect to the fine finish and smooth writing characteristics.

Theme pencils can represent a difficult and risky part of the pencil industry due to the "trendiness" of different designs. In Japan as well as here in the US many are tied to licenses of particular cartoon characters from television or the movies. Such pencils can involve license fees that along with art design costs and film set up costs increase the need for a larger minimum run sizes to amortize these costs. Themes that come and go over seasonal or holiday periods require careful inventory planning to assure no excess or obsolete inventory for the manufacturer that increase the working capital tied up. Even thematic designs that are acceptable one year may not be as saleable the next season.

As a collector, the challenge is to focus on those items that are more unique, are part of complete matched sets and are of good quality design and cosntruction. Also as with any collection selecting what you find personally interesting or attractive is also advisable even if it might not be so rare.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Transitions and Milestones

Well it's amazing how fast the past couple of months went by and how busy we've been here at CalCedar multitasking on an ever expanding list of activities. In that time I've failed to keep Timberlines readers up to date. So here's a quick summary of the main highlights and some of our comming attractions.

Our Pencil World Creativity Store on eBay experienced our biggest month of sales ever in July as a result of the Boing Boing post highlighting Ninth Waves Design's road test naming the Palomino pencil replacing the Blackwing 602. The post didn't even mention our store site, but many of you thankfully searched us out and we experienced two times the single largest prior month sales.

A key challenge responding to all this was that this development coincided with an important transition here in our offices. My assistant Jeanette had just decided to depart the company to pursue other interests. Fortunately one of our former employees Paula was available rejoin the company and is now handling customer service on our eCommerce ForestChoice and Pencil World sites in addition to taking on Jeanette's other duties. Fortunately, with some part time support from Jeanette through this transition we were able Paula was able get up to speed and continues to maintain our commitment to 100% positive feedback.

We're also currently in the midst of additional transitions here in our offices. After 18 years in our corporate headquarters buliding we'll be relocating at the end of the month back into CalCedar's original offices next to the old slat factory here in Stockton. Returning to our roots in a manner of speaking. Going through years of files and reducing everything to fit our downsized offices after moving operations off shore in the past few years is quite an effort. One benefit is that we're turning up some interesting things for future Vintage and Collectables auctions. Stay tuned.

A few significantly anniversaries of note were missed in the past few months that I'd like to mention.

July 20th - 1st Anniversary of Pencil Revolutions Blog - Like me conrad John has slowed down a bit with new posts. I know he moved this summer, but hope we haven't seen the last of his interesting pencil ephemera.

August 5th - 1st Anniversary of Timberlines Blog. A bit slow lately, but I do plan to continue my series of posts on industry issues to keep things interesting, not just promotional posts on our products.

September 16th - 1st Anniversary of launch of the Palomino on our Pencil World Creativity Store. Thanks to a inaugural review at Pencil Revolutions the Palominos were out to were let loose from the corral. Now a year later we're thankful to have a small but growing group of faithful riders and we're focused on expanding the number of stables housing Palominos through building our retail presence.

Unfortunately I missed being able to celebrate another milestone with my wife, my own wedding anniversary, during my August trip to Asia to visit our factories. During this trip we worked on finalizing some new items for the California Republic product line which will be making their debut in the comming months. The photo in this post shows a few of our new Spangle Jumbo learning pencil items for primary school students.

We have several new eBay listings & additional items in the works. We've just relisted our Spangle Halloween pencils at special pricing for the holidays and have coupled them also with a special promotion on our Palomino Wooden Box Color and Graphite pencil sets. Comming along soon we'll have trial listing on some bulk packed 36 and 72 count Palomino's on our Pencil World Store. Later in the year some special items for the holidays and as mentioned earlier our office move has turned up a whole range of items for a new series of Vintage & Collectable Pencil eBay Auctions.

I'll do my best to keep you posted on new developments for the company as well as some further industry related posts I'd like to get t0.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Boing Boing Does Pencils

It's nice to see the Palomino has reached Boing Boing's famous directory of Wonderful Things with this post and link to Ninth Wave Design's November post that anointed the Palomino Hb & 2B pencils as the successors to the famous Blackwing 602. It's started a whole new range of commenting there at Ninth Wave. I welcome those of you who found their way here to Timberlines as a result.

It's nice to see a growing group of new customers searching the Palomino out at Pencil World Creativity Store, Pencil Things and Ninth Wave Designs Online the current online sources for Palominos. I knew Boing Boing is big, but wow. We will be busy today & Monday packing up the orders. Thanks for trying us out. I hope y'all enjoy "the ride" and take a friend along with you.

If you like what you see and you'd like to see the Palomino get more established at retail please talk to your favorite art, gift, museum or small stationery shop proprietors. We have International Arrivals stocking some of our Palomino & Forest Choice items. They are set up to service these types of small independent retailers that typically want much smaller minimum order volumes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Making Music with the Palomino

I received the attached photo and note from Matt Downey demonstrating how he's using our Palomino pencils for his musical efforts.

"Hey here is what is called a sketch, rough musical ideas on paper that will eventualy find their way into a peice. In this case the second movement of a string quartet. I love sketching with this Palomino pencil. The line is good and dark and the lead is nice and smooth. The wood has that smell (you know the one I mean) and it is all so conductive to the creative impulse in me. Sketching could be called material generation for the purpose of composing but I like to think of it as composing anyway even though it is so incomplete.-Matt

PS - I think you can spy a Mongol chilling in the backround. play an I SPY game with it."

Yeah, I see it there in the corner and am glad to spot a ForestChoice pencil as well. Thanks for sharing and keep on creating.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Shape of Things to Come

California Republic has now introduced triangular shaped pencils in our Golden Bear and Prospector product ranges. These are the first of what we hope may become an expanded range of triangular pencils over time.

The Prospector Trianguler HB 40 count tube is available in our Prospector Green color. This pencil is tipped with our standard round white eraser as is the green Prospector pencil in our standard hexagonal shape. On future option under consideration is a natural finish version without eraser, although we have no definite time schedule to add any new triagualr versions at anytime soon.

The Golden Bear Triangular HB 40 count tube features our orange and blue color combination in an attractive end dip. No eraser at this point though we will consider the future addition of a blue triangular shaped eraser version for the down the road.

Sorry to say we have no immediate plans to offer a triangular version of the Palomino pencil.

We do have a few auction items with special savings chances on a few items right now including this, this & this.

We also have a Summer Color Splash pencil promotion going on as well as the extension of our Soccer Mania promotion. So if you haven't visited our Pencil World Creativity Store lately drop on by with any of these links.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sharpen those Palominos

We have several long awaited new arrivals this week to expand our range of KUM sharpeners at Pencil World Creativity Store.

First, is our special edition Palomino Long Point Sharpener. This is a premium "Automatic" long point sharpener from KUM that features a two step process to acheiving a perfect point. The first step sharpens just the wood leaving the graphite core mostly untouched for step two; sharpening the graphite core to a fine even point. Prior to being exposed to this two step sharpener I was personally a devotee of the KUM metal wedge sharpeners, which I still enjoy for their simplicity, and clean short points when I'm using a Golden Bear or Prospector. However now I won't touch my Palominos with anything but the Long Point sharpener. This provides a fine, crisp point that lasts longer between sharpening than the wedge point. When I was first introduced to this sharpener back at the Paperworld fair in Frankfurt by KUM owner-President Fritz Luettgens I knew I had to pair this one up with our Palomino pencils. The group at KUM was great to work with creating a series of color variations until we got just what we wanted, a nice translucent orange with our gold California Republic Palomino imprint on one side. Each sharpener comes with two spare blades and a cardboard case with operating instructions on the two step sharpening process.

Three other new KUM sharpener listings have also been added. The Softie Grip Magnesium II takes the one hole Magnesium sharpener and adds the ergonimic cushioning of a spongy grip to two sides. This feature provides a unique comfortable feel during sharpening. For another new container sharpener we've added the "Oval-Office-Large SOFTIE®-LINES" in blue and orange. This larger container sharpening includes the Magnesium two hole sharpener which can be removed for replacement. The softie lines feature provides a non-slip grip for handling the sharpener, but not the same cushioning effect of the Softie Grip. Next is a unique new combination product ensemble from KUM, the Groovy Blister Card Set. The Groovy set comes in three fun design styles and each set includes a decorates large Oval Office style sharpener with an eraser, 17cm ruler (sorry only metric measurement was available) and a unique graphite pencil produced from wood which has been stained black throughout. These sets will make great party favors or simply a nice gifts particuylary for girls in the 7 to 12 year old age group.

In celebration of the Germany 2006 World Cup we've also added a limited time Soccer Mania Promotion. Buy 5 10-packs of Spangle Soccer pencils and recieve a free KUM soccer sharpener. We have a limited group of seven soccer sharpeners and one of these features the Germany 2006 design so it's first come first serve as to which sharpener you will receive. If you wish you can substitute any of our other Spangle 10 pack decorated pencil items if you don't want all soccer pencils, just be sure to buy at least 5 packs total in one purchase and we'll send the sharpener along.

Comming Soon: Two new listings for Golden Bear and Prospector triangular pencils.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"Catch" of a Lifetime

I recently added this 1954 Mirado Pencil magazine advertisement to my collection. I find some of these old pencil ads intriguing for both their design and copy content. Of particular interest to me is the contexts they provide as a historical reference and indicators of trends in promotional focus within our industry.

Given my own favorable predispositions towards both fly fishing and pencils (as covered in my prior post, WoodChuck on Fishing) I found this ad particularly interesting from both the graphic and copy standpoint. The use of the fishing scale to demonstrate that the strength of the Mirado lead “will take over five pounds of pressure… far more than you apply in daily use” is the first of several fishing references in pointing out features of the product. This theme continues with additional fishing analogies… “This yellow-bodied beauty with the bright red brand glides like greased lightening … smooth and fast. A Mirado reels off more than thirty-five miles of line, and you’ll agree that every inch is a joy and pleasure.”

So when you look at the Mirado performance features being promoted in this add it comes down to: the strength of the graphite core, smooth writing/gliding capability and it’s long lasting nature “35 miles of line”. It’s unclear if you’d have to sharpen down to an uncomfortably small nub to realize the claim of 35 miles of line. The ad also offers a free sample for writing into the Eagle Pencil Company.

Today there is much less print advertising done for particular pencil products like we saw in the first 50 to 60 years of the 20th century. Today newspaper circular insertions in support of given retailers mostly during the back to school sales period are the most common form of print advertising for pencils. These circulars generally cover pencils in addition to other writing instruments from a given manufacturer or brand range. The failure of these circulars in my view is that they communicate none of the performance features of product, just brand name and price point. Of course this is not the purpose of newspaper circular advertising which is designed around price promotion of known brand names to generate store traffic for the retailer, not to promote features and benefits of brands.

Where some manufacturers do seem to focus more marketing effort these days is on public relations activities focused on the wider corporate brand umbrella and not necessarily on specific pencil products themsleves. In the case of the Mirado pencil brand I am not aware of any advertising and promotional effort expended on this product by Sanford these days. Certainly their Sharpie marker range is quite heavily advertised and promoted along with their Waterman and Parker pens. I am sure there are also other less visible means of promotion of Prismacolor, Papermate, Uniball, etc. but the Mirado which is Sanford’s “flagship” high quality graphite writing pencil gets even less promotional support from what I’ve seen.

Also unclear at this point is whether today’s Mirado performance lives up to the billing of this Mirado ad from 50 years ago. Today’s cartons still make the claim of being “The World’s Smoothest Writing Pencil.” Some would say it does not offer the same performance as just 10 years ago following a series of cost reduction and brand repositioning steps. It has transitioned over the years from the Eagle corporate brand umbrella to the Berol Mirado, then in the past 12 years or so to the Sanford Mirado and is now currently the marketed as the Papermate Mirado pencil. I don’t know about you, but when I think of a high quality writing instrument that I would want to associate with my flagship graphite pencil brand, Papermate of all the brands under the Sanford umbrella is not the first one that springs to my mind. Over this time the Mirado has lost share in it’s primary market in the USA relative to Dixon’s Ticonderoga despite similar price points and market positioning for these two products. One thing that has changed is that the Mirado no longer fits the final claim from this 1954 advertisement that it is “The Largest Selling Pencil in the World”. Of course, I'm not certain that it did in 1954 either.

Sanford of course is not alone and I do not mean to pick on them in particular. The reduced advertising and promotional expenditures on branded wood-cased pencils in general these days is a partial consequence of trends that tend to “commoditize” all consumer goods. These trends include greater availability of lower priced foreign imports with improving quality, an increase in retailer concentration and control over access to distribution points along with their increasing use of Private Label. Another contributor is the reduced amount of product innovation in wood cased pencils, so there is less to talk about. When any product faces increased price pressure for products that are not well differentiated from other competitors this generally leads to reductions in marketing expenditure and excessive focus on cost and price reduction. This is to the detriment of other important aspects of a balanced marketing mix. Admittedly, this is a difficult challenge when every third sentence coming from buyers at Walmart, Staples and other large retailers is about the need to reduce prices.

Despite this I still believe that if the top pencil brands continue to advertise and promote their products and focus on keeping a quality advantage then their loyal consumers would continue to support the brand at reasonable pricing premiums and they would have “A Catch of a Lifetime”. More creativity is needed today in tying the fly and casting the rod to the right spot of the river than ever before. If the brands fail to do so then the fish will increasingly bite on other lures.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Office Supply Trader

The very industrious Kyle MacDonald started with one red paperclip on July 12, 2005 in his quest to trade his way up to a new house. After just 10 trades and 9 months time he has bartered his way up to one year's free rent for a 700 square foot house in Phoenix, AZ and is now looking for the next trade to reach towards his ultimate goal.

Quite an adventure in value added activity despite the added costs and time he's expended in travel expenses and locating trades that move him along his path. I guess there's no real PayPal equivalent in the trading community to build some trust that would reduce such transaction costs. Certainly Craigslist and similar sites offer a means of reducing the search costs, but they mainly work within local markets where individuals are able to go and see for themselves what their getting in exchange for their item. Bartering of course is a very old system of trade, predating monetary exchange. In fact, it was the inconvenineces of the barter system in part that lead to the development of money.

So does a bartering system for pencils and office supplies make sense today? Some consumer products manufactureres do trade obsolete inventories for things like advertising trade credits. But these are intercorporate trades and the strings attached to sue the trade credits generally reduce their value. Would consumers willinging and actively trade office supplies in a barter relationship if an efficient and trustworthy transaction system existed? How easy might it be in such a system to trade up from a pencil to a PDA through a series of trades? Would it be worth the effort?

Clearly Kyle benefits from the novelty of his quest, the increasing publicity and the fact that his trade partners are assigning value to the emotional benefit of participation in Kyle's adventure to be willing to trade something of higher value for the lesser value item Kyle is offering. Otherwise who could justify a trade of a red paper clip for a novelty fish pen of all things. In an office supply bartering system with efficient transaction costs as usage increases such a system would reduce the value added increase one might get from such trades since there would be more selection of like value available. Thus it seems the main benefit would be a better use and distribution of the excess inventories people may be holding. Certainly, eBay has provided a rather efficient outlet for alot of the old junk accumulating in peoples garages and drawers and has made strides in redistributing such excess inventories. However, eBay is designed around monetary exchange for these goods and is not a barter system.

So what will you trade me for a tube of Prospector Pencils?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Perfect Match

Special Spring Offer!

New at our eBay Pencil World Creativity Store, get a Free KUM® "Ellipse Office" Orange or Blue Pencil Sharpener of your choice when you purchase a minimum of one 40 count tube of Golden Bear graphite pencils. Offer valid through May 12, 2006. This sharpener includes KUM's Magnesium one hole wedge sharpener and is designed to fit perfectly in a pocket or purse for easy portability.

Golden Bear Orange Graphite HB – 40 pencil tube
Golden Bear Blue Graphite HB – 40 pencil tube
Golden Bear Orange Graphite 2B – 40 pencil tube

The 2B is also a new item at the store in the past month and is perfect for those looking for a bit softer lead in our fine Golden Bear range.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Do Industry Associations Matter Anymore?

Later this week I’m attending the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA). Participants include finished product manufacturers and marketers with operations in the US as well as component suppliers. I used to look forward to this event each year as an important chance to get together with key customers, other businesses and friends in the pencil and writing instrument industry. Coming from a family business background I can remember attending one of the former Pencil Makers Association meetings with my parents when I was still in High School and later after college before I had joined the family business.

It always seemed somewhat like a family reunion with a good combination of sports and social activities intermixed with our business sessions. Very friendly long term relationships. Everyone always seemed to have a good time in addition to active participation in what were regarded as valuable educational programs and committee sessions of the association focused on technical, product safety, trade or governmental regulatory issues.

Like many industry associations ours has suffered declining membership and industry participation resulting from trends of industry consolidation, movement of manufacturing off-shore, cost containment pressures, conflicting business interests of member companies, etc. This has already lead to the merger about 10 years ago of the Pencil Makers Association into the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association and since then we’ve continued to lose membership.

An important by-product of these trends is the change in the group of meeting participants. First, there are fewer participants from each company due to cost containment reasons and people tend to schedule in and out quickly minimizing the time commitment. Fortunately, for me the meeting is being held in San Francisco this year so it’s close enough to home that it doesn’t require the normal time commitment of traveling to the East coast.

More importantly participation was historically heavily weighted to the business owners who were the top executives and decision makers in the industry. Now larger companies or even smaller companies who have been absorbed by some other diversified group send VP or sometimes lower level managers if they participate at all. For example, I think it’s been at least 10 years since the President of either Sanford or Dixon attended personally.
Committee activity, historically the hallmark of strength for our association, involved the active participation of numerous members for direction of the work of the Association. This function has declined and generally committees now only meet face to face as part of the Association Board meeting itself once per year with a phone conference here and there in between.

I currently Chair the Pencil Section that deals with issues specific to the pencil industry. I recently sent out an email to the committee members proposing we move forward with a program the Association staff has looked into to increase and improve promotion of the PMA Certification Seal. I’d like to see the Committee request the Association board to fund the program since in my view is the one program the association currently offers that has potential to have some positive impact for members if supported. (see my August 2005 Timberlines Post: What’s the Value of Pencil Certification?) In any event, my email asked for feedback and input on this proposal. I got one response and that came from the legal counsel to the association, not from a manufacturer.

In the meantime I remain interested in consumer feedback on this particular issue. Do you place any more value on such third party certification programs, industry sponsored or not? Do you view a PMA, EN71 (European standard) or ACMI certified product as safer than one without one of these certifications? Does it bear any relevance in your purchase decision at all?

Finally, in a further effort to address the challenges of relevance as an association, this year we decided to focus the upcoming business sessions on International trade issues faced by our industry. We have invited participants from other Writing Instrument Manufacturing groups from around the world to this year’s meeting. We will have differing levels of representation from the associations in Japan, Europe, and Japan. We’ve scheduled four different speakers on a range of topics as well as an association round table to discuss how each association works to support its membership.

Will this lead to increased cooperation and coordination on global issues of product specifications and safety standards, counterfeiting issues, category marketing and promotion, etc? Will it be a first step to some form of International Federation of Writing Instrument Manufacturers? I’m skeptical at this point given the historically insular nature of each of these associations to focus on issues specific to their own region or country. What is clear to me is that US based manufacturers associations probably in many industries will continue to struggle without embracing and leading a broader international focus and collaboration with peer associations throughout the world.

For now our company continues to participate in the association feeling it’s better to try to show some leadership to improve the member benefits and support to those of our customers who remain members. Still each year when that invoice shows up to renew our membership I question the relevance and think of 10 other ways I could likely spend these funds to have a more direct positive impact on our business. 2006 will be a year of decision for me however as it’s simply too much expense to justify without seeing a positive trend of improved benefits from membership.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Welcome Pencil of the Month™ Club

Our friend and colleague Don over at is starting a Pencil of the Month™ Club . Just $24/year for a monthly edition of a new pencil each month. Link here to join or you can read more details here at Pencil Revolutions.

We are pleased Don is getting off to a good start with his new PencilThings venture which is becomming the definitive source for KUM sharpeners and a growing list of our own California Republic pencils in our Palomino, Golden Bear, ForestChoice & Prospector ranges in addition to more new "pencil things" everyday. His efforts are quite a compliment to our own Pencil World Creativity Store @ eBay making a wider range of PencilThings available than we at California Republic have the time to focus on for our own more limited eBay offerings.

We are excited to collaborate with Don to help him locate and source interesting pencil items for the club's monthly listings and look forward to the fun ahead for fellow Pencil Revolutionaries.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thanks from Pencil World Creativity Store

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the growing numbers of Palomino Riders and fans of our other pencil items that have supported our product and efforts at our Pencil world Creativity Store @ eBay. We are proud that we continue to maintain a 100% Positive feedback rating and have a growing number of first-time and repeat customers who clearly appreciate good quality pencils. Jeanette has done a super job handling the store and I know she appreciates all the kind words of support from you. She continues to work as time allows to expand our offerings or to add special auction items and special promotions like our current Easter Pencil Promotion and we enjoy hearing back from you about your ideas.

Now here’s an update on 6 new listings we’ve added over the weekend. First, we have four new Inventory listings (shown in phot here) to expand our selection of KUM sharpeners, Golden Bear and Palomino pencil items.

The KUM Correc-Tri Sharpener with Eraser is a stylish new item from KUM which includes an integrated magnesium wedge sharpener for standard pencils with container storage for shavings and a high quality eraser integrated into the base. It’s a nice integrated tool for a desktop accessory. We’ve made our final selection of KUM sharpener items and will be adding them as received into our stock.

Our Golden Bear 2B grade graphite pencils are now available in our 40 count tube packaging format. This expands to two lead grades (HB & 2B) in our Golden Bear range for those who prefer a slightly darker mark than a standard HB pencil. The 2B will only be available in our orange lacquer-blue eraser combination. Though not quite the high standard of our Palomino graphite leads the Golden Bear makes a fine writing pencil ideal for home, office and school use The Golden Bear pencil uses a make a nice complement to the orange and blue

Two new package options are available in our Palomino Range. First, is our new Palomino Rainbow Set. This 6 pencil pack selects the vibrant colors of the Rainbow from our artist quality wax color line. Included colors are: Purple, Blue, Yellow-Green, Yellow, Orange & Red. This item provides the quickest, easiest way to sample our artist color pencils in 6 popular colors. If you like these we encourage you to expand your selection through purchase of Wax Color Variety or Aquarelle Variety in 6 packs where you can select your own mix of colors from either our list of Artist Wax Color or Aquarelle ranges. Or go for the whole range with one of our complete wood boxed sets.

The Palomino Graphite HB Wood box set offers a new option to provide a nice wood case to stable those Palominos on your desktop or workspace. This item comes pre-packed with 3 each blue and orange Palomino HBs. However, the box will hold up to 12 Palominos, whether graphite, artist wax color or aquarelle. It takes a bit less space than our color pencil 12 count sets.

Next, we also continue our Vintage & Collectables Series with two new auction listings this week.

The feature item is a pairing of Henry Petroski’s book “The Pencil: A History of Design & Circumstance” with a 40 count tube of our Golden Bear HB pencils. This particular book is a 1st edition hardcover printing and comes from the personal collection of my grandfather Charles, was a gift from a former employee of the company and includes an inscription to Charles. Petroski’s book is the pre-eminent history of the pencil, of a number of the leading companies that make up the industry and of the advances in technology and materials that lead to developing the modern wood cased pencil. A must reed for any new Pencil Revolutionary.

The final Vintage & Collectable series item is a second Auction of our Palomino Natural finish Incense-cedar cased Ball Point Pen. This pen is one of just a few dozen that were produced for premium gift purposes and only a few remain on hand. We have paired this item with one our popular Palomino 6 count mixed grade Graphite packs.

We hope you enjoy these new listings and will check back at PWCS @ eBay upon occasion for new items we continue to add to our growing selection. We do plan an expanded range of stock Inventory listings as well as running more Grab Bag or Vintage & Collectable auctions as time permits. We’d really love to do one or two of these a week, but time is limited to prepare and manage such one of a kind one time auctions. We do auction certain non-stock items on an occasional basis such as our ForestChoice Carpenter pencil 144 count pack or 18 Count Palomino artist color sets where a special buy can generally be made at below our Buy it Now! prices.

Though I will do a Timberlines post now and then about new listings the best way to keep notified on what’s new is to sign up for our e-mail mailing list by adding Pencil World as one of your favorites while visiting our store site. If you have thoughts and ideas on new items or auctions you’d like to see added just let us know by commenting here. Again thanks for you business and we hope to see.

Friday, March 17, 2006

L&C Hardmuth - Koh-I-Noor: A Diamond in the Rough

The pencils shown here are all quite old pencils from L&C Hardmuth. Each represent different brand names and were produced in two different factories of this old group which had it’s beginnings in Vienna, Austria and later relocated to the Bohemia Works factory at Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic. Ceske Budejovice’s German name is Budweis, of beer fame, which has an interesting brand ownership rights history. This also is a situation not uncommon in the pencil industry over the years. In fact L&C Hardmuth’s own history resulted in divided ownership rights by region of their most famous brand. The Koh-I-Noor brand was first introduced in 1889, named for the famous diamond as a representation of the superior quality of this new product.

While Hardmuth's primary manufacturing operations remained in Ceske Budejovice, the company expanded in a multinational push between the two world wars opening Koh-I-Noor Pencil Company in New Jersey in 1919, had a joint venture factory with Johann Faber in Romania and in 1931 established a facility in Krakow, Poland as part of new trust combination with Johann Faber and A.W. Faber-Castell. (Petroski) At some point in time a new factory in Hirm, Austria was built as well.

Following World War II the company was broken up and the Czech, Romanian and Polish operations were nationalized while the Austrian company remained under private ownership. The US based Koh-I-Noor operations (of Rapidiograph fame) ended up as part of a separate group that was later owned by Rotring in Germany and was eventually acquired by Newell Rubbermaid in the 1990s. Eventually the Austrian company fell on hard times and went through bankruptcy and found new owners. This company was reorganized and operates today as Bleistfabrik Hirm-Cretacolor.

Meanwhile the nationalized group of companies consolidated over time into the large operations in Ceske Budejovice building a leading brand position in Eastern Europe and former Soviet block countries while having more limited trade with the west. This company was renamed Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth as it was privatized in 1992 and purchased two years later and has since operated as part of the Gamma Group. This company retains the Koh-I-Noor name today and has since further invested in pencil manufacturing operations in both Russia and China. The company has also recently opened separate marketing and distribution companies in both Poland and Slovenia, though there is no pencil manufacturing at these locations. It retains strong brand recognition in Eastern European market, has a reputation for fine quality and has strengthened its international distribution since it’s privatization.

As far as I’ve been able to determine these three pencil sets date from the period of time L&C Hardmuth was internationalizing the business through the 1930s. Of these three items only the Scalia pencils include any reference to the Koh-I-Noor name. None have the Koh-I-Noor name imprinted on the pencils themselves. All three seem to be different brands of copying pencils. Copying pencils have a hard lead that is designed to leave a dark and more permanent mark similar to an ink pen.

The beautiful set of Scala copying pencils are among the favorite in my entire collection. Note the wonderful lacquer job on these pencils that seems to simulate a length of bamboo. This box includes an information sheet on the care and use of these copying pencils in 12 languages demonstrating the multinational sales focus of the company. An excerpt of key technical information reads as follows:

All copying and couloured copying ink pencils should be protected against atmosoheric humidity as well as against excessive dryness and heat. ... for they are liable to absorb moisture from the atmosphere, which softens the lead and, if dried rapidly, it becomes brittle.
On account of their composition, the resistance of copying leads against breaking is entirely different than that of Blacklead Pencils, which are hardened by baking.
The structure necesitates care being taken when sharpening. The blade ... must be sharp and too great pressure should not be exerted.
Coloured Copying Ink Pencils particularly should not be sharpened to a very fine point. ... To prevent piercing oneself ..., it is recommended that the points be fitted with a protector.

The second two sets of pencils indicating they were produced in Poland include the yellow “Eureka” and black “Mephisto” pencils. They both reference a grade described as srednie or 73B srednie, which I've been unable to translate. What’s also interesting is that these two boxes seems to reference different company names. The first is L&C Hardmuth-Lechistan S.A. and the second L.i C. Hardmuth S.A. Krakow. A Wikepedia search for Lechistan indicates that it is the name for Poland used in some Central Asian and Middle Eastern countries that derives from the Polish word Lechia which is an alternate historical name for Poland. Thus it is probable the “Eureka” pencils were produced specifically for these other market regions and again are an interesting historical reference for the multinational period of expansion of the L&C Hardmuth in the 1930s.

A final note of interest is that I have only been able to find reference to one current Koh-I-Noor product retaining the Mephisto name and the Eureka and Scala names seem to have disappeared entirely from any current selections. This is a likely result of the declining demand for copying pencils and another example of how changes in product tastes and market conditions have lead to the decline in various pencil brands. The lone Koh-I-Noor Mephisto item is now a 5.6mm thick lead plastic mechanical clutch pencil.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lieber Philip: A letter lasts 100 years

Lieber Philip -

Recently Luigi has been sifting through and organizing, archival family and company correspondence. (for the uninformed Luigi is a retired employee and protégé of my grandfather Charles). Just a week ago he came up with this gem of a letter from my great-great grandfather Heinrich Berolzheimer to his son, my great grandfather and your great-great grandfather Philip.

The letter was written March 7, 1906 and is 100 years old today and begins Lieber Philip just as I've started my letter to you. In addition to the handwritten letter in German using a fountain pen there is a receipt from a factory in Nuremburg, Germany for some item Heinrich seems to have purchased on behalf of Eagle Pencil Company in New York. It also included a handwritten note by Philip on an Eagle Pencil Company envelope indicating that this was among the last letters he received from his father before his death. I have added an Eagle Diagraph pencil from my collection as a finishing touch for the photo.

Here is a bit of background history on your great-great-great Grandfather Heinrich, which even you are probably not very familiar with. Heinrich established Eagle Pencil Company in New York after emigrating from Fuerth near Nuremburg, where his father Daniel Berolzheimer had first entered the pencil industry in 1856 in partnership with Leopold Illfelder under the name of Berolzheimer und Illfelder. This 1856 date is commonly considered the founding date of Eagle Pencil Company though the Berolzheimer-Illfelder partnership did not end until approximately 1861 and Eagle was not actually established in New York in 1856. Here's a link for some information I found on the history of Eagle Pencil Company. There are a few notable errors here with respect to generational relationships of different Berolzheimers to Heinrich but perhaps you'll learn something new of interest about the pencils side of the family business background here.

After a number of years in New York Heinrich turned the business over to his sons Philip and Emil and returned to Germany for his retirement where he was involved in a number of philanthropic pursuits. This included the construction of a new library for the city of Fuerth in a building which was and is still named the Berolzheimerianum in his honor. This building has in the recent 10 years found new life as a refurbished dinner theater and comedy club. I have not seen a show there myself, but did visit the building ten year ago in 1996 and met the comedy group leaders as they were completing construction and about to open. I was even interviewed on the local television and newspaper during the visit.

Thanks to your aunt Tanja's help we have been able to decipher the main content of the letter itself. Of particular note are indications that Heinrich had recently received a letter from Philip's wife Clara with a note from your own great-Grandfather Charles (not quite 4 years old at the time) and that despite his health he was able to sit outside thanks to unseasonably warm weather for that time of year. The letter also includes a summation of a few financial figures in German Marks. One figure is the amount of 222.20 Deutch Marks from the included receipt from Nurnberger Mettal und Lackierwaarenfabrik, apparently a supplier of metal and lacquer materials to the pencil industry.

Given the 100 year anniversary of this letter today I thought it might be interesting to share with you what I see as a few of the interesting changes and developments in 100 years time that are reflected in the letter. The first is the change in language and handwriting itself. In interpreting the letter Tanja indicated there has been significant change in the meaning of particular words which she refers to as "old German". Also, the style of handwriting includes a number of letters which appear to be one letter if using current writing style, but were actually read as different letters at that time. This could even change the meaning of some of the words and sentences if interpreted improperly.

The age and somewhat faded nature of the ink complicated Tanja’s task and made at least one sentence totally unclear and she was unable to translate due to a variety of potential meanings of the few legible words. One wonders if this letter had been written with a graphite pencil rather than ink would it be more smudged or would it have stood the test of time. Given the clear legibility of the graphite pencil note by Philip on the back of the letter that indicates the date he answered the letter I could make an argument for pencil over ink. How about this? "Ride the Palomino, the mark that will last over 100 years."

I was curious what the current value of the receipt for 222.2 Marks would be in US dollars today. With the help of this site I was able to estimate it was worth approximately US$53 in 1906 using the pre-WWI rate of exchange. Using this second site it appears this amount in 1906 would be roughly equivalent to US$1085 today. Just think if you would begin setting aside just $53 per year today for the rest of your life what it might mean for your great-great grandchild in 100 years time.

Unfortunately, the description tied to this amount simply has the title "Brother Bing" so it's unclear what this receipt is specifically for. I had hoped to estimate what the cost of some parts or equipment would be today. By the way I have no knowledge of any relative named Bing, just in case you were wondering. Of further interest to me is the timeframe involved in trans-Atlantic mail communications 100 years ago. The letter dated March 7, 1906 was received in New York and Philip's handwritten note indicated he answered back with his own letter on March 20th. So a maximum of 13 days time for delivery. An eternity compared to the near instantaneous responses we expect today using e-mail for business to our factories in China and Thailand and that you and I use for personal communication. I can't remember the last real hand written letter I sent or received via mail. I'm guessing your wondering when you ever received a written letter of any sort from me. I guess this electronic version will have to suffice.

A final note of interest is the signoff which reads "Your Loving Grandfather", using the word “Opa”, though we know the relationship was father writing to son. Perhaps the translation and meaning of the word could have simply changed in 100 years time. Whether this is it or this implies some form of senility in Heinrich's waning years or was simply used as a term of endearment is unclear. I'm sure by now you are wondering about my own state of mind writing an open letter to you my teenage son in a post for the world to see on my blog. In any case the use of this language seems warm and heartfelt though sadly not typical these days of what I would expect to receive in a note or e-mail from my father Philip or I expect what you would anticipate receiving from me. Since I'm feeling nostalgic and perhaps in time you’ll reread this and feel this way too I suppose you'll eventually forgive me if I follow the example of our forefather Heinrich.

Lour loving father,

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Making a Pencil Revolutionary out of an Environmentalist: The Finale

Part 1 of this series set the stage addressing the parameters to be used to address the question “What arguments would one use to convince an environmentalist to use wood cased pencils?”

In Part 2, I provided some detailed information from a former environmental life cycle study conducted in 1993 comparing three forms of casing materials for the typical cased pencil: wood, plastic and a recycled fiber composite material. Certainly, some generalizations had to be made to adapt the information from this study to answer the question at hand in relating the results to alternate writing instruments such as pens and mechanical pencils. I also indicated that relative enviro0nmental impacts may have changed since 1993 due to changes in technology and other factors. I also pointed out the study didn’t look at all issues that might be considered important by enivornmentalus rabidus extremus.

Coincidentally, about the time I was writing my first post on this subject I received a phone call from a true blue environmentalist working actively in the area of forest management issues in our own California Sierra Nevada range. This individual was trained as a Forest Ecologist and is currently working as a consultant to the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. This group is a coalition of nearly 100 local, regional and national conservation organizations with the mission to protect and restore the ancient forests, wild lands, wildlife, and watersheds of the Sierra Nevada through scientific and legal advocacy, public education and outreach, and grassroots forest protection efforts.

This group’s historic tactics have been to present legal and public relations challenges to timber sales and Forest Service policy initiatives and timber harvest; clearly a group traditionally at odds with the forest products industry. The interesting purpose of this call was that this person was working on a project for the Campaign to address market opportunities for fire damaged timber on public lands and was interested what opportunities there may be for pencil material. Much of the recent discord has been on treatment of fuel build up in public forests that have had restricted harvests over the past 10-15 years due to changes in public policy and increased challenges to harvesting. Higher fuel loads increase the risks of fire and disease. Interestingly, it now seems that there is some growing recognition among environmental groups that wholesale restrictions of harvesting accomplished historical tactics don’t necessarily lead to healthier forests overall.

Learning that our Forest Ecologist was in fact a fan of wood cased pencils I took the opportunity to ask this Forest Ecologist’s assistance on how to convince environmentalists to use wood cased pencils over other writing instruments. His first comment was that he would personally favor wood as a renewable resource over writing instruments produced from plastic and metal. He pointed out that generally the environmentalist movement however values “critters” first, water quality, second and trees themselves a distant third. When I asked about examples of well managed forests in California he indicated he has personally visited a number of private forests that demonstrate superior natural habitat from a wildlife and water resource perspective than most public lands. He also mentioned that while he would consider himself originally more of what I refer to as the rabidus extremus environmentalist, that with his experience closely involved in these issues he has moved him more towards the middle. Generally, those private forests he mentioned were FSC certified forests. Thus from his personal perspective he would favor FSC pencils such as our ForestChoice pencils on purely environmental considerations with non-FSC Incense-cedar pencils being second. Although he agreed other performance factors for pencils are certainly important considerations when deciding among a wide choice.

Perhaps, the most wary environmentalists out there may be skeptical and disbelieving of these arguments in favor of the pencil as a sound environmental writing choice. To this all I can say is to try riding that Palomino, feeding the Golden Bear or select the ForestChoice if you feel you must nurture the conscience by choosing solely on the basis of FSC wood. If these or other fine writers out there don’t convince you about the benefits of a good high quality pencil, then unfortunately I’ll have to admit failure at this task.

Friday, February 10, 2006

New Tack for Those Palominos

We've been hearing from many of you that while you're having a great time riding those Palominos bareback your comfort would benefit from a bit of additional accessorizing in the tack department. Well, we listened and here are some of our first accessory offerings includes two new unique Palomino items with erasers now available at our Pencil World Creativity Store.

First, our new Eraser Tipped Palomino HB is available initially as a 6 pack similar to our other Palomino items. Next, our new Palomino Deluxe Mixed Grade 12 Pack doubles up on the pencil count in our normal 6 count Mixed grade pack plus adds two new features: a hand held art eraser and our Deluxe hinged plastic case which provides a sturdy permanent stable for those Palominos and new accessories such as a sharpener and eraser. Quantities of both items are somewhat limited in these first offerings on eBay, but we have more replenishment stock on the way which is scheduled for arrival here in the US during March.

We also now have our first KUM sharpener offering at Pencil World, the KUM Metal Wedge Magnesium 2 hole sharpener. This simple classic wedge sharpener offering from KUM provides the option to sharpen both standard and jumbo sized pencils whether round, hexagonal or triangular in shape. This item comes courtesy of a barter arrangement on some GoldenBear pencils with our new trade partner who has taken on the full line of KUM sharpeners and soon will be adding a selected mix of California Republic pencils as well. During the Frankfurt fair I also met with our new friends from KUM and we have a few additional special sharpener items we will be adding in the coming month or so including some interesting bundled items. Although our KUM sharpener selection will be much more limited than the full range selection now available at we do think those sharpeners we will carry should complement our pencil range well.

We're always looking at other Palomino breeding opportunities including more interesting tack items to add to our stable of Palominos and other California Republic offerings. While we we can't offer today the breadth of range in tack items you might find here, we promise if you keep riding those Palominos and sharing your experiences with your friends we'll be listening to your ideas and requests and working away at what we think makes sense for the long term.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sawadee: Made in Thailand

After a busy week in Frankfurt for the annual PaperWorld show last week I just finished a four day visit to our Thailand pencil facility, Propen, Ltd. and am now in Tokyo. More about the fair and my Japan visit in a later post. Quite a change from snow, below freezing temperatures and the hustle and bustle of Frankfurt to the warm climate of coastal Thailand and the wonderfully pleasant and friendly culture typified by the greeting Sawadee.

Our primary business at Propen is to produce OEM pencils for our customers around the world who need either raw, semi-finished or finished imprinted or decorated pencils packed to their specifications. We also produce our Forest Choice, Golden Bear, Prospector and Spangle pencil ranges in this facility. Our Palomino pencils are produced under subcontracting arrangements in Japan to our specifications and then shipped to Propen where we package and consolidate shipments along with our other products produced in Thailand. Finished product shipments go direct from Propen to our customers around the world or can be transferred to one of our warehouse locations to be shipped out in smaller orders to customers in a given market.

This facility is both Chain of Custody Certified to produce FSC certified wood pencils (such as our ForestChoice brand) and ISO 9000 Certified for quality processes. It's located in a special econmic development zone run by the Thai Board of Investment and is located at the port of Laem Chabang in the Gulf of Thailand. This about a two hour drive from Bangkok when traffic is good and about 20 minutes from the resort town of Pattaya. The advantage of the BOI location is that pencil slats from our Tianjin, China facility and other components from overseas can be shipped by port processed into pencils and reexported free of duty.

A typical trip for me here includes time on the factory floor, a review of operating and financial performance with the GM, discussion and analysis on details of upcomming orders and business opportunities we are pursuing to assure we have clear action plans and time with the department heads to keep them up to date on developments in the busines and address any communications issues requiring focus to assure we continually improve customer service and response times as our business grows and the complexity of operations and scheduling issues increases. We have a good young team here, growing in capability and experience and it's a pleasure and honor to see their dedication and commitment.

Finally, this trip we also completed a detailed product line review of our California Republic range to address issues of new product additions, discontinuations, product specifications and quality standards, packaging design changes and other enhancements as we look forward to increased focus on generating some initial retail distribution. We performed a short run to add eraser tips to some Palomino Orange HB and will be offering these next week at our Pencil World eBay store along with an exciting new packaging format for a 12 count Mixed Grade Graphite pack which will include a hand held eraser and a KUM sharpener in a nice Palomino plastic hinged container you will love to have to keep those ponies safe and secure on your workspace.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Moleskine & Palomino

I've been travelling overseas to Frankfurt Paperworld show and now to our pencil factory in Thailand. Too tied up to get down to the detail in writing Part 3 on making a Pencil Revolutionary out of an Environmentalist. There's also some interesting new pencil items I plan to write about from the Paperworld show. All this will need to wait till I get back home though.

In the meantime I thought I'd treat you to a few of the increasing associations between Moleskine and Palomino I've been finding on blogs, Flickr and the like. Thanks to A.E. Baxter for this first Palomino-Moleskine "glam" shot.

Nita's talent is visible on her InkTracks blog where she drew this Moleskine using her Palomino Pencils. We're glad she digressed from her wonderful color efforts to work in graphite for a few sketches last month. We'd love to see more.

I found this next link just today from The Fountainhead on the Flickr Moleskinerie pool. I don't actually know yet if any of our California Republic color pencils were used in this drawing, but I couldn't resist pointing this out. The pages include an interesting write up on the brief one month history of the republic and the mistaken design of the original flag of the California Republic which was supposed to be a pear, not a bear. Fortunately, we've outlasted our first month unlike our namesake. However the spirit of Captain Bartlett and those original California revolutionaries remains an inspiration for us here at California Republic Stationers. You may have already noticed that we've also encorporated this spirit into our Golden Bear brand which we think works out much better than the Golden Pear would have. Not sure the "Pear revolution" would have lasted even a week back in 1846.

Oh yeah, I've commented recently on the Pencil Revolution, but will mention this here also. Upon return from my current travels in about a week we will be listing on Pencil World Creativity Store our newest item the Palomino graphite HB with eraser which many of you have been asking about. Here's a sneak peak.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Pencils: An Environmental Profile

Or Part 2 in my continuing series on "How to make a Pencil Revolutionary out of an Environmentalist."

In Part 1 of this series I set the stage by indicating my defining parameters to answer the question, “What arguments would one use to convince an environmentalist to use wood cased pencils?” I’ll say in advance please excuse the length of this post as environmentalus rabidus extremus is a wily and cagy creature and so the foundation and evidence for my arguments must be well constructed.

To accomplish this I will today address a range of environmental impacts with results drawn from an independent third party study performed by Arthur D. Little during 1993. This study was performed on behalf of our former Incense-cedar pencil stock supplier and sister company in our family group, P&M Cedar Products, Inc. P&M operated several sawmills cutting cedar logs harvested in California and Oregon forests into pencil stock and other lumber products and was later integrated back into CalCedar. The pencil stock is converted to pencils slats by our company California Cedar Products Co. for distribution to pencil manufactures. This study, entitled “Pencils: An Environmental Profile”, was designed to develop an improved understanding of the environmental related strengths and vulnerabilities of the Incense-cedar pencil as compared to extruded plastic pencils and to pencils with a recycled paper casing. By recycled paper pencils we mean pencils produced from pencil slats made from compressed recycled paper products, such as the Sanford American EcoWriter pencil produced during the 1990s.

This was a quite extensive study which was complicated by the wide range of manufacturing inputs used in each case. The report references over 75 resource materials used in addition to extensive interviews and on-site investigations and discussions with manufacturers involved in various processes involved through the 5 stage lifecycle. Additional experts in areas of plastics and pulp and paper production were also consulted along with in depth data collection that is all summarized in the report running approximately 100 pages.

The environmental analysis focused on evaluating resources consumed and pollutants produced by each of the three pencil casing types during five life cycle stages including:

Raw Material Acquisition – harvesting of timber and production of pencil stock for incense-cedar pencils, oil and natural gas extraction and processing for plastic pencils, and collection and sorting waste paper for recycled paper pencils.

Slat/Resin production – pencil slat production for incense-cedar and recycled pencil production, and plastic resin production for plastic pencils

Pencil Manufacturing – production of pencils from slats for incense-cedar and recycled paper pencils and from plastic resin and wood flour for plastic pencils, including the graphite-plastic extruded core vs. the traditional graphite-clay kiln fired cores used in pencils produced from slats.

Use – consumer use of pencils

Post consumer disposal – disposal of pencil materials, such as pencil shavings and stubs, including landfill and incineration alternatives

The results of the analysis indicated that each of the three pencil products has comparative environmental advantages and disadvantages. On the whole, the incense-cedar wood cased pencil was found to be superior to the other two forms of pencil across a greater number of the dimensions analyzed in terms of reduced impact on the environment. The resource inputs and environmental outputs considered across each life cycle and the key conclusions for each are summarized here:

Environmental Impacts on Resource Inputs
Raw material consumption
– Wood pencils require four times more raw materials than the plastic pencil and more than twice the raw materials of the recycled paper material. However a much higher proportion of raw materials used in wood cased pencils are recyclable and the wood pencil consumes less than half the non-renewable resources as either the plastic or recycled paper pencil.
Water consumption – The wood cased pencil consumes approximately 60% of the water used by plastic pencil and approximately 10% of the water consumed by the paper pencil.
Energy consumption – The wood pencil requires approximately ½ the energy required by the paper pencil and a similar quantity of energy as the plastic pencil. The Incense-cedar wood pencil utilizes significantly more renewable energy sources than the plastic or recycled paper pencil.

Environmental outputs
Atmospheric emissions – The wood pencil results in emissions less than or equal to those of the plastic and paper pencil for carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, culfer oxide, and particulate matter. The wood pencil emits from 5 to 6 times more carbon monoxide than either the plastic or paper pencil. The wood pencil emits more than three times the organic pollutants emitted by the paper pencil, but only about 10% those of the plastic pencil.
Waste water effluents – The wood pencil emits insignificant quantities of waste water pollutants; emissions of BOD and suspended solids are greater for plastic and paper pencils.
Solid waste – The wood pencil generates less net process solid waste requiring disposal and less post consumer waste than the other two pencil types. While the wood pencil generates more solid waste a greater proportion of this solid waste is later recycled into various products. (See my prior post “Wood Manufacturing Byproducts” for more on CalCedar’s efforts in this area through the years)
Hazardous waste – The wood pencil generates significantly less hazardous waste than either the plastic or recycled paper pencil.

This report is certainly quite helpful to demonstrate the relative environmental superiority of the wood cased pencil versus the two other pencil types. However an objective, intelligent review from the viewpoint of our target consumer environmentalus rabidus extremus would likely yield the following objections:
- The report does not address impacts of graphite production as well as production of other components common to each of the three pencil types. Nor does it address alternative forms of writing instruments.
- The study is now 12 years old and manufacturing processes and relative environmental impacts may have changed due to various improvements in different industries.
- The report focuses on Incense-cedar as a surrogate for all wood casings. Environmental control standards may not be as high or as consistently enforced in other parts of the world where alternative pencil woods now more commonly used in today’s pencils are grown, harvested and processed into lumber, slats and pencils.
- Finally and probably most importantly to rabidus extremus this report does not address wildlife and ecosystem impacts other than the perspective of raw material and water resource consumption in unit volumes.

While in Part 1 I narrowly defined the convincing to be done as limited to selection among cased pencils, some generalizations might be made about comparisons between plastic writing instruments vs. wood cased based on results of this study. These wood favor wood over plastic. Impacts of common cased-pencil components such as graphite, erasers and ferrules were not analyzed in this study since they would have no relative impact in a comparative analysis. How graphite might compare to the vast array of inks used in pens and how ferrules and erasers compare on environmental impacts to other pen or mechanical pencil components is unclear.

As far as time gone by since completion of this study, my only comment is that all things progress in time and improvement could be expected on all fronts maintaining the relative comparative advantages and disadvantages. As to the implication that other wood casings commonly used may be less environmentally sound than Incense-cedar, this is a complicated matter and perhaps a good subject for a future post. In the meantime, all the more reason to purchase genuine Incense-cedar pencils.

On the relative wildlife and ecosystem impacts across the raw material sourcing component it’s correct that this report doesn’t seem to assess this dimension. When it comes to timber harvesting the report does makes note of existing protections under the strong forest practice laws in California and Oregon and indicates the mixed use of selective vs. clear cutting harvest practices according to site specifics. So while I’ve clearly made a cogent argument for the wood cased pencil’s environmental superiority on many dimensions that comunus citizenus may very well accept, it appears I haven’t quite convinced rabidus extremus of this and there is yet work to be done.

As chance would have it I recently received a phone call from a real activist, environmentalist type who had questions about cedar use in pencils. So for Part 3 of this series I’ll go right to the source of our target consumer to get to the bottom of his thinking and make my final effort at conversion of rabidus extremus to Pencil Revolutionary.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Paint that Palomino

Vibrant colors and more variety in selecting your own personal mix of Palominos are our theme today for new listings at Pencil World Creativity Store.

First, some of you have been requesting other color lacquers for our Palomino graphite pencils after seeing the beautiful array of colors in our Artist Color and Aquarelle Pencil. While our Palomino orange is our standard we do have a blue Palomino we’re now making available in a 6 pack.

Next, based upon a number of requests we have received sufficient stock on hand here in California to support adding our new Palomino Graphite Variety Pack. This 6 pack allows you to choose any mix of our Palomino graphite pencils from 2H to 2B including the HB in blue or orange according to your own taste.

As a number of fellow Revolutionaries have shown interest in alternate package options for color pencil range, we are introducing the Palomino Artist Color Pencil Variety Pack and the Palomino Aquarelle Pencil Variety Pack. These new items give you the ability to select your own 6 pencil mix from the 24 color range in each line as a means of personalizing your collection to your individual tastes and preferences. You can now replenish your supply for your full wood box sets at a discount or perhaps this will allow you to sample the color and aquarelle ranges at a good introductory price. We're convinced you'll love our color range and will be looking to add one of our wood box sets to stable your Palominos.

As a final color flash for the week, celebrate in red, white and blue with our Spangle Stars and Stripes 40 count tube.

Finally, for those of you looking to stock up on good quality general writing pencils we’re running a special promotion through February 15th in which you can get a free Golden Bear Mini Sharpener with purchase of any four 40 count tubes in Golden Bear, Prospector and now go ahead and add the Spangle Stars and Stripes pencils to that group.

Been looking for Part 2 on my new series, How to Make a Pencil Revolutionary out of an Environmentalist? It’s coming as soon as I can get to it over the weekend. I hope you'll be riding and painting with those Palominos in the meantime.