My Collection – Photos and Commentary


How to Sharpen Pencils

How to Sharpen Pencils is a book by David Rees that has received a lot of attention recently.  It describes, in detailed tutorial fashion, many techniques for sharpening pencils. 

But well before Rees’ treatise, over in Japan, efforts were made to instruct the youth of the nation in the traditional art of sharpening pencils by hand with a knife.  I know this because of an item I purchased in a store in Japan in the early 90’s —

The Kiddy Hands kit from Tombow contains a child-ergonomic knife, pencils, and lots of instructions.  Could somebody please translate some of it for us?

Actually, two of the “pencils” have no leads —

Apparently they are meant for practice, before taking on the real thing.  It would be wasteful to use a real pencil, I suppose.


Maroon is popular color for high-quality pencils from Japanese and Korean (Dong-A) companies —

Look how similar the Eye Ball Hi-new is to the Mitsu-Bishi Hi-uni.  Yes, Eye Ball is the name of a Japanese pencil company, also known as Janome.


Test Scoring

Another type of special-purpose pencil is used for marking multiple-choice answer sheets and similar purposes.  A scanner detects the mark locations optically.  Nowadays, any number 2 or HB pencil usually suffices, but scanners were less sensitive in the past and special lead formulations were required.  These pencils are referred to by terms such as Test Scoring, Mark Sensing, Electrographic, Machine Scoring, and OMR (Optical Mark Recognition).

Many are black, suggestive of their dark marks:

The pair of Detect-O-Graphs at the bottom are another example of a connection between the Linton and Venus companies.

Here are some more, including the IBM Electrographic (see Pencil Talk):

Some modern Mark Sheet pencils from Japan:

The Tombow Mono one came with a plastic point protector:

And finally, a mechanical variety by Dur-O-Lite:

Perpetual Calendar

I am interested in mechanical pencils that are built to perform different functions.  For example, here are some “perpetual calendar” mechanical pencils:

The idea is that by rotating the month part relative to the week part, you can line up the days of the week that correspond to the numerical dates for whatever month it is.  Once set, you have a whole little calendar right there, on your favorite writing instrument!  Never mind that the month always has 31 days, and you can’t make notes or even mark the date on the calendar, and it is messed up if the parts happen to shift.

The bottom pencil is made in Japan.  It is also a “drop pencil,” since depressing the top button allows the writing point to drop out of the body.  These instructions came with it:

Another interesting calendar pencil is shown in this post.


The American Pencil Company came up with the unique green crackle finish for its drawing pencils, the story goes, by accident.  But it’s not so unique, and that is no accident, as these pencils demonstrate —

As usual, old Japanese manufacturers were the most industrious imitators, but we also have a couple of newer ones from Taiwan and India. 

It’s The Real Thing – Not

Coca-Cola advertising items have long been popular collectibles.  Here are pencils emblazoned with logos and slogans spanning a century —

Coke enthusiasm is an international phenomenon.  I found some relevant pencils from Japan —

Unofficial items, evidently.  Note “Cora-Cola,” “Coce-Cola,” and “Koke.”  Hopefully these tweaks were sufficient to avoid lawsuits from the big corporation.

The Pencil-Pen

Behold, the Itoya Pencil-Pen, a ballpoint pen fused to a wooden pencil:

What will they think of next?

Collections, Red | Blue, Japan

FRED’S PENCILS has a new feature: Collections pages.  These pages display large numbers of items in a single category, with minimal commentary.  They are accessible from menus at the top and bottom of any page.  Items may be added in a few installments, which will be announced and described in the Blog.

I’ll begin with a Collection of Red and Blue pencils.  These combination pencils, which are handy for annotating documents and checking forms, are popular with a number of collectors and users.  For me, they were one of the first types of pencil that I considered special.

The first installment is R/B pencils from Japan.  A peculiarity of several of these Japanese pencils is the use of a specific shade of red, Vermillion, and a specific blue, Prussian Blue.  I suspect this has to do with the properties of these colors when copies are made.  (Anyone?)

Watch for much more in this Collection!