My Collection – Photos and Commentary

Special Purpose

Clark’s Indelible Pencil

I’m back!

One of the first wooden pencils I ever spent a chunk of money on was a very old and unusual one that I had never seen before, from the Clark Indelible Pencil Company of Northampton, Massachusetts.  I obtained several varieties since then.

These specialized pencils were made for writing permanently on cloth and other materials.

The active part of the pencil is integrated with a protective tube:

Clark's Tubes

Clark's Pencils

A patent from 1866 ( describes in detail how the pencil was made.  The indelible ingredient in the lead is silver nitrate.  I remember this substance from my high school Chemistry class because it gave us permanent (until the skin wore off) stains on our hands.

At first I thought that the leads were square.  But the patent describes how round leads were made from paste pressed into a mold, then placed into sawed grooves and enclosed with a strip of wood (clearly visible in the fourth pencil insert).  Hence, it’s a round lead (with cementing material) in a square hole.

Some of the pencils have second insert, a soft chalky substance in a paper tube.  I think this is probably gypsum.  The patent talks about gypsum as an ingredient of the lead, where it forms a compound that prevents softening due to atmospheric moisture.  Instructions on the label seem to describe the substance being rubbed on a dampened area of the cloth prior to writing.  Maybe it is gypsum helping to stabilize the mark. —

Clark's InstructionsClark's InstructionsClark's Instructions

A box with French labels, showing that Clark’s pencils were sold by A.W. Faber in Paris:

Clark's French LabelsClark's French Labels

The sixth pencil in the first photo is one of the newer ones.  The label suggests some new uses, including marking toothbrushes (no more disgusting mix-ups!) and umbrellas.  It came with this price list:

Clarks Price List

Tool Top

Kapoff, from American Pencil Co., has a bottle opener on top —

The metal piece on this Eagle pencil says “Spark-Tip” —

I once thought it was for producing sparks (but why?) or lighting matches, but I couldn’t see how it would work.  Now I think it is for testing spark plugs, although I don’t know exactly how.

My favorites of course are these Tape-Measure pencils —

The tapes go to 18 inches.

Controlled Reproduction

You may have noticed that some colors copy better than others on Xerox and other copying machines that you’ve used.  While this phenomenon is sometimes an annoyance, it has practical applications, such as not reproducing alignment lines and written comments.

There are, of course, specialized pencils for these applications.  There have been many different copying technologies and purposes, and pencils designed for optimal performance in each situation were produced.

Dixon produced an extensive “Fax” line of such pencils.  I have a set that came in a sales folder with information sheets —

Dixon Fax Pencils

Fax Sheet

Dixon Fax Uses

Here are some double-ended varieties from other manufacturers:

Pentel Torencil

Blue Print Pencils

(The No. 625 is from Richard Best.)


A sleeve with movable needle arm makes these pencils into a drawing compass —


Manufacturing Tests

Eco-friendly pencils with unpainted wood are popular (or at least produced) these days, but that’s not what these are —

VD Testing

They appear to be samples used to test pencil manufacturing processes.  V.D. here stands for Venus Drawing, I believe.

The similar one below is apparently a test for an Autograph by Venus —

Autograph Panel

The Autograph brand was around for a long time, in many varieties.  This one has a matte white panel where you can write your name — your autograph.  Japanese “kakikata” pencils for children often have this feature.

Another pair, maybe also for testing —

Badger Blank

Discerning collectors have noticed that some Eagle and Eberhard Faber pencils have a small dot added to the standard design.  The dot may represent some aspect of the pencil’s production.  An example of this variation for Eagle Turquoise Drawing —

Turquiose Dot

On the reverse is what at first glance appears to be the common “dotted X” decorative feature.  But it is missing one of the dots.  In fact, a variety of strange symbols can be found on these pencils —

Strange Symbols

I’m pretty sure that they are used for quality control purposes.  It looks like the various shapes with different numbers of dots are some kind of code, perhaps for different dates, equipment, and sources of material.


These are dressmaker’s pencils, for marking patterns on fabric.  The brush is for wiping the mark off afterward, as ordinary erasers would be inefficient.

The top three are somewhat vintage.  I’ve got some newer Dritzs, but they are mint in package, and I wouldn’t want to limit their investment value by removing them.  That’s tongue in cheek (an idiom, my foreign readers), of course.  Yet I’ve always been reluctant to remove pencils from their blister packaging, even though I’d prefer to put them with my other pencils and save space.  And eventually, the glue on those packages disintegrates and the pencils fall out anyway.


In honor of the upcoming presidential and general elections in the United States, presented here is a collection of specialized pencils for marking ballots.  All of them have (or had) a means of being attached to a voting booth — either a built-in string, or a ring or hole for attaching a string.  Several have indelible leads, although they don’t say so.

Some of these special pencils came into my possession after being literally ripped off.  I personally would never do such a thing.


Wooden golf pencils: for marking score cards, small enough for a shirt pocket, cheap, factory sharpened, and no eraser.  (Previously I showed some mechanical types.)

Let’s start with several from Hawaii, where I used to live —

And then some brand-name types —

The Dixon is obviously a truncated Ticonderoga.  But I haven’t seen a Ticonderoga of that design.  Probably it was never sold, and the existing stock made into golf pencils (similarly to the Student).