Vintage Colored Pencil Haul

This weekend I acquired a large quantity of vintage Prismacolor and Derwent colored pencils from a local printing company that used to do a lot of photo retouching work. I was asked “What’s the big deal with vintage Prismacolors?”

Besides loving the beautiful logos, the quality of the foil stamping and paint on the Eagle brand Prismacolors manufactured in the US is top-notch. But in terms of actual material quality, the cores are less likely to break, are more likely to be centered, and overall better quality. So, why wouldn’t I stockpile them?

There’s a lot of great colors in this grouping too.

I don’t have as much experience with Derwent colored pencils but these are all made in Britain/England and labelled “Rexel Cumberland” in various iterations. They are similar to a lot of the pencils I’ve acquired from clearance sales at work. I pretty much have enough of these now to build a shed in the backyard out of colored pencils. Or color in an entire city block. Either option sounds excellent.

Also included in the stash was a few miscellaneous China Markers (wax crayons), dried out ballpoint pens, a couple local advertising pencils, a couple Stabilo ALL pencils, a Hardmuth Aviator 3H pencil, and a few Berol-era Prismacolor colored pencils.

Not too bad for $10.

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Ask The Desk: Cubicle Makeover

Tina needs some advice:

I need some awesome, attractive and functional cubicle accoutrements. Any suggestions?

As a cube dweller myself, I completely understand the need to jazz up the beige-walled, humdrum hives of the worker bee. Luckily I work with some unbelievably creative people who have already filled me with some creative ideas like hanging a paper chandelier from above your desk or making a four-foot-tall papier maché letter to sit atop your filing cabinet. If these seem a bit extreme, don’t fret, I also have some less showy options as well that won’t make your HR person have a conniption.

There’s also tons of great ideas on Pinterest if you search “cubicle ideas”.

If you can install any software on your computer, the next way to personalize your space is to make your computer environment look like your space. I recommend adding a screensaver of your choice and of course changing the desktop wallpaper to match your own personal aesthetic while still being tasteful. Try the Fliqlo screensaver which never fails to impress for being both eye-catching and useful (and available for Mac and Windows). For wallpapers, I often link to Think.Make.Share. Blog and their monthly offerings as well as Oh So Beautiful Paper. They both offer great options for beautiful desktop wallpapers for your computer that are inspiring and professional.

Add a plant. A small plant will add color to your desk, clean the air and brighten your mood. A succulent or air plant won’t require much care or watering but if your thumb is black, you can make a paper plant instead.

Can you cover the panels of the pinboards in your cubicle with fabric or paper? Many of us in cube-land have cover the weird 80s neo-geo fabric on our cubicle panels with black felt, white felt, kraft paper or some other neutral material. Some got more decorative and used patterned gift wrap paper or fabric. I recommend a neutral base and a good stapler if you attempt this particular hack. I used inexpensive polyester felt purchased by the bolt from Joann’s so my cost was under $10 to cover three panels.

Other articles to check out:

I hope this helps and gives you some ideas to get you started on your own cubicle decorating adventures.

Sharpeners for Thick-Barreled Pencils

Review by Tina Koyama

My vast love of colored pencils is directly proportional to my frustration with sharpening them. While my desktop Carl Angel-5 does a decent (and sometimes very good) job on most colored pencils of average barrel diameter, it can’t handle pencils of slightly larger girth, which happens to be the case for two of my favorite colored pencil lines – Derwent Drawing Pencils and Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelles. (While I don’t use them often, I would think jumbo graphite pencils would run into the same issue.)

When I’m home, I often hand-sharpen them with a knife, but as an urban sketcher, I often need to sharpen in the field. I can’t take a knife on a plane, and it seems imprudent to stand on a street corner with a knife in my hand. So I’m left with portable sharpeners as my primary option.

I’ve tried many with terrible to fair results; none have been excellent. Ever hopeful that the grail is still out there, I decided to try four that seemed promising:

Clockwise from top left – Ratchetta, Stad T’Gall, Kum special, Kum 4.

Sonic Ratchetta

Of the four, this see-through, brightly colored, high-tech-looking gizmo “with notification” intrigued me the most. It took me a while to get the hang of the ratcheting motion, but once I did, I realized it could save wear and tear on my hand and wrist, which I appreciate. The sharpening blades turn as you sharpen, requiring only a short back-and-forth motion, so you don’t have to crank your wrist all the way around and continually regrip the pencil.

The “notification” feature – a button that pops out when the pencil is fully sharpened – doesn’t seem to work consistently. However, I get a nice sharp point on my standard-diameter pencils, both colored and graphite. Unfortunately, neither of my two thick pencils – the round-barreled Derwents and the semi-hexagonal Caran d’Aches – would fit. To be fair, the Ratchetta’s description says nothing about accommodating fat pencils, but I guess I got so excited about the design that I forgot about my objective.

Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal

This one gets the prize for the most puzzling name. And once again I’m guilty of getting so excited about the design that I didn’t read the description carefully. When I saw the dial that enables choosing among five settings, I must have jumped to the conclusion that the settings were related to pencil diameter. (I think I was imagining the wall-mounted classroom sharpeners of my youth that had a variety of hole sizes on the dial.)

Reading the instructions that came with the Stad T’Gaal (and by “reading,” I mean looking at the diagrams, since I can’t actually read Japanese), I quickly realized that, in fact, the settings numbered 1 – 5 are not about pencil girth at all but instead enable you to choose the length of the sharpened core. Setting 1 results in the shallowest cone; setting 5 the steepest.

Chagrined at my misinterpretation, I was nonetheless rewarded – both the Derwent and Caran d’Ache pencils fit! Well, perhaps “fit” is too charitable. It’s more like I am able to maneuver them in with some effort, like squeezing into jeans from a few years ago. And like those jeans, there is an unseemly consequence: the mouth of the sharpener takes some of the finish off those thicker pencils. Nonetheless, the Stad T’Gaal does a clean job of sharpening them at various core lengths. Standard-size pencils come out beautifully, too. The steepest No. 5 setting is probably not long enough to satisfy fans of “long point” graphite sharpeners, but it exposes an impressive length on my thick-core Derwents. Bonus points for coming in several fun colors.

Kum No. 410 Magnesium 2 Hole

This no-frills sharpener is the least appealing of the four I tried because it doesn’t contain the shavings. Away from home, I must remember to catch the shavings in a tissue until I’m near a trash can, which isn’t a huge deal, but is still something to think about.

Equipped with two holes, the smaller is intended for standard-diameter pencils, and the larger accommodates pencil barrels up to 10.5mm. Paradoxically, neither of my thick pencils sharpens well in the larger hole – the blade doesn’t seem to make contact evenly – but using the counter-intuitive smaller hole, both the Derwent and the Caran d’Ache are sharpened satisfactorily. It exposes a decent length of core without coming to a deadly point (which some graphite writers covet but isn’t really necessary for colored pencils). The mechanism is not what I would call stellar, as I have to exert extra effort or pressure to get the job done, and it doesn’t feel secure.

As I was sharpening with the smaller hole, the sensation and result gave me déjà vu, and then I realized that the Kum No. 410 is probably identical to the inner workings of the dome-covered Kum 301.08.21, which is my current sharpener of choice that I was hoping to improve on. (Of the two, I like the domed one better, since it contains my shavings.)

Kum Special Diameter Pencil Sharpener for Triangular & Hexagonal Body Pencils

I had the highest hopes for this Kum because its name indicates that it’s intended for pencils of special diameter. Surely my difficult-to-accommodate Derwent and Caran d’Ache qualify as “special”! Like the Kum No. 410, this one offers two holes that look suspiciously similar to the ones in the 410. (Don’t tell me I’m having yet another case of déjà vu!) But in fact, they are not identical because neither hole accommodates the Caran d’Ache. The smaller of the two holes does sharpen the Derwent adequately.

Incidentally, although I don’t use them much, I was curious whether a couple of Koh-i-Noor jumbo triangular pencils – a Triograph and a Magic – would fit. Nope.

Final Impressions

Since it’s the first portable sharpener I’ve found that can accommodate all the pencils I typically use and also sharpens beautifully, the Kutsuwa Stad T’Gaal is a versatile keeper in my bag. If only its mouth were just a tiny bit wider, it wouldn’t scrape the lovely matte-finish lacquer on my pricey Caran D’Ache Museum pencils. The grail search continues.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.

DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Fashionable Friday: Bibliophile

This is one of the biggest Fashionable Friday posts I’ve ever put together and I could have crammed even MORE into it. I love books, bookstores and biblio-puns. I even have a board on Pinterest where I’ve collected posters, jewelry and other goodies that I like that is bibliocentric and where several of the items that ended up in this week’s FF originated. I suspect many of you analog writers are probably also analog readers as well, or avid readers in general. I am a reading enthusiast and read both digital and analog books. I like art books, knitting and craft books analog but I tend to get my genre fiction digitally these days. How do you read?

  • Book Nerd enamel pin $10.50 (via Rather Keen on Etsy)
  • Book Shop enamel pin $10 (via Rather Keen on Etsy)
  • Night Owl Book Club embroidered patch $6 (via Rather Keen on Etsy)
  • “I Like Big Books” Tote $20 (via Barnes & Noble)
  • “From The Library Of” Custom Embosser $19.99 (via Amazon)
  • Knock Knock Personal Library Kit $18.49 (via Amazon)
  • “Go Away I’m Reading” Bone China Mug £9.95 (via Literary Gift Company)
  • “Literary Art for Booklovers” Letterpress Bookmarks $15 for set of four (via TagTeamTompkins on Etsy)
  • Uni Mitsubishi 9850 HB Pencil with Eraser $1 each (via JetPens)
  • Caran d’Ache Chromatics Fountain Pen Ink in Infra Red (50ml bottle) $33.20 (via Pen Chalet)
  • Librarian Enamel Pin Badge $6.31 (via Etsy)
  • MT Encyclopedia Washi Tape Japanese $6.50 per roll (via CuteTape)
  • Paperblanks Nova Stella Nox Blank Grande Journal $31.95 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Aurora Blue-Black Ink (45ml Bottle) $14.95 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Walnut Butler Pen Pot $38 (via Fresh Stock Japan)
  • Raymay Easy-to-See 15cm Grid Ruler $1.95 (via JetPens)
  • Diamine Twilight Ink (80ml Bottle) $14.95 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Field Notes Front Page Reporter’s Notebook (2-Pack) $12.95 (via Anderson Pens)
  • Fortuna Mosaico fountain pen Rome white €210 (via Fontoplumo)
  • Factis BM2 Mechanical Pencil Eraser $8.95 (via ArtSnacks)

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And the font that launched a thousand Field Notes, the Apollo program and messed with the Nazis. Who doesn’t love Futura just a little bit?

Desks are for more than just writing!

On Mardi Gras, of all days, it seems appropriate to celebrate the use of desks for more than just writing or reading or other solemn or sedentary acts. Today, let’s celebrate the winner of the third annual Tiny Desk Contest. The winers are Tank and the Bangas who are appropriately from New Orleans, the soul of Mardi Gras in the US. They jammed out on the desks in the art room in a school classroom showing that desks are great for making music, making magic and making dreams come true. Congrats to Tank and the Bangas! And Happy Mardi Gras! Roulez Bon Temps!

For full details about the Tiny Desk Contest and to listen to the full radio report, visit