If it’s Tuesday, it must be Tool Time. Sadly, there is not the same alliteration en français, where it is Mardi de l’outil. Nope, not the same. But it does sound pretty, as do most things French.
Today’s Tool: The World’s Best Pencil. How do I know it is the World’s Best Pencil? Glad you asked. Well, for starters, it says it right there on the box. Surely the copy writer would not be lying to us, right?
The Dixon Ticonderoga Company was founded int 1794 by Joesph Dixon. While they are currently headquarters in Florida, they got their humble beginnings in New Jersey, just like me, Sandra Bullock, and Cal Newport. The pencil is named for the graphite ore that was found in 1815 and processed in Ticonderoga, New York. The wood is cedar, and the company claims that the forests that produce the wood are cared for sustainably.
The BEST of the best, of course is the #1 (B) lead Dixon Ticonderoga. It is thick, difficult to break, and writes smoother than a pencil should. I love it for crossword puzzles as well as writing.
But, why the infomercial here on the lowly pencil in the age of the Apple Pencil 2 (which is the topic of another Tool Time Tuesday)? Because more important than it being my favorite pencil, it was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite pencil.
After you learn to write, your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil, you get three different sights at it… First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it… It also keeps it fluid longer so that you can better it easier”.
Ernest Hemingway, The Moveable Feast
Roald Dahl was also a proponent of the Dixon Ticonderoga, having them shipped from the United States to his home in the United Kingdom.
John Steinbeck was also a fan of the pencil, but sadly preferred a different brand. I like to think that it is because he never tried the DT #1.
From a letter of March 22, 1951. “And now, Pat, I am going into the fourth chapter,” he writes. “You know, I just looked up and saw how different my handwriting is from day to day. I think I am writing much faster today than I did yesterday. This gives a sharpness to the letter. And also I have found a new kind of pencil—the best I have ever had. Of course it costs three times as much too but it is black and soft but doesn’t break off. I think I will always use these. They are called Blackwings and they really glide over the paper. And brother, they have some gliding to do before I am finished. Now to the work.”
John Steinbeck, Journal of an Novel: East of Eden
I have to agree with the idea that a pencil’s impermanence is the biggest feature. It’s okay if you are writing a shitty first draft in pencil. You can always erase before people find out that you have written. Whereas, the internet is forever.