David Rees


…a Pencil Must Be Lead

After yesterday’s blog post about Britain’s Northern Pen Show, here’s a blog post about Northern British1 pencil humour from yesteryear.

Since we’re going to talk about horses: some horse pencils

Pencil Humour in the 1930s

From the 1930 Laurel and Hardy movie Brats: You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be le(a)d.

Pencil Humour in the 2010s

British pencil humour these days is very different. If you want a taste you can watch episode six of the BBC’s Fleabag. I won’t repeat the pencil joke here as it involves a hamster and is rather explicit2.

Fleabag (image © Two Brothers Pictures / BBC)

Another quote from Fleabag then: People make mistakes. It’s why they put rubbers on the ends of pencils.

David Rees Pencil Humour

Since we are talking about pencils and humour anyway: You might have noticed the link to Lifehacker’s Expert Guide To Sharpening Pencils I put on Bleistift’s Facebook page.

The author knows that David Rees’s pencil sharpening is to some extent comedic but looks at all the claims from the point of view of a botanical illustrator – someone who works with graphite and coloured pencils.


The Three Horse Pencils photo is from a previous blog post.

The screenshot has been taken from Fleabag episode six. I believe that the use of the image shown in this blog post, falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

  1. Stan Laurel grew up in the North of England and in Scotland. As this is his sentence I’m just going to attribute it to him. []
  2. The BBC’s warning for this episode reads ‘Contains strong language and some sexual content.’ []

Sharpening a Wopex 11

You might have already noticed that the Wopex is one of my favourite pencils. It is the pencil I use most often when writing on paper where ghosting/graphite transfer might be a problem. There is however one problem that makes using a Wopex an experience less exciting than it could be: sharpening this pencil.

Wopex, presharpened

Desktop sharpeners are not good at sharpening pencils with such a hard casing. They won’t stop automatically, too, which means that you might shorten the pencil too much when using a desktop sharpener and you’ll got a less than exciting finish where the blade cylinder stopped.

Wopex, prism sharpener sharpened

Click to enlarge

A normal prism sharpener does a better job when it comes to sharpening a Wopex, but the lead tends to look rather porous after sharpening and the fine point created will break much easier on a Wopex than on a pencil with a traditional lead.The special Wopex sharpeners don’t seem to do a better job than any other prism sharpeners. At least they don’t do for me, maybe I don’t use them the way they should be used. One example is shown here, but the point doesn’t always look that bad. A better looking point, made using a prism sharpener, has been shown in a previous blog post.

Wopex, knife sharpened

The presharpened Wopexes1 are looking and performing best. They are sharpened on an abrasive surface, something that is not necessarily practical for home use because of the time and dust involved. Searching for an alternative, better than a normal prism sharpener, I thought of using a knife to achieve a point similar to the one of presharpened Wopexes.

Unlike most other sharpening techniques, in which blades engage the pencil’s wood (and later, graphite) at an angle more or less parallel to the shaft, the pocketknife’s blade is applied perpendicular to the pencil’s shaft.” (Rees 2012, p.46)2

There is a special pencil knife for sharpening and erasing, but I used a normal knife. In this case one with a high carbon steel blade, but stainless steel blades work just as well. The results are good, better than what I get from a prism sharpener, including the Wopex sharpener, but are slightly worse when compared to a presharpened Wopex.

 


I would like to thank

  1. Wopeges, Wopeces? or whatever the plural may be []
  2. Rees, D., 2012. How to sharpen pencils. Brooklyn, New York: Melville House. []