Back in May this year television production company Magnum Media contacted me to ask me whether I would be interested in being one of their experts on their TV series “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo”.
If you are not from the UK: It’s a factual quiz show with Lee Mack, a comedian from Southport, not far from where I live and where I bought my Norcom notebook. People from Southport are ‘Sandgrounders’., which aims to investigate and replicate interesting scientific studies.
They were looking for a pencil and graphite expert to discuss the abilities of the pencil and the history of the pencil and they gave me some details of what was supposed to happen on the show. It would have been great to take part, but I’m certainly not an expert, also not a professional (not even semi-professional) in any sense of the word, so I replied that I am only an enthusiastic pencil user, but would be very interested in taking part.
I haven’t heard from them since, but this week the episode they asked me to take part in was broadcasted – and they got a proper pencil expert: The technical manager of Derwent, Barbara Murray, who is also a chair of the UK Coloured Pencil Society.
There were a few things to learn:
In Ireland they call sharpening a pencil paring a pencil. Irish comedian Jason Byrne also mentioned something about pencil paring on New Year’s Eve, but I didn’t get that. Maybe someone can explain what is going on with pencil paring in Ireland on New Year’s Eve.
There was some talk about that there’s no lead in pencil leads. I think David would have been quite upset about the kind of things they said.
Emma Bunton, of Spice Girls fame, then presented her fact (the show is about checking whether these fact, presented by the guests, are true or not): a normal sized pencil can write for 20 miles.
In an effort to keep this blog post short I will spare you my thoughts on this topic. The fact was checked with with a custom made device similar to a football pitch line marker.
They then ran a pencil lead down (HB). The lead was removed from the wood and no sharpening (except the initial point) took place. I want to add that it did look as if the lead was repeatedly covering the same paper again and again, which, in my opinion, will have prolonged the life of the lead as graphite coated paper wouldn’t be as abrasive as pure paper. After 10 hours of ‘walking with the machine’ the lead was used up. It survived 24.31 miles.
Their estimate was that the pencil will be able to write between 20 and 25 miles. This was based on a pencil lead having 1.25 g of weight with 0.00032 g of lead being used per metre of writing. If you do the calculation that should be 3906 metres, just under 2.5 miles, so I assume there was just a 0 missing in the figures for grammes used per metre.
Unfortunately the pencil fact, one of three fact presented in the show, was voted least popular fact. The audience found the fact that 10 rubber bands can hold the weight of a person and the fact that men prefer to inflict pain to themselves rather than be bored more interesting.
The screenshots in this blog post has been taken from Episode One of the Third Season of the UK version of Duck Quacks Don’t Echo. I believe that the use of the screenshot shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.
If you have seen this year’s first Faber-Castell newsletterIf you haven’t seen it yet: You’ll also find an article about our pencil community’s own Sean, who is the man behind Contrapuntalism and The Blackwing Pages, in the newsletter. these two items might remind you of the fountain pen our favourite count Usual disclaimer as mentioned previously: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status and titles of … Continue reading received for his 70th birthday: the pen’s barrel looks rather similar …but is probably made from Castell 9000 pencils. Just like the Derwent pencils these two items are made in the North of England. The company behind the fridge magnet and the keyring is Zincwhite from Huddersfield I certainly won’t be able to mention Huddersfield without mentioning that Professor Sir Patrick Stewart is Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield..
Usual disclaimer as mentioned previously: He is not really a count. According to Part 2, Section 1, Article 109(2) of the Weimar Constitution privileges based on birth or social status and titles of nobility were abolished in the Weimar Republic in 1919. Graf (Count) is just part of his surname. In reality no one seems to care about this rule though. I assume this rule hasn’t been broken in the latest book about Faber-Castell, when his wife is referred to as Gräfin (Countess), because adapting the “surname” to the gender of a person seems to be permissible. As you can see, the whole issue is rather complicated.
Thank you for the anniversary comments. I was hoping to get this blog post out by 21 November, the third birthday of this blog, but unfortunately I didn’t find the time. Anyway here’s the first blog post in the fourth year of Bleistift.
Considering that I don’t live too far away from the Cumberland Pencil Museum, both the Museum and I are in North West England, it took me quite a while to get there – but this May my wife and I finally made the trip. The weather was fantastic and the Museum managed to convey a lot of information despite being rather small. Admission is £4 (~$6.40; €4.95), but comes with a ‘free’ souvenir pencil.
There were explanations how pencils are made and you could admire historic pens and pencil and machines. I will only show one photo from inside the museum as I haven’t asked whether they permit the posting of photos taken in the museum on the web.
There was a pencil labelling machine, too, but unfortunately it was broken at the time …I would have really liked to get some personalised pencils. A subsequent enquiry regarding the pencil labelling machine was not as helpful as it could have been, so I decided not to chase this up further. Maybe the machine will work again if I go there again in the future.
Obviously I couldn’t resist stocking up on pencils in the museum shop. The shop’s selection is aimed at artists, but if you use pencils for office purposes you’ll also find nice products. Pencils are from Derwent, who are running the museum, but you can find pencil related items from other brands.
One of the products I picked up in the museum is the Eisen 060Eisen changed their web site. The pages are only available in German at the moment, so unfortunately all links to Eisen are to their German product page. . I like this sharpener because the rounded corners make it “different” while still maintaining the classic wedge shape look Eisen’s classic wedge sharpener is the 040.. I paid £1 (~$1.60; €1.25). This sharpener’s body and blade were both made in Baiersdorf near Nuremberg. The 060’s produced in the last three years still feature the blade made in Baiersdorf, like all Eisen sharpeners, but the body is now made in Taicang near Shanghai. Performance of this little sharpener is very good, too.
24° – 25° I measured 25°, the official figure is 24° which is also the one I used for in the list of sharpeners
“MADE IN GERMANY” (blade); Eisen logo plus “Made in Germany” (body)
Place of Manufacture
Baiersdorf (Germany) and Taicang (China)
As this is a (belated) birthday blog post I am giving away an Eisen 060, some British-made Staedtler pencils and possible a few other small items I can find. I am happy to send the prizes to any country as long as Royal Mail doesn’t refuse to send them there. I will use random.org to get a random number and the author of the corresponding comment will get the price (unless I am the author or the comment is definitely spam). To take part please leave a comment for this blog post before Friday, 30th September 2011, 23:59 UTC.
Prices: May 2012
Exchange rates: November 2012
I would like to thank Stephan Eisen for providing additional information regarding the Eisen 060.