Graf von Faber-Castell

Scraping pencils

Pencils not only seem to be reliable writers, they also seem to be reliable in terms of keeping their prices affordable.

In June this year, I used R to do some web scraping. The data collected was supposed to be for a follow-up of my Why did stationery become so expensive? blog post. Well, this is the follow up blog post and there isn’t much to show, maybe because we are talking about wood-cased pencils. Fountain pens and mechanical pencils had a more extreme price development.

I did the R code not only for the follow up, but also to teach myself a bit more R, I would have normally done this in PHP, which I am more familiar with, having used it since the 90s and having used it for similar tasks in the past (even though people didn’t call these tasks web scraping at that time, or if they did I didn’t know).

chart showing how the Koh-I-Noor PolyColor Art Pencil prices have changed.So what exactly did I do? I was looking at how the prices for pencils have changed on the Cultpens web site over time. My code that will get historic prices from archived versions of the Cult Pens pencil web page from archive.org is available on GitHub if you want to try it or change it for your own purposes. If you do please bear in mind that my code is not very good, I realise this, but as I am new to R I don’t know how to improve it (at the moment – I hope to find more time to learn R in the future). Also, if you try this please try to minimise any strain on the server you get your data from.

The findings were less exciting than expected. VAT has changed a few times over the last few years and there are obviously currency exchange rate fluctuations to be taken into account, as well as inflation and other factors.

The most interesting changes I could see was a > 10% price increase for some Graf von Faber-Castell products between 2010 and 2011.

The  Tomboy Mono 100 got cheaper over the years. Between 2010 and 2013 it got > 20% cheaper.

The most extreme price rise was for Koh-I-Noor products. At the beginning of 2014 the big Polycolor Art Pencil tin got nearly 40% more expensive, smaller tins got more expensive, too.

Overall prices seem remarkably stable.

As mentioned before I assume the price stability is also linked to this being pencils. As shown in my previous blog post fountain pens seem to attract more extreme price hikes.


Picture: Mongol plus Pilot Color Eno pencils on Brunnen Der Grüne Block.

Graphene, entrepreneurs and bad weather

Today: three different and unrelated topics in one blog post:

Graphene

First: a link that has to do with graphene (this is not the first graphene related blog post). The last episode of In Business, the Radio 4 programme that previously looked at Staedtler and Faber-Castell, had a closer look at graphene and what it means for Manchester.

As far as I know Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov used lumps of graphite, but I think I heard that in the beginning they used a pencil to ‘isolate’ graphene. I might have heard that on the Andre Geim Desert Island Discs episode, but it might have been somewhere else.

I like to imagine that it was a Noris or Tradition, just because they are so ubiquitous in the UK, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was another pencil. Imagine having worked in Staedtler’s Welsh factory in Pontyclun on the day the pencil that made this all happen rolled off the conveyor belt [1]I guess it would be a bit like having assembled the NeXT computer that became the first web machine..

Entrepreneurs

I received an email telling me about a new notebook for entrepreneurs. I don’t think I understood the entrepreneur angle, but according to the photos this is a very elegant looking notebook. It’s another crowdfunded stationery project.

Bad Weather

To make good use of the great weather yesterday we went to have a walk. Influenced by Sean’s blog post about the Graf von Faber-Castell pencil extender I got mine out and decided to use it again. I bought it more than five years ago. It was very cheap for a GvFC item, probably because it has lots of scratches. Here’s a picture I took during the walk.

Glasson

Within a few minutes the temperature suddenly dropped by more than 5°C. Luckily we (just) made it back to the car before the rain started.

Anyone has any idea how I can remove the scratches from the pencil extender, preferably without removing the silver plating?

References

References
1 I guess it would be a bit like having assembled the NeXT computer that became the first web machine.

Stationery weekend

What a stationery weekend.

First… Sean told me that Graf von Faber Castell’s pen of the year was announced [1]More about the previous years’ pens here..

Rad and Hungry Denmark booster pack
The Denmark Booster pack

Then… I got the Pelikan Wanderlust box (pictures to follow). It’s a box with Pelikan ink travelling the world. I was supposed to get mine in December, but the box seems to be travelling to some remote islands and I was told it was held up in customs [2]It’s too late now to join Wanderlust, but Justanotherpen started a similar project..

Rad and Hungry Denmark booster pack
Danske blyanter

Then… I got the Denmark booster pack I won in Rad and Hungry‘s hunt. Nice!

Rad and Hungry Denmark booster pack
…from the misfits stack

References

References
1 More about the previous years’ pens here.
2 It’s too late now to join Wanderlust, but Justanotherpen started a similar project.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope that over the holidays you’ll find the time to enjoy some of your favourite pens and pencils.

I was lucky enough to get some pencils for Christmas from my wife (including a Lamy plus pencil, which isn’t easy to get in the UK and some less common Staedtler pencils), but I also got two non-pencil items for Christmas: a bottle of Graf von Faber-Castell’s new ink and a Lindauer fountain pen. In Papier Pfeiffer I was told that Faber-Castell is currently only shipping Hazelnut Brown,  Stone Grey and Garnet Red – I assume this is only true for Germany though. Shops in other countries seem to  stock different ink colours. Graf von Lindauer

Graf von Faber-Castell wooden box

I keep a few Graf von Faber-Castell (GvFC) pencils, the ones with the silver-plated cap, in the wooden gift box that came with the GvFC Perfect Pencil. There’s something else I keep in this box: The GvFC eraser. You’d think they’d play well together, but unfortunately they don’t.

When I opened the box this weekend, after not having used it for a few weeks, I saw that the eraser got brown where it touched the wood. No problem, I don’t mind – my Staedtler Mars Plastic got brown when I stored it in my Sonnenleder Lasse case. The Staedtler / Sonnenleder combination did however not have any negative effect on the Lasse case. Back to Graf von Faber-Castell: I don’t mind the eraser changing colour, but what I do mind is that the wooden box changed. The colour changed where the eraser touched the inside of the lid and around the area of discolouration is a gluey layer of something – very sticky when you touch it.

Faber-Castell tries to use environmentally friendly production techniques, e.g. water-based varnish. I wonder whether that has something to do with this problem I encountered.

This is actually the second problem I have with this wooden box.The first problem was that one of the corners was bend. I am not sure whether this was due to bad packaging, I guess it was more likely because the parcel delivery service were not careful. I was able to fix this corner issue more or less by bending the corner back and by painting the discoloured wood there with a brown Stabilo marker.

I am not sure what to do about this new issue though. Use sandpaper to remove the sticky layer? …and never store the eraser in the box again? …or complain to Faber-Castell?

For now I left the eraser in the wooden box, this time wrapped in paper.