Hunkered down and out (in the yard)

It’s springtime in Alaska. It’s no longer 45 below. It’s actually, like, 55 above. And there’s not much to do outside of the house given the whole global pandemic thing and all. So, me and this ol’ General’s Layout no. 555 are out doing some projects! They make great carpenter pencils, by the way (except that they are circular and tend to roll away). I am even working on my hand sharpening skills. Hope you’re all staying healthy and same out there…and check back soon, because I actually have a new pencil review almost all written up.

The Alpino Junior, revisited

Thanks to a great and informative comment from reader Raúl, I have some more information on the Alpino Junior pencil, which I recently reviewed. You might recall that I speculated about the different aesthetic qualities of the barrel, as well as the wood that composes the casing, between the eraser-tipped version and the dipped one. Raúl ‘s comment sheds some more light on that question.

Apparently, Alpino pencils — previously manufactured in Catalonia — are now made in China. I’m assuming that the transition from Europe to Asia likely corresponded to a change in wood, and aesthetic design. Also worth noting is that the eraser-tipped version clearly displays “SPAIN” as its country of origin, while the dipped one is silent on the issue. I’m guessing that I picked up models of the pencil produced both before and after the transition from Catalonia to China.

It’s awesome to be able to put together a more detailed and accurate story of the Alpino Junior pencil. At the same time, I’m a little bummed that they’re no longer made in Spain. I have nothing against things made in China, but part of the fun of this blog is trying to scrounge up pencils from all over the world, and it’s getting harder to find ones that aren’t made in China. Mixed feelings. Anyway. Thanks for listening to my TED talk.

Thanks Raúl!

Presenting: the great Spanish pencil haul of 2019

I am back from this year’s overseas adventure! After a little digging around, Spain turned out to be a great place to pick up some pencils. Somehow I managed to get all of these out of the EU and into the USA without some customs agent thinking that I must be some sort of pencil mule running a black market office supply scheme…

It was actually really interesting, because I had an idea of specific pencil makes or models that I expected to find. For the most part, I didn’t. However, I did find a bunch that I didn’t even know existed.

As you can see, the Staedtler Norris is well-represented. I did keep my eyes peeled for that specific pencil, and found it. In a way, it seems to be the Ticonderoga of Spain (and perhaps the rest of Europe) in that it is pretty ubiquitous and most shops seem to have a little display of them at the checkout stand. I did not find some brands I was thinking I would, such as Viarco, Caran d’Ache, etc. However, I did find pencils from many well-known European makers such as Lyra, including specific models I’d never heard of. I also found a few that are specific to Spain. Many are Chinese exports targeted for the Spanish market, but some — like the Alpino Junior which (spoiler alert) I am growing pretty find of — are made in Spain. There are also some that I still haven’t figured out what they are or where they come from.

So, needless to say, there’s lots of fresh fodder for reviews and it should be fun to work my way through them.

Lapices aqui!

Aquino!! Success. I finally found some pencils in Barcelona. Models which I haven’t found back home. Despite my attempts to look far and wide, the best haul was right around the corner from our house in Gracia at Art Hilgard.

My first impression in Spain is that art supply stores are going to be the best bet for pencils (although I did also find some behind the counter at La Vanguardia, and purchased them once I became confident enough in my spanish to ask). Papelerias would seem like a natural location for them but the pickins tend to be slim. Of course, I’ll keep searching and hope to strike another jackpot.