Stationery Souvenirs

The Queen Mary

In late July/early August, I traveled to Long Beach, California for a conference of science stockroom managers. We stayed aboard the Queen Mary, a very cool venue. Whenever I travel, the urge to pick up souvenirs hits me hard. But really, do I need another t-shirt? The dresser drawers that I just sorted and purged would say “no.”

Souvenir pencils

You could also argue that I am not wanting for pencils either, but lately they’re my souvenir of choice. Easy to store, cheap, and usable—what’s not to love about a pencil? And so far, I don’t have drawers full of them, though I suppose that remains a possibility.

The ship’s gift shop carried some “Queen Mary” nautically themed pencils (the bottom four in the above photo) for $0.69 a pop, so those are the first ones I picked up on this trip. A good start.

The Getty Villa

Later in the week, we visited the Getty Villa in Malibu. A friend and I toured the gardens and galleries, then made a beeline for the gift shop. My pencil quest continued!

Getty Villa Souvenirs

Oooooo…quite the score there! I walked away with three matte black “motto” pencils, a very cool woodless pencil, as well as a Getty branded eraser, all for under $10.

Motto pencils

The black ferrules and erasers make these particularly appealing. Haven’t written with them yet, but let’s face it, I bought these for looks. And the sayings.

Woodless pencil

The woodless pencil cost a mere $2.50, lays down a smooth HB(ish) line, and has excellent point retention. It’s hefty and smooth feeling in hand, really unusual as far as pencils go. I was kicking myself for not picking up a few more, but a little research led me to believe that they’re branded Koh-I-Nor woodless pencils, available on Amazon for a price that’s considerably less than airfare to Malibu.

Woodless pencil

That looks cool, right?

Mood pencil

I also picked up an orange pencil at the Getty because…well…ORANGE. Once home, I discovered that the pencil does a trick. When you hold it in your hand, it does this…

Mood pencil

Surprise!

Meanwhile, back at the hotel gift shop there were more stationery treasures to be coveted. And purchased.

Pencil Set

Cavallini pencils.

Pencil set

And stickers.

Vintage stickers

Vintage stickers

And postcards.

Cavallini postcards

Postcards

Stationery souvenirs are inexpensive, functional, easy to pack, AND if you use them (as you should!), eventually they go away. For the price of yet another t-shirt, you can bring home a nice bag of loot for your home and office.

Motto pencils

Seize the day. And the stationery.

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Perfect Pair: The Write Notepads & Co. Jumbo Pencils and the Classroom Friendly Large-Hole Sharpener

Write Notepads & Co. pencils

Right before Christmas, I ordered the full slate of pencils from Write Notepads & Co., as well as a couple of notebooks. After my visit to their headquarters last summer, I’ve become an even bigger fan than I already was. The jumbo pencils really intrigued me, but there was a problem—how to sharpen them?

Classroom Friendly Sharpeners

So while I sharpened and used the other pencils—the maroon hex and the natural round—the jumbo pencils sat unused. Then, about a month ago, I noticed someone mention a large-hole sharpener available from Classroom Friendly Supplies. WHAT??!! Since I’ve yet to tackle “artisanal pencil sharpening” (by hand, via knife + bandaids), I knew that I’d have to get my hands on this sharpener. I should also add that I have the regular version of the Classroom Friendly Sharpener and use it almost daily. (Actually, I have THREE—one for home, one for work, and one for back-up.)

Jumbo pencils and Large-Hole Sharpener

Where the regular sharpeners are metal and available in handful of colors, the large-hole sharpener is plastic and available only in a black and white version. No worries, though, it sharpens like a champ, and doesn’t leave “bite marks” on the pencils like the regular sharpener does.

Large-hole sharpener and jumbo pencil

Most importantly, it sharpens the Write Notepads & Co. jumbo pencils perfectly. These beefy, smooth, dark, and “made in America” pencils are now right up there among my favorites—the Palomino Blackwing Pearl and the Musgrave Test Scoring pencil.

Write Notepads Jumbo Pencils

I should mention that all of the Write Notepads & Co. pencils are “left-handed” pencils. When I first heard this I thought, “What?? How can a pencil be right or left handed?” Well, here’s the thing—branding on the pencils is printed in such a way that it appears right side up when held in the left hand, and upside down when held in the right. I’d never considered this before, undoubtedly because I’m right handed so the issue just never occurred to me. Chris Rothe—one of the founding brothers— is left handed, so this bit of whimsy makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t left handed writers have pencil branding oriented for them?

Write Notepad & Co. jumbo pencils

When I hold one of these over-sized pencils, memories of elementary school, hot lunch, hissing radiators, recess, and learning to read and write all come flooding back to me. They conjure up thoughts of simpler times and simpler tools. They are the “comfort food” of pencils.

Jumbo pencil cores

Wonderfully smooth, thickly painted, and perfectly branded, this is the pencil that I’m reaching for when I’m making lists, balancing my checkbook, and jotting down groceries. How can you resist a pencil that says, “THIS IS A GENUINE WRITE NOTEPADS & CO PRODUCT-TO COUNTERFEIT IS DEATH.” The cores are centered and sharpen without issue. Point retention is very good. I rotate my pencil a bit as I write and find that I can go for quite awhile without re-sharpening (and that’s one of my quirks—the need for a pretty decent point at all times.)

Ferrules and erasers

The gold ferrules are gorgeous and do a fantastic job anchoring the equally girthy erasers. When erasing, the bits left behind are strand-like, not “crumby,” and erasing is quite clean with just a faint ghost of the erased word visible.

Hex pencils
Long point from regular sharpener (top) vs. short point from Long-Hole sharpener (bottom)

The Classroom Friendly Large-Hole Sharpener can also be used to sharpen regular size pencils, but the resulting point is shorter and more conical than the long point you get from the regular sharpener, as you can see in the photo above. But if you want a Classroom Friendly Sharpener that doesn’t put bite-marks on your pencils, the Large-Hole Sharpener is the one to go with, despite the somewhat stunted point.

Write Notepads & Co. Jumbo pencils

The Write Notepads & Co. Jumbo pencils and the Classroom Friendly Large-Hole Sharpener really are the perfect pair. They go together like gin and tonic, bacon and eggs, Thelma and Louise. If you have one, you gotta have the other.

My Pencil: The Palomino Blackwing Pearl

Many thanks to JetPens for sponsoring the purchase of the pencils reviewed here. There are no affiliate links and I was not monetarily compensated. This review reflects my opinions and experiences with the pencils. 

Palomino Blackwing Pearls

I blame— or credit— the Erasable podcast for the avalanche of woodcase pencils that have taken over my house. I was bit of a pencil hoarder before, but thanks to their enabling, I’ve taken a deep-dive and purchased and collected more pencils than an entire elementary school could use in a few years. (Some donations may be in order.) I’ve proclaimed the Palomino Blackwings and Palomino Blackwing 602s as some of my favorites, and even got my mother hooked on them. (Great Mother’s Day present, by the way!)

Palomino Blackwing Pearls

Turns out the Blackwings and 602s were merely gateway drugs to a new pencil high experienced with the purchase of the Palomino Blackwing Pearls. When you find yourself walking around your pencil-stuffed house mumbling, “Where IS my Palomino Pearl?”, you know you’ve found your drug…ummm…pencil.

Palomino Blackwing Pearls

I’ve always been a sucker for a true “pearl” finish— on cars, pens, etc.— and these pencils shine with their pearly white coat. I can’t really capture it in my photos, but it’s a lovely and unusual look for a pencil. I think it’s stunning. So yes, I initially judged this pencil by its finish.

Palomono Blackwing Pearl on a writing sample

Pearl writing sample

But to love this pencil for its finish alone would be short-sighted. The Pearl lays down a creamy feeling line— smooth and dark with a point that lasts and lasts. It’s crazy good. Of the 602, Blackwing, and Pearl, I like this one the best. To my eye, the line seems to fall between the 602 and Blackwing in terms of darkness, and with better point retention than the Blackwing. But what do I know? I’m new to this whole pencil game, so take these details with a grain of salt. Bottom line, though, this is a VERY NICE pencil.

Pearl's replaceable eraser

Pearl's replaceable eraser

If you’re new to the Blackwing line, you may not realize that the uniquely shaped eraser is adjustable AND replaceable. That is, you can “scooch” up the eraser in the eraser holder as it wears down, then replace it altogether when it gets too small. I tend to use up my pencil before the eraser gives out (I’m a bit of an obsessive sharpener), but it’s a cool feature.

Palomino Blackwing Pearls

I’m only exaggerating slightly when I say that opening this box of pencils was one of those “I hear the angels sing” writing instrument moments. (I’m not the only one who has those, am I?!)

Palomino Blackwing Pearls

The Palomino Blackwing Pearls— I have found my pencils.

Palomino Blackwing Pearls

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Want to hear the angels sing, too? Check out JetPens Palomino Blackwing offerings HERE. Hey, there are some pretty cool colored replacement erasers. I didn’t know that until just now!