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Welcome to the Weekly Pencil, a weekly foray into graphite and cedar!

Community Member Spotlight: Andy Welfle

Community Member Spotlight: Andy Welfle

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Here at the Weekly Pencil, every month I will spotlight a new member of the pencil community.  I had this idea after I realized that so many people looked at me like I had two heads when I said that I was a blogger that wrote about pencils.  Their next question was "other people like pencils too?!"  I assured them that yes, there are thousands of pencil lovers out there passionate enough to blog about, talk about, and podcast about pencils.  My other motivation for this segment was that we are such a big group over at Erasable that sometimes we don't get the chance to really get to know the members of our community that we interact with daily.  This is a chance to get to know those members.  Our first pencil pal I am spotlighting is Andy Welfle, one third of the Erasable Podcast crew.  Enjoy!

What got you into pencils?

I’ve always really liked school supplies, like pens, pencils, notebooks, Trapper Keepers, et cetera. But there was something that led to my focussed interest in pencils. On a whim in 2007, I ordered a pencil sampler pack from PencilThings.com (which isn’t really maintained anymore, sadly). The pack,not dissimilar from this one, included some products from CalCedar, like aPalomino and aGolden Bear (both still branded under California Republic Stationers, and a few others. (That blog is long dead, butthe raw text from those posts are still archived on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.)

It led to an aha moment that, wow, good pencils are way better than crappy pencils! That realization changed my life.

I emailed the then-proprietor of Pencil Things and showed him my reviews. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse — would I be a product reviewer on the site’s blog in exchange for free stuff? Of course I said yes.

I blogged regularly there for a couple of years, and we built a pretty nice community. It was in the heyday of blogs, before Twitter and Facebook were really in the mainstream, and I connected with a lot of amazing stationery bloggers, likeSean from Blackwing Pages,Lito from Palimpsest,Matthias from Bleistift, Gunter from LexikalikerStephen from Pencil Talk and yes,Johnny from Pencil Revolution.

Eventually, the Pencil Things blog fizzled out, and the shop owner’s health declined. He sold the site to people who didn’t see the value of in-house blogging and community building — they were more interested in selling cheap personalized pencils on Amazon. We parted ways, and man, after a year or so, I missed writing about pencils on the internet.

That’s what led me to start Woodclinched in 2010, and a few years later, to collaborate with Johnny and Tim on theErasable Podcast in 2014!

How do you use pencils in your everyday life?

I always have at least one pencil with me, and usually have several within easy reach. My belovedTimber Twist bullet pencil is always in the pocket of my light jacket (which I wear basically nine months out of the year in temperate San Francisco weather), and I always keep a rotating assortment of pencils in my extra-long zip-up pencil pouch fromCW Pencils. There’s generally at least oneBlackwing, oneBaron Fig Archer, and plenty of others.

I mainly use pencils at work — I have a lot of meetings and if there’s reason to take notes, it’s with a pencil in myBaron Fig Confidant. I also make quick notes and lists on sticky notes or into my pocket notebook (currently a Write Notepads “In the Pines”).

What would be your dream pencil?

Good question! I’ve thought about this a little bit before. My perfect pencil would:

Performance Characteristics

  • Would have a core that was a magical blend of the smoothness of aPalomino Blackwing 602 and the point retention of aBlackwing 24
  • Would be comfortable to hold, with maybe a soft-cornered semi-hex
  • Would be lightweight like a Baron Fig Archer
  • Would be made of FSC-certified California incense cedar, with a prominent woodgrain, yet would sharpen smoothly and cleanly
  • Would be made of aM+R Pollux-compatible wood, with lacquer strong enough to withstand the teeth of aClassroom Friendly Sharpener

Aesthetics

  • Would have the looks of a blue, lacquered Japanese pencil, like theTombow KM-KKS
  • Would have plenty of words and glyphs stamped on the barrel, with maybe some kooky phrase like “MADE BY ELABORATE PROCESS”
  • Would be available tipped with an eraser (with a uniqueField Notes-esque ferrule, or a painted stripe), or end-dipped, capped with an accent color

Top 5 pencils?

It changes on a week-to-week basis, I think. Generally, though, these pencils are regulars in my top five, as expressed on the Top 5 page of Erasable:

  1. Palomino Golden Bear: This is by far the best pencil quality for the price. Solid all-purpose performer, beautiful to look at and hold, and made in the USA. All for less than $3 a dozen. Get the blue ones.
  2. Palomino Blackwing 602: One of the best quality pencils on the market today, modeled after the mythical Eberhard Faber Blackwing. High quality writing pencil with retro styling and a super unique look. The flagship pencil at Pencils.com.
  3. Mitsu-Bishi Hi-Uni 2B: High, high quality graphite within a smoothly sharpening wood case and a thick, gorgeous lacquer. More expensive than even the Palomino Blackwing, but definitely worth it.
  4. Musgrave Test Scoring 100: Kinda strange looking, but the balance between hardness and darkness is so good. And the price can't be beat.
  5. Staedtler Noris School Pencil: Good performer, but really, I love it for the look. Yellow and black striped barrel, with a bright, thick red cap. It's nothing special to Europeans, but it stands out as an object of wonderment to Americans.

What kind of work do you do?

It’s with some amount of irony that I work at Adobe, a large software company in San Francisco. They’re the makers of, among other things, apps like Photoshop and Illustrator, which have generally replaced analog tools of creative expression in the workplace.

I work on a design team as a UX content strategist, which means, in a nutshell, that I write the words in the interface as well as create content standards, manage terminology and voice and tone used throughout the products and basically collaborate with designers to make sure the language and the visual designs work together.

It’s a fun job, but with all of the electronics at my disposal, it’d be easy to toss my pencil and notebook aside. I already have to keep my calendar and my comprehensive to-do list digitally.

It’s fun, though, because I work with some amazingly creative people who also use notebooks and nice writing utensils. I’ve converted a lot of my coworkers here (and at Facebook, where I worked before Adobe) to pencils.

You can tell the pencil users because our white desks are streaked with graphite and eraser crumbles.

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