Field Notes storage – the Swedish way

I’m quite excited about Utility, the new Field Notes Quarterly Edition.

Finally a metric ruler. Ever since I got my first Field Notes from Michael I thought a metric ruler would be quite useful. Trying to measure a length using the squares (if the paper has squares at all) is just not the same.

I’m also looking forward to comparing the Mohawk Via Vellum paper to previous Field Notes paper.

In anticipation of the new edition here’s a look at how I store Field Notes at home.

Field Notes in an IKEA Förhöja box

They are on my desk in a Förhöja box that came with the pencil pot that was Pencil Pot of the Month last July. In the UK the whole set sells for £15. In Germany it’s €14.99 and in Australia it’s $24.99. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available in the USA.

500 12

This is Bleistift’s blog post number 500.

As usual with an anniversary blog post you’ll get some behind the scenes infos today.


Well, 500 posts might sound a lot, but general stationery blogs produce a much higher number of blog posts and even when looking at pencil only blogs this number is not that high either ( more than 20 of my blog posts are about fountain pens, so they don’t  really count).

  • Lexikaliker is the #1 pencil blog (that’s a B outside the USA) with more than 1370 blog posts
  • Followed by the #2 (that’s HB), Pencil Talk with more than 620 blog posts.
  • Next, we got #2½ (that’s F), it’s Pencil Revolution with more than 560 blog posts.
  • #3 (H) is Dave’s Mechanical Pencils with more than 530 blog posts.
  • ..and #4 (2H) is Contrapuntalism. Already past the 420 mark, he’s getting close to 500. This is kind of unfair to Sean as he has distributed his pencil posts over different blogs (Blackwing Pages, Pencils and Music) so should actually rank much higher, but I’m not sure where exactly.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

A recent surprise

Recently Bleistift had the highest number of visitor’s on one single day in it’s more than seven years of existence. This was down to the well-appointed desk linking to my blog in a blog post collecting links. As my blog post was only one of more than twenty posts linked to I wonder how many visitors the well-appointed desk has. Is it even more than the Pen Addict’s a million a month?

Even a tweet/link from the official Terry Pratchett / Discworld Twitter account a few days earlier didn’t bring that many visitors.

The previous record for most visitors on one day was from 2015 when the Pen Addict podcast linked to Bleistift.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

Change in attitude

That brings to a recent change in my attitude. I used to think it would be nice if a large number of people read Bleistift’s blog posts (thinking it makes the time spend on writing them more worthwhile).  The number of blog posts on my to do list is huge, so huge that I don’t think I can ever write them all up, so in the past, I would pick blog posts from the to-do list that I think are of more interest to a wider audience.

After repeatedly coming across what happens to the makers of big stationery blogs (being verbally attacked and other things) I now think that it’s good Bleistift’s readership is fairly small. This changed attitude will probably result in me picking whichever blog post I want to write instead of trying to write up the ones interesting to a wider audience. This shift might also bring about some other changes, e.g. there might be more fountain pen blog posts. I have tried to keep the number of those down. Having stayed under 5% (p ≤ 0.05   8^D)  fountain pen posts on this blog this was successful, but in the future, this might change.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

Bleistifts new domain:

Bleistift is the German word for pencil. It means ‘lead pen’, which is a name used for pencils in other languages as well, e.g. in Chinese (铅笔). So far bleistift was on a subdomain of a domain I bought in the 1990s. I should have bought my surname as a domain back then, but at the time I didn’t think the web would take off the way it did. I thought it will stay something geeky, like modems and BBS before the web.

Anyway, most (nearly all) stationery blogs, except some hosted on have their own domain, so I thought bleistift should have its own domain and I bought I actually pre-ordered in 2013, but I guess before the new .blog domains were released they run the domain names through a dictionary and didn’t release .blog domains representing common words, so I didn’t get my pre-ordered domain. It is now being sold by for a premium. I do actually prefer, but would have been easier to spell for non-german speakers.

Some images from old blog posts to make this one less boring

A new SSL certificate and advertising

Some other recent changes you might have noticed is that addition of advertising to the blog. The idea was to use the advertising to pay for the new SSL certificate, which would have cost around £8, but a few things have changed now, partly because of the new domain. I won’t bore you with the details as explaining this would be boring to you and long wielded.

I also thought I could leave the advertising to pay for a month of Grammarly to go through the blog and fix all spelling mistakes etc, but the advertising I see here on bleistift is often quite odd and not topic related, so I will probably take the advertising down in a few days ..but out of interest I would like to know what kind of advertising you see on this blog, if you don’t mind telling me please write it in the comments.







Pentel’s new orenznero 3

Auto advancing pencils, from the 1970s to now

Auto-advancing mechanical pencils have been around for a while now. The Faber-Castell alpha-matic was released in the 1970s and was, as far as I know, the first of this type1.

These pencils usually work by forwarding the lead a bit when the sleeve or cone near the tip is depressed while writing. This will forward the lead a bit. As forwarding the lead is done automatically every time the sleeve is pressed during writing there is no need to push the pencil’s button anymore.

Pilot has a pencil similar to the Faber-Castell alpha-matic, but Pilot’s version is still made today. It’s called the Automac and looking at the grip section I think that the mechanism isn’t the only thing this pencil has borrowed from the alpha-matic. I think the Automac pays homage to the original auto-advancing pencil with its similar grip section.

My experience with auto-advancing pencils

If you want to try out a pencil like this: Faber-Castell still has you covered: For under £3 (~<$3.50; <€3.50) you can get a plasticky one with a cone that does the job. Ten years ago I used these a lot, just because of the novelty (at least for me it was new at that time). It was the only auto-forwarding pencil I have ever used. It worked well for me, but anytime I’d hand it over to a colleague to write with, especially if the pencil is filled with coloured leads, the user was almost guaranteed to break the lead and clog up the mechanism as it didn’t work well with soft leads, like coloured leads, at all.

Umeda (Osaka) Loft (image © Yumiko)

Enter Pentel’s orenznero

When Pentel’s fibonacci mountain video came out last week I was immediately intrigued. In this video the new orenznero is used in a plotter. I never owned a plotter, but having spent most of my pocket money in the 1980s on computer magazines the video was more than fascinating as a normal plotter wouldn’t work with a pencil for long periods of time without some extra mechanism. Pencils tend to get shorter when you write, unlike ballpoint pens or fountain pens, so the plotter would either have to lower the pencil again and again (for wood-cased and mechanical pencils) or it would have to press the button to forward the lead (for mechanical pencils).

The plotter in Pentel’s video doesn’t do either, so the orenznero must have some sort of auto-forwarding mechanism. Just like when writing with a normal Orenz, you can write for a long time with the new orenznero without having to push the button to forward the lead, but this time it’s not the sleeve retracting, it’s the lead forwarding that makes this possible.

Some of the diagrams from Pentel make me think that their mechanism works even if the sleeve doesn’t touch the paper at all, but I am not sure about that and the Japanese I learned at university in the 1990s is just enough for me to decipher some Katakanas, not enought to figure out how the orenznero works, so I’ll have to wait and see.

The good news is that Yumiko, I mentioned her before on this blog, has bought me one already, from Umeda (Osaka) Loft, so I will be able to try it out soon.

Mine 8^D (image © Yumiko)

There is a 0.2mm and a 0.3mm version. Even though 0.3mm would enable me to use Stadtler Mars micro and Pilot neox graphite leads I asked for the 0.2mm version as that is closer to a freshly sharpened wood-cased pencil and fits my small writing better. Well, it turned out that the 0.3mm version was sold out anyway and there were only two or three 0.2mm pencils left. Lucky me!

I would like to thank Yumiko for helping me to get this pencil.

If you want to find outmore about the (old) Orenz, here is my blog post about the 0.2mm version0.3mm version,  0.5mm version, and sliding sleeve pencils in general. There is also a page comparing different sliding sleeve pencils.

Reviews of the (old) Orenz can be found at Lexikaliker (german), The Pen Addict, I Liek Pencils, One Lone Man’s Pens and Pencils, and Rhonda Eudaly.



  1. You can’t this model them for quite a while now and used prices for the alpha-matic can easily reach £200 (~$250; €235) or more. []

Traces of graphite – Paul Kidby

It’s time for another Traces of Graphite blog post. All the previous blog posts in this series were Disney themed (Barks, Rosa and Fecchi), but this time the blog post is Discworld themed.

Paul Kidby‘s very impressive pencil point from my previous blog post made me want to find out more about the pencils he is using to create his drawings.

Paul Kidby’s pencil (image © BBC Scotland)

Luckily Paul was kind enough to answer my questions. Here is a little insight into his pencil use.

Bleistift Blog:

Thank you very much for agreeing to answer these questions.

Could you please introduce yourself and your work and tell us where people might have seen your work?

Paul Kidby:

Hello, my name is Paul Kidby and I am an illustrator based in the UK. I am best known for being the writer Terry Pratchett’s artist of choice to illustrate his best selling Discworld series.

Drawings for Discworld books (© Paul Kidby 2017, all rights reserved. )

Bleistift Blog:

In the Terry Pratchett documentary, you can be seen with a hand-sharpened Castell 9000 with an impressive pencil point. Could you tell us which pencils and lead grades you use and how you use them? What other tools do you use to create your incredibly detailed work?

Paul Kidby:

When I draw I use Faber Castell 9000 series in lead grades 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H 2H, 3H, 4H. My favourite is F & H. I don’t use 3B & 2B & B very often because it can make my work go smudgy – so I save them for areas where it needs to be very dark.

I also use Derwent stumps for blending and Faber Castell perfection 7056 pencil erasers which I can sharpen to take out accurate highlights in my drawing. I sharpen my pencils with a Swann-Morton DS2902 scalpel with 10A surgical blades, I then sand the pencil point using a Derwent sanding block.

Paul’s pencil drawer, including his scalpel (© Paul Kidby 2017, all rights reserved. )

I draw on a white smooth surface – eitherSchoellershammer illustration board or Bristol Board.

Bleistift Blog:

That is great. Thank you very much! Could you please explain to non-artists why you sharpen the pencil to such a long point? Is it so that you have more control over the pencil, or does it help to see the drawing better, e.g. the pencil doesn’t cover the view of the image so much?

Paul Kidby:

I sharpen to a long point because it gives me better control.

© Paul Kidby 2017, all rights reserved.

I would like to thank Paul Kidby for answering my questions.

With the colouring book craze of recent years going on his Discworld colouring book seems like a great idea (Paul Kidby’s shop (signed artist’s edition), Amazon US, AmazonUK).

One last bit of information : Paul Kidby also told me that he is inspired by the delicate pencil work of Ingres from the early 1800’s.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Mme Victor Baltard and Her Daughter, Paule, 1836



Paul Kidby’s pencil 2

This weekend saw the BBC airing their Terry Pratchett documentary Back in Black.

In the documentary Paul Kidby, the artist responsible for most of the fantastic Discworld artwork, can be seen with a rather impressive, hand sharpened pencil point on a Castell 9000. I think it can certainly compete with the longest pencil points I have seen in use. It’s even longer than the one on the James Bond cover.

Paul Kidby’s Castell 9000 (image © BBC Scotland)

In the documentary you can also see Rob Wilkins, Terry Pratchett’s former assistant, signing books with a Lamy Vista filled with green ink. Nice.

Rob Wilkins’ Lamy Vista (image © BBC Scotland)

If you are in the UK you can watch the documentary on BBC iPlayer for another 28 days.