Paper World

Derwent 3B


In praise of the pencil

A pencil can generate megabytes of text, needs no batteries, and has no user manual. It is comfortable to hold, it smells good, and it is relaxing to turn around in your hand as you try to think of the right words. Pencils don’t need ink; all they need is a sharpener. They are warm and friendly; they have souls.

I’ve long been a pencil fan, and, even if I’m writing these words on my iBook, I have several pencils next to me. I use them to doodle and sketch, or to jot down ideas as I brainstorm. Much more than pens, the pencil has character: it comes from nature – from trees and the soil – and it is rooted in the deeper subconscious as a tool that has lasted for some two centuries.

But not just any pencil will do. I’ve tried out most of the pencils I have come across, and my quest ended when I bought a box of Derwent Graphic pencils, in assorted hardnesses, and eventually discovered the sensual feel of the 3B pencil. The soft lead of the 3B lets me write with no impediments, as the words almost ooze out of my hand. Combined with a yellow legal pad, I can think of no better word processor.

-- Kirk McElhearn 10/4/04