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Where Rugged Vintage Style Meets Modern Design. Proudly Made in America.

06 Mar '15

The Who, What, Where, When and How of The Twist Bullet Pencil

Posted by Jon Fontane

Now that all the Kickstarter rewards are shipped and the Twist Bullet Pencils, pens and other goodies are loaded to the website its time to tell the story of how The Twist Bullet Pencil came about.

Its was 9 months ago that I sent the picture above to my partner on this project, Jay aka Huckleberrywoodchuck. I took that picture about two minutes after first seeing it. Needless to say I was excited and couldn’t wait to share it with him.

So now the backstory. Why a bullet pencil? What is a bullet pencil? Have to be honest, I had never heard of a bullet pencil and probably hadn’t given any thought to pencils in general since grammar school. It all started in the Spring of 2014. Browsing through Instagram I came across an account for a brand with one heck of a name, Huckleberrywoodchuck. What I noticed right away were some great images of these small pencil holders, typically branded with some Insurance company or grain and feed shop from somewhere in the Mid-West. They looked old, they looked cool, they looked rugged and unique. Turns out I stumbled upon a collection of refurbished bullet pencils. Bullet pencils first emerged in Britain in the the late 1890‘s using spent .303 rifle cartridges to house a small pencil. During the holiday season of 194, Princess Mary gifted British soldiers a care package containing a pencil made from a spent .303 cartridge case along with other essentials like cigarettes and pipe tobacco. With thousands of British soldiers now familiar with this novel idea of a pencil housed in a bullet casing it was just a matter of time before the concept was given a commercial application as advertising and promotional pieces. Between 1930 and 1950 hundreds of thousands of bullet pencils were made. In fact they were so common they were handed out as freely as business cards are handed out today.

At the time, I was looking to bring in products from other small craftsmand to sell along side Metal Shop products at pop-up markets in and around the Northeast. I contacted Jay and ordered a dozen refurbished bullet pencils as well as some of his wonderfully sewn handkerchiefs. Immediately upon opening the package I knew there was something special about these little pencils and thought a modern version of these rugged little vintage items could be a great product for Metal Shop. I figured I would see the reaction at a couple pop-ups and take it from there. Reaction was good, not my overly enthusiastic reaction...but people seemed curious, interested and kids loved them.

All it took was one quick call to Jay, “Hey Jay, we should make a modern version of these.” It was like a call he had been waiting for forever. “I’ve been trying to find someone to make these!” This would be our first collaboration, hopefully of many.

A product (well actually an idea for a product) was born.

So that is the back story. Nine months ago the first prototype was complete. October 1st, Kickstarter commenced and by early February all our backers had product in hand.

It’s hard to believe that its only been nine months. Though at times it seems longer (yes I lack patience). But today I can’t be happier with the Twist Bullet Pencil. Yes we had our fair share of bumps in the road, we’ve made some tweaks and slight changes that have only made the product better. Today we even have options like the cap and pocket clip and the pen. So the original thought of a minimal, every day carry, versatile pencil (or pen) is a reality. This product truly defined what Metal Shop is, modern takes on products with a rugged vintage feel.