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

18 Feb '16

Fountain Pen Time!

Ok, I'll admit, this has been LONG overdue.  From the early days of the Twist Bullet Pencil I've had the thought (and many of you have commented) that a fountain pen attachment is a must.  I knew little about them, now I actually know a little and thanks to some great customers/friends I'm finally comfortable enough to make this a reality.  

We've got a start, a very crude one, but it seems like the basics are in place.  The main requirement that the "tube" remain the same has been met so anyone with a Twist tube can now use either a pencil, ballpoint or fountain pen.  Over the next few weeks a little nip here and tuck there and we should be ready to add a third option to the Twist line up.

Check out the first prototype video pinned on our Facebook page here and give us a like while you are at it.  https://www.facebook.com/metalshopct/videos/577859732379075/

02 Sep '15

Some Twist Bullet Pencil Reviews...

Its been about a year since we first introduced the Twist Bullet Pencil.  This time last year we had our pre-production prototypes in place and were beginning the build out of the Kickstarter campaign.  I figured I would put together a list of reviews written about the Twist.  If I missed anyone please let me know and I'll add it to the post.

The Gentleman Stationer

Reverenced Writing

Wood Clinched 

Pen Paper Pencil

The Finer Point

Comfortable Shoes Studio

Pens 'N' Coffee

Super Fun Time

Stay The Course

Early photo used for the Kickstarter campaign

04 Aug '15

Twenty Things You Didn't Know About Pencils

This one is a bit old but still fun.  From Discover Magazine.  20 things you may not know about pencils.

1.  There is no risk of lead poisoning if you stab yourself (or someone else) with a pencil because it contains no lead—just a mixture of clay and graphite. Still, pencil wounds carry a risk of infection for the stabees, lawsuits for stabbers.

2.  And bad juju for anyone linked to Watergate: In his autobiography, G. Gordon Liddy describes finding John Dean (whom he despised for “disloyalty”) alone in a room. Spotting sharpened pencils on a desk, Liddy fleetingly considered driving one into Dean’s throat.

3.  Graphite, a crystallized form of carbon, was discovered near Keswick, England, in the mid-16th century. An 18th-century German chemist, A. G. Werner, named it, sensibly enough, from the Greek graphein, “to write.”

4.  The word “pencil” derives from the Latin penicillus, meaning—not so sensibly—“little tail.”

5.  Pencil marks are made when tiny graphite flecks, often just thousandths of an inch wide, stick to the fibers that make up paper.

6.  Got time to kill? The average pencil holds enough graphite to draw a line about 35 miles long or to write roughly 45,000 words. History does not record anyone testing this statistic.

7.  The Greek poet Philip of Thessaloníki wrote of leaden writing instruments in the first century B.C., but the modern pencil, as described by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner, dates only to 1565.

8.  French pencil boosters include Nicolas-Jacques Conté, who patented a clay-and-graphite manufacturing process in 1795; Bernard Lassimone, who patented the first pencil sharpener in 1828; and Therry des Estwaux, who invented an improved mechanical sharpener in 1847.

9.  French researchers also hit on the idea of using caoutchouc, a vegetable gum now known as rubber, to erase pencil marks. Until then, writers removed mistakes with bread crumbs.

10.  Most pencils sold in America today have eraser tips, while those sold in Europe usually have none. Are Europeans more confident scribblers?

11.  Henry David Thoreau—American, but a confident scribbler all the same—used pencils to write Walden. And he probably got them free. His father owned a pencil-making business near Boston, where Henry allegedly designed his own pencils before becoming a semi-recluse.

12.  In 1861, Eberhard Faber built the first American mass-production pencil factory in New York City.

13.  Pencils were among the basic equipment issued to Union soldiers during the Civil War. (I wonder if they made bullet pencils?)

14.  The mechanical pencil was patented in 1822. The company founded by its British developers prospered until 1941, when the factory was bombed, presumably by pencil-hating Nazis.

15.  Je suis un crayon rouge. After the 1917 Soviet revolution, American entrepreneur Armand Hammer was awarded a monopoly for pencil manufacturing in the USSR.

16.  More than half of all pencils come from China. In 2004, factories there turned out 10 billion pencils, enough to circle the earth more than 40 times.

17.  Pencils can write in zero gravity and so were used on early American and Russian space missions—even though NASA engineers worried about the flammability of wood pencils in a pure-oxygen atmosphere, not to mention the menace of floating bits of graphite.

18.  Those concerns inspired Paul Fisher to develop the pressurized Fisher Space Pen in 1965. After the Apollo 1 fire, NASA banned pencils in favor of his pen on manned spaceflights.

19.  The world’s largest pencil is a Castell 9000, on display at the manufacturer’s plant near Kuala Lumpur. Made of Malaysian wood and polymer, it stands 65 feet high.

20.  At the other extreme, engineers at the University of California at Santa Barbara have used an atomic force microscope as a kind of pencil to draw lines 50 nanometers (two millionths of an inch) wide. Just because they could.

 

30 Jun '15

Onto the Second Half of the Year

Hard to believe the year is half way over already.  Yes, time does fly.  Somewhat recharged after a week at the beach (having your 2 year old nephew with = less relaxation but a much higher cuteness factor.)

It's been a great half year and things are looking good for Metal Shop for the rest of 2015.  The biggest news is the addition of pencils.com as a retail partner.  In late May, pencils.com started selling the Twist Bullet Pencil and needless to say things got a little crazy.  We quickly sold out of the black and clear anodized (which I am going to start calling silver) pencil tubes.  In fact we are now down to the last 50 units in blue, red and green.  So the first run of 850 (including our Kickstarter backers) is almost gone.  A new batch of 1,500 tubes is in production as I write this.  The exciting part for me is that we will now offer new colors, orange seems to be a favorite of our customers.  Our "raw" versions were also a success.  Brass and aluminum straight off the CNC router and into packing.  The rugged look, machine markings and all were a hit.  

There are also some new products on the horizon.  Version 2 of the Metal Shop Slide Belt is nearing completion.  The new buckles will have rounder corners and will be fully machined. The "version 2" buckles will be offered in new materials like brass, anodized aluminum and maybe even cooper.  The belt itself is the work in work in progress part.  I'm testing a full leather version to see how the leather holds up to the friction fit agains the metal, so far so good, especially if you prefer a more worn in rugged look.  Working on some new cloth belt options and a possible leather/cloth hybrid.  This new buckle and belt design is truly something unique in the fashion space (well at least I tell myself that.)

In addition to the new belt buckle, a new pencil product is in the works and keeping with the vintage meets modern theme we even have a re-imagined pocket watch in the works for those of you who still prefer to tell time the analog way.

To all the Metal Shop customers and future ones, thank you for your continued support.

As always, feel free to reach out with questions, comments, concerns or even cool ideas at fontane.jon@gmail.com

 

Jon

08 May '15

What is it?

So what is this thing called a Bullet Pencil? How does it work and why do I need it?

The short answer.

The Twist Bullet Pencil is a modern & improved take on a vintage pencil holder. A portable, pocket-friendly pencil holder that protects your pencil and your pocket. Now say that 3 times fast!

Now for a little more detail.

Essentially, a bullet pencil is a fancy pencil holder, designed to keep your pencil point safe when not in use. It’s really that simple. 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 1914, 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 the 1930 and 1950 hundreds of thousands of bullet pencils were made (though now with “bullets” that weren’t really spent bullet casings.) In fact they were so common they were handed out as freely as business cards are handed out today. The American version of the bullet pencil was typically a plastic or wood tube with a small aluminum molded or drawn “bullet” that held the pencil in. A quick Ebay search of vintage bullet pencils will bring up pages of results for some really cool examples of these items.

Original Bullet Pencils Housed in Spent Rifle Cartridges


Mid 1900's Vintage Advertising Bullet Pencils


Why did we re-make it?

When I first learned about the vintage Bullet Pencils, I picked up a few and really took a liking to them. I thought the vintage bullet pencils were fun and a simple way to always have something to write plus they are a great conversation starter. Metal Shop's focus is finding cool vintage products and putting a modern touch on them. So, with the vintage bullet pencil being cool, unique and conversation pieces, we found a perfect product to "modernize" and add to our selection of products.

What makes the modern version different?

Instead of plastic or wood tubes we use machined aluminum turned on a CNC router. Instead of a simple drawn aluminum bullet we offer two machined versions in your choice of brass or aluminum. The next improvement is what makes it the “Twist”. The traditional bullet pencil had a friction fit, the Twist (hence the name) uses a series of threads to both insert the pencil nub into the bullet as well as the bullet into the tube. The best part is the Twist Bullet Pencil is 100% made in America!

The Modern Improved Twist Bullet Pencil (Photo by TJ Gosgrove)

How does it work?

Simply unscrew the bullet from the tube, turn it around and insert the non-pencil into in the tube, screw tight and write. It’s that easy.

Why do I need it?

You don’t need to be a pencil fanatic to own a Twist Bullet Pencil. If you are a fan of well crafted products made in America; if you are always looking for something to write with or if you need a truly unique gift for someone special, the Twist Bullet Pencil is for you.

Alternate answer from one of our loyal customers, "you don't need it, but you want it!"