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

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

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!"

29 Apr '15

Turning the Tassel - Give a Unique Graduation Gift

Graduation season is upon us with all the pomp and circumstance. College graduates are preparing to move on to the real world, while high school graduates are preparing for their first taste of independence away from Mom and Dad. Graduations are grand life milestones and should be recognized and celebrated.

With celebrating this milestone, the age old dilemma, whats the perfect graduation gift that symbolizes this transition? A quick search for graduation gifts turns up the same time tested gifts. A briefcase for that first job, gift cards or maybe even an alarm clock (can’t sleep in on the first day on the job). Think of these like the tie or dozen golf balls for dad on Fathers Day. Time tested for sure, but predictable, mundane and far from a unique graduation gift to be cherished for decades to come.

A truly unique gift for your graduate is something that none of his or her friends would receive, a graduation gift that is a conversation starter (perfect for beginner networkers). A unique gift is something that isn’t mass produced or marketed, a gift that evokes a response that is from the heart. Buy a unique graduation gift that gets a real “wow!” and not just “Nice, thanks.”

Of course, we're going to recommend our Twist Bullet Pencil (or Pen too). We at Metal Shop also recommend finding something from one of the many small entrepreneurs creating products that aren’t on the top of the google search for "gifts for grads." You’ll not only evoke a response that is truly from the heart, but you will support small businesses and the Made in America movement. So search around. Find out where your graduate's passions lie and find them that unique graduation gift that fits the importance of the occasion.

Typical and mundane above.  Unique and extraordinary below.

23 Apr '15

Where the Magic Happens

Before Metal Shop, I had little exposure to machining and machine/fabrication shops. True, my Grandfather owned Liberty Machine Company of Paterson NJ but that was the late 1970’s and I was very young. My re-introduction came via good timing. While looking to have some welding done I meet a local machinist (since the welder couldn’t do the job). If that chance encounter didn’t happen, Metal Shop wouldn’t be turning out unique machined metal products today.

Developing a product is no easy task, whatever the product may be. Many of us have great ideas, very few actually end up bringing those ideas to market. The most important component is finding the right production partner. One that not only can fulfill your orders but also understands the vision for your brand and its product line. Sure some people actually have the talent, skill and equipment to manufacture on their own. But what happens when demand outgrows the ability to supply? Bottom line, a trusty, competent partner is vital to being successful.

I walked into Dickson Product Development on a whim. I had worked with other fabrication shops in the past, but I was looking to make a change. Right away I knew I had found the right fit. First I met Dick, the owner, an “old timer” with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I knew right away that Dick would understand the vision of making modern versions of vintage inspired products (and heck, may even come up with some good ideas from his younger years). Next, a quick tour around the shop. They had the right equipment and the place was spotless! (A key sign, clean and organized!)

Here is a quick tour around the shop where Metal Shop makes its vintage inspired products with a modern touch.

 

A manual Bridgeport milling machine. A staple in the machining business for almost 100 years. Founded in Bridgeport CT in 1938, the brand became famous over the following decades for its small to medium sized vertical milling machines. The Bridgeport has become such a standard in the industry that the term “Bridgeport” is often used to refer to any vertical milling machine regardless of make. This particular machine is the primary milling machine used to fabricate prototypes at the shop.

A Compumill CNC. Computer Numerically Controlled machines are used for production of products. CNC machines, like this Compumill, are automated milling devices that make industrial components without direct human assistance. They use coded instructions that are sent to an internal computer. This allows factories to fabricate parts accurately and quickly.

Much like the Bridgeport milling device used for prototypes in picture 1, this lathe is used to manually “turn and bore” metals to develop prototypes. In this process (which is how we developed the Twist Bullet Pencil prototypes) the raw materials are inserted in the chuck to hold them in place. They then spin as the cutting tool is manually applied. A lathe like this can be used to accomplish many things besides turning and boring. A few examples of the capabilities include grooving, drilling, knurling and threading.

The Hitachi-Seiki CNC lathe. Once prototypes are developed they are moved to this machine for production. Once programmed this CNC lathe takes care of all the processes at once. Multiple tools on the machine head can turn, drill and thread the material to create a product. This is the machine that both created the tubes and the bullets for the Twist Bullet Pencil.

A nice close up shot of the control panel on another Hitachi-Seiki CNC lathe. Lots and lots of buttons and knobs!