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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

05 Aug '15

Bumps in the Road

Posted by Jon Fontane

It's been a rough few weeks here at Metal Shop HQ.  I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on where we are out with out of stock and new Twist Bullet Pencil colors.

For the second production run of Twist Bullet Pencils we contracted a new machine shop.  Now this was just for the actual tube portion of the overall product.   We switched to a screw machine shop because they would have the ability to produce more units in a quarter of the time as our main shop.  The screw machines are amazing to watch work.  They stick a 20 foot long piece of round aluminum in one end and the entire process is automated and done at once.  What once took (manually) 10 to 12 minutes now takes only 3.  The new shop is great, its a family run operation and the main sales person really "understands" the Metal Shop brand.  

Things got a slow start but were chugging along and two weeks ago I picked up the first run of 900 bullet pencil tubes to take to anodizing.  Here is where I made mistake #1.  I didn't give a close enough look at the quality of the finish.  Constantly in a rush, I made the mistake of just doing a cursory look and dropping them off.  (More on mistake #1 a bit later).  So off to anodizing we go.  My regular salesman at the anodizing shop has been out with a knee injury so I met with the operations manager and gave him instructions.  Repeat of my first order, anodize them the same way, matte black and clear coat (300 each) and add two new colors, orange and navy blue.  This was round one, round two was to be dropped off a bit later in the week to do red, green and royal blue.

As I drove to the screw machine shop a few days later to pick up the remaining batch I was surprised to get a call saying my first anodizing order was complete.  So I dropped off for the red, green and royal blue and picked up my black, clear, navy and orange.  Here I made mistake #2, once again all excited and in a rush I only grabbed a couple of the orange units out since they were on top and didn't really give them a good look.  

The urge to blast out to social media is overwhelming when new product is in hand but I (for once in my life) had a bit of patience and thought, get home, take a few really good pictures, then make the announcement.  I am so glad I waited.  As I got home and really started to dive into the order I immediately noticed things were off.  The clear coat seems wrong, it was glossy, didn't have that nice silver finish.  The black seemed overly glossy as well and I noticed imperfections in many of the tubes in all four colors.

So not only was the anodizing wrong but the finish on the tubes just didn't cut it.   First thing I needed to do was check my purchase order on the anodizing.  Covered there, it called for matte finish.  Next was a trip back up to the machine shop to discuss the finish with them.  You know you have a quality partner when they immediately, without even looking at the product tell you they will get new product going.  For that, Royal Screw Machine get's a huge thank you and a A+ recommendation if you need screw machine work done.

So now the anodized bullet pencil tubes are being stripped.  Completed tubes that were not yet anodized are being re-finished and new tubes are being made.   Hopefully be the end of this week all 1,500+ will be back at the anodizing shop to get some color, done the right way.

In the end, everything will work out and Metal Shop will move forward.  Its that time in between when you know customers are waiting and you want so badly to have new exciting products to share with you all that add a few more gray hairs to my head.

Thanks for everyone's patience and continued support.



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.


24 Jul '15

Just the Facts - Comparing the Midori Bullet Pencil to the Twist Bullet Pencil

Posted by Jon Fontane in bulletpencil, metalshop, metalshopct, midori, notebook, traveller

I’ve recently had a couple of people ask me what makes the Twist Bullet Pencil different from the Midori Bullet Pencil and why is it almost $20 more.

So here goes, no opinion, just the facts.


Midori - .3oz

Twist - .7oz

Note the Twist used for this was our anodized red aluminum body with a brass bullet. The Midori is a brass body with aluminum bullet.

Length (closed):

Midori - 3.75”

Twist - 4.5”

Length (open):

Midori - 5.5”

Twist - 6.25”


Midori - Proprietary Midori Pencil

Twist - Blackwing 602


Midori - None

Twist - Two additional Blackwing 602 pencil nubs and one additional eraser.


Midori - Traditional friction bullet pencil fit. Pencil nub friction fits into the bullet, bullet friction fits into the body.

Twist - Threads, all insertion points on the Twist are threaded so the pencil twists into the bullet and the bullet twists into the body.

Accessories & Other:

Midori - Pocket clip standard, body made from brass, available in traditional brass color, white or brown.

Twist - Pocket clip and cap system available, multiple bullet styles and materials, pen option that is modular with existing body, body options include brass or aluminum, aluminum colors options include black, red, green, royal blue, navy blue and orange (all anodized).  Also available in raw untreated brass and aluminum.

Made in:

Midori - Japan

Twist - America


Midori & Twist Closed:

Midori & Twist Open:

A little blurry but showing difference in body wall thickness: