Cornwall 1979. Blondie, Elvis Costello, The Police, Ian Dury and The Blockheads and Abba are on Top Of The Pops; Not The Nine O'Clock News is on the telly; the internet doesn't exist yet but we have Ceefax, which was nearly as exciting; and Cornwall is still a semi-mythical paradise where thousands of families come every summer for bucket-and-spade holidays. Your correspondent is trying to choose which O-levels he'll be starting in the autumn term. A timetable full of double maths, physics, biology and chemistry looms threateningly in his future. Mr Walters the Chemistry teacher was particularly threatening, though later redeems himself by taking us to see Life Of Brian, which at that time was banned in Cornwall. Truly those were different times. Geography and English are less demanding (he hopes). There's one slot left. Hopeless at languages (and besides, Miss Ward was terrifying); moderately incompetent at anything practical; Computer Studies has not yet made it to our school; History is ruled out by timetable clashes. What's this? Technical Drawing? Sounds compellingly like a calm oasis of undemanding endeavour amidst the hard grind of maths and science. Sold.
On our summer holiday visit to my Nottingham-based grandparents my Grandfather, who at that time owned a small steel fabrication works, was impressed enough by this choice to send me to John E Wright's on Huntingdon Street to get some equipment on his works account. John E Wright was then chock-full of fabulous drawing equipment, at a time when rotring technical pens, and not AutoCad, ruled - no pun intended - the drawing world. I came home bearing a selection of drawing instruments and my very own drawing board. A shiny new Blundell Harling Trueline A2 parallel motion job.
The new school term arrived with a thud of textbooks on desks and a painful increase in homework. Fortunately the TD class lived up to its imagined promise - a couple of hours each week where quiet labour with a set square and sharp 2H pencil were the order of the day. First Angle Projections and Isometric Drawings were practically mindfulness meditation compared to simultaneous equations and covalent bonding. This was helped no end by Mr Cleave, who was a quiet and gentle soul, and unlikely to launch a blackboard eraser at your head for minor infractions of schoolroom etiquette (Mr Walters on the other hand…). Lewis and Millard's Exercises in Technical Drawing for GCE (New Metric Edition) was our bible, and we painstakingly constructed sectional views, ellipses and helical pitches under its guidance, pausing only for some pensive sharpening of our pencils or the occasional furious bout of erasing. Maybe the most relaxing thing was knowing that the result wasn't going to matter - unless I suddenly decided to become a draughtsman, my future was unlikely to be affected by my Technical Drawing grade. My only aim during lessons was the immediate satisfaction of producing a neat, clear and accurate drawing of some abstract chunk of machined metal, and not the deferred gratification of another qualification. But I did manage to get my O-level in Technical Drawing anyway.
36 years later, at my desk in Cult Pens towers, I reach for a ruler. My trusty Blundell Harling 0412.03 12"/30cm acrylic rule comes to hand - not from 1979, but probably not far off - and I wonder if Blundell Harling are still around.
A few weeks later that idle thought leads us to the launch of our Technical Drawing Department. Drawing is an analogue activity. No amount of AutoCad and Photoshop can ever replace the satisfaction of pen or pencil on paper, whether it's technical drawing, sketching or even just good old doodling. We've added a selection of Blundell Harling boards to our vast range of pens, pencils, drawing instruments and weird and wonderful accessories. Wonderfully, the Trueline board is still available and I can vouch for it - it helped me to get a Technical Drawing O-level, and I still have it to this day. Thanks Grandad.
Our Technical Drawing Department is now open for business. As well as all the usual stuff from rotring, Staedtler and Faber-Castell we have a selection of less obvious equipment. We've always had the very best selection of mechanical pencils and clutch pencils in the land; alongside a superlative range of sharpeners, lead pointers and erasers; and a carefully-curated selection of useful items from a range of brands you won't normally see in traditional technical drawing retailers, such as KUM, OHTO, e+m, Aristo and others.
9 September 2015