Matthias is the author of the excellent Bleistift blog about stationery, with particular emphasis on mechancal pencils. Here, he tells us of his own journey of discovery with mechanical pencils - how he came to like them so much, and to start a blog about them.
Mechanical pencils are great. So great, in fact, that I sometimes wonder why the ballpoint pen became ubiquitous while the mechanical pencil seems to have lost some of its importance in recent years. Yes, the writing from a ballpoint pen is water-proof, but mechanical pencils are erasable, which can also be a very beneficial feature ..and they don't need to be sharpened, unlike wooden pencils. I hope the mechanical pencil won't become an endangered species but will become more popular again - not only in the pen geek world but also in the general population.
Personally, I prefer a mechanical pencil to a ballpoint pen any day of the year. As my tribute to the mechanical pencil on Mechanical Pencil Day, I want to write a few sentences about my personal relationship with pencils and specifically mechanical pencils.
Most people I know actually and actively like stationery. This doesn't come as a surprise. There's just something exciting about writing with a nice pen and I think many people (at least many I know) can appreciate this. If I go to a part of the world I haven't been to before I love looking at the kind of stationery being sold there. This was also the case when I moved to the UK. I was quite excited to see some different, new pens in British shops that I haven't seen in Germany before. Of course, I bought a few (actually more than a few ;^P ).
When I first got to know my wife, a while after moving to the UK, I was happy to find out that she liked stationery, too. She had a few pens I had never seen before, including shaker mechanical pencils.
With both of us liking stationery I couldn't resist and made her an Advent calendar that consisted of stationery items. One pen (or accessory) for every day. That was in 2001 and we both still like stationery very much. In case you wonder: we haven't really repeated the stationery Advent calendar - we just ended up with far too many pens that year...
Two different things happened that changed my focus from general stationery to pencils, including mechanical pencils:
The first was my discovery of the fantastic Lexikaliker blog and through it the other big pencil blogs of that time (...and I am very happy that the Pencil Talk and Dave's Mechanical Pencils blogs have been revived again after having been dormant for years).
The second was an interview I read in a Swiss newspaper. It was an interview with Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell. Your taste might be different, but in my opinion, Graf von Faber-Castell released some of the best-looking fountain pens as part of their Pen of the Year and Limited Edition series. Despite GvFC making some of the best fountain pens in the world, the count seemed more interest in pencils than in fountain pens (bonus fact: when the Minister President of Bavaria visited the Pope in 2007 he brought a Graf von Faber-Castell fountain pen as a gift). This lead me to revisit pencils. There must be something to them if you prefer them despite having access to the best fountain pens in the world (..and there really is!). Eventually, this all lead to me starting my own pencil blog in 2009. 2009 is also the year I ordered my first mechanical pencil from Cult Pens. I checked my emails and was surprised to see that all my orders before that year were for wooden pencils or fountain pens. Recently I have also been involved in the stationery.wiki, a wiki about stationery that has already more than 800 articles. It's basically a wiki for stationery information that isn't mainstream enough to make it into Wikipedia.
If you haven't done so yet give sliding sleeve pencils a try for Mechanical Pencil Day, but please make sure you pick one where not much force is needed to slide the sleeve, or you won't have much fun. You can consult this list for more information.