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Eberhard Faber Polita


Another surprising use for this long-discontinued eraser-like product: quickly and gently smoothing burrs that may occur on tuning posts.


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Preserving the Past: Creekside Digital

Creekside2© Creekside Digital, 2017

I’ve always had a fascination with old documents, especially music manuscripts. Most of the time the few I could get my hands on were facsimile editions, and many of those only through interlibrary loans. Over the years I’ve spent many an hour punishing consumer-grade scanners in an effort to extract the highest manageable resolution. Even though I knew it was overkill my thinking was, why not scan them at the highest possible resolution while I still have access to them?

My workflow involved dividing the documents into sections, then I stitched them together in Photoshop since many were just a bit larger than the scanner’s platen. The file sizes were gigantic (well, for what I was used to at least) and the process took forever but I enjoyed doing it. Once all the pages were assembled I would then edit everything and print my very own, personal, facsimile editions for study. Here’s a small example: the cover wrapping from the autograph of Die Kunst der Fuge by Johann Sebastian Bach:


High-resolution scans of this work as well as many others by Bach are now available online through the Bach Digital project, but I’m still happy to have my over-scanned personal archive.

Fast-forward to today: coming in contact with original documents relating to A.W. Faber and Eberhard Faber has me scanning more than ever, and in the same manner. For example, this letter written by Johann Eberhard Faber in 1859:

Eberhard Faber Letter 1859 p. 432

However, the sheer amount of items as well as their physical dimensions mean that unless I make a serious, multi-thousand-dollar investment in some professional archiving equipment, I won’t be able to properly image everything. More importantly, I wanted to work toward creating a consistent, preservation-quality archive designed by professionals, which would protect the documents into the foreseeable future.

I contacted Jim Studnicki, the founder and President of Creekside Digital in Glen Arm, Maryland. I first met Jim some twenty years ago through mutual friends and from having done some recording together, but it was only recently that I learned of the company he founded. His clients form an impressive list of libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies, so I asked him what could be done.

The first “phase” of scans was completed several months ago. Items included a fourteen-page document titled “The History of the Lead Pencil” handwritten by Eberhard Faber II in the early 1900s, as well as handwritten university documents belonging to Johann Eberhard Faber dating back to the mid-1800s. The bulk of the project consisted of the minutes of the Eberhard Faber Company’s board meetings, beginning in 1898.


Just this week though the team began scanning a fragile, oversized company ledger.


Its entries begin in 1857 and is one of the only things that survived the devastating fire of 1872, which razed the company’s first factory to the ground. More about that ledger can be found in an earlier post. Here is a photo of the book being scanned:

Creekside1© Creekside Digital, 2017

Along with the two photos above, Jim sent along some videos of the scanning process. I’ve edited them together and the video can be seen here, or embedded below:


I can’t predict how much will eventually be archived. But I can say with confidence that the most vulnerable and fragile items have been scanned, which means that they will now last indefinitely into the future.

Thanks to Jim for the photos and video, as well as to the rest of the team at Creekside Digital for their fastidious work.

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Glenn Gould’s 85th Year

GG and the Art of Fugue

Images from an article I wrote for Glenn Gould magazine (Volume 8, No. 1).

Glenn Gould would have been 85 years old today. The part of me that recognizes this is the same part that wonders what wonders he had left to leave. It’s a selfish thought though.

When the world encounters such a peerless musician we tend to welcome anything he or she continues to offer, though we are wary of the atrophy that often marks the passage of time. But given Gould’s proprietary blend of perfectionism and contradiction, it’s difficult to imagine him managing the paralysis inflicted upon him, had he survived the stroke he suffered at the age of 50. That was nearly 35 years ago.

b-a-c-h© Sony Classics

Still, though, I can’t help wondering…

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Eberhard Faber: Black Chalk Artist’s Sketching Crayons

Faber Sketching Crayons 1

Not quite pencils, but close enough. Eberhard Faber’s Artist’s Sketching Crayons came in a smart-looking folding case that closed with a snap.

Faber Sketching Crayons 2

They were available in two grades: soft and medium soft. I don’t know when they were first offered, but here they are in a 1931 catalog entry. (NB: Artists’ in the catalog, Artist’s on the product.)


Having tried them, I wouldn’t say that the grades “soft” and “medium soft” are meant to correspond to their graphite counterparts. They are not waxy like our modern notion of ‘crayons’, rather they are like the chalk you might use on a chalkboard. The OED tells me that crayon comes from the French craie, which comes from the Latin creta; both of which mean ‘chalk.’

Faber Sketching Crayons 3

They are coated to protect against excessive transfer to your fingers, and they come factory sharpened. This case is only half-full:

Faber Sketching Crayons 4

Knowing that it was some 50 years before the Eberhard Faber Company began manufacturing their own graphite leads in America (they were supplied chiefly by Lyra), I wonder who their source for chalk products may have been.

Faber Sketching Crayons 5

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Oh, Irma


That was my favorite umbrella, too.


She’s not here yet, but there are squalls before the storm. Just a quick post while electricity remains.

Good thing pencils float.

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Pencil Sample Books


Based on some of the comments from the previous post, I’ve gathered together a few examples of pencil sample books and sample folders. They used to come in a great variety of shapes and sizes during their heyday, including samplers that served as promotional gifts, or as more sturdy books that were used by the salesforce.

The first two examples could carry twelve pencils each (not to mention pens and penholders). Their small size means they are easily carried in the hand, and could possibly fit the inside pocket of a jacket:


If sample books had a weakness it would be the type of material used for the loops, and how the loops were attached to the boards of the book. For the example on the left the elastic is not run underneath, rather each loop is held in place by a thread that emerges through the holes. If one of those threads breaks, that’s it. Further, both ends are anchored underneath the inner cardboard which means you can’t tighten or otherwise adjust the size of the loops:


The one on the right uses the same design, except that the holes are reinforced with plastic rings:


Most of the sample books I’ve seen were used to showcase a variety of lines. However some, like the following, were designed to display the extent of one particular line. In this case, the Van Dyke series:

FullSizeRender 4


The elastic is held in place by the same means as the examples above, including both ends being anchored:


The next folder is the companion to the one in the previous post. It has three panels, two of which are used for pencils. Like the other folder, this one needed to have the elastic bands completely replaced. Once I found some that would fit, I used an X-acto blade to separate part of the cover from the inner board at the top in order to anchor the strap:


Then, I glued about 1/2 inch of one end of the elastic inside and pressed the two parts back together:


Next I fed the elastic straps through each of the staples, being sure to leave a little slack for tightening:


Once all of the pencils are in there will be plenty of elastic left over:


This is a much better design than that of the other books. The elastic allows for the pencils to be held firmly in place, and it also permits items with larger diameters. And since only one end is anchored, the elastic can be adjusted as needed.


The last example has four panels, all of which are used for pencils:


Like the first two examples, the elastic in this book is thin and held in place by an even thinner thread at equal intervals. But in this case the elastic is only anchored at the top, and is therefore adjustable:


Pencil sample books and sample folders are a great way to keep things organized, and are every bit a piece of history as the items they carry.

FullSizeRender 2

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Eberhard Faber: Red & Blue. And Red. And Blue.

Faber Sample Book 3

There have been some interesting posts about red & blue pencils lately, such as these posts from Pencils and Other Things, as well as these two posts from Lexikaliker. I don’t have very many examples to share, but here are a few that I find interesting.

Many of them come in the form of “checking” pencils, which can either be half red and half blue, or just red or blue:

Faber Sample Book 2

The brand names can vary, such as the Referee pencils above. The Eberhard Faber Company also had a line of Okay pencils:

img0311923 Eberhard Faber Company Catalog

It was a popular line, which was expanded to include the colors white, yellow, and green:

Faber Sample Book 4

Here are two that you don’t see very often. First, a Van Dyke thin red & blue pencil:

Faber Sample Book 5

Second is this Mongol red and blue, complete with gold cursive stamping:

Faber Sample Book 7

The sample book that holds these pencils was originally in poor condition. The elastic material was so old and desiccated that it crumbled at the lightest touch.

Faber Sample Book 1

So I removed all of it and went looking for a suitable replacement. I glued the tips of the new elastic in between the outer cardboard and the inner lining, then threaded them through each of the staples.

Faber Sample Book 8

Since sample books are hard to come by I wanted to try and restore it (and its identical partner, not pictured). Once the elastic was in I did few more passes with a soft eraser to clean the interior, and now it’s ready to hold pencils for another fifty years.

Here are a few more I’ve placed in this folder, including a Van Dyke Star and a Mongol Stenographic:

Faber Sample Book 6

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Tombow MONO Air

A tiny eraser…


…that comes with an even tinier magnet…


…is less likely to grow legs and walk away:


Thanks to Yumiko for the Tombow MONO Air.

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