A.W. Faber Hexagonal Ruler

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I had always thought of rulers as being either flat or triangular, marked in either imperial or metric units (or both). If it didn’t have any markings on it I just thought it was some species of “straight edge.”

But the origins of the word “ruler” or “rule” paint a wider picture: “rule” is derived from the French noun reule, from the Latin regula meaning “straight stick”. So this 19th-century six-sided straight stick from A.W. Faber is every bit the ruler. The following 19th-century catalog entry shows some of the available shapes and styles (No. 9630 corresponds to the one pictured above):

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It’s about 45 cm. long, and the edges themselves are maintained by thin strips of brass inserted along its length:

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At first I glance I though it might have been made of ebony; a very dense and strong wood which would lend itself to remaining straight and rigid. But as you can see the wood is painted black. The “A.W. Faber” stamp has faded but you can still make out the imprint:

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And despite being more than 100 years old, it still works:

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4 Responses to A.W. Faber Hexagonal Ruler

  1. Matthias says:

    Thanks for showing us these rare items.
    I guess most people will hold the ruler under the line to be drawn, which might be rather difficult with this ruler because of the angle you need to use. Putting the ruler above the line to be drawn seems counter-intuitive, but might be the better option with this ruler.
    This makes me think that these rulers might have had a very specific purpose…

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    • Sean says:

      You’re right Memm—for example, rather than lining up two points to be connected by a line, you would need to place the pencil on one of the points first, slide this ruler up to it, then do the same for the other side. After shimmying a bit you’re good to go. All this seems contrary to the precision you’d expect from drafting, plus there’s no measuring.

      Do you know anyone who might be familiar with these types of rulers and their use(s)?

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  2. Sean says:

    I heard back from someone knowledgeable about rulers and he said it’s possible that hex rulers like this one were used to draw consecutive parallel lines by rolling it. Some round rulers were used for this but had more of a tendency to cause smearing.

    But keeping the pen or pencil consistently vertical would be challenging; perhaps the barrel would be placed flat against the surface? I wonder how long this style was in favor.

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  3. Pingback: A.W. Faber Castell Nr. 1233 | Contrapuntalism

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