After enjoying some time off, I'm opening 2015 re-energized and with a pile of new projects sitting on my desk waiting to make their way onto this blog, or somewhere. First up: my new bullet pencils. Last month I provided a quick overview of a vintage bullet pencil I purchased courtesy of Huckleberry Woodchuck, because I just couldn’t wait for the Twist to arrive. Later that week, the Twist showed up. So, now I have two attractive bullet pencils that have revolutionized my pocket carry. One of these two pencils has been my go-to daily writing instrument for the past two weeks, and they're pretty much all I've used in my Field Notes.
Thoughts on Bullet Pencils in General
I appreciate the form factor of the bullet pencil. As noted in my earlier post, it’s difficult to emphasize how small and light these are when closed: perfect for jeans pockets (or the pocket of farm/work coveralls, as they were originally intended). The Twist is slightly larger than the vintage bullet (especially if you opted for the pointed tip—more on that below), but still small enough to be compact and true to the original. When in extended "writing mode," I’ve also found bullet pencils to be comfortable writing instruments for everything from short jottings in my Field Notes to longer notes on telephone calls at work.
Background of "The Twist"
The Twist Bullet Pencil is a Kickstarter collaboration between Jay Smith (a/k/a Huckleberry Woodchuck) and Jon Fontane of Metal Shop CT. Huckleberry Woodchuck first became known for the restored vintage bullet pencils he sells, first in his Etsy Shop, and now via his own website where he offers not only bullet pencils and refills but hand sewn handkerchiefs and other products. Jon Fontane is the proprietor of Metal Shop CT, which designs and manufactures machined metal goods such as bottle openers, keychains, and belt buckles (and lately I’ve also noticed some Huckleberry Woodchuck products).
A full discussion of the history of the project can be found on the project’s Kickstarter page (link here), but in short Jon and Jay set out to offer a modernized version of the classic bullet pencil, and in the process make it easier to carry a pencil as your daily writer. I’m an unabashed pen guy—I nearly always have one or more fountain pens in my briefcase, and if I’m wearing a jacket, one in my pocket. But if you’re just going to run out in jeans with a pocket notebook and don’t want to carry a bag, it’s hard to beat the bullet pencil. You can carry a “shorty” pencil nub with a plastic cap, but I’ve never found really short pencils comfortable to write with, and the bullet pencil allows you to take the "shorty" and use it as a full-size writing implement. No longer do you have to throw out those pencil nubs after they’ve become too short to hold. I’m starting a bag of them, myself.
The Build Quality
The body of the Twist is made from machined aluminum, and the work is high quality. I would rank it up there with my machined pens from Karas Kustoms. The “bullet” is either aluminum or brass, and is especially nice to look at, with a band of knurling around the middle, nice sharply cut threads, and a sharp point on the tip. No, really, if you’re into the whole “my pen/pencil needs to double as a tactical weapon” thing, I can see ways in which you could use the Twist to do some serious damage. I won’t be carrying this one on an airplane anytime soon, and may purchase a pencil with a rounded tip for travel purposes. Note that the brass adds some weight to the pencil. If you like a very light writing instrument, go with aluminum.
The Twist ships with three Palomino Blackwing 602 Pencil Stubs and a spare eraser. The Blackwing 602 is a great all-around pencil, striking the perfect balance between point retention and darkness. I have a Palomino Forest Choice stub that I’ve been hanging on to for about a year, and I imagine that will be the next to make it’s way into the bullet pencil. The eraser is white, works well, and even with fairly heavy use is only slightly worn so far.
If you've been looking for a practical way to introduce pencils into your daily carry or workflow, look no further. The Twist bullet pencil is a sturdy writing implement that revives a classic piece of Americana, is convenient to use and carry, and also makes a great conversation piece. Available now from MetalShopCT, starting at $37.50.