Tuesday, May 28, 2013


It's another word for mania, I looked it up in the thesaurus.  In my experience, it happens capriciously:  something catches your attention, you turn down a path to explore it for a moment, and before you know it, you're in a new neighborhood where you never really intended to go, but you wander happily along, becoming more and more lost, and your old life has to catch up to you as best it can.

It all started when I began to keep a gratitude journal.  I got a notebook and a pencil out of my desk, and started to write about what I was grateful for in my life.  It wasn't the first time I had kept a journal, but what was new was that I picked a pencil to write with, a Pentel mechanical pencil with a white eraser top, and a clip, which conveniently held the pencil inside the spiral of the notebook so I could keep the two together.  It had soft 0.9 lead in it.  After a few pages, I was enthralled by the smokey, smudgy erasable sprawl of words.  I liked feeling gratitude, it was good to focus on the positive, but I loved the pencil!  I could write with it for hours! It was a joy compared to the skinny leads I had in my usual pencils.  It was like drawing!  I started drawing in the journal, doodling, swirling, and spiraling.  Pure bliss.

Then I ran out of lead.  I searched my desk for more lead and didn't find any 0.9 mm lead to fill the pencil with, but I did find another mechanical pencil that had thicker lead in it--it was a strange-looking thing that had belonged to my husband's grandfather, long and tapered, ten-sided, with some kind of decorative covering that looked a bit like snakeskin, and a cap on top with no eraser under it, but a sharp little knife that could be pushed out by a metal slider on the side of the pencil. Cool!  At first I thought it might be for dissecting things, eww!, but then I realized it was probably for opening letters.

The words inscribed on it were tiny, under the cap:  Dur-O-Lite, Made in USA, Melrose Pk., Illinois, Patented & Pats. Pend.  Well, that made sense, Grandfather Christoffersen had begun his career as a young lawyer in Chicago.  I Googled Dur-O-Lite and found a Wikipedia listing.  I was down the path and into the strange neighborhood already!  Then I found more lettering, saying Dodson Co., Chicago, USA, and discovered that they had made the knife blade.

I started writing with the Dur-O-Lite pencil, I found more 0.9mm lead at the bookstore by the university, and I looked around the house for other old mechanical pencils. It became all about the pencils! A perfect mania for vintage mechanical pencils.  Old life, catch me if you can!


  1. Very interesting looking snakeskin covering on that pencil. Haven't seen that before.

    1. Nor had I! It looks almost like metal, but it is celluloid.

  2. I've seen this plastic on some Eberhard Fabers - posted about them over at leadhead's awhile back. Nice find seeing it on a Dur-O-Lite!

  3. One other like it is all I have seen so far. I'll look for your post.