Category Archives: Pencils

Since a small girl, I have loved pencils… specifically Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.

A Dixon Ticonderoga Adventure

Many great memories are attached to a Dixon Ticonderoga NO. 2 pencil. From my mom trying to make me a swell speller by writing words thousands of times to teaching hundreds of Space Camp staff how to give a presentation everyone likes. I have a lot of love for the world’s best pencil company. Last week, I had the honor of visiting the Dixon Ticonderoga National Museum and Fine Art Gallery in Lake Mary, Florida. It is a worthwhile trip for any educator, artist or pencil lover.

The museum and gallery are on the fifth floor of an office building in Lake Mary, Florida. To visit you must make an appointment. It is perfect for school groups local to the area. There is even an activity center for students to learn more about the amazing assortment of products the Dixon Ticonderoga brand has to offer. If you are interested in a tour, please follow this link for details.

I am very thankful to have a relationship with the corporate office of Dixon Ticonderoga through a few social media conversations with Donna Cochran. Ms. Cochran is the Executive Assistant to the CEO of Dixon Ticonderoga and the Curator of the museum and art gallery. She was so thoughtful to give me time from her day to show me the artifacts and original works of art on display for the guests of the museum.

My favorite story was about the restoration of their Norman Rockwell painting. Rockwell had been contracted to produce three works of art for the Dixon Ticonderoga company. All three of the paintings were stolen from an office in New Jersey City, NJ. Authorities did recover one of Rockwell’s works, “Grandfather & Grandson”, which has been fully restored and is on display at the art gallery. Some of their art work had been mishandled through the years. With the new gallery and museum, it can be preserved for many generations to enjoy.

The museum and gallery is currently two rooms in size, however I am sure this is just a start for the Dixon Ticonderoga museum. The artifacts on display are rich with history. Not just pencils and crayons, there are marketing graphics, company stock shares from the early years, links to many pop culture and industrial innovations. The story of the Dixon Ticonderoga is a story of our American history. A company which began when our country was just a fledgling nation can teach us many things about who we are as a country. I learned that Ford Motor company contracted with the company to make coil boxes for the Model T. These boxes were original made to sell crayons to students. Crayons even flew aboard STS-87. Amazing to think of all the places a Dixon Ticonderoga product has been.

“Not so fast my friend”! I finished my tour by visiting the back offices, which included former ESPN analyst and Dixon Ticonderoga spokesmen, Lee Corso’s office. Many people think it is just coincidence that Corso holds a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil when on College Game Day. But Mr. Corso has been affiliated with the company for years. Mr. Corso wasn’t in, but it was a treat to visit his office.

Dixon Ticonderoga really makes the best pencils and they have great people working for them. I am thankful for my mom making me use them and love them years ago! I am also thank for the time I spent with Donna Cochran and the artifacts of the Dixon Ticonderoga National Museum and Fine Art Gallary.

No. 2 Pencils

This is the Dixon Ticonderoga, no. 2 pencil, the best and most recognizable pencil in the world! Made by the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company in 1913 and named for the historical military post during the American Revolution, Fort Ticonderoga. Over a half billion of my favorite pencils are produced each year, this blog will tell you a little bit about the inventor Joseph Dixon, the man who started JDCC, the heritage of the Dixon company, and what makes a no. 2 pencil so special.

Joseph Dixon was born in 1799 in Massachusetts; he was the son and grandson of naval captains. As a boy, Dixon was intrigued with fireworks and rockets. He tried making improvements to his father’s ships. As a young inventor he made innovations to the camera, steam engine, and patented a method of printing money to prevent counterfeiting. He started working with graphite refining and became fully dedicated to making the best pencils in the world. He is associated with some the great American inventors like Robert Fulton, Samuel Morse, and Alexander Graham Bell. Dixon would realize his dream and produce the first wood and graphite pencil in the United States.

The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company (JDCC) would make improvements in graphite products such as stove polish, and additives in lubricants and paints, but it would see the most success in the their production of pencils. During the American Civil war the demand for a portable writing instrument led to the mass production of the Dixon brand of pencils. By 1872 the Dixon company was the largest producer of graphite products in the world and making over 86,000 pencils each day. During the late 1800s JDCC would have a factory in New Jersey, cedar mills in Florida, graphite mines in the U.S. and importing graphite from Madagascar.

In 1913, the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company would introduce their marquee product, the Dixon Ticonderoga no. 2 pencil. It was the first pencil designed solely for educational use. The Dixon company would use images of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys in their advertising. This imagery would link a great American product with the great American spirit. Marketing was very important to Dixon company. In 1929, Dixon would be the first company to obtain a license from Disney to use images of Mickey Mouse and other cartoon characters on the pencils and products. Through several mergers JDCC would become the leading manufacture of school products in the world. In 1983 after a merger with Bryn Mawr Corporation the company would change its name to the Dixon Ticonderoga Company, in honor of their leading product line.

So why is a no. 2 pencil so special? A pencil’s writing core is made from graphite and clay. The more graphite in a pencil core, the softer the grade and darker the markings will be. The more clay in a pencil core, the harder the grade and lighter the markings will be. In the United States we use a number to indicate the degree of hardness or softness of the pencil, for example the no. 2 pencil is a soft/hard black. It is soft enough to make writing easy but the marking is still dark. Everyone knows that no. 2 pencils are used for standardized testing. The markings of a no. 2 pencil are dark enough for the computer sensors to read the scoring sheets and hard enough keep its point for an extended time. While known for their no. 2 pencils, Dixon Ticonderoga also produces pencils in four additional degrees of hardness.

Joseph Dixon was hoping to make the best pencil of its kind, and in my humble opinion the Dixon Ticonderoga no. 2 pencil is the best. I use the Dixon Ticonderoga each and every day. I have hundreds of different shapes and colors of the best pencil in the world. I use them so much that most of the time you will find me with one or two pencils behind my ear/ears. And each day, I hope to live my life in the same fashion as Joseph Dixon made his pencils… The best of its kind!

I Am a Nerd

I am a nerd! For those who have questioned that fact and all those who have urged me to be honest with myself, I am a nerd. I am such a nerd that a few years back I started teaching a briefing about presentation skills in which I used the Dixon Ticonderoga as my instructional tool. My briefing has been so successful that people remember me for my love of Dixon Ticonderogas. Once while I was getting my hair washed at the salon, a girl asked where I worked and if I was the pencil lady. Indeed I am the pencil lady!

What came first the pencil or the journal? The answer is of course the pencil. I love my Moleskine journal but the Dixon Ticonderoga is truly the “Best of Its Kind!” My Moleskine would go digital in the fall of 2008, with graphitefree.com. Why GraphiteFree? Simple, there isn’t any graphite involved in the production of this online journal. I still have my Moleskine and I still have my pencils, but today I received the greatest birthday gift a nerd could ever receive.

See my love of writing, journaling, blogging, or dyslexic rambling is now permanently affixed to, I think, thousands of pencils. The AC gang, Slip Knot, Snapper, Divot, Tank, Biscuit, and even Nemo (the newbie) gave me a box full of Dixon Ticonderoga pencils stamped with www.graphitefree.com. Wow! I am a nerd! But I am a nerd with really awesome friends!

Thank you guys!

1388 – 2/HB

On the corner of my desk sits a coffee mug with a variety of writing utensils, a pair of scissors, various paper clips, an x-acto knife, and a glitter wand. If you are ADHD you will pick up my glitter wand and play with it, but it isn’t that great. I have a fetish with knives and cutting utensils, but I am not going to write about those things. My large banker’s clips are very useful. If you are a teacher, I suggest you purchase some, but they aren’t that important to me. I am not a coffee drinker and probably never will be one. However, my coffee mug is dear to me, because it is the guardian and protector of my Dixon Ticonderoga pencils.

Pencils and SuchWhen I taught school, I was privileged enough to spend my days and weeks with hyper active, over caffeinated, hormone driven middle school students. Yes my students were lucky to have me as well. The most overly dramatic years of a student’s life… and they had me, the obsessive organizer and math teacher. Everything in my class was color coded or classified into multiple different categories. If it could not be classified and organized, it was not found in my classroom. I had two types of pencils, public pencils – anything found on the floor, left after class or purchased at Dollar General, and private pencils – my Dixon Ticonderoga. Those were for my use only.

If I saw a student using one of my pencils I would chop off their germ covered hand. I once received an email from a parent asking where to purchase these wonderful yellow and green pencils with the excellent pink erasers. It wasn’t long after that I noticed many students using the best pencil in the world to do their homework. Some kids didn’t use them for their homework citing that they were only for geeks. I told them that was most likely true, but the kids they called geeks in middle school would later become their bosses. The geeks shall inherit the earth!

I was greatly depressed my first fall after leaving the classroom. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t have an electric pencil sharper and a cup full of pencils on my desk. Forget about molding the minds of American’s youth. I missed my pencils. I drove to Staples on a rainy October day and purchased two dozen Dixon Ticonderogas, model number 1388-2/HB. I sharpened the first box as soon as I arrived back at my desk. I don’t think I have been without a Dixon since that faithful day.

I have a diverse collection of pencils and they all have two things in common. They are all number 2 pencils and are Dixons. I have the “Tri-Write” which has a triangle wood casing and is very comfy, “My First Ticonderoga” which is oversized for small hands and the original hexagonal pencil. I even have five electric pencil sharpeners. One sharpener is battery powered for travel and journaling in foreign countries. My favorite sharpener has ten setting for different diameters of pencils.

There are not many days you will find me without a pencil tucked behind my ear. During the summer, staff members can judge how well the day is going if I have one or two tucked behind my ear. There once was a day so bad I had three jammed behind my ears, two on one side and one on the other. Last spring in a trendy Boston bar I was told I was too cool to have a pencil behind my ear. I told him the geeks shall inherit the earth. There was another time I had to explain to an astronaut over dinner what made a Dixon Ticonderoga so special. But pencils are handy to have around and I think that is why God gave us ears, to tuck pencils behind them.

I am so passionate about my Dixon Ticonderogas that I use them in a presentation each spring during counselor training. Most of the staff knows me as the pencil lady from that point forward. I have converted many staff members to writing with Dixons. Some people know more about pencils than they do about the dress code at Space Camp. They simply didn’t know how great the pencils are. There has been some staff known to break into my office and grind down the pencils to little nubs of wood. That is just mean to me and the pencils. It is a waste of good graphite.

I have read many blogs and web articles proclaiming the greatness of the Dixon Ticonderoga. I have been a disciple of the companies’ products. But it is not just because they look cool in my coffee mug. The pencils remind me of growing up in Mississippi. My mom would force me to sharpen my pencil when dull. So I learned that a Ticonderoga would hold a point longer. To irritate mom I would go weeks without sharpening it. I hated to study for spelling tests, and I was forced to write my spelling words twice as many times required by my teachers. Each week my trusty Dixon Ticonderoga would aid me in my studies.

My senior year of high school I used one Ticonderoga for my advanced math class work. From day one till graduation it was my companion. It was short and eraser less. Classmates asked me why the same pencil. I answered, “It knows all the correct answers.” It should have at least, because it had practiced every problem for home work. Some called me a geek, but you know my answer. The geeks shall inherit the earth.

There are so many memories and stories in a coffee mug. From my mom showing how much she loved me by buying me a quality pencil to missing the class room in October of 2003, I love my pencil obsession. I love the smell of a freshly sharpened box and the way eraser rubbings smell on note book paper. I love telling people how great the yellow and green pencils are and shouting in a dark theater when I see a Dixon. But most of all, I like being a geek about my pencils. So often in a world flooded by the newest, latest, greatest, fashion trend, diet pill, or electronic device, I can be different and like something as low tech as a pencil. I don’t have to be Brittney Spears or Hannah Montana to be cool, because the geeks, even the pencil geeks, shall inherit the earth.

Introduction to Graphite Free

Welcome to my blog, Graphite Free! I have thought about creating a blog for many months. But always thought it would be true vanity to post my writings online for the world. I came to the conclusion that the world wouldn’t be reading my post. I am sure there will only be three people to read my blog.

Why a blog?

Spell check is the simple answer. I love to write and I enjoy compiling information in my journal. But years from now, after my death someone will read my journal and come to the conclusion that Delta State University should take away my 1999 Bachelors of Science in Education because of my poor spelling and sentence structure. With a blog, I can have someone proof my writing.

Why Graphite Free for the title?

Everyone who knows me knows how I love to use Dixon Ticonderoga’s world famous #2 pencils. Graphite is the main component of a pencil core. This blog is most definitely free from pencil markings. My love of pencils is why I selected an image of a Dixon Ticonderoga on my journal as my profile picture.

What will I write about?

There will not be a running theme on Graphite Free, but I will write about many, many topics. I am sure I will cover two of the three subjects you can’t talk to campers about at Space Camp. The three things you absolutely positively can’t talk about are religion, politics, and sexuality. Religion and politics are my two most favorite things to talk about. So I am sure those topics will be highlighted often. I will leave sexuality for my friend Anderson to write about.

Things to remember…

I invite all to read, comment, or correct my spelling. I will cover a variety of topics and useless information. I will tell stories, rant about the political scene in American, or share jokes. This will not be one of those blogs consisting only of family anecdotes. I promise never to talk about underwear in the context of explaining how hot a summer is. If I bore you, simply stop reading.

And yes, there will be inside jokes. So read often.