Bullet Pencils were super popular back in the day, given out by insurance companies, doctor's offices, farm stores, car dealerships and other retailers. They came in a rainbow of colors and served one purpose: to make the pencil pocketable and easy to carry (ever try putting a regular ol' No. 2 pencil in your pants or shirt pocket? Yeah, graphite errwhere).
Thinking about the bullet pencil from mid-century America, I can picture my grandfather, walking around the GM facilities up in Michigan, where he worked as an engineer, with one in his shirt pocket, a weathered steno pad riding shotgun, ready to take notes or sketch out some figures for a new patent or to record maintenance numbers on a machine.
Somewhere along the way, though, bullet pencils kind of disappeared. Left to waste away in the bottom of granddad's junk drawer or some old Nike box in the back of a toolshed, covered in dust and moisture and sweltering summer heat. Except for the few collectors, bullet pencils just weren't desirable anymore.
Metal Shop decided to change all that with the release of the anodized aluminum Bullet Pencil. And, luckily for me, my good friend Jeffrey Bruckwicki, purveyor of fine EDC goods at H.L. Human and co-owner/head seamster at Nock Co. found one tucked in his beard and sent it over for me to review. Thanks Jeff!
They're available in a wide range of lovely anodized colors and you have the option for a rounded or pointed bullet in brass or aluminum. But where the original bullet pencils were friction fit, Metal Shop added threads to the various parts, making everything lock up tight and making your pencils stay put. And you can add things like a ballpoint pen attachment (Bullet Pencil purists be darned!). Bravo! Add a clip and a big ol' giant pink eraser and you're set to sketch your life away.
Or are you? While I found the Bullet Pencil to be perfectly made and rather lovely to look at, I can't say I had the same thoughts while writing with it. Part of the allure of wood-cased pencils is the fact that they're light weight and comfortable to use (albeit a bit skinny). The Bullet Pencil takes the wood-cased pencil and makes it thick and very back heavy. In fact, with the bit of writing I did with the pencil, I was constantly fiddling with my grip and trying to grip farther and farther back to try and balance it out. The knurled clip ring and giant eraser probably don't help with this and maybe ditching the clip and eraser and donning a brass bullet would balance the scales a little and add some front-end weight to make it a little more comfortable. Personally, I won't be shelling out the $40+ to try and find out, but if any of you guys have tried both, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
I would think that the plastic pencils from the 50's would have been a little more balanced, or maybe people didn't really care back then, but for me, the Bullet Pencil is unusable. It's rather lovely to look at, but you ruin a perfectly good pencil by cutting it down to fit and then it's off-balance and awkward to use after that. It just doesn't make sense to me and distracts from the joy of using wood-cased pencils. So, I think I'll just stick to using my wood-cased pencils the way they were intended to be used and carry a mechanical pencil if I need graphite on-the-go.
Definitely check out the Metal Shop offerings online and see if the Bullet Pencil is for you. They're made right here in the USA by great craftsmen. I just can't get on board with it.
Thanks for reading,