Prints & Cards
Pencils: The Operator's Guide
by Jim Mamoulides 3/25/03 - Updated 9/4/04
The Original Eversharp Pencil
Gold-filled Eversharp pencils seem to turn up everywhere vintage fountain pens do. This simple pencil became so successful that by the early 1920s literally millions were being made, to the point where the word Eversharp became synonymous for any mechanical pencil. The simple design for the original Eversharp propel-only pencil was conceived in 1913 by Charles Keeran of Bloomfield, Illinois, who in late 1915 went to the Chicago based Wahl Adding Machine Company to mass-produce his invention. Wahl wrestled ownership from Keeran and the new pencil quickly became the flagship product of the company, launching Wahl into the writing instrument business. The Eversharp pencil was produced in a multitude of sizes, decoration, and materials.
Since many Eversharp pencils turn up in the pen collecting world, most without any operating instructions, and in some cases are not intuitive to 21st century users, I thought it would be valuable to composite use instructions for them in one place for easy reference.
The Simplest One Of All
Though it was the dominant brand, Eversharp supplied its dealers with feature guides pointing out the simple operation and maintenance of the pencil. During the 1920s competition rose from other major pen and pencil makers with new and in many cases, superior, designs. These pamphlets helped the dealer walk through with a customer why the Eversharp pencil was the one to buy.
The six main features emphasized both here and in advertisements were:
The original Eversharp pencil is very easy to use and refill. Twisting the crown clockwise advances the lead. The mechanism is advance only. Pulling back the crown opens a slot in the barrel to drop in new leads. The crown cap itself hides an eraser. Replacement leads for these pencils are 1.2mm and can be found through many vintage pen dealers.
Early Twist-Fill Eversharps
Even though the Eversharp pencil dominated the market well into the 1920s, other manufacturers were busy making improvements to simple propel only designs. The weakness of the design is that the pencil can't retract the lead, leading to breakage, and the pencil has a tendency to clog. By the mid-1920s, competitors were beginning to offer better working propel-repel-expel designs that were starting to eat into Eversharp sales. By 1928, Eversharp had introduced a twist-fill continuous feed rifled tip pencil as an improvement.
By 1929, Eversharp finally introduced a propel-repel-expel pencil. This design appears in the 1929 catalog with the Equi-Poised line and follows with the Dorics.
The Eversharp Repeater
In 1936, Eversharp introduced a new automatic pencil design that advanced the lead by pressing a button on the cap. Eversharp called these pencils Repeaters and used machine-guns and automatic pistols in advertisements to make the point of how they worked and as a play on the "click-click-click" of advancing the lead. This particular design was used from the late Dorics, through the Coronet, Pacemaker, Skyline, Fifth Avenue, and Symphony.
As with the early Eversharp pencil, Eversharp made many different Repeater models, including designs that were not paired with a fountain pen.
Repeaters use up to 16 short "Red Top" leads that can be found often through vintage pen dealers.
Eversharp also made simple twist fill propel-repel pencils. These can often be seen with late inexpensive models from the late 1940s until the demise of the company in the late 1950s.
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Last Update 9/4/04