Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pencil Nubbins: What to do?

I'm giving the advice/tutorial blog post a try – let me know if you like it!

nubbins, nubbins, everywhere

Being a colored pencil artist, I've developed quite a collection of pencil nubbins - you know, the stubs left over when you just can't sharpen them anymore? For most colored pencil brands, this generally isn't too much of an issue, they're pretty cheap and easy to replace. But there's still a lot of waste involved, not only in the nubbin ends, but tip breakage and leads that creak inside the barrel. It's frustrating!

In the last few years though, I've upgraded my pencil stock to Caran d'Arch's Luminance 6901 pencils. These are the créme de la créme of colored pencils (IMHO). There are all kinds of technical and longevity benefits to using these pencils, besides the brilliant smooth color and ease of use in burnishing and blending. They have the best light-fast ratings on the market (probably the #1 reason color pencil is looked down upon as an artistic medium) and there's a lot less breakage inside the pencil. Unfortunately, these advantages show through in the price, about $4 per pencil. It usually adds up to a  a small fortune for me when I'm restocking. So I want to save & use every little bit I can.

There are lots of pencil extension tools on the market, but most of these products can be made from household items and scraps if you have the drive, know-how, and time to experiment and find what works for you.

some current consumer products to aid in pencil extension
the tools i use

I've always made my own pencil extenders from used-up ball point pen tubes. Just remove the pen tip & ink well from one end, and the cap from the opposite end. These tubes are general a bit smaller that the barrels of colored pencils, so depending on your level of comfort, you can either chew the end of the pen tube until it's flexible enough to wedge a pencil in (just let it set for a bit and you can easily exchange pencils) –or– use a candle flame to soften the pen-tube ends and expand them with an awl or screw driver and gradually enlarge the openings on either end, until the pencil fits snuggly. As long about about a quarter inch of the pencil fits in the tube, it should offer sturdy use.

However, no matter what you use to extend your pencils, you eventually get to a point where you can't sharpen them anymore, they're just too short to hold AND turn a sharpener. I've ended up with tons of little nubbins of the colors I use most. *I never throw them away - I've used them in craft projects and various other things… but ideally, I'd like to find a way to use them up in my artwork! When I saw the Glu-it To-it product online, I thought it was a pretty clever solution, but being the thrifty/crafty artist I am, I thought it might be a pretty easy thing to make myself (and by that I mean I KNOW someone that works with wood regularly, has scraps and know-how – and I asked him if this would be a relatively easy project: he did, thanks Dad!). 

It's a simple concept, a narrow wood block with a pencil-barrel-size channel cut in it, and one area hollowed out as a waste/glue-drip well (so your pencil doesn't end up clued inside the channel). Simply put a little crazy glue on one end and hold the ends together until the glue sets (which is pretty quickly). Now you can keep sharpening the nubbin all the way to the end!  

this is how it works

There does come a point when there's so little of the glue left that the joint breaks, but in my first try it lasted until the very tip, which saved me about ¾" of pencil. That doesn't sound like much, but I either go through a LOT of pencils where these nubbins add up (white for instance, I probably have one or two whole pencils worth of white nubbins) … or I run down to a nubbin of color I'm currently using and I need to order another that will take a few days to arrive – using this technique just might hold me over until the replacement arrives!

So, did you find this post helpful & informative? I hope so… because I really should be working on a few other projects and the "procrastination blog-post monster" took over! ;)

1 comment:

Rani Bean said...

Cool idea!

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