Ahh, the bullet pencil – that delightful “mini” pencil houses in a casing made from a spent bullet casing.
Small. Pocketable. Beautiful. Just so aesthetically pleasing to look at and hold.
These stunning analog tools seem to have come about back in the 19th century and were originally made with .303 British rifle casings. Those rifle casings were sent back from battlefields during the height of colonialism – from what I’ve read, anyway. Originally, the bullet pencil was a souvenir of sorts, a macabre collectible of whatever battle in whichever country to Brits were trying to takeover at the time.
But pushing that bit of terribleness aside for a while, let’s look at how these magnificent little things are made. It’s pretty simple, really.
Generally, a bullet pencil is a short pencil stuck into the long end of a bullet casing. The more modern versions that have come (and sadly, gone) since the originals have been, dare I say, improved upon with aluminum and wood housings for the bullet casings. Erasers have been added. In some cases, clips appeared.
Bullet pencils arrived in the United States sometime in the 1930s and were a fairly big hit between then and the end of the 1950s when they seem to have faded away. Over the years – especially in the late 2000s through the mid 2010s – a few companies had begun producing these tools again. Some were funded through Kickstarter campaigns, and that’s how I learned about the bullet pencil. I backed a few different projects from Metal Shop CT, which sadly, doesn’t appear to have a functioning website anymore.
I’m one of those folks who prefers analog writing tools – pencils, pens, notebooks. I like to handwrite any notes I take. I’ve handwritten an entire novel by hand (which, by the way, I do not recommend unless, of course, you enjoy punishing yourself in strange ways).
While I enjoy the fluidity and glide-like writing of my favorite pens, I absolutely adore the scratch of pencil on paper. Therefore, pencils have always been my favorite writing tool of choice (plus, it’s erasable). I’m also a sucker for a beautiful analog tool, and bullet pencils are exactly that – beautiful. They also fit in my pocket, which has also been my biggest issue with pencils – they’re just too long.
I own two of the wooden twist bullet pencils that Metal Shop CT produced. One is a gorgeous walnut with silver accents. The other is red oak with silver accents and a brass bullet, as well as a clip (which is removable). I generally opt for the latter one, but love them both and really have no reason to choose one over the other. I keep one with me at all times. After all, I never know when I might need to write something down.
While these pencils have lasted a good long time (I make my own refills here at home), I still find myself a bit sad that there seem to be none in production anymore. Sure, if you’re lucky, you might find something on Amazon or eBay, but I find myself hoping that Metal Shop CT comes back or that another company decides to produce these pretty things.
Everyone needs a good pencil.