Dick Blick

A great place for mounts and supplies.

I first made mention of Dick Blick in these pages when writing about how I mount and frame large prints.

My Fletcher FlexiMaster Framing Tool came from Dick Blick Art Materials making trivial a job which would otherwise be too horrid to contemplate.

The other day I wanted to order some 4B (super soft) graphite leads for my son’s pencil, which he uses for schoolwork. My interest in writing instruments is not new to this journal; I wrote of that great ball pen classic the Bic Cristal earlier and my accidental over order has me set for life! When it comes to pencils, the best pencils come from Germany – just like the best cameras used to. Forget your Genine Murrican Dixon Ticonderoga with its wretched soft wood construction, lack of heft and a graphite lead waiting to snap at the merest provocation. Real pencils say ‘Staedtler’ on the body and while I was an aficionado of their splendid wooden ones when younger, time marches on. So when our son needed a really good pencil for homework it had to be a Staedtler, one of the retractable ones. The ergonomics are superb, the design appealing to the eye and the range of hardness in graphites large – everything from 4H (so hard you wonder who needs this) to 4B, the latter a pleasure to write or draw with and easily erased when errors crop up.

Now, elegant as they are, I cannot abide those super fine 0.2mm/0.5mm/0.7mm offerings from Staedtler or the Japanese. Those are for limp wristed pansies. A Real Man (my son) writes fast and presses hard. Those sub-millimeter graphites do not cut it. Period. And forget built-in erasers which always run out when you need them. Carry a big one.

The Staedtler Technico Lead Holder.

Indeed, the criteria for nomination to the exalted level of ‘Classic’ set forth in that earlier piece on the Bic ball pen apply equally here:

  • It has to have class. I can’t define that but I know it when I see it.
  • It must be superbly functional.
  • Its use must be second nature.
  • It must have magic. Yes, that sense of fitness for purpose you get when you pick it up, use it.
  • It must be made well enough to survive the ravages of time and use.
  • It must be reliable.

So you can add the Staedtler Lumograph to a short list where others of the like of the Porsche 911, the Leica M2, the Rollei 3.5F, a Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse, an iPad and the Border Terrier make their home. Most have a definite attitude, but only the last comes with a wet, cold nose.

The Staedtler Technico Lead Holder runs all of $5 and holds a real lead – 2mm in diameter. You are not going to break that. The retraction mechanism is easy, simple and fun and the removable cap includes a point sharpener. Perfection. Ideal for signing your limited run prints with chi-chi ‘1 out of 100’ nonsense (because you will never sell that many). And while you can find these in many local art stores, good luck finding 4B leads. So I dialed up DickBlick.com on the web and ordered the boy some 4B and 2B inserts. Except, being the doofus that I am, I ordered 4H and 2H, realizing my error only after I hit ‘Pay’.

This is where it gets good, and this is where you will want to give your business to Dick Blick. I called them with the usual dread of interminable phone trees and someone who speaks English on a par with the guy behind the counter at the local 711. Well, blow me down. A lady with a genuine American voice speaking perfect English (errr, American) answered on the first ring. No punch this for English, that for Spanish and kick your cat for Swahili. I pleaded stupidity, she changed the order like that, and my boy is now rejoicing in 4B leads in the best mechanical pencil on earth, and has no excuse for a less than perfect point. The two I bought him will likely last through graduation, and he’s in Fourth Grade!

There’s more to it than that. Blick’s paper catalog may only show a fraction of what is available on their web site, but it includes a cornucopia of supplies for mounting and framing photographs. Frames, mats, mounts in any shape, material, finish and color you desire. And tools galore, from the point setting tool I mentioned above to mat cutters, tools and jigs for making your own frames, and so on.

While I have long been a customer of Documounts for my mounting and framing supplies, Dick Blick is going to get my next order. All because of my silly mistake.