Notebook Hacks – Accommodating the Bullet Pencil

The bullet pencil is the perfect size for a trouser pocket, but sometimes one feels compelled to attach it to one’s notebook to have it close to hand when needed.

I like notebooks and I particularly like the waxed cotton-covered Australian Defence Force field message notebooks with their gridded pages and old school carbon paper insert.  One day I glanced at a field message notebook and then I glanced at my bullet pencil, then just like the guy who invented the concept of dipping crispy bacon in maple syrup, I had an epiphany.

To carry out my evil plan I needed some supplies…

  • An ADF field message notebook
  • A bullet pencil
  • An old leather belt
  •  2 x pop rivets
  • 2 x small washers
  • Pop rivet gun
  • Leather punch
  • A 32 oz ball pein hammer
Some of the supplies needed to perform this delicate and complex notebook hacking procedure.

Some of the supplies needed to perform this delicate and complex notebook hacking procedure.

The Procedure

Step 1 – Measure a strip of leather belt to the right size. It should comfortably wrap around the bullet pencil and leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overlap. Using a pencil or pen mark where your rivets will go on the folded/wrapped piece of leather.

Step 2 – Punch the holes using, you guessed it, a hole punch. If you don’t have a hole punch, then use a sharp and pointy instrument such as a knife point.

Step 3 – Using the holes in the leather as a guide, mark the holes on the cover of your notebook. Place these wherever you think a pen or pencil would sit easily and unobtrusively. Punch, gouge or cut the holes in the cover.

Step 4 – Place the folded leather into position on the cover and place a pop rivet head through it. Now place a washer over the rivet head as it protrudes from the other side of the cover.

Step 5 – Rivet into place using the pop rivet gun. You’ll notice that the washer now becomes a flange to stop the rivet pulling out of the cover.

Step 6 – repeat steps 4 and 5 with the other rivet.

Step 7 – insert bullet pencil and we’re done.

Inside the cover. I've found this configuration to give the neatest result.

Inside the cover. I’ve found this configuration to give the neatest result.

Outside the cover - notice how the washers now lock the rivet into position.

Outside the cover – notice how the washers now lock the rivet into position. After this has been done you can flatten out the rivets by pounding them with a big hammer if you wish. I did and found it to be a liberating experience.

IMG_20131118_090135

IMG_20131118_090149

Works on any type of hard cover notebook. This one is fitted to an A5-sized sketch book.

Works on any type of hard cover notebook. This one is fitted to an A5-sized sketch book.

Advertisements

Archival Navigation Gear – WWII British Map Case and Compass

Back in the olden days, when mobile phones didn’t have outdoor GPS apps, we were forced to navigate from Point A to Point B using a piece of paper with coloured squiggles on it and a magnet on a pivot. These were known as a “map” and “compass”.

Compass

Ridiculously primitive? Sure, north wasn’t even proper north on the map, but at least they didn’t require you to take a solar charger or a Biolite stove to keep them running for more than a days’ heavy use in the bush.

They also required a good deal of knowledge and skill to be able to use effectively. The old books like to talk about things called “declination” and “resection” and such. This was the navigational sorcery which allowed a subaltern to occasionally march his troops to their objective with a shockingly high degree of accuracy. You will discover exactly how this old school navigation theory was applied in practice in later posts on The Jungle Is Neutral.

Heavily-mustachioed British officers on a Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT) in the UK during WWII using standard vehicle map cases. In 1940, one's Manliness Quotient™ was measured not by the breadth and loft of one's mustache, but also the size of one's map case.

Heavily-mustachioed British officers on a Tactical Exercise Without Troops (TEWT) in the UK during WWII using the larger vehicle-pattern map cases. In 1940, one’s Manliness Quotient™ (MQ) was measured not only by the breadth and loft of one’s mustache, but also by the size of one’s map case.

In this post we’ll be looking at the general service navigation equipment used during WWII by British and Commonwealth infantry officers and NCOs. The same basic equipment was later used by a generation of field surveyors, explorers, pastoralists, archaeologists, speleologists and recreational walkers, simply because it was simple, well-designed, well-constructed and reliable.

Australian-manufactured, 1944-dated British Map Case No. 1 Mk. II with Canadian Pattern compass pouch.

Australian-manufactured, 1944-dated British-pattern Map Case, General Service No. 2 Mk. I with a Canadian Pattern compass pouch.

The Map Case

This is a hard-backed map case consisting of a shoulder strap, a canvas (or webbing) cover with various loops sewn in, a fibre-board base and an acetate sheet. Measuring just 27cm x 23 cm it was compact and lightweight for its day. Although not completely waterproof due to the open-sided design, it gave reasonable protection to maps or other documents against rain showers.

Map Case, General Service No. 2 Mk. I with complete equipment - map, service protractor, normal BH graphite pencil, and green,blue and red chinagraph pencils used for non-permanently marking the acetate sheet covering the map.

Map Case, General Service No. 2 Mk. I with complete equipment – map, service protractor, normal HB graphite pencil, and green,blue and red chinagraph pencils used for non-permanently marking the acetate sheet covering the map using the standard military symbols of the day.

Maps were typically folded to the required size showing the required map section and slid under the clear sheet which was then clamped down using the four attached spring clamps. British tactical maps of the day were 1-inch to 1-mile scale (1:63360) and fit nicely into this map case when folded.

A section of a 1:63360 scale WWII-era map section covering an area of Northern Australia. Click for actual size.

1:63360 scale (1 inch to 1 mile) WWII-era map section covering an area of Northern Australia. Click for actual size.

Aside from the map, the map case contained the following standardised items:

1. A Service Protractor. This was a rectangular rule typically made from ivorine (celluloid) or box wood. The protractor provided not only angle measurements, but also had a variety of map scales including 1:50,000, 1:25,000 which are two of the most common “on-the-ground” map scales used around the world today. The service protractor was also important for field sketching and its use is covered in a later post on that subject. The correct Service protractor for this map case is the “Protractor, Rectangular, 6-Inch, Ivorine, ‘A’ MK. IV”, but any of the earlier 6-inch rectangular protractors from the Great War or the 19th Century will fit in this map case.

2. Standard HB or 2B utility pencil. Wartime pencils of this pattern were usually unpainted.

3. A selection of chinagraph pencils. These are a wax pencil suitable for marking smooth surfaces, cloth as well as paper. Standard colours were green, blue and red. These were also used to highlight terrain features on map sketches and field panorama sketches.

British pattern Mk IV Rectangular Service Protractor.

British pattern Mk IV Rectangular Service Protractor.

The British WWII-pattern MkIII Prismatic Marching Compass is covered in a separate post.

The Bullet Pencil – “Restoring” a Classic

Lock and load. They aren't called bullet pencils for nothing.

Lock and load. They aren’t called bullet pencils for nothing.

If you’re a collector of these old commercial bullet pencils rather than an end user, please read no further because this post will most likely distress you. I am taking a 1930s bullet pencil and stripping all of the collector’s value out of it – every last drop. This quirky little writing instrument may have survived the ravages of the past 75-80 years, but ultimately it couldn’t survive me with its original finish and character intact. If it makes you feel any better, this bullet pencil is but one of 13 that I have acquired recently. The rest are safely packed away in their original condition and hopefully they’ll remain that way for posterity.

Taking the most corroded of the bullet pencils in my small collection (see photo above, second from bottom), I will strip it back to bare brass, leaving a brushed finish which not only grips acceptably, but should develop a nice patina with age and use. The rubber eraser on this pencil is hardened and glazed, so it remains to be seen if anything can be done with it.

The raw materials:

Vintage 1930s commercial bullet pencil advertising the Eagle-Picher Lead Company of Chicago - one-time purveyors of fine paint which lead-poisoned America and the world for more than a generation.

Vintage 1930s commercial bullet pencil advertising the Eagle-Picher Lead Company of Chicago – one-time purveyors of fine home and industrial paints which lead-poisoned America and the world for more than a generation. The brass barrel of this pencil is heavily tarnished and the eraser hardened and glazed.

The basic components of this bullet pencil - Barrel with eraser, pencil and cap. The pencils are brand new and unsharpened, smelling strongly of cedar wood. It's clear these bullet pencils are unused.

The basic components of this bullet pencil – Barrel with eraser, pencil and cap. The pencils are brand new and factory sharpened, smelling strongly of cedar wood. They are the perfect length. It’s clear these bullet pencils are unused.

First things first – we need to strip the label off the pencil. This was accomplished with a fingernail, and the label came right off. Sadly it would not come off in one piece as the varnish had hardened into a brittle mass.

During the Great Depression glossy paper for these labels would have been too expensive. In lieu, they used normal offset printing paper and "glossed" it themselves with a coat of clear varnish. This would have ensured that the paper label remained readable for as long a time as possible, thereby maximising the advertising value of these pencils.

During the Great Depression glossy paper for these labels would have been too expensive. In lieu, they used normal offset printing paper and “glossed” it themselves with a coat of clear varnish. This would have ensured that the paper label remained readable for as long a time as possible, thereby maximizing the advertising value of these pencils.

With the label removed, we can survey the condition of the barrel. It’s in great shape. The varnish did its job well. The latex in the erasers seems to have reacted with the brass down that end and it’s heavily tarnished.

Time to see if we can salvage the eraser or whether we have to invoke Plan B. With old erasers such as these, we can sometimes find that the rubber is still supple under that layer of glazing.

I don't know what it's called. I just know the sound it makes when it takes glazing off an antique eraser...

I don’t know what it’s called. I just know the sound it makes when it takes glazing off an antique eraser…

Using a light stripping wheel in a drill press, we can remove the dark glazed layer – as well as the tarnish near the end.

A good result.

A good result.

The stripping wheel idea worked and although still a little hard, the eraser works on pencil graphite scribbled onto notepaper.

All that remained to be done was to apply a “brushed” finish to the rest of the pencil barrel then reassemble it.

Here’s the end results:

"Restored" bullet pencil closed up.

“Restored” bullet pencil closed up.

"Restored" bullet pencil in writing mode.

“Restored” bullet pencil in writing mode.