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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Treasure Hunting

Pencil Perfect

A vintage pencil case made in England still works for modern writers. (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
A vintage pencil case made in England still works for modern writers. (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

Every job requires certain basic tools. A cook needs pots, pans and good sharp knives. A woodworker needs a saw, a hammer and a reliable tape measure.

As a writer, I have my own tool kit. My notebook computer, a phone that is a computer in itself and a good camera help me get my work done.  Most of these essentials are high-tech and expensive. But my other favorite writing instrument isn’t modern or complicated at all: the pencil.

When I was a girl I kept a handful of pencils in my desk at school, bound by a thick rubber band. The pencils were all different sizes. Some were only a few inches tall. They were all characters in an elaborate game of pencil dolls I played silently at my desk. Whenever I had a few minutes, or thought I could get away with it, I pulled out the roll of pencils, slipped a few out from under the rubber band, and set my imagination free.

I no longer make dolls out of my pencils, but I still like a few on my desk. A pencil is good for first thoughts. It feels right in the hand, balances on the end of a finger. A pencil forgives, erasing what you want to change. My favorite, the quintessential Dixon Ticonderoga #2, cost pennies, never runs out of ink and, in a pinch, can be used to twist my hair into a bun and keep it out of my eyes.

A pencil, like a string of pearls or a black umbrella, is a classic. It never goes out of style. Of course, the must-have for anyone who has a fondness for pencils is the right pencil holder.

Recently, I had a few minutes between downtown appointments so I stopped at Roost, the new shop in the Main Avenue and Division Street location that formerly housed Main Street Antiques. Filled by some of my favorite local dealers, Roost is perfect for a leisurely browse or, when your schedule is tight, a quick stop.

Tucked on a shelf in a small room in the corner, I spotted a little metal pencil case. Made in England, the metal cylinder was painted to resemble a red pencil. The pointed top comes off and inside is room enough for a hand full of pencils. It called out to the schoolgirl in me.

In under ten minutes, for less than $10, I came away with something useful and beautiful; the perfect accessory for a well-dressed desk.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and you can read more of her work at her Home Planet and CAMera blogs. She can be reached at

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."