Q: Describe your company.
A: We are a family owned and operated business for six generations and have been manufacturing pencils and artist materials since 1889 in Jersey City, New Jersey. We are known for Quality, Tradition and Value, which means we offer consistent quality for artists, using traditional handcrafting methods produced fairly.
In a time when many manufacturers are trying to make things cheaper, we are working to make our products better while keeping our prices low. Our bottom line has always been to provide quality art supplies that artists can depend on for consistency and performance to create their finished artwork.
Pictured Above From Left: Kirstin Barrett – 6th Generation, CEO, Jim Weissenborn- 4th Generation, Board member Jamie Weissenborn, and President Katie Weissenborn Vanoncini, 5th Generation.
Our history dates back to 1861 when Edward Weissenborn founded the American Lead Pencil Co. in Hoboken, NJ. He was an inventor and machinist and acquired 28 patents for improved machinery and processes in making 360 different kinds of pencils. Weissenborn sold the company to The Reckford family in 1885. He then established the pencil exchange in Jersey City, New Jersey with his son Oscar, in 1889. Which was later renamed The General Pencil Company.
Our products continue to be the American made choice for aspiring and world renowned artists alike. We believe in quality, tradition, value, and the fun of creating.
Q: What are your best selling products?
A: We are well known for our premium drawing formulas, such as General’s® Layout® and General’s Carbon Sketch®. We make a variety of drawing pencils ideal for artists of all levels.
A: We handcraft our formulas in small batches and the process involves 27 mechanized steps to make a pencil. We take pride in the handcrafted process of making our pencils which has been the same handcrafted process for over 120 years.
Our pencil core process start with a mixture of Graphite and Clay combined in a large rotating drum. The mixture and is blended for three days with rocks to break into a fine powder. Excess water is squeezed out of the formula & the leftover grey “sludge” is dried for 4 days. Wheels then grind the dried material down with into a soft paste which is pushed through a tube which forms the shape of the pencil cores. After the cores are cut into their standard pencil length, they are heated 1800 degrees F to ensure a smooth texture.
Meanwhile in our woodworking department, we work with sustained yield incense Cedar slats which we lay 8 shallow grooves in for each pencil core. A thin coat of glue is applied to each groove and the pencil cores are laid into each one gently. Then another cedar slat is placed on top, creating a “sandwich”. After 24 hours of drying time, the sandwich blocks are sent through a machine that cuts the slat into 8 pieces making the pencils. They are then sanded and given 5-7 coats of paint!
Q: Why manufacture in America?
A: It is our goal and value to continue providing jobs in the USA, and to serve the communities in which we work and live. We have been manufacturing in the State of New Jersey for over 120 years in compliance with state and federal laws. As a US manufacturer, we operate in compliance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations relating to labor, wages, worker health and safety, environment and all relevant laws. We stand against sweatshop and child labor.
From a business perspective, we are able to quickly respond to our customer’s needs. We can create new products and adapt to our market efficiently because we are in the United States.
We are still family owned and operated and take great pride in guaranteeing product quality and believe in sustainable business practices, such as manufacturing in the USA with the most stringent environmental regulations. We also are able to monitor quality control as a top priority with domestic manufacturing.
Q: Favorite customer review?
A: We love to hear about artists who have been using our products for a lifetime. It is rewarding to create a product that helps make a living for someone, or improve their well-being and overall quality of life. A customer recently shared with us: “For a few dollars you have given me the opportunity to make thousands. I am so thankful for your product.” This sums up our goal for our customers at all levels of art experience.
Q: Where can readers purchase your product?
A: Our products can be found in fine art stores, college bookstores, and craft and hobby shops across the USA. We sell internationally into Japan, Canada, England, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, India and the list of countries continues to grow. A limited selection of our products and full listing of stores available can be found at www.GeneralPencil.com
For full photos and more pencil making details, visit our website: www.GeneralPencil.com and “tour our factory”. Our factory and pencil making process was featured on Modern Marvels in 2009 and is still regularly aired.