Insider Tips from Jan Hurst

If there’s one item we almost never bring back home when we take it to shows, it is almost certainly the Fons and Porter White Mechanical Pencil. The lovely Jan Hurst agreed to share with us why this tool is so great. While we can’t guarantee the pencil will make your lettering as beautiful as hers, it is certainly a wonderful aid for lining. Read on to see what Jan had to say about the pencil!


“Fons and Porter White Mechanical Pencil”


I recently completed a white on black lettering project.  I used Artagain black paper and McCaffrey’s ivory ink in a pointed pen to create pressurized Roman lettering.  Normally, erasing the necessary pencil lines would have been a tedious task. But last year when I was in Memphis fellow calligrapher Mary Lou Sherman introduced me to her Fons & Porter mechanical fabric pencil with white refills.


Mary Lou had raved about the ease of erasing those lines on dark papers, and she was right.  I bought two of them so I’d have one on my desk and one in my calligraphy workshop kit.  Well, to be honest, I couldn’t find the first one when I needed it and bought a second one.  Then, as frequently happens to me, I found the original.  So now one is on my work-table and one is in my toolkit.  (If I lose it again, will someone please tell me where to look?)


The Fons & Porter pencils are made for quilters, but as every innovative calligrapher knows, some of the best and most useful tools for calligraphy may be swiped from other genres.  Paper and Ink has been wise enough to search out and stock these cross-genre calligraphy tools for our benefit.


The lead in these pencils is not graphite, naturally, but according to Fons & Porter it “has a strong ceramic 0.9mm White lead that is specially formulated for fabric and made from water soluble dyes.”  It has a soft grip, and its lines erase with ease.  No hard scrubbing required, so there’s not much chance of destroying well-dried calligraphy or the paper.   I have also used it on a set of metallic silver envelopes, and it was a great help with that project too.   It leaves no erasure marks behind, which is a common fault with other pencils on difficult papers.

The Fons & Porter white mechanical pencil is available at Paper & Ink Arts and has 10 white refill leads.  The next time you want to letter on dark or metallic paper, you should have one of these at hand – or maybe two!



Jan Hurst


  1. Well stated, Jan! I have two Fons & Porter white mechanical pencils of my own that I use often on my dark colored envelopes. It erases easier than a regular mechanical pencil. What a great tool!

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