Via the New York Times, a group of manufacturers thinking about a quality product and technology transfer:
The bright-white sticks drop one by one into the whir and clatter of a weatherworn piece of machinery, where they are stamped with the most celebrated name in chalk: Hagoromo.
The early stages of the process look a lot like food production. The ingredients in what the company’s owner calls a “recipe” are dumped into a mixer originally designed for bread dough, and what comes out is fed into a kneader originally intended to make udon noodles.
Of the thick grayish mass that emerges, four ingredients are known: calcium carbonate, clay, glue and oyster shells. The other three are a secret. In a video posted to YouTube about the chalk, an American fan offers a guess as to one of them: angel tears.
Hagoromo chalk is a cult favorite of elite academics, artists and others around the world who praise it for its silky feel, vibrant colors, scant dust and nearly unbreakable quality. Mathematicians in particular are prone to waxing poetic about it, and buying it in bulk.
Despite its renown, Hagoromo is still produced on a relatively small scale, using custom-made equipment, much of it run by two laborers who are identical twins — a throwback in a high-tech era where interactive displays are replacing chalkboards.
It's hard not to get romantic about the glory of manufacturing, where a high-quality product is made for adoring customers. Good story, very enjoyable. Read the whole thing.