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Write Notepads: A Year in Review

For the uninitiated, Write Notepads is a small, local business based in South Baltimore, Maryland that makes pocket (and other sized) notebooks.  For every notebook you purchase, one goes to an inner city student that needs one.  From the packaging to the actual notebook, everything is designed with meticulous attention to detail.  While Write sells standard notebooks that are always available for purchase, they also have a subscription option where you receive a new limited edition every three months.  Along with the limited edition notebooks, you receive limited edition pencils that match.  I will take a look at all four editions in this overview and comment a bit on their aesthetics and choose a favorite.  I’d like the send out a huge thank you to Kathy Rogers, a member of the Erasable group for providing the samples I reviewed.

Lenore

Write’s first edition was a an ode to Edgar Alan Poe.  Inspired by the darkness of Poe, each notebook has the simple word “Lenore” foil-stamped on its cover.  The inside of the notebook is 70 lb. small graph paper.  I am not sure how I feel about the tiny squares– I prefer a larger grid so I can make easier checklists.  What I do like is the matching pencil– there is a raven foil stamped on the barrel.  The ferrule, eraser, and wood of the pencil is also black which stays within the dark theme Lenore has going.  While I like the pencil a lot, the notebook is not my favorite.  I’d rank it 4th due to the small graph paper inside and the minimalist cover.  The pencil get 1st place hands down.

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Kindred Spirit

Write’s second edition Kindred Spirit, was inspired by the idea that us notebook and pencil enthusiasts are all kindred spirits and share the same feelings about our niche hobby.  The notebooks have been packaged as “Charcoal Bookettes” as a play on the idea that each notebook is like the beginning of a fire with the charcoal resembling the potential fire that is formed when we put our ideas to paper.  The outside of the notebook is a light orange-yellow with the slightest of marbling and the word “Write” stamped inside of a black flame.  The 70 lb. paper inside is lined like a ledger notebook which is a feature I like since I use a lot of my pocket notebooks for lists.  The pencil that came along with it was a natural wood-grain pencil with a pinkish-red eraser and “Quickstrike – Safety Pencils” stamped in red on the barrel.  I like this notebook a lot– the bright cover and the ledger-lined paper inside does it for me and puts the book 2nd on my list.  The pencil is a creative design and I have a thing for natural wood pencils, so it gets 2nd place as well.

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The Royal Blue

This Fall edition features the B&O Railroad and was created to honor The Royal Blue, a train that shuttled passengers from Washington D.C. to Jersey City.  The notebooks are a Saxony Blue and gold– the railroad’s traditional colors.  A crest in gold is printed on the cover and “The Royal Blue” is at the bottom in the original font of the train line.  This edition also has 70 lb. paper with the ledger lines I so love.  The pencil that comes with this edition is also blue and has a round barrel.  Stamped in gold is a picture of the Royal Blue train, the words “The Royal Blue” and “Write”; there is a sliver ferrule with a white eraser.  This notebook gets 1st place due to its design and ledger lined inside.  The pencil gets 4th place because I hate round barreled pencils (sorry).

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In the Pines

Write’s final edition of their inaugural subscription year was titled “In the Pines” and was inspired by a “cold walk through a dense pine forest.”  According to Write, the title pays homage to an “eerie hymnal originally attributed to Lead Belly, and popularized by Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session.”  As a lover of trees, I wanted to love this edition.  The detail of the dark green embossed cover is beautiful with a silver pine tree and the words “In the Pines” on the front.  Inside is 70 lb. dot grid paper which I am not in love with as the dots seem a bit more spread out than I am used to.  The pencil that goes along with this edition is also in dark green with silver stamping on the barrel.  I really like the detail of the number 2 inside a pine tree.  What is disappointing is I feel like the quality control on these pencils is not the same of the others.  I ordered a few and some have chips in the paint and sloppy stamping.  The chipping is not a big deal since it is at the end of the pencil and will be sharpened away anyway, but still disappointing.  I give the notebooks and pencils from this edition 3rd place on my lists.

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The Pencils

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Back to School Spring Semester Edition

I love college for the simple fact that one can have two “back to schools” a year (more if you want to torture yourself with an intercession course).  Each spring and fall I start fresh and do a bit of gathering for the coming semester.  I clean out the backpack from last semester (sorry black, shriveled banana– forgot you were in there) and reorganize my tools.  I have been thinking a lot about what I will use this spring.  This is the first semester in my college career where I am taking a full course load.  That’s four classes and 16 credits– no small feat for a non-traditional like myself.  In order to stay engaged and motivated, I often mix up what writing tools I use throughout the semester.  Here is a glimpse into my backpack and at each and every thing that I put into that backpack for the semester.

The Bag

Like most college students, I have a lot of shit to carry around.  I had considered purchasing a hip messenger bag, but it was hard to find one that had all of the features I wanted– extra secure pockets, place for water bottle, multiple compartments for various things (headphones, pocket notebooks, pencils/pens, etc.), and comfortable straps since a lot of my classes involve me trekking across one end of campus to the other.  I decided to go with a North Face (I know, SO cliché) backpack.  I chose the Recon because it checked off all of the boxes for me:

I have had this bag for two years now and it has yet to let me down.  It has worn very well and all zippers work like new.  While I would love to have a reason to purchase a new backpack, I have no reason to with the North Face Recon.

Paper

This selection really goes against my uppity, elitist stationery preferences, but my notebook choice for last semester and this semester is the lowly Staples college ruled spiral notebook.  I have found that when I am taking note on the fly in class or when I am reading along with a text I am unable to do so neatly.  I have a strong desire to have everything uniform and routine with my notes (same headers/hierarchy), so using a good notebook for that and having to take my time to achieve this goal would no be feasible.  What I have done instead is if I do take notes for a class that is within my major, I will re-write them in a nicer notebook for long-term use.  Using cheap Staples notebooks allows me to spend a bit more money on things like pencils and other tools where quality does matter.

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Pencil Case

I actually use two pencil cases for my every day carry backpack.  The first one is the Nomadic PE-18 Pen case.  I chose this case for the simple fact that it had a lot of compartments without being too bulky.  I really like that it has one large compartment for pens and pencils and a smaller compartment for a few highlighters or pens as well.  Every compartment is smartly designed and the Nomadic has held up for the past three years of every day use.

The second pencil case I use is one I just purchased.  It is the CW Pencil Enterprise branded Viking leather pencil case.  This case is beautiful and even holds an unsharpened Blackwing.  I plan on using this case as a holder for whichever pencil and eraser I am using for the week as well as highlighters and any marking pencils I need for work.  Caroline is currently sold out of these cases, but she plans on getting more in stock in a variety of colors.

Erasers

There are really only two erasers I ever use: the Matomaru-Kun Plastic Eraser and the Tombow MONO “Erase Easily” Eraser.  The Matomaru-Kun is a bit softer than the Tombow, but both perform well.  They do not damage the paper at all and completely erase pencil markings opposed to smearing them around a bit before rubbing them off the paper.

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Sharpeners

I carry four sharpeners with me in a small plastic box and each sharpener has a particular use.  The Masterpiece and/or the Pollux are for when I have time to sharpen a nice long point on a pencil.  The Milan square sharpener is for when I am taking notes in class and need to sharpen quickly.  The Milan leaves a “just right” point for writing.  Finally, I use an M+R  Brass dual hole sharpener for when I need to sharpen a jumbo pencil or one of my highlighter pencils.

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Highlighters

I have a thing for highlighters.  I can never seem to settle on a particular brand or color for too long.  I used to use the Tombow Kei Coat Double Sided highlighters, but now have moved on to the Zebra Mildliners.  I have all three sets, but really like the light neon ones for schoolwork.  I also use the Caran D’Ache  Couleurs Flous Jumbo highlighter pencils when I am in the mood.  I recommend all colors but the yellow one as the yellow really needs you to push pretty hard for it to show up noticeably.

Pencils

This is a tough one.  I have hundreds of pencils around the house.  To select just a few to accompany me on my school adventures is a difficult task and at first I was just going to pick one brand and stick with it for the whole semester.  Then I got thinking.  Part of the fun is using a different pencil every now and then.  I narrowed it down to a select few:

I will not go into how each pencil performs as I will probably blog about it this semester, but I will say that I tried to pick a range of brands while staying within the same lead grade in order to have some consistency.  I made sure to try to include pencils that I have never used before to keep it interesting.

Planner

In previous years, I have used a Field Notes undated planner for school assignments.  This year I decided to go with a Baron Fig Confidant planner since I have never tried any of their paper or products that much.  I can say that initially I am underwhelmed with the Baron Fig planner– the cover fabric seems to have come unglued from the heavy cover underneath.  This is only along the spine and does not affect the use of the book, but I guess I was expecting more.  We shall see how it turns out.

I hope all of you enjoyed a glimpse into my academic school supply life.  I’d be curious to hear from other students to see what they choose to carry.  Leave a comment if so inspired.

 

 

 

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Write Notepads & Co. “In the Pines” Release

As with most limited editions from Write Notepads, a lot of thought and purpose was put into this edition.  From Write’s own website:

At the heart of it, a cold walk through a dense pine forest was our ideal way to welcome Winter.  Once we established the color structure, it came time for a name. The ageless, eerie hymnal originally attributed to Lead Belly, and popularized by Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session was the perfect title for our release. “In the Pines” haunting lyrics set the tone for this epic Americana release.

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Source: Write Notepads & Co.

Each notebook is glue bound with 70-pound dot grid paper.  Even though I have yet to get my hands on these notebooks, I have used Write Notepads in the past and can assure you they have one of the highest quality paper in the pocket notebook market.  Limited Edition releases are VERY limited.  This edition has 750 printed, so I would jump on it as soon as you can.  Write Notepads has a subscription service, but it is only opened at certain times, so I would check their website periodically to see if the signup link is available.  For a great review of this limited edition, check out Leadfast.

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Penmanship Pencils: A Review

In Asia, there is a lot of emphasis on penmanship.  So much so, that there are specific pencils for that exact purpose.  I suppose in Asian countries the intricacy of their handwritten language necessitate a need for such tools.  The penmanship pencil offers a smooth, dark graphite that glides across the paper and provides ample feedback for your writing experience.  I would relate the writing experience to writing with a crayon and marker combined into one.  What is equally great about these pencils is that they do not smudge much like other darker lead grades.  This is very useful if you want to use them to take notes or journal (note: I have tried these on a few different paper types, but not all).  Today I am going to take a look at the two main penmanship (pencilship?) pencils; the Tombow MONO and the Mitsubishi Uni:

At first glance, both of these pencils are beautiful.  From the striking finish to the inscriptions on the side of the pencil, they are a writing implement you are just drawn (no pun intended) to.  Like most Japanese pencils I have used, the attention to detail is phenomenal.

The cores of both of these pencils are nice and thick with the Mitsubishi core being a tad bit thicker.  Both were sharpened with the Classroom Friendly sharpener:

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Writing with the Tombow proved to be a dream.  The pencil was nice and smooth and laid down nice, dark lines.  Compared to the Mitsubishi, the Tombow provided more feedback when writing– the actual sound of scribbling resonated much more so than the Mitsubishi.  This may have had to do with the fact that the Tombow was a lighter pencil overall weight-wise.  The graphite laid down was almost identical to the Mitsubishi and did not smear.  I also preferred the color scheme of the Tombow as I like bright colors, but my opinion is entirely subjective.  The Mitsubishi on the other hand was heavier, provided almost no feedback when writing, and the finish, while not as attractive as the Tombow was better.  The thicker lacquer and the larger core most likely added to the overall weight of the Mitsubishi as I feel both of these pencils are made from the same wood.  Another positive is that the Mitsubishi is a bit easier to find than the Tombow.  Both CW Pencils and JetPens carry the Mitsubishi, while only CW Pencils carries the Tombow.

I really cannot say that there is a clear winner here.  Both pencils perform well and I think it comes down to which is more aesthetically pleasing to the user.  Here are links for both pencils at CW Pencils: Tombow and Mitsubishi 

 

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Birthdays, Spirits, Erasable Notebooks, and Moleskines

General Pencil Company Turns 127

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Source: parade.com

General Pencil Company has been creating pencils since 1889 and is located in my home state of New Jersey.  Not only is it a great feat to have an American-run business last for 127 years, but the fact that a wooden pencil company has lasted that long is incredible.  I enjoy General’s products and have reviewed them in the past.  While General pencils are not Tombow MONOs, they are great for what they cost.  I’d recommend trying the Pacific, Cedar Pointe, and the Supreme.

shin sharpens your spirit

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Source: designboom

Um, OK.  I am always a fan of sometimes overly priced pretentious bullshit, but this sharpener makes some intense claims.  From the description:

The Shin sharpener is a whetstone-style pencil sharpener that turns the ordinary task of sharpening your pencil into a meditative practice. The repetitive task of sharpening the edge of your pencil is supposed to support concentration, inspiration and inner peace…

While I have to admit that there is something zen-like about getting a point to perfection, my spirit has never been sharpened by the act.  At $165, I’d much rather put it towards and el Casco or a handful of Polluxes.  The sharpener itself is a great conversation piece, but to me it looks like they repurposed a stick incense holder and shoe-horned a sharpener into it.  I shouldn’t be surprised that this product is listed on a site that sells a $320 brass fertilizing syringe for gardening.

Everlast Notebook

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Source: Kickstarter

The Everlast Notebook is the antithesis to everything I look for in a notebook– you cannot use pencil and it is made to be a digital product wrapped in a loose shell of an analog format.  The concept of having one notebook may be appealing to millennials (the Kickstarter for this thing is almost at a million dollars!), but I like my notebooks to be permanent.  There is something to be said for a stack of well-used notebooks that I can flip through and see what pen or pencil I have used.  Writing in a traditional notebook is such a tactile experience, I’d be horrified to erase my scribblings after I have essentially taken a picture of what I spent time on writing.  I think one positive of this product is how it can automatically catalog what you have written by ticking off a symbol on the bottom of each page.  While I am first an analog junkie, being organized comes in a close second.  Because one of my New Year’s resolutions is to unplug, I’ll have to pass on this one, but it’s a cool concept anyway.

Moleskine Has a Banner Year

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Source: Dustin Wax

Even though this new story is written on Yahoo Sports! (I have NO IDEA why; perhaps notebook writing could be a sport), it is nice to see some coverage about analog writing in mainstream news sites.  Even though I feel like the analog movement is still a niche group, I welcome any boost to my most loved hobby and passion.  I wish other, more quality, notebooks got some coverage (Write Notepads, Field Notes, Baron Fig) since I have noticed the overall quality of Moleskine notebooks to be declining since I first started using them years ago.  I am sure that this is a product of a need to cut costs and increase profits, but I think for the market they want to attract they miss the mark.  For the same price I could purchase something that is locally produced with better quality.  For a niche hobby like stationery and notebook using, Moleskine’s approach falls short.  I do realize that an uninitiated individual has no clue as to what else is out there, but I suppose that is why the universe that surrounds our hobby is so small.

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New Year, New Direction

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Source: happynewyears2017.org

Hey all!  Welcome to 2017!  As I reminisce about 2016 and the challenges I have faced, I am renewed and determined to have a year full of creation and new ideas.  When starting this blog, I did so to emulate those that have come before me.  As I became more comfortable in my own blogging skin, I developed my own style and way of approaching things.  I had initially set out to review one pencil a week– hence the name The Weekly Pencil, but then life happened.  I am in college full-time and work part-time and posting to this blog became sporadic.  I felt as though I let readers down as well as myself down.  I took a long break and towards the end of the year almost shut down the site completely.  Before doing so, I dug into the statistics of my blog– how many views, visits, Facebook likes– and found that people actually cared about what I had to say.  This led me to thinking about what kind of direction I would like to take the blog in.  Here’s what I came up with:

Expand My Coverage to More Than Just Pencils

Pencils are wonderful and fantastic, but reviewing a pencil a week becomes rather stale (especially when you have blown through all of the main pencil brands).  Now we all know that the rabbit hole that is stationery runs deep, so while I would like to expand, I don’t want to stray too far from my main objective.  That brings us to paper/notebooks.  Many times, I use a particular notebook or paper to review my pencils, but it barely gets a mention.  There have been a lot of awesome things happening in the paper world as of late (I’m looking at you Write Notepads), and I would like to bring that stuff to you.

Aggregate News of the Paper and Pencil World

One thing that is constant and always different is news.  I think that tracking down all of the news of the pencil and paper world would be a unique endeavor.  There are blogs already out there that do this, but on a much larger scale.  I still want to keep my focus as small as possible and while this may be limiting at times, it will allow me to really go into depth with what I choose to write about.  The name of this site also fits this model.  The Weekly Pencil reads like the title of a newspaper and suggests (obviously) that something should be happening weekly with the site.

Focus More on Our Diverse and Wonderful Community

This may sound cheesy, but it rings so true: I don’t know where I would be without some of the members I have met through this community.  I came into this thinking it’s just about pencils, but in reality, it’s so much more.  I have made real life friendships and connections I never thought possible through a pencil Facebook group.  Not only am I enamored with this community, but I am proud of this community.  Because of that, I would like to feature a community member once a month and ask pertinent questions and let them direct the dialogue.  I would love nothing more than to shine a spotlight on those individuals that make the pencil community thrive.

Other Ideas

I would love to bring multimedia into this site as well, but am afraid that it might be a long time investment that I wouldn’t be able to deliver without the proper funding.  If I were able to find a way to replace my part-time job income, I would be able to devote time to vlogging and perhaps a podcast that can bring this site to life.  This will probably never really come to fruition, and I am the last person to ask for money, but if I decided to try I would set up a Patreon account of some sort to fund this.  If I have enough interest I will do it, but that would require about $500 a month for me to do so.  In other words, not happening.

I hope this New Year brings all of you some kind of fresh start and new perspectives for the year ahead.  And thank you for reading and supporting me with likes and comments.  It means a great deal to me in more ways than all of you know.

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No. 2: Story of the Pencil

This is my first (and probably only) movie review that I will do on this blog.  As soon as I heard that there would be a documentary produced about my favorite writing implement, I was excited.  Up until now, the story and use of wooden pencils has only existed in small, close-knit groups and this documentary would provide more exposure to something I hold near and dear to my heart.  Let’s get to it:

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No.2, overlooked as a common tool, continues to lose dominance in a media saturated world. However, history tells a different story.

The Pencil changed everything. Invention, craftsmanship, art, engineering, manufacturing, government, history, and business are a result of the pencil. Although the Pencil technology provided a way to move thoughts to a tangible form, technology is never static.

As technology is a key focus to every aspect of society today, the pencil begins to lose its significance. With so many aspects of society existing in binary code, the pencil needs to be honored. We are in a battle against time. If we move away from using this analog piece of technology, what is society losing? How significant is the pencil to ingenuity? Should we care if the pencil shifts to the backseat?

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I wanted to love this documentary, but I walked away feeling meh.  Let me address the pros first.  As I have mentioned earlier, just having a documentary about the pencil is awesome in itself.  I also loved seeing Caroline and her shop featured, how the filmmaker traveled to various locations to document the history of graphite, and Petroski’s commentary.  That’s where my love affair ends.  First, the music.  There was constant music playing throughout the documentary which I found distracting.  I was hoping it would cut out, but it didn’t and really took away from the message some interviewees were trying to deliver.  Also, it was a bit pretentious at times.  I think for the layperson this would ring especially true.  What would have been an ideal setup would be the history, a lot more of the manufacturing, the players in the pencil community, and– most glaringly omitted– the Erasable community.  I enjoyed the commentary, but I KNOW about pencils and all the nerdy things about them.  I guess what I am trying to say is to make it a bit more approachable to all.  Also, my opinion may be entirely invalid because I enjoy seeing things being manufactured and learning about the different elements of said manufactured item.

Overall, I don’t think this film was entirely crap.  It hit some good notes with me, but fell short on a lot of others.  I’d give it two out of five pencils.  It’s definitely a rent and not an own.  I am glad that the object of my beloved hobby has been featured in a full length film, but it could have done so much more.

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Shahsons Pencil Company

This post has been a few weeks in the making and I apologize for its lateness, but school and life seem to have gotten in the way of most of my obligations lately.  This week I am going to talk about Shahsons Pencil Company.  Shahsons is based in Pakistan and has been making quality pens and pencils since 1953.  Caroline from CW Pencils helped out a bit with some history:

The Goldfish Autocrat was their first branded pencil. It was originally scented to smell like sandalwood–though they don’t to that anymore because it’s too expensive. Shehzhad (original owner’s grandson) isn’t sure where exactly the name came from, though he’s pretty sure ‘Autocrat’ was supposed to be ‘Aristocrat’. They only really do two lines of the pencils, the Goldfish, which was since been expanded with lots of different branding and the Piscasso line, which is mostly drawing pencils and artist materials.

I always love trying out pencils from other countries as I enjoy the different wood and graphite formulations they have to offer.  There are three pencils that I will be discussing: the Vista, Autocrat, and Blue Bird.  I have spent considerable time with each, so without further ado:

Goldfish Blue Bird

I am a fan of pencils that have fun names and the Blue Bird surely delivers.  The blue barrel and silver foil stamping make this pencil quite attractive, but where it excels in aesthetics, it falls short with performance (this is compared to the other two Shahsons pencils, not the entire pencils universe).  The graphite core is a bit light (I’d say HBish) and scratchy on most of the papers I have used.

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Goldfish Vista

The Vista is the middle of the road pencil here; it is a bright red pencil with gold foil stamping.  It has a similar darkness as the Autocrat, but did not write as smoothly.  This pencil performs well, but due to the scratchiness, I would avoid it if you like smoother graphite laydown.

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Goldfish Autocrat

The Autocrat is the Cadillac of the Shahsons offerings.  It is smooth and dark and point retention is on point (sorry, had to).  I really like the design of this pencil as it has a natural wood veneer and gold foil stamping.  The Autocrat’s graphite core reminds me of the Nataraj Neon core or the Walmart Casemate core.  Of the three pencils, the Autocrat wins by a long shot.

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Overall, the three offering from Shahsons perform well, for their price point.  I would suggest trying out all three pencils, but know that you may be disappointed in the Vista.  You can head over to CW Pencil Enterprise to get a hold of all three.

 

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Musgrave Ceres

There is something to be said for a classic yellow pencil.  After being inspired by episode 60 of Erasable, I decided to dig into my pencil case and try out a pencil I have yet to review/use.  I was immediately drawn to the Ceres due to its sharp lines and unique script that was stamped on the barrel.

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Musgrave produces four grades of this pencil and I am using the #1 grade for this review.  Immediately upon sharpening the Ceres I was greeted with the smell of good old cedar.  The Ceres sharpened very easily and the graphite was perfectly centered which allowed for even sharpening.  Interestingly enough, about a third of the way through the pencil, I found a knot in the wood barrel.

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I had never seen this before and though it was pretty interesting.  The small imperfection made the next few sharpenings difficult as the graphite was exposed unevenly, but once I sharpened my way out of it things were fine.  Writing with the Ceres was great and the pencil laid down decent lines.  The graphite was nice and smooth and I’d say the darkness was comprabale to a 2B (this is totally just eyeballing it).  The eraser on the Ceres was below average at best.

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The rubber was very gritty and when I did try to erase with it, it wore down very quickly.  Don’t plan on using the eraser if you don’t have to.  The black paint on the barrel began to wear off pretty quickly with normal use, but that kind of stuff doesn’t bother me.  I prefer a well-worn writing instrument.  Overall, the Musgrave Ceres is a great little pencil that is completely affordable (40 cents a piece at CW Pencils), but did not entirely win me over.  While I stated the graphite was smooth and not scratchy, it did not have the buttery smoothness I prefer in my graphite.  Also, not only is the eraser pretty crappy, but I had a hard time erasing with my everyday block eraser as well.  The graphite comes off the paper, but not as cleanly as I like.  If I had to give a rating it would be a meh.  average.  Stay tuned, because next week I will be reviewing the newest CW Pencils acquisitions: The Goldfish Autocrat, Blue Bird, and Vista from Shashon Pencil Company.

Marking Pencil Round-Up

For those of you that are unaware, I work part time in a community college writing center.  I find myself reading and editing papers for hours and have been searching for the perfect marking pencil.  While my list is not exhaustive, I tried to explore a variety of brands that are easily available to anyone.  I have used each pencil for about a week and have been able to form what I feel is a solid opinion on what to try and what to avoid.  First, here is a general overview of each pencil and a writing sample for each:

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As you can see all six pencils are quite different when it comes to color and hardness.  I will address the list top to bottom.

Tombow 8900 Vermilion ($0.85)

The Tombow 8900 wrote smoothly and the point retention was one of best of the pencils.  The ability to keep a sharp point on the Tombow allowed the maximum amount of correction with a minimum amount of sharpening.  For me, this is key when working with a student.  Less sharpening means a longer lasting pencil as well.  I could see myself using this pencil on a regular basis for correction.  I found the Tombow 8900 at a Kinokuniya bookstore, but Ebay tends to carry them occasionally.

Caran d’Ache 999 Bicolor ($2.80)

The Caran d’Ache 999 is vibrant and one of the truest to the color red behind the Mitsubishi 772.  The core is super smooth and much to my surprise point retention is above average for such a smooth pencil.  I also like that the 999 is a hex pencil as it is much more comfortable (for me) to hold and rotate while writing.  The only drawback is the price of this pencil.

General’s Red ($0.40)

The General’s Red has the best point retention of all of pencils I have ever used, but it is the worst as far as pigment is concerned.  It is way too light to be effective and feels horribly scratchy.  This pencil is a disappointment and you shouldn’t buy it.  I struggled trying to make my marks noticeable on papers for students and halfway through a session I picked up another pencil it was so bad.  Just don’t.

Musgrave 525 Hermitage ($0.29)

The Hermitage is a great middle of the road pencil.  The core is dark enough to be effective, but is not so soft that you feel like you are writing with a crayon. I found myself using this pencil more and more as the weeks progressed and was not disappointed with the results.  For this reason, I was pleasantly surprised as a lot of my experience with Musgrave products has left me feeling meh.

Mitsubishi 772 Vermilion ($1.00)

The 772 is vibrant and works very well for making small grammatical edits to 12-point font.  When editing papers, clarity is key and the Mitsubishi 772 is as clear as day.  The core is a bit softer than others, but as long as you rotate the pencil ever few marks you make, it seems to wear down just as much as an average pencil.  If I had to pick a winner it would be this pencil.

Mitsubishi Red “Smooth Writing Taste” ($1.65)

This pencil is smooth alright.  So smooth that you feel like you are writing with a crayon.  I love the color it lays down, but the Mitsubishi Red is not for making small edits or writing within the margin.  I’d say this pencil is perfect for making “checks” and “x” marks on papers or maybe even for underlining text, but not for the work I do.  It does get bonus points for its slogan though!

Overall my top two are the Mitsubishi 772 and the Caran d’Ache 999.  Both pencils have great, vibrant color without feeling too waxy.  The Hermitage comes in a close third (I’d even say a tie for second) with its point retention and affordability.  Either way, I hope this has helped those of you that are looking for marking pencils.