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Calepino No. 2

The Matte Black Calepino No. 2 pencil is a real gem.  Made in France, the Calepino (which comes from the French word calepin meaning notebook) is simple, yet elegant.  The pencil has a classic look and “Fabriqué en France” is stamped in a simple script on the barrel.  The ferrule is a lustrous gold and it encases a white eraser.  The Calepino pencil is made of Pulay wood  and sharpens beautifully.

Writing with the Calepino was a pleasure as it laid down nice, smooth lines and did not smudge.  It’s graphite was strong and was not subject to any breakage this past week.  The eraser that comes on the pencil is effective, but wears away pretty quickly so have a separate eraser on hand for bigger mistakes.  At around two dollars a pencil, these do not come cheap to the everyday pencil user, but well worth every penny.  What is interesting to note is that Calepino is primarily a notebook manufacturer, but they hit it out of the park with their pencil design and function here.

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Overall: 9/10

*If you would like to try out the Calepino, head over to Caroline!  She sells singles and is pretty awesome!*

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Dixon Ticonderoga Renew HB Soft

Ever since I reviewed the Blackwing 211 a few weeks ago, I have been in love with pencils that have an unpainted, natural look.  Now there are two categories of natural pencils: “finished” which is what the 211 was and “raw” which is what the Ticonderoga Renew is.  I have no real preference for either, but performance wise I did notice a few interesting things about this “raw” pencil.

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I really like the color scheme of this pencil; the green eraser, the classic Ticonderoga ferrule, and the green foil stamping really make the natural barrel shine.  I also like that on most of the pencils in the box I have, you can see the interlocking wood slats which I think is super cool.  The Renew sharpened up nicely and the graphite core was perfectly centered.

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There was slight resistance when sharpening the Renew; it was almost as if the raw finish gave me a bit of resistance while turning the sharpener.  This did not effect the sharpening process, it just made it a tad bit more difficult (I also worried that it was a bit rough on the blade of my Masterpiece).  Because the Renews are made with a little over half of pre-consumer recycled wood, I am unsure what the make up of the pencil is.  It definitely has a smell to it that is unique and not very cedar-like (actually– and don’t laugh– it kind of smells like strong body odor when sharpened).  The eraser was effective, but was very dusty and wore away about halfway through the pencil.  I had to resort to using my Mitsubishi Boxy the rest of my time with the Renew.

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Once I had the Renew sharpened, it was time to write.  I first started taking notes in a Gold Fibre Retro Pad, but found writing to be uncomfortable.  The Gold Fibre by Ampad has this beautiful ivory paper, but it is a bit toothy.  Once I switched back to my Kokuyo Campus paper all was well.  The Ticonderoga Renew wore down slowly and I only broke lead once while sharpening (I think it was my fault).  I am on the fence about whether or not to agree with their “soft” assertion, but the graphite wasn’t bad by any means.  It was OK on my own subjective darkness scale, but YMMV.  One other thing I am not sure of is how it stacks up to other Ticonderogas.  At around $5.50 for a ten-pack, they are affordable and worth giving a try.  I don’t foresee the Renew getting a place in my pencil rotation, but it definitely earned its keep this week.  Overall: 7/10

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Caran d’Ache Edelweiss HB

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This week’s pencil is from Caran d’Ache, a Swiss company that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  Here is a little history:

Caran d’Ache is the pen name by which Russian-born French illustrator, Emmanuel Poiré, achieved worldwide renown in the 19th century. The choice turned out to be a salient one, since “karandash” is the Russian term for “pencil” and in turn comes from the Turkish root “kara tash” which refers to black stone – the origins of graphite.

This natural material found in the mountains of Switzerland gave rise to the first Swiss pencil factory set up in Geneva in 1915. Nine years later, in the hands of its founder, the visionary Arnold Schweitzer, it took the name of the famous illustrator became known as Caran d’Ache.

I own a Caran d’Ache 849 ballpoint pen and I am familiar with the quality products CdA puts out.  I might even say that the 849 is the best ballpoint pen I have ever used, but alas, we are talking about pencils here.  When I did my random pick of this past week’s pencil, I initially felt disappointed.  The pencil itself is very light and I tend to prefer something with a bit more mass.  I did like the Edelweiss’s red finish and the bright white imprint on its barrel.  The only disappointing thing was that there was also a barcode on the opposite side of this beautiful imprint.  I understand why manufacturers have to do this in order to sell singles, but does it have to be in the center of the pencil??  Here is the prettier side:

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The Edelweiss HB writes sharpens to a nice point and I only encountered one instance of breakage (and I think it was actually my fault for being heavy handed).  The point retention on this pencil is average to above-average which is good for a heavy writer like myself, but I found that the graphite was not as smooth as I would have liked it to be.  At about one dollar a pencil, the Edelweiss is quite pricey for just a plain old school pencil to the layperson.  The fact that I have not even used half the pencil in a week worth of note-taking makes up for the cost and I am comfortable in saying that the pencil would most likely last me two weeks.  As far as darkness is concerned, it performs as expected for an HB pencil although it is a shade lighter than I personally prefer.  I experienced no smudging or transferring with the CdA (which was a good thing, because my notes are a mess from the Musgrave last week!) and erasing was a breeze.

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I would have to say that this pencil hits most of the marks for me: point retention, attractiveness, graphite strength, and erasability.  The Edelweiss does not knock it out of the park for me, but I could see it becoming a part of my rotation.  Overall: 6.5/10

**If you would like to try out your own Caran d’Ache Edelweiss in either HB, F or 3B, head over to CW Pencil Supply and give Caroline your money** (note: I was not paid for this review or solicited by anyone.  I just think CW is amazing and you should too!)

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Musgrave Test Scoring Pencil

I thank the heavens that I rarely do not have to do a test via Scantron sheets anymore, but when I randomly selected the pencil for this week I had flashbacks to those dreadful sheets.  I was super excited to try out the Musgrave Test Scoring pencil since I really love how fierce the hexagonal barrel of the pencil is.  I am a big fan of hexagonal pencils and really hate when pencil manufacturers “round off” their pencils to give them a softer line.  But alas, this is just personal preference and while it did award the pencil some brownie points, it did not impact the review much.

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The imprint on the Musgrave is very utilitarian; the lacquer is a silvery gray, the imprint is a simple black stamping of the name of the pencil and where it was manufactured.  I do like that it has four square boxes with one colored in to further drive home the point that it is– indeed– a Test Scoring pencil.  The “100” is a nice touch as well, as it gives me something to strive for while test taking.  All kidding aside, this pencil is a clean and basic representation of what a .40 pencil should be.

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Sharpening the Musgrave Test Scoring pencil went smoothly (no pun intended, I swear!) and confirmed the fact that this is a very soft and dark pencil.  The electro-graphite is extra reflective so it is easily picked up by test-scanning machines and the extra softness helps you lay down smooth dark lines.  Besides test-taking, I could see this pencil being used for Sudoku puzzles or newspaper crossword puzzles since it is nice and dark.  Writing with the pencil all week was a chore for me because I had to sharpen it way more often than normal.  On about Thursday, I was not sure if the pencil would last the whole week, but I made it with room to spare.  The eraser on the pencil is very hard and dusty and while it does its job, I prefer to use a separate eraser.

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As with all of the pencils I review, I look at them with a heavy-writing perspective.  All of my reviews keep that sole fact in mind.  With that being said, my score for things is through the lens of a full-time student who does a lot of writing.  So the Musgrave Test Scoring pencil, while it is a decent pencil for what it is intended to do, did not work that well for me this week (that’s not to say it isn’t awesome for other applications!).  Overall 3/10

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Staedtler Norica HB 2

I was quite underwhelmed this week when using the Staedtler Norica: point breakage, quick wear, and crappy eraser.  I suppose I expected more out of this German-made pencil (note: this pencil is made in Thailand, I stand corrected), but– then again– how much could I expect from a common school pencil?  The Norica looks pretty; it has a nice, sharp hexagonal barrel and a bright white eraser held in by a silver ferrule.

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This pencil had a busy week between stats notes and test-taking that I began to wonder if it could keep up.  Since obtaining Kum’s Masterpiece sharpener, I have not had the excessive amounts of point breakage as I did the with Long Point sharpener.  I chalk that up to less flexibility since the Masterpiece is (I think) magnesium.  This was the first pencil that proved me wrong.  I deduced that it was probably a break in the graphite core within the pencil since it was such a clean break, but nonetheless this happened about three or four times during the week.

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Another gripe was the fact that I had to sharpen the Norica so damn much while note-taking.  Usually, I sharpen once per side of paper I write on (I use B5 size paper).  The Norica sometimes barely made it through two-thirds of the page before I had to sharpen her which left me frustrated and my hand cramped from sharpening so much.  I really thought that this pencil would not make it to the end of the school week, but it did– barely.

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The picture above shows how quick the pencil wore down (this was taken on Thursday of a week that runs until Saturday).  What the above picture also shows is the next thing I am going to gripe about: the ferrule.  I usually try to use the eraser if the pencil comes with one to see how it does and whether or not it is useful.  I wore down the eraser a lot since it had a hard time erasing and I had to follow up with my Boxy.  About halfway through the Norica, I noticed that the ferrule was loose.  Like it was separating from the barrel of the pencil.  It wobbled quite a bit while erasing or while I was using the pencil in general and I noticed that it was only attached via four little punches in the aluminum (?) that adhered it to the pencil.  The smaller the pencil got, the more I noticed the loose ferrule.

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This week was a crap week with lots of school work and a bad pencil.  I do realize that since I am working my way through my entire collection of pencils I am bound to work with some bad ones, but please pencil gods: let my next random pick be a Swiss Wood!  Overall: 4/10