The Apsara Stenographer’s Pencil is manufactured by the Hindustan Pencil Company in India. Hindustan also manufactures the better-known Nataraj brand as well. I was a bit curious as to why this pencil was marketed as a “stenographer’s pencil” since it seemed like an ordinary pencil to me. With a round barrel and no ferrule, the Apsara is a very light pencil. The finish on the pencil is a nice glossy turquoise with a white stripe at the top where the ferrule would naturally start and gold foil stamping.
After sharpening the Apsara, I did not notice any smell at all so it is clear this pencil is not made of cedar. I presume it is crafted from recycled wood of some sort. When writing with this pencil it was very light in my hand and I found myself without the hand cramping that I am used to. This factor, coupled with its strong graphite, explained why this is denoted as a stenographer’s pencil. I experienced no lead breakage ever and the smoothness of the graphite was on point for a pencil that cost 40 cents. Even writing on super toothy card stock was a pleasant experience and the graphite barely smeared. Erasing the pencil was also a breeze and took very little effort.
I cannot recommend this pencil enough for individuals who write a lot. Make this pencil a part of your rotation and you will not regret it. They can be very easily obtained from Caroline over at CW Pencil Enterprise for a mere 40 cents. Overall: 8.0/10
Blaisdell Paper Pencil Company was founded in 1898 in Philadelphia, PA, three years after Frederick Blaisdell received a patent for the paper pencil and the machine to make them. Paper pencils, also known as China markers, were wrapped in paper and string. When one would pull the string the paper would curl off and expose more of the pencil (or pretty much crayon). Blaisdell eventually got into the graphite pencil business and produced the well-loved Calculator 600 pencil which was one of John Steinbeck’s favorites. The Ben Franklin pencil was their “every day” pencil and were made in mass quantities. The Ben Franklin can be found from time to time on Ebay.
I was excited this week to be using a vintage pencil. I have found that vintage pencils have a far superior quality to what is offered nowadays (there are a few exceptions, of course). The Ben Franklin performed beautifully and nailed each and every category I rate my pencils on. The barrel of the pencil was classic yellow with a glossy black imprint. A nice touch was the “2” on the pencil was stamped in a metallic blue. The pencil sharpened up nicely and had a strong, deep smell of cedar. Not once did I experience point breakage and the graphite wore down evenly and smoothly. I really love the ferrule on this pencil– it is a nice gold with a white stripe around the middle.
I can’t comment on the eraser since it crumbled off when I tried to use it (the pencil is over 30 years old!). The Ben Franklin has a nice weight to it and it a bit on the lighter side (pre-eraser fiasco), but nothing too serious. I have nothing really negative to say about this pencil. I obtained mine from Caroline at CW Pencil Enterprise, but it appears that she does not carry it anymore. I am glad this pencil wore down slowly since it was a joy to use. Overall: 9/10
I want to preface this week’s entry by saying that I hate a pencil with a round barrel. I dislike how they roll of the desk when I put them down and I generally do not like the overall absence of those sharp lines of a hexagonal pencil. Because of this strong dislike, it had been years since I willingly picked up a pencil with a round barrel to use for an extended period of time. When I did my random selection process at the beginning of the week, my heart sank that I would have to use this round pencil for seven whole days (!?). Would I lose this pencil before then? Would it fall off my desk so many times that the graphite inside would shatter rendering it un-sharpenable? By Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised.
After sharpening the Goddess, I immediately noticed the rich smell that wafted up from the pile of shavings. The pencil sharpened up nicely and there was no point breakage at any point during the process. For this pencil, I used the Tombow Ippo Pinch-Point pencil sharpener.
As I began to write with the Goddess, my hatred for round barrel pencils slowly began to fade. My hand fatigued less and I did not develop that callus on my finger like I usually do. Perhaps this was not so bad after all. Any the pencil only rolled off the desk once in seven days, so I can’t complain on that point (ha). When it came time to use the eraser, I was nervous since it seemed as though it might fall off of the top of the pencil. The ferrule appeared to not be securely gripping the eraser and when I did use the eraser, it took a lot of effort to effectively remove graphite from paper. You can see the “loose” look below:
The graphite laid down smoothly on paper and did not have a hit of grittiness. I not once experienced a point breakage all week which was a bonus. At 80 cents a pencil from CW Pencil Enterprise, this pencil is affordable enough to give it a shot. Overall: 8.5/10
Musgrave Pencil Company is located in Shelbyville, TN and has been manufacturing pencils since 1916. While they have a plethora of school-grade pencils, Musgrave is known today as the place to go for custom pencils. With hundreds of options for a billion (ok, I’m exaggerating) occasions, I am sure at some point you have held a Musgrave made pencil in your hand. This week I chose the Musgrave Harvest #2 I purchased in one of my many hauls from CW Pencil Enterprise. It is a simple-looking school pencil with gold foil stamping and a gold ferrule with a maroon colored stripe.
The Harvest sharpened up nicely and the shavings had a nice smell to them. Point retention was average, but it was definitely frustrating to have to sharpen so often this past week. The darkness of the graphite was a bit too light for me, but it did not smear and had no discernible grit while writing. The eraser, on the other hand, was horrible. Not only did it barely do its job, it seemed to slough off like a skin-like material (see below). Not sure what’s up with that, but don’t use the eraser if you don’t have to.
Writing with the Harvest was not uncomfortable, but I did cramp up a bit due to the perceived lightness to the way the graphite laid down on paper. By Friday, I was down to a nub and was worried I wouldn’t make it through the rest of the day, but the Harvest pulled through.
At 35 cents a pencil, you get what you pay for: a cheap, yet effective pencil. Just do not use the eraser unless you are desperate or hate your paper. Overall: 6.5/10