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.

 

 

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Back to School Special

The time has come upon us; it’s September, the leaves are changing (in some parts of the US), school is back in session, and I cannot resist the urge to purchase school supplies.  Ever since I could remember, the need to go out and purchase school supplies represented a new beginning– a way to re-invent oneself for the new school year.  Heather Rivard of the Art Supply Posse podcast, really nailed the feeling and excitement around school supply shopping:

“School supply shopping was an emotional experience for me. School supplies represent the part of life that made sense to me, like doing homework and what I was told. School clothes shopping represented the things that didn’t make sense, like social hierarchy and how to fit in and how to feel like an acceptable human being. School supplies! That is a source of so much warmth and comfort and excitement.”

This passage hits home for me.  Some years, life was great and my parents had the money to indulge my growing obsession with school supplies.  Other years, time were tough and I was forced to re-use items or buy the cheapest stuff.  I never thought about it at the time (because who does), but the act of school shopping tied directly into my self-worth.  Now that I am an adult with a decent amount of purchasing power, I find myself in a different race: Keeping up with the Joneses.  I’ve been distant from the group the past month or so because as a full-time student and part-time worker, I am unable to jump at every new stationery item that comes out.  I am not subscribed to any stationery or pencil service and do my best to buy at least one box of the limited edition Blackwings.  Again, I am faced with the need to keep up.

Now don’t get me wrong, our community is incredibly giving and I myself have given away countless pencils and other paraphernalia, but as with any hobby this gets EXPENSIVE.  Which brings me to this year’s school supply shopping experience.  Besides some folders and red marking pencils (which I will review in the coming weeks), I have purchased nothing.  Well, OK, my recent trip to CW Pencil Enterprise was an indulgence, but for the most part there has not been a ceremonial “school supply shopping” excursion.  I like it this way.  It has allowed me to pore over my current collection of pencils and supplies and rediscover some real gems.

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I have filled my pencil roll with some oldies and newbies, but I am content with my choices.  I am not sure if I am going to use a different pencil every week, bu I’d like to use all of them this semester at some point.  I will get back to blogging on a weekly basis now and will not only write about pencils, but stationery stuff and maybe some personal stuff.  Stay tuned all!