Musgrave Round-Up

Musgrave Round-Up

The Musgrave round-up is first in a series of reviews I will do about all pencils (that are currently obtainable) in a specific brand.  I often wonder if pencil companies that brand pencils with different names really have differences within each pencil.  Besides aesthetics, do these different pencils have different cores?  To test this out, I will take each pencil and write one full college ruled page and compare how each pencil feels while writing and how well it performs when it comes to erasing, smearing, and darkness.  Before we get to the actual reviews, let’s talk about Musgrave as a company first.

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Musgrave has been making pencils in Shelbyville, Tennessee since 1916.  Supplied by Tennessee red cedar and a system of recycling cedar rail fences for more modern wire, Musgrave had all the resources it needed.  Musgrave not only bartered with farmers for the old cedar, but their crew installed the new wire and pole fencing that would be replacing that cedar.  Since the cedar rails had been outdoors for an extended period of time, they were already weathered and in perfection condition.  The cedar was cut into pencil slats that were sent from Tennessee to German manufacturers like Faber.  In 1919, the Tennessee red cedar had been depleted and a new source needed to found.  Luckily, a wood with similar characteristics from California, California Incense Cedar was shipped it.  This new wood was fast growing, plentiful, and renewable.  Musgrave held on as a company through the Great Depression and during World War II and still operates today in Shelbyville.  One the few pencil manufacturers left in the United States, Musgrave is an example of how ingenuity and dedication to one’s product can last the test of time.

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The pencils I will be talking about today are the ones that are easily available for purchase.  There are other pencils in their lineup that I would have liked to try, but I am still waiting for a response from the company about how I can acquire those.  I will update accordingly if that ever comes through.  All pencils reviewed today were purchased via CW Pencil Enterprise.  Please note that I am not comparing these pencils against each other– that would be unrealistic as these pencils have a variety of purposes.  Instead, I have used each pencil for a period of time and have provided some feedback and thoughts on how each performed.

Bugle ($0.25)

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The Bugle has a very simple design.  It has a round, unpainted barrel with a thin clear overcoat with the word “BUGLE” and 1816 stamped in white.  There are also two little bugles stamped on the pencil which make it completely adorable.  There is no eraser and the pencil is very light in your hand.  Based on the smell test, I do not think this pencil is made of cedar, but I could be mistaken.  Writing with the Bugle produced a very loud scratchy sound, but not a scratchy feel.  I felt it was a bit light for a number 2 pencil and because of this lightness it was very easy to erase.  Point retention is amazing and I was able to fill an entire sheet of college ruled notebook paper before I had to sharpen again.

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I would recommend this pencil for a few reasons.  Aesthetically speaking, this pencil is great.  I really like the bugles stamped into the side and I am a sucker for natural looking pencils.  I personally don’t like round barreled pencils, but that’s just me.  Also, the Bugle has wonderful point retention even though it is a bit lighter than I like for a number 2 pencil.  As a furious note taker, I find myself having to sharpen a lot.  This was not the case with the Bugle as it seemed to just keep going and going.

Harvest #2 ($0.35)

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At first glance, the Harvest is your typical looking yellow school pencil.  Upon further inspection, you can see that it is so much more than that.  I have to admit, I am in love with the design of this pencil.  It has a nice sharp hexagonal barrel (some hate this; I love it) and a thick coat of yellow lacquer.  The typography of the word Harvest is wonderful and the other gold foil stamping has a nice, retro look to it.  The Harvest advertises that it has “bonded lead” which means the core is glued right onto the barrel.  This increases strength and decreases breakage.  The ferrule of this pencil is great as well with a crimson brown stripe in the middle of it.  It holds a bright pink eraser (that performs very meh).  It appears the Harvest is made with white ash as it is much lighter in color than the other pencils in Musgrave’s line-up.

Sadly, the core of my pencil was a bit off-center so it sharpened unevenly, but not so much so that it impacted its performance.  The Harvest wrote as dark as a number two pencil should and had average point retention.  I was able to fill up an entire notebook page, but towards the end I found myself rotating the pencil a lot to get a sharper edge to write with.  Don’t let my off center core dissuade you from picking up this pencil.  It is beautiful!  I would recommend not using the supplied eraser as it is pretty bad and feels as though you might rip your paper while using it.

Test Scoring 100 ($0.40)

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The Test Scoring pencil produces a love/hate sentiment among users.  Some like the sharp hex edge and shiny graphite lay down while other abhor it.  Say what you will, but the Test Scoring pencil looks pretty rad.  I like that there is “100” on the side of it almost encouraging you to do your best.  The graphite composition of the Test Scoring pencil is artificial and is actually called electro-graphite.  The reason this formulation is used is because it puts down a more reflective mark so the grading machines can pick up on it.  It writes nice and dark and has a smooth feel while writing.  Of course because of this darkness, point retention suffers.  This may be fine for grade schoolers, but for post grads taking tests, sometimes pencil sharpening is not allowed so I’d bring a dozen or so pre-sharpened just in case.

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The eraser is shit.  Seriously, it almost ripped my paper,  I wouldn’t dare use this eraser on a Scantron for fear of ripping a hole right through the sheet.  I wouldn’t recommend this pencil for heavy note taking since it dulls pretty quickly and smears a great deal.  I do enjoy the sharp hex it offers, but I can’t see myself ever using this outside of its intended purpose.  This pencil would be perfect for jotting down short notes or lists.

Ceres 909 ($0.40)

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The Ceres is another one of Musgrave’s standard yellow school pencil offerings.  It has the usual stamping of the Musgrave brand and then the word “Ceres” in a font that I know I’ve seen before, but I can’t remember what it’s called.  It has a standard number two pencil kind of darkness and I’d place it somewhere in between the Bugle and the Harvest as far as darkness is concerned.  Writing with the Ceres can be a mixed bag; at times it wrote pretty well with very little feedback, but at other times it was very scratchy.  It was almost as if there were some kind of little chunks of something within the graphite because the scratchiness would go away after writing for a little bit.

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The graphite it does lay down is easily erased, but not by its own eraser.  I mean you could erase it with the built-in eraser, but it is very rough on the paper.  Also, the eraser disintegrates, but does not create any dust and instead kind of tears off in chunks.  I wouldn’t say that this pencil is trash, but if it were in a pencil cup with others I would not reach for it unless I had to.  It certainly is better that the garbage most offices order from Staples or WB Mason, but marginally.  Musgrave really needs to work on their eraser game.

News 600 ($0.40)

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The News 600 is not your standard writing pencil.  You will have frustrating results if you try to use it for note taking– just don’t.  It is super dark and soft; I’d say it would be around a 4B or so and it has a larger than normal core.  Be careful with handling this pencil as pencils with larger cores can break if the pencil is dropped.  Having a broken core inside a pencil will render it pretty much useless since when you sharpen it, the point will simply fall right out of the pencil.  I would only recommend this pencil to be used by artists or if you are doing a newspaper crossword puzzle.

Final Thoughts

Musgrave is one the oldest pencil manufacturers still making pencils in the US.  They offer a pretty large line up of pencils, but their main business seems to be in novelty pencils.  I would say that for the cost of each pencil, you get what you pay for.  If Musgrave made some small improvements like improving their erasers and moving back to using California cedar, they would be a contender for one of my favorite pencil companies.  I love, love, love a sharp hex and Musgrave seems to be the only place that can offer that.  Too bad small, easily remedied things make me not want to carry much of their stuff in my daily rotation.  I mean, I love the Bugle, but it’s a round pencil, so unless I was all out of hexagonals I will not use it.  One final thing for Musgrave: please update your logo.  It’s bad.  Please.

 

Musgrave Ceres

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.

 

 

Musgrave Bugle No. 2

Musgrave Bugle No. 2

When I randomly selected the pencil for this week’s review I was admittedly grumpy with my resulting pick.  I have a dislike for round barreled pencils.  I tend to have a pretty strong grip and I just cannot get comfortable using anything other than a hexagonal or triangular pencil.  The Musgrave Bugle itself is quite charming– it has a nice, deep white imprint of two bugles (duh) and Musgrave’s own branding.  I usually do not like when there is a lot of information on a pencil, but this works.  I love the contrast of white stamping against the glossy wood grain.

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Image Courtesy of: Johnny Gamber @ Pencil Revolution

This pencil has no ferrule or eraser, so it is a bit light, but nothing a pencil cap eraser cannot fix.  The Bugle sharpens perfectly with no point breakage or crumbling.  This is a bonus for me since I spend a lot of time taking notes and do not have time to fuss with crumbly graphite.  Point retention is average (I press a bit hard, so this is always a subjective viewpoint).  It fares far better than last week’s pencil with it comes to smearing and transfer, yet it still has a dark enough lay down of graphite to be acceptable for my needs.

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Another thing I was able to mitigate, but worth bringing up nonetheless was how light the pencil is without an eraser and ferrule.  If you prefer heft to the non-writing end of your pencil, definitely use an eraser cap.  I used a lovely little one I picked up from Caroline at CW Pencil Enterprise, the Blüm which erases well and comes in nifty neon colors (I love neon).  Sadly, she does not seem to carry them anymore, but you can find more info here.  At twenty five cents a pencil, it is definitely worth purchasing a few of the Musgrave Bugles for your supply.  Caroline sells singles, so be sure to head there to pick a few up (plus, she’s awesome).  Overall 8.0/10

Musgrave Harvest #2

Musgrave Harvest #2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Musgrave Test Scoring Pencil

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