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Nataraj Neon vs. Casemate Neon

Back to School season always gets me excited.  As a college student, I feel justified in purchasing extra notebooks, pencils, and erasers.  I peruse the aisles of the local Walmart or Target to see what’s new and have found myself gravitating to the Ticonderogas or USA Golds.  There has been a lot of discussion recently in the Erasable Facebook group about Walmart’s awesome deal on pencils from the Casemate line (97 cents for a dozen pencils and a sharpener).  A lot think that the canister of pencils is manufactured by Hindustan Pencil Company and are pretty much Nataraj pencils without the branding.  Even the sharpener that comes with the pencils says Nataraj. Now that back to school season is in full swing, I have seen the Casemate Neon pencils start to crop up.  There are two versions; the ones that are hexagonal and made in India and the ones that have a round barrel that are made in the Philippines.  DO NOT buy the round ones.  They are horrible and not worth your time.  What follows is a comparison of the Casemate (made in India) Neons and the Nataraj Neons.

Upon opening the Casemate pencils, I immediately noticed that the production quality was not that great.  Chipped pencils and sloppy finish were on quite a few of the pencils.  The graphite cores seemed to be a tiny bit off center, but nothing drastic:

Hand sharpening was quite easy, but I noticed something interesting in the shavings– the neon finish was separating from the wood of the pencil.  I do not have pictures, but the Nataraj pencils do not do this at all, so again I am left wondering if these are factory seconds or a few steps have been skipped in the manufacturing process to cut costs.

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Both pencils are almost identical save for the few production errors I have found in the Casemate brand.  The neon color on the Nataraj pencils is a bit more vibrant, but from a quick glance one would not be able to see much difference.  The ferrules on both pencils are the same black aluminum, but the Nataraj pencil has a cleaner look to it (Nataraj pencil is on the right in all of the pics below):

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Aesthetics aside, when it comes to writing, there is a noticeable difference.  I found that the Casemate pencil wrote a lot smoother than the Nataraj but laid down slightly lighter marks.  This observation does not seem to fit the experience, but I prefer this– some may not.  I wonder if this is due to the fact that there might be some additives to the graphite in the Casemate pencil to cheapen the cost.  Both pencils were a delight to write with, but I found myself preferring the Casemate.

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As you can see from the bottom of the writing sample, both pencils have HORRIBLE erasers.  Do not use them.  You can, but don’t expect good results.  They shading erased beautifully, but trying to erase text is an exercise in futility.  At 97 cents a 12 pack, the Casemate pencils are a steal, but remember HEXAGONAL only.  If you are interested in Nataraj Neons, head over to Caroline where one can pick up a dozen for about three and a half dollars.

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Mail and Other Musings

So this blog has evolved into a non-weekly endeavor and is not really fulfilling its “weekly pencil” duties.  At the very beginning of this idea a year ago, I had dove into the hobby of collecting and using pencils of all sorts.  I was excited and wanted to share that with the world.  As I made new friends in the Erasable group, I was encouraged to post more and every week I used one pencil and then wrote about my thoughts on said pencil.  The idea seemed simple enough, but what I didn’t take into account was the fact that life happens and even the most loved hobbies can fall victim of disinterest and immense obligation.  Let me explain.  I still love pencils.  I will always love pencils, but keeping up with the blog on a weekly basis became a burden when life got in the way.  I became resentful in my new role as “pencil blogger/reviewer” and my posts every Sunday became this awful “thing” I had to do.  My need to stay current began to tarnish my love of pencils and the community that surrounded me.  That is why I took a step back.  I have received comments along the lines of “when are you posting again?  This isn’t the weekly pencil anymore?”  I appreciate followers, but I wish some would realize that this is 100 percent funded by myself both monetarily and emotionally.  Besides two items I have reviewed, I have paid for every item out of my own pocket.  I am not complaining about spending money here either.  Hell, I’d be buying pencils anyway, but I wish some would realize that this is not my job.  *Important note here– I am not calling any individual out here, I just am making broad statements of my general experience with this blog*  I love all of you followers and get super excited when other are enthusiastic in this niche hobby.  Just know that this blog will evolve a bit and include ALL of my passions (pencils, stationery, games, etc.).  I will keep the same URL for now, but the site design and title may change in the future.  Now onto the fun stuff!  MAIL  FROM CW PENCIL ENTERPRISE!!!!

Nothing is finer than when you expect a pencil package and you hear the subtle beep of the mail person’s scanner and a solid *thunk* on your porch.  I raced downstairs immediately and there it was– a package from Caroline and her crew:

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I always enjoy pencil-related mail, but getting a package from CW Pencil Enterprise is something really special.  From their packaging to their unique and personal attention to detail with every order, you really feel like you are something special.  This was my note:

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Not only did I get this adorable note from Caitlin, but there is something about the way they individually wrap everything.  Knowing that Caitlin herself walked around the shop and personally packaged my pencils makes me warm and fuzzy inside.  For at least a few minutes I had a personal pencil shopper.  How much better can pencil buying get?!

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Even though I already knew what was inside these lovely yellow wrapped packages I was excited to discover their contents.  I think that pictures will speak for themselves, but if you are interested, here are links to all I ordered: Blackwing Volumes, Camel Pastel HB, Nataraj Joi 2B, and Milan Graphite and Highlighter Pencil.  Now onto my pics:

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I plan on doing reviews on all of these products at some point, but I am really itching to try out the Graphite/Highlighter pencil.  Stay tuned for that review sometime in the near future!

 

 

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Nataraj 621 Ruby HB

I was really excited to experience the Nataraj 621 since I had read over at CW Pencils that it was a great, cheap pencil that held its point fairly well.  I had already reviewed a Nataraj pencil before (the Neon) and found that it wore down pretty easily, but I enjoyed the smoothness of the pencil and the unique wood grain.20150927_140645

I had sharpened the Ruby up and was off.  The writing was great!  Smooth and a nice darkness for an HB pencil.  Then came time to sharpen her again.  I was using my Blackwing Long-Point sharpener and after exposing the wood and moving onto sharpener two, the lead broke right off.  OK.  These things happen.  Sharpened it again, get to stage two and then the point broke off again.  Hmmm.  Third time was a charm, but I was pretty disappointed that I had to sacrifice almost 2 inches of pencil to get a solid point.  I understand that these things happen and I tried not to dwell on it.  After that one incident the pencil had no more issues, but I ran out of pencil before the week was over.  I did not have another, so I just started on next week’s pencil (I’m not telling).  Here is what I was left with by Friday (I had started using the pencil on a Sunday):

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I would be willing to give this pencil a shot again, but due to the nature of my experience and how quickly the graphite wore for me, I definitely do not see the Nataraj 621 becoming an every day pencil.  Overall 4/10.

Nataraj Neon Final Thoughts

This week has been quite the experience with the Nataraj.  I went into the week not expecting much since the Nataraj is a budget pencil.  Boy was I wrong.  I have a few gripes with its performance, but let’s get to the positives first.  I am absolutely in love with the colors this pencil comes in.  I seem to be on a neon kick lately, but the colors are vibrant and the matching– although useless– eraser is a nice touch.  The barrel of the pencil has a sharp hexagonal shape and feels good in the hand.

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Writing with the Nataraj is a pleasure; the darkness of the graphite on paper is just the way I like it and it does not feel scratchy or gritty at all.  With the smooth writing comes some drawbacks though.  I had to sharpen the Nataraj constantly (or so it seemed).  For example, I filled up one side of a college-ruled notebook page and I had to sharpen five times.  This is not a scientific observation because I tend to press pretty hard when writing and I always like a sharper point on my pencils.  The softness of the graphite is not a deal breaker for me, but the Nataraj is not a pencil I would turn to when taking notes or writing for long periods of time.  I did use this pencil during my weekly Dungeons and Dragons game and it worked perfectly.

20150905_144955As you can see, the pencil is not made of 100 percent cedar.  That is a negative for me since I like the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil.  Also, if you decide to pick up this pencil, do not use the eraser.  It ripped the paper I was writing on and when it did not rip paper it was all but useless.  In conclusion, if you are looking for an attractive, softer graphite pencil at a budget price, the Nataraj is not a bad choice at all.  Just don’t make it a workhorse pencil because you will be greatly disappointed.

Nataraj Neon HB

Nataraj was a pencil brand I had never heard of until I found it in Caroline Weaver’s shop online.  After doing a bit of research, I found out that Nataraj was a brand from the company Hindustan Pencils Pvt. Ltd out of India.  Established in 1958 and touted as the largest pencil manufacturer in India, Hindustan Pencils has become a household name in India and exports to 50 different countries.  Hindustan has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that can produce 8 million pencils a day.  Upon sharpening the pencil for the first time, I was perplexed.  The wood grain was unlike anything I have ever seen before.

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On Hindustan’s website they state that they “…do not use any forest wood for manufacturing pencils…we procure wood from the farmers who either grow trees on their farm, land or in the court yard of their residential premises. This practice ensures an uninterrupted supply of wood of consistent quality. It also helps protect bio-diversity and maintain ecological balance.”  It is reassuring to know that they are following environmentally conscious practices, but I am really curious what woods they are actually using.  Nonetheless, I miss the rich smell of cedar.

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When using the pencil for the first time, the lead was very crumbly and not so much soft as it was “weak.”  I am not expecting superb quality from a pencil that retails for around 25 cents, but it could have been a better first impression.  I love the neon colors the pencils come in and enjoy that the eraser matches the pencil color.  The eraser seems to be made of some sort of PVC-like material and does not do a good job at all.  We shall see what the week brings…