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Penmanship Pencils: A Review

In Asia, there is a lot of emphasis on penmanship.  So much so, that there are specific pencils for that exact purpose.  I suppose in Asian countries the intricacy of their handwritten language necessitate a need for such tools.  The penmanship pencil offers a smooth, dark graphite that glides across the paper and provides ample feedback for your writing experience.  I would relate the writing experience to writing with a crayon and marker combined into one.  What is equally great about these pencils is that they do not smudge much like other darker lead grades.  This is very useful if you want to use them to take notes or journal (note: I have tried these on a few different paper types, but not all).  Today I am going to take a look at the two main penmanship (pencilship?) pencils; the Tombow MONO and the Mitsubishi Uni:

At first glance, both of these pencils are beautiful.  From the striking finish to the inscriptions on the side of the pencil, they are a writing implement you are just drawn (no pun intended) to.  Like most Japanese pencils I have used, the attention to detail is phenomenal.

The cores of both of these pencils are nice and thick with the Mitsubishi core being a tad bit thicker.  Both were sharpened with the Classroom Friendly sharpener:

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Writing with the Tombow proved to be a dream.  The pencil was nice and smooth and laid down nice, dark lines.  Compared to the Mitsubishi, the Tombow provided more feedback when writing– the actual sound of scribbling resonated much more so than the Mitsubishi.  This may have had to do with the fact that the Tombow was a lighter pencil overall weight-wise.  The graphite laid down was almost identical to the Mitsubishi and did not smear.  I also preferred the color scheme of the Tombow as I like bright colors, but my opinion is entirely subjective.  The Mitsubishi on the other hand was heavier, provided almost no feedback when writing, and the finish, while not as attractive as the Tombow was better.  The thicker lacquer and the larger core most likely added to the overall weight of the Mitsubishi as I feel both of these pencils are made from the same wood.  Another positive is that the Mitsubishi is a bit easier to find than the Tombow.  Both CW Pencils and JetPens carry the Mitsubishi, while only CW Pencils carries the Tombow.

I really cannot say that there is a clear winner here.  Both pencils perform well and I think it comes down to which is more aesthetically pleasing to the user.  Here are links for both pencils at CW Pencils: Tombow and Mitsubishi 

 

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.

 

 

Tombow 2558 HB

The Tombow 2558 has been a pleasure to write with this week.  Smooth, dark graphite for an HB graded pencil, a nice color coordinated look, and pretty decent graphite durability.

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I didn’t really expect much from an regular old school pencil, but as always Tombow never fails to disappoint.  I found myself entrenched with statistics notes this week and the Tombow came through.  My only complaints were that the graphite, because it was soft, wore down pretty quickly and I required a bit more sharpening than I would have liked.  The eraser on the pencil wore down pretty quickly and left a lot of crumbly shavings, but I did like the nice touch of matching the ferrule with the foil stamping on the pencil.

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I gave this pencil such a high rating because even though it wore down pretty quickly, I could see myself ordering a gross of this pencil and using it every day.  Head over to JetPens if you are interested in picking up a few!20150927_135040