Tag: pencil

Vintage Colored Pencil Haul

This weekend I acquired a large quantity of vintage Prismacolor and Derwent colored pencils from a local printing company that used to do a lot of photo retouching work. I was asked “What’s the big deal with vintage Prismacolors?”

Besides loving the beautiful logos, the quality of the foil stamping and paint on the Eagle brand Prismacolors manufactured in the US is top-notch. But in terms of actual material quality, the cores are less likely to break, are more likely to be centered, and overall better quality. So, why wouldn’t I stockpile them?

There’s a lot of great colors in this grouping too.

I don’t have as much experience with Derwent colored pencils but these are all made in Britain/England and labelled “Rexel Cumberland” in various iterations. They are similar to a lot of the pencils I’ve acquired from clearance sales at work. I pretty much have enough of these now to build a shed in the backyard out of colored pencils. Or color in an entire city block. Either option sounds excellent.

Also included in the stash was a few miscellaneous China Markers (wax crayons), dried out ballpoint pens, a couple local advertising pencils, a couple Stabilo ALL pencils, a Hardmuth Aviator 3H pencil, and a few Berol-era Prismacolor colored pencils.

Not too bad for $10.

News: The Pencil Perfect

Look what popped up this morning in my Amazon recommendations! Yes, folks, Caroline Weaver of CW Pencil Enterprise fame has a book on the way! The book is called The Pencil Perfect: The Untold Story of a Cultural Icon and it will be released in hardcover on April 24, 2017. The price is listed at $40 for the hardcover and I’m sure that CW Pencil Enterprise will be hosting an epic book release party. Keep an eye on their blog for more news.

Congrats, Caroline, and I can’t wait to get my copy. Maybe someday, you’ll sign it for me?

Pencil Review: Dixon Reach Deep Hole Pencils

I confess that when I saw the Dixon Reach DEEP HOLE pencils I laughed uncontrollably. My reaction to these pencils (or at least the branding and packaging) was similar to the reaction a lot of people had to Bic for Her pens. I understand that there is a use-case for these within the construction industry but the HOLE (pun intended) thing is just so BIC for HIM. Especially considering that, on first glance, its just a bridge pencil repainted in “manly” black paint.

I provided a clear photo of the packaging for full entertainment purposes. My other response was that “doesn’t graphite mark on most surfaces anyway?” to the second point that indicates “special lead marks on most surfaces”.  The final bullet indicates that the lead is PMA certified which is also vague. It could either be certified by the FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval, Pilates Method Alliance or… maybe… the Pencil Makers Association! Probably should have been a bit more specific since it looks like its pretty hard to get that particular certification.

I got out my trusty Hester & Cook trusty Bridge Pencil to compare to the Dixon Reach and it turns out that the Reach is actually thinner than a traditional Bridge pencil. It’s also a good deal longer even without a ferrule and eraser. While I find a Bridge pencil pretty comfortable to handle the Dixon is too thin to really handle for much more than the occasional mark making as its been indicated for use. The long, paintbrush length gives it a strange balance too. It’s slim dimensions will mean sharpening will require either a knife or some experimentation to fit into a standard sharpener.

The graphite is pretty dark and a bit waxy. I suspect that is what makes it more “write on any surface”. I does erase pretty easily with my favorite Staedtler Mars Plastic. It doesn’t smudge too much but is susceptible to water solubility so the waxiness is a water soluble wax. If you are using this to mark on surfaces, you should be able to get most marks off with soap and water (think Stabilo All pencils and other grease pencils).

So there you have it. Next time you are at the hardware store (Bob found these for me at Lowe’s), don’t forget to skim the end caps and pencil aisle. You never know what you might find.

Pencil Review: All the Blackwing Volumes (thus far)

This has been a post I’ve been planning for a long time. I wanted to compare and test all seven of the Blackwing Editions that have been released thus far against one another. The rub was that I didn’t start my subscription until the second edition, No. 1138. So, thankfully, a kind knitter on Ravelry sent me a brand new No. 725 in order to complete the collection. Then I destroyed it by sharpening it for the test. So, here we go.

I sharpened a fresh Blackwing from each edition to start the test, even if I had one I’d been using to make everything consistent. I used the same sharpener — a brand new Stabilo Swan, mostly because it has a good German blade and its gorgeous. Thanks to Wonderfair in Lawrence, KS for stocking such a cool sharpener! The photos are each of the pencils sharepened, in the order they were released: No, 725 (Sunburst/Newport), No. 211 (John Muir), No. 1138 (Mélîes), No. 24 (Steinbeck), No. 56 (DiMaggio), No. 344 (Dorothea Lange), and No. 530 (Gold Rush).

The No. 56 makes my favorite shavings!

The No. 530 looks amazing and its really golden next to its perfect curl of shavings.

I went through each of the Blackwing Editions and noted the descriptions listed on the Blackwing 602 site regarding the type of graphite used in the edition to help establish if I could tell a notable difference in the performance of each pencil.

The No. 1138 is the only edition listed with the soft graphite and was definitely the darkest lead. Alternately, the first edition released, the No. 725 was the only one with the “balanced graphite” core. All the rest of the editions have used either the firm or extra firm core.

While both the No. 530 and the No. 24 list the “extra firm” graphite, I think the No. 24 graphite seems a bit firmer but it could just be me.

Regarding overall finishes on the pencils, I like the look of the No. 56 ($25 per dozen) the best. I just love those stripes. But the No. 530 ($25 per dozen) metallic gold is quickly moving up the ranks. In a blindfold test though, the pencil that felt best in my hands was the No. 24. The finish of the the Steinbeck is one of the best I’ve ever felt. The lacquer on it is impeccable. Unfortunately, the Steinbeck No.24 is almost impossible to find anymore. The red metallic ferrule on the No. 344 ($25 per dozen) is so cool. It also looks good if you switch out the eraser with a different color though to be honest, none of the stock Palomino erasers work all that well. Your best bet is to use a stand alone eraser if you are inclined to erase. Check out my eraser reviews for my best recommendations.

To give some perspective about the various graphite firmnesses used in the Editions, the firm graphite is the same as what is used in the Blackwing 602. While the “balanced graphite” is the same as the Blackwing Pearl. The “soft graphite” is the same as the original Palomino Blackwing which is colloquially known as the Blacking MMX. As for the “extra firm”, this is a new design as far as I understand it only available through the Editions.

So, to give you a wrap up of how the Editions shake out thus far, there have been one MMX edition, one Pearl edition, three 602 editions and two “extra firm” editions. So, what do you think the release in March 2017 might be? Will Palomino go back to one of their classics like the MMX or Pearl cores or will they try something totally new?

Art of the Day: Pencils for Signage

Since the site I found this particular art was all in Spanish I had to rely on some iffy translation software but it looks like Catharsis Studio used over 2500 pencils to create signage for BCN Lip Language School to hang in their lobby out of pencils. I love the script “Lip” and how great it looks out of pencil eraser “dots”.

Clever and colorful but I feel sorry for whoever has to dust this!

Pencil Review: 2B Wood Pencil Sampler

Review by Tina Koyama

Most of my childhood memories of using pencils are dismal at best. I recall many papers looking messy as my left hand smudged across the page, even with standard-issue No. 2 pencils. As soon as I was allowed, I switched to any kind of fast-drying pen available back in the Dark Ages of the ‘70s and never looked back at pencils.

Fast-forward several decades to when I started sketching, and even then I went almost immediately to ink. It was my love for colored pencils in recent years that finally helped make graphite pencils friendly to me. In fact, now I love graphite pencils – for both writing and drawing.

I thought I’d preface my review of JetPens’ 2B Wooden Pencil Sampler with that background so you’d understand why I chose the 2B set. JetPens offers pencil samplers in a range of firmer grades that might be better suited to writing, but I tend to favor softer grades for drawing as well as writing. I was hoping 2B would be a grade that could serve as an all-purpose pencil.

From top, the pencils in the sampler are:

Appearance and Quality

Before I get to the writing experience, a couple things are worth noting about appearance and material quality. Right about the time I had gotten this sampler, I was reading David Rees’ partly practical, mostly satirical book, How to Sharpen Pencils, to improve my hand sharpening technique. The Staedtler Mars Lumograph was the only pencil in the pack that came pre-sharpened, so I was delighted to have four fresh pencils to refine my sharpening skills. The wood casing on both the Uni Mitsubishi 9800 and Uni Mitsubishi 9000 felt harder to cut through than either the Tombow Mono 100 or the Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni. At times the wood splintered. What’s more, the exposed graphite cores in the 9800 and 9000 broke when I cut away a bit too much of the wood, so I had to start over. The wood casing on the Hi-Uni was noticeably easier to carve, never splintered, and the core remains unbroken even with the same exposure. I’m not sure if this experience says more about my hand-sharpening skills or about the wood or core quality, but since pencil reviewers rarely mention hard sharpening, I thought I would.

All five pencils are attractive and smoothly lacquered. All but the 9800 have painted caps (I tend to look askance at pencils with exposed ends; they look unfinished to me). The Hi-Uni has a pretty divoted yellow dot in its cap. I give bonus points, though, to the Mono 100, which has a distinctive white band wrapping over the cap – an elegant touch that makes it the most visually appealing of the five. (A practical reason why I appreciate distinctive caps is that I can identify them quickly in my bag, where all my sketching and writing implements stand upright, point down.)

L – Mono 100, R – Hi-Uni

Writing Experience

My scribbling, writing and erasing tests and sketches were all done in a Baron Fig notebook, which has just the right amount of tooth for my liking. All five pencils in the 2B sampler are pleasant writers. The Staedtler Mars Lumograph feels the roughest of the five, especially when I shade large areas, but when writing, the roughness gives way to a nice feedback.

The Tombow Mono 100, Uni Mitsubishi 9800 and Uni Mitsubishi 9000 all feel equally smooth when writing. In fact, blindfolded, I’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart. Since I’m familiar with sketching and writing with the Palomino Blackwing, I used it as sort of a “control” factor so I’d have something to compare with. While not quite as soft as the Blackwing (which seems closer to a 3B or 4B), the Hi-Uni and the 9800 feel just as smooth.

Although I don’t usually use an eraser when drawing (or even when writing – I simply strikeout, an old habit from my years of ink use, I guess!), I put a Tombow Mono Zero eraser through my scribble tests to see how they erased. They all erased cleanly, though the four Japanese pencils erased slightly more completely than the Staedtler.

Despite the mild smudging I experienced (unavoidable in the lefty world), I decided that 2B is not too soft for writing in my planner and jotting notes (though I probably wouldn’t choose it for longer drafts). The softness just feels pleasant gliding across the page.

Incidentally, I was a fan of the Tombow Mono (not Mono 100) line and have almost all the grades, so just for fun, I compared a 2B Mono to the 2B Mono 100. I closed my eyes to see if I could tell the difference. Nada. (Maybe their cores are identical and only the branding is different?)

Sketching Experience

As mentioned previously, the Mars Lumograph has a bit of scratchiness that I notice when writing and when using the side to shade large areas. Although the Mono 100 appears just slightly darker and the Hi-Uni is slightly lighter, the four Japanese pencils are equally smooth as silk in just about any sketching application – the point and the side. In softness, however, the Hi-Uni has them all beat. Not by much, but there’s a certain velvetiness to it that makes it nearly silent. (Nothing annoys me more than a noisy, scratchy pencil when I’m trying to sketch stealthily in public!)

Mitsubishi 9000 2B, Blackwing

In all my sketches shown here, I started with one of the 2Bs and tried to get as wide a range of tones as possible with only that pencil. I found that with a 2B alone, I couldn’t get quite as dark a tone as I wanted for shadows, so I tended to reach for a softer grade to put in the final dark touches. In other words, a 2B is not a standalone grade for my sketching needs. (I wish JetPens had a 4B sampler – I’d have fun testing that to find the ideal standalone sketching pencil.)

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B, Staedtler Mars Lumograph 9B

Final Impressions

Although I’d be happy with any of the five 2Bs for writing, my top pick for both writing and drawing is the Uni Mitsubishi Hi-Uni. It seems to skim effortlessly and nearly silently across the page; I feel like I could write or sketch with it all day. Since writing this review, I’ve treated myself to the full Hi-Uni range, and the line has surpassed the Tombow Mono as my all-around favorite.

Tombow Mono 100 2B, Staedtler Mars Black 6B

It’s worth noting that my fave is one of the most expensive in the sampler – nearly three times the cost of the 9800. (Only the Mono 100 with its fancy banded cap costs a dime more.) So maybe, I have expensive pencil tastes. But here’s how I look at it: Ranging from $0.85 to $2.60, the sampler pencils average out to $1.70 each. In my mind, the sampler is an excellent value. I got to compare five pencils at a price, per pencil, that’s a lot lower than the two pricey ones – and the cheaper ones turned out to be great pencils, too.

tina-koyamaTina Koyama is an urban sketcher in Seattle. Her blog is Fueled by Clouds & Coffee, and you can follow her on Instagram as Miatagrrl.


DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by JetPens for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

Review: Blackwing Point Guard

Blackwing Point Guard

I received my Blackwing Point Guard in the mail last week. As a subscriber to the Blackwing Editions, I only had to pay shipping to receive it so I was willing to try it out, even though I had already heard through the blog phone tree that it wasn’t worth it. Curiosity killed the cat and cost me $3 in shipping and a trip to the PO Box.

The first thing I noticed is that its heavier than any other pencil cap I own. Not like brass-heavy just more substantial, and larger than any of the other pencil caps. Since Blackwing pencils are already exponentially larger than pens and other pencils, sticking a Point Guard on one makes it almost impossible to get it to fit into any pencil or pen case. Euphamistically, its friggin’ huge.

It also does not fit onto the pencil very far. In the photo above, I aligned the cap with the marks on the pencil to show exactly how far the cap fit onto the pencil. I know some people can get a pretty long point on their pencil but that still leaves an awful lot of clearance at the end.

Blackwing Point Guard

Shown above, the Point Guard appears with a Sun-Star plastic pencil cap, a generic aluminum pencil cap and a Kutsuwa Stad Aluminum Pencil Cap. I also chose a selection of pencils to test all the pencil caps to see which worked with the most pencils.

Blackwing Point Guard

I chose common favorites beyond the Palomino Blackwings like the Prospector, Tombow, Mitsubishi, CDT, General’s Cedar Pointe, Natajar, Faber-Castell Grip 2001 (for its triangular shape), and the Mitsubishi Colour Pencil (its a round barrel and slightly wider) to get a range.

Blackwing Point Guard

My experience with the Point Guard mirrored many other’s. I found it very difficult to actually get it on to a Blackwing Pearl. I practically had to wrench it on. It sort of broke my heart a little to do it knowing I was marring the paint to do it. I really like Pearls.  But for you, I did it. And here’s the proof. Yep. It marked it up. And I had to wrench the Point Guard off again. I mean I looked ridiculous trying to pull the cap off. I can’t imagine trying to pull that cap off in a  meeting. I looked like I was wrestling a candy cane out of the mouth a rigor moritised-earthworm. It was not pretty. In a public place, I would have inevitably lost purchase on one or the other and let them fly across the room.  Hence, the need to bring in the other pencil caps for comparison. Were they all this difficult to use? Or did they all fall off?

Blackwing Point Guard

So I started testing the other pencil caps like the transparent plastic Sun-Star and the aluminum caps.Between the plastic Sun-Star caps and the aluminum caps, I was able to cap and shake test all of the pencils shown above and easily remove the caps without endangering those around me. They fit snugly but not TOO snugly. Mostly, these caps keep the points of your pencils from poking you or your carrying case or from the lead breaking in transit. Some of the caps fit better than others with some pencils but clearly the price points are drastically better so its easier to have an assortment of Sun-Star and Kutsuwa Pencil Caps on hand than it is to have more than one Point Guard.

The aluminum caps have slits up the side to make it possible for them to fit wider hex and round barrel pencils more easily. Of course, this means its also possible to stretch the aluminum out so that they no longer fit snugly around a standard hex pencil and wouldn’t pass Blackwing’s rigorous “3-shake test”.  But you can find two 8-packs of aluminum Kutsuwa Stad Pencil Caps on Amazon for under $9 so you can outfit an entire dozen of pencils and then some for the cost of ONE Point Guard.

Blackwing Point Guard

The bottomline: Don’t waste your hard earned pencil funds on the Point Guard. Buy an assortment of these other pencil caps instead or do a search on JetPens for Pencil Caps or ask at your favorite shop or web site for other pencil cap recommendations. I appreciate that Blackwing tried to innovate the pencil cap but in this instance, it just didn’t work.