As a student, I frequently have to go back and reference older papers and essays (stored in binders) I have written. Though work in pen poses no problem, work in pencil, especially that older then a month, often becomes an unreadable gray smear due to pages sliding across each other. I use standard HB pencils (both mechanical and woodcase), but have often wondered if a harder grade would help mitigate this issue. Also, I have recently fallen in love with the FC 9000 pencils and am wondering how they are on the smudging issue, especially the HB grade ones.
I called in the pencil experts, the cast of the Erasable podcast to help get you the best answers. Here’s what the boys had to say:
Johnny from Pencil Revolution definitely supports your enthusiasm for the Castell 9000. He says its “definitely smear-resistant, even through some numbered B grades. On binder/office paper, I would not go softer than the B, though, which brings me to what I suspect the problem might be.
Office papers have so much tooth that they take ‘extra’ graphite from the pencil, and it doesn’t stay put, causing it to smear. Certainly some harder pencils will help. But I think a certain amount of smearing on looseleaf and printer paper is unavoidable. Plus, the loose nature of a binder causing more rubbing than a bound book.
Maybe a composition book, where the pages aren’t moving against one another so much, might help?”
Tim from The Writing Arsenal concurred with both Johnny and Andy so there’s a lot of pencil authority there.
My final recommendations are, if you want to stick with loose leaf papers, is to try Hi-Polymer pencil leads, used in mechanical pencils. They tend to be less smudgy than standard woodcase pencil leads available from your local office supply store. Upgrading to the higher quality Faber-Castell 9000 or Hi-Uni pencils might also reduce smudging. You could also try some of Rhodia’s 3-hole punched paper which is not quite as toothy as standard loose leaf paper.
Best of luck and if you try any of this, let us know how it works for you.
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Unless it’s something to send away, I write almost everything in pencil. All these suggestions are good. One more idea that I use for anything that I will be reading aloud in public is to put the separate sheets into transparent plastic pockets, the kind that go in ring binders. The ones with a slight texture also cut down on the graphite sheen that makes pencil writing hard to see if the light catches it. Too expensive for ordinary notes but I use it lot as I give talks and lectures.