Review by Tina Koyama
When I started using the Mitsubishi Kohitsu 10B “brush pencil,” I thought I had the softest graphite core I would ever meet. I figured graphite couldn’t go much softer without needing to be mixed with something else like carbon before it loses its stability. But when I saw that the Staedtler Mars Lumograph now comes in 12B ($2.20), of course I had to try it.
I use several other grades of Mars Lumograph, and when compared grade for grade, Staedtler is typically at least a couple of grades harder than Mitsubishi Hi-Uni or Tombow Mono 100 (my two favorite lines of Japanese graphite drawing pencils). The Mars Lumograph in 10B is harder than the Kohitsu 10B and the Hi-Uni 10B, so I expected the 12B to be no softer than either of those 10Bs. While the 12B is not quite as silky-soft as that Kohitsu “brush pencil,” it does feel slightly softer than Hi-Uni’s 10B.
So while it may not be the softest, the Lumograph 12B is among my four softest graphite pencils. And when compared to the other three, its core gets the prize for being the thickest (in my photo, it’s the top blue one).
It’s a joy to use at life drawing, where that 12B graphite can be smudged with a tortillon almost like charcoal (though without as much smeary mess, of course). I have hit an occasional gritty spot, however, which I’ve never experienced with Hi-Uni or Mono 100.
Even non-sketchers can have fun with a core this thick: Take a knife to it and cut a chisel “nib”!
I write with it like a fude nib, but I bet calligraphers would really go to town with it. I hope one of you will!
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