in Pencils

Pencil tentative conclusions

So I have been using a number of the pencils that I have posted about over the past few months, mostly in three contexts:

  1. writing in my work journal (these are actual notebooks I physically write in the office, which really disturbs some people);
  2. writing in my personal journal (currently a Midori Traveler’s Notebook with the ultra-thin paper);
  3. writing in pocket notebooks/pads.

Thoughts along the way:

  • Keeping a wooden pencil in your pocket is just asking for the point to break off. I don’t do this any more. A clicky ballpoint is what you want here.
  • Even keeping a wooden pencil in a bag results in the point breaking off every now and then. You should always carry a sharpener. I use a Kum Long Point sharpener—you can get these from lots of shops and they’re cheap. In the UK, cultpens stocks them; outside the UK, I don’t know, just google. They are good because the length of the resulting point means it goes blunter slower, which makes a lot of difference with soft leads like those on the Blackwing. The sharpener also keeps the shavings inside it so you don’t have to be near a bin.
  • I have found using even cheap pencils more comfortable than using even expensive mechanical pencils. They may be straight lengths of wood with lead in the middle but they feel much better in the hand and I write much more happily. I suspect it’s a combination of the weight, both overall lightness and balance, and the lead quality.
  • On the subject of expensive mechanical pencils—don’t buy them. They don’t write any better and they go wrong. Cheap mechanical pencils go wrong less. The best balance between expense and use I’ve found is the Uni Kuru-Toga, which is noticeably nicer to use than other mechanicals that need rotating a lot, but is still relatively inexpensive. On the other hand I bought an aluminium Super Promecha which stopped working after a couple of weeks.

But anyway, the pencils that I have ended up using the most:

  • Top pencil: the Field Notes No.2. These look simple but are excellent. The lead has a great balance between darkness and hardness; they smell lovely when you sharpen them; they are round, which does mean they roll off tables but also makes them easier to rotate to get precisely the lead angle you like; they have a proper rubber on the end. I write much more when I am using these pencils.
  • Equal top pencil but maybe slightly lower: the Blackwing 602. I bought a box of these because there was a coupon somewhere. I enjoy writing with Blackwings but they are so soft, I mean, aggravatingly soft. The 602 is the hardest one they make and a page of journalling will rub a freshly-sharpened point down to one that is noticeably broad. I end up sharpening them a lot, so I have lots of short Blackwings. The line they make is dark and deep and satisfying, and I love them just after I have sharpened them and wonder why I bother writing with anything else, and then a page later I remember.
  • Pencil that works perfectly well: anything by Staedtler apart from the WOPEX ones. If you haven’t heard of these, WOPEX pencils are made from compressed artificial wood and are horrible. Sharpening them just feels wrong, scraping-fingernails-on-blackboard wrong, and their leads are both too hard and not dark enough. But apart from the WOPEX, the rest are great. I prefer the Tradition because of the nice red and black colours; I’ve never noticed a difference when writing between those and the “premium” Mars line.

The Mitsubishi Hi-Uni and the Tombow Mono 100 that I mentioned in my last pencil post? They’re nice, but on consideration I don’t see enough benefit compared to the others to justify the price.

  • I find the “Tradition” a bit scratchy, personally – I think the Noris is the better budget choice.

    For sheer, smooth luxury, Caran D’Ache’s “Grafwood” range are just lovely, although they’re even more expensive than the Blackwing, at least in the shops I use!

    (I should add that I’m quite fond of the WOPEX (and Noris ECO) though – I like the extra heft, and their rubbery coating, and can live with the lighter line 🙂 ).

  • ordinal

    Traditions can be a bit scratchy sometimes, now you mention it, yes—though not always. They seem to be a bit variable. Perhaps that’s a reason to use the Marses, consistency.