I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m a little burnt out on reading about a certain pencil from a certain company that sells its products for two bucks a pop and periodically releases special editions that send the pencil nerdosphere into a Beanie Baby level craze. So for this week’s review, I’m going to go in a completely different direction. Something cheap. Something Made in China. Something nobody is buzzing about. And yet, something reminiscent (in some ways) of the aforementioned, unnamed company’s flagship offering. I’m talking about the Marco Grip-Rite 2B (model 9002).
A product of Axus Stationery in Shanghai, the Marco brand is most well known in the west due to a strong following for their affordable colored pencils. Their Raffine and Renoir colored sets have a positive reputation among artists. However, Marco is no slouch when it comes to the graphite game. They produce several lines of graphite writing pencils, and today we’re going to zero in on one that looked particularly enticing when I recently dug through my to-review drawer: the Grip-Rite 9002 in a 2B core.
I recently professed my love/obsession/fixation with stubby pencils and my goal to collect an entire jug full (read all about that here). However, since posting that I’ve reflected on the topic some more and come to a conclusion: stubbin’ ain’t easy.
What’s a pencil-lover to do as a pencil approaches the end of its life? It enters the “awkward phase”, similar to a person trying to grow their hair out. You know, when it’s not long enough to be long hair, but it’s so long that it looks like they really need to get a haircut. It’s kind of the inverse with pencils: it’s too long to throw away, but short enough to feel a little cramped and weird. So I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about any particularly useful jobs for a pencil that is reaching the age of semi-retirement.
In ancient Roman mythology, Ceres was the goddess who made civilization possible. Before her intervention, humanity lived a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Then, one day, Ceres bestowed upon us the knowledge of ploughing, sowing, harvesting, animal husbandry, and all of the skills we would need to practice agriculture, settle down and become modern folk.
If a person were to look at a satellite image of the countryside surrounding Shelbyville, Tennessee and the wider area southeast of Nashville, they wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that Musgrave Pencil Co. — one of America’s last remaining domestic pencil manufacturers — pays tribute to Ceres with it’s mainline yellow #2, model number 909. Perhaps the folks at Musgrave had the agricultural outskirts of the “Pencil City” on their mind when they named this mule of a pencil. So, is the Ceres pencil a worthy namesake for a Roman goddess? Let’s pull out a sharpener and see.
The Dixon Ticonderoga pencil has been around for ages, and seen numerous iterations — especially in the past decade or two, as production shifted from the U.S. to Mexico and China, production lines were changed and materials were tinkered with. The recent Chinese iteration of the well-known and often-used pencil was the subject of my first-ever review on this blog, and since then I haven’t felt particularly compelled to go back and revisit them, at least not to any extent worth writing about.
That is, until now. At this point in time I’ve got umpteen different pencil makes and models available to me, clogging up multiple desk drawers, but (in the States at least) the Dixon Ticonderoga has a funny way of hanging around and finding a way into your hand. In this case, the Ticonderoga pencil that events conspired to lead me to was one marked for its environmentally-friendly qualities and natural aesthetic: The Ticonderoga Renew.
This review was inspired in part by a post exploring the rise, fall, and perhaps second rise of the Ticonderoga by our Glorious Comrade Johnny, who stands at the vanguard of the invincible world Pencil Revolution. I’ve had this post cooking on the back burner for a while, actually; and given the aforementioned Ticonderoga buzz and the fact that my review of another pencil that shall remain nameless is taking a while, I figured it was high time to have a look at the Ticonderoga Renew.
Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been trying to review some pretty hard pencils, which means I can’t grind through them as quickly. Really, though, the big problem — er, “problem” — is that it’s been nothing but sunshine and 70+ degrees Fahrenheit lately (it’s supposed to top 80F by the end of this week, which is kind of a big deal in Anchorage) and I’ve had some extra time with all of my joint-custody kiddos. So I’ve been spending a substantial amount of time off the computer, and out in the sunshine playing or doing projects!
But the I didn’t choose the pencil life, the pencil life chose me. On that note, I got a little delivery yesterday, all the way from Tennessee! I placed an order with the Musgrave Pencil Company and was pleased to receive a dozen each of the Ceres and News pencils (plus a little sampler pack they threw in). Check it out:
I haven’t sharpened any up for a review yet, so I know nothing about the innards of their products, but I have to say that the service from Musgrave is impressive. If I may, please allow me to rant about that for a moment…
Good, affordable notebooks are hard to find. As much as I value notebooks — and believe me, I’d be lost without them — there is something that puts me off about paying $15 or $20 for a carry-around, soft-cover notebook just because it’s a certain brand or style that’s hip right now (you know the ones I’m talking about). So whenever I spot a notebook that looks solid, affordable, and cool, I grab it and give it a whirl. This notebook from Apica is a perfect example.
I picked up the Apica CG-54 notebook during my recent trip to Seattle. At the time, I really knew nothing about Apica notebooks, even though in hindsight I’ve found that the CD line has a reputation among fountain pen users. I just grabbed it because it was affordable, looked nice, and wasn’t something I’d found in shops in Anchorage. Even after searching back through Google for some background info on the Apica CG, I can’t find much — the interwebs are awash in information about the CD line, but not so much the CG. So, I reckon this is a prime subject for a review!