I’m one of those people who like to shed all of their clothing and walk around the house bare-ass naked as soon as the kids go to bed. TMI? Whatever. This is my blog, I can say what I want. Anyway, I have an appreciation for minimal dress. Living in Alaska, and in America’s worst-dressed city, that’s a rare state of affairs since the layer system is key to comfort in our climate (and, apparently, the local fashion).
The same can be said for pencils. We’ve got schoolhouse yellow ones, red and black striped ones, even ones with weird bamboo leaf printing all over them. Layers of lacquer seems to be the norm. The inner nudist in me feels the urge to rebel against this stifling multi-layered construct! That’s why I bought the first pack of “nude” pencils I’ve ever owned — the General Pencil Co. Cedar Pointe #2HB — and decided to review them. So, without further ado…let’s get naked!
The General’s Cedar Pointe #333-2HB is the definition of minimalist. Unlike many “natural” pencils, there is absolutely no coating or sealant to be found on this product. The raw, wooden barrel flows seamlessly into the tip. The imprint, which appears on only one facet of the pencil, is solid black; as are the ferrule and the eraser. There’s no barcode, country of origin, fancy feature trademarks, or other superfluous info to be found. The imprint is slightly inconsistent, but due to the austere nature of the Cedar Pointe’s aesthetic, that actually kind of “goes”.
Once again, the barrels of these pencils are totally naked, except for the imprint. The batch I picked up had to be held very close to the nose to detect the cedar scent, but I figure without a lacquer to seal the wood, those precious volatile organic compounds likely dissipated over time. Or perhaps it’s just because it’s allergy season. Anyway, without the several coats of slick paint, the Cedar Pointe provides a nice “natural” grip and feels light in the hand. It also tends to accumulate oils and such with repeated use, which gives the wood kind of an organic “stain” that feels somewhat rewarding.
Every pencil rolled across my desktop without much more than a little coaxing; a few showed the slightest bit of a gap between the barrels and the desk, but for the most part they were quite straight. As the Cedar Pointe pencils all came pre-sharpened, it was more difficult to get a head-on look at the end to check for centeredness, but the cores all look to be where they should for the most part. It was hard to pick out the “worst” of the bunch since they were all relatively uniform, but I found a couple that might be ever so slightly askew and sharpened them up for deeper testing. Neither one looked like it would pose any problems.
Can you guess what type of wood the Cedar Pointe casings are made out of? Duh. Cedar. That being said, it’s a good-quality, sustainably-harvested incense cedar with a nice, prevalent grain that shaves away buttery-smooth with a hand sharpener. The points are not totally immune to a little bit of splintering around the throat of the graphite, especially at the seams of the slat, but nothing too crazy.
One thing I noticed is that the some of the joints between the slats do not seem to be especially tight. I am aware that perhaps it’s more obvious given the absence of a finish to cover up imperfections, but it’s remarkably plain to see, including on the collar, where it would be obvious on any pencil regardless of finish. The crack may be paper thin, but I wonder if that contributes to the slight imperfection of the tip when sharpening. It seems reasonable that this discrepancy might snag on the blade. However, it doesn’t seem to cause any noteworthy problems; it’s merely an observation.
I used my stress-tested Cedar Pointe through an entire lifecycle, from first sharpen to stubby nub, and experienced no weird core breakage issues. The lead seems sturdy and well-bonded.
To my eye, the HB grade of General’s Cedar Point is right on the money. I see a lot of hype on the interwebs about how these guys write darker than other #2 pencils, but that hasn’t been my experience. Rather, the shade of the marking is indistinguishable from that of other “benchmark” HB pencils I use, including the General’s Supreme (which is totally intuitive). So if you’re looking for something that has all the perks of a HB pencil except that it writes darker, don’t believe the hype about the Cedar Pointe (I think the Chung Hwa 101 in 2B is closer to fitting that bill). But if HB pencils are your jam, you get exactly what’s advertised in the Cedar Pointe #2HB. As a reviewer, I can’t tell you what you should value in a pencil, but I will give General Pencil Co. kudos for not playing loosey goosey with the grading system.
The Cedar Pointe is a bit of a scratchy writer. The feel and noise it makes as it rubs against the page is in the ballpark of other pencils in its grade and price point. If you’re used to writing with other General’s #2 writing pencils, or similar products like the Ticonderoga, Staedtler Rally, etc., it won’t rub you the wrong way; but if you’re used to soft pencils or “high-end” HB products from pencil-makers such as Mitsu-Bishi, it may come across as more abrasive. Whether you love it, hate it, or are indifferent is totally up to you!
I feel like the point retention is pretty solid. I can get an entire B5 notebook page out of one sharpening, with tip to spare. General Pencil’s Cedar Pointe also seems to hold up against smudges fairly well; at least as good as its HB peers, probably a bit better. To my eye, the mark resists smearing as well as the General’s Supreme, a little better than the Rally HB, and significantly better than the USA Gold and (obviously) the Blackwing Pearl.
I find the eraser on the Cedar Pointe to be pretty decent. It’s really not great; the Pentel Hi-Polymer does a much better job of cleaning up. But then again, few eraser nubs are that good. On that note, I think I like it better than the General’s Supreme eraser. I thought they might be essentially the same eraser although the Cedar Pointe has a black one, and the Supreme a pink one, so obviously at least the dye is different. Whatever the case, it seems like the Cedar Pointe’s eraser doesn’t leave as many bits of stuff behind after it. All of that is to say, it’s not a great eraser, but it’s pretty good. Good enough for a nub.
The General Pencil Co. Cedar Pointe is rough around the edges, though not so much in your hand. Most of that is by design; there’s no lacquer, minimal accoutrements, and a simple natural-wood look that is set off with just a touch of black. You should know right off the bat, then, that this is not a hoity toity pencil. The fact that the core is accurately-graded, gritty, and long-lasting seems to suit a pencil of this design. It’s a writing tool, not a piece of furniture.
In terms of pencil-to-the-page performance, what’s to set the Cedar Pointe apart from it’s stablemates such as the Semi-Hex or the Supreme? Nothing, really. They are all good pencils. They write more or less interchangeably, unless you find the lightness and subtle traction of the unfinished barrel to be useful. I still suspect they all share the same core formula. The Cedar Pointe will, however, cost you a buck more for a dozen. That said, they look pretty damn cool. If you like writing with a Semi-Hex, but don’t want to look like you beat up a little kid and stole their pencil case, upgrade to a Cedar Pointe. Is it worth the extra buck? That’s up to you, but I think so.
As an aside, the General Pencil Company is one of the few pencil manufacturers remaining whose operations and manufacturing are all based in the USA. Since 1889, they’ve been Jersey City’s local pencil producer. I can see, in my mind’s eye, Bruce Springsteen in a dimly-lit basement, writing the lyrics to the Nebraska album with a Cedar Pointe in hand (but not Brian Fallon from the Gaslight Anthem; I bet he’d use a Blackwing).
Finally, an anecdote. I gave my 12 year old daughter a pencil pack to take on a school trip. It had a few of these, along with some Blackwings, Nataraj Bolds, and a Chung Hwa 101. Guess which pencil she likes best. Yep. The Cedar Pointe.
The Cedar Pointe is a cool pencil. It’s not flashy or smooth, but it’s a durable, effective writer. Even in the realm of “natural” finished pencils, the Cedar Pointe is probably the most minimalist that comes to mind. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a lot of pencils out there these days that look like they’re trying to present themselves as though they’re as fancier than they are. The Cedar Pointe is refreshingly opposite: it’s understated, and overperforming. It’s literally just a pencil. But it’s a pretty good pencil.