Going all the way to Thailand to find a German pencil to bring back to Alaska may seem a bit counterintuitive, but that’s the story of three Groove Slim pencils from Lyra that came into my possession earlier this year. Given the state of globalization, and the fact that many German (and other!) pencil-makers crank out product lines in Asia, I shouldn’t be too surprised, but still yet, it was quite intriguing to come across these pencils in a chaotic Bangkok stationery shop.
With a triangular shape, notched grip barrel, and playful logo, these pencils place an emphasis on ergonomics, probably for students (it even has a space to write your name so your klepto classmates don’t make off with it). Details on the graphite Groove Slim are hard to come by; Lyra’s colored pencil version seems to be a much more prolific product. Nonetheless, I’ve dug up, tested out, and otherwise obtained as much information as possible and done a thorough write-up on these strange and interesting pencils.
Except for the naked divots carved into the grip area, Lyra’s Groove Slim is uniformly coated in a smooth, matte, navy-blue lacquer with and dressed up with yellow markings, for a color scheme which looks a little like the Alaska flag. The screen-printed markings aren’t imprinted, and are applied a little bit sloppily. The Groove Slim has no eraser. The end is carved into a dome shape but left un-dipped. This is perhaps the most “creatively” designed pencil I have bought so far, which is what made it stand out from all of the clutter collecting dust in the shop where I bought it.
The barrels feel slender and light. This is a consequence of the triangular shape, I think; although their maximum diameter is the same as most pencils, the triangle shape results in a lesser volume of wood casing, and a grip in which the fingers are closer together.
Roll-testing the Groove Slim indicated that all of the pencils I had on hand were pretty straight. One showed a little bit of a bow, but it was barely perceptible, and the others were perfectly straight. All cores appeared, with a glance at the top end, to be well-centered, and sharpening indicated that this was reasonably (but not perfectly) so.
The Lyra Groove Slim sharpens a little roughly, but not too bad. The wood is a little bit brittle, with the shavings separating at the slat joint rather than coming off in one big ribbon, but this is no problem. Hand-sharpening produced a tip that was a little rough around the throat of the core, but only mildly so; helical sharpening turned out nice and smooth. The wood is most definitely cedar, and a very aromatic batch at that. I kind of like to hold the pencil in my mouth just so this delicious cedar smell is right under my nose. It has a nice grain, some of which shows an interesting spalted-like coloration.
The Lyra website says the HB lead is “hard to break”. I wouldn’t say that’s especially true. Actually, I had a fair amount of points snap off on me, one that was pretty far down the core. The lead, in my opinion, is fairly brittle and easy to snap off if you’re a brute-force writer like me. However, there were no weird core separation issues, and the tip stayed securely in the wood of the test pencil I used, from start to stub.
I’m not sure the combination of the triangular shape and the grooved divots jive with me. I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to find the “perfect” place to hold it, and if I can’t, my handwriting suffers. This may just be my ADHD brain, but I feel compelled to put my fingertips on one of the grooves, and if they don’t happen to be in the best place, it feels like I’m fighting the pencil. Of course, the “lay of the land” changes every time you sharpen up, or rotate the pencil in your hand. This may seem like a nit-pick but I think writing with a consistent grip is important, especially since the whole point of a triangular, textured pencil is to encourage a correct hold. But, for me at least, the design of this pencil is more of an obstacle to maintaining correct grip than an aid.
The pencils themselves bear no marking to indicate their grade, but the Lyra website states that they contain HB cores. As far as HB pencils go, the Groove Slim seems to write a little bit darker than the “typical” HB. Compared to the General’s Supreme, Castell 9000, Ticonderoga, and Rally — each in HB or #2 grade — it’s apparent that the line left by the Groove Slim leans slightly more toward black.
The Lyra Groove Slim also writes a little bit more smoothly than the typical schoolhouse #2 pencil. For a HB-graded product, ostensibly marketed at beginning writers, it has an above-average feel to it: a little bit of feedback and rubbing sound, but less of an abrasive scraping than its peers. It’s generally a pleasant-feeling and sounding pencil. Unfortunately, the consistency of the core doesn’t seem to be great. The leads of the Groove Slim have that annoying tendency to produce random chunks of grit that are harder than the rest on occasion, which is a serious pet peeve of mine.
The point retention of the Groove Slim is awesome. I feel like I can keep writing forever with this pencil. Grinding it down to the stub to perform a thorough evaluation was quite the arduous process. It also seems to have fairly middle-of-the-road smudge resistance compared to its HB peers. Finally, although it doesn’t have an eraser of its own, it responds well to a Hi-Polymer eraser, both in pencil cap and block form.
The Groove Slim really hits couple of sweet spots for me. A little darker and smoother than a run-of-the-mill HB pencil, but with good point retention and smudge resistance. There are some downsides, though, and things that just aren’t my cup of tea. I’m not quite sure about the triangular, notched barrel; and those little random pieces of grit in the core get annoying. But overall, it writes pretty good.
In the Thai shop I purchased these pencils from, they were sold individually for 13 baht. For the rest of the world that’s probably meaningless, but to give some perspective, a typical dozen-box of pencils might cost 35 to 65 baht, which is a buck or two US. Even though Lyra is a German company, it’s surprising to me that there are so few mainstream retailers in Europe and North America that are offering to sell these pencils.
It’s worth noting that India’s DOMS (a member of the FILA group along with Lyra) makes a nearly identical pencil, also called the Groove Slim, complete with the same exact logo. Considering DOMS and Lyra both have the same parent company, and Lead Fast’s review of the DOMS version reads nearly the same as mine for the Lyra version (except the wood — I’m certain this one is cedar, but it’s not uncommon for woods to get switched up) I can’t help but wonder if they aren’t the same pencil with different paint schemes and brand logos on them.
Whether or not the Lyra Groove Slim is right for you depends on what you’re looking for; it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-most pencil. Are you specifically seeking “ergonomic” pencils? Do you want a long-lasting HB core that writes slightly darker and smoother than run-of-the-mill HBs? If you answered yes, or at least indifferently, to both of those questions, give it a whirl. If unconventional shapes bug you, steer clear. If you don’t really have a preference about shape or grade, but just want a pencil that’s a small upgrade over the store-brand jalopies, the Groove Slim is a solid choice. Assuming, of course, you can actually find somewhere to buy them!