This is a pencil I’ve been wanting to review for a long time, but it just hasn’t ever seemed like the right “fit” in my blog post flow. Whatever that means. But as I finished publishing my review of the Lyra Groove Slim, I decided it was time to give Miss Kimberly a long-awaited test run.
The Kimberly is a high-end offering from General Pencil Co. As such, it’s marketed toward artists, but we all know that there’s no reason a person can’t write with a drawing pencil. And even for a high-end, made-in-USA product, the Kimberly comes in at budget-friendly price, at least compared to the competitors in the drawing pencil world. So, I handled several of them in the store, and took home a couple each of the HB and 2B to test out.
General’s Kimberly is coated in a single green lacquer. A stately gold imprint on one facet indicates its USA origin, manufacturer and brand info, as well as the model number and core great. A flip side, in white, has the words “graphite drawing”, “since 1889”, and, again, the grade specification. This color scheme reminds me of one of my favorite pencils, the Tombow 8900. Finally, a black barcode is printed near the tip-end, and the eraserless top is capped off with a brass cap. The lacquer isn’t especially heavy, and the white text seems to rub off, but like most General Pencil Co. products this seems to “work”. With the throwback font and the brass end-cap, the Kimberly has a classic vibe that doesn’t need to look perfect to look classy.
The cores of the Kimberly pencils I looked at all appeared perfectly centered, and aside from one every-so-slightly wonky one, the barrels seemed nearly arrow-straight.
Sharpening with a hand-blade is accomplished fairly smoothly, and of course the Kimberly agrees with a helical sharpener. The resulting point exposes a fragrant incense cedar material. I don’t notice splintering or chipping of the collar; the cedar of the point seems to flow more or less seamlessly into the graphite tip without leaving the throat exposed.
I carted the 2B Kimberly around with me from start to stub, sharpening with multiple sharpeners, and writing on the daily. I didn’t have any problems with core breakage or separation.
According to internet lore, the Kimberly pencil cores are made with non-porous Ceylon graphite and Belgian clay. I’m not sure what difference that makes, but it’s implied that these are good things. Marketing info notwithstanding, there’s one real way to figure out how good a pencil is: put the graphite to the paper and see what happens.
I started with the HB core, which writes somewhat pleasantly and quite true-to-grade. The darkness of the line it leaves is pretty much right on the money with what you’d expect for a core graded HB. I tested it against some fellow HB/#2 pencils; it compares similarly to the Castell 9000 HB and the General’s Supreme #2, and it may be just a touch lighter than the Chinese Ticonderoga. It has a firm, solid page-feel but writes smoothly overall.
The HB Kimberly does occasionally have a bit of a gritty “snag” to it, so the consistency could be better. That’s a little disappointing because it’s a particular pet peeve of mine, although it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as some other pencils. It tends to come and go sporadically and doesn’t have a terribly nasty feel when it happens. Nonetheless, it’s there. On the plus side, the point retention seems great, and I actually think it writes a little better as the point wears down a bit.
As for the writing of the 2B core: wow. This is a nice, dark, smooth pencil. It is apparently a couple of grades darker than the HB, exactly as it should be, which is right in my wheelhouse. I have yet to encounter any of the grit I experienced in the HB version; it’s either not there, or imperceptible due to the softness of the core.
The Kimberly 2B writes a line that’s almost identical to the Blackwing 602, and probably a touch lighter than the Nataraj Bold and the Tombow 8900 2B (although I perceive the 8900 to be darker than graded). Point retention is right about in the ballpark as well; similar to the 602, better than the Bold.
Like most softer pencils, the 2B is smudgy when writing, and the HB not quite so much. But I will say that both grades appeared to be slightly more resistant than their grade-mates that I tested: the Kimberly 2B and HB were slightly more smear-proof than the Blackwing 602 and the General’s Supreme #2, respectively.
The Kimberly doesn’t come with an eraser, BUT that cool little brass cap does a good job hanging on to the barrel of the pencil and not popping off inside of an eraser cap. I tested out how erasable the graphite was and found that the Hi-Polymer does its thing just fine and dandy on the Kimberly. Actually, it had an easier time picking up the 2B mark, which is weird; perhaps because it didn’t gouge the paper as much? Anyway, the Pink Pearl did a mediocre job — but it’s a mediocre eraser, so that’s par for the course.
Overall, I dig the Kimberly pencil. I’m a little lukewarm on the HB core — it’s pretty good, but the grittiness throws me off, and for a writing pencil I think you could do better with something like a Cedar Pointe. The 2B, though? That’s where it’s at. Smooth and dark without any of the snags of the HB. Aside from that, they both have above-grade smudge resistance, are precisely constructed out of real cedar, and look quite handsome.
The price point is where the deal gets a lot sweeter. Drawing pencils routinely approach or exceed the $2 mark — as does the writing-focused Blackwing — but the Kimberly tends to ring up at right around a buck. I think the 2B writes as good as a Blackwing, but it’s half the price.
Of course, I can’t talk about a product from General Pencil Co. without mentioning the fact that all of their pencils are made in their New Jersey plant, making them one of the few American manufacturers that still produces pencils on U.S. soil.
The General’s Kimberly is a good pencil. The Kimberly 2B is a great pencil, in my opinion (if they could work out some of the consistency issues with the HB core, it would be a great pencil too). I think the Kimberly 2B has earned a spot on my favorite pencils list, because I could see myself writing daily with one of these.