There are many pencils made in China. In fact, something like 50% of the world’s pencils are manufactured there. However, approximately 80% of them are manufactured for export — pencils such as the Dixon Ticonderoga, for example. But if you’ve read my review of the Chung Hwa 101, you know that I’m very curious about Chinese domestic brands. One of those brands is the curiously-named Deli company.
I have a bit of a hypothesis that it’s probably the brands that we in the West have never heard of that make the highest-quality pencils in China. It makes sense to me that those are the products that Chinese people want to buy, and that the random factories churning out shoddy pencils have to resort to exporting no-name products to the big box stores for pennies, because no one there wants to buy their crap. So where do products from Deli fit into all of this? Is the Deli S905 a solid product that we are missing out on here in the States? Or is it a cut-rate excuse for a writing instrument? Or is my hypothesis totally bunk?
The Deli S905 has a simple, pleasant finish. The triangular barrel is lacquered with a nice, smooth, shiny navy blue coating. The imprints in silver and white are precisely and cleanly applied. The lacquer is perhaps not the thickest or most durable, because some of it has chipped off in my bag, but it otherwise looks pretty sharp. The imprint is also durable. The ends are left undipped; some folks don’t like that but I think it is consistent with the straightforward look of the S905. In any event, I slap a white pencil-cap eraser on it, which goes well with this color scheme and makes the undipped end a moot point. I wouldn’t feel unprofessional carrying this pencil in to a meeting.
The finished point reveals a light, mostly-grainless wood. There is an aroma that is very subtle and has a pleasant “Home Depot” smell to it; typically the assumption for non-cedar pencils is basswood but I’m going to guess something like fir, mostly based on the smell and appearance. Whatever the species, the wood responded well to a hand blade, finishing smoothly without any collar chipping.
Peeking at the unfinished ends, a few of the specimens looked like they had somewhat off-centered cores. You can see from the graphic below that they’re certainly not perfect. However, they seemed to sharpen very evenly, so they’re obviously good enough. For what it’s worth, they also come pre-sharpened, and the factory point is better than the stubby little points we get here in the States. I roll-tested all of them and of the twelve, perhaps one or two had the slightest curve; otherwise, they were arrow-straight. Overall, the construction quality of the Deli S905 is solid — perhaps surprisingly so.
I did lose a couple of tips to the Kum Longpoint Automatic sharpener. After that, I switched to other sharpeners and had zero problems with breakage while sharpening. Point breakage seemed to be non-existent as well. I’d rate the cores and bonding as well-done. Unless you have a particularly finicky sharpener, they hold up.
The line darkness of this pencil is perfectly graded. I compared it to the General’s Supreme, Castell 9000 HB, and Staedtler Rally, and it left an equivalent mark. Compared to the Chinese Ticonderoga, it was slightly fainter. I’d say that, in terms of the mark shade, the Deli S905 is a “true” HB pencil. If you’re looking for something dark, look elsewhere; if you actually want an HB pencil, the S905 is as-advertised.
However, for an HB-graded pencil, the S905 writes quite smoothly. I compared it to all of the “cheap” HB pencils I had on hand and it bested all of them in the smoothness category. It also stands up well against “fancy” HB pencils, as it felt roughly (pun intended) on par with the highly-acclaimed and highly-priced Castell 9000 HB. It is quite rare that a non-high-end HB pencil writes with this kind of silky feeling. The consistency was also great; I felt no grit whatsoever.
The Deli S905 seems to resist smudging pretty well. In a head to head test, it appeared to outperform its fellow Chinese product, the Ticonderoga; and hung right in there with the General’s Supreme and Castell 9000. On the other hand, the point retention is somewhat lacking; my impression is that it underperforms other HB pencils and is closer to what I’d expect from a “solid” B or 2B. It’s kind of interesting that it has the smoothness and the point-retention of a soft pencil, but with the line darkness of a HB.
There is no eraser, so obviously I didn’t test it. But I did give the Pink Pearl and the Hi-Polymer block erasers a crack at removing the S905’s lines and it proved as eraseable as any other HB pencil. The Pink Pearl did a mediocre job (as expected), and the Hi-Polymer pretty much made the graphite disappear. Further, the triangular barrel fits a typical end-cap eraser snugly and securely, and the blue/white/silver color scheme goes well with a white cap such as the Hi-Polymer or Helix.
As far as HB pencils go, I’d dare to say that the Deli S905 might be my favorite. It’s definitely among the upper crust of those I’ve reviewed so far, as it is very well-made and very smooth-writing. The one strike against it is that the point retention is kinda “meh”. Other than that, I can’t think of any other reason to criticize this pencil.
I will point out, though, that if you are assuming an Asian HB is like an American 2B, don’t. The Deli S905 is accurately labelled HB. Also be aware that these are triangular pencils.
The price is where these pencils get even sweeter. Affordable Chinese products that write like expensive drawing pencils? Nice. As far as my hypothesis about the quality of domestic Chinese products vs. export-focused ones is concerned, this review may not confirm it but it definitely adds some weight to it.
The Deli S905 left a very favorable impression on me. Taken together with my opinion of the Deli 610 pencil sharpener, I’m starting to see the Deli brand as a solid manufacturer of office supply products, and I’m eager to try (and review) some of their other pencils and such that I have coming on the slow boat from China.