The first thing I did when I rolled into the office this Monday was pick out a new pencil to test. I poked around a little bit through my cheap big-box pencils. I picked up a few Japanese ones. Then, it occurred to me…it’s been a little bit since I’ve tried out a pencil from India. Ah! We have a winner: the DOMS X1.
This ungraded pencil has been sitting in my stash for a while. Somehow I accidentally ordered two boxes, so not only will this review satisfy any readers particularly interested in pencils from India, but it will also clear two boxes out of the to-review drawer (which has actually overflowed onto the top of my desk and could probably occupy two drawers now). It’s a win-win. So, without further ado, let’s find out of the DOMS X1 itself is a win…
The exterior appearance of the DOMS X1 is beautiful. The semi-hex pencil is coated in a silky smooth lacquer, intermittently blue and silver on each facet of the hex. A very precise, metallic imprint bears the model and brand names, plus some marketing jargon, on one facet; a bar code is found on the opposite. A white stripe and an impeccable domed blue end-dip top the pencil off. The paint job seems nice and thick, and the jaws of my desktop sharpeners didn’t seem to bite through it.
Pushing a handful of pencils one at a time across my desk, it seemed that the barrels were all pretty straight. Not all of them were perfect, but none of them were bad. Unfortunately, the core centering is hit or miss…sometimes even badly miss. I’d say about half of the pencils I grabbed were visibly off, and a few of them weren’t even close. I can’t recall another pencil with cores so far off. The good news is that the cores are also pretty girthy, so with the aid of a long-point sharpener I was able to get plenty of wood-free writing point to work with.
Other than anxiety surrounding the question of whether the core would actually end up emerging from the casing, sharpening was a pleasure. The wood — a slightly porous jelutong-type species — peeled away smoothly and yielded one nice long ribbon with a twist of a hand wedge.
The core stayed firmly seated in the wood casing for the duration of the pencil’s life. The only time the tip broke on me — even when freshly sharpened — was when I dropped it on the floor. I’d say that the cores of the X1 are solid.
Sometimes when I pick up a certain pencil and go to use it, my handwriting just looks better. I don’t know what it is about one particular pencil over another that causes it, but whatever it is, the DOMS X1 has that thing. Of course, that’s not the end-all, be-all of a review, but at least this pencil and I started off on the right foot.
I was surprised to find, however, that the X1 — which promises to be “x-tra super dark” — was not actually that dark. Of course, my preconceived notions may have played into things, because the pencil isn’t graded. I guess my thought process was something like, “well if the Nataraj Bold is ‘bold’ then the ‘x-tra super dark’ X1 must be even bolder.” Which it is not.
So, objectively, where does it sit on the spectrum? It is definitely beyond the range of HB pencils, leaving a blacker mark than the Mirado Classic. It looks a touch darker than the Kimberly 2B and the Blackwing 602, also. I’d say it compares pretty evenly with the Blackwing Pearl. If I were to place it on the H/B spectrum, I’d call it a 3B. I guess, even if it’s not “x-tra super dark”, it’s pretty dark.
The X1 is a pretty smooth writer, too. It feels a lot like the Blackwing Pearl when jotting down some notes. There is a slight difference; I’d say that the X1 feels drier and sounds a little more crisp, but they’re pretty similar. I didn’t experience any bits of grit or anything in the core as I whittled away the pencil.
Point retention is an interesting aspect. At first glance, the DOMS X1 is as soft as you might expect, and the tip erodes fairly quickly. That said, thanks perhaps to its nice thick core, it didn’t seem too difficult to keep working with it for long enough to jot down an entire composition book page of legible, non-crayon-looking notes on one sharpen. Of course, I could tell by the rate at which I ground through one that the core was indeed soft, even if I managed to keep writing with it longer than I expected.
Deliberately smudging the X1 and some other pencil swatches leaves a smear that’s about the same as the Blackwing Pearl. I compared it to a whole host of pencils; some smeared more, some smeared less. For a softer pencil, I think it’s pretty average. I did notice that it left a few swipe marks on occasion when I used the pencil “in the field”, and it ghosts fairly prominently. It doesn’t seem any worse than the typical soft pencil, nor does it seem any better.
Even though it has no eraser tip of its own, I went ahead and gave the X1 a good rubdown with a few erasers I had handy. I have to say, the lead of this pencil is kind of a hot mess if you try to erase too much. The Hi-Polymer block eraser managed to wipe out lines fair enough, but not substantially better than the Hi-Polymer end cap or the Tombow Zero. In fact, it seemed that the smaller, more precise erasers did better than the Hi-Polymer block, because the block smeared a lot of graphite around and created a big blob that couldn’t be rubbed off. All of the erasers left some indelible smudging behind, but it seems like the bigger the eraser, the bigger the problem.
It’s not perfect, but all things considered, the DOMS X1 is highly okay. The really, really bad core centering had me skeptical; but they are otherwise built to a really high standard. First impressions notwithstanding, once I got the tip to the page and started writing, the pencil just felt really nice. It’s not really “x-tra” dark, but it’s pretty dark, and smooth too. If you don’t mind spinning the barrel around in your hand every few words, you can coax a pointy edge out of the beefy core for longer than expected. It looks good and writes pretty nice, but if you make a mistake, watch out — even the best erasers seem to have a tough time with it. There’s a lot to like, but also some pretty big caveats. You’ll have to weight them according to your own preference.
Given that it’s a highly affordable pencil from India (which can easily be found on Amazon) and writes so similarly to the white-lacquered Blackwing product, you might think of it as a “poor man’s Blackwing Pearl”. The Pearl doesn’t erase very well either (but that’s more due to the crappy built-in Blackwing erasers). You’d never have Blackwing pencils with cores so off-center, but even if you have to throw away a few X1’s and eat the cost of them, the DOMS product is still way more cost-effective.
I give the DOMS X1 pencil a moderately-enthusiastic thumbs up. I can’t say it blew me away, and it did slightly under-perform my expectations for something marketed as being (e)xtra dark. That said, it’s just a pretty good soft pencil and there’s nothing wrong with that.