I’m back! I’ve returned to the Great White North after a week-plus stint on the Gulf Coast to try and thaw out a little bit, as well as a little bit of a grad-school-induced hiatus from blogging. Anyway, a lack of money and time on my part, combined with an apparent lack of interested in the woodclinched graphite writing instrument on the part of the fine folks of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle, resulted in a net gain of negative-one pencils on this trip. The good news is that I still have a huge backlog on hand to review, including some from last fall’s trip to Spain. Today I decided to break into that stash and sharpen up one of my European finds: the Lyra Robinson, in this case with a 2B-graded core.
Lyra, as you may recall, is a German pencil-maker that produces numerous lines of writing implements, including the previously-reviewed Groove Slim. Their graphite pencils are a little bit hard to come by here in the States — I imagine that being a FILA affiliate, their parent company isn’t trying to steal market share from Dixon Ticonderoga. That makes testing out one of their products a rare treat for me, so today I’m going to jump right in to it. Here we go!
Lyra’s Robinson has a styling reminiscent of other European pencils. Like the Alpino Junior from Spain, its main color scheme is composed of a lacquer which coats the semi-hex barrel in a primary blue, set off by white details. Similar to the Staedtler Norris, the dipped end has a different color crown to designate its grade. In the case of the 2B-graded iteration (which Lyra designates a No. 0) the color of the crown is red. Finally, a clean, gold-foil imprint on one facet of the casing contains all of the important information.
Included in the imprint is the “Germany” designation, but that refers to the Lyra company itself, and not necessarily the place of manufacture of these pencils. As part of the FILA umbrella group, we know that Lyra makes pencils in China that still bear the “Germany” mark — for example, the Temagraph, which is essentially a rebranded Dixon Ticonderoga, made in the same Chinese factory and everything. I was unable to pin down exactly where the Robinson is made, however, so for all I know it could be made in either country (or somewhere else entirely).
The three pencils I brought home each rolled with a little bit of a wobble, but I didn’t notice it when holding or sharpening them. The cores all seemed well centered.
The Robinson sharpens great. The wood casing — made of actual cedar — slices off smoothly with a bladed hand sharpener to yield an almost perfectly flawless wooden collar that transitions cleanly into the graphite tip.
Over the lifepan of my test pencil, not once did I encounter a broken tip or a piece of lead that came dislodged from the casing. The core of the Lyra Robinson stood up to my daily abuse perfectly. All in all, I’d say that this is quite a well-made pencil — solid materials assembled with a reasonably high level of quality.
After sharpening up the 2B Robinson, I got busy making my to-do list for catching up on work. The “No. 0” core immediately came across as a soft, easy writer.
In terms of line darkness, I think that 2B is a fair grade, although I found it hard to slot it in to a more precise grade in that range. Using my traditional “bookends” of the Castell 9000 and General’s Kimberly as a guide, I initially found it to be a lot closer to the 9000, on smooth paper. It also seemed to write a bit lighter than the Bruynzeel 1605 pencil in 2B grade. Then when I went to do some other writing, such as the index card test at the end, I thought it left a little bit darker of a mark — more like a Blackwing 602. When Lyra gave it a 2B grade, they put it in the right ballpark. However, it seems to be responsive to different variables such as paper type, so your exact mileage may vary.
While not quite as dark, it comes across as quite a bit smoother than the Bruynzeel. It feels to me about like a Blackwing Pearl, as far as the texture goes: quite smooth, with a somewhat “slick” feeling on the page. I judge the lead to have a good consistency, as I didn’t encounter any snaggly bits of inclusion in the core.
Like most 2B pencils, the point retention isn’t that great, but for a pencil of its grade it’s not too bad either. The Robinson’s core turned out to be just a bit more durable than that of the 2B Kimberly, based on my hash mark tests. It also panned out about the same as the Blackwing 602. “In the wild” I know I sharpened it more than the standard HB pencil, but I don’t remember feeling like it was excessive, and the pencil lasted me a reasonable amount of time before it was ground down to a nub. There’s nothing magical about its point retention, but if you commonly write with pencils on the B end of the spectrum, you probably won’t be let down.
I spent a few weeks writing off and on with the Robinson, and it seemed to hold up pretty well to smudging — especially for a 2B. The Castell 9000 2B outperformed it, but of course it did. On the other hand, it seemed about equal to or better than most other 2B pencils I compared it to, and even about the same as No. 2 made-in-China Ticonderoga.
To wrap things up, I went ahead and tested the mark of the Robinson against a handful of different erasers and found that you get out of it what you put into it. A good eraser like the Hi Polymer plastic block eraser will make it nearly disappear; a crappier eraser will not. About what you’d hope for.
The Lyra Robinson 2B is just an all-around good 2B writing pencil. It’s well-built out of high-quality materials. It’s soft, smooth, and fairly dark, but the point holds up okay and it won’t make a huge mess. There’s really not much to dislike about it.
The only real knock on it that I can think of is that I’m not sure I like the pagefeel of the core. Yes, it’s smooth, but it has a smoothness that feels little waxy or “wet”. Some may like that buttery feeling, but I guess I tend to lean more to a smooth but solid core these days.
Writing with the Robinson didn’t really give me that same feeling of “damn, this is nice” the way the Tombow 2558 I recently reviewed did, but there’s nothing at all wrong with it. It’s OK if you’re not ready to have your mind blown when you pick one up — but pick one up anyway, because they’re not too shabby.