Cal Cedar and the Palomino brand have done a lot to make pencils cool again. By reviving the classic Blackwing product line, they introduced a gateway drug to aspiring writers everywhere; one that hooks them with the addicting realization that writing with pencils doesn’t have to suck. Then, by throwing their weight behind the Golden Bear pencil, they took a step further and proudly proclaimed that pencils can be — and still are — made in the United States of America.
But the next move was the one that really surprised me. Having already staked out their turf in the high-end segment, and put a product on the market that appeals to Made-in-USA purists, they set out to prove that there are pencils made in developing Asian economies that also don’t suck. This statement came in the form of the Made-in-Thailand edition of the Golden Bear No. 2 pencil, which I’ll be reviewing for you today.
Of all the pencils I’ve ordered from China, the Deli brand somehow stands out to me. Perhaps its the sheer volume of different lines they have, or their success in luring me in with branding and aesthetics, but I’d say something about the company also indicates a quality product. Sad to say, and despite the numerous examples I have practically exploding from my to-review drawer, I’ve only actually reviewed one of their pencils (the S905) since I was turned on to them! And that’s hardly enough of a sample size to make an argument with any merit about quality.
So today, that’s going to change. One box of pencils I’ve been sitting on (not literally, ouch) for quite some time is the tri-barreled Deli 37106 in HB grade, which appears to be among a new line of pencils that the Chinese manufacturer began putting out at some point in the last year or so. So here, without further delay, are my notes from my latest pencil experiment.
When you live in Alaska, you end up spending a lot of time in Seattle. It’s just kind of the way it goes: unless you want to drive for several days through rural northwest Canada, going anywhere usually involves flying, and Seattle happens to be the most easily-accessible major city/airline hub from Anchorage. Flights between the two cities are frequent and — if you’re willing to fly at 3 a.m. — cheap. More often than not, Seattle is the go-to whether you are connecting to another flight to points beyond, or just need to go somewhere to “get outside” for a while. On top of all that, the Polar Pencil Partner’s parents just moved to Seattle from back East, so needless to say we are regular weekenders in the Jet City.
We just took a long weekend in Sea-town, and ironically, I brought a pencil back that I’d purchased there months ago: the Mitsubishi (or is it Mitsu-Bishi?) 9825EW, graded HB. Given the prominence of Japanese-American culture in the city, it just seemed like an appropriate pencil to carry around town, so I sharpened up the 9825EW (a variant of the more traditional 9825 “standard” version) and gave it a whirl.
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…
Thailand, I discovered, is a great place to be if you’re a pencil dork. Things there generally run a little cheaper than they do in the west, which is always nice. The state of the Thai retail economy is such that the distribution of goods generally seems to flow through market vendors and Mom & Pop shops moreso than big box stores. I also perceived there to be a greater appreciation for stationery-type items, and learned that there are several pencil factories in Thailand which make products for both the domestic and export (to them) markets. All of this combined means that a leisurely stroll down a shop-lined street will often result in stumbling upon a small, dusty stationery shop stocked with a variety of hitherto unknown pencils, all to be had for just a few Baht.
Case in point: the twelve-pack of Masterart Blacklead Wood 2B pencils I picked up in Bangkok for 30 Baht (less than $1, USD). Made by DHA Siamwalla — the same company that makes the Elephant — these are Thai pencils made for Thai writers. I’ve had them stashed in my drawer for over six months, waiting for the right moment to give them a whirl. Today, I’m excited to share my findings with you.
Don’t tell Donald Trump that I told you this, but I’ve been ordering more pencils from China. It’s also been a minute since I’ve delved into my giant stash and reviewed one of them. Sure, I’ve reviewed a few pencils that were made in China in recent weeks, but I think it’s high time to look at a another pencil made for China.
A while back, I took a look at the Chung Hwa 101; a pencil which is marketed as a drawing pencil, but is often used for writing. However, China First Pencil Co. also makes a dedicated writing pencil, the Chung Hwa 6151. I picked up a package of these to have a look at, and gave them a thorough review.
I’m surprised I haven’t written a review of this pencil sooner. My stash of Tombow 8900 pencils has been languishing in a drawer for a while as I’ve sampled all of the wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) goods that the pencil universe has to offer; but prior to starting this blog, the Tombow 8900 in 2B was one of my go-to pencils. So, yeah, I may have gone into this review with a tiny bit of a preconceived notion.
However, when I first stumbled upon the 8900 pencil, I was a dumb new guy. I knew that Blackwing pencils were great, Ticonderoga pencils were good, and as far as I could tell everything else was garbage. It might have been Tombow’s workhorse “general writing” model that opened up this Pandora’s box. So, now that I’ve been around the pencil block and have a few more notches on my wood-and-graphite belt, I want to revisit it, and see if a more systematic, critical review will yield the same satisfaction I experienced during my original honeymoon period with the 2B Tombow 8900. So, here goes. I’ll try to leave my bias behind, starting with the next paragraph!
I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m a little burnt out on reading about a certain pencil from a certain company that sells its products for two bucks a pop and periodically releases special editions that send the pencil nerdosphere into a Beanie Baby level craze. So for this week’s review, I’m going to go in a completely different direction. Something cheap. Something Made in China. Something nobody is buzzing about. And yet, something reminiscent (in some ways) of the aforementioned, unnamed company’s flagship offering. I’m talking about the Marco Grip-Rite 2B (model 9002).
A product of Axus Stationery in Shanghai, the Marco brand is most well known in the west due to a strong following for their affordable colored pencils. Their Raffine and Renoir colored sets have a positive reputation among artists. However, Marco is no slouch when it comes to the graphite game. They produce several lines of graphite writing pencils, and today we’re going to zero in on one that looked particularly enticing when I recently dug through my to-review drawer: the Grip-Rite 9002 in a 2B core.
Good, affordable notebooks are hard to find. As much as I value notebooks — and believe me, I’d be lost without them — there is something that puts me off about paying $15 or $20 for a carry-around, soft-cover notebook just because it’s a certain brand or style that’s hip right now (you know the ones I’m talking about). So whenever I spot a notebook that looks solid, affordable, and cool, I grab it and give it a whirl. This notebook from Apica is a perfect example.
I picked up the Apica CG-54 notebook during my recent trip to Seattle. At the time, I really knew nothing about Apica notebooks, even though in hindsight I’ve found that the CD line has a reputation among fountain pen users. I just grabbed it because it was affordable, looked nice, and wasn’t something I’d found in shops in Anchorage. Even after searching back through Google for some background info on the Apica CG, I can’t find much — the interwebs are awash in information about the CD line, but not so much the CG. So, I reckon this is a prime subject for a review!
Japanese pencils: most pencil snobs think they’re awesome. I mean, even the Blackwing pencils (everyone’s favorite) are made in Japan. And among the various Japanese pencil-makers, Mitsubishi — maker of the 9800 and the very fancy, highly-fawned-over Hi-Uni — has a reputation for making a very, very nice pencil.
Mitsubishi Pencils aren’t just for pretentious Americans, though. In Japan, their product lines reach all the way down to the everyday pencil-pusher (like me!) and even the elementary school desk, where kids grapple with writing for the first time. That’s where you’ll find pencils like the 4563. Does Mitsubishi’s quality trickle down with it? I got my hands on a box of the 2B grade pencils to find out.