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.
One of my constant fears since starting to go full-steam on this blog has been that eventually, some day, I’ll run out of pencils to review. Let’s do the math: if I average a pencil review per week, that’s about 50 different types of pencils a year. It seems like I’m on pace to exhaust the possibilities within a few years; or at least the easy ones. I feel like I’ve already picked a lot of the low-hanging fruit.
Needless to say, I was excited when I walked into a local chain-brand supermarket and found something I’d never seen before. Just this fall, a company called Written Word Pencil Co. has started putting out several lines of USA-made pencils that they’ve branded America’s Finest. I eagerly snagged the two versions available — naturally-finished “American Arbor”, and accurately-named “Prestige Black” — to have a look a closer look at them.
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.
In the last Throwback pencil review, the subject of which was the Faber Castell Velvet, we discussed the convoluted series of mergers by which the lion’s share of American pencilmakers became concentrated in the hands of Newell Rubbermaid (by way of Sanford) who then proceeded to kill off their product lines, one by one. It was basically like the Hunger Games for pencils.
Actually, it was more like the formation of a black hole. Numerous pencil brands collapsed gravitationally inward creating one super-massive object from which none could escape. Sandford gave that black hole the name Paper Mate, which prior to the mega-merger was a pen manufacturer. Today, only the few Mirado lines of pencil are made under the Paper Mate banner, but that was not always the case.
[Actually, since writing my initial draft of this post, I have found another current-production Papermate pencil. Foreshadowing!]
Today we’re going to look at the American Classic, a Made-in-USA product of the early 2000s. I found a package of these, still in the wrapper, tucked away in a desk drawer, so you bet bottom dollar I swiped them and gave them a try.
Not long ago, I reviewed India’s Nataraj Bold pencil. In the interest of promoting peaceful coexistence between the countries of the world, I would be remiss if I didn’t also give some press to their neighbor and fellow pencil-producing country: Pakistan.
Uniting over a shared love of pencils may not be enough to stave off the spectre of nuclear war, but Shahsons Ltd. put Pakistan on the pencil map alongside its neighbors in 1953, when the current Director’s grandfather, Shah Saeed, established it as the his homeland’s first pencil manufacturer. Today Shahsons is the manufacturer of several pencil lines and are the flagship writing-instrument producer of its country.
In February of this year, my partner and I took our first ever trip to Thailand. In fact, it was the first time either of us had been to Asia. We had a great time, made a lot of memories, picked up a little Thai, and learned a lot about their history and culture. Oh, and their cuisine, of course! We really tried our hardest to stay as far away from the tourist areas as reasonably prudent, and engage ourselves with the locals. Much to my delight, I learned that Thai folks seem to have an appreciation for stationery shops, and I made it a point to wander as many of the dusty, cramped, mom & pop pencil and notebook stores as I could. That’s where I found, for the low low price of 35 baht, a dozen sharp-looking, dipped-end, 2B Elephant Blacklead pencils (with a free eraser, even).
Elephant Blacklead Pencils are made by DHA Siamwalla Ltd. of Bangkok. DHAS has been in business for over 100 years, and is a manufacturer of many of the office supply products found in Thailand, as well as a distributor of many international brands there. Although the Elephant Blacklead Pencils are made by a Thai company, for Thai distribution, they are actually made in China and come in both 2B and HB form. They also, apparently, come either eraser-capped or dipped. I happened to pick up a pack of dipped 2B pencils. And now, after hoarding them for months, I’m finally ready to sharpen them up and write up a review!
In case you hadn’t noticed, I love soft pencils. The smoothness. The darkness. Oh yes. Another thing you may have noticed (or probably will in the near future, if you continue reading this blog) is that I enjoy sampling pencils from every corner of the earth. So when I found out that India’s largest pencil-maker, Hindustan Pencils, is producing a product called the “Bold”, which it markets as being “super black”, you know I was all over that.
India is a country that straddles the line between “developing” and “industrialized”. Their economy is more developed than most of their neighbors, and yet their median quality of life is not on par with most Western countries. All of that is to say, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this product of their pencil industry. Would it be a hidden gem, or a flop? Well, my box of Nataraj Bold pencils finally arrived, so let’s find out.
Every blog has to start somewhere. As an aspiring office-supply blogger with a particular fetish for pencils, what better place to start than a review of a benchmark pencil — nay, THE benchmark pencil — against which I can evaluate future test subjects? So let’s set that bar right now with the first Polar Pencil Pusher pencil review, a review of the most prolific pencil in North America: the Dixon Ticonderoga.
Now, I need to be specific, here: Today’s review is going to focus solely on pencils of Chinese origin. Ticonderoga pencils were previously made in the USA, but are now manufactured in Mexico and China. Spoiler alert: the Mexican variants are not identical to the Chinese ones. So we will leave those out from this review and perhaps come back to them at a later date.
Also, because Dixon makes Ticonderoga pencils in all sorts of variants, even within the same Chinese factory, simply specifying “Chinese Ticonderoga” could include any number of product lines with different lacquers, woods, barrel shapes, etc. With that in mind, I expanded the original scope of this review to cover not only the “classic” yellow cedar-bodied pencils I obtained for review purposes, but also a handful of the basswood Ticonderoga Black pencils I happened to have on hand.