Hello again! It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to jot down my thoughts on a pencil. No, I didn’t catch The Rona; however, this “hunker down” thing really threw my routine for a loop. I’m back, though, and approaching this blog with renewed vigor! All I needed was a new pencil to inspire me, and browsing on Amazon the other day, something caught my eye. It was…a Dixon Ticonderoga.
Ah, but not any Dixon Ticonderoga. The world may have been out of toilet paper there for a while, but it’ll never run out of the iconic No. 2, after all. (There’s a poop/No. 2 pun there that I’m missing, I’m sure). But I happened to find a Ticonderoga you don’t often see on store shelves: the B-graded, No. 1 Dixon Ticonderoga. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing one of these pencils. I eagerly bounded to the mailbox to retrieve these (once the letter carrier was six feet away, of course) and began my review.
Most of us are probably familiar with the Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. I think pretty much everyone in the United States over the age of six has used one at some point in their lives, and I imagine that anyone reading a blog about pencils and writing supplies from abroad are at least aware that they exist.
However, you wouldn’t be blamed if you had no idea that other Dixon pencils not named “Ticonderoga” exist. The Ticonderoga is a pretty decent (but not amazing) pencil, and in the Dixon world, it’s their flagship. There is the Dixon Oriole, which I can’t comment on other than to say that it’s perceived to be a rung below the Ticonderoga [note: I do have a box in line to review at a later date, though.]. And then, below that, there is a pencil that hasn’t even earned a model name. It’s known simply as the Dixon No. 2/HB pencil.
I have no idea where I got these, because it seems pretty rare to come across them in a retail location. However, I’m certain they were very cheap, and they came in a box of 20. So the question is: what does it say about you when you’re the third-string quarterback on a team whose starter is just “pretty good”? I would guess it means that you’re either pretty lousy, or your talents are being overlooked. Let’s have a look at the Dixon “No-Name” and see which scenario best describes it…
The Dixon Ticonderoga pencil has been around for ages, and seen numerous iterations — especially in the past decade or two, as production shifted from the U.S. to Mexico and China, production lines were changed and materials were tinkered with. The recent Chinese iteration of the well-known and often-used pencil was the subject of my first-ever review on this blog, and since then I haven’t felt particularly compelled to go back and revisit them, at least not to any extent worth writing about.
That is, until now. At this point in time I’ve got umpteen different pencil makes and models available to me, clogging up multiple desk drawers, but (in the States at least) the Dixon Ticonderoga has a funny way of hanging around and finding a way into your hand. In this case, the Ticonderoga pencil that events conspired to lead me to was one marked for its environmentally-friendly qualities and natural aesthetic: The Ticonderoga Renew.
This review was inspired in part by a post exploring the rise, fall, and perhaps second rise of the Ticonderoga by our Glorious Comrade Johnny, who stands at the vanguard of the invincible world Pencil Revolution. I’ve had this post cooking on the back burner for a while, actually; and given the aforementioned Ticonderoga buzz and the fact that my review of another pencil that shall remain nameless is taking a while, I figured it was high time to have a look at the Ticonderoga Renew.
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.