I have a confession to make: I have been starting to feel like all pencils are pretty much the same. Sure, there are minor differences to most of them, and some of them deviate from the mean significantly; but it’s definitely been a while since I saw something that was was really, surprisingly different.
And then I met this little guy: The Musgrave News 600 pencil. The Musgrave website alluded to the fact that this ungraded pencil writes a bit different than the rest of their products, even going so far as to say that it is “very soft”. But I wasn’t at all prepared for what was in store for me when I finally got around to giving it a whirl!
I recently professed my love/obsession/fixation with stubby pencils and my goal to collect an entire jug full (read all about that here). However, since posting that I’ve reflected on the topic some more and come to a conclusion: stubbin’ ain’t easy.
What’s a pencil-lover to do as a pencil approaches the end of its life? It enters the “awkward phase”, similar to a person trying to grow their hair out. You know, when it’s not long enough to be long hair, but it’s so long that it looks like they really need to get a haircut. It’s kind of the inverse with pencils: it’s too long to throw away, but short enough to feel a little cramped and weird. So I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about any particularly useful jobs for a pencil that is reaching the age of semi-retirement.
In ancient Roman mythology, Ceres was the goddess who made civilization possible. Before her intervention, humanity lived a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Then, one day, Ceres bestowed upon us the knowledge of ploughing, sowing, harvesting, animal husbandry, and all of the skills we would need to practice agriculture, settle down and become modern folk.
If a person were to look at a satellite image of the countryside surrounding Shelbyville, Tennessee and the wider area southeast of Nashville, they wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that Musgrave Pencil Co. — one of America’s last remaining domestic pencil manufacturers — pays tribute to Ceres with it’s mainline yellow #2, model number 909. Perhaps the folks at Musgrave had the agricultural outskirts of the “Pencil City” on their mind when they named this mule of a pencil. So, is the Ceres pencil a worthy namesake for a Roman goddess? Let’s pull out a sharpener and see.
Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been trying to review some pretty hard pencils, which means I can’t grind through them as quickly. Really, though, the big problem — er, “problem” — is that it’s been nothing but sunshine and 70+ degrees Fahrenheit lately (it’s supposed to top 80F by the end of this week, which is kind of a big deal in Anchorage) and I’ve had some extra time with all of my joint-custody kiddos. So I’ve been spending a substantial amount of time off the computer, and out in the sunshine playing or doing projects!
But the I didn’t choose the pencil life, the pencil life chose me. On that note, I got a little delivery yesterday, all the way from Tennessee! I placed an order with the Musgrave Pencil Company and was pleased to receive a dozen each of the Ceres and News pencils (plus a little sampler pack they threw in). Check it out:
I haven’t sharpened any up for a review yet, so I know nothing about the innards of their products, but I have to say that the service from Musgrave is impressive. If I may, please allow me to rant about that for a moment…
It’s Stub Completion Day for me! Yay! What’s Stub Completion Day? That’s the day when I finish up all of my unfinished stubs.
It probably sounds neurotic that I have an entire day devoted to finishing pencil stubs. But it serves a purpose that I find practical. Generally, I am choosy about which pencil I’m using; it’s typically one that I’m the process of writing a review for. My intention when I write a review is that I use an entire pencil to 100% completion (defined as the point where I can’t comfortably hold it for writing) so that I am making an informed opinion.
I still manage to create a lot of almost-but-not-quite-used up stubs, though.
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.
I’m in Seattle. Seattle is a major city with a substantial Japanese population. Japanese people are serious about their writing supplies. So when my buddy who lives in the International District took me for drinks this evening, you know damn well we made a little stop on the way to the bar. So, this happened:
You’re looking at the Tombow La-Kea Recycled Pencil (HB/B/2B), Mitsubishi Uni-Star (HB/B/2B), Tombow 2558 (HB/B), Mono Plastic Eraser, Rabbit ECOfeel Eraser, Kutsuwa STAD adjustable manual sharpener, Ooly Mighty Sharpener, and the Apica CG54 grid notebook. All that and I still had my eye out for more finds on the walk back to my hotel…
I picked up some more future review material. Hope you don’t mind if I give you a little preview of what’s coming down the pipe.
The Chung Hwa 6151 and the Deli S905 are Chinese pencils made for domestic (to them) consumption. I reviewed the Chung Hwa 101 2B a while back and it left a positive impact on me, so I thought I’d give its more prolific stablemate (the 6151) a try. I have yet to review or even try any Deli products (except for their hand-crank sharpener, which I haven’t reviewed, but may do a write-up on since it’s great and I use it on the daily) but they are all over AliExpress and have a ton of different product lines. My impression is that they are popular in China, so I thought I’d better see what that’s all about.
The postman has been nice to me. Last week he delivered some weird Japanese pencils I ordered off of Amazon, and some weird Chinese pencils I ordered off of AliExpress. I also realized that I haven’t written up a review of one of my favorite pencils — the Tombow 8900 — of which I’ve got a handful just kind of laying around. And then I took my kids to Blaine’s Art Supply this weekend and you bet your ass I can’t walk out of that place without buying something, so I grabbed some Tombow Mono pencils to add to my workload. I guess if you like Asian pencils, the coming weeks will be full of fun reads around here. Of course I still have a bunch from my Thailand trip, and some miscellaneous buys.
I’m afraid that if I don’t pace myself I’ll run out of pencils to blog about eventually, but with the backlog I’ve got to review and more coming in so often, I doubt that will happen any time soon.