There are many pencils made in China. In fact, something like 50% of the world’s pencils are manufactured there. However, approximately 80% of them are manufactured for export — pencils such as the Dixon Ticonderoga, for example. But if you’ve read my review of the Chung Hwa 101, you know that I’m very curious about Chinese domestic brands. One of those brands is the curiously-named Deli company.
I have a bit of a hypothesis that it’s probably the brands that we in the West have never heard of that make the highest-quality pencils in China. It makes sense to me that those are the products that Chinese people want to buy, and that the random factories churning out shoddy pencils have to resort to exporting no-name products to the big box stores for pennies, because no one there wants to buy their crap. So where do products from Deli fit into all of this? Is the Deli S905 a solid product that we are missing out on here in the States? Or is it a cut-rate excuse for a writing instrument? Or is my hypothesis totally bunk?
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!
Hey man, we all make mistakes. Some of us more so than others; that’s why one of the reasons I love writing with pencils is that they’re erasable. But we pencil geeks know that once you get into the realm of exotic pencils — Asian pencils, “drawing” pencils, etc. — sometimes they don’t actually come with an eraser. Of course, even those of us who stay safely within the realm of #2 “school and office” pencils and have an eraser always at our penciltips know that not all erasers actually, well, erase. So I reckon if I’m going to write a blog that focuses heavily on pencil reviews, I should review a few erasers while I’m at it.
What’s a good review without a benchmark? Something ubiquitous, middle-of-the-road, and easily obtainable to compare against, which you, dear reader, are probably familiar with? With those criteria established, I ran across the street to the office supply store and picked up a three-pack of the most cliche eraser I could find: the Papermate Pink Pearl, which will be the subject of my first eraser review.
It may be somewhat of a faux pas for a pro-analog pencil snob to use an electric sharpener, but I’m not trying to hear all of that negativity. For one thing, I push pencils for a living. Sometimes I’m working with a pencil and I just need the damn thing to get sharp. It doesn’t have to be an “experience”. Yeah, yeah, stopping to smell the flowers and all. Try telling that to the people I’m billing by the hour. Better yet, tell that to my brain that will wander off into the weeds if I break my focus for more than a nanosecond.
It also occurred to me that a reviewer of pencils should strive for consistency in methods. I put a lot of thought on ways that I can remove variables from my reviews and make my testing more objective. Although I do a hand-sharpening test for every pencil I review, I conduct the rest of the process using an electric sharpener. Electric sharpeners simply make a more consistent point than I can by hand, and that way I’m making apples-to-apples comparisons.
OK, now that I’ve hopefully talked my way out of being ostracized by the pencil community, let’s get down to meat and potatoes. My go-to electric sharpener is the X-ACTO Mighty Mite, which I own in two versions: one that plugs in to AC power (model 19520), and one that is battery-operated (model 19510). I’ve been using these on the daily for a few months, and think I have a pretty good handle on the pros and cons of each. And, because it’s the thing that I do, I’m going to share my thoughts on the Mighty Mite with you, dear reader.