The yellow, general-purpose “No. 2” pencil is an American staple. Ask someone who grew up in the States to describe a pencil, and they’ll probably say it has a yellow barrel and a pink eraser. It’s a safer thing to bet your life on than a game of Russian roulette, anyway. As much as we try to brag about how good we are at innovation, we Americans also tend to love it when all of the choices available to us are exactly the same. One time my ex-wife and I flew from Anchorage to Miami for vacation. What did we eat for lunch when we got there? Subway. We traveled across four time zones to experience something identical to what we’d have back home. That’s the American way. Pencils are no different. They’re supposed to be yellow. Everyone knows that.
Other countries, such as Japan, aren’t as stuck in a rut about this stuff as we are here in the States. They’ve got all of these wacky colors like red and green. Japanese pencils tend to be pretty good, and Tombow is a particular favorite of mine, but I can imagine the considerable anxiety and distress many of my fellow Americans might feel if I suggested they give something like the 8900 a try. Thankfully, Tombow has the solution to that problem: model number 2558. This yellow, general-purpose, everyday writing pencil comes in three grades (H, HB, and B) but only one color of lacquer — yellow! — and even has a pink eraser nub attached to the end. Just like we like it. So, I grabbed a few HB and B models (sorry, hard pencil lovers, I haven’t reviewed the H version…yet!) to see how the Japanese take on our favorite pencil scheme stands up.
I went to Seattle again. That means I went to Kinokuniya again. So, look out for some reviews of Japanese-type pencils and notebooks in the near future (or the far future…my stockpile keeps growing and growing ever larger…)
I’m really stoked about the Section notebook. The paper in it just seems…lovely. I’ll explain more when I write my review! The Mono J pencils I picked up because I eventually want to cover every member of the Tombow Mono family, and then do a big comparison post. Same with the Mitsubishi Uni pencils. And the Guildford pad? I think it’s just kind of funny since it’s all like “hey look at me I’m a hoity toity English flip book old chap…just kidding I’m from Japan!”
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!
On payday, I made my typical trip to Blaine’s Art Supply in search of some new toys & review fodder. I have so many pencils backed up to review — and yet, not enough to sustain this blog at the rate that I’m burning through them. So I forced myself to resist temptation to buy the few pencils they have remaining that I haven’t already picked up, and to branch out. I opted for something different and, in my line of work, potentially useful: The Tombow Mono Zero eraser; in this case, the rectangular version.
I have a very high opinion of Tombow products; in fact, the 8900 2B is one of my all-time favorite pencils. On the flip side, I’ve yet to meet a click eraser I actually really like. But then again, this one looks really promising. How will it pan out? Let’s see…
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…
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.