I often memorialize the victims of the Rubbermaid Pencil Massacre on this blog, but I have yet to give a proper eulogy to one of its most prominent: The Eberhard Faber company of Brooklyn, USA. Thankfully I managed to acquire an example of one of their products from a thrift store grab bag, and have decided to give that lone pencil — the American EcoWriter in No. 2 grade — the Throwback Pencil Review treatment.
Back before the aforementioned mega-merger, Eberhard Faber produced more than one third of the pencils made in the United States. Shortly before they met their demise, in the early 1990’s, they began experimenting with ways to make a more earth-friendly pencil. One such experiment was the EcoWriter, a “wood substitute” pencil made not of extruded plastic, like many others (sidenote: did people really used to think that disposable plastic products were good for the environment?), but rather some amalgamation of recycled paper and cardboard. Pencils using this construction method can occasionally be found in current production, but it seems that the EcoWriter was the first to take a stab at it — or at least the first attempt by a major manufacturer to bring it to the masses.
But let’s address the elephant in the room: was the EcoWriter actually any good?
We all love the humble but might composition book. But, have you ever tried a Decomposition Book? Michael Roger, Inc. has engaged in a little bit of witty wordplay with their well-known series of notebooks, the pages of which are made from 100% post-consumer-waste recycled materials.
Although the Decomposition Book started as a spin on the thread and tape bound comp book we all know and love, they’ve expanded into a full range of different sizes and formats. I thought I’d dip my toe into their products with a spiral-bound pocket-sized notebook that I picked up in Seattle (please excuse the wear on the book — it’s traveled 1,500 miles with me!) So now, after making the journey from the Emerald City to the City of Lights and Flowers, I’ve prepared my review.
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!
Of the few pencil-makers still producing writing sticks in the USA, Moon Products, Inc. is probably the most stealthy. Their Tennessee plant cranks out countless lines of promotional and inspirational pencils, as well as pencils sold under other brands’ labels. The product lines that Moon puts out under it’s own name mostly fly under the radar, needles in the proverbial haystack. However, among the few models of pencil that they christen with their brand is an iconic American classic: the Try-Rex.
The Try-Rex is actually an invention of Richard Best Pencils, way back when, and was the first triangular pencil produced in the United States. Eventually Best’s outfit was bought up by the J.R. Moon company (which was later bought out itself) and its catalog folded into Moon’s holdings. However, the Try-Rex lives on, with homage paid to its originator in the B46 model number — B for “Best” — and is still made in the States, where it all began. I picked up a few of the standard-sized models so that I could give Moon pencils some love on the ol’ blog. Here, without further ado, is my review of the Try-Rex.
The American-made pencil just might be making a comeback. I wanted to call it a “renaissance” at first, but that’s hardly the word. There doesn’t seem to be anything fancy, artistic, or revolutionary about the pencils still made in the USA today; most of them seem to be largely utilitarian in nature. Nonetheless, the industry that was on the brink of drying up in the States not long ago seems to be slowly expanding and diversifying.
One pencil that’s been on the forefront of the re-establishment has been the Golden Bear. Sold under the Palomino brand — yes, that Palomino — the Golden Bear is a Made-in-America No. 2 pencil with a little bit extra. With an eye-catching appearance and a brand name that suggests quality among the wood-and-graphite faithful, here’s a pencil that set out to prove that American No. 2’s don’t have to be so, well, yellow. I grabbed a dozen to see what was under the lacquer and how it stood up to the competition.
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…
This is a pencil I’ve been wanting to review for a long time, but it just hasn’t ever seemed like the right “fit” in my blog post flow. Whatever that means. But as I finished publishing my review of the Lyra Groove Slim, I decided it was time to give Miss Kimberly a long-awaited test run.
The Kimberly is a high-end offering from General Pencil Co. As such, it’s marketed toward artists, but we all know that there’s no reason a person can’t write with a drawing pencil. And even for a high-end, made-in-USA product, the Kimberly comes in at budget-friendly price, at least compared to the competitors in the drawing pencil world. So, I handled several of them in the store, and took home a couple each of the HB and 2B to test out.
Happy late May Day, comrades. I hope you’re recovering well from a successful day of instigating glorious proletarian revolution. Anyway, today I popped in to that bastion of the working class, Goodwill, and found some cool stuff during my mid-day break from bourgeois exploitation. (Just kidding. I work for the government, and I oppress the bourgeoisie on a daily basis; or at least they seem to think I do).
The Mirado Classic pencils are noteworthy because they are of mid/late-2000s vintage. Of course the Mirado Classic is still produced today, but the model pictured above was made in the USA, out of cedar. Production has since moved to Mexico, and more recently cedar was dropped in favor of a different species of wood for the Mirado Classic (or, at least, it’s no longer the only species of wood). I think it would be fun to use one of these for a throwback review, and/or do a comparison review of the circa-2019 Mirado Classic, the current Black Warrior, and the old USA Mirado pencils.