Am I Write?
I’ve wanted to do a pencil review for some time now. To some, this might be as interesting as reviewing aglets or mud pies, and I can understand that. For a long time, I almost hated pencils. The sound of graphite on paper was like a mild Nazgûl scream to me. I’ve been a decided advocate of pens since I learned to write my left-handed words. But then I ran across Joe Thorn’s blog post on pencils and decided to give them a chance.
And now, having my own blog, I get to nerd out over a writing utensil that has grown on me over the last few years. When I sit down to work, I unfold my pencil roll and begin to sharpen my workhorses. Even know, some folks will come by and raise an eyebrow and ask about them. Everyone needs a hobby, I tell them, and this one is relatively inexpensive. But the truth is, I just like them. So, here are three pencils I’m really enjoying right now.
This particular model of Golden Bear comes in a handsome blue color pack of 12. It’s made of the standard incense-cedar from the west coast so it smells great. I’ve never had the graphite break on me. I was going to include a certain brand until, last night, the point snapped after the pencil itself had become to short. But the Golden Bear has a graphite core that runs the length of its body, so you don’t really get that.
It’s not as dark as I prefer. The darker the graphite, the softer the lead. But that means I don’t have to sharpen it after every five minutes. And it’s a smooth draw across the page. Any pencil I can forget I’m using is a good pencil. I came across these after I started using Blackwings and so I can say that the Golden Bear is a happy medium between excellence and paper fodder. Just a nice stick to write with.
General’s Cedar Pointe
This one took some getting used to. But the same goes for most honest people. And when you get this pencil, you get an honest pencil. I say that because there’s not much to it. It’s unfinished and devoid of lacquer and color. That could be a plus or a minus for you.
For me, I like the feel of smooth cedar. I would love to be better at woodworking, but I covet my fingers. This gives me the illusion that I’m closer to that world. And the eraser works! Some pencils (like the Musgrave Scoring Pencil) have erasers that function like cheese on a grater. U.S.A. General’s Cedar Pointe has a sturdy black eraser that takes a beating.
Relative hardness. To my mind, it’s a shade lighter that the Golden Bear , but it’s solid. When I sit down to work, the Cedar Pointe is usually my workhorse. And again, it’s just fun to write with unfinished wood. Makes me feel like a pioneer (minus the dysentery).
This neat little guy deserves special mention. It’s an economical option from India. For the price of a Starbucks specialty drink, you get ten pencils, a little eraser, and a fun little sharpener. I didn’t use the sharpener because I prefer the Kum AS2M and keep several around the house, but you will need one and that’s because the HPL Nataraj doesn’t have an eraser.
At first blush, that might be seen as a drawback. But remember, I was (and still claim to be) a pen aficionado. Since erasable pens are a trick of the devil, this feels more like how writing should be. You think about what you want to say and then you slowly compose. There is no means of revision other than the graphite. At the risk of attributing way to much to a writing tool, I think it can be a tiny step towards civility. The lack of an eraser makes me slow down a bit more and weigh my words because I can’t just call a do over.
The Nataraj has a lovely paint job. I’m not sure what species of wood they us, but the shavings are pink and remind me of sliced champagne apples. And who wouldn’t love that?
Draw Your Own Conclusions
I work mostly on a laptop all day, but I have used a hybrid analog approach to content creation for a while now. Whether it’s my indispensable Full-Focus Planner or my Expedition Field Notes (for which I will only use Zebra F-301 pens), I write on paper everyday. And above are three pencils I would heartily recommend to anyone who enjoys using good graphite or wants to pick up a fun, cheap hobby.
And we haven’t even talked about pencil rolls yet…