Exaclair sent us a box of Rhodia goodies to review recently, and one (two, rather) of the goodies is the orange and black Rhodia pencil. This pencil matches the standard orange Rhodia pad in much the same way as the Field Notes pencils and notebooks match. The quality more than meets the standards of the Rhodia pad.
Material: Linden wood.
Finish: Matte orange with all black details.
Ferrule: Aluminum, glossy black and round.
Eraser: Black and soft.
Core: Ceramic/graphite composite. Available in #2/HB.
Markings: The Rhodia fir tree logo on all three sides, near the eraser end.
Availability: From RhodiaPads.Com and select online retailers.
Like it’s cousin, the Rhodia pad, the Rhodia pencil is a pale orange with black details, made in France and just finely made. The designers of this pencil went so far as to dye the wood black, so that the pencil is absolutely and completely black and orange. I was disappointed to learn that the wood is Linden wood and not Cedar, especially given the cost and excellent design of the Rhodia pencil. I wonder if Cedar might be more difficult to dye black? Either way, sharpening is easy and neat with this treated Linden wood. The factory sharpening does not leave the zig-zag pattern that your sharpener at home (or work) will leave, and it looked oddly that way to me. I’d have liked them unsharpened, but this isn’t a big deal to me. My pencils are either in my stash or sharpened for use. I remember some triangular pencils being tough to sharpen the first time, if the shape is extreme. The shape of this pencil is just plain comfortable. The angles of the triangular cross-section are nicely rounded, but the sides are flatter than, say, a Grip 2001.
The finish is very fine. The orange matte is smooth and feels thick and easy to grip. There’s a layer of white paint (primer?) under the orange that shows up at the sharpened end, but it’s not a huge deal. The Rhodia logo is stamped in black on all three sides, near the eraser, leaving the rest of the pencil bare. This also means that very short pencils (pocket-sized!) will have the same logo and not any unsightly cut-off lettering. The stamping is crisp and nearly flawless. Following in the vein of carefulness the ferrule is crimped on perfectly. Unlike the Grip 2001 and Tri-Conderoga, the ferrule is round, despite the pencil being triangular. This can lead to poorly-fitted ferrules, as in the Dixon Tri-Write (at least all the ones I own), but the Rhodia pencil’s ferrule is tight, straight, flush with the barrel and doesn’t smash and flake off the paint like so many pencils I’m seeing for sale in the US have these days, even round ones. The eraser is also round. I like the triangular erasers of other pencils for detailed erasering, but the quality and length of the Rhodia eraser make up for it. The eraser is slightly longer than most pencils, but not so much that it feels like it’s going to pop out of the ferrule.
The core is very nice. It’s not as smooth as a Palomino or soft German pencil, but it’s not scratchy, either. It has a nice feedback, without being rough on the paper. Darkness on this HB runs darker than a Dixon, just a shade or two lighter than a Forest Choice. This tone is very nice on Rhodia’s white paper and also in other applications. The cores in both test units are nearly perfectly-centered, with no grit or crumbling. Smearability is minimal, and it honestly took some effort to produce. Bizarrely enough, HB pencils that are this dark are usually smoother writers, but this pencil’s smoothness is certainly satisfactory enough for me.
The design, quality and attention to detail we see in the Rhodia pencil are definitely in keeping with Rhodia’s other products. However, there is one small thing that I find out-of-step with the pencil: the price. Rhodia pads, for the quality of paper, French origin and sheer quality, are really a steal. Last time I bought a No. 11 pad, I paid $1.80 for it, about the same as the junky pads they sell at my grocery store. The Rhodia pencil runs about $1.90-$2.00 a piece. Most quality eraser-tipped pencils are a quarter of that price (or less), while premium pencils run about $1.00 each (Faber-Castell 9000s, Palominos, Mars 100s, etc.). I could definitely appreciate the Rhodia pencil as a premium piece on par with the pencils mentioned above, but at about $2 each, they seem to aspire to “luxury” status a bit. Rhodia pads are certainly nice, but they are more in the line of premium paper (Moleskines, Doane, etc.) than luxury (Italian leather and parchment, etc.). Still, maybe I’m working under false assumptions. These pencils really are of the highest quality, especially when you look at the junk paint jobs and crooked ferrules on a lot of recently-outsourced, formerly-American pencils these days. My other small qualm (which is actually even smaller) is that the Rhodia pencil is very hard to find! Considering that Rhodia pads are often stocked by art supply shops and that these venues contain and sell any number of premium pencils, I would think there would be some for sale with the pads in at least one of the four art supply shops near my office (you have to love Midtown Baltimore!). It will just prompt me to take extra care of the two I have.
In the end, though, this is really just a fantastic pencil. The design and execution are stellar, and it’s a pleasure to write with. That’s what pencils are for! I’ve been wearing my review pencil down quickly, writing on some of the other goodies from Rhodia, which we hope to review in the very near future. (Thanks again to Karen for the lovely package!)