28 Comments

  1. Ever since I found these, I’ve sworn off of Ebony pencils as I find these far superior (plus the fact that they’re still made in the USA.

    Great review!

  2. Thank you for the great review, including the wonderful photos! It is really nice to see how the pencils are being used. I’m going to have to try the Layout/Rite in the Rain combination.

  3. Amazing! Thank you for that review with the outstanding photos – I must get my hands on some of these pencils very quickly ;-) Keep up the excellent work, Speculator!

  4. An outstanding review–but then, I’d expect nothing less from Speculator! I enjoyed seeing them in action as tools to aid in book restoration. Very interesting stuff.

    I need to get my hands on more of these. I wish Pencils.com carried them…

  5. MJD

    I may be off here, but I’m pretty sure that these fall into the category of Carbon Pencils. They feel a bit more chalky than straight graphite and clay because of the added charcoal(for that extra darkness) used in the cores. Similar to the Ebony from Sanford or prismacolor or whatever the brand name on them is now (damn you Newell for making it so hard to keep track). on the other hand I just noticed that my General’s 555’s are labeled Ebony/Layout and have to be at least 15 years old so the current product may differ. At least the name differs but they look otherwise the same. A great review, I enjoyed reading it very much

  6. logan

    I had already planned on going to the art supply store yesterday, and after reading this, added a couple of Layouts to my shopping list.

    Compared to the Ebonys I’ve been using, the Layout holds a point much better, and is very close in darkness. The feel is totally different, though. The Ebony has a creamy, super smooth feel, whereas the Layout feels more like a #2 when writing.

    The Layout is noticeably thicker, which is more comfortable for me. The paint is terrible, though, at least on the ones I bought. When sharpening, the Layout’s lead comes off in tiny shards, unlike the Ebony’s fine dust.

    I also picked up a few different grades of General’s Kimberly art pencils. They may end up replacing the Prismacolor Turquoise I’ve been using for shaded drawing. They’re a really beautiful pencil. The 9xxB is crazy.

  7. I enjoyed reading this review very much especially because the pencil is shown hard at work and especially because the work at hand is book binding/restoration which I love. Wonderful photos too. This General is fit for a prince!

  8. Thank you for such wonderful comments!!

    Palimpsest hit it precisely about well-crafted tools put to work.
    I wrote the review to demonstrate that very purpose- and really enjoyed making the “chronicle” along the way- of bookbinding and journaling.
    And- I really am a longtime fan of Pencil Revolution, one of my first favorite blogs!

  9. James

    It’s extremely close to a PBW in terms of darkness. At comfortable writing pressure, I’d put the PBW a hair darker – negligably so. Having said that – I’m having a difficult time identifying these samples now.

    The PBW is easily way smoother – the Layout is respectable, maybe close to a Lumograph HB.

  10. Bob S. in Phoenix, AZ

    What intrigues me about the Layout pencil is that it has the look and feel of a pencil from an earlier era. I feel like I am writing with a vintage pencil from the 19th century. In particular, I am referring to the exterior paint and color, the round shape, the lack of an eraser and the lack of finishing at the top of the pencil. At the same time the quality of the lead and the pencil, itself, are up to top notch modern standards. I enjoy taking notes with this pencil.

  11. Wow, this is a great article, and such a find. I have been looking for a pencil such as you describe, and I second what folks above said…lovely shots of your work on book restoration!

  12. Dexter Colt

    A spot on description of the General 555. Unlike the Prismacolor Ebony pencil, the General Layout is dark, but not brittle. This is the only pencil I really need.

  13. An added note for any Northwesterners who might stop by: these are now among the General’s offerings carried by Fred Meyer (usually with the art supplies rather than office supplies). They come in a two pack, and at about a dollar a pencil they’re a bit of a luxury item…but somehow a package found its way in with my groceries today.

  14. andy mackadandy.

    can’t get either sanfords ebony or general’s layout in the UK, i have a dozen of each coming from the states. i am used to ordering stuff from a country that is a little less than a 1000 miles end to end, so waiting on stuff from the states is frustrating to say the least, i think both orders are coming by schooner the amount of time they are taking.

  15. I have been looking for these EVERYWHERE. I live in Australia and found a two pack at an art store a bit out of my way and gave them a go.

    I draw and one major problem I have with graphite is sometimes when there are large or deep sections of black the sheen of graphite grey stops a scanner from scanning the drawing properly. Carbon pencils are rough, they snap and flake and smudge. When I found these I went nuts with them. Now, with only one pencil left I’m afraid to use it because I haven’t been able to find them anywhere. I ask the biggest art supple store in town and he hasn’t heard of it. Same as evetywhere they seem to think General’s is only known for charcoal.

  16. Caro Hampton

    Was looking up what a “titling pencil” was and came accross this on Layouts Wonderful, will try to get one next I am in the States – meanwhile, you used the word titling in the report on making the new spine for book – so what is a titling pencil used for? I have a white one that appeared with some personal effects belonging to an aunt – thanks for your help Caro

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