Review of Tombow Mono 100.

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[This review has been in the queue, waiting for the holidays to be over. If traffic stats are truthful, folks were happily not online much over the holidays – which is refreshing!]

Jetpens was kind enough to send a few Tombow Mono 100 pencils to Pencil Revolution HQ in HB and 2B. These are Top-Of-The-Line drawing and writing pencils from Japan, in a thick and very glossy lacquer. The printing is both informative and tasteful. And, golly, the gold stamping is nearly perfect. These are just beautiful pencils, and I did hesitate for a moment before sharpening them up. But I was glad I did.

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The Tombow Mono 100 is just as pleasing a pencil underneath all of that shiny paint. The cedar sharpens perfectly, and the cores are dead-center. The core is one of the best things about this pencil. At the risk of being…I don’t know what, I find it best to compare this pencil to its nearest cousin, the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB. The Tombow Mono 100 is darker, but the lead feels harder for some reason. Only through squinting mightily and repeating the tests could I figure out which pencil smears, erases and ghosts best. Unfortunately for the Tombow, the Hi-Uni smears less, ghosts less and erases more cleanly. But the differences are very slight and likely accounted for by the Mono 100’s increased darkness. I think it balances itself out, to be sure.

The 2B feels exactly like a slightly softer version of the HB pencil, which is one of the greatest compliments that one can pay to different grades of the same pencil. I cannot be not the first person to use two grades if the same pencil that feel like totally different pencils. This is far from the case with the Mono 100; the consistency is remarkable. I generally prefer a darker pencil for writing, but the 2B is a bit too dark for me. The HB is fantastic, and I would certainly love to try the B grade for writing, too.

Where the Tombow really differs from the Hi-Uni is in the color/temperature of the graphite mark. Like the Palomino Blackwing 602, I find the marks from the Mono 100 to be almost blue or cold in nature. This is certainly not a point against either pencil – or a point for it – but it was something I noticed and enjoyed noticing. Being January, I find this fitting.

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The case is very different from all other pencils I have owned, in that it seems to be designed for the desk top – as opposed to the desk drawer for the Hi-Uni or the supply cabinet for cardboard-boxed pencils. Frankly, it is just incredibly cool. Jetpens has great photos of the case on their site here.

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I do have a few qualms with this pencil. The finish is so glossy that it shows scratches very easily. I don’t understand the aesthetic or symbolic rationale of putting an off-center white stripe onto the plastic endcaps. Indeed, mine did not all line up exactly, which is a surprising put-off for precision. Also, the case does not protect the finish of the pencils the way that the Hi-Uni’s case does. In fact, all of our samples were considerably scratched up from travelling across the country.

Oddly our 2B and HB pencils have different logos for Tombow and for the model itself. I am not sure which is newer, or if the difference is something else. Please do clue us in if you are In The Know.

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The Tombow Mono 100 is a wonderful pencil, with a top-shelf finish as well as great wood and graphite under the hood. Even the case is nice. Certainly, they are expensive. But perhaps, like myself, Comrades cherish such Precious Pencils and use them until they are merely tiny stubs. I would not leave these on a desk at work, unless you really like your co-workers. Someone in my house walked off with a few already, since I left the case out — Unguarded. This does not happen in HQ as often as one might think, and the tastes around here run closed to sparkles and pink pencils. So this is a ringing endorsement from my daughter, who does not like a lot of high-end pencils.

12 Responses to “Review of Tombow Mono 100.”

  1. Cesar says:

    The second logo is new.

  2. dobro says:

    Hi Comrade, somewhere, but I don’t remember precisely where, Alberto of Lung Sketching Scrolls also praises Hi-Uni’s non-smudgeworthiness, even up to 3B. Regarding Mono 100, you make a good point about consistency from grade to grade. The darkest Lumographs, for instance, have a totally different feel than the pencils downrange because Staedtler has added something (soot?) to achieve blackness at the cost of smoothness. I suspect the transition is abrupt. The Tombow pencil case is more useful for the desktop than Hi-Uni’s because it opens wide, but both are keepers. I have not noticed any scratching on my Mono 100’s; in theory the white insert inside the box should keep the pencils well separated. Also, what brand are those notebooks? They are very elegant.

  3. dobro says:

    Thank you, John. I did a look-see on Amazon. The Cavalini notebooks are expensive, but the graphics of the whole line are spectacular!

    • John says:

      I think I’ve paid $10 a set at Dick Blick last time I was in Philly, and the used to be that price online. They do have a lot of pages though.

  4. Elle Marie says:

    Hi — I’m poking my head out of lurker-dom to direct anyone interested in the Cavallini notebooks to that brand’s section on the European Paper Company website. The notebooks available there seem to be larger than those shown in the review, though, so if pocket-sized is your preference, they won’t be for you. They’re sold in sets of 2 for $12. I’m not affiliated with European Paper. I just like spending (way too much) time there and at other stationery etc. sites thinking about all the things I would buy if I weren’t on a budget.

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