[Continued from Parts One and Two, Stephen sent us another set of pencils rankings that he and his son have come up with. Thanks again to Stephen and Hunter for seriously rigorous work in the name of pencils.]
Father and Son Pencil Review III: The Final Chapter
Following Pencil Revolution’s posting of our second pencil review, Hunter and I received a few more suggestions for consideration. We decided to do one last round by adding three made in the U.S.A. pencils to the mix.
My initial impressions of the aesthetics and manufacturing (not writing) quality of each of the new entrants:
Musgrave Pencil Company’s Test Scoring 100
This one wasn’t a suggestion for our consideration, actually, but an omission in previous reviews. Based on numerous postings I’d come across, I’d been wanting to try it out for myself. This Musgrave pencil is unlike any other with its silver finish and stark black lettering. It seems to be just a bit larger in diameter than the other pencils, too. Is this real or a false perception brought on by the feel of the disconcerting, sharply defined corners? Only scientifically-minded readers, or someone less lazy than me, will ever know.
U.S.A. Gold Natural 2 HB
The Gold 2 HBs were recommended to Hunter following our second review. I was still on the hunt for an American-made pencil I actually liked and, although I’d passed on this one before, I decided to give U.S.A. Gold’s naked pencil a go. My immediate impression was that it is poorly made. The erasers do not inspire confidence in their ability to stay embedded during a vigorous bout of second-guessing. And the ferrules seemed jammed onto the barrels without much thought of making sure the metal goes over, rather than into, the ends of the pencils.
Two distinguishing features of the barrels’ finish are noteworthy: The barrels have a very thin coating of clear lacquer or varnish, unlike the General’s which are bare wood. And, what the heck, the slats are not continuous lengths of wood. They use approximately 2.5” long finger-jointed slats. This is both cool and perplexing. Why do they do this? Based on the amount of research (none) I have done into this mystery, I state with absolute uncertainty this U.S.A. Gold Natural 2 HB finger-jointed slats issue will rank right up there alongside the Georgia Guidestones and Eilean Mor Lighthouse in the great listing of forever unknowables.
General’s Cedar Pointe #333 – 1
Johnny Gamber of this very blog took pity on my disappointment with the Cedar Pointe #333 – 2HB. I loved the look and feel of it and I really did want to like a pencil still manufactured in my own country, because it seems all we make here now are Toyotas and Big Government. Johnny clued me in: Gary Varner of Notegeist would be getting in a shipment of General’s Cedar Pointe #333 – 1s, and those babies might be just what I was looking for. So I watched, and watched, and watched, and WHAM! There they were, for sale, and I pounced.
Well, General’s must have had a bunch of leftover #2 boxes, because the #1s came in a box that had stickers placed over the #2 designations on the now repurposed boxes. Through the open window on the front of the box, the contents inside looked exactly like the old #2s. With trembling fingers, I pulled out the first pencil, twirled it gently in my hand, and read the imprint: U.S.A. General’s Cedar Pointe #333 – 2HB.
“2HB?” Must be my mistake, so I blinked hard, twice, and looked again: “U.S.A. General’s Cedar Pointe #333 – 2HB.” I put my hand over my mouth, looked wildly about my empty den, then began pulling out, and finally pouring out, the remaining contents of the box. Spinning the defenseless bald Cedar Pointes around on my desk, I rapidly scanned each barrel looking for the now damned “2HB” designation: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1. What? I looked again at the first one I’d withdrawn: “2HB.”
Was I the victim of some cruel trick played upon hapless pencil aficionados?
Now that The Boy is into pencils, I feel like our house is going through another phase of fat pencils, to match the second phase of diapers and bottles. He only recently started using colored pencils and graphite. I started him on the My First Ticonderoga, the pencil that seemed to give his sister The Pencil Bug in 2012.
Last week, he climbed into chair at the dining room table and picked up his sister’s hand-sharpened Tri-Conderoga and drew on her art (which produced giggles and then screams from the artist, who was drawing some nice houses). Between that severe triangular shape and the fact that fat pencils are round and roll everywhere, I picked up some Musgrave Finger Fitter pencils. Hen, from Rad and Hungry, sent a wonderful assortment of some really nice, fat pencils from her travels to Charlotte about two years ago, and there was this huge, triangular pencil I’d never seen before in the package.* Amazon started carrying them recently. These current ones are made of some kind of different wood, and of course Musgrave packages them in a glorified sandwich bag these days.
Henry got started early this Saturday morning, though Charlotte has cranked out three drawings already, before I am finished my first large stein of coffee. Wait, seven. (What’s in that chocolate milk?)
*(I swear I didn’t steal any, even though I’m a lot bigger than a toddler.)
First, I gave him My First Crayola colored pencils. He liked them, but the points kept breaking when he dropped them from the highchair. I let him scribble with the first Blackwing MMX I ever had, a pre-production model (also the first pencil his sister ever held). He really liked that, with the minimal pressure required to make a mark. But when he started trying to chew the fancy ferrule, we gave him his own box of Crayola Write Start pencils, which are pretty danged hard to break. He was in Pencil Heaven, until he needed to go and take care of Nature’s call and to dumb bubbly water all over the dining room.
So now we have broken the Pencil Seal with Mr. Henry, whose pencil box is far from as impressive as his sister’s — though I think it might make a few grown-ups jealous.
We watched the 2014 WWII film Fury last night at HQ. There were two scenes involving the critical use of pencils. I won’t spoil anything if you haven’t seen it yet. Both scenes involved planning. WarDaddy’s pocket notebook (above, left) looks like the 3.5 X 5.5 inch books we are used to. It’s hard to tell if it’s a modern brand, a reproduction or even genuine (as the tanks are).
Wardaddy’s pencil looks like a charcoal or soft-core pencil with the factory sharpening, from the very round collar where the cone meets the barrel. I suggest charcoal because it looks like there is a matte carbon dust all over the wood.
(I assume these screenshots fall under “fair use” rules.)
My son handed me something that he got out of the diaper bag: a mechanical pencil. I said to him, “What’s that there, bud?” My innocent four-year-old daughter butted in and said it was, “A Bullshit Pencil.” We have talked about Mr. Rees’ book too much in our house. And I hope she does not say that at school.
(I do not actually think they are all bullpoop.)
I know that we write about the USA series from Write Dudes a lot. We reviewed the Golds and even reviewed the USA Silver. I love these pencils, and they keep getting better all of the time. I found a bizarre…error today, though, which worked out in my favor.
I was in a different part of town and wound up at a strange Walmart. I went to the pencil aisle immediately, and it smelled like cedar. I saw some 4-dozen packs of USA Silver pencils. I noticed that it said “premium wood,” and I sniffed the open part of the box.
I pulled open a box, and what I found inside delighted me: USA Gold pencils, with the plain silver USA Silver ferrule — and they were $5.99. That’s a buck and half per dozen. And they look amazing.
It’s not often that you find a genuine surprise, let alone an American made one. Anyone else notice an up-tick in Write Dudes’ pencil quality in the last season or two?
This was a few weeks ago. I took advantage of the house being empty for an hour or two and watched Hemingway & Gellhorn. It wasn’t great.
Prompted by both a thread on the Field Nuts group and a great post on The Finer Point, here are my pocket notebooks from late 2010 to the present, not counting the ones I am still using. Pictured above, 114 Full Field Notes. Below, other branded books, including the number/alphabet books that might be too large/thick to qualify for this category.
I have been meaning to do something like this for a while. But:
1) It feels like bragging.
2) It feels like confessing to a problem.
3) I am lazy.
I have a small stash of empty Field Notes and assorted other pocket notebooks around, but they will soon move to the full pile. I keep them in a Sam Adams box that is literally splitting because I am a creature of habit and have stuffed way more into that space than really fit.
So. Charlotte started school today. Pre-K. She has been my constant companion for over four years. I did not have an easy night’s sleep or morning. But this is not the kind of blog where we wax emotional. However, there is still, of course, plenty to talk about on a pencil blog about the first day of school.
We bought the stuff on her school supply list. I assumed that six #2 pencils meant 1/2 dozen of fat learner’s pencils with big erasers for little students in Pre-K. So I dug through the bins at Staples to make sure that she got the best six in the store. While not on the list, I made sure to include a Pink Pearl and German-bladed pencil sharpener. Charlotte came home with 5 pencils in her backpack. I asked why. She said they are not supposed to have fat pencils.
Well. Hey hey hey. This means she can basically take whatever she wants to school for pencils! Holiday pencils. Disney Fairy pencils. Heck, Blackwings if she wants. So I took her to The Archive before our favorite restaurant opened for dinner and let her pick any six pencils she wanted.
This is what she came up with.
She picked the EnviroStik first, then an old (2005) Forest Choice, though I made her take a new one, to be sure the eraser works. Next, she requested that I open a 2014 Target-exclusive pack of Ticonderogas for “the blue one.” She picked a regular (new, matte, Chinese) Ticonderoga, then a black one (Chinese, smooth). Finally, she went for the bright silver of the Musgrave Test Scoring 100. These were pointed on a Deli sharpener (not too long) and are contained in an empty Ticonderoga box, for school tomorrow.
I scoped out the sharpener situation in the room, but I couldn’t get any pictures because a Little Guy was sobbing in the chair nearest: crank sharpener mounted where Small Children can reach it and an industrial electric sharpener behind the teacher’s desk. I did notice a pencil cup near it, and what the teacher wrote on was written in pencil. If I see her with a red/blue pencil, I’m gushing about this website and the even better podcast of which I am thankful to be a part.