Review of Forest Choice graphite pencils.

This is the very first review featured on PRevo. It has been reserved for Forest Choice, namely their cedar graphite pencils — because of their generosity and because I have personally always wanted to try their pencils and finally got to this week.

Some General Information:
Material:Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified Incense-cedar.
Shape: Hexagonal.
Finish: Unfinished cedar, sanded extremely smoothly, no varnish or lacquer at all.
Ferrule: Solid green metal, thin paint.
Eraser: Soft pink, non-smudge.
Core: HB (#2) graphite.
Markings: Dark green gloss. On one side, the FSC insignia and “FOREST CHOICE.” On the flip side, “”
Packaging: Ribbed kraft paper, by the dozen and the gross.
Origin: California (wood); Thailand (manufacturing).
Availability: Forest Choice online store.

That’s the technical information. Now for the good stuff.

It is certainly fortunate that the inaugural review on PRevo is of such an excellent pencil. The shape is a pleasantly rounded hexagonal barrel. The colors of the ferrule, the paint, the woodgrain and the eraser play on the senses in such a way that one would wish to have something important (but earthy) to write with one of these fine pencils. The touch and appearance factor are definitely to the advantage of this pencil.

Writing with a Forest Choice pencil is just as pleasurable as holding or beholding them. The core is as smooth as the sanded wood and considerably dark. If you have used some cheaper pencils with unwaxed cores, then you know how black an HB pencil can be. The core of the Forest Choice pencil achieves this darkness and somehow does so without adding the smear/smudge factor. What you get is a nice dark line that remains a line if you touch it, rather than turning to a grey blob upon getting disturbed in any way. I used them to hand-write the larger part of a term paper, and I did not have the trouble I sometimes have with reading pencil writing from the keyboard. It stood out against the page like gel ink would. To be sure, the core feels more like a smooth B grade lead, almost a 2B. It is rich.

The eraser, while extremely soft, is still a good match for the dark lead and takes the lines off the paper easily. The wear-down is minimal, and it does no damage at all to the paper so far as one can tell.

Sharpening is a breeze, of course, since the cedar has a long and straight grain. And it exudes that subtle cedar fragrance as the shavings hit the saucer or the table.

The texture and smell of unfinished and sanded cedar is really something that online photos and words cannot really convey. You have to try them. Forest Choice pencils are a little more expensive by the dozen than your average pencil, but they are also made of a higher quality wood, with a darker core and with a softer eraser that actually works. You will more than get your money’s worth, with writing pleasure to boot. I sure did.

(Edit, July 2017: Since I was asked, I did buy the pencils used for this review. I had reached out to FC in 2005 to ask about the shipping rates for their “lovely unfinished pencils.” They sent me a huge box of literally unfinished, round pencils for free that I used with great pleasure for ¬†years. I immediately ordered a few packs of Forest Choice pencils and have been buying them ever since.)

[Note: Reviews of Forest Choice’s colored pencils and carpenter’s pencils to follow in a few weeks, when I get around to ordering them. Review of PaperMate American Naturals next Friday! These photos copyright J.G. 2005.]

“What’s That Stuff?”

From Chemical and Engineering News, “The newsmagazine of the chemical world online.” Steve Ritter recalls:

Most adults probably realize that there isn’t any elemental lead in a pencil. But I worried about that when I was a kid after I had the point of a freshly sharpened No. 2 lodged in the palm of my right hand. It’s still there, 30 years later.

I actually have a graphite bit under my watch that’s been there since 1991, when I was in the seventh grade. But that’s a story (and photo) for another post.

Personal anecdotes aside, there’s some great information in there about pencils and graphite, including some things that not everyone knows about our humble wooden warrior.

[Photo copyright Doug Martin.]

Neighbor Girl on pencils.

From a recent comment by our friend Neighbor Girl:

“There is a lot less fear in writing with a pencil. Mistakes are easier to correct and there are never ink-flow issues. I can let my guard down with pencils and my handwriting is much more relaxed. It’s similar to going on a date in a dress (pen) and going to the market with a friend in jeans (pencil). I’m not going to be fussy about my jeans, I’m just going to relax in them. Pencils are comfortable, they keep us real.”

[Photo copyright N.G., used with permission.]

Pencil Revolution in Nepal.

From the Direct Help Foundation:

The Kalam Revolution, the pencil revolution, began because of people and organisations taking advantage of the ignorance of humble people, especially during the adoption process. Many women are promised that their children will actually return, which never happens. They cannot read the documents they are signing and they are in an impoverished situation which will not allow them to stay with their children.

It seems that we share our name with a wonderful organization!

It’s telling that the pencil is a symbol of literacy and the power that comes from the communication that literacy makes possible. And people say that the pencil is just wood and grapite!

[Photo property of Direct Help Foundation.]

Deals on Mirados.

Via eBay. Mirado pencils for only a buck a dozen, with free US shipping. Can’t beat that! They have the Black Warrior and the Classic (my favorite currently). If you have never tried Mirado pencils, they really are the smoothest writing pencil you’re going to find, with a genuine Pink Pearl on top of the ferule. At this price and this ease of getting them, it’s too good to pass up. Try them both, and let us all know what you think.
(Please tell them who sent you if you go purchase them!)

World’s largest pencil.

This comes courtesy of the Pencil Pages. It is the largest pencil in existence.

“It is triangular in shape, 12 m in length, weighing approximately 600 kg, and made of Weymouth Pine. The lead is genuine graphite about 12 cm in diameter.”

[Photo By Sandra Suppa, FABER-CASTELL GmbH & Co., Germany]

Pencil ads (I).

These are some vintage pencil ads that Don P. sent us as a “blog-warming” gift last week. He tells me that he inherited them from his grandfather, along with a love of office supplies. Thanks, Don, for the images and the blog warm wishes.

New address and host.

Thanks to some great advice from A, we have found a new home at the current location. The remaining comments went by the wayside, but I think there’s a way around that. At any rate, GoDaddy is very sharp and is hearby an honorary Pencil Friend. So far, I’d definitely recommend them for your hosting and domain registration needs.

If I can find some old jingles from old pencil ads, we could have them uploaded to our host now. Does anyone know where to find those? I’ll get out my dancing shoes and cut a rug. No photos of that, though. Sorry.


I’ve always noticed that my writing looks better in pencil than in pen. And I know I’m not alone in noticing this. Didn’t most of us, after all, learn to write using pencils?

The fact that my own writing looks better in pencil is probably from eight years of handwriting classes at Catholic school. I remember using some jumbo black pencils with thick lead to write with in the first grade. Our pencils had no erasers, and they were just…unpleasant to hold, let alone write with. And there was that thin newsprint-like writing paper that Sister Theresa Mary insisted we use, since it had huge lines to write on, with the centers being dotted lines — all in pale blue on puke-tan colored paper. It performed like compressed toilet paper and would instantly tear if you tried to erase anything you had written on it, especially since the eraser-free pencils required six year olds to attempt to wield something like a Pink Pearl to erase an accidentally-crossed L or some such. And no one wanted to deal with a nun who had a temper but was recently no longer allowed to spank us when they ripped a page. So we learned to write perfectly in pencil in fear of Sister Theresa Mary’s considerably loud yelling.

By the second grade, when we learned cursive writing, we were allowed to use whatever wooden #2 pencils we wanted to. I honestly can’t remember what brand I had, since my mother would have provided me with ample pencils that I would never have even seen in the box (probably G.I. Joe pencils or something like that). But I remember that we all had to learn to write perfectly and uniformly and according to those charts and the perfectly scripted two-feet-high letters our teacher put on the chalkboard. I remember that my handwriting went downhill in the third or fourth grade (don’t remember which) when we were allowed to use the shoddy mechanical pencils available in the 80s. And I remember that it went further downhill in the fifth grade when we were allowed to use ballpoint pens.

I kept up with my handwriting a little, however, since our sadistic (don’t ask) principal in middle school required even all middle schoolers to take handwriting lessons when she felt that the school’s penmanship was being neglected. These lessons, of course, required yellow #2 pencils and pink erasers.

While no longer in fear of ill-tempered nuns (the only two mean ones I ever had taught me to write), my handwriting still looks best and most uniform in pencil. Whenever I ditch the gel pens and the markers and the keyboard, my own natural penmanship comes out in wooden pencil, freely and fearlessly. Or is it just Charlie and I?