Review of My First Ticonderoga.

My daughter is a lover of all things pencil, pen and crayon. I mentioned a few weeks ago that she’s been using “big girl pencils.” Her pencil box is beginning to burst with the interesting pencils therein, and I thought it might be time to write some grown-up reviews of them.

I know that pencils such as these are really meant for smaller hands, but perhaps as a Dad, I feel a little less ridiculous owning fat pencils meant for kids. My First Ticonderoga is a surprisingly good pencil, especially given Dixon’s few years of disappointments.

My first experience with this pencil was when I was brainstorming a project at work — before stay-at-home-daddom began early in 2011. I filled several pages with large, garish letters and barely put a dent in the point. One of the reasons that I like pencils (in general) is that sometimes, only large and thick letters will do. A lot of pens that can produce letters like this bleed, feather or otherwise make a mess (the medium Sharpie Pen and Pilot G2 Bold are notable exceptions, along with the relatively new Bic Cristal Bold). Very soft art pencils can produce such lines. But they tend to smear and dull quickly. Enter large-diameter pencils.

The My First Dixon pencil is a smooth writer, reminding me of a combination of the newer/softer Chinese leads from Dixon and the last generation of leads in their American pencils from 7-8 years ago. Sure, these beasts are difficult to use in Field Notes, but on large-format paper, they glide and seem to almost yell with large block letters. The shape and size make this pencil very comfortable to write with. It feels much larger than it is, in a good way. The finish is pretty good, especially compared to other pencils in this price range, and the eraser is what we’ve come to expect from Dixon — I like them, but I know some Comrades do not.

The secret about this pencil that I have found lately is that they are superb for sketching! With their size and relative softness, they easily feel like a light 4B. If one puts a long point on the pencil, the thick core allows for a variety of line thicknesses with a single sharpening, through angling the pencil. And they are pretty inexpensive and easy to find. (I’d venture that this is the easiest kid’s pencil to find in the US, since they are at Walmart, Target, drugstores, etc.)

There are some quality issues. At least 1/3 of the MFT pencils I’ve seen have off-center leads, some pretty badly so. Some of paint is often chipping/pealing around the ferrule, but this is honestly better than the regular diameter Dixons coming from the facility in Mexico where these are also made (the Chinese stock is much better, in my opinion).

These are certainly interesting enough, affordable enough, and easy enough to find to try out if you happen across them. At the very least, they make an excellent addition to the pencil cup, for times Comrades might want their words to scream on the paper.