View Full Version : Pencil Resources

AW Admin
06-13-2019, 12:25 AM
There are many of us who use pencils, whether mechanical or propelled pencils, or wooden cased pencils with a graphite core.

I use pencils regularly, often even daily; they’re great for ease of use, they erase, they’re readily available, they can be very affordable, and while the erasers may dry up or wear out, the pencil itself is durable and enduring. One technique to help break out of a rut is to take a notebook and a pencil somewhere else and just noodle around. You might consider taking a pencil that doesn’t have a built-in eraser, to help silence that inner critic. The ease of revising as you go may appeal to you. Pencils are also useful if you’re trying to sketch out a scene in terms of location, where people or doors or objects are, or a quick rough map. Some library special collections won’t allow a computer or tablet; all they allow are pencils and paper, which they may inspect before allowing you to enter or leave the premises. Some archives even issue you the paper and pencil to use!

People are very opinionated about what pencils, erasers and sharpeners they prefer; I suggest trying a few affordable options out and finding what works best for you. I’ve listed some resources below. Many offer “sample packs”: a sample of single pencils of several sorts.

Information about Pencils and Accessories

A Beginner's Guide To Pencil Shopping (https://cwpencils.com/blogs/news/93622723-a-beginners-guide-to-pencil-shopping)
This is an easy to follow straight-forward guide to buying a pencil based on what you want to do with it. See also their Pencil Grade Guides (https://cwpencils.com/blogs/news/131980803-beginners-guide-to-pencil-shopping-a-guide-to-grades).

Pencil Buying Guide (https://pencils.com/pages/pencil-buying-guide)
More than you ever wanted to know about how pencils are made, but it includes an explanation of the hardness and firmness codes used to identify pencils. The standard American #2 pencil (https://cwpencils.com/blogs/news/how-to-find-your-perfect-2) is about an HB in the international scale. It's mid-range, in other words, in terms of firmness and darkness. Generally the firm or harder a pencil's lead (really, graphite), the lighter it writers. The darker the graphite, the darker and softer it writes (and the more likely to smudge, especially if you’re a lefty). JetPens has a good basic page about grades of graphite and kinds of pencils and The Best Lead Grade For Every Application (https://www.jetpens.com/blog/the-best-lead-grade-for-every-application/pt/475).

Graphite Grading Scale Explained (https://pencils.com/pages/hb-graphite-grading-scale)
There are two basic systems at play, and of course assigning a hardness value is somewhat of an opinion. The U.S. tends to use a numerical scale; hence the references to a #2 pencil in school purchasing lists. That's a "medium" in terms of hardness and darkness.

Blackwing Pencils (https://blackwing602.com)
Often the “high end” wood-case pencil people have heard about is the Blackwing. The original Blackwing pencil (https://blackwingpages.com) is no more, unless you’re talking vintage, carefully hoarded models. But the California Cedar Products Company acquired the rights to the Blackwing name in 2008, and began selling pencils using Blackwing via its Palomino division. These are inspired by, but not identical to, the original. They also offer limited edition pencils, "Blackwing Volumes." CW Pencils describes Blackwing Pencils as the "Gateway" pencil (https://cwpencils.com/blogs/news/113010243-beginners-guide-to-pencils-best-basics):

The myth, the legend, the Blackwing. We've joked for a long time that the Blackwing 602 is the gateway pencil because many people are drawn to it for its unusual look and replaceable eraser, or it's illustrious history, and it becomes the pencil that introduces them to other quality pencils. There's three types of Blackwings - the 602, which is the firmest (around a B grade) and is the reproduction of the famous Eberhard Faber classic; the Pearl, which is their "balanced" version (around a 2B); and the unnamed matte black Blackwing, which is the softest and darkest of the three (around a 4B). They're certainly a good place to start for writing or drawing, though I think the 602 is the most versatile. (Note that they're only sold by the dozen online). Jetpens.com posted Palomino Blackwing: A Comprehensive Guide (https://www.jetpens.com/blog/palomino-blackwing-a-comprehensive-guide/pt/72). I've never used one; there are lots of much more affordable but high quality pencils available, but people do love their Blackwings.

Don't overlook mechanical pencils. In addition to the affordable, disposable varieties, there are refillable versions that can be just the thing for long writing sessions without the need for a sharpener. Here's one guide to Mechanical Pencils (https://www.jetpens.com/blog/mechanical-pencils/ct/43).

Retail Resources for Pencils and Accessories

Keep in mind that just because some people obsess over obscure and expensive, even exotic pencils, doesn't mean that you have to. There’s nothing wrong with the local garden variety pencil from Staples or the local drugstore or thrift shop. There’s something to be said for a pencil that you don’t mind forgetting on the bus. A good pencil should be easy to write with, shouldn’t have lead (technically graphite) that breaks constantly, and shouldn’t smudge accidentally. How well a pencil writes, whether or not it has an eraser, and how firm a pressure it requires to write, are matters of individual preference.

AW's Amazon Store (https://www.amazon.com//ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&linkCode=ll2&tag=absowrit-20&linkId=5476055e95547f12a7ff10c0d0a110e6)
AW has an affiliate relationship with Amazon; we get a small percentage of items you purchase using our link.

CW Pencil Enterprises (https://cwpencils.com/)
A giant pencil inventory, emphasizing wooden body pencils but including mechanical pencils, paper, erasers, sharpeners and pencil cases and related merchandise. If you’re bewildered by the gigantic selection, these are really nice people and they are extremely helpful in terms of offering more information or suggestions about what pencils you might want for a particular use. Plus they have pencils in all price ranges.

General Pencil Company (https://www.generalpencil.com/products.html)
“General Pencil Company is a family owned business. It has been owned and operated by the Weissenborn family since 1889. Edward Weissenborn, a brilliant mechanical engineer, founded one of the first pencil factories in America. He learned the art of pencil making in Germany while working for the I.I. Renbach Lead Pencil Company. In 1854, he came to America to establish his own pencil factory. In 1860 he accomplished just that.” I'm personally partially to the General's Cedar Pointe #1 as well as their HB/#2 version; a natural wood finish pencil with very smooth graphite.

JetPens (https://www.jetpens.com/)
JetPens is a U.S. based store specializing in Japanese stationery, including gel pens, rollerball pens, fountain pens, pencils, a large variety of paper and notebooks, as well as inks, stickers, refills . . . They are also a great source for information and reviews (https://www.jetpens.com/blog/guides/ct/9).

Musgrave Pencil Company (https://musgravepencil.com/collections/the-heritage-collection)
“The funny thing about being a family-owned, 100-year-old pencil factory is that a pencil is an enduring object in the midst of change — including technology and major shifts to American manufacturing.” Some very nice, very affordable pencils; I really like the 600 News and the Tennessee Cedar Red; lots of people swear by the Badger and the Harvest.

* Thanks to: Jason

06-19-2019, 07:06 PM
Great resource page on pencils - the graphite and hardness scales explained on pencils.com is also really good too: https://pencils.com/pages/hb-graphite-grading-scale

06-28-2019, 09:25 AM
BBC article about the history of pencils: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48383050 "Have we all underrated the humble pencil?"