Ticonderoga Neon

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For those of you that know me, you know that I love all things neon. Pencils, pens, highlighters, notebooks, you name it, I love it. I’m not sure where this obsession comes from. Perhaps it is from my childhood as I grew up in the 80s and 90s and every now and then I enjoy the pull of nostalgia when I use my stationery. Whatever the case, if it’s neon, I own it. When it was brought to my attention that Ticonderoga had a new neon edition out, I was excited. The photo that was posted on their Instagram was all I needed and I absolutely had to find out where I could acquire these beauties. Turns out, you can only find them in Office Depot/Max (for now), so I am guessing they are an exclusive offering. The pack of 30 pencils comes with a free pencil-shaped sharpener as well. After an hour and a half long trek to my nearest Office Depot, I got my hands on a couple of packs. They are priced at 12.99 which, for 30 pencils and a sharpener, isn’t bad at all. If you order online, you can usually find a 20 percent off coupon which makes them a bit cheaper. Anyhow, on to the review:

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My first thought when taking one of each color out of the pack was “WOW” as these are bright. The pink, orange, yellow, and green are the brightest while the blue is just okay. I especially enjoy how the traditional green imprint and green and yellow ferrules have remained the same on these pencils. It’s Ticonderoga’s “thing” and I’m glad they didn’t change it up with say a black ferrule or something. The erasers match the barrel of the pencil and are a nice touch. It really pulls together the whole neon theme. The juxtaposition of bright neon colors sandwiching the traditional yellow/green really makes the whole thing work. The core of these pencils are the common “soft” core (HB) that most Tics have. These pencils are made with basswood and not cedar which is kinda disappointing because for a while you were able to still find some cedar Tics on store shelves. The core is consistent in the sense that it writes just like all the other current day Ticonderogas I own. There is no grittiness and point retention is about average for an HB core. The provided eraser does a pretty crappy job completely erasing the dark marks that this pencil lays down, but that’s an easy fix (cue: Hinodewashi).

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The sharpener that comes with these pencils is mediocre. It sharpens, sure, but the point is left brittle and almost always breaks when writing for the first time. It’s good to use in a pinch, but I’d ditch it for something a bit more functional. Overall, I love these pencils— they perform like they should and they look great. As far as whether or not to purchase them, that’s up to you— do you like neon? If yes, buy. I mean, that’s the only reason you should pick these up as they are just like a traditional Ticonderoga with a different paint job. I don’t always grab a Ticonderoga for my everyday writing (I usually use a Neon Casemate or a Blackwing), but this pencil just might make it into my rotation because it makes me happy looking at it. Really, at the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most? Using something that bring us joy?

Baron Fig Archer: Oracle Limited Edition

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Perhaps one of the most used toys of my childhood was my beloved Magic 8 Ball. I shook that thing to get the answers to the most pressing questions of a pre-teen’s life: Does that girl that sits behind me like me? Will we have a snow day tomorrow? Should I ask her out? While this grapefruit-sized ball with a icosahedron inside could not have had the prescience to predict my life, it was amusing and fun. As an adult, life has a lot less of those urgent questions nor is carrying around a Magic 8 Ball is practical. Enter the Oracle pencil by Baron Fig. Designed to provide a bit of fun to break up the monotony of our days, the Oracle provides six possible answers to our pressing questions: Will I get a promotion? Should I call out of work tomorrow? Should I get out of *bed* tomorrow? A simple roll across the desk will decide your fate if you so desire. Aesthetically, these pencils don’t do it for me. I might be an anomaly though-- I love everything neon and bright-- this color palette is quite muted. I have previously given Baron Fig shit for not being colorful enough and in the beginning, I even dared to call them “bro-ish” with their choices. They have delivered color since then, and I’m grateful for that, but these pencils match their original color choice style. I’d like to emphasize: there is nothing wrong with that! Just not my jam. The iconography on the other hand is pretty cool. I like the incorporation of a crystal ball intermixed with the different suits of cards. It really drives home the whole Oracle theme as I imagine sitting at a table across from a fortune teller with a crystal ball and a spread of cards. The design on the packaging is even better as it is a much more intricate version of what is depicted on the pencils. I’d love to see this design on a limited edition Vanguard or Confidant.

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Performance wise, these are right on par with other pencil offerings. If you have used a Viarco, you have used a Baron Fig Archer. While not confirmed, I’d bet my last 211 on the fact that Baron Fig uses Viarco for all their custom pencil needs. I will say that there is a slight difference when it comes to grittiness— other Archers suffered from this problem. So much so that I really didn’t care to write with them, but this iteration is free of that sandiness. You will still experience that scratchy feeling when writing. I don’t think it is necessarily the graphite that is scratchy, I think it is the feedback this very lightweight pencils provides its user. I am a fan of a heavier hand feel when writing, so it’s not my thing, but others will probably not even notice. All of that aside, you really cannot go wrong picking up these pencils. At $15 for a dozen of limited edition pencils, it’s worth it. Especially so since you can predict your future! Pick them up on Baron Fig’s website while they last!

*** I was provided these pencils free of charge for review purposes. Free items in no way influence my view of a product and my opinions are mine and mine alone***

Blackwing Natural

It has been quite a long time since I have reviewed a Blackwing pencil— I stopped reviewing special editions since I was really only talking about form since function never really changes (besides hardness). This new offering is different though— it is something Blackwing fans have been asking for for a long time— a natural Blackwing. If we remember back to the time of the 211, we remember how loved that edition was (and still is). There was something about a “naked” Blackwing that seemed to please everyone. It is so nice to have an affordable 211 look-a-like, but does it live up to the hype and expectations of the community? Let’s find out:

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When opening up the box of the BW Naturals, I am immediately drawn to the beautiful wood grain of the cedar. There are many other natural pencils I have used before, but there is something about this smooth finish on the BW Natural that really makes it pop. The shiny gold ferrule is a perfect mate to the gold imprint on the barrel. The gray eraser on the other hand? Meh. I really think any other color would have worked here— I personally like the pink or the yellow, but there is an easy fix as Blackwing sells replacement erasers in almost every color.

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The Blackwing Natural is advertised as “Extra-Firm”, but I did not expect how dark of a line this pencil laid down. To me, it writes like a F which is on the lighter side of grades, but definitely not what I would classify as extra-firm (I’d put extra firm in the 2H/3H category). It erases okay with the provided eraser but even better with a Hinodewashi (my favorite eraser of course). Point retention is great considering how dark the pencil writes— I was pleasantly surprised here. When one factors in the aesthetics of this pencil coupled with its performance, I can see how this would be an EDC for some folks as it definitely is for me. At 21.95 for a box of 12, you really cannot go wrong here. They are so worth it!

General's Semi-Hex #1

It has been quite a while since I have reviewed a good, classic pencil. Over the years, I have strayed away from just writing about pencils to writing about all things stationery. While I don’t see that as a negative thing, it is sometimes nice to get back to one’s roots. I’ve always loved a bright yellow number 2 pencil (in this case it’s a number 1, but I digress). There is something about a yellow school pencil that evokes a pang of nostalgia— a longing for simpler times punctuated by carefree school days where your only worry was how cool you looked when you walked to the pencil sharpener at the front of the classroom. Even though we can never get those days back, we can use of tools like the Semi-Hex to get those neurons firing that are responsible for feelings of nostalgia. Anyhow, here’s what I think:

The Semi-Hex is one of my favorite pencils from General Pencil Company (the other two are the Pacific and the Badger). Even though I prefer a sharp hex, the Semi-Hex offers me a nice break from those Musgrave Test Scoring pencils. It feels great in my hand and allows me to maintain my Hulk-like grip without feeling much fatigue. I chose this pencil in a #1 because I enjoy writing with a softer, darker graphite and I’d have to say that this pencil is a true B grade. Point retention is decent for a softer graphite and the eraser does a well enough job on a variety of papers. The overall quality of this pencil is what you would expect from General and after sharpening and using several Semi-Hex I have not encountered any barrel-splitting, broken leads, or quality control issues re: fit and finish. This pencil is an absolute deal at 65 cents and can be purchased from CW Pencil Enterprise.

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TWSBI Eco Fountain Pen

When I started this blog I was pretty sure I would only be reviewing and talking about pencils. I mean that’s how I came up with the name The Weekly Pencil after all. As time progressed, other stationery goods piqued my interest and I began to include notebooks, erasers, highlighters, and a multitude of other related goods. This review in the “so much more” category as we say on the RSVP podcast— it’s a review of a fountain pen. Let me preface this review by saying that I am in NO WAY a fountain pen expert, I am not a devoted fountain pen user, and this is the only fountain pen I have ever owned and used. As with all niche communities, I know how passionate the fountain pen community can be and I am preemptively defending my possible ignorance on the topic. With that being said, I have decided to review a fountain pen because I think it is important for newbies out there like myself to have an opinion that is not informed by rich, deep history of fountain pen use. I have big thoughts and feels about the pen I reviewed and about fountain pens in general, so let’s get started!

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I was turned on to the idea of a fountain pen by my best stationery bud and RSVP co-host Less. Less runs the Comfortable Shoes Studio blog that some of you may already be familiar with. When I was in the market for my first ever fountain pen she first suggested the Platinum Preppy— it was super cheap and I would be able to get a good sense of what a fountain pen would write like. After playing around with a Preppy for a bit, I decided I wanted something a bit more— that’s where the TWSBI Eco comes in. The Eco has been billed as a great starter fountain pen and as a pen that is not only user-friendly, but has an affordable price tag. At right around $30, the Eco offers a clear, see-through plastic barrel with a piston-filling mechanism and a screw on cap. The nibs on these pens are steel and come in a variety of sizes: extra fine, fine, medium, broad, and italic. For this review, I used a medium.

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I think one of the reasons I have largely stayed away from fountain pens has been the issue of maintenance. The Eco is a breeze to fill and clean out— I did so without even looking at instructions. The piston-filling mechanism is pretty intuitive and besides the silly mistake I made by twisting it while the cap of the pen was still on (ink spewed everywhere into the cap), I had no issues with cleaning or replacing the ink. I will say that it is near impossible to get every little drop of water out of the barrel after cleaning. After cleaning, I left the pen in multiple pieces for a few days to dry out and there was STILL a bead of water in the barrel. This really isn’t an issue, but annoying nonetheless. Writing with the Eco has been a pleasure. There have not been any issues with skips or scratchiness and the grip of the pen is comfy enough. My only complaint is that the pen cap is a tad bulky and when posted on the back of the pen it does make it feel a bit top heavy. Even though this pen is not perfect, I’d recommend it to anyone looking to get into fountain pens. It writes beautifully and lays down silky smooth lines and performs great on a variety of papers. I also enjoy the clear barrel as it is not only aesthetically pleasing, but makes it useful for me to see how much ink I have left. While I won’t be using this pen on the daily, it is a fixture in my pencil/pen roll and glad I took the risk and purchased it.

CW x General's Baseball Scoring Pencil

I love baseball. Growing up, my father’s love of the game was a focal point of my summer/early fall. He loved the Cincinnati Reds. We take a road trip most years to Ohio and would spend a few days in Pittsburgh to see the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium for a few games and then onto see the Reds at Riverfront Stadium. Both of those stadiums are no longer there, but memories of my dad sitting next to me teaching me how to “keep the book” have lasted forever. When I was older, I used to keep the book when I would watch games on TV and would always delight when I could write that backwards “K” (a strikeout looking). Life has gotten busier and changed these past two decades, and I haven’t kept score of a baseball game in years. That’s why when I saw Caroline collaborate with General Pencil company to make a Baseball scoring pencil, I was hit with twinges of nostalgia and excitement.

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Everything about this collaboration is great— the packaging design is A++ and I really like how the lettering and color scheme take me back to the 50s when signs and lettering were hand done. The pencil itself is round-barreled and white with a gold ferrule and red lettering. What I really like about the design of the pencil is that there are three little v-shaped marks on each side of the lettering that make you instantly thing of the stitching on a baseball. They could have gone overboard with trying to make this pencil look like a baseball, but they didn’t and I like that the subtlety evokes the same sentiment without being over-designed.

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This pencil has a very smooth, dark graphite core. I’d say it falls in the B range. It is a bit too soft for me to comfortably write with as I have to sharpen frequently, but for keeping score the pencil is perfect. It works well on a variety of papers— toothy, smooth, standard printer paper, and notebook paper. I will say it really shines on toothier paper though. Marks make with this pencil erase well. I did have some trouble erasing all the marks I made while journaling in my Baron Fig Confidant, but I also press pretty hard, so that is an experience I have often. Next year, I plan on using these for score-keeping my good ol’ Cincinnati Reds, but I cannot bring myself to use these pencils in any other capacity. My heavy-handedness, dislike for round pencils, and impatience with having to sharpen every half page makes these a pass for me. These pencils are $2 a piece for $10 for half a dozen. I’d suggest ordering the six— you save two bucks and get the cool box.

CW x Iron Curtain Press Notebook

Yellow is my favorite color and the brighter the better. Bright yellow is a color that one doesn’t see often in their daily life. Sure, we see the yellowy-orange of street signs and traffic light poles, but not the bright, cheery yellow that never fails to put me in a good mood. When I clicked on the “new” tab on CW Pencil Enterprise’s website, I was not prepared to fall in love so quickly, but I did. The Iron Curtain Press (ICP) Standard Notebook in a striking yellow with black accents. I had never used ICP (gah— makes me think of Insane Clown Posse, but that’s for another blog entirely— lol) notebooks before mainly due to their hefty (to me) price point. This 160-page notebook is $17 and I just could never justify spending that much on a notebook. Until now. Let me just say that you get what you pay for and then some.

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To start off, the aesthetics of this notebook are super clean and no expense has been spared re: materials. The cover of this notebook is nice and thick with rounded edges so sliding it in and out of a bag is great as it doesn’t snag on anything. Also, it is spiral-bound with a matte gold wire binding. Letter-pressed on the front cover is space for your name, date, and subject. Inside you will find lined paper with a slight (and I mean slight) hint of toothiness. Pencil feels great in this notebook and erases beautifully as well. Each notebook is hand-made and while the CW collab does not offer it, ICP offers either lined, graph, or dot-grid options AND left-handed binding for you lefties out there (Lenore <3 ). I can’t recommend these notebooks enough. In fact, my next pick-up will be their dateless planner. You can pick the CW collaboration here or browse the entire catalog here.

Viking Verso HB/4B

The Viking Verso is simply not a double-ended pencil— it is a double-ended pencil with a long, rich history. According to Viking, the Verso was introduced over 150 years ago in Paris at the International Exposition of 1867. Back then a Bavarian company Berolzheimer (sound familar? :) ) & Illfelder released a double-graded pencil. The idea of the double-graded pencil kind of fell off the radar for years until a German blogger and pencil aficionado, Gunther Schmidt (Lexikaliker) brought it to Viking’s attention. The interesting backstory is not the only thing that makes the Viking Verso so special— it is not an easy pencil to manufacture. The problem comes in when the pencils are getting their coats of lacquer and stamping: it is near impossible to tell which end is which. Other double-ended pencils are simple to differentiate as they are red and blue or colored and graphite. Viking had to refine their manufacturing process for the making of this pencil, but the result is super worth it.

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As a non-artist, I thought that I would have no real use for this pencil. After all, writing with a 4B would be a smudgy experience with constant sharpening. I found after a week with this pencil, that that 4B end would come in handy. Most of my pencil use these days is at one of my (3) jobs where I tutor high school students. The format is such that I have to take three-column notes for the students while they are up at the board working on a problem. I use the 4B side to sketch out the three columns and write the headings and then use the HB side to take the actual notes. I also have used the 4B side to underline things in my own personal journal.

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On top of this newfound functionality, the writing experience with the Verso is enjoyable. Like all other Viking pencils I have used, the graphite never has a gritty feel to it, lays down easily true to grade, and erases wonderfully. The finish is a work of art as one side is glossy and the other matte. Several layers of paint have been applied which adds a nice thickness and a softer hex to this pencil. The bright white paint that highlights the Viking brand with its popular Viking ship (a Knarr? Faering?) finishes up the slick look. These pencils aren’t cheap at $3.00 a pop, but are worth the investment— even more so if you are an artist. CW has them in stock and for those of you outside of the US, they can be ordered directly from Viking.

Chung Hwa 6610 HB

This week’s review is of a very unique-looking pencil. The Chung Hwa 6610 and its over-sized ferrule is reminiscent of American pencils of the 50s and early 60s. the Chung Hwa’s bright, sparkly red finish and gold foil stamping make this pencil stand out even more. The China First Pencil Company was founded in the 1930s and while they produce pencils for other brands, the Chung Hwa is their “in-house” brand. The Chung Hwa name is common in China— I guess it could be likened to how Ticonderoga is here in the states. Using the 6610 for the first time took some adjusting to. The weight of the over-sized eraser and ferrule made the pencil top heavy and I had to change the way I wrote a bit to keep things feeling a bit more balanced. I am sure this sensation will fade as I use and sharpen the pencil more.

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The first word that comes to mind when laying graphite to paper is smooth. In fact, smoother than I expected. I try to review all products with an open mind, but almost all of my experiences of Chinese pencils have been sub par and I expected more of the same. I tried this pencil on two brands of paper: Baron Fig’s Confidant and the Iron Curtain Press X CWPE collaboration notebook. Both results were great— no grittiness and slightly darker (to me) than HB laydown. The Confidant offered its usually toothy feedback while the ICP X CWPE provided a super smooth experience.

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The large chunky eraser and ferrule on this pencil is weighty— at least for me— but it works well. The eraser removes markings with ease and leaves an average amount of dust. One thing of note though: the eraser/ferrule just pops right off the top of the pencil with very little effort. This “feature” makes for some good “hack-hwa-ing” (see what I did there??). I like this pencil alot. My only gripe is how off-balanced it feels when you first start using it. Overall, it’s still worth picking up. You can find them over at CW Pencil Enterprise for $2 a pop.

Apsara Matt Magic Pencils

I am a big fan of Indian-made pencils. In fact, my beloved Neon Casemates (suspected to be made by Nataraj) are from India. I am in love with the color schemes, graphite performance, and affordable price points when it comes to Indian pencils. When the Apsara Matt Magic pencils popped up on CW Pencils, I just had to have them. The Matt Magics have a black matte finish, are emblazoned with silver foil stamping, and have a color-dipped end that corresponds to the dyed wood of the pencil. What is striking about these pencils is when sharpened, the black barrel provides a perfect contrast against the colored wood.

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The Matt Magic is advertised as “extra dark” and writes just about as dark as the Apsara Absolute. Point retention is a bit poor, but that is to be expected with such a dark pencil. What really makes these a “must buy” for me is how aesthetically pleasing they are and how smooth they feel when laying graphite to paper. You can pick them up for 75 cents a piece at CW Pencils.