For those of you that are unaware, I work part time in a community college writing center. I find myself reading and editing papers for hours and have been searching for the perfect marking pencil. While my list is not exhaustive, I tried to explore a variety of brands that are easily available to anyone. I have used each pencil for about a week and have been able to form what I feel is a solid opinion on what to try and what to avoid. First, here is a general overview of each pencil and a writing sample for each:
As you can see all six pencils are quite different when it comes to color and hardness. I will address the list top to bottom.
Tombow 8900 Vermilion ($0.85)
The Tombow 8900 wrote smoothly and the point retention was one of best of the pencils. The ability to keep a sharp point on the Tombow allowed the maximum amount of correction with a minimum amount of sharpening. For me, this is key when working with a student. Less sharpening means a longer lasting pencil as well. I could see myself using this pencil on a regular basis for correction. I found the Tombow 8900 at a Kinokuniya bookstore, but Ebay tends to carry them occasionally.
The Caran d'Ache 999 is vibrant and one of the truest to the color red behind the Mitsubishi 772. The core is super smooth and much to my surprise point retention is above average for such a smooth pencil. I also like that the 999 is a hex pencil as it is much more comfortable (for me) to hold and rotate while writing. The only drawback is the price of this pencil.
General's Red ($0.40)
The General's Red has the best point retention of all of pencils I have ever used, but it is the worst as far as pigment is concerned. It is way too light to be effective and feels horribly scratchy. This pencil is a disappointment and you shouldn't buy it. I struggled trying to make my marks noticeable on papers for students and halfway through a session I picked up another pencil it was so bad. Just don't.
The Hermitage is a great middle of the road pencil. The core is dark enough to be effective, but is not so soft that you feel like you are writing with a crayon. I found myself using this pencil more and more as the weeks progressed and was not disappointed with the results. For this reason, I was pleasantly surprised as a lot of my experience with Musgrave products has left me feeling meh.
The 772 is vibrant and works very well for making small grammatical edits to 12-point font. When editing papers, clarity is key and the Mitsubishi 772 is as clear as day. The core is a bit softer than others, but as long as you rotate the pencil ever few marks you make, it seems to wear down just as much as an average pencil. If I had to pick a winner it would be this pencil.
This pencil is smooth alright. So smooth that you feel like you are writing with a crayon. I love the color it lays down, but the Mitsubishi Red is not for making small edits or writing within the margin. I'd say this pencil is perfect for making "checks" and "x" marks on papers or maybe even for underlining text, but not for the work I do. It does get bonus points for its slogan though!
Overall my top two are the Mitsubishi 772 and the Caran d'Ache 999. Both pencils have great, vibrant color without feeling too waxy. The Hermitage comes in a close third (I'd even say a tie for second) with its point retention and affordability. Either way, I hope this has helped those of you that are looking for marking pencils.