Marking Pencil Round-Up

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: 20160923_131700

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.

Caran d'Ache 999 Bicolor ($2.80)

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.

Musgrave 525 Hermitage ($0.29)

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.

Mitsubishi 772 Vermilion ($1.00)

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.

Mitsubishi Red "Smooth Writing Taste" ($1.65)

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.



Caran d'Ache Edelweiss HB

caran_dache_logo_detail This week's pencil is from Caran d'Ache, a Swiss company that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  Here is a little history:

Caran d’Ache is the pen name by which Russian-born French illustrator, Emmanuel Poiré, achieved worldwide renown in the 19th century. The choice turned out to be a salient one, since “karandash” is the Russian term for “pencil” and in turn comes from the Turkish root “kara tash” which refers to black stone – the origins of graphite.

This natural material found in the mountains of Switzerland gave rise to the first Swiss pencil factory set up in Geneva in 1915. Nine years later, in the hands of its founder, the visionary Arnold Schweitzer, it took the name of the famous illustrator became known as Caran d’Ache.

I own a Caran d'Ache 849 ballpoint pen and I am familiar with the quality products CdA puts out.  I might even say that the 849 is the best ballpoint pen I have ever used, but alas, we are talking about pencils here.  When I did my random pick of this past week's pencil, I initially felt disappointed.  The pencil itself is very light and I tend to prefer something with a bit more mass.  I did like the Edelweiss's red finish and the bright white imprint on its barrel.  The only disappointing thing was that there was also a barcode on the opposite side of this beautiful imprint.  I understand why manufacturers have to do this in order to sell singles, but does it have to be in the center of the pencil??  Here is the prettier side:


The Edelweiss HB writes sharpens to a nice point and I only encountered one instance of breakage (and I think it was actually my fault for being heavy handed).  The point retention on this pencil is average to above-average which is good for a heavy writer like myself, but I found that the graphite was not as smooth as I would have liked it to be.  At about one dollar a pencil, the Edelweiss is quite pricey for just a plain old school pencil to the layperson.  The fact that I have not even used half the pencil in a week worth of note-taking makes up for the cost and I am comfortable in saying that the pencil would most likely last me two weeks.  As far as darkness is concerned, it performs as expected for an HB pencil although it is a shade lighter than I personally prefer.  I experienced no smudging or transferring with the CdA (which was a good thing, because my notes are a mess from the Musgrave last week!) and erasing was a breeze.


I would have to say that this pencil hits most of the marks for me: point retention, attractiveness, graphite strength, and erasability.  The Edelweiss does not knock it out of the park for me, but I could see it becoming a part of my rotation.  Overall: 6.5/10

**If you would like to try out your own Caran d'Ache Edelweiss in either HB, F or 3B, head over to CW Pencil Supply and give Caroline your money** (note: I was not paid for this review or solicited by anyone.  I just think CW is amazing and you should too!)