Nataraj Neon vs. Casemate Neon

Back to School season always gets me excited.  As a college student, I feel justified in purchasing extra notebooks, pencils, and erasers.  I peruse the aisles of the local Walmart or Target to see what's new and have found myself gravitating to the Ticonderogas or USA Golds.  There has been a lot of discussion recently in the Erasable Facebook group about Walmart's awesome deal on pencils from the Casemate line (97 cents for a dozen pencils and a sharpener).  A lot think that the canister of pencils is manufactured by Hindustan Pencil Company and are pretty much Nataraj pencils without the branding.  Even the sharpener that comes with the pencils says Nataraj. Now that back to school season is in full swing, I have seen the Casemate Neon pencils start to crop up.  There are two versions; the ones that are hexagonal and made in India and the ones that have a round barrel that are made in the Philippines.  DO NOT buy the round ones.  They are horrible and not worth your time.  What follows is a comparison of the Casemate (made in India) Neons and the Nataraj Neons. Upon opening the Casemate pencils, I immediately noticed that the production quality was not that great.  Chipped pencils and sloppy finish were on quite a few of the pencils.  The graphite cores seemed to be a tiny bit off center, but nothing drastic:

Hand sharpening was quite easy, but I noticed something interesting in the shavings-- the neon finish was separating from the wood of the pencil.  I do not have pictures, but the Nataraj pencils do not do this at all, so again I am left wondering if these are factory seconds or a few steps have been skipped in the manufacturing process to cut costs.

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Both pencils are almost identical save for the few production errors I have found in the Casemate brand.  The neon color on the Nataraj pencils is a bit more vibrant, but from a quick glance one would not be able to see much difference.  The ferrules on both pencils are the same black aluminum, but the Nataraj pencil has a cleaner look to it (Nataraj pencil is on the right in all of the pics below):

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Aesthetics aside, when it comes to writing, there is a noticeable difference.  I found that the Casemate pencil wrote a lot smoother than the Nataraj but laid down slightly lighter marks.  This observation does not seem to fit the experience, but I prefer this-- some may not.  I wonder if this is due to the fact that there might be some additives to the graphite in the Casemate pencil to cheapen the cost.  Both pencils were a delight to write with, but I found myself preferring the Casemate.

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As you can see from the bottom of the writing sample, both pencils have HORRIBLE erasers.  Do not use them.  You can, but don't expect good results.  They shading erased beautifully, but trying to erase text is an exercise in futility.  At 97 cents a 12 pack, the Casemate pencils are a steal, but remember HEXAGONAL only.  If you are interested in Nataraj Neons, head over to Caroline where one can pick up a dozen for about three and a half dollars.

Mail and Other Musings

So this blog has evolved into a non-weekly endeavor and is not really fulfilling its "weekly pencil" duties.  At the very beginning of this idea a year ago, I had dove into the hobby of collecting and using pencils of all sorts.  I was excited and wanted to share that with the world.  As I made new friends in the Erasable group, I was encouraged to post more and every week I used one pencil and then wrote about my thoughts on said pencil.  The idea seemed simple enough, but what I didn't take into account was the fact that life happens and even the most loved hobbies can fall victim of disinterest and immense obligation.  Let me explain.  I still love pencils.  I will always love pencils, but keeping up with the blog on a weekly basis became a burden when life got in the way.  I became resentful in my new role as "pencil blogger/reviewer" and my posts every Sunday became this awful "thing" I had to do.  My need to stay current began to tarnish my love of pencils and the community that surrounded me.  That is why I took a step back.  I have received comments along the lines of "when are you posting again?  This isn't the weekly pencil anymore?"  I appreciate followers, but I wish some would realize that this is 100 percent funded by myself both monetarily and emotionally.  Besides two items I have reviewed, I have paid for every item out of my own pocket.  I am not complaining about spending money here either.  Hell, I'd be buying pencils anyway, but I wish some would realize that this is not my job.  *Important note here-- I am not calling any individual out here, I just am making broad statements of my general experience with this blog*  I love all of you followers and get super excited when other are enthusiastic in this niche hobby.  Just know that this blog will evolve a bit and include ALL of my passions (pencils, stationery, games, etc.).  I will keep the same URL for now, but the site design and title may change in the future.  Now onto the fun stuff!  MAIL  FROM CW PENCIL ENTERPRISE!!!! Nothing is finer than when you expect a pencil package and you hear the subtle beep of the mail person's scanner and a solid *thunk* on your porch.  I raced downstairs immediately and there it was-- a package from Caroline and her crew:

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I always enjoy pencil-related mail, but getting a package from CW Pencil Enterprise is something really special.  From their packaging to their unique and personal attention to detail with every order, you really feel like you are something special.  This was my note:

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Not only did I get this adorable note from Caitlin, but there is something about the way they individually wrap everything.  Knowing that Caitlin herself walked around the shop and personally packaged my pencils makes me warm and fuzzy inside.  For at least a few minutes I had a personal pencil shopper.  How much better can pencil buying get?!

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Even though I already knew what was inside these lovely yellow wrapped packages I was excited to discover their contents.  I think that pictures will speak for themselves, but if you are interested, here are links to all I ordered: Blackwing Volumes, Camel Pastel HB, Nataraj Joi 2B, and Milan Graphite and Highlighter Pencil.  Now onto my pics:

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I plan on doing reviews on all of these products at some point, but I am really itching to try out the Graphite/Highlighter pencil.  Stay tuned for that review sometime in the near future!

 

 

Moon Products TRY-REX

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I was particularly excited to try out the TRY-REX since it was "America's first triangular pencil."  It is not three-sided like most triangular pencils we are used to, but instead has a unique design that still maintains a hexagonal shape with every other side of the hexagonal barrel being curved instead of straight.  This leaves the user with a comfortable grip and a pencil that can be used for long periods of time without hand fatigue.  The TRY-REX sharpens well enough, but I am not quite sure of the wood composition as it produces very dusty shavings (even with my Masterpiece) that crumble very easily.  It's fairly fragrant, but not a nice deep cedar smell that I love, but instead has a more like an earthy, body odor-like scent (if that makes sense). 20160209_154731

The graphite hardness/darkness is a tad lighter than I like it to be, but it lays down smoothly and does not smudge that much.  Point retention is fair and I am making personal progress with not pressing so damn hard.  The eraser is crap-- very dusty and gritty feeling and barely does an adequate job of erasing most marks.  I actually prefer to used a seperate eraser anyway, but this is not a deal-breaker for me, but still frustrating nonetheless.  They style of the pencil is simple: a bit between glossy and matte red finish with a white imprint.  I think it is pretty nifty that they show a little "triangle" diagram on the barrel of the pencil to illustrate the barrel shape.

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I do not have many complaints about this pencil and at sixty cents a piece from CW Pencil Enterprise, they are worth a pick up.  Overall 8/10.

Musgrave Bugle No. 2

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When I randomly selected the pencil for this week's review I was admittedly grumpy with my resulting pick.  I have a dislike for round barreled pencils.  I tend to have a pretty strong grip and I just cannot get comfortable using anything other than a hexagonal or triangular pencil.  The Musgrave Bugle itself is quite charming-- it has a nice, deep white imprint of two bugles (duh) and Musgrave's own branding.  I usually do not like when there is a lot of information on a pencil, but this works.  I love the contrast of white stamping against the glossy wood grain. IMG_4555

This pencil has no ferrule or eraser, so it is a bit light, but nothing a pencil cap eraser cannot fix.  The Bugle sharpens perfectly with no point breakage or crumbling.  This is a bonus for me since I spend a lot of time taking notes and do not have time to fuss with crumbly graphite.  Point retention is average (I press a bit hard, so this is always a subjective viewpoint).  It fares far better than last week's pencil with it comes to smearing and transfer, yet it still has a dark enough lay down of graphite to be acceptable for my needs.

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Another thing I was able to mitigate, but worth bringing up nonetheless was how light the pencil is without an eraser and ferrule.  If you prefer heft to the non-writing end of your pencil, definitely use an eraser cap.  I used a lovely little one I picked up from Caroline at CW Pencil Enterprise, the Blüm which erases well and comes in nifty neon colors (I love neon).  Sadly, she does not seem to carry them anymore, but you can find more info here.  At twenty five cents a pencil, it is definitely worth purchasing a few of the Musgrave Bugles for your supply.  Caroline sells singles, so be sure to head there to pick a few up (plus, she's awesome).  Overall 8.0/10

Palomino Golden Bear #2

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From an aesthetics standpoint, I absolutely love the Golden Bear.  With two color options-blue barrel; orange eraser or orange barrel; blue eraser- the Golden Bear is perfect for NY Mets or Knicks fans.  All kidding aside, for a pencil that is twenty five cents, you cannot beat the quality that Palomino offers.  This pencil may not perform like a Blackwing, but you definitely get your money's worth.  The lacquer on the barrel is superbly shiny and the barrel itself has just the right amount of edge (somewhere between a Ticonderoga and a Musgrave Testing).  The ferrule is gold to match the gold foil stamp and has an orange (or blue) band around the center of it.  The cedar smell is fairly strong and the graphite is about standard for a number 2 pencil.20160131_144344-1 Performance wise, the Golden Bear has some high points,but just as many low points.  Starting with the positive, the point retention is great for a budget number 2 pencil.  It was nice to not have to sharpen as frequently as I am used to.  Also, the craftsmanship of the Golden Bear is amazing considering it is so cheap.  Palomino really knows how to manufacture quality pencils and it shows.  I cannot get over how shiny the lacquer is or how centered the graphite cores are.  Well done.  Now for the negative.  The eraser is horrible as it barely erases its own graphite and leaves a ton of dust.  Not really a deal breaker for me since I prefer to use a block eraser anyway, but still.  Not good.  Another negative was the amount of smear and transfer to opposite pages I got with this pencil.  I cannot see myself using this pencil regularly due to the way I like to keep my notes, but for classroom use this pencil would be perfect.

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Overall: 6/10

One can find a pack of these pencils at http://www.pencils.com

Blaisdell Ben Franklin #2

Blaisdell Paper Pencil Company was founded in 1898 in Philadelphia, PA, three years after Frederick Blaisdell received a patent for the paper pencil and the machine to make them.  Paper pencils, also known as China markers, were wrapped in paper and string.  When one would pull the string the paper would curl off and expose more of the pencil (or pretty much crayon).  Blaisdell eventually got into the graphite pencil business and produced the well-loved Calculator 600 pencil which was one of John Steinbeck's favorites.  The Ben Franklin pencil was their "every day" pencil and were made in mass quantities.  The Ben Franklin can be found from time to time on Ebay. 20151215_102258

I was excited this week to be using a vintage pencil.  I have found that vintage pencils have a far superior quality to what is offered nowadays (there are a few exceptions, of course).  The Ben Franklin performed beautifully and nailed each and every category I rate my pencils on.  The barrel of the pencil was classic yellow with a glossy black imprint.  A nice touch was the "2" on the pencil was stamped in a metallic blue.  The pencil sharpened up nicely and had a strong, deep smell of cedar.  Not once did I experience point breakage and the graphite wore down evenly and smoothly.  I really love the ferrule on this pencil-- it is a nice gold with a white stripe around the middle.

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I can't comment on the eraser since it crumbled off when I tried to use it (the pencil is over 30 years old!).  The Ben Franklin has a nice weight to it and it a bit on the lighter side (pre-eraser fiasco), but nothing too serious.  I have nothing really negative to say about this pencil.  I obtained mine from Caroline at CW Pencil Enterprise, but it appears that she does not carry it anymore.  I am glad this pencil wore down slowly since it was a joy to use.  Overall: 9/10

General Goddess #2

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I want to preface this week's entry by saying that I hate a pencil with a round barrel.  I dislike how they roll of the desk when I put them down and I generally do not like the overall absence of those sharp lines of a hexagonal pencil.  Because of this strong dislike, it had been years since I willingly picked up a pencil with a round barrel to use for an extended period of time.  When I did my random selection process at the beginning of the week, my heart sank that I would have to use this round pencil for seven whole days (!?).  Would I lose this pencil before then?  Would it fall off my desk so many times that the graphite inside would shatter rendering it un-sharpenable?  By Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised. 20151206_141331

After sharpening the Goddess, I immediately noticed the rich smell that wafted up from the pile of shavings.  The pencil sharpened up nicely and there was no point breakage at any point during the process.  For this pencil, I used the Tombow Ippo Pinch-Point pencil sharpener.

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As I began to write with the Goddess, my hatred for round barrel pencils slowly began to fade.  My hand fatigued less and I did not develop that callus on my finger like I usually do.  Perhaps this was not so bad after all.  Any the pencil only rolled off the desk once in seven days, so I can't complain on that point (ha).  When it came time to use the eraser, I was nervous since it seemed as though it might fall off of the top of the pencil.  The ferrule appeared to not be securely gripping the eraser and when I did use the eraser, it took a lot of effort to effectively remove graphite from paper.  You can see the "loose" look below:

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The graphite laid down smoothly on paper and did not have a hit of grittiness.  I not once experienced a point breakage all week which was a bonus.  At 80 cents a pencil from CW Pencil Enterprise, this pencil is affordable enough to give it a shot.  Overall: 8.5/10

Musgrave Harvest #2

Musgrave Pencil Company is located in Shelbyville, TN and has been manufacturing pencils since 1916.  While they have a plethora of school-grade pencils, Musgrave is known today as the place to go for custom pencils.  With hundreds of options for a billion (ok, I'm exaggerating) occasions, I am sure at some point you have held a Musgrave made pencil in your hand.  This week I chose the Musgrave Harvest #2 I purchased in one of my many hauls from CW Pencil Enterprise.  It is a simple-looking school pencil with gold foil stamping and a gold ferrule with a maroon colored stripe. 20151201_210809

The Harvest sharpened up nicely and the shavings had a nice smell to them.  Point retention was average, but it was definitely frustrating to have to sharpen so often this past week.  The darkness of the graphite was a bit too light for me, but it did not smear and had no discernible grit while writing.  The eraser, on the other hand, was horrible.  Not only did it barely do its job, it seemed to slough off like a skin-like material (see below).  Not sure what's up with that, but don't use the eraser if you don't have to.

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Writing with the Harvest was not uncomfortable, but I did cramp up a bit due to the perceived lightness to the way the graphite laid down on paper.  By Friday, I was down to a nub and was worried I wouldn't make it through the rest of the day, but the Harvest pulled through.

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At 35 cents a pencil, you get what you pay for: a cheap, yet effective pencil.  Just do not use the eraser unless you are desperate or hate your paper.  Overall: 6.5/10

 

Calepino No. 2

The Matte Black Calepino No. 2 pencil is a real gem.  Made in France, the Calepino (which comes from the French word calepin meaning notebook) is simple, yet elegant.  The pencil has a classic look and "Fabriqué en France" is stamped in a simple script on the barrel.  The ferrule is a lustrous gold and it encases a white eraser.  The Calepino pencil is made of Pulay wood  and sharpens beautifully.

Writing with the Calepino was a pleasure as it laid down nice, smooth lines and did not smudge.  It's graphite was strong and was not subject to any breakage this past week.  The eraser that comes on the pencil is effective, but wears away pretty quickly so have a separate eraser on hand for bigger mistakes.  At around two dollars a pencil, these do not come cheap to the everyday pencil user, but well worth every penny.  What is interesting to note is that Calepino is primarily a notebook manufacturer, but they hit it out of the park with their pencil design and function here.

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Overall: 9/10

*If you would like to try out the Calepino, head over to Caroline!  She sells singles and is pretty awesome!*