Jumbo Pencil Round-Up

This review is something that I have been wanting to do for a while.  I don't often find myself using jumbo pencils a whole lot and because of that, I really do not know how they perform.  I spent the better part of a week with ten wonderful pencils and would love to share my observations.  Spoiler: Musgrave has cornered the market in jumbo pencils.

1. Musgrave Cub ($0.60) 

Cub

The Cub is what is called a "mini" jumbo pencil.  It is in between a giant jumbo and a regular number two pencil.  I like this size a lot as it doesn't have that clunky hand feel some traditional sized jumbo pencils give you when you write.  In fact, if I wasn't paying attention, I would think that I was writing with a regular size pencil.  The Cub is on the darker side when compared to other offerings from Musgrave and if I were to put a grade on it, I'd say it is close to a B.  The graphite is nice and smooth and I did not have any problems with grit or scratchiness.  This is no Tombow, but it's not garbage either.  The Cub is made from Jelutong wood (for the uninitiated: Jelutong is a species mainly grown in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia.  This is for another post, but there is some controversy around using rainforest wood, but for now it is what it is).  The eraser should not be used under any circumstances.  It will tear your paper and a hole in your heart.  Musgrave clearly needs to up their eraser game.

2. Caran d'Ache Black Wood ($3.50)

Black Wood

The Black Wood comes at a pretty steep price, but you get what you pay for.  The graphite is super smooth and writes almost like the jumbo highlighter pencils Cd'A produces.  It is a traditional jumbo pencil, but unlike most jumbos, it is hexagonal.  This is a win for me since I tend to really dislike round pencils and prefer that sharper edge feel when I write.  Writing with the Black Wood is a pleasure and offsets the almost four dollar price tag.  Because of its dark, creamy graphite, the point retention is average to poor and the markings it makes are not always easy to erase. The weight of the Black Wood is also a bonus as it does not feel too light or flimsy.  I was unable to find out what kind of wood the pencil is made of, but it is (obviously) dyed black.  If I were to take a guess, I'd say basswood.

3. Musgrave Finger Fitter ($1.00) 

Finger Fitter

Besides the fact that I snicker whenever I see the title of this pencil, the Finger Fitter performs OK for what it is-- a triangular jumbo pencil.  The Finger Fitter is made out of basswood and the graphite is right in the middle when it comes to darkness (about HB).  The triangular shape of the pencil, while I thought would be beneficial, is not (at least for me).  Yes, it may help children learn how to hold their pencils properly, but for a 36-year-old pencil holder it is limiting.  Point retention is average and all graphite markings erase cleanly from the paper.  Again, do not use the provided eraser as it will destroy the paper you are writing on.

4. Musgrave Choo-Choo ($0.75)

Choo-Choo

The Choo-Choo is my favorite jumbo pencil when it comes to aesthetics.  It is a darker yellow pencil with blue foil stamping of a train and has a wonderful brushed gold ferrule and a bright pink eraser.  When writing with the pencil, you do not feel as good as you feel when you are looking at it.  It is a bit scratchy and because it is made of (what looks like) jelutong, it is light and hollow sounding.  The graphite is dark enough for me and erases ok, but the weight of the pencil is off putting.  While I am not in love with the way the pencil feels and writes, I love the way it looks so much that I carry one around with me if not for usage, but used as a conversation starter.

5. Musgrave My-Pal 2020 ($0.25)

My-Pal

The My-Pal is a mini jumbo pencil as it is a few millimeters larger than a standard sized pencil.  The pencil itself is jet black with white stamping and aesthetically reminds me of the the General's Layout.  Dark like the Layout it is not and lays down HB graphite lines.  The erasability of those lines is a tiny bit better than average.  Point retention is average and the pencil offers a medium amount of feedback when writing. The My-Pal is made of jelutong wood. As much as I gave it a chance, this pencil is meh for me and since there are a plethora of jumbos and mini jumbos to use, I don't foresee it making it into my regular rotation.  

6. Musgrave TOT ($0.40)

TOT

The TOT is one of the older offerings from Musgrave and has been produced, with its same stamping, for decades.  Made from jelutong, this pencil is very light in the hand and is quite noisy when writing with it.  The graphite, while the same darkness as most of Musgrave's other jumbo offerings, feels a bit smoother.  You have two color choices for the TOT: blue or red.  Both colors have a shiny look to them and from far away you would think they were sparkling.  I like the look of this pencil and it is currently in my pencil case when I am feeling in a jumbo kind of mood.  At forty cents, one really cannot go wrong with picking a few of these up. 

7. Moon Try-Rex ($0.60)

Try-Rex

Let me first say that I love the Try-Rex.  The shape of this pencil is quite unique and is really hard to explain.  It is a beveled triangle shape and has a wonderful hand feel.  The Try-Rex is a tiny bit scratchy, but lays down HB graphite and erases like a charm.  I love this pencil so much because it really helps with my hand fatigue.  I grip the pencil tightly and press hard on the paper, and I guess due to the unique shape the Try-Rex takes the pressure off of the right points.  The eraser on this pencil is no Hinodewashi, but it is better than Musgrave's offerings and can be used in a pinch.  The wood the Try-Rex is made of has a slight cedar smell, but is not as dark as regular cedar, so I am not sure what it is made of, but it has a nice heft to it.

8. General's Big Bear ($1.30)

Big Bear

The General's Big Bear is the winner of this pencil comparison piece.  The Big Bear is a mini jumbo pencil and writes like a dream.  I really never expect less from General's but compared to Musgraves and Moons, this pencil writes like a Blackwing.  The graphite it lays down is nice a smooth and erases OK.  The provided eraser works, but is very dusty and mine was a bit hard.  I am not sure if this is because of the formulation of the rubber or from exposure to air.  Either way, you can use it in a pinch, but do not count on it for big lines of text.  This pencil is the only pencil on the list that is made of incense cedar.  Because of its cedar composition, the Big Bear has a nice heft to it which only helps you enjoy the experience of writing with it.  Look wise the Big Bear is adorable with a gold foil imprint of a smiling bear on the barrel.  Buy a bunch of these.  You won't regret it.   

9. Koh-I-Noor Magnum ($2.00)

Magnum

Made in the Czech Republic, the Magnum is hexagonal jumbo pencil made from basswood.  While it lays down a nice HB line, it is VERY loud when writing with it.  The noise is probably due to the way the feedback from the paper resonates through the lighter basswood.  The point retention on this pencil is great and easily erased.  The hex on the Magnum is a bit sharper than the hex on the Black Wood which may be a deal breaker for some (not me!).  The gold foil stamping on the pencil is solidly executed and is not sloppy like some Musgraves can be.  Sadly there is a giant barcode on one of the sides of the pencil towards the top, so you have to look at that for the entire life of the pencil.  It may not matter much to some, but to me its frustratingly annoying.  Playing around with this pencil made me discover that it is the best out of the other eight for shading and sketching since it lays down just enough graphite on the paper to achieve your desired darkness.

***For those that pay attention to details: disregard the natural wood 2b pencil in the header picture.  I am not sure how it made it into the group pic, but it is not a jumbo as its core is standard sized***

Back to School Spring Semester Edition

I love college for the simple fact that one can have two "back to schools" a year (more if you want to torture yourself with an intercession course).  Each spring and fall I start fresh and do a bit of gathering for the coming semester.  I clean out the backpack from last semester (sorry black, shriveled banana-- forgot you were in there) and reorganize my tools.  I have been thinking a lot about what I will use this spring.  This is the first semester in my college career where I am taking a full course load.  That's four classes and 16 credits-- no small feat for a non-traditional like myself.  In order to stay engaged and motivated, I often mix up what writing tools I use throughout the semester.  Here is a glimpse into my backpack and at each and every thing that I put into that backpack for the semester.

The Bag

Like most college students, I have a lot of shit to carry around.  I had considered purchasing a hip messenger bag, but it was hard to find one that had all of the features I wanted-- extra secure pockets, place for water bottle, multiple compartments for various things (headphones, pocket notebooks, pencils/pens, etc.), and comfortable straps since a lot of my classes involve me trekking across one end of campus to the other.  I decided to go with a North Face (I know, SO cliché) backpack.  I chose the Recon because it checked off all of the boxes for me:

I have had this bag for two years now and it has yet to let me down.  It has worn very well and all zippers work like new.  While I would love to have a reason to purchase a new backpack, I have no reason to with the North Face Recon.

Paper

This selection really goes against my uppity, elitist stationery preferences, but my notebook choice for last semester and this semester is the lowly Staples college ruled spiral notebook.  I have found that when I am taking note on the fly in class or when I am reading along with a text I am unable to do so neatly.  I have a strong desire to have everything uniform and routine with my notes (same headers/hierarchy), so using a good notebook for that and having to take my time to achieve this goal would no be feasible.  What I have done instead is if I do take notes for a class that is within my major, I will re-write them in a nicer notebook for long-term use.  Using cheap Staples notebooks allows me to spend a bit more money on things like pencils and other tools where quality does matter.

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Pencil Case

I actually use two pencil cases for my every day carry backpack.  The first one is the Nomadic PE-18 Pen case.  I chose this case for the simple fact that it had a lot of compartments without being too bulky.  I really like that it has one large compartment for pens and pencils and a smaller compartment for a few highlighters or pens as well.  Every compartment is smartly designed and the Nomadic has held up for the past three years of every day use.

The second pencil case I use is one I just purchased.  It is the CW Pencil Enterprise branded Viking leather pencil case.  This case is beautiful and even holds an unsharpened Blackwing.  I plan on using this case as a holder for whichever pencil and eraser I am using for the week as well as highlighters and any marking pencils I need for work.  Caroline is currently sold out of these cases, but she plans on getting more in stock in a variety of colors.

Erasers

There are really only two erasers I ever use: the Matomaru-Kun Plastic Eraser and the Tombow MONO "Erase Easily" Eraser.  The Matomaru-Kun is a bit softer than the Tombow, but both perform well.  They do not damage the paper at all and completely erase pencil markings opposed to smearing them around a bit before rubbing them off the paper.

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Sharpeners

I carry four sharpeners with me in a small plastic box and each sharpener has a particular use.  The Masterpiece and/or the Pollux are for when I have time to sharpen a nice long point on a pencil.  The Milan square sharpener is for when I am taking notes in class and need to sharpen quickly.  The Milan leaves a "just right" point for writing.  Finally, I use an M+R  Brass dual hole sharpener for when I need to sharpen a jumbo pencil or one of my highlighter pencils.

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Highlighters

I have a thing for highlighters.  I can never seem to settle on a particular brand or color for too long.  I used to use the Tombow Kei Coat Double Sided highlighters, but now have moved on to the Zebra Mildliners.  I have all three sets, but really like the light neon ones for schoolwork.  I also use the Caran D'Ache  Couleurs Flous Jumbo highlighter pencils when I am in the mood.  I recommend all colors but the yellow one as the yellow really needs you to push pretty hard for it to show up noticeably.

Pencils

This is a tough one.  I have hundreds of pencils around the house.  To select just a few to accompany me on my school adventures is a difficult task and at first I was just going to pick one brand and stick with it for the whole semester.  Then I got thinking.  Part of the fun is using a different pencil every now and then.  I narrowed it down to a select few:

I will not go into how each pencil performs as I will probably blog about it this semester, but I will say that I tried to pick a range of brands while staying within the same lead grade in order to have some consistency.  I made sure to try to include pencils that I have never used before to keep it interesting.

Planner

In previous years, I have used a Field Notes undated planner for school assignments.  This year I decided to go with a Baron Fig Confidant planner since I have never tried any of their paper or products that much.  I can say that initially I am underwhelmed with the Baron Fig planner-- the cover fabric seems to have come unglued from the heavy cover underneath.  This is only along the spine and does not affect the use of the book, but I guess I was expecting more.  We shall see how it turns out.

I hope all of you enjoyed a glimpse into my academic school supply life.  I'd be curious to hear from other students to see what they choose to carry.  Leave a comment if so inspired.

 

 

 

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:

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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.

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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!)