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***

Eraser Round Up

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This week has been a bit different.  A lot of times, people always ask me what the best eraser is for everyday use.  I usually answer "Mitsubishi Boxy", but after the nth time of recommending that glorious little black rectangular eraser I began to wonder.  What about the other ones?  Just like pencils, there are dozens of different types of erasers made of different materials that appeal to and equal amount of individuals.  I did not want to merely review erasers-- reviewing items is a subjective matter and what I may like may be completely horrible to someone else.  What follows are twelve different impressions on erasers-- some quite common and well known and some you may not have heard of.  Note: A Blackwing 602 was used on a Field Notes Shenandoah with 60# paper. Papermate Pink Pearl

PinkPearl

The Pink Pearl is perhaps the most well known eraser on this list.  I am sure all of us have fond memories of using this rubbery pink parallelogram during math classes.  We also probably remember how gritty it was and how it left horrible tears or pink smudges on the paper.  Well, this is not your 80's Pink Pearl.  I will readily admit that I expected that Pink Pearl of yesteryear; gritty, barely usable, and endlessly frustrating.  Papermate has a tendency to take good products and butcher them and the Pink Pearl-- I figured-- was no exception.  Boy was I surprised when I used the Pink Pearl for the first time in 25 years.  No grit, no smear; just buttery smooth effectiveness.  The Pink Pearl performed well beyond my expectations and has become my new favorite EDC eraser.  There is something about the nostalgia of carrying a Pink Pearl with me everywhere.  I like it.

Seed Radar  

Radar

The Radar came recommended from one of my favorite Erasables, Less (check out their page!).  It comes in a variety of subtle colors, but I gravitated towards blue.  I am kinda bummed the eraser itself is not quite blue enough, but where it lacks in vibrancy, it make up in performance.  Not only does this plastic eraser remove most traces of graphite, but its dust rolls up nicely into little bunches for easy clean up.  The Radar has a useful cardboard sheath that prevents the eraser from breaking.

Tombow MONO

Mono

I am a huge fan of Tombow products.  I have a current affair with their Brush Pens and the MONO 100 was my favorite pencil before I found the Erasable Podcast group.  I expect nothing but the best from Tombow and while the eraser does a good job with line drawing and regular handwriting, it struggled with the shading portion of the test.  At first, it smeared a bit and then managed to get the job done.  Like most plastic erasers, the dust clumps neatly together and does not leave a mess.  The MONO is affordable and worth giving a shot.

Caran D'Ache Technik

Technik

I expected a lot from the Technik for two reasons: its price and the fact that it is made by Caran D'Ache.  I was most let down by the eraser's ability to erase cleanly.  It performed OK with line drawings, but with the shading it had excessive smearing and took a lot of effort to get the most graphite cleared.  The Technik is a very hard eraser and it leaves neat rolls of eraser dust.  I posit that the hardness of the plastic has to do with its crummy erasing performance.  I know I said I wouldn't review erasers here, but I can't resist with this one.  I'd pass on purchasing and instead get 3 Pink Pearls (or really 3 of anything).

Pentel Ain

Ain

The Pentel Ain erases well, but is a bit dusty.  It showed some smearing on the shading part of the erasing test, but with some effort it came through and got the job done.  Not much to say here, because it was solidly mediocre.

Koh-I-Noor Magic

Magic

The Magic is an eraser that I have been wanting to get my hands on for some time.  I love how each eraser is different with varying colors and swirls.  As a rubber eraser, the Magic is clearly very dusty.  I'd liken the dustiness to a standard pink pencil eraser (think Ticonderoga/General's).  It has a nice pungent rubbery smell and does fantastically on regular light handwriting and lines.  It is a smeary mess on the darker lines and shading parts and actually reminds me of the Pink Pearl from years ago.  The Magic is a cool eraser nonetheless and is a nice pocket carry, but at $2.50 you are definitely paying for the novelty.

Staedtler Mars Plastic

Mars

I was quite unimpressed by the Mars plastic; it was dusty, took a lot of effort to erase things, and smeared a heck of a lot.  I expected more from Staedtler, but was left with a less than average eraser.  I do like the size of the Mars as it makes for easy erasing, but the effort you put forth getting the job done negates the bonus of a larger eraser.

Hinodewashi Matomaru-kun

Hino

The Hinodewashi came highly recommended from pretty much anyone that has used it, so I was excited to use this delightfully bright white block of plastic.  It performed beautifully with very little effort.  The dust rolled up nicely and did not smear any of what was erased.  These are hard to come by in the US, but Caroline has a few at CW Pencil Enterprise if you are interested.

Craft Design Technology No. 14

CDT

The minimalist design of CDT products always draw me in.  I enjoy a product that lets its product do all the talking and not the packaging.  Well, the CDT left a lot to be desired.  First, when opening the eraser I could not help but notice the smell.  I can't even tell you what it smelled like, but it was a chemical-like smell with a hint of plastic.  In fact, it was so pungent I could smell it without putting it up to my nose.  Once I got past the smell, the CDT was meh.  Yes, it erases, but is dustier than I had expected and it took a lot of effort to erase the samples and even then, you can see a shadow of what was once there.

Koh-I-Noor Thermoplastic

thermoplastic

I want to start off by saying this eraser was my absolute favorite design wise.  I love the hexagonal shape (which I believe is a nod to the pencil) and the recessed center that allows for a very comfortable grip.  The six corners allow for maximum control and precision.  The Thermoplastic erases OK, but does leave a shadow on both samples.  I would say that this eraser is best for light writers out there that do not press that hard or use H grade graphite.  I know this eraser says its plastic, but it was the dustiest of the plastic erasers I have tested.  The Thermoplastic comes in a myriad of colors and if not used as an every day eraser, its still a cool pocket carry (its almost reminiscent of those worry stones one would carry in their pocket).

Faber-Castell Dust Free Art Eraser

FaberCastell

Another recommendation from Less, the FC Dust Free never ceased to amaze me as I explored its qualities.  First, I love the dark green color-- it does a good job of hiding any graphite marks that may transfer to the eraser.  Second, while subtle, is the contoured edges that make for comfortable holding.  I really didn't think that this would make a difference, but it did and has a really good hand feel when erasing bigger projects.  Finally, it lives up to its name: Dust Free.  This eraser was perhaps the most effective when keeping its waste materials rolled up in tiny little bunches.  The FC Dust Free also erases beautifully.  Not the top performer in the "clean erase" field, but it definitely holds its own.

Sakura Foam

Sakura

The Sakura Foam is one of the few erasers on this list that I have used before.  I really like the way its shavings ball up together-- this makes for a quick and easy cleanup.  The Sakura does an amazing job erasing any kind of line drawing or handwriting.  Where its lacks is its ability to erase large areas of shading.  I'm not an artist, so this is not a deal breaker for me, but something to keep in mind.  Another downfall of this eraser is that it wears down pretty quickly.  That worn down edge you see in the picture is just from the two tests I did (line drawing, sentence erasing, and shading).  The Sakura definitely lives up to its "High Quality" designation, but if you make a lot of mistakes, you will blow through these pretty quickly.  With that being said, it continues to be one of my favorites for every day erasing.

 

 

 

Koh-i-Noor Toison D'or 1900 Series 2B

The Toison D'or 1900 is quite the beauty.  Its hexagonal barrel is painted with a glossy black lacquer and had a cream colored stripe at the top where the lead hardness is located.  The stamping is gold foil and really pops out against the black of the pencil.  20151005_124927 The darkness of the graphite is just perfect and glides smoothly over the paper.  My only complaint is that this pencil is super light-- as in weight-- and it took a lot of getting used to.  I usually do not put my pencil caps on the top of the pencil when they are not in use, but as you can see in the above picture, I had to because it felt odd to have something in my hand that did not weigh much.  The Toison D'or erases wonderfully and does not smear at all.  This was great for me because drawing bell curves in stats class is not something I am good at.  :)

20151008_102058

As I got to the end of the pencil, I ran into some troubles with the graphite core while sharpening.  I am not sure if it is just the sharpener I am using (Palomino Long Point), but the graphite just snaps right off in the sharpener and I have to waste about a quarter inch of the pencil re-sharpening.  This problem is not a deal breaker for me, but it is definitely annoying.  Overall: 7/10