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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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***