Ever since I reviewed the Blackwing 211 a few weeks ago, I have been in love with pencils that have an unpainted, natural look. Now there are two categories of natural pencils: "finished" which is what the 211 was and "raw" which is what the Ticonderoga Renew is. I have no real preference for either, but performance wise I did notice a few interesting things about this "raw" pencil.
I really like the color scheme of this pencil; the green eraser, the classic Ticonderoga ferrule, and the green foil stamping really make the natural barrel shine. I also like that on most of the pencils in the box I have, you can see the interlocking wood slats which I think is super cool. The Renew sharpened up nicely and the graphite core was perfectly centered.
There was slight resistance when sharpening the Renew; it was almost as if the raw finish gave me a bit of resistance while turning the sharpener. This did not effect the sharpening process, it just made it a tad bit more difficult (I also worried that it was a bit rough on the blade of my Masterpiece). Because the Renews are made with a little over half of pre-consumer recycled wood, I am unsure what the make up of the pencil is. It definitely has a smell to it that is unique and not very cedar-like (actually-- and don't laugh-- it kind of smells like strong body odor when sharpened). The eraser was effective, but was very dusty and wore away about halfway through the pencil. I had to resort to using my Mitsubishi Boxy the rest of my time with the Renew.
Once I had the Renew sharpened, it was time to write. I first started taking notes in a Gold Fibre Retro Pad, but found writing to be uncomfortable. The Gold Fibre by Ampad has this beautiful ivory paper, but it is a bit toothy. Once I switched back to my Kokuyo Campus paper all was well. The Ticonderoga Renew wore down slowly and I only broke lead once while sharpening (I think it was my fault). I am on the fence about whether or not to agree with their "soft" assertion, but the graphite wasn't bad by any means. It was OK on my own subjective darkness scale, but YMMV. One other thing I am not sure of is how it stacks up to other Ticonderogas. At around $5.50 for a ten-pack, they are affordable and worth giving a try. I don't foresee the Renew getting a place in my pencil rotation, but it definitely earned its keep this week. Overall: 7/10