Pencils are pretty freakin’ cool.
You have in your hand a little stick that is alive with thoughts and ideas and the ancient dreams of the forests.
Also, it smells pretty great!
And yet, I’ve been taking them for granted all my life. Partly because regular office and supermarket pencils that you find in the United States are awful.
Whatever the reason, I did not start thinking seriously about pencils until I took up sketching in early 2019. That’s when I learned about brands such as Derwent, Tombow and many others, as well as the handful of U.S. companies that are still doing it like they were 100 years ago.
That’s also when I learned that pencils come in all these different grades. Before then I had only ever seen number 1, 2, or 3 pencils.
I’m still digging in slowly into this area. But I’m finding what I like.
I have one Blackwing 33 1/3 that I received as a gift a couple years back, before I got deep into all this. Back then I didn’t think much of it; now I love it. But there are others. The Blackwing Eras are my favorite from them. Just great extra firm core and lovely dark navy/greyish color.
I’ve been pleased with Japenese pencils like the Mitsubishi 9850 HB or the Tombow Mono 2B. Pretty much any Japanese pencil one picks up, once you start writing with it you’re like “ohhh this is awesome!”
I enjoyed using General’s pencils for sketching though I haven’t quite gotten into them for writing. But one of the other U.S.-based pencil manufacturers has been a source of great joy. The Musgrave Tennessee Red is one of the best I’ve ever used.
I love all the different colors and labels on the barrels. There seems to be more of a variety to pencils than there is to fountain pens. It’s probably not actually the case, but it seems so to me. At least with the stuff I allow myself to buy!
There’s a magic to taking a 12-box to sharpen each pencil in the morning. You line em up on the desk, as they wait for further instructions. Or maybe it’s the pencils that are leading us on, over to a path that can lead us to new worlds and possibilities.
Plus they do just smell great, right?