I'm taking a new approach with my product reviews on this site. Rather than try to put out 2-3 shorter reviews per week, I'm going to aim to do 1-2 more in-depth pieces, tentatively titled the "One Week With . . . " series. The current plan is to use a product for a week or so, and then (hopefully) offer some more informed observations. First up is the General's Semi-Hex Pencil.
I've had a pack of the #2s for years, and while in town at the Atlanta Pen Show this past April I stopped by Sam Flax and grabbed two loose #1's. (For whatever reason, they didn't have a full dozen). But this is the first time I've sat down and thought about this particular writing instrument with the goal of writing a comprehensive review.
In my opinion, the Semi-Hex is one of the nicest "yellow number two" pencils out there. The pencils are real cedar, and the #2 graphite formulation is smooth with just a touch of tooth to it, which I actually prefer to the waxy, glass-like smoothness of certain higher-end pencils like the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni, the Tombow Mono line, or even the Palomino range. The #1 is ever-so-slightly darker, but to be honest I did not find a noticeable difference between the two when the pencils had a sharp point. Once the point wore down some, the #1 was somewhat smoother and less "gritty" feeling.
The finish on these pencils is adequate, but it does have a tendency to flake (especially around the ferrule), and the metallic green stamping rubs off on your hands early on. The #1s I have are better finished than the #2s, and they have a different design as well. It could be a batch variance, but I suspect that in recent years, General's has done some cost-cutting in an effort to remain competitive, and the #2 pencil quality control suffered a bit as a result. They're still better than 95% of what else is out there on the market, but it's somewhat sad to see.
The eraser on the #1 is better than the #2 as well. The #2 eraser is a bit hard, and while it does erase, it can smear. As a result, I've been using a separate eraser with these pencils.
My favorite thing about these pencils is that they last forever. The picture below is what's left of three Semi-Hex pencils after they saw a week of heavy notetaking use. There's still three quarters of each pencil left! Point retention is excellent, on both the #1 and the #2.
For me, the only question is whether or not to build up a stash of these. I have a half dozen or so #2s left, and I'm seriously considering packing away a gross or half-gross for posterity. You can buy them directly from General's or from Pencils.com.