Pencils! Pick Five.

First of all, thank you to everyone who has participated so far in my giveaway here.  I'd like to remind all readers that a winner will not be chosen until Tuesday, so you have until 11:59 p.m. on Monday to enter. 

Second, for some reason pencils have been calling my name this past week or so.  I've still been using my fountain pens for certain things, but the giant cup of pencils that sits crammed-full on my desk has been bothering me for a while, urging me to sharpen them up and use them.  So I have.  I'm not a pencil purist, meaning that I don't use them exclusively by any means, but I do love me some graphite. 

My pen and pencil cup runneth over.

Here are five of my current favorites:

  1. Palomino "Classic" Eraser-tipped HB.  If I was stranded on a desert island and could have one writing implement, I would choose this pencil.  To me, it has the perfect combination of smoothness, darkness, and point retention.  If I had one criticism, it's that the ferrule and eraser tend to loosen up, and eventually fall off, as the pencil is used, but that could just be a bad batch.  Oh, and the cedar smells great when you sharpen this pencil.  Theoretically, I know there's not much difference between this and Palomino's Blackwing 602, but I just like this pencil.  A lot.  (As of October 1, 2016, It looks like the Palomino HB is out of stock. I've been unable to find a source of them anywhere. Hopefully they aren't being discontinued.)
  2. Palomino Blackwing 602.  A close second.  The point retention in this pencil is second to none, but I sometimes wish it was just a hair darker (but not as dark/soft as the original Palomino Blackwing or the Blackwing Pearl).  The gunmetal finish on this pencil is gorgeous. 
  3. Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB (Chinese Version).  (Formerly) an American classic.  This is still a decent quality pencil, the lead is smooth and very dark, and you can't beat the price.  I docked this pencil some points because the QC is not what it used to be.  Several of the pencils in the 30 pack I purchased were warped.  Not to the point of being unusable, but still...when I spend $4.00 on a pack of 30, I want my money's worth.  Oh, wait.  In terms of smoothness and darkness, you can't really beat the combination of price and easy availability. (Don't order these online - Go to your nearest big-box store and pick up a pack that says "Made in China." The "Made in Mexico" versions aren't as good.)
  4. Faber Castell American.  There are better pencils, but I love these because they were, to me, the classic yellow #2 that I used growing up.  I bought a half gross on Ebay for next to nothing, so I can use them freely.  These pencils aren't as dark as any of those listed above, which doesn't put them at the top of my list, but they are dark enough and the point retention is excellent.  They write more like a modern German HB pencil.  They are also made of real cedar and the lacquer and ferrule have a quality you don't see much anymore in a budget pencil, other than Musgrave.
  5. Field Notes Pencil.  A great pencil in concept, but I've had some performance issues with the graphite core breaking as the pencil get's shorter.  If you don't use a long-point sharpener, the problem isn't as pronounced, but what's the fun in that?  Otherwise, the unfinished raw cedar smells amazing, the graphite is acceptably smooth and dark, and the green eraser is offbeat enough to be interesting and works well.  I really want to like this pencil, but I'm going to use a few more before I make a bigger purchase.

From left:  Field Notes Pencil, Palomino Blackwing 602 (with replacement pink eraser), Classic Palomino HB, Dixon Ticonderoga, vintage Faber Castell American.

This is a pretty accurate depiction of the darkness of the lead.  In terms of darkness alone, I would rank them:  (1) Chinese Ticonderoga; (2) Palomino Blackwing 602; (3) Palomino HB; (4) Field Notes; (5) Faber Castell American.  In terms of smoothness, the rankings would be similar, thought the Palomino pencils would both trump the Chinese Ticonderoga, with the Blackwing 602 taking the prize.

By far, these are not the only pencils I use, simply those that I have been using recently.  I'll be trying to get more woodcase pencil reviews up, since I know there's demand out there for more pencil-related content.