2015 was the year of the pencil for many, and I was no exception. Due in part to the efforts of pencil-pushers like the folks at C.W. Pencil Enterprises and Pencils.com, high-quality woodcase pencils are more available than ever (though they may be more expensive than when we were kids). Without further ado, here are my top five pencils that I enjoy for everyday writing:
- Palomino Blackwing 602. Palomino’s resurrection of the classic Eberhard Faber pencil looks great and has what I consider to be the perfect balance of point retention and darkness. I’ll also include the Blackwing Volumes 211 here, because it uses the same core. The 211 is perhaps my favorite purchase from the past year, but it’s a limited edition, so it can’t merit it’s own place on a Top-5 list.
- Palomino Forest Choice. My personal favorite of the natural-finish pencils ends could be called the frugal man/woman's version of the Blackwing Volumes 211. At $2.95 for a dozen, it's a fraction of the cost. (Literally, you get a dozen pencils for the cost of one Blackwing.) The wood on the Forest Choice also develops a nice patina with long-term use. Some people find the core a touch scratchy, but I personally prefer a little grit in my graphite.
- Dixon Ticonderoga (Made in China). What used to be the flagship U.S.-made #2 pencil, that most of us (well, at least those of us above the age of 25) learned to write with in school. Dixon has now moved production to China and Mexico, but the quality is still there—you just have to look a bit harder. The graphite used in the Chinese version is pleasantly dark and soft, as opposed to the Mexican graphite which I find harder and extremely scratchy, even for me.
- General’s Semi-Hex. My favorite of the last American-made yellow #2s, and it's getting a bit harder to find. I reviewed these a while back. Some might find the graphite gritty, but again, that's my preference. I especially like the "semi-hex" rounded edges, which are much more comfortable than the rather sharp hexagonal edges of pencils made by Musgrave, such as the Musgrave Test-Scoring 100 and the Palomino Golden Bear (made by Musgrave).
- The Original Palomino HB. My “gateway drug” into nice pencils, and the first pencils that I ordered where I paid more than $10 for a dozen. The Palomino is the whole package: a dark core, aromatic cedar smell, thick lacquer on the wood, and an excellent eraser.
I can’t justify placing the Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood and the Caran d’Ache Black Wood in the “Top 5” due to a combination of cost and availability, but I love these two pencils and use them all the time. If you’re a true pencil geek, they’re both worth checking out!
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