I think the picture above adequately illustrates my woodcased pencil journey so far. Yes, this post is inspired by National Pencil Day, which was on March 30th. I’ve been getting more into pencils lately, so I thought I would look back and see how my relationship with pencils has changed over the years.
The collection of pencils from my childhood on the top left are at least 20–30 years old. Most were given to me by family members but my tendency to hoard is clearly apparent from an early age. Notice how none of them have erasers! That was the standard when/where I grew up, in Asia, and to this day, I’m pretty comfortable with pencils without erasers.
Then I came to America in mid elementary school, where one of the biggest culture shocks I experienced was the American pencil. Okay, I may be exaggerating. It wasn’t as bad as not knowing much English, other than the phrase “Can I go to the bathroom?” But I really was appalled at the reddish so-called-eraser thing on top of the ubiquitous yellow #2 pencils. All it did was smear or tear the paper!
Maybe that’s why I stopped using pencils. But that was okay because I quickly moved onto mechanical pencils, and that’s what I used all through high school and college, along with various ball point and liquid ink pens. I have nothing against good mechanical pencils. I believe they have their place in the world, and the ones I’d used served their purpose very well through many years of math and science classes.
Then I got into art, and the set of Faber-Castell pencils are from those days. I went through many of these “grown-up” looking pencils in softer grades. And kneaded erasers, which I still use to this day.
Nowadays, I’m having fun trying new pencils! Some time last year, Matt gifted me a Palomino Blackwing 602, along with a pack of Field Notes Red Blooded, and just like that, my interest in woodcased pencils was piqued. Wow, a good looking pencil with dark, smooth lead, I thought. And the eraser works! (I actually don’t like it that much). Ever since then, I’ve been slowly reintroducing pencils into my stationery diet. I really enjoy the “softness” and lightness of pencils, and the sound and the smell that come with them.
As you can see, I picked up a few different ones from Mitsubishi Uni, my old favorite brand, and Tombow, and I like them all so far. They certainly look more sophisticated than my old pencils, and that’s good, because my tastes and preferences have changed over the years. One thing that hasn’t changed: I still don’t need erasers to be attached to my pencils. Usually it’s just a dead weight, and a hinderance to a good, balanced hold. Unless the eraser is really good! Then I don’t mind it.
Listening to the Erasable Podcast is giving me the nudge to try more different brands, too, especially American brands. I recently got some General Kimberly pencils, and I was pleasantly surprised. Am I finally recovering from my bad impression of American pencils? I sure hope so!
As I experiment with more and more pencils, I’m learning that I prefer:
- Softer lead, generally B.
- Triangular barrel, for more comfortable grip.
Of course, these can change depending on what I use the pencil for, and can be overridden if the pencil looks really, really good. :) Nowadays, I use pencils mainly for casual writing, in Field Notes or note pads, so the pencil doesn’t have to hold a sharp point for a long period of time. But I also plan on doing more sketching, so we’ll see how my preferences evolve.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this pencil journey will lead me. I will close this post with more pictures of my old pencils. Sort of as a tribute to my collection. Now that they’re photographed, I can move on and won’t feel so bad using them up! :)