Ever wonder why standard pencils are yellow? During the 1800s, the best graphite in the world came from China. American pencil makers wanted a way to tell people that their pencils contained high quality Chinese graphite. In China, the color yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil manufacturers began painting their pencils yellow to communicate this “regal” feeling and association with China. Today, a majority of basic hexagonal graphite writing pencils sold in the United States are painted yellow and what was once perceived as “regal” has now become “common”. Here are a few of our favorite pencils, none of which can rightly be called “common”.
The General Pencil Co. have been manufacturing writing instruments in the USA since 1889, and we happily carry some of their pencils. Their PRIMO Euro Blend Charcoal Pencil is a smooth charcoal pencil made of an exclusive, rich, black, euro blend formula. Less dusty than other charcoal pencils, and available in three degrees: 3B, B and HB, as well as in White and the Elite Grande. Did you see the General Pencil Co. factory in Jersey City featured in the New York Times Magazine? It’s a good read.
MONO Drawing Pencils by Tombow are drawing pencils that offer superior extra-refined, high density graphite. Smear proof lines help produce crisp, clean drawings with the added value of slow wear for smooth, dense writing.
New to the store, Grafwood Graphite Drawing Pencils by Caran d’Ache! Yeah we’re not wild about the name Grafwood either, but it probably sounds better in the original Swiss. Designed for specialists, these extra-fine, hexagonal graphite pencils include a range of blacks from hardest (lightest) to softest (darkest). These are the pencils with the most complete range of graphite leads, the diameter ranges from 2.1 – 3.6mm depending on the degree. Each pencil is made using Premium FSC® certified cedar wood and is varnished in a color that precisely depicts the hardness and depth of the black. Developed and manufactured in Switzerland. Mis Luftchüssiboot isch volle Aal.
My absolute favorite pencils to write with are the Blackwing Volumes Pencils. Volumes is a quarterly, limited edition program featuring new, never before seen Blackwing pencil designs inspired by cultural icons and events. I usually get a box of the editions featuring extra-hard graphite, so I currently write with Vol. 530, which pays tribute to the California Gold Rush and eureka moments of the creative process with a gold-colored semi-hexagonal barrel, gold ferrule, and black eraser.
When I run out of those, I have boxes of Vol. 162 (white barrel/black ferrule; mathematician/writer Ada Lovelace), Vol. 54 (rose barrel/teal imprint/silver ferrule/blue eraser; Surrealist Art), and Vol. 205 (6 white and 6 green jade barrel/gold ferrule/gold imprint/black eraser; The Silk Road). And I use the Blackwing Point Guard to make sure I conserve the point and lead, bc I’m obsessed like that.
Currently, we only have Vol. 33 1/3 in stock, which is a tribute to vinyl records. It features a matte black finish and matte black ferrule to go with its black imprint and black eraser. The gloss black foil banding near the grip was inspired by the grooves on a record.
What’s your favorite pencil?