Sunday, May 2, 2010

Paper Mate Classic HB #2 Wood Pencils

Another find from the dollar bin at an Office Depot store. 24 unfinished pencils for a buck sounded like a pretty good deal, and they seem like an adequate starter pencil for my cartooning classes. The back of the box indicates that these pencils were "finished in the USA with wood from Indonesia and/or China and other imported and USA materials". Whatever happened to pencils been simply made on a single country I wonder.
For a quick comparison got a few pencil samples from my collection that lie on the opposite end of the value priced daily general use Paper Mate Classic pencils. The Utrecht Drawing pencil is a store brand pencil designed for art students. The General's Draughting pencil is an above-average thick graphite lead American-made pencil that I found browsing at Pearl. In my opinion the Japanese-made Mitsubishi Hi-Uni is the pinnacle of what a premium art pencil should be and the standard against which all other pencils should be measured: ultra-smooth dark break-resistant lead with an impeccable distinct barrel coating finish.
This comparison marks chart highlights the difference in darkness between the different graphite grades and brands. The 8B Utrecht Drawing pencil is the softest and darkest of the group and naturally is quite prone to smudging. The fact that the F Mitsubishi Hi-Uni pencil looks darker than the HB Paper Mate Classic shows how graphite degree ranges can differ across manufacturers. The Paper Mate pencil's tip was the only one to snap and break off repeatedly during this doodle test, produced the faintest lines, and it also felt the scratchiest. While it is possible to draw with all 4 pencils, it is clear that the Paper Mate was built first as a writing tool for everyday use rather than a practical sketching tool. Like I often remind my students: Artist grade pencils typically do not feature an eraser while writing pencils like the classic #2 usually sport ferrules and erasers. The small pink erasers are adequate for making quick corrections while taking notes but tend to be too abrasive to correct drawings without marring the art paper surface.

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