In a previous post I featured pencils that—in my opinion—share some of the qualities found in the Blackwing 602. This post is an extension of that idea, though not all of these pencils are necessarily close contenders. But I think they are all interesting in their own right, and deserve a post of their own.
Mitsubishi Hi-Uni 2B
This is a picture of an HB, but the description applies nonetheless. The Mitsubishi Hi-Uni is one of the very best examples of Japanese pencil-making. The consistency, quality, and finish are of the highest quality. They are available in a wide range of grades, but the 2B seems to strike the right balance between softness, darkness, smoothness, and point retention. The Penmanship Pencil is even smoother, though its 4B lead means more frequent trips to the sharpener.
Tombow Mono 100 2B
It is difficult to make distinctions between the Hi-Uni and the Mono 100. The Mono 100 is also one of the pinnacles of modern pencil-making; from the lead, to the finish, all the way down to the packaging. I think that the Hi-Uni might just be slightly smoother, but that opinion can change on a daily basis.
Craft Design Technology HB
This pencil is made by Pentel for CDT, though it seems they are no longer in production. But since Pentel also discontinued the Black Polymer, perhaps it might have more to do with Pentel than CDT. I think of this pencil as being a dependable HB, though its green finish and minimal imprint make it stand out. The wood of this pencil is a bit darker than usual. I wonder if CDT might find another manufacturer for this pencil.
Eberhard Faber Mongol No. 2
This is an unusual choice, but this No. 2 pencil writes unusually well. To me, the shade is closer to a No. 1 pencil. Though it’s not remarkably smooth, it’s far from scratchy. Having a round barrel contributes to the ease with which it writes. And, you can’t beat some of the older Eberhard Faber packaging.
The Mongol has changed quite a bit over the decades, having been one of the longest-running products in the Eberhard Faber catalog. Its name became a byword for “quality”, and was the “business pencil” of choice for many decades.
I wish you could buy more pencils in 3-packs or 4-packs these days; it’s a great way to try-out something new. The valuable and hard-to-find Faber-Castell Mongol was at the center of an international incident in 2009:
Bic 101 2B
Ask someone in the United States for a “Bic” and you’re likely to be given a pen. So I was surprised to find out Bic also made woodcase pencils. I was even more surprised when I wrote with it—the Bic 101 2B is very smooth and dark. Thanks to Matthias for introducing me to this pencil.
Faber-Castell 9008 Steno 2B
Steno pencils are a reflection of times-gone-by, so it’s nice that a company as large as Faber-Castell still makes them. Round for comfort, this 2B has a lead that seems slightly darker than the Castell 9000 2B, but also a little chalkier too (perhaps “powdery” is a better word). Compared to the Blackwing, I’d say its slogan would be “3/5 the Pressure, 1.7x the Speed.”
Mitsubishi 9850 HB
This pencil is an unsung hero of Japanese pencil-making. It does little to draw attention to itself, but for a “common” office pencil, it’s remarkably smooth and dark. The imprint and lacquer finish are excellent, too. A nice little detail is that the edges on the (excellent) eraser are just slightly rounded. Thanks to Adair for getting me hooked on these pencils.
Ito-ya Romeo No. 3
The “No. 3” in this pencil’s name doesn’t refer to the grade of its lead. It turns out this this is a very smooth and very dark pencil, something as soft as a 3B or 4B perhaps. The form-factor of the eraser is a really nice aesthetic touch, though you’ll probably want to have a different one handy for extended use.
Graf von Faber-Castell Desk Pencil No. III
Graf von Faber-Castell’s desk-length pencils are made with the same exquisite care you find in all of their products. It has a silver-plated cap, has fluted sides, and is made of premium cedar. It sharpens incredibly easy—especially with the small GvFC sharpener—and writes very nicely. Though they lean toward lighter degrees, older versions of this pencil are a bit darker than the current version.
Mars-Lumograph 2886 EX-EXB
This isn’t a pencil for writing, but I wanted to include it anyway. I use it much like I would a Sharpie marker for writing on boxes, signs, etc. It’s an oversized pencil with a thick, creamy lead. It’s the only a pencil I’ve tried sharpening with a knife.