After posting about pencil shapes and round pencils, topics which inevitably reference the Mirado Black Warrior, I decided to give these pencils a try, and use them at home and work for a couple of weeks. Many of my observations about their quality have already been noted by past commenters.
A few years ago, I didn’t typically see them at retail, but today they seem to be available from a variety of retail sources, such as department and office supply stores. They are part of the PaperMate brand, which is owned by Sanford, a division of the Newell Rubbermaid corporation. The official product page of the pencil is here.
The pencils are round, and painted black. They have a gold coloured ferrule with a red band, and a “Pink Pearl” pink eraser.
They are marked with gold colour lettering:
USA Mirado Black Warrior B 1 [logo]
The box is pleasant enough, and announces that they are “The World’s Smoothest Writing Pencil – Guaranteed!” As least Sanford can spell the word. And the guarantee looks real – they have an address for returning the product “if it fails to perform to your satisfaction.”
My first impression of the pencils is not good – the black paint has crept up over the ferrule, and even on to the eraser on a number of pencils. (I bought two boxes in B/No. 1 grade.)
The stamping appears quite second-rate, with the gold letters in “Mirado Black Warrior” blurring into one another.
Some people say round pencils are harder to sharpen, but with various handheld sharpeners, including the “long point” variety, I didn’t perceive any special trouble.
Now let me address the issue of the pencils rolling away on one’s desk – most of these pencils are warped, right out of the box, and won’t roll away. One of them has a deep vertical crack. I couldn’t believe it, but it’s true.
Perhaps these came from a bad lot or batch. Still, Newell Rubbermaid is a huge corporation that must have the capacity for some sort of quality control.
Now I know there are people who adore this pencil – but presumably you are not regularly seeing these serious quality issues?
For writing, I think it’s possible that the round shape is more comfortable over the course of a day. It’s certainly a personal preference.
The lead is okay, and did not break, but I don’t think it’s as smooth as our reference Lumograph 100 or the Castell 9000. To be fair, the Black Warrior is sold at a much lower price point than those pencils.
Overall, I am somewhat perplexed. The pencils are so badly made that they occupy their own unique category. I cannot recall ever buying any other brand of pencil with so many quality issues. Yet, the Mirado seems to have commercial success, with an ongoing following. Is this because they are almost alone in the category? Would the market have room for a higher quality round pencil?