California-friendly pencils?

An online search inadvertently led me to a recently released report from the group ForestEthics.

They rate pencils/pencil companies in terms of friendliness to the Sierra Nevada forests of California. Some of the marks are for specific pencils, while others are for entire companies.

Here are their basic ratings (see the report for details):

ForestChoice: A
Greenline Paper Company: A
Green Apple: C
Paper Mate: C
Dixon/Ticonderoga: F
USA Gold: F

Well, I’m sure a few problems with this rating are obvious. Pencils that probably twice crossed an ocean may not not be harming the Sierra Nevada, but that hardly makes them environmentally ideal.

Greenline (which I had not previously heard of) is additionally problematic in another way – these rolled newspaper pencils have been discussed here before, and their environmental benefits are far from clear.

Pentel Mark Sheet Pencil

Pentel Mark Sheet Pencil

We’ve seen special pencils aimed at optical and electro-mechanical mark recognition – the vintage IBM Electrographic, and the more recent Musgrave Test Scoring Pencil.

Quite a few people seem to be interested in these pencils, so I’m pleased to be able to mention a superb modern example that I recently learned about – the Pentel Mark Sheet pencil.

This hexagonal pencil is finished in blue with silver lettering. Two grades exist – HB, which has an orange cap, and B, with a red cap.

The pencils are marked –

Side 1: Pentel Mark Sheet Pencil HB

Side 3: the best quality for OCR sheet marking CM10 Japan HB

Side 5: [bar code]

Pentel Mark Sheet Pencil

The lead is just superb – at the pinnacle of modern graphite quality. The pencils leave extremely dark, rich lines. There is often a crumbling issue when a pencil’s graphite saturation reaches this level, but these pencils have no such problem.

It would be hard to imagine a better performing pencil.

250th post

This is the two hundred and fiftieth post at pencil talk.

The news is good. I once worried about running out of pencils to discuss. Don’t worry, that isn’t about to happen anytime soon!

There are also now many readers from around the globe, and I’ve been privileged to exchange notes with a number of excellent people.

Guest posts are still welcome. A few have said they would like to, yet two hundred and forty-nine of these two hundred and fifty posts were written by me. Please contact me if you might be interested in writing or photographing something about a pencil or pencil accessory.

Suggestions are also welcome, via blog comments or email.

To celebrate this small milestone, we’re having a small contest. The contest is for fun, with a small pencil prize. The pencils were kindly sent by the Musgrave and General pencil companies.

Contest: Name the Novelist
This novelist is likely a serious pencil aficionado. A 2007 novel from this author has a character who owns many pencils, including specialties such as red and blue pencils and copying pencils!


  • One dozen Musgrave HB pencils.
  • One dozen Musgrave Test Scoring pencils.
  • One General’s Drawing Class Essential Tools Kit.

    The details:

  • Post your response as a comment to this post.
  • The winner will have to provide a postal address through email. The pencils will be shipped air mail by Canada Post.
  • The contest runs until August 27, 2008, 20:00 EST. I’ll approve all comments, but won’t comment myself unless there is a winning answer. The contest is closed after a winning answer has been confirmed.
  • Tajima carpenter’s pencil

    Tajima carpenter's pencil

    Though appearing to be a regular hexagonal pencil, the Tajima pencil is aimed at the construction trades – carpentry in particular. It is definitely a different interpretation of this pencil style than seen in North America or Europe.

    The product website indicates that this pencil is highly humidity-resistant.

    Tajima carpenter's pencil

    With a sophisticated red lead, the pencil has a very nice thick varnish – most unusual in this category.

    The English text on the pencils reads, “Marking for construction and fine drawing.”

    Tajima carpenter's pencil

    My thanks to isu for providing a most unusual pencil to me.

    Dong-a World Best Black Wood pencil

    Dong-a World Best Black Wood pencil

    The Dong-a World Best Black Wood pencil is the last in our series on the pencils of Korea.

    This pencil has a black matte finish and black dyed wood. To my eye, it has a very powerful minimal design. I’m told that this pencil is very hard to find, even in Korea. Though I considered setting it aside for some sort of special occasion, I did wind up sharpening it. The lead, while not bad, wasn’t at the same level of excellence as the pencil’s appearance.

    Dong-a World Best Black Wood pencil

    My favourite Korean pencil (among those I’ve seen) is easily the Munhwa Deojon hi-mic, based on the quality of the lead. Finish-wise, the Black Wood and Hankook Sharp Office both stood out.

    It is great that Korea still has a woodcase pencil industry (though some of these pencils were made in China), and I congratulate those who are continuing to manufacture these writing implements.

    Dong-a World Best Black Wood pencil

    My thanks to Kent for providing these pencils.

    Other posts on Korean pencils:

    Hankook Sharp pencil June 8, 2008

    Dong-a Hongdangmoo Office pencil June 19, 2008

    Korean office pencils: Dong-a and Hankook Sharp July 2 , 2008

    Dong-a Fable pencil July 15, 2008

    Munhwa Deojon hi-mic pencil July 28, 2008