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Derwent Onyx pencil

Derwent Onyx pencil

In 2008, Derwent announced a new graphite pencil line, the Onyx.

According to Derwent, the Onyx “… is made from smooth dark graphite and delivers dense, rich, jet-black tones, darker than a Graphic 9B. Due to its non-crumbly texture, the 4mm wide core is capable of sharpening and holding a fine point.”

After some testing, I have to conclude that Derwent’s claims are absolutely correct and without exaggeration. Yet experiencing the pencil doesn’t explain the mystery of the formula.

The pencil is round with an 8mm diameter and a 4mm core. It comes in two grades, “Medium” and “Dark”.

Derwent Onyx pencil

The Dark version is capable of a very wide range of shades. The claim about pressure is correct – the dark rich tones seem to appear in reaction to pressure. Of course all pencils do that to some extent, but the Onyx is somehow different – with light pressure, it gives no signs of being a super dark pencil.

Additionally, the claim about holding a point is correct – it has a much stronger point than typical soft grade pencils.

Derwent Onyx pencil

The Dark Onyx on the left, and the Derwent Graphic 9B on the right:

Derwent Onyx pencil

I have to admit amazement. Presumably, Derwent have used very different ingredients (or process) to create this wonder of a pencil.

Derwent Onyx pencil

Definitely worth a test. Have you tried it?

29 comments to Derwent Onyx pencil

  • Tried them a few months ago and was suitable impressed with their point strength, and your pictures just prompted me to test my long point sharpener on them as well. They certainly work together well. Haven’t seen them at retail stores yet though.

  • Very exciting! I haven’t tried them yet so I will look for them. – How do they glide across the paper? Is there a little “stickiness” as with the Staedtler Mars Lumograph 7B and 8B?

  • Robert M.

    Fascinating review, thanks. I’ve been curious about the Onyx for a while, but have never bothered to order one. In general, Derwent’s pencils aren’t especially appealing to me, but I don’t want to think of myself as highly brand-biased, so I might have to give them a try sometime.

    Unfortunately, I have not been using softer pencils at all lately. Too much smearing and sharpening when I just want to take down some notes.

  • Michael

    I haven’t tried them for writing but they work really well for drawing.
    As mentioned before on these pages, some very soft pencils seem to contain other forms of carbon besides graphite and they have a different feel.
    These don’t feel like charcoal or carbon pencils. Nor are they like wax based coloured pencils.
    They also erase just like graphite.
    I’m as mystified as you are about how they do it.

  • Eric

    Based on this review they are a must try. I hope all who celebrated Thanksgiving had a great day. My house still smells of ginger and allspice.

  • Henrik

    This just sounds too good to be true. This one might be “the pencil” I will get a few and try them out ASAP. BTW how does it compare to the Palomino Blackwing – in terms of blackness?
    Thanks for posting this I wasn’t aware of the Onyx at all.
    regards
    Henrik

  • Thank you for the comments. To address some particular queries -

    Gunther, on Strathmore Bristol 300 series paper, the glide seemed comparable to regular graphite pencils. I haven’t really focused on this aspect of the pencil, though.

    Michael, I agree with your observations. To see some innovation in the graphite formula is encouraging.

    Eric, the ginger aroma sounds wonderful. I hope your Thanksgiving went well.

    Henrik, it is definitely a drawing oriented pencil. I haven’t compared it with many other brands, but the point retention carries on in the mark left – there is less powder/crumble than typical pencils.

  • Winterwolfen

    I happen to own this pencils. I’m a hobby artist and don’t know so much of pencils…yet, but I didn’t like this pencils as much as staedtler 7B and 8B because they arent’s as dark as they claim to be…I think.

  • Joan

    Alberto and everyone: Which long point sharpener do you use? I’m looking for one but I can’t find a long-enough-point-sharpener. I would like a sharpener capable of a point as long as the one pictured in this tread or as long as the factory point delivered in the Caran d’Ache technograph 777

    Thanks.

  • I highly recommend the Decade DE-100 and the Bungu Ryodo BR-05 from Carl.

  • Joan

    Gunther: Indeed, very interesting machine. I already saw it in another thread in this blog. I like it because I think it does not “hurt” the pencil, like my Dahle 166 does, with its “jaws” to keep the pencil in place.
    Is there an other alternative? I prefer European stuff if available. It doesn’t matter if it is manual or mechanical. In fact I ordered (and waiting) a Dahle 200 electrical sharpener but I’m afraid it can’t render those wonderful long points…

  • Joan, there is also the Dahle 133 and (identical in construction) the Möbius + Ruppert 0981. Both don’t chew the pencils but hold them with rubber-padded jaws like the ones from Carl so they don’t leave marks on the barrel. However, they don’t offer the built quality of the Carl machines but sharpen pencils with a diameter up to 11.5mm whereas the Carl devices end at 9mm. Besides that, they are much cheaper.

  • Joan

    Gunther: If the Dahle 133 can render long points (as shown in your interesting blog) and do not damage the pencil barrel, this is the perfect sharpener for me.
    The thickest pencils I have are the caran d’ache Grafwood 777, so no problem for any sharpener.
    Thank you very much.

  • Wow, I did not know that there were so many sharpener models out there that could yield a long point taper on a pencil. I have only ever tried the KUM Automatic long-point sharpener thus far.

  • Robert M.

    A lot of the midrange rotary sharpeners in Taiwan also produce a respectable point. I’ve got one by SDI that compares well with the Carl sharpeners, but I don’t know if it’d be easily available in other countries.

    Alberto: I haven’t touched my handheld sharpeners, (including the auto long point) at all since going to one of the better rotary sharpeners. What they lack in portability is made up in results and longevity.

  • Michael

    Henrik, I’ve never tried the Palomino but if the reviews are accurate and if you want to use the Onyx for writing you may be disappointed. The Onyx is black but needs a lot of pressure to give it. It’s much more suitable for shading than for drawing lines or writing.
    The main advantage over most soft graphite pencils is that it has less of a shine when shading very dark large areas – useful if you want to scan an image as there is less reflection to wash out the scan. You can get a similar result with water soluble graphite but then you need water and a brush.
    Witerwolfen, I agree that the maker’s claim is a little exaggerated. They are darker than the Derwent 9B but Lumograph pencils are a bit darker than Derwent anyway because the darkest grades have charcoal (or something) in them, whereas the Derwent ones are only graphite all the way to the 9B. The Onyx seems to have something besides graphite to make it darker but it does need pressure.

  • Joan: You’re welcome! Thank you for your kind words regarding my blog. Yes, the Dahle 133 sharpens nicely to a long point without damaging the barrel. By the way, I was able to test an El Casco sharpener which costs more than 200 Euros and was suprised about the bite marks it has left on the pencil.

  • Joan

    Gunther: Hi, Yes, don’t be fooled by such a crappy machine made by El Casco. A Spanish brand only interested in looks and glossy metal instead of quality engineering. It looks great and it simply doesn’t work.
    NOTE: the Cd’A GRAFWOOD is model 775, not 777. Sorry.

  • Joan: You’re right – the shiny look detracts from the serious flaws of that machine. A while ago I have learned that it is not possible to simply replace the drawer if it is lost or damaged – the machine has to be sent in so that a new drawer can be custom-fitted. Unbelievable! Maybe they employ an ornamental iron-worker for that special task.

  • The photos are excellent. I’ll have to try this pencil, it sounds promising. According to the description, it mustn’t be very different from an ‘ebony’ pencil like General’s of Sanford Design Ebony, an excellent layout, shading and sketching pencil.

  • Joan

    For those still interested in the “collateral” sharpeners thread, at last my wishes were fulfilled. Santa brought me a Dahle 200 fully electrical sharpener with a 150w motor. The best news are the extremely long points it renders. As long as those in the pictures or even more. Of course no damaging “jaws” or clamps to mark the barrel.

    Happy new Year!

  • Debi

    Hi, I got a set during the Christmas holidays, I was disappointed to say the least and stashed them away at the back of my supply cabinet. Now 6 months latter I pulled them out to give them another try and disappointed still, I was hoping to get some really dark tones but as before, I can get darker tones from my ebony, a Cretacolor 8B, and a Triograph 6b than I can from an onyx dark. Maybe I missed something? Anyone want to clue me in as to what is wrong here? I am always on the lookout for a really dark graphite pencil, the best I have found so far is the ebony. Thanks all, enjoy your summer!

  • zrtf90

    I have been very disappointed with the Onyx pencils. Yes, they have a wide range of tone and may be useful working with a single pencil but my Onyx Dark gives tones between an HB and a 4B. It certainly doesn’t match the Derwent 9B, Faber Castell 8B or Conté 6B. Using cross hatching I can outperform an Onyx with my Parker Jotter HB.

  • Sung Nee

    I have to agree with those who are disappointed with the Onyx. I bought one box each of Medium and Dark; and they’re no different from Derwent’s own 9B pencils. What is extremely disappointing is the sheen; it looks as though it’s made of the same wax based graphite pencils.

    There seems to be something that has gone awry with the manufacturing because at the beginning of this thread it was mentioned that the sheen is very slight.

  • J.A. LOPEZ

    Do the onyx pencils reflect light?, i need a dark/black pencil with no graphite shine

  • Sung Nee

    For dark pencils with no sheen (reflect light) do an internet search on “carbon pencils”. You will receive a range of brand names. Depending on your location you can then buy from the country nearest to you (or with the lowest shipping cost).

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