FILA’s global pencil

Dixon Ticonderoga, Fila Temagraph, Lyra Temagraph

Made by the FILA Group, these pencils from subsidiary brands appear to be roughly the same. They are made at FILA’s main plant in China, and sold under established national brand names. Very established brand names – LYRA (Germany) dates from 1806, and Dixon (USA) from 1795. FILA itself is a relative newcomer, established in 1920.

The Dixon Ticonderoga seems to be the model for the others. It looks just like predecessor versions, minus the “U.S.A.”

The FILA Temagraph is an established brand, but it has been redesigned to resemble the Ticonderoga. The version with an eraser is pretty much a Ticonderoga clone. The one without eraser has an interesting metal cap, with the grade in large letters. It carries on the Ticonderoga ferrule look in an alternate form.

The newest of the bunch is the LYRA Temagraph. The cap has a splash of colour, and is part of a scheme used by other LYRA pencils such as the Robinson. Though the box says the pencil is made in China, the pencil itself is stamped “Germany”.

Dixon Ticonderoga, Fila Temagraph, Lyra Temagraph

Though they look roughly alike, the pencils seem to have different cores.

Are there others in this series? Do you like what FILA has achieved with this pencil line?

Update: November 18, 2010 There is indeed at least one more! Please see AMOS DIXON Ticonderoga at Bleistift.

The Dixon Oriole pencil and an unusual sharpener

Dixon Oriole pencil

Does anyone remember the Dixon Oriole?

The official product page calls them a “first-rate commercial grade woodcase pencil offered at an economical price”.

Hmmm, “commercial grade”.

Dixon Oriole pencil

Well I ordered them online after finding a store that had some older US made stock. Or so I thought. I should have known what was coming – the photo and description were out of date, and I was sent newer Chinese made Orioles.

Dixon Oriole pencil

Unfortunately, the pencils seem quite third rate to me – the lead is very scratchy and rough, and the paint finish on some has ridges of bubbles which go beyond being a cosmetic problem – they make the pencil uncomfortable to grip. I do like the font.

Am I being harsh? Perhaps they aren’t meant for writing. They are certainly fine for rough marking purposes.

Dixon Oriole pencil

So about the sharpener. From Möbius + Ruppert we have a three hole sharpener in unfinished aluminum. Each opening has a different length blade. What is this sharpener for?

Möbius + Ruppert sharpener

Take a look at this post at the Bundoki Stationery blog. I’m obviously not the only person amused or confused.

With the Oriole, I got a reasonable result in one opening, a lead corkscrew effect in another, and the third would not sharpen the pencil at all. (See top photo.)

Does anyone know the story behind this sharpener?

Dixon Ticonderoga tri-write pencil

Ticonderoga tri-write pencil

Does Dixon still make pencils in the United States?

It is very hard to say, but here are some “Made in U.S.A.” “tri-write” pencils found just last week at a Grand and Toy store here in Canada! They appear to be new, and are sold in a cardboard/plastic package of eight.

Ticonderoga tri-write pencil

The cynic in me wonders if perhaps American Ticonderogas are still made, but solely for export!

My impression is that the lead is significantly higher quality than other recently found Ticonderogas. They also sport a more traditional appearance!

Dixon Ticonderoga Laddie and Beginners pencils

Dixon Ticonderoga Laddie and Beginners pencils

Here are a couple of oversize pencils from Dixon – the Laddie and Beginners.

The Beginners in particular seems to make people laugh when they see it. There is definitely something amusing about it. It looks just like a regular Ticonderoga, except that it is round and almost twice the diameter. The Laddie is somewhere between the regular and Beginners pencils.

Where there is a Laddie, there is often a Lassie, but I couldn’t find that brand offered.

Dixon Ticonderoga Laddie and Beginners pencils

The Beginners box says, “The Perfect Oversized Beginner Pencil”, while the Laddie claims to be “The Perfect Intermediate Beginner Pencil.”

The boxes also have a faux seal stating “Teacher Preferred”.

A ring with smaller text states, “Tradition & Quality Since 1795.”

Not in pencils of course – Dixon was making stove polish and crucibles back than. This mention of the company’s year of origin strikes me as just a bit curious.

Dixon Ticonderoga Laddie and Beginners pencils

The boxes indicate the pencils are made in Mexico.

They sharpen easily, but the lead seems not to match that of modern Ticonderogas, and is somewhat scratchier in my testing. That’s too bad, as these pencils won’t be offering the best experience for the children who use them.

Dixon Ticonderoga Noir pencil

Dixon Ticonderoga Noir pencil

Has Dixon gone too far in extending the Ticonderoga brand?

Fort Ticonderoga has played a part in French, British, and especially American history. It played a landmark role in the American revolution. The Ticonderoga pencil has been named and marketed such that its identity is inextricably bound with this history. Dixon, dating from the 18th century, was itself a part of American history. Some would call the Dixon Ticonderoga successful branding.

Dixon Ticonderoga Noir pencil

Dixon Ticonderoga Noir pencil

So when Dixon releases a pencil like the Ticonderoga Noir, a Made in China garish fluorescent silver finish pencil with black dyed wood, I have to ask, have they strayed too far from the Ticonderoga brand and tradition? If they felt they had to release such a pencil, did they have to do it in the Ticonderoga name?

Am I being too harsh? Do you like this pencil? Would you buy it?