Ohto 9000 pencil

OHTO 9000 pencil

Mitsubishi and Tombow sit atop the Japanese woodcase pencil manufacturing industry. Smaller manufacturers such as Kita-Boshi, Camel, Kirin, and Eyeball also have market segments. But there are also other companies who aren’t manufacturers per se, but have a pencil line. The most notable is Pentel, who have brought some great products to the market over the years. Pentel sadly seems to be leaving the market, with the Black Polymer 999 and Craft Design Technology pencils both withdrawn. (This report is due for revision.)

Sailor has also sold pencils in the past. And the California Republic Palomino is made in Japan. Checking Bundoki, Pencils.jp, and Rakuten shows many other makes and brands of pencils. A look at the Japanese pencil association website indicates many members are involved in the pencil manufacturing infrastructure, and not full manufacturers themselves. So presumably some combination of these firms supply the other sellers.

From Ohto, (Tokyo, Japan, founded in 1929) we have one more fascinating and super high quality pencil, the Ohto 9000. Ohto is known for fountain pens and mechanical pencils, and I only recently learned that they also have a line of woodcase pencils. The products are exceedingly hard to find. Stationery vendors and auction sites don’t seem to even have a whiff of them – I thought I would never see an example. As best as I can guess, Ohto commissions the manufacture of these pencils for limited export to Taiwan.

OHTO 9000 pencil

The pencils have simple matte finishes in black or brown. They are plainly marked:

Obverse:

Ohto Pencil Japan HB

Reverse:

For Retouching & Special Drawing 9000

The only issue I have with the pencil presentation is the labelling with a metallicized sticker at the end to be sharpened. The sticker is lightweight yet very strong. I am afraid it might “gum up” or degrade a desktop sharpener, either electric or manual. Yet removing the sticker leaves a sticky residue.

OHTO 9000 pencil

Sharpening reveals a beautiful cedar grain – truly exceptional.

OHTO 9000 pencil

The pencil leaves a rich, saturated, dark mark, really first-rate. On a Rhodia pad, the lines don’t easily smudge, yet erase easily with a Mitsubishi Boxy eraser.

There are a lot of good or “good enough” pencils out there, but it is really exciting to find one that is so exceptional. I compared it with the best in the business – the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni and Tombow Mono 100. While the Ohto does not have the fancy finish or the precision lettering, the lead seems to belong in this category. In my testing of the HB grade, I thought that the Hi-Uni was perhaps smoother and waxier, while the Mono 100 had the most precision and and ability to keep a point. The Ohto seemed somewhere in the middle, which is very good company. I haven’t tested other grades, nor used it over an extended period of time.

OHTO 9000 pencil

I hope Ohto might consider further export. The limited distribution unfortunately means this excellent pencil will not be known in most parts of the world.

Some further notes: A box of twelve includes six in brown and six in black.

OHTO 9000 pencil
OHTO 9000 pencil

A very attractive shiny black tin with a set of grades is also available:

OHTO 9000 pencil
OHTO 9000 pencil

A few other notes. The boxes and a few loose pencils (presumably older) have the JIS mark. And one has the initials “K.B.P.” imprinted. Which brings me to some speculation – the cardboard box strongly resembles that of the Kita-Boshi 9606 pencil. The painted caps and matte finish also resemble Kita-Boshi’s work. I would guess that Ohto contracted Kita-Boshi as the manufacturer.

My sincere thanks to blog reader and pencil aficionado Robert for sending me these pencils. Robert contacted me and asked if I would like to try an Ohto pencil. Little did I know that such a treasure trove of great pencils was headed my way!

Red and blue pencils VII – Tombow and Mitsubishi

Red and blue pencils

So far, we’ve seen two examples of red and blue pencils from Japan – the first rate Kita Boshi 9667, and the very unusual finger-jointed Mitsubishi 2667.

Let’s continue our exploration of this interesting pencil format by looking at the mainstream offerings from Japan’s largest pencil manufacturers, Tombow and Mitsubishi.

Tombow makes the round 8900 VP. (VP for Vermilion/Prussian Blue.) There is also a very interesting variant – the 8900 VP 7/3 – a 70% red, 30% blue pencil!

Mitsubishi counter with their own round red and blue pencils, the Colour Pencil 2667, and an accompanying 70% red, 30% blue, Colour Pencil 2637.

Mitsubishi also produce a hexagonal pencil, the 772.

The Tombow CV-REA VP, an offering corresponding to the 2667EW, is the only product missing (to the best of my knowledge) from this review.

All the pencils have their principal makings in gold, and some have additional markings in white:

8900 VP
Obverse: High Quality Tombow 8900 *V.P* Made in Indonesia
Reverse: [bar code] Vermilion Prussian Blue

8900 VP 7/3
Obverse: High Quality Tombow 8900 *V.P* 7/3 Japan
Reverse: Vermilion Prussian Blue

2667
Obverse: Mistsubishi Pencil Co. Ltd. Colour Pencil 2667
Reverse: [bar code] Vermilion/Prussian Blue

2637
Obverse: Mistsubishi Pencil Co. Ltd. Colour Pencil 2637
Reverse: Vermilion/Prussian Blue

772
Obverse: “Mitsu-Bishi” Vermilion/Prussian Blue 772
Reverse: ????

A few observations about these pencils, starting with the more subtle distinctions. Two pencils have bar codes, and three do not. I don’t know if there is any greater meaning. The various pencils may or may not be meant for individual sale, and some might be part of packaging that contains a bar code. The pencils without bar codes certainly have a cleaner appearance.

Proportion – the unequal proportion of the two colours and implied specialization of the 2637 and 8900 7/3 pencils is fascinating and charming! It is a rare and appreciated touch!

Red and blue pencils

Lettering – the “C” in “Colour” on the Mitsubishi pencils is remarkable! A curl in a curl! It is a first rate traditional font.

Varnish. All five pencils seem to have nearly identical blue ends. Yet the red sides vary. The two 8900s seem the same, but the 26x7s are not. The 772 seems to be the same as the 26×7.

The 772 is nicely done in another way. The Latin vs. Kanji characters on opposite sides make a nice juxtaposition.

Red and blue pencils

Made in Indonesia. Okay, I am slightly shocked. I have not previously seen a woodcase pencil from a Japanese pencil manufacturer marked “Made in Indonesia”. And adding to the curiosity is that the sibling 7/3 is marked “Japan”. Has anyone seen any pencils like this?

How do they write?

Red and blue pencils

Before answering that question, let me mention that these pencils all arrived unsharpened – and some were not co-operating with the Irish and German made KUM Correc-Tri sharpener!

The blue ends were the worst – I gave up on the 772 and took out a pen knife. Guess what? The 772 was very hard to sharpen, even with a Leatherman Squirt pen knife.

On the red side, the 2667 red and 8900 blue ends needed two tries after breakage.

Red and blue pencils

The wood quality and breakage issues of the 772 seem to mark it as a lower quality pencil than the other four.

I retried the sharpening in my battery operated Panasonic sharpener, and it did much better.

Red and blue pencils

So as to how they write – all five wrote very well, with rich, higly pigmented lines. I didn’t distinguish much difference between them.

My favourite is probably the 2667, based on ease of sharpening and the distinctive makings.

Red and blue pencils

Further on red and blue pencils:

From penciltalk.org:
Red and Blue pencils
Red and Blue pencils II
Television! (The Conté Television 649 red and blue pencil)
Red and Blue pencils IV – Viarco
Red and Blue pencils V – a mechanical twist
Red and Blue pencils VI – the Kita-Boshi Vermilion and Prussian Blue 9667 pencil
FILA 795 BE Red and Blue Pencil
Chung Hwa 120 red and blue pencil
Mitsubishi 2667 EW red and blue pencil

From stdk.de:
Rot-Blau-Stifte

From rot-blau-stift.de:
Rot-Blau-Stift

From the uncomfortable chair:
?????????

Red and Blue pencils VI – the Kita-Boshi Vermilion and Prussian Blue 9667 pencil

Kita-Boshi Vermilion and Prussian Blue 9667 pencil

We’ve seen red and blue pencils from both the US and Europe – and now thanks to the kindness of fellow pencil aficionado isu from the uncomfortable chair, I am able to present some pencils from the estimable Kita-Boshi in Japan.

Kita-Boshi Vermilion and Prussian Blue 9667 pencil

These aren’t just red and blue pencils – they are vermilion and prussian blue pencils!

Round in shape, the pencils are lettered in gold script. They easily sharpen, and the varnish seems first rate. Unlike some other red and blue pencils, the leads seem absolutely first rate – as strong and smooth as those in quality graphite pencils.

Kita-Boshi Vermilion and Prussian Blue 9667 pencil

The red is more of an orange to my eye, which does meet the definition of “vermilion”, but I would prefer more of a “red” red. The blue has a great rich hue which is beyond reproach.

Kita-Boshi Vermilion and Prussian Blue 9667 pencil

A mighty fine interpretation of a traditional pencil.

Further on red and blue pencils:

From penciltalk.org:
Red and Blue pencils
Red and Blue pencils II
Television! (The Conté Television 649 red and blue pencil)
Red and Blue pencils IV – Viarco

Red and Blue pencils V – a mechanical twist

From stdk.de:
Rot-Blau-Stifte

From rot-blau-stift.de:
Rot-Blau-Stift

From the uncomfortable chair:
?????????

Kita-Boshi HIT No. 9900 pencil

Kita Boshi PencilsWhile Mitsubishi, Tombow, and Pentel may be better known in the west, there is at least one more quality Japanese pencil manufacturer of note: Kita Boshi.

The Japanese pencil industry website tells me of many other companies in the industry, but Kita-Boshi are the only one of these whose products I have been able to source.

I am not sure what is going on, because two different grades of the HIT No. 9900 appear to be different pencils, despite the same name and model number.

The 4B is round with an unfinished cap, and black with gold stamping. There is a gold band near the cap. It has these markings:

Obverse: Kita-Boshi HIT [8 Japanese Characters] 4B
Reverse: For Draftmen, Designers, Copy-writers No. 9900 4B

The HB is hexagonal, with colourings I have never seen in a pencil: Brown with gold stamping, and a green band near the cap.

It is marked:

Obverse: Highest Quality * KITABOSHI * HIT * HB
Reverse: For Retouching & Special Drawing No. 9900 HB

Another difference: The 4B core is approximately 50% wider than the HB core.

I can imagine the sincere but slightly awkward slogan “For Draftmen, Designers, Copy-writers” being enjoyed by many, though less so by Draftsmen and Draftswomen.

Both pencils, like the Pentel, have matte rather than glossy finishes. This is fine with me, and is quite pleasing. It is a quality finish, while being quite practical.

Both pencils sharpen easily, and lay down rich smooth dark lines. The 4B is almost unique as far as I know in being a round pencil at that grade. Its wide core, good looks, and quality graphite would truly make it a “hit” if it was more widely available.

The HB is very good in its category. The standards of Japanese woodcase pencils are very high, and this pencil doesn’t disappoint. It looks good, writes well, and while not as rich as the Mono 100 or Hi-Uni, still lays down a line better than most pencils.