Tombow LV-KEV pencil

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Tombow LV-KEV pencil

The Tombow LV-KEV is an absolute delight of a pencil. Though similar in concept to the red and blue pencils we have seen – this is a mix of HB grade graphite (a.k.a lead) at one end, and red at the other – though not in equal measure. The black lead end is 70% of the pencil, and the red end 30% of the pencil. The “LV” in the pencil name may stand for “Lead Vermillion”.

Tombow LV-KEV pencil

Tombow LV-KEV pencil

The special features don’t end there – the lead core is oversized at about 3mm in diameter (most pencil leads are about 2mm), and 5 edges are painted – with the sixth natural. Additionally, the pencil is manufactured by the finger joint process. This is a very special pencil! (And it needs a better name.)

Tombow LV-KEV pencil

Tombow LV-KEV pencil

Tombow LV-KEV pencil

Tombow Mono 30 pencil

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Tombow Mono 30 pencil

A short while ago, I had the chance to acquire some vintage Japanese pencils. I had some qualms before the purchase, as most of the lead grades were in the very hard range used by professional draughtspeople. Very useful for certain tasks, but not as great for someone using pencils for general writing, drawing, or note taking. Still, the pencils had some strong appeal and I purchased them.

Tombow Mono 30 pencil

The first pencil from this series that I’ll present is the Tombow Mono 30.

Tombow Mono 30 pencil

I can’t find any online or offline information about this pencil. The name and appearance suggest it is related to the famous Mono 100. A predecessor perhaps?

Tombow 2010 pencil

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Tombow 2010 pencil

The 2010 is a vintage Tombow pencil. I was lucky enough to be be able to purchase a used box a few years ago, though the box has some tears, and isn’t full.

The writing is entirely in Japanese, and beyond my comprehension. The Tombow dragonfly graphic is wonderful, rendered with great detail.

Tombow 2010 pencil

The pencils themselves are marked in silver on green:

H.O.P. “Tombow” Pencil [logo] HB = 2010 D

If anyone can shed light on the meaning of the “H.O.P.” or circled “D”, please do.

Tombow 2010 pencil

After sharpening, the pencils seem somewhat scratchy and sub-par – not like the first-rate Tombow pencils of today.

Tombow 2010 pencil

Tombow Mono 100 Photos

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To complement a previous post on the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni, here are some photos of another pencil legend, the Tombow Mono 100.
Stacked boxes of the Tombow Mono 100.
The packaging has an outer layer – a silver and black cardboard sleeve. One end is fully rounded, which is not really that much of a flourish, but still untypical. It’s no ordinary pencil box.
The Tombow Mono 100.
The case is black with a silver lid. The lid has a clear window, showing the pencils inside.
The Tombow Mono 100.
Here’s a photo of the Mono 100 with some other top Japanese pencils:
Four Japanese pencils.

Top Japanese Pencils: The Mitsubishi Hi-uni and the Tombow Mono 100

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Hello, it’s been a while since this blog has been online or updated. Good news: The server hosting the blog survived being in storage, and has again been cranked up and placed online!

Thank you to those who wrote notes of encouragement about the blog. They were definitely appreciated.

Even better news is that there are lots of things to write about. I thought I would start with two top Japanese pencils. A couple of years ago, these were very hard to acquire in North America. Thanks to the internet, they’re now possible (though still far from easy) to source.

The intriguing cap of the Tombow Mono 100

The intriguing cap of the Tombow Mono 100


The Mitsubishi Hi-Uni is the top woodcase pencil in the Mitsubishi Pencil Company’s line. There seems to be no doubt that mechanical pencils are much more widely used in Japan, with woodcase pencils like these considered niche products.

This pencil’s packaging announces it – a light green cardboard sleeve with a cutout that lets one see a half dozen pencil crowns. Taking off the sleeve, there is a black plastic box with a clear plastic lid that pops up to allow access. The interior of the box has a many-spoked divider that keeps each of the twelve pencils separate. It’s heavier than any pencil box I’ve encountered, and definitely indicates that the contents are valuable.

The pencils are offered with a heavily varnished maroon finish, topped by a black crown. The stamping is gold, along with a white barcode. The pencils are also distinguished by the orange dot on their tops.

The intriguing cap of the Mitsubishi Hi-uni

The intriguing cap of the Mitsubishi Hi-uni


They sharpen easily, and in HB have a very rich dark lead that doesn’t crumble. On paper, the markings seem reasonably smear proof. I look forward to trying some other hardnesses. I haven’t spent too much time with them yet, but hope to soon give them a lengthier workout. I’ve found that some pencils which do well for a few jottings aren’t necessarily great all day writers.

The Tombow Mono 100 is a legend, especially in the animation field. It has a reputation as a high quality professional pencil. Dick Blick calls it the “gold standard.” I’ve spent quite a few dollars not getting this pencil – ordering it and being sent something else. Anyhow, I’m glad to finally have a few in my stash. They’re black, with gold band, and a white stripe that traverses the pencil’s cap.

They’re just a wee bit longer than any non-erasered pencil I have. A slight compensation for their price, I suppose.

They sharpen well, and like the Hi-uni, have a dark rich lead. I have tried them for a sufficient period of time to confirm that they make a great writer.

To my eye, the finish of both pencils is disappointing. Maybe I was expecting too much, but they’re overcrowded with too many font faces – both of them. A pencil just doesn’t have room for six different fonts without being very distracting. And of course the almost ubiquitous bar code makes them less sleek. They do have superior paint finishes, though.

Now as pencils – they’re really good. They seem to have the dark lead (the right combination of graphite, clay, wax, and other ingredients) that’s so pleasing to see on paper, without the crumbling or quick point erosion that some other attempts at dark leads have seen.