Spangle pencils

California Republic Stationers recently announced some oversized pencils aimed at children: the Mini Jumbo, the Mini Jumbo Triangular, and the Jumbo.

Made in Thailand, the pencils are part of the discount Spangle line.

The pencils are brightly coloured, and have a heavy solid feel. They also have a fairly strong paint aroma. Strong enough that I found myself quickly going to wash my hands after touching them. While CRS states “All Spangle Pencils conform to the ASTM D4236 and are safe and non-toxic”, there can still be a gap between being safe and being pleasant. Maybe it’s just that they are “fresh off the press”.

The Jumbo has a diameter of 9.5mm, and a weight of 11.3g. The Mini Jumbo is 8.4mm/9.4g, and the Triangular Mini Jumbo weighs in at 8.3mm/9.5g. (Numbers approximate.)

Issued in bright primary colours, the pencils scream “fun”.

As oversize basswood pencils, they require quite a bit of effort to manually sharpen. Unfortunately, that effort reveals that the lead is a bit scratchy.

I think the Spangles look great, but the strong paint aroma, sharpening difficulty, and scratchy lead outweigh the initial appeal, at least for me.

14 Replies to “Spangle pencils”

  1. I had to do a quick search for these pencils and found the retail site on eBay. The Spangle pencils are listed on the top of the page just above the regular listed items. It is interesting to compare the listing text of the Spangle to something like the Palomino HB graphite listing. There is no mention of cedar wood being used in the Spangle where as the Palomino listing in bold green text. In fact, the Spangle listing doesn’t say what the pencil is made of unless I’m missing it somewhere. Where did you find it is made with basswood?

    I wonder what kind of paint/lacquer is used here. For something to emanate an odor means that something is still drying, curing, or vaporizing. I mean, if you walk up to a car and sniff it you don’t smell fresh paint, right? It’s cured. Sit inside a new car and you get that lovely “new car smell” coming from the fabric and plastic. At some point that “new car smell” fades because everything is all dried up. I could be wrong on this but that’s what it seems like to me. Any chemistry majors out there?

    You make a good point that being safe is not the same as being pleasant. There is no law to protect a consumers comfort that I know of but there are plenty of laws to protect our safety. We wear seat belts but our seats can be nothing more than padded stools with head rests!

  2. CRS sent me some holiday Spangles with an order once. I didn’t smell anything. They say on their site that the Spangles are made of basswood. As for the lead (on mine), it was smooth but a little smeary. I liked them but because I didn’t need them, I donated them to a public school, where I don’t think many of the kids really care about cedar.

  3. Whats a Mini Jumbo? Does that make it what otherwise might be known as a medium or a large? :-)

    Teach the children marketing mumbo-jumbo speak early and capture them for life?

  4. Interesting website. It takes a while to find the text to make the connections. The Spangle pencils are made from Ecoslat. I wondered, “What the heck is that?” I found this page:

    From here I saw that Ecoslat = Basswood. I looked up Basswood on Wikipedia and it sounds like an interesting wood. Nobody can knock the pencils for being made of lousy wood. Neat stuff!

  5. Regarding questions about the Ecoslat. The is a brand name we use to refer to slats produced from woods other than cedar. The Ecoslat products use our proprietary wood treatment process as finetuned for a specied from our cedar slat treatment process. This process impregnates the slat with non-toxic formulation of wax and color stain to provide for improved sharpening and uniform color. Thus regardless of species our customers know that with the Ecoslat they’ll get a well performing pencil relative to the sharpenability and dimensional stability of our slats.

    At this time we are only using & marketing Basswood under the EcoSlat brand although we regularly do testing of alternate woods to evaluate potential substitutes or additions. Basswood by it’s nature is more dense than cedar and thus will take somewhat more energy to sharpen as well as require sharpening or replacement of sharpener blades more frequently.

    As for use of the Jumbo, Mini-jumbo terminology for these items this is somewhat standard industry nomenclature and we chose to use this generic naming to support the Spangle brand vs. introducing a product specific sub-brand for the different size pencils such as Dixon and other manufacturers do with names like Laddie, Cub, Beginner, Choo-Choo, etc.

    We also have struggled with finding and recommending a good sharpener to be used with our new line of jumbo and min-jumbo sharpeners. The KUM Magnesium 2 hole sharpener seems to work fairly well with the mini-jumbo sizes and adequately with the jumbo round size. Although most hand sharpeners put on too blunt a point for jumbo pencils. I’ve recommended to KUM several times that if they could develop a nice Long Point sharpener for the jumbo size pencil

    I’ll check some of our stock and look into the issue you raise about smell of the lacquer on these pencils. I don’t think this should be a normal concern with our product.

  6. I googled and learned that Asian Basswood is a no, no to use. The Rainforest Council has asked citizens not to use it or buy it. Don’t know all the reasons, but their recommendations are up and are on the first page when googling “basswood thailand.” ( Just interested in why CalCedar is using this wood and where do they get it? I hope I have this all wrong. This just can’t be true. Rainforests in Thailand have little left thanks to the loggers. What is going on? If it is not to be used, why are we promoting it? Just asking.
    You know, many loggers in Asia wipe out the rainforest to be a sustainable forest….and then claim they are environmental because they are sustainable. Boils my blood.

  7. Just curious… has anyone looked into the reforestation or replanting efforts in other parts of the world? I see it here in my own backyard so to speak. Little saplings get planted soon after a clear cut or a major fire but this is West Coast America. It’s even more obvious in tree farms because the tree farmers puts signs everywhere so people don’t assume it’s just irresponsible clear cutting.

  8. I live and work in Malaysia, but have a lot of business in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore…you get the idea. All the basswood I know about is the jungle. This means it is being harvested in full destruction mode. In Malaysia, we have lost 60% of all our rainforests (the oldest in the world) in the last 20 y.ars. Thailand is even worse. So is the Spangle using basswood from the Rainforest or do they have a sustainable forest project going on that i don’t know about. Could be, I am not an expect on basswood. But Rainforest friends always tell me not to by basswood antiques, carvings etc. Does anyone know what gives. If this Spangle is using Rainforest wood, please don’t buy. Woodchuck?

  9. According to the American Hardwood Information Center “Together, aspen, basswood, cottonwood, elm, gum, hackberry, sassafras, sycamore and willow represent 12.5 percent of commercially available U.S. hardwoods.” Why anyone would wonder if Spangles are made of rainforest wood is beyond me. I have used O’BON pencils and liked them for their colorful design, but the demonizing of wood users is irritating me to such an extent that I may never use another O’BON again. Is it OK if I buy a wooden salad bowl? How about wooden cooking spoons? Lawn furniture? Is it OK for me to build a deck? I’m sure that a lifetime of pencil use won’t consume as much wood as a few square yards of deck. I won’t even ask about burning wood in a fireplace or stove.

  10. Kelly,
    No one is “demonizing” wood consumers. Why I “wonder” about this is that the pencil is made in Thailand. This is a fact, it says so on the box. Does the wood come from the US? Maybe, just maybe the basswood used in Spangle pencils come from Thailand or China. It is called Chinese basswood by EcoSlat, the wood slat maker of Spangle. That is why I asked.
    Is there a FSC in Thailand? If it is a FSC pencils, great. I’m impressed. If it comes from a sustainable forest, I might be upset, as in Asia, most sustainable forest are created by destroying a Rainforest. This practice has led to huge eco-disaster. But, I don’t know, so I am just asking.
    By the way, I love wood and cherish my wood salad bowls and spoons.

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