Rating the top Japanese pencils (II).

Continuing our evaluation, we are going to look at two more aspects of the top modern Japanese pencils.

Erasure (10 points) (Line – 5 points, Block – 5 points)

We’ve already established that erasure is a question of at least three factors – pencil, paper, and eraser (there may also be hidden factors like temperature and humidity). It would be great to evaluate a complex matrix of papers and erasers against these pencils, but I’m going to settle on one good eraser – the Staedtler Mars plastic, and one good writing paper – Rhodia 80 g/m2. The results would no doubt be different on a toothy art paper, or newsprint, or office copy paper. But a high quality writing paper and the excellent Staedtler Mars plastic eraser are appropriate choices for a test of HB pencils in a writing context.

Two types of marks were made – ruler drawn lines, and shaded blocks. The eraser was then applied.

Japanese pencils

Japanese pencils

The results are subtle, though there is a clear winner. All lines erase well with a quality eraser. The Hi-uni erased best in the line category line, with the Palomino trailing the field. item 17 did the best at block erasing, with the Hi-uni a hair behind.

Japanese pencils

Japanese pencils

Pencil Line Block Score
California Republic Palomino 3 4 7
Craft Design Technology item 17 4 5 9
Kita Boshi Hit 9900 4 4 8
Mitsubishi Hi-uni 5 5 10
Pentel Black Polymer 999 4 4 8
Tombow Mono 100 4 4 8

Fastness (10 points) (Paper – 5 points, Finger – 5 points)

Fastness, which we’ll define as resistance to smudge and smear, are important for several reasons. In any sort of notebook or journal, the pages will rub against one another, and writing or drawing could potentially become damaged or ruined. For those who write with their left hand, fastness is very important (at least with left-to-right languages) as the writing hand crosses the page.

Fastness could be defined much more broadly – such as resistance to aging and environmental factors such as sun and rain, but these conditions are beyond our ability to test.

Lines were again drawn on paper, and a blank piece of paper was repeatedly rubbed against the marks, in an attempt to simulate notebook conditions.

In a second test, an attempt was made to smudge another set of lines by running a finger across the lines.

The overall news is good. All of these these pencils are quite smudge resistant. Can you guess which pencil did very slightly smudge against paper? That’s right, the most erasable pencil – the Hi-uni. (There was also a minuscule smudge from the 999.)

Japanese pencils

I really smiled when I realized that the two tests are to a large extent testing the same thing – graphite adherence to paper. So of course, the most erasable pencil is also the most smudge prone pencil.

Japanese pencils

The 999 turned out to be the only pencil I could smudge with a finger – and very slightly at that.

Pencil Paper Finger Score
California Republic Palomino 5 5 10
Craft Design Technology item 17 5 5 10
Kita Boshi Hit 9900 5 5 10
Mitsubishi Hi-uni 4 5 9
Pentel Black Polymer 999 4 4 8
Tombow Mono 100 5 5 10

To be continued

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