Hardly Broken: the Kutsuwa Hokusign Pencil

Kutsuwa Hokusign Pencil

Please allow me to mention a pencil that I’ve been enjoying. The Kutsuwa Hokusign has a strikingly rich and glossy finish (which I don’t like) and a phenomenal next level graphite core (which I do like).

Introduced to the market in 2019 by Japanese stationery producer Kutsuwa, the pencil is aimed at the art market. It is being marketed as being “twice as strong.” I think this claim could be true.

The pencil is made in Japan, and the wood appears to be cedar. A close look at the construction reveals some small flaws. It sharpens very nicely in the Möbius + Ruppert Pollux.

The imprint says, “Made in Japan Hokusign Hardly Broken Pencil.” Does HB mean “Hardly Broken”? It may be the case, though the grade is stamped on the cap. The pencil also comes in B, 2B, 3B, and 4B.

My dislike of the pencil’s finish is not a unanimous opinion – it won a 2019 Good Design Award.

Buntobi, via translation, says the colour is “Hokusai Blue”, used by Ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. If I understand correctly, this makes the pencil name a pun.

What makes this pencil very special is that the lead is smooth and dark, glides well, and doesn’t break. There is even more – the lead lasts quite long without dulling, making the pencil a very good value. How is this possible? This pencil presumably uses a polymer core, rather than a standard ceramic core.

The Hokusign is highly recommended.


The official product page (in Japanese)

A source, after Japan Post resumes full international service.

Handheld multisharpeners

A few ambitious handheld sharpeners attempt to offer multiple options.

Handheld multisharpeners

Here are four.

Upper left: Kutsuwa T’GAAL
Upper right: Kutsuwa K’ZOOL
Lower left: Flute-like sharpener, name unknown
Lower right: 5 steps pencil sharpener

Handheld multisharpeners

The T’GAAL mainly moves a backstop, and slightly moves the (large) blade’s angle:

Handheld multisharpeners

The K’ZOOL manipulates the angle of sharpening, a feature that seems amazing to me in an inexpensive sharpener:

Handheld multisharpeners

The wooden sharpener is quite different – it is aimed at five different diameters of pencils, rather than five variations.

I wasn’t sure where this was leading, and thought I might be chewing up a lot of pencils in these tests, so I bought a budget pack of pencils: the Dixon Economiser. What I’ll say about these pencils is that friends shouldn’t let friends use the Dixon Economiser! Rough basswood (though not the worst) with rich unpleasant chemical paint aromas, it is no ambassador for pencildom.

Handheld multisharpeners


Handheld multisharpeners


Handheld multisharpeners

Note how nicely the K’ZOOL creates those obtuse points. Various readers have asked how to get this type of point rather than a long acute point. The K’ZOOL can do it!

For a full review (in German) of the T’GAAL, with quality pencils tested and some great photographs, please see Lexikaliker.

My thanks to isu from the uncomfortable chair for the Kutsuwa sharpeners.

[Update: January 22, 2011]

For completeness, here are some Aruna/CalCedar ForestChoice pencils sharpened in the “5 Steps” sharpener. For a product costing about $1, it seems okay. Notice the stop point in action:

Handheld multisharpeners

And regarding the V-15 Dizi: The five holes are 5mm, 7mm, 9mm, 11mm, and 13mm in diameter. Here is a ForestChoice in the 9mm hole. It does not sharpen to a point (or even close), though the 9mm hole would seem to be the best fit for a standard woodcase pencil.

Handheld multisharpeners