Caran d’Ache Technograph 777 pencil


Caran d'Ache Technograph 777 pencil

“Caran d’Ache” is a rendering of the Russian word for “pencil”. It is also a Swiss art supply and luxury writing company named after a 19th century satirist who took Caran d’Ache as his editorial name.

The Technograph 777 is one of three graphite pencils currently made by Caran d’Ache, and their only woodcase pencil aimed at writing or drafting. (They make several very nice mechanical pencils.)

I’ve ordered these pencils from both Japan and the U.S. They seem harder to find than Caran d’Ache’s $500 fountain pens! Warning: a photo below shows unexpurgated graphite dust on a box of these pencils.

The pencils are yellow. Fortunately, not office supply store yellow – they are a rich, highly finished and distinctive bright yellow.

Caran d'Ache Technograph 777 pencil

The caps are finished in black, and the pencils are pre-sharpened.

Using terminology we introduced last month in our review of the Castell 9000, the pencil is marked in gold lettering:

Side 1 (Obverse): TECHNOGRAPH [logo] CARAN d’ACHE SWISS MADE 777 HB
Side 2: blank
Side 3: blank
Side 4 (Reverse): HB
Side 5: blank
Side 6: blank

I like this sparse look much more than that of pencils with two or three sides filled with text. So where’s the ubiquitous barcode? Caran d’Ache has preserved the looks of the pencil by putting the barcode on a removable perforated plastic wrapper. It would be great if others would imitate them.

Caran d'Ache Technograph 777 pencil

The pencils felt light to me. I put them on the scale. They ranged from 3.5g to 4.4g, with the mean being 3.8g. That’s identical to the reference Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 mean weight, so I was wrong. My new theory is that the absence of markings on the pencil makes them easier to hold, with much less effort needed to get a comfortable grip, and that this may make them feel lighter.

As pencils – I note they come in a wide range, but I’ll just mention the HB here – I tried to compare them with the Staedtler Mars Lumograph 100 and Faber-Castell Castell 9000 on a variety of papers. Every time I thought that I might have found a difference, I found some variation in the testing conditions. Though I’d like to post “Pencil X makes lines like this” photos or scans, there seem to be a great number of variables that influence the line created, and the results can be faulty. Have you heard that in a stereo store, the loudest system will sound the “best” to most people, or that when the New Yorker blindfolded professional wine critics, simple distinctions like white vs. red couldn’t be discerned?

Caran d'Ache Technograph 777 pencil

What I can say is – the HB versions of these three highly regarded pencils make relatively similar lines, and that’s a high standard – this is all good news!

So if you get a chance, do try them out!

I’d like to thank two other pencil blogs that have reviewed this pencil:

Blyantsiden (In Norwegian)


Kent’s PencilLog (In Korean)

Though I can’t read either, I still feel I’ve benefited.

International Arrivals colour carpenter pencils


International Arrivals colour carpenter pencil

Let’s start 2008 with some colour. International Arrivals of Boulder, Colorado has released an attention grabbing set of carpenter pencils in green, yellow, purple, blue, orange and red. And this isn’t just the pencil’s paint to which we’re referring – these pencils contain the corresponding coloured leads!

International Arrivals colour carpenter pencil

Made in Taiwan, the pencils are simply labeled “carpenter pencils”, and the package states: “Sharpen pencils with carpenter pencil sharpener or with utility knife.”

International Arrivals colour carpenter pencil

Though unusual, they are not the first in this category – Rexel Cumberland / Derwent in the U.K. have released artist oriented colour pencils in carpenter pencil format.

With a Gerber pocket knife, I set about sharpening this pencil. This proved to be quite challenging – which isn’t expected. It has some sort of tough, rough wood. An included photo shows the results. Two other artist-oriented carpenter pencils – a Derwent, and a General – were easily sharpened, while the International Arrival (blue) was pure trouble.

International Arrivals colour carpenter pencil

The final verdict: Nice as wide colour leads might be, they don’t make up for this being a pencil that can’t be sharpened with standard tools. Not recommended.

Faber-Castell Castell 9000 pencil


Faber-Castell Castell 9000 pencil

The Castell 9000 is a famous and iconic pencil. A flagship product of Faber-Castell, the world’s largest pencil company, the 9000 has over a century of history as an important working tool of writers, artists and engineers.

The dark rich green (“forest green”) has varied in shade over the years, but the current version is excellent. It makes for a very handsome pencil. It seems similar to the palette used by both Mazda and Land Rover in the automotive field.

Most 9000 pencils are sold sharpened, without eraser. (There is a variant with eraser.) There is a wide range of hardnesses offered, but today we’ll restrict ourselves to the HB version.

Following the methods mentioned in the Staedtler Mars Lumograph post, I weighed several pencils. The range was 3.6 to 4.1 grams, with the mean 3.9 grams. So it may be a sliver heavier than the Lumograph, our reference pencil. The length is the standard 175mm. The distance between opposite sides in 7.3mm, making it slightly narrower than the Lumograph. Being thinner yet heavier than the Lumograph is presumably due to the wood.

There is only one noticeable physical difference – the hexagonal edges are slightly less rounded on the Castell 9000 than on the Lumograph. I like this, and think it may slightly improve the grip.

Let’s introduce some terminology to describe the six sides of a hexagonal pencil. We’ve already used the ‘obverse’ and ‘reverse’ terms (borrowed from the numismatic field) in previous reviews.

Side 1: The pencil’s obverse – the pencil’s main markings – usually the manufacturer and model names.
Side 2: The next side, viewed clockwise, from the perspective of the pencil’s cap.
Side 3: Again, the next side of the pencil.
Side 4: The pencil’s reverse, opposite the obverse – often the location of a bar code or secondary information. (e.g. The full model number rather than just the marketing name.)
Side 5: Again, the next side of the pencil.
Side 6: Again, the next side of the pencil.

So with this terminology, the pencil is marked (in gold colouring):

Side 1 (Obverse): Castell 9000 Faber-Castell HB
Side 2: blank
Side 3: 4 005401 190004 [bar code] HB
Side 4 (Reverse): blank
Side 5: Water-based varnish Wasserlack SV Made in Germany HB
Side 6: blank

Faber-Castell Castell 9000 pencil

I like pencils with clean looks – and this is just too much writing – three different sides of the pencil, each half covered with text.

It’s a great writer. Side-by-side with the Lumograph, the Castell 9000 is just a touch harder and lighter. The point seems unusually good at staying sharp. In B, right up to 4B, the pencil becomes buttery smooth.

I’d like to be able to better describe a pencil’s marking capabilities, but this is a challenging problem for which I haven’t found a satisfactory solution – the pressure used, the angle of application, the shape of the lead prior to use, and the paper are all important contributing variables. Paper can be standardized, but the other factors probably require special equipment to reproduce. I presume pencil companies have this type of equipment (a pencil gripping robot?) for their testing.

Perhaps the best endorsement is the century of commercial success experienced by the Castell 9000.

If you’ve somehow avoided this pencil – pick up a few to try. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Some additional reading:

November 2005 post at pencil talk

Faber-Castell pages on the Castell 9000 page on these pencils, including links to historic catalogs. An excellent source if you’re seeking to date a particular pencil or learn more.

Michael Leddy’s essay on the 9000.

Lyra Ferby pencil extender


Lyra Ferby pencil extender

I’ve written before about the Lyra Ferby. I think it’s a great pencil that deserves more recognition. For a start, the artists who enjoy the Koh-I-Noor Triograph should give the Ferby a try.

But there has been a problem with the Ferby – as a short pencil, it won’t remain usable after a dozen sharpenings. Well, I just discovered that Lyra makes a pencil extender for the Ferby. (Shown above.)

The extender’s form is very simple – a wood cylinder.

While it was fun to discover this item, I’m afraid that I find this extender awkward and unwieldy. There also appears to be a better solution – Lyra makes a full length version of the Ferby, called the “Super Ferby”! Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them for sale. But I’ll keep my eye open!

Lead Box Art

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Lead Box Art

An eBay seller sent me a few “bonus” items with some pencils I bought – vintage lead refills.

The leads are 1.18 mm in diameter. Though once the standard, this diameter is infrequently used today. Unfortunately, I don’t own a pencil that can use this lead.

What has kept me interested is the packaging – these quotidian items have some beautiful graphic design.

Lead Box Art

The instructions and charts are engaging. (“Rear Drive vs. “Front Drive” – are we conversing of cars or pencils?)

I’m hoping to get a pencil that could use this type of lead.

“Saving forests one pencil at a time” – the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada pencil


Forest Stewardship Council of Canada pencil

I ordered these pencils from the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada after learning of their new marketing initiative. The pencils have an imprinted slogan, “Saving forests one pencil at a time”, which I found intriguing.

I’ve enjoyed using the ForestChoice pencil, and had hoped this might be some sort of equivalent.

The pencils are round with a diameter of about 7.5 mm. They are unfinished, with a silver coloured ferrule, and a lime green eraser.

When I say unfinished, I mean unfinished. While there must have been some fine sanding or equivalent done, since there are no splinters, there is no obvious lacquer, paint, coating, wax, or any other type of finish on this pencil!

Forest Stewardship Council of Canada pencil

The pencil is also aromatic, much beyond typical pencils. Never mind “whiff of cedar”, this is more like “timber mill floor”. I haven’t decided if I like it, but it is strong enough to be distracting at times.

The feel is rough. I suppose this is the trade off for not using any finish.

The lead – it makes a mark, but it’s rough and scratchy, though not crumbly. It’s not going to be the choice of anyone who has ready alternatives.

Forest Stewardship Council of Canada pencil

One of the most interesting aspects of the pencil is it’s adherence to the FSC’s chain of custody policies. The pencil has an imprinted FSC serial number (SCS-COC-00287) which let’s one trace the pencil’s origins. To my surprise, the manufacturer is the venerable Musgrave Pencil Company of Tennessee!

In the end, I’m wondering how many would choose to use a pencil this raw.