Top 10: My Favourite Pencils

“Life is short. Use the good China.”

#1

Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood

Sometimes I think of Caran d’Ache as the Dior of pencils, and the Swiss Wood is the signature piece. With its deep wood colour and striking red cap, this pencil is undeniably stunning to look at. It has quite a unique smell—some describe it as earthy, others as chocolatey, brown sugar, nutmeg or cola. Most importantly, it is a joy to write with, boasting a slightly thicker barrel than most pencils and point retention that means it rarely requires sharpening.

*Note: This pencil has some inconsistencies in the graphite used between production runs. Some batch numbers feature a darker line, others lighter. There are also small differences in the smoothness of the graphite between batch numbers.  As someone who prefers a dark line, the #1 position is for the smooth dark writer.

#2

Mitsubishi 9850

I’m a sucker for anything created in Japan and this is no exception. The pencil itself states ‘A Smooth Writing Pencil For Office Use’—I need to work in the office that stocks these! It’s got a beautiful finish, classy embossing and smooth creamy (but not waxy) graphite.

#3

Mitsubishi 9000 HB

Told you I’m a sucker for anything Japanese! This one makes the #3 position for several reasons. First, the colour. It’s a beautiful green with gold embossing proclaiming the pencil is ‘Made By Elaborate Process’. Second reason is the graphite. It’s smooth like the 9850 above, but it has a little resistance which makes it very enjoyable to write with. Third reason is the weight. It’s very light. Without any ferrule or eraser this pencil feels agile and ready to go.

#4

Blackwing Pearl

Of course a Blackwing pencil makes it into the Top 10. Normally I prefer lighter pencils, but I really enjoy writing with the Blackwing Pearl. I realised this when I looked at my Blackwing pencil collection and noticed all the Pearls were well-sharpened down compared to the others. It’s just a classy pencil—one that people will notice, comment about, and ultimately try and steal.

#5

Caran d’Ache Genius

I never use erasers on the end of pencils. I’m not sure why.  I think it’s because I don’t want to dirty such a beautiful object. The Genius pencil from Caran d’Ache gives me a stylus on the end of the pencil instead of an eraser, which means I can use it on any touchscreen device or trackpad.  It’s actually really quite handy. The Genius also has my favourite graphite, dark with the best point retention I’ve seen in a pencil.  I can write pages and not need to sharpen.

#6

Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB

The jewel in the crown of the Mitsubishi pencil range. This pencil comes in an amazing 22 grades of graphite (10B to 10H). This pencil feels luxurious to use and is exceptionally smooth to write with. It’s like you’re barely writing at all!

#7

Tombow Mono 100 F

The lightest of the pencils on the list. This pencil looks and feels expensive. The F grade is a touch on the harder side, giving it great point retention. With 10 billion particles per square millimetre, you’re getting a lot of high-quality graphite!

#8

Musgrave Tennessee Red

This pencil easily makes it into the Top 10 for the smell of the Red Cedar alone. It’s a beautifully designed pencil with the natural wood grain highlighted and vibrant red embossing. The graphite is a little on the softer side, but very smooth to write with. Although this pencil can be a bit ‘rough-around-the-edges’ and difficult to sharpen, it’s well worth the effort.

#9

Palomino Blue

This pencil was another surprise addition to this list. Said to have inspired the resurrection of the Blackwing brand, the Palomino pencils are smooth and amazing to write with—I personally prefer them over most of the Blackwing pencils.

#10

Faber Castell 9000 2B

The last of three European pencils in my Top 10 and strangely the second pencil to feature ‘9000’ in the title. The 9000 pencil series tend to write on the ‘light’ side, so the 2B is just perfect for writing. Another pencil without any ferrule or eraser so again it’s lightweight and ready to go. The comfort of using this pencil was a surprise when I first picked it up, and I immediately jumped online and ordered a dozen more.  This is my everyday writing pencil.

Honourable Mention

Golden Bear

This pencil is a cheap and cheerful little gem. With a rather scratchy quality to the graphite, there’s something reassuring about the resistance and noise when writing. I find I can write for long periods with this pencil, and my writing doesn’t get sloppy.