This is a continuation of my previous post about Drawing pencils. As I mention in my previous article, There are no poor or bad pencils in any of the bunch. All would work for drawing. But I have gained an appreciation for certain brands.
I will continue with some sets I have tried, but have found I do not prefer.
The Dixon Ticonderoga is the American School Pencil. (That it gets its yellow color from the Koh-i-noor pencils is another story.) Nearly all American school pencils are a shade of yellow to yellow orange. The Ticonderoga is the top level wood-cased pencil available from Dixon. They have the Oriole and plain Dixon pencil as well. The Ticonderoga comes in 5 grades, 2H (#4), H (#3), F (#2.5), HB (#2), and B (#1). Presumably, a 2B would be a #0 pencil, but it is not available.
Strangely, the HB is about as dark as it gets, the B is abou the same. Both are a darker grade than the Faber Castell 9000 HB. One could get a lot of range with the five Ticonderoga pencils if they supplemented them with another brand dark 4 – 6B pencil. Dixon was in the drawing pencil business with the El Dorado line. But, in the 21st century they are no longer offering that.
The grade appears on only one side of the Ticonderoga. And any grade but HB is difficult to find. I had to special order them. I did find some B pencils in a stationary shop in downtown San Francisco. But there are lots of other, better pencil choices from stores in San Francisco.
The Cretecolor 160 are nice pencils. Their predecessor, Cretacolor 150 pencils, are very similar to the Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth 1500 pencils. It would make sense, since the Cretacolor factory is the Austrian version of Koh-i-noor factory. The pencils currently branded Koh-i-noor are made in the Bohemian (Czech Republic) factory. During the communist era, the Czech factory was taken over by the government. It has since been privatized again, and produces a number of pencils. The Austrian pencil company changed their branding from Koh-i-noor to Cretacolor to avoid confusion. The 150 yellow pencils were then changed to the 160 pencils that are maroon with grey trim.
The Cretacolor pencils now are some of the classiest, with different color end cap lacquers for the different grades, and grades stamped on all faces. This is probably the nicest exterior of any drawing pencil brand out there today. They tend to be expensive however, and also, go dark grades very quickly. There is not much distinction at all in the B grades. The H grades are great.
Koh-i-noor Hardtmuth 1500
I had to special order these to try. They come from the Koh-i-noor factory in the Czech Republic. They are not readily available in the US. This is mostly because the Koh-i-noor Toison D’Or 1900 pencils are in the American Market. I will cover the 1900 pencils in a later article. The 1500 and 1900 scale the same and have basically the same quality. The Cretacolor 150 pencils mentioned in the Cretacolor 160 section above look exactly like these Koh-i-Noor 1500 pencils.
A historical note, these Koh-i-Noor pencils were among the first color lacquered pencils exhibited in the world, and are ultimately the reason that American school pencils are yellow. Graphite was from the East (Siberia for some time), so Oriental themes were used for marketing of pencils. Other brands like the Mongol and Mikado (Mirado) also were introduced because of the Koh-i-noor.
The Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth 150 pencils are only stamped on one face. It was fun to get them and try them out. I still like to get the set out from time to time.
Faber Castell 9000
These German pencils are the successors to the Faber Castell Siberian Graphite Polygrade pencils, some of the first readily available graphite pencils in different grades.
These set the standard, as far as I am concerned, about how light or dark pencils should be. The Faber Castell 9000 HB is lighter than many other HB #2 pencils you may use in your life. I believe that pencil manufacturers realize that people prefer slightly darker and softer leads for writing pencils, and have adjusted their formulas accordingly.
So when I say that the grades for a certain brand of pencil go darker in grade, it is because I am comparing with this brand.
One could not go wrong using the Faber Castell 9000 pencils. They are the highest quality. They are readily available at most art stores, in single pencils.
I do not prefer them because their grade stamps are hard to read. Probably only for this reason, I am not favoring the Faber Castell 9000.
Caran D’Ache Grafwood pencils
The Caran D’Ache Grafwood, as well as their Technalo line are some of the most expensive drawing pencils on the market. The Swiss made Grafwood pencils are slightly bigger in girth than any other. This is nice for my bigger hands. But once again, they only have the grade printed on one face. They do make up for it slightly by having each lacquered in a different shade of gray. Unfortunately, It is not so easy to tell the difference between each grade and its neighbor. If they were not so expensive, they might still be in the running for ones I like to use.
I purchased these at a discount store. Sometimes sets can be found at art stores. They have nothing really to distinguish them, but they are not poor quality. They will do the job.
Other notable pencils tried Part II
These are available in some places, including Amazon. They were once more common in retail markets, including Canada , I understand. There was a set at a girl scout camp that I tried. They are one of the few round drawing pencils to be found. There are not particularly great. But, like the Caran D’ache pencils, the barrels are colored in variable grey depending upon the softness, which can help the artist easily choose the desired grade.
General’s Semi Hex
I covered these in the General’s Kimberly section in Part I. They come in lots of grades, but they are not of the highest quality. The Semi hex set the shape for pencils we know today. Other options are round, which tend to roll away easier, and less commonly triangular pencils, for people who prefer that grip.
General’s drawing pencils
These are different from the General’s Kimberly and Semi Hex. They are round and come in a set of HB, 3B, 4B, 5B pencils. They draw nicely too.
Derwent Graphic and Derwent Sketching pencils
These are available in single pencils at Michael’s Stores, which is one of the largest art supply chains in the United States. They have a history which stretches back to the first graphite mines in the Cumberland region of the UK. I like the thicker Derwent sketching pencils which come in softer B grades. They are thicker, with thicker leads. They are only marked with the grade on one side. But, I had some bad luck with the 6B pencils which broke leads much too easily. That can happen if you are not careful with just about any soft pencil. But I consider myself a careful sharpener, and I found this to be too frustrating to maintain an exposed point. You should not have to fight with your tools.
End of Part II