For these next five, at least here in the United States, they are difficult to obtain in retail stores or singly.
Bruynzeel design 8815
I was able to find a set of these on Amazon.com. They are not cheap. Their predecessor pencil (or Potlood in the native Dutch) was the Bruynzeel 8615. I was able to buy some of the 8615 pencils singly a few years ago, and they were available in various places in America in the 1990s. The Bruynzeel-Sakura company is still based in the Netherlands, but the pencils themselves are made in China. The set comes in what is possibly the nicest pencil packaging I own, a heavy board stock sliding case, with each pencil individually packed in a foam slot. There is no F grade pencil, they start at 2H, then 1H, HB, 1B, 2B up to 9B. They make great markings, but they would not be easy to replace singly. The grade is only stamped on one face. They are one of the few round artist pencils I have tried, most are Semi hex. They draw high quality. I know an artist who got a set of 8615 pencils to begin his schooling and career, but has needed to supplement them with more readily available drawing pencils. That is really the point of this part III article: There are some really nice pencils out there, but is it practical to use them and get used to them?
Conté à Paris 601
As they are known in France, Conté à Paris 010463 “Boîte de 12 Crayons graphites Assorties” (box of 12 assorted graphite pencils). These also can be obtained through Amazon.com. Like the Bruynzeel 8815 above, these also are round instead of semi hex. They are stamped with one grade on the label side. The set actually comes with two HB and two 2B pencils, which might be among the most used. There is no F, also like the Bruynzeel pencils, and the grades run from 3H to 6B. They are high quality. They can be ordered singly on line. At this time they are $2.80 each, plus shipping. I could not say no to using them, but I would find it impractical to get used to them and replace.
Lyra Rembrandt Art Design 669
This is another high quality pencil made in Germany, a competitor to Faber Castell and Staedtler. The pencil is known as the Bleistift in German speaking countries. Once again, it is not readily available here in the United States. The set is in grades 4H through 6B. It works great. It still only has the grade stamped on one face. Like the Conté set, I will enjoy using them, but will likely never replace them.
Tombow Mono (Professional)
Here is a set of pencils widely praised by many, the Tombow Mono. In Japanese 鉛筆, pronounced “enpitsu”, the Tombow pencil company makes high quality drawing pencils. “Tombow” is a close approximation for the pronounciation of the Japanese word for dragonfly トンボ, “tonbo”. Their top line pencil, the Tombow Mono 100 is available at Jetpens.com. The Tombow Mono set is available in the United States at many independent art stores. There is a distinction drawn between the Tombow Mono, and the Mono 100, with no consensus about what the difference is. I have read that Tombow USA claims the graphite cores are the same, but with a different lacquer application.
I also have Tombow Mono 100 B pencils that I have used, and it just seems to me that the Mono 100 has a distinct plastic end cap. The Tombow Mono professional pencils actually have the grade stamped on all six faces in of the semi hex, vs. only one face on the Mono 100. That makes it a winner in my book. Compared to the German pencils, these go darker earlier. There seems to be a grade shift in the Japanese pencils vs. the German pencils. The Palomino pencils trend towards the Japanese darker earlier line of thinking. These are great pencils, and if one had ready access to single grades, like at Maido stationary in San Francisco, these would be worthy everyday pencils.
Mitsu bishi Hi uni
This set is probably the coolest pencil set I own. These are markedly high-quality pencils, that almost seemed thicker than a standard pencil. When measured with a micrometer, I could get a Dixon Ticonderoga into the same gap with about a half millimeter to spare. Is it the many layers of lacquer? The people at California Cedar report that Mitsubishi buys their highest quality incense cedar pencil slats. These, and the lower range Mitsubishi Uni*star pencils are available singly at the Maido stationary stores in San Francisco. I could really use these. They are just the right size, come in the most grade values from 10H to 10B, and have the grade stamped on all six faces. These are the premier pencils by which all others could be judged. They are very expensive and hard to obtain. They are almost too precious to use. The truth is that the greatest artists are able to produce great drawings with just about any pencil. These pencils are not going to make me a great artist. And, even though they are suberb, funnily enough, I do not feel comfortable using them as a tool! If I lived in San Francisco and could buy them at the store, I might feel differently.