Experiment 16: Snakes and Ladders- The 24 Pencil Test

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Something new showed up in my mailbox a couple of weeks ago from Baron Fig. In a truly rare event, I didn't know exactly what I was opening when it arrived. It takes quite a feat for a limited release to hit my doorstep before I find out about it on the internet, and I truly appreciated Baron Fig's approach of getting them out early to limited edition subscribers before the official announcement was made. I, of course, had the package opened before I even made it back inside, and it's safe to say that the first limited release of the Archer Pencil left quite the first impression on me.

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As usual for Baron Fig, the packing is beautiful. The vermilion coloring paired with the white and dark icons is simple and killer. The back of the packaging briefly elaborates on the theme- Snakes & Ladders- and as typical connects the theme to the creative process. This is something I find unique about Baron Fig, and again something that I dig. 

As Baron Fig mentions, snakes and ladders is first and foremost an ancient philosophy. But it also happens to be an old board game- the original version of the game "Chutes and Ladders" that some may be more familiar with. When I'm not geeking out over stationery, I also have a thing for boardgames, so it was safe to say I was immediately doubly drawn into this specific theme.

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Each pencil is branded with "Baron Fig", one snake icon, and one ladder icon. Again- simple execution, great theme, and beautiful coloring. My feelings on this topic are simple and obvious- these pencils are freakin' gorgeous.

But now we must get into a topic where my feelings are a little more mixed- the actual testing/ use of pencils. 

Results in Pictures:

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Testing two types of sharpeners

Testing two types of sharpeners

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Archer Limited Edition vs. Original 

Archer Limited Edition vs. Original 

Crumbly core

Crumbly core

One pencil down!

One pencil down!

Results in Words:

  • My immediate impression side-by-side with the original Archer led me to believe there was NO possible way that the core of the two pencils was the same.
  • Unfortunately, the more I worked my way through my 12 pencils, the more problems I had. The core was not just soft, but incredibly breakable- to the point where I felt the pencils were unusable. I started looking around the internet, and saw that some people were noticing some variation- but my particular batch seemed extreme. My classroom friendly completely ate the pencils, and I found the cores breaking off in hand-held sharpeners as well. Several seemed to have shattered cores. I went through 3 entire pencils doing the small drawing you see above. 
  • I decided to reach out to Baron Fig, and they were honest about the variation. They also offered to send me another set. I took them up on the offer. 
  • Unfortunately, the second set arrived on the first day of my recent trip to San Francisco... so it wasn't until the last couple of days that I have gotten the chance to sit down and work my way though the second set. 
  • I've sharpened all 24 pencils- tried 4 different pencil sharpeners- and used the pencils for both writing and drawing. I can confidently say my first batch was on the extreme end of the variation scale. My second set is still a softer core than the original Archer, with slight variation even among the 12. BUT, the new set is definitely useable. For example, the new ones work perfectly in my classroom friendly and all the hand sharpeners I tested.
  • In general, I still like the original Archer better- and hope that Baron Fig can work out the quality variations with the manufacturer before the next edition. I am definitely excited to see the future editions based on what they have done here with the first one.
  • Even though I do not like the core as much with these pencils, I am still glad they are in my collection. I will likely use them more for sketching than for writing, especially because I tend to have a heavy hand- which makes the point retention on these not ideal for long-form writing. Even through the Classroom Friendly works, I still don't think a long-point sharpener is ideal for these pencils. 
  • If you can only buy one set, I have to recommend the original at the end of the day. But if you already have the originals, prefer shorter-point pencils, are light-handed, and do more pencil sketching than pencil writing- these might be a good fit for you. They also might be a good fit for you if your robust pencil collection just NEEDS a vermilion board-game themed pencil.  #priorities 
  • Other reviews: Pen Addict, Lead Fast
  • You can get more information and purchase the pencils here. 
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