Posts in Pencils
Experiment 19: Prisms, Archers, and a Giveaway!
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Today marks the release of Baron Fig's second limited edition pencil- the Prismatic Archer Pencil. A play on the prism, this pencil brings all three of the primacy colors to the original archer. After a few differences between the original Archer and the first limited edition, I was anxious to test the second edition. Spoiler alert: I wasn't disappointed.

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The packaging is the same minimal pencil tube as the other editions, this time in deep purple and decorated with a variety of colorful 3D cylinders, cubes, and rectangles. It's a nostalgic-grade-school-science-class-vibe, and I definitely dig it. My only small gripe with the packaging is that with the pencils in the tube, it doesn't seem to want to close all the way. In the picture above, the tube is empty- but if pencils were added there would be a small gap between the bottom and top halves of the tube. Definitely not a big deal, but something that I noticed compared to the previous packaging. This is still the pencil packaging I would be most likely to display on my desk or in my office. 

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The dozen pencils are split over three colors and each of the pencils has a gorgeous deep purple end dip. The end dip may very well be my favorite aesthetic detail of the pencil.

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Instead of one small simple logo on each pencil as we have seen with the other editions, these pencils have their respective logos all the way down one side of the hexagonal barrel. It still maintains the minimalistic Baron Fig look, but I appreciate the extra details and extra colors of this edition.

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I could tell by simply looking at the pencils that the quality control was back up to the Baron Fig standard that I have come to expect- the cores were centered, the cedar was fragrant, and the finishes looked great. Still, the real moment of truth was sharpening these up in my Classroom Friendly sharpener. I sharpened one of each color, and as I did- I couldn't help but smile. None of the issues I saw with my Snakes and Archers remained- they each sharpened to a long point beautifully. 

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The writing experience is a replication of exactly what I love about the original Archer pencil. The combination of the light weight barrel, matte finish, and a bit of good "scratchy" feedback on the page make the Archer the perfect long-form writing pencil for me. The point retention is excellent, and the pencil is truly the perfect match for Baron Fig paper. There are other pencils that I have come to love for different reasons- smooth, rich, dark, buttery cores that are both fun to write with and perfect for drawing, sketching, and shading. But for writing- I still prefer a firmer core and better point retention. Because my first love will always be micro gel pens, I'm naturally drawn to the crisp lines this type of pencil can produce. 

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I put the original Archer side-by-side with the first and second limited editions. Even visually (see below), it is clear how much closer this edition is to the original. Partnering with an oversees manufacturer has it's challenges, especially on a short time frame, and I think we saw some of those difficulties play out in the previous edition. But as we have seen recently with other companies, partnering with US manufacturers for pencils has it's own set of challenges. Overall, I think this is a case where we will see better quality pencils in the long run with an overseas manufacturer. It's great to see this edition get right back on track with quality and maintain the trend of good-looking aesthetics and great packaging. 

Don't just take my word for it. You can also check out two other great review from my friends at Leadfast and the Weekly Pencil.

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After the first two editions, I can definitely say that I look forward to seeing what Baron Fig comes up with for the Archer in the future. The pictures below speak for themselves. And finally, a chance to win your own pack of Prismatics! Baron Fig provided me with a dozen of these pencils for review, and because I already subscribe to the Archer- I am passing along to the love to you. To enter, just leave a comment below. Unfortunately, this giveaway will have to be limited to the CONUS. Check back next Tuesday, July 4th when the winner will be announced here on the blog.

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Experiment 18: The Pencil Box(es) by CW Pencils
Depicted Above: Curated Contents of Pencil Boxes 1 and 2

Depicted Above: Curated Contents of Pencil Boxes 1 and 2

Several months back, CW pencils announced the launch of their new quarterly subscription: The Pencil Box.  The boxes were to be created by the pencils ladies of CW, and we were told that each box would include at least 3 pencils, 1 pencil accessory, 1 wild card item, and exclusive ephemera. I didn't know exactly what I would be getting myself into, but based on the belief that curating is more about the "who" than the "what," I knew that CW would create something that I wanted to be a part of.

Fast forward to June, and the ladies have now successfully delivered two pencil boxes. I thought it would be fun to take a look at everything the subscribers have received over the first half of year one, and discuss my take on what has been included. First, lets break down the first two boxes strictly by the numbers: 

I loved both boxes from the moment I opened them, but as I collected the items together like this I appreciated them even more. A little of everything is included from classic to novelty, graphite to colored pencils, 2H to 8B. Surprisingly (especially based on the number of times I have ordered directly from CW), I didn't own any of the exact items from either box so far. I owned a few similar items, but certainly nothing I didn't mind owning more of in a different color or variation. Even more impressively, there were also several items that I likely could not obtain (or at least not obtain easily) had they not been included in the box (e.g. Japan store-exclusive pencils). 

Pencil Accessories

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Favorite item in this category: Tombow Mono zero eraser

Most utilized item: Faber-Castell 9000 Sharpener (mostly for its ability to sharpen larger diameter pencils on the go)

Most unique item: Doppel-Laufer Universal 0440 Rubber Eraser

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Paper Goods

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Favorite item in this category: Washi Dots (I think this was the item I was most surprised by across both boxes)

Most utilized item: You can see my first use of the Washi Dots above, but I am officially putting these in my planner for more regular use starting tomorrow

Most unique item: Reporter's Notebook- vintage in the best way possible

Paper Products

Paper Products

The Pencils

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Favorite item in this category: Ito-ya Helvectica Pencil

Most utilized item: General Semi-Hex #1

Most unique item: Japan Gekkoso Pencil

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One-by-one:

Papermate Mongol- No getting around it. This is a cheap pencil. Surprisingly though, mine isn't that bad. I haven't had any problems others have mentioned with a shattered core. And of all vintage/ classic pencils- the Mongol range is my favorite by far. I don't know any other way they could have included a Mongol, and for me it served it's purpose. I've been hunting down the vintage version every since. 

Japan Gekkoso- I am in love with this pencil. It's a mini-jumbo or jumbo natural hex with a perfect amount of thin clear lacquer and a swoon-worthy thick buttery core. This pencil is just plain fun to write and sketch with. The fact that it's a store-exclusive house-made in Japan adds even more to the appeal. 

General's Semi-hex #1- This is such a good basic classic pencil. I've used mine enough to completely destroy the eraser and chew up over half the entire pencil. It's probably about time for me to get a bullet pencil, what do you think pencil people? 

Tajima 2H Construction Pencil- Basically a Tombow Mono 2H, but a really cool unique variation. Don't let "construction pencil" fool you- this thing is crazy beautiful. An extra 10 points awarded for gold and black aesthetics. Let's go Purdue. 

Handy-Janken- They really nailed the choice of a novelty pencils here. I'm not that into novelty, but even I had to talk myself out of buying all three variations on my recent in-person trip to CW pencils (more on that soon)! Really though, I should have gotten the other two.

Mitsibishi 9852- Japan's classic yellow pencil sure beats America's big-box yellow pencil. My favorite part of this pencil is the purple tint of the ferrule. 

Magic Pencil- You just can't have enough of these things. 

Caran d'ache Technograph- This isn't my favorite Caran d'ache pencil of all time, but it was still my favorite pencil in the first box. I didn't know this pencil existed before I received the box, but when I get to the end of it, I will probably get another one. 

Ito-ya Helvetica- There isn't a single thing I don't like about this pencil. The eraser, the typeset, the texture, the writing experience, the color combination. In fact, I just found out it comes in four colors- so I might be in trouble. 

Testing all the pencils... a Tombow Mono 2H also snuck in the picture

Testing all the pencils... a Tombow Mono 2H also snuck in the picture

I'm not sure what expectations I had for my pencil box subscription, but I have enjoyed the pencils, accessories, and paper goods even more than I thought I would. The amount of consideration put into the curation of the goods is easily worth the price of the admission, and that doesn't even include my very favorite thing about the boxes.

The hand-written descriptions of each box and each item and the hand-drawn postcards truly take these boxes to the next level. The insert could pass for being literally individually hand-written for each individual box. They look that good. I don't know how long I have stared at them, but I am very curious about the copying process they utilize. The post cards could be art in their own right- I would gladly purchase these separately and would love to see these prints be utilized for other items and products in the future. 

I look forward to the future boxes, and highly recommend this subscription if you are into that sort of thing. If you're not up for the full subscription, they often post some of the items to their online shop after the boxes have shipped. For example, the Japan-exclusive Gekkoso pencil that I am googly eyed for is up for sale now. 

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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