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Judy Green Music Writer

I recently stumbled across a new category of pencil: the music writing pencil.  I have been brushing up on jazz music theory and needed some blank music manuscript paper to write out chords and scales.  After a bit of shopping around, I came across the Judy Green Music Paper Company.  Located in Hollywood California since 1980, this company is still offering music paper supplies including the 'Judy Green Music Writer' pencil.  I had read rumors about these pencils used by various arrangers and composers, so I was thrilled to get a chance to order a pad of music paper and a dozen Music Writers.

The Music Writer is one of the only current production American made pencils that I would want to use every day.  It has great lead, a distinctive appearance, cool history, and stands out in a world filled with yellow pencils.  

Judy Green's pencils run $0.83 each, making them more expensive than stationery store bulk pencils but cheaper than many competing 'premium' pencils.  My first impression of the Music Writers was that I liked the brown paint / gold stamped design.  Further inspection revealed mixed pickles in the fit and finish department.  The paint is glossy, thin, and overruns the front end of the pencil.  The leads are centered in the wood (which is definitely not cedar).  All in all, the quality is perfectly functional but in a lesser league compared to premium imported pencils.  The sharp corners of the pencil's profile help it stay in place on the music stand, but it is not as comfortable as more rounded pencils.

The current owners of Judy Green Music Papers confirmed that the Music Writer is made in the USA, and is the same make and model of pencil that was sold back in the day.  Judy Green's customer list includes a great selection of Hollywood music biz notables ranging from The Lawrence Welk Show to Frank Zappa.  While it's impossible to say if these customers bought and used the pencils, it's clear that the Music Writers have a cool history and some pedigree.  

Given the USA origin and the sharp corners, I immediately though of my Musgrave Test Scoring 100 pencil.  Sure enough, the pencils are an exact match for outside dimensions and materials.  It surprised me when the two pencils did not write at all like each other; the Test Scoring 100 is WAY softer than the Music Writer.  This is a major bonus in my book because the Test Scorer's lead wears down ridiculous fast.  Digging deeper into my pencil box, I found a Musgrave Harvest #1 that writes very closely to the Music Writer.  If I had to bet, I would guess that the Music Writer is a re-branded Musgrave Ceres #1.  

I don't have a Ceres to test it against, but I have to say that I really like using Music Writer.  The lead has a smooth and dry feel with just a hint of noise and texture (scratchiness).  Even though the build quality is nowhere near import premium pencils, the Music Writer lead is smooth, dark, and holds a point right up there with the high-dollar Japanese and Euro pencils.  I even like the eraser on the Music Writer; it's an average quality pink eraser, but it works well and seems to last.  I don't think I would be able to tell a Musgrave #1 apart from the Music Writer in a blind test, but the Harvest #1 has a very disappointing eraser and the Ceres #1 is just another boring looking yellow pencil. 

The Magic Writer is a really fun pencil to write and draw with, but is it worth paying twice as much for one compared to the Musgrave Ceres or Test Scoring 100?  Definitely, compared to the Test Scoring-- the Test Scoring has soft fragile lead that is hard to erase and Music Writer fixes all of these faults.  If you have any music nerd tendencies, the Hollywood music studio history adds a cool factor to the Judy Green.  The Music Writer is one of the only current production American made pencils that I would want to use every day.  It has great lead, a distinctive appearance, cool history, and stands out in a world filled with yellow pencils.  

P.S. The Judy Green music paper is excellent! Smooth and thick, I've been sketching and writing on the back side as much as actually using it for music. 

The Undiscovered: Associated 600, Eagle Writing 325, and Conte Alaska 1000

I love vintage pencils.  Sure, there are the famous old pencils, but there are literally hundreds if not thousands of lesser known pencils models floating around.  You might find them in your gramma's pencil cup, at the thrift store in a grab bag, or for sale on ebay.  If you're lucky you can find some information online; Bob Truby's website is a great resource for pencil information.  Even with the might of the interwebs at your disposal, there are still those mysterious pencils out there.  Sometimes, the only way to tell if a vintage pencil is any good is to give it a try.  I've found some winners and some losers...so I'm starting 'The Undiscovered' to share my findings and get some of these lesser known pencils on the radar.

Associated 600 Quality Pencils

I have found exactly no useful information about: the Associated 600.  My folks found a big box of these pencils at a thrift store and gave them to me for my birthday--thanks!  I'm guessing that the Associated 600's must be from the 60's or 70's based on the box labeling and eraser fossilization, but who knows.  What I do know is that they are nice pencils.

The Associated 600 F is the model 625, and proclaims  'Bonded USA.'  They are made with quality cedar wood, the paint is nice, the ferrules show good quality control, and leads are well centered.  The craftsmanship is equal or better to similar vintage Ticonderoga's or Mirado's.  My best guess is that the Associated 600 is an unbranded Berol product, but this is a gut instinct with no hard evidence.

My Associated 600's are F medium hardness.  Normally I'm a soft lead kind of guy, but these F's are growing on me.  The lead is very smooth--I think they're on par with the Richard Best Royal Scott pencils pencils that I like so well.  On paper with some tooth to it (Canson Mixed Media 98lb), they write about as dark as an average #2.  On smooth paper (Field Notes), they are extremely smooth but leave a lighter mark than I prefer.  Of course, the plus side of this is that the point lasts much longer than soft pencils.

I really like the Associated 600 F's.  If I had to do it again, they would be towards the top of my 'Jury Duty Pencil' list. The 600 is an incognito vintage pencil that occasionally show up on ebay at bargain prices.  The 600 is a great pencil to take out into the field with you because they're cool and quality, but not collectible enough to worry about losing or damaging.

Eagle Writing 325

Here is another cool undiscovered pencil: the Eagle Writing 325.  I was really curious about this pencil because it is a cousin to the Eagle Draughting 314, which has a bit of a cult following in the pencil community.  The 314 Draughting was popular enough that General's pencils still makes a reproduction, but I had never heard of the 325 until I saw them for sale on brandnamepencils for $2. The Eagle Writing is a premium vintage pencil with a round body and thin lead.  The 325 is an untipped #2 pencil, but you can tell that it is a damn nice one.  The green paint is glossy and the logo is flawless silver foil--a classy pencil with some character.

Writing with the Eagle 325 is a treat.  The lead is a pretty standard darkness for a #2, but it is a very smooth writer.  Compared to a Palomino HB, the Eagle is noticeably smoother but lighter, and the point retention is excellent.  I'm a big fan of round pencils, so the 325 is very comfortable.  And I don't mind the lack of a built-in eraser; vintage erasers are normally useless anyways.  I threw on a pink cap eraser and the 325 is an ideal writing machine.  The Eagle Writing 325 offers a comfortable grip and long lasting smooth lead, just the trick for a long day of writing.  This is officially a cool pencil.

Conte a Paris Alaska HB

Another treasure from Bob Truby is the Conte Alaska 1000.  This is the nicest French pencil I've ever tried...made in the USA.  The pencil reads '1000 Alaska Graphite Superieur Hb' on one side and 'Made in USA Conte a Paris HB' on the other.  This is one of the nicest made yellow hex pencils I've ever seen.  The paint is extremely smooth and the gold foil is extremely neat.  Truby estimates that this pencil dates from the 40's, also speculates that the wood is red cedar, which was preferred before incense cedar became the norm.

The lead in the Conte is indeed superior, at least as smooth as the Eagle 325.  The lead is about as dark as a USA Ticonderoga #2, but smoother.  Point retention is average.  The wood is excellent and has a sweet cedar aroma that most other pencils can only dream of... it even puts a Palomino to sham--the Alaska is a superlative pencil.  My only complaint about the Alaska is that the hexagon body has very sharp corners.  This gives you a very positive grip on the pencil, but for extended writing use becomes uncomfortable.  All-in-all this is an excellent pencil, and especially suited to drawing and making lists rather than writing a novel.  Fortunately, I have the Eagle Writing for that.

Cap Erasers: Unsung Hero or Faux-Pas

I'll admit it...writing a full page with a pen stresses me out...I know I'm going to have to strike out at least one mistake--inkxiety.  Pencils are much more comforting: you can erase your do-overs without leaving those embarrassing mistakes plainly visible on the sheet.  Pen people will claim that whiteout gives ink this ability too, but who caries whiteout with them?  Erasers are awesome!  But it's hard to find a good pencil with a good eraser.  Mediocre pencils normally have even worse erasers, vintage pencils often have fossilized useless erasers, and most of the 'professional grade' drawing pencils out there don't even bother with 'em. 

If I have serious erasing needs, I'm going to reach for a dedicated eraser.  But most of the time I have a pencil in my hand, I only need to erase a few numbers or am away from my desk.  I don't want to carry around a serious eraser--this is where having a built in eraser is really nice.  The obvious solution is the eraser cap.  ANY pencil can have its own eraser.  You can have the best of both worlds with an eraser on your Tombow, Caran D' Ache, Mitsubishi, Staedtler, or vintage pencil.

Utility aside, pencil cap erasers don't get much respect.  Having an extra large replacement eraser on your pencil makes you look childish, nerdy, or like someone who makes lots of mistakes.  On a strictly aesthetic level, the cap eraser is a blight on the otherwise sleek form of the pencil.  A Tombow Mono 100 with a cap eraser is like a Japanese businessman wearing  a mullet wig.  That being said I will admit that I don't always need an elegant pencil, and hey, mullets are ok on some pencils.  When you're not concerned about your appearance and need a purely functional pencil, go ahead and throw on a cap eraser and commence to erase furiously.

There are surprisingly few name-brand cap erasers on the market.  Unbranded cap erasers are tempting, but they have a high probability of tearing or breaking.  Two commonly available quality erasers are the PaperMate Arrowhead  and the Pentel Hi-Polymer.  Quality still comes cheap when you buy a pack: the PaperMates come in at $0.03 each and Pentels  at $0.20 each.  

This is the cliche pink cap eraser.  The walls are extra thick, the eraser portions are fat, and it fits snugly on the end of the pencil.  The rubber itself is fairly stiff, so it feels very solid when you erase.  This cap eraser has excellent performance, but the large stubby shape and bright pink color make it stand out like a sore thumb.  I think they look their best on a yellow pencil, but use at your own discretion.  

Pentel's eraser formulation is high quality.  This eraser has a much sleeker shape, and the white color is understated in comparison to the PaperMate.  While it looks a lot classier, the eraser feels a little flimsy as a consequence.   I think they actually look ok on black pencils...almost not embarrassing.  The Pentel erases about the same as the PaperMate, but doesn't feel as nice to use.  

So there you have it... Cap erasers are great to use, but they are the pencil equivalent of wearing a rubber nubbed finger tip protector. When you put function ahead of form, use a PaperMate.  If you still want the benefits of a cap eraser but want to look a little more discriminating, choose the Pentel.  If you are too cool to use a cap eraser at all, try a small eraser like the General's All Art.

Richard Best Pencils: Ain't Bad

A bright pink vintage pencil that competes with Eberhard Faber's Blackwing 602 -- is this possible?  I hadn't even heard of the Richard Best Pencil Company until I was researching Blackwing substitutes on the pencils.com blog and read about the Futura.  The hook was sunk and I had to track down some Richard Best for myself.

Besides limited praise of the Futura, I had no other point of reference on Richard Best pencils.  After a bit of research, I found an article printed in 1945 that gave a bit of background on RBPC. Founded in 1890,  it was a small family company run by Alfred, Frederick, and Richard Best.  In 1945, they had 50 employees working in Irvington New Jersey.  Some time after 1961, the company was absorbed into the J R Moon Pencil Company. J R Moon is still cranking out pencils in Tennessee; in fact, you can still get pencils derived directly from the Richard Best designs such as Try-Rex pencils.  For those of you who haven't hear of Moon pencils, JR Moon makes the 'Write Dudes' USA Gold pencils that are sold at Walmart.

After scouring ebay for a while, I finally found a good deal on a box containing Richard Best's Futura and Royal Scot pencils.  I'm very pleased with the Futura, but the Royal Scot is also a great pencil!

Richard Best Futura:

The Futura's I bought are probably at least 60 years old.  That being said, they are in great shape--even the erasers still work!  The paint is great...I love the color and the quality is at least as good as my BW 602.  The scrolling Futura actually covers two hexagon sides, which is an unusual detail that we pencil nerds can appreciate.  The wood is quality cedar, and the sample that I have all contain well-centered leads.  

The 'LEKTROFUSED LEAD' is the real joy of this pencil.  In a completely qualitative/subjective test, I think the Futura's #2 lead is just as smooth as the 602...but a bit harder and not quite as dark.  The motto 'Write smoother Last longer' is very descriptive in this case.  For a more relate-able comparison: the Futura writes lighter/harder than a Palomino HB,  In fact, it seems to be about the same hardness and darkness of an American Ticonderoga.  The magic comes in the fact that the Futura glides across the page MUCH smoother than either the Palomino or the Ticonderoga.  It has to be one of the smoothest #2's I've ever tried.  There seems to be a dry spell on ebay for Futura's right now, but I bet the #1 soft version is amazing.  

The Futura is far from a direct competitor with the Blackwing 602, but I think it is just as nice of a pencil in its own right.  On the plus side, it's a lot cheaper than an original 602, on the negative side it's at least as rare as the 602.

Richard Best Royal Scot

My Futura's came in a box of Richard Best Royal Scot pencils.  These were mystery pencils to me at first, but they ended up being a great find.  I'm generally not a big fan of triangular pencils, but I really like the shape of the RB 'Try-Rex' profile--it has a really comfortable ratio of flat to round.  The Royal Scot black paint is really smooth but not overly glossy.  Overall, the Scot is a classy looking pencil.

My Royal Scots came in F grade.  I was leery of a harder lead at first, but the Scot is so smooth that I was won over as soon as I tried writing with one.  This is the kind of pencil that will let you enjoy writing several pages without sharpening.  I still prefer softer pencils in general, but if I am writing  away from a good sharpener or sharp replacements, the F grade is my new favorite.

I have found two different vintages of Royal Scot.  The newer set came in a cellophane sleeve instead of the fancy cardboard box.  The shape of the two vintages is similar, but the branding is different and the newer pencils have a pink band on the ferrule.  

Unfortunately, the newer vintage writes completely different than the old.  The pink-band is noisy and rough in comparison.  Whereas the old version just glides across the page, the pink-band feels like someone sneaked a piece of 800 grit sandpaper under my paper.  Both are a bit lighter/harder that a Ticonderoga #2, but the original is smoother than the Dixon and the pink-band is rougher.  The points last well in both pencils with the edge going to the pink-band in this category.  I like both of them, but the older version deserves classic premium pencil status.

Richard Best Omega:

I found a Richard Best Omega colored pencil in a grab bag a while ago.  This pencil is a contemporary of the Eagle Verithin and the Venus Unique colored pencils, which were geared for writing and drawing rather than being used as art pencils.  My Omega is in violet, has the Try-Rex shape, and writes smoothly.  A quality pencil that looks cool--it's now my go-to violet colored pencil.

Pencils For Jury Duty: Pencil Case Closed

The pencil-of-justice is a no-name yellow number 2 that looks like it had been sharpened by an inebriated beaver.

Recently, I got the dreaded jury duty summons in the mail.  As luck would have it, I was selected as a juror and got to see the nuts and bolts of a DUI court case.    Walking into the jury box, I spied that each of us had been provided a notepad and pencil.  And the pencil-of-justice is a no-name yellow number 2 that looks like it had been sharpened by an inebriated beaver.

Ok, before I go any further, I feel I need a moral disclaimer.  I can tell by now that some of you might be concerned that I was paying too much attention to the pencil instead of the court proceedings.  First of all, the lawyers never asked me if I would get distracted by pencils when they were asking juror questions--so it's kind of on them.  Second, I took impeccable notes...even if a part of my motivation was enjoying writing with a pencil.  People kept looking at my notepad like they wanted to copy off it.  And I defend using my own personal pencils vehemently: if I was using the beaver pencil I wouldn't have been able to keep my mind from wandering off, contemplating what a underwhelming pencil it was.  So no apologies.

I really did give the justice pencil a try, but it looked like it was going to break any second.  Being the PNG, of course my computer bag had a selection of nice pencils in it.  While the lawyers were whispering with the judge, I reached into my bag and pulled out pencil #1, a vintage Dixon Ticonderoga.  YES! A pencil that would make me happy and yet not look too ostentatious.

By all rights, the Dixon Ticonderoga USA #2 should be THE pencil of choice for jury duty.  First of all, it is actually made in the USA and will give you extra good patriotic vibes as you fulfill your civic duty.  It is just your average looking pencil, and the #2 lead will give you nice legible notes while not smearing too much or requiring frequent sharpening.  So, here I am with my fine vintage Ticonderoga, feeling slightly superior to the other 6 juror's who are still using their crap-sticks.  Much to my dismay, within the first line of notes, I felt the wood tip crack.  Y'know when the wood splits and the whole point fractures inside the wood casing...  HOW EMBARRASSING! Dammit, my Ticonderoga betrayed me, and there's nothing you can do about a broken pencil in court.

Sharpening is a deal breaker and the crux of courtroom pencil selection.  There isn't a pencil sharpener in the court room--this is probably why they use the beaver system.  Everyone entering the court building goes through a metal detector and your items get X-rayed.  I didn't try, but I doubt they would let you bring in sharpener because of the deadly blade they contain.  Even if you managed to bring one in, it would be really awkward to break out your KUM Long Point sharpener in the middle of the opening statement.  

After the crushing defeat of the Ticonderoga, the next pencil that came out of my bag was a Caran D' Ache Edelweiss 3B.  
This pencil is only available from CW Pencils as far as I know, but it is one of the best value pencils I've ever tried.  For $1 each, you get a pencil that I think writes every bit as nice as a Palomino Blackwing.  With the addition of a cap eraser, you have an awesome pencil that writes as smooth and dark as pencils costing 2 or 3 times as much.  And has a better eraser than most.  This pencil was an excellent jury duty pencil for about a page and a half, but by then that buttery smooth lead was dull enough to make me reach for a replacement.

The next pencil to come out was the Blackwing Vol 24.  This is the Steinbeck edition of Palomino's Blackwing series of pencils--get a box while you still can, they're out of stock almost everywhere except for jetpens.com. This is a prime candidate; it allegedly has the most durable point of any Blackwing lead.  It's not quite as smooth as the Palomino Pearl, but this was the perfect scenario for a quality pencil with a longer lasting point.  
I thought the Vol 24 would be ideal, and it was as a pure writing instrument.  It is a pleasure to write with, and the lead lasts much better the Edelweiss 3b.  That being said, the sleek glossy back finish has a distinctly ominous feel to it--a mean looking pencil.  I think the prosecutor smiled when he saw me writing with it.  I'm no psychologist, but this pencil made me feel extra judgmental. The shiny black paint and fancy eraser stand out like a sore thumb...and I felt too self-conscious to keep using it during deliberation in case it would affect me or the other jurors.

Jury duty is show time for pencils and I just wasn't prepared.  My preference for soft-smooth pencils bit me on the ass.  If I had to do it over again (and I hope that's not for a long long time), I would definitely consider an F grade pencil, at least as a backup.  As the Ticonderoga taught me, even if you have a good pencil, you're going to need several of them for safety.  Reliability is key.  I'm even tempted to say that this is the time for a good mechanical pencil like the 1.1mm filled with electrographic lead.  Remember, if you don't bring the right pencil you're gonna have to deal with the beaver!  

Bic #2 XTRA-FUN: XTRA Lame

  BIC has managed to make a pencil that looks cool, will never break, and has a great eraser--too bad it doesn't write!

I've been going through a bit of a rut reviewing expensive and hard-to-get pencils in somber colors.  I found the cure as I was compulsively checking out the stationary section at Target...  BIC #2 XTRA Fun Pencils!  They were 8 for $1.52 on sale and came in a variety of bright colors.  I was even more optimistic when I flipped the box over to check out the nutritional information--made in France! Cheap Euro-cool pencils, what more could you want?

Well, it turns out you get what you pay for.  I opened up the box and took a sniff, hoping it would smell like cedar or croissants, cheese, and wine.  Rather disappointingly, it smelled like nothingness.  Oh well, I figured, probably just some weird hypo-allergenic French wood.  I threw a bright pink BIC into my vintage Panasonic and got a nicely centered sharp point.  I wrote one line with the cheap and cheerful pencil, and my dreams were ruined.  It felt like I was dragging a plastic stick across the page.  Equally alarming, the pencil felt like a wet noodle in my hand.  Drat!

I started scrutinizing the pencil a little bit more.  First, I noticed that the weird French wood was actually a plastic foam type material with streaks molded in to look like wood grain.  What a sneaky trick!  I was shocked at how much I could bend the pencil with just my fingertips.  They must have done some strange things to the lead recipe, because it never broke even as I bent the pencil to amazing angles.  No wonder it wrote like plastic...

One feature that I actually didn't hate about this pencil was the eraser and ferrule.  While the whole pencil is plastic feeling, the ferrule is the only part that actually looks like it.  I could live quite happily with that plastic eraser holder if the rest of the pencil was any good.  The eraser is a little small, but actually works surprising well.  

The packaging emphasizes that the pencil is break resistant.  I think they accomplished this; I never broke its lead and the whole thing will bend a mile before it breaks.  BIC has managed to make a pencil that looks cool, will never break, and has a great eraser--too bad it doesn't write!  I guess I shouldn't be surprised about a pencil on sale during the back-to-school season.  I'm sure third graders WILL appreciate the novelty of the BIC... I know I would have tried to impress my friends with the amazing bendy pencils, but alas, my priorities have changed.  I'm hoping to rehome these pencils to a deserving grade schooler, but in the mean time it's back to nice pencils in drab colors.

IBM Electrographic: Good vs. Evil

The mechanical pencil version is just so damned smooth!  It might never be as sharp as the woodcase pencil, but it will keep on going page after page without needing anything more than a twist of the tip.

What happens if you fight an IBM Electrographic pencil against a mechanical pencil filled with IBM lead?  Harry and You-Know-Who have an epic duel and the wands go crazy because they share the same phoenix feather core…  Obviously Voldemort has the mechanical pencil because he’s evil, but I wanted to know how the mechanical leads would stack up against the original wooden pencil.  I grabbed my IBM’s, a Goblet of Fire, and headed to the graveyard for a pencil showdown.  

Well, enough of the gratuitous Harry Potter nerd-dom.  For the uninitiated, the IBM Electrographic pencil is a vintage pencil that some consider to rival the Blackwing pencil. If anything, the IBM is just as rare as the BW, but they cost less when you find them.  All it took was time and pressure...and money and ebay...before I lucked upon a good deal for IBM’s Electrographic masterpiece.  If you’re not interested in playing the ebay game, CW pencils currently sells them for $10 a pop, and it’s worth treating yourself if you have the means and want a cool vintage pencil.

I did a bit more research on IBM’s Electrographic and found an amazingly thorough (and German) write-up on them. Basically, IBM developed a machine that could sense special pencil marks in 1939, and also a special pencil that worked well with their system.  In order to work with the sensing machine, IBM formulated their own magical pencil formula:

This system was the precursor to the modern Scantron tests that you were probably subjected to in school. Nowadays, you can use any old #2 pencil on standardized tests these days, but the old electrographic or 'mark sensing' pencils are still sought after because they leave a really nice dark mark.  The German testers likened the IBM to a normal 4B pencil, and this sounds about right to me. As IBM roared into the future, they also sold their electrographic lead for mechanical pencils.

So what is it like to test pilot the IBM Electrographic? I’ll start with the classic wood case pencil.  First of all, you can feel how substantial it is -- it’s round and feels a bit bigger in my hand than an average hex-shaped pencil.  I have to confess, I’m a big fan of round pencils for everything besides taking pictures of them...they seem to resent having logos exposed to the camera and are always rolling away.  The paint job looks nice and glossy, but isn’t slippery in my paw even when I’m a little clammy.  The wood is about as good as they get and has that wonderful vintage pencil smell of old cedar mixed with old desk drawer.  In my hand, it writes darker and smoother than a Palomino Blackwing Pearl, which is an impressive feat.  Like all smooth dark pencils, the lead does wear down pretty fast.  I wrote a test paragraph in IBM and Palomino Pearl, and the Pearl tip lasted a smidge better.  I felt like I was pressing a bit harder with the Pearl to maintain the same level of darkness.

Moving on to the IBM Pencil leads.  The first thing to note is that they are an obsolete size, measuring .046 inches or 1.168 mm.  The lead comes in boxes of 72, and you can get a box for the price of a couple of wood case IBM’s.  You’re not going to be able to find a pencil for it at Office Depot.  This can be a bit of a hassle, but probably also keeps the price down on the vintage lead as well.  That being said, you can purchase a new pencil on amazon made by AutoPoint.
These pencils are copies/reproductions of vintage pencils, and are actually still made in the USA.  Pretty cool.  If you’re not familiar with them, you put the lead out by twisting the tip.  It’s different than what I was used to, but actually works darn well.  My only complaint is that the Autopoint design can only hold short pieces of lead, and won’t even hold half of an IBM lead.  If you want to use full length leads, you’re going to want a vintage Scripto, Wearever, or Duro-Lite.  These are cheap and available on ebay.  The Duro-lite I bought was even labeled for Scanner Lead.  The erasers on any of the vintage pencils are going to be toast, but new Autopoint erasers will fit just fine--score!

I’m about 99% convinced that the mechanical pencil lead is the same formulation as the Wood-Case IBM.  They both write dark and smooth and look the same on paper.  1.1mm lead is thick, and is about like writing with a medium dull wood pencil.  If you rotate the pencil as you write you can actually keep a pretty fine point.  I like thick lines and almost never breaking the lead, but it might be a problem if you have very small hand-writing or normally use a .5mm mechanical pencil.  The biggest difference that I notice in writing with both pencils is that the plastic body of the mechanical pencil damps out some of the paper feel.  With the wood pencil, you feel every bit of texture in the paper with a direct feedback to your fingers.  In the mechanical, the pencil body kind of smooths everything out--ridiculously smooth.  I can tell how rough or smooth the paper I’m writing on with the wood case IBM, but with the mechanical it’s all just butter.  Is it possible for a pencil to be too smooth?  I don’t know, but this setup is pushing the envelope.

We all know that Harry Potter is going to win in the end, and that the sorting hat told me I’m a pencil nerd.  The woodcase IBM is a superlative pencil and just feels special in your hand.  It writes so dark and smooth, but still lets you feel the paper.  You can get it as sharp as you want, and it just makes you want to write more.  Voldemort gives him a run for his money though, and you can argue that practically speaking he is more accomplished.  The mechanical pencil version is just so damned smooth!  It's also about as soft of a lead as you can get for a normal mechanical pencil. It might never be as sharp as the woodcase pencil, but it will keep on going page after page without needing anything more than a twist of the tip.  I don’t have to feel guilty about sharpening away a piece of history, and I can afford to use it as much as I like.  I’m happy to have both.  The wood IBM is for special occasions, and I use the mechanical pencil for every day writing and drawing at work.  Either is going to make you happy.

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